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Fun Facts About the Outer Banks

Home of the centuries old Mothervine

The oldest grapevine on the entire continent lives and still produces grapes to this day in Manteo. Either planted by Croatan Natives or settlers of the Lost Colony, this vine has been around for hundreds of years. It is believed to be the original source of all Scuppernong grapes, which are so bountiful here that they are the North Carolina state fruit.

One of the world’s last remaining populations of purebred Colonial Spanish Mustangs live here

Having been isolated to this strip of sand for centuries after coming ashore from the Spanish explorers, they haven’t had an opportunity to breed with others. This means that they are indeed 100% purebred, and DNA testing confirms this. The only other population of this breed of horse is another wild herd. They are located on the Shackleford Banks, out of Beaufort, NC.

We have British soil

Who knew British ground was only a 45 minute ferry ride away? Down on Ocracoke Island, at the Ocracoke Island Cemetery, there is a plot under perpetual lease to the British Commonwealth.

During World War II, Germany dubbed the Outer Banks “torpedo alley” as their submarines sank many vessels here. What we lacked for in defence, British troops had, so they sent naval forces to help the US defend itself. Four British soldiers lives were lost while helping defend the North Carolina coast, and are now buried on Ocracoke Island. The area in which they are buried will indefinitely remain foreign soil.

It was one of the first safe havens for enslaved folks

During and after the civil war, this area was known as freedman’s land. Hatteras Island was home to Hotel DeAfrique, the first safe place in the state for people escaping slavery. There was another established community on Roanoke Island where formerly enslaved men, women, and children lived a life of freedom. This was called “Freedman’s Colony” and it saved thousands of lives. Both Freedman’s Colony and Hotel DeAfrique are official sites on the National Underground Railroad Network.

Home to the nation’s tallest lighthouse

Cape Hatteras lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the United States, standing almost 200 feet in the air. What’s more, this lighthouse, which is made of brick, has actually been moved from it’s original location due to the encroaching ocean putting it at risk. Can you imagine the feat of moving not only a lighthouse, but the TALLEST lighthouse AND it’s made out of brick? Sheesh!

The birthplace of broadcasting

Not only home to the first U.S. Weather Bureau station (that’s another fun fact for you), but also the first broadcast!

In 1902, the famed inventor Reginald Fessenden was stationed as a contractor for the U.S. Weather Bureau. He erected 50-foot tall radio towers on Roanoke Island, Cape Hatteras, and Cape Henry. He became the pioneer of radio technology as he successfully transmitted and received human voice for the first time.

Since he didn’t maintain a scheduled timeslot for transmitting weather, he is often overlooked at the father of broadcasting, but it’s true! He did it first, and he did it here!

It’s nothing like the Netflix show.

Almost nothing about the show would indicate that it’s about the OBX except for the name. Yes, there are shipwrecks, and yes we’re surrounded by water, but there are no such things as “Pogues” and the term “kook” actually refers to someone who doesn’t know how to surf. They used some of our common lingo, but used it to mean their own thing.

Most importantly: our community of locals is not as divided as the show would lead one to believe. North vs. South, rich vs poor, it doesn’t really matter. We all share the same beach, surf the same waves, fish the same waters, and ride out the same hurricanes.

Besides, it was filmed in hundreds of miles away in the southern portion of South Carolina.

..However Where the Crawdads Sing novel isn’t as far off.

This book, which will be turning into a movie, romanticizes the diverse ecosystem of the Outer Banks. The nature is vividly and accurately described by a local girl who lives and breathes every aspect of the environment. This is true to the love that both locals and visitors alike have for our sandbar. Kya, the main character, represents the hardiness and resourcefulness of our local folk. She is strong and unwavering even in times of adversity, which reflects the way this community weathers tough times (i.e. hurricanes, flooding, nor’easters). She takes full advantage of the bountiful resources that can be found in her community, as she loves fishing, and collecting beach treasures. Resilience is a major theme in the book, as it is on the OBX. Furthermore, this book is a mystery, which also mirrors the Outer Banks and it’s unique past.

The only place in the US to receive the Titanic’s distress message

On the night of April 14, 1912 at 11:25pm, a station on Hatteras Island received the following message: “CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD CQD. Have struck an iceberg. We are badly damaged. Titanic. position 41 degrees 44 minutes north 50 degrees 20 minutes west.”

No other stations in the US are known have to receive this first signal.

What’s interesting is that this was discovered during a restoration project. Officials found this document rolled up in the walls as it was being used for insulation. Finally located 100 years later, that was quite a find!

An influential part of the space race and military development

The Whalehead Club in Historic Corolla Park has lived many lives, ultimately settling on being a museum of Corolla history. But did you know that it once housed scientists who were developing rocket fuel during the space race? Well, now you do! Officials used Duck & Corolla for military development, testing, and target practice. There are areas of north beach (the 4×4 unpaved portion of Corolla) that are marked off from both vehicular and foot traffic due to potential for unexploded munitions. Just another to read the warning signs and take them seriously.

Life was much different here during the World War

The beach was guarded and the only way to travel was through use of passcodes. Once you reached the guard, you’d need to give the passcode, in which they would give you the new passcode for the next receiving guard.

Lights were not allowed after dark, and all homes had to black out their windows entirely. The village of Corolla was predominately populated by the military, and after the war, when the families returned to their homes, the village sat seemingly vacant for years. Now, it is teeming with tourists as it is one of the East Coast’s top beach destinations.

Some of the best windsurfing in the whole world.

With our consistent winds always blowing, this comes to no surprise. The Wright Brothers weren’t the only ones to take advantage of our windy weather. The water sports are especially popular on Hatteras Island. Visit particularly around Waves/Salvo/Buxton soundside area and you’ll be sure to see wind surfers as well as kite boarders! This area is so popular, that it attracts many Canadian athletes, and, as such, a soundside portion of H.I. has been dubbed “Canadian Hole”.