12 November 2015

Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina

So as I've said, these days and for a few more days, I'm in North Carolina. That's an American state on the East (Atlantic) Coast about halfway between, say, Boston (New England) and Miami (Florida). North Carolina has a coastline that is 300 miles (500 km) long. For all that length, the "inner coast" — the edge of the mainland — is protected from ocean waves by a series of long, narrow "barrier islands" with "sounds"  (lagoons, Fr. étangs) lying behind them.

My family comes from and lives in Carteret County, which is named after the Anglo-Norman Carteret family. There's a little town (village) in Normandy named Carteret (kar-tuh-RAY or kar-TRAY) that is just across the water from the Isle of Jersey, where the Carteret family was from. Carteret County, N.C., is located at a point on the coast where two of the barrier islands, and therefore the beaches, run east to west, facing south. The warm Gulf Stream ocean current flows northward just 20 to 30 miles offshore.

Morehead City, my home town, is both a fishing port and a shipping port that can receive ocean-going vessels. It is one of the deepest ports on the U.S. East Coast, but it is also very small. The population of the town is about 8,000, and the population of the whole county (500 square miles, or 1300 square kilometers) is just 60,000. Until relatively recently — say 75 to 100 years ago — Carteret Country was an isolated area that was far off the beaten path.

Actually, there is a lot more water than land in Carteret County. Much of what passes for dry land is actually salt marsh or swamp or sand dunes. Two of the longest barrier islands, which belong to the chain of coastal islands known as the Outer Banks, are Core Banks and Shackleford Banks. Together they run for more than 50 miles (80 km) along the coast and are completely undeveloped. They're inhabited mainly by sea birds, ghost crabs, horse flies, mosquitoes, and wild horses.

The coast of North Carolina resembles the area of France around the Ile d'Oléron, on the French Atlantic coast, and the area running south from the city of La Rochelle down to the Spanish border. Extensive pine forests cover the land. Salt marshes, protected from ocean waters by barrier islands, line much of the N.C. "inner coast." 

The sky is overwhelmingly big, and the light is brilliant, intensified by being reflected off hundreds of square miles of sound and ocean waters. The climate is very mild — but hot and humid in summer and rainy in winter. Average annual rainfall is about 60 inches, which is nearly three times the amount of rain we get annually in the Loire Valley.

I finally got out to the beach today. My sister and I drove there from my mother's place. It's a drive of about, say, three miles, but today was the first time I've been across the bridge that links the mainland to the local barrier island, highly developed Bogue Banks, which includes 25 miles of sandy beach and gentle surf. It was late afternoon, and the setting sun was brilliant, making for very high-contrast images. My theme for today is sea birds.


  1. Lovely photos and a very interesting description of your home area. Thanks. There is obviously no shortage of sea birds to photograph - wish I knew more about them. I wonder if some of your birds migrate long distances up and down the East coast?

  2. And how do the folks from N.C. pronounce Carteret ?
    Great photos and I was ready to emigrate when I read horseflies and mosquitoes.

    1. Local people have always said either [KAR-tuh-ret] or [KAR-tret], with the stress on the first syllable, not the last.

  3. Well, the fog rolled in and it's finally looking like November over here. I hope you continue to enjoy your family visit and come back ready for lots of cooking as winter approaches.

  4. Not in the morning, but late at night, an interesting potted history.

  5. I always love your NC posts, especially when they have shots of the ocean and the shore :)
    I just did a blog post about a few big, wonderful Sears kit homes that we learned of in New Bern, NC, and I see that it's only about 35 miles from Morehead City, so, of course, I thought of you!

  6. I have family still living in Fayetteville (I think I'd prefer Morehead City myself). Love the ocean and sea bird photos!

  7. I grew up in Charlotte NC and our summers were spent around Myrtle Beach when it was just a sleepy beach town with no spring breaks.
    My favorite memories are of sleeping in a bed on a screened "summer" porch and falling to sleep to the sounds .. those little tiny frogs and the ocean .. lovely memories.

  8. beautiful. i miss the ocean. hope you got your toes in the sand!

  9. We're glad you made it to the Carolina shore and shared some nice photos and history with us. The sun's rays are special this time of year. I love seeing the huge sky you get when you go back to your birth place and the birds, too!

  10. Very beautiful photos. I'm so glad you finally made it to the beach.

  11. Really a very attractive region of the East Coast! Quite different from the Loire Valley. Have some of your family made it over to Walt and your region? Each has it's own wonderful personality, of course!

    Mary in Oregon


  12. Amei conhecer o seu blog, já fiquei por aqui!!!Achei maravilhoso!!!
    Siga-me e pegue o meu selinho!!!


    Beijos Marie.

  13. wow you come from nice place

  14. Welcome home to Carolina! I had planned on going to Morehead for lunch this past Monday with some friends. With the weather so nasty and rainy, we decided on another day. These photos are beautiful…feels like home! :) Hope you enjoy your stay with family and friends here in Carolina!


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