Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Outer Banks NC

Beach-dune next to campground
Next stop, a very narrow strip of land (technically a few islands) in the Atlantic ocean that is the east coast of North Carolina.  It is reminiscent of the Florida Keys from the stand point of being able to stand (or drive) and see two bodies of water at the same time because the land is so narrow.  Our campground, in Waves NC, stretched from shore to shore with the main road (hwy 12) going through the park.  The drinking water which came from a well tasted salty so we bought water for consumption.  It was great to have the beach such a short distance away for easy access to take a walk and see the ocean and wild life at different tide levels.  The constant 10-15 mph wind can get to you after a while.
Cape Hatteras lighthouse

We visited a U.S. Life-Saving Service Station site that has been restored to its 1911 splendor.  These stations were setup every 7 miles along the outer banks to rescue shipwreck victims.  This particular station rescued 177,286 people.  The U.S. Life-Saving Service was a precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard.

We drove to Cape Hatteras and checked out the lighthouse built in 1870.  It is the tallest brick lighthouse in the world (approx 200 ft) and it is at the southeastern most point in the U.S. (not the southern most, not the eastern most).

It was nice that it is not at all commercial south of Nags Head for the entire length to Cape Hatteras.  There are long stretches of preserved national seashore with parking areas to stop and enjoy miles of great sandy beaches without the tall condos and hotels.

Actual buildings
1903 Flyer (replica)
The grand finale - we visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  I remember learning about the Wright brothers as a kid and wanting to go to Kitty Hawk to see where this historic event took place.  They did a great job of presenting the important information in a very clear and simple manner inside.  There are perfect reproductions of the 1902 Glider and 1903 Flyer on display.  Then outside they have the buildings (hanger and living quarters) used during years of flight tests.  They have markers where the first powered flights started and ended on that infamous day - December 17, 1903 (there were four of them).  Finally, on the horizon with a monument on top is the hill that they used the first few years as a launch point during glider testing.
Launch hill on the horizon

First marker is start of first powered
flights.  4 markers on down are the
distance of the first 4 flights.
You may be wondering, as I was, about all of the green (grass, trees).  All of the historic pictures are on a sandy beach so where is the sand?  I asked the Ranger about that immediately because it didn't fit my lifelong image.  The answer is that mankind has messed with the environment. The land used to often get completely covered with water during high tides.  In fact the Wright brothers slept in the upstairs of their living quarters because the lower floor would sometimes flood.  The salt water flooding kept anything from growing.  In the 1930s sand banks (man made dunes) were piled up all along the ocean shore which put a stop to this. They also planted trees and grasses to hold the sand.  Now 80 years later it looks completely different from when the Wright brothers were doing their flight testing.  It is so different that when they requested entry on the National Historic Registry they were denied.
Explanation of flights on Dec 17, 1903

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