Monday, March 22, 2010

Of History

This is a pretty neat place to live. Having grown up in Williamsburg, Va., I was immersed from the tender age of ten into the world of history. After all, that's where this nation began. Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown are all within a few miles of each other and offer the ability to study the history of the nation right up through the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862. At ten years I began my study and to this day am still rather fascinated by all that occurred over time in this small area.
Coming to Hatteras became just a variation of a theme. Roanoke Island, site of the famous "Lost Colony" is just a bit over an hour from here. A little further up the road and you'll find Kitty Hawk, sight of the fist powered aircraft flight. Just a few miles offshore from where I sit lie the remains of the U.S.S. Monitor; the ironclad that engaged the C.S.S. Virginia (often mistakenly referred to as the Merrimack). From here Marconi made the first intercontinental "wireless" transmission and of course these waters were a haven for pirates to include Blackbeard himself who was killed not far from here.
History is like a river through time where most study the river itself. But along the banks are the lives of everyday people whose day to day comings and goings are generally overlooked in the telling. Hatteras is no exception. Here, the names of families are not just preserved by an occasional sign along the road but by the families themselves; some of whom have been here long before the American Revolution. And that's no small feat especially considering the severity of the storms that wrack the islands every year. To this day, some of the older homes on the islands have trap doors in the ground floor which would be opened during severe weather to allow the ocean to drain from them as the storms subsided.
So how do you survive on this isolated ribbon of sand from generation to generation? Well, you fish and farm and hunt and fish some more. Of course living smack dab in the middle of the infamous "graveyard of the Atlantic" means that salvage of cargo, ships wares and timbers became a part of life as well. A hard life fraught with danger at every turn. Back then, and within living memory, the beaches were the highway. In fact, just a couple years ago when NCDOT decided to repair the bridges along Rt. 12 on Ocracoke, the only way one could get from Hatteras Inlet to O'coke village was by driving the entire distance on the sand.
Things began to change in 1937 when Congress passed the enabling legislation that led to the creation of the Seashore. And rightfully, the residents of the islands were concerned as to what impact this would have on their lives.

Tight Lines,


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