29 September 2017

Sand and shells on Core Banks NC

After we arrived by boat on the shore of Core Banks (North Carolina) where the Cape Lookout lighthouse is located, my sister and I walked across the island to see the beach and the ocean. It had obviously rained just before we got there, but it stayed dry for us.

The island is only 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) wide at the point where the lighthouse stands. In fact, most of the group of barrier islands known as Core Banks are about that wide. There are no bridges or paved roads.

From the tip of the cape up to the northern end of the banks at Ocrocoke Inlet, however, is a distance of 40 miles. The island  — it used to be one island but now is a group, because during big storms like hurricanes and nor'easters, the ocean cuts new inlets and closes existing ones — protects the calmer waters of Core Sound, the extensive salt marshes, and the little communities of the Down East area from ocean waves.

Lookout light (the lighthouse) stands on the shores of Lookout Bight. "Bight" isn't a word you hear very often. It's a kind of bay but more open to the ocean than bays like the Chesapeake Bay or San Francisco Bay.

The Core Banks islands are uninhabited nowadays, but there used to be a port town at the north end of the banks called Portsmouth. It's now a ghost town. The next island to the north is called Ocracoke, where there is a village by that name and a paved road, as well as car-ferry landings on each end of the island (but no bridge).

There used to be a town at Cape Lookout called Diamond City. It was abandoned at the end of the 19th century, after it basically washed away in a series of big hurricanes. The 500 people who lived there relocated to the mainland. Their wells and gardens had been contaminated by salt water that storm tides pushed across island during the storms. Climate change and rising sea levels are a real threat to all these islands and the low coastal lands behind them.


  1. I never have heard of a bight before -- always something new here!

  2. Did you take a jar full of shells back home with you ?
    I grew up in North Carolina and I never heard of the Core Banks .... thank you :)

  3. Beautiful expansive skies in these photos. The islands look low in elevation...glad Maria didn;t make landfall there.

  4. You sent me off to do a look-up in dictionaries. A bight is a bend or bow, from German and Old English -- which may explain why it's a term along the Eastern seaboard. There are bights in Maine and New Jersey, probably others.
    Your pictures of sea and sky are just glorious.


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