Category Archives: inlets and sandbars

Bridging the Gap

No matter how you look at it, the new bridge over Oregon Inlet is an engineering marvel. For the past few years, driving over the old Bonner Bridge, we witnessed the construction progress, going together like a humongous tinker toy.

Last Saturday, NCDOT opened the new thoroughfare just for pedestrian and bike traffic. It happened to coincide with 40° weather and a northeaster, making it somewhat more challenging.

The Bonner Bridge is well past it’s life span, so it’s out with the old, in with the new.

At 10:15 we began our walk on the north side, heading south, downwind. Dozens of folks had already begun the 2.8 mile trek.

With a 30 mile an hour breeze at their backs, bikers hardly even needed to peddle.

Everyone was bundled up.

Equipment was still in place.

Following a curve, the new road rises to the peak about 90 feet above the water.

The high point of the old Bonner Bridge is about 70 feet.

Hitting the uphill grade, I felt the wind intensify as if the bridge created a Venturi effect.

Facing into the wind from the rise, I saw more approaching troops braving the elements.

On top the wind seemed to accelerate even more, as tide boiled through the inlet.

Photo ops were everywhere and everyone became photographers.

This crew got the shot and then in a gust…

… almost got blown away.

Three quarters into the walk, the south end of the new bridge converges back toward the old bridge landing.

Looking back I could see hundreds of people still underway.

A cyclist coasted to the end of his downhill run.

Welcome to Hatteras Island, home of Highway 12, probably the most expensive road to maintain in the entire state.

 

 

 

 

Shelly Island and the Great Power Outage

When the bridge to Hatteras Island at Oregon Inlet was opened in 1962, it changed the way people live here. Road access and electricity made life easier for the locals and boosted the economy.

The recent power outage reminded me again that we’re living on an island and dependent upon on  mainland conveniences. Disruptions in electric service have been commonplace historically, but less common as transmission lines got updated.

After years of living here I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. The recent power outage is a good example. It came as a surprise and unlike numerous other events was due to a manmade error. Once the island was evacuated of visitors there was an immediate quietness from the busy peak-summer noises, and streets became eerily deserted.

For two days, a portable generator kept our freezer and refrigerator from spoilage and kept some lights on, until the electric co-op could bring in the generators to give us needed relief.

Luckily, during the outage we experienced the best weather of the entire summer. Temperatures moderated and humidity was minimal.

On a gorgeous evening, I rode my bike down the center of highway 12 without a car in sight.

To help in the repair, huge bucket trucks were staged on the road to the Rodanthe Pier.

Normally packed with fishermen, the pier was empty.

Throughout the Summer we kept hearing about the newly formed island off of Cape Point. This constantly changing location has always been a geographic phenomenon. There have been island shoals there before, but I haven’t witnessed one as large as the new Shelly Island.

It became wildly popular and made national news. The crowds out there made me want to avoid it. But when the lights went out, and the evacuation order came, I changed my mind.

That’s when I decided it was a perfect time to check it out.

Upon arrival we could see Shelly Island across the waves in the distance. There were a few people out there and perhaps 2 dozen vehicles parked along the Cape Point shoreline.

I saw children and adults frolicking in an ultimate water park. Tide pools created big spas and everyone was clearly having a wonderful time.

I was taken by a little girl happily playing with a doll.

My friends Chris and Chandra were paddling back after exploring the island.

Another paddle boarder was on his way over with his dog behind him.

People walked to and from the island on a shallow sandbar.

Once I waded to the island, I could understand it’s namesake, as a nice small wave rolled along shore.

A surfer cruised by on his long board.

Shelly Island is a shell seeker’s paradise.

Mike Bigney found and old piece of a shipwreck timber.

By some estimates, Shelly Island is a mile long.

In an unscheduled day off, the whole crew from Lisa’s Pizza was on hand to make a good time of it.

At the far end of Shelly is the shoal were north and south swells converge. It’s also been an area of numerous shark sightings. I expect to make more visits to Shelly Island.

 

 

 

 

New Inlet

One of the first places I explored on Hatteras Island was New Inlet on Pea Island. The old remnant bridge that’s still there, was built after the storm of ’33 cut an inlet from sound to sea. As a result, traffic was interrupted on the sand road, so the state began construction of a bridge to span the troubled spot. The new inlet filled back in on it’s own, and the state halted construction before it was completed.

I used to walk out precariously on that deteriorating, unfinished bridge to catch hard crabs on baited strings. It wasn’t uncommon to come home with a few dozen nice ones. Since then, New Inlet has always brought me a feeling of wonder and tranquility.

I wasn’t the first one to get enjoyment there. Long before, there were fish camps where locals could hunt and fish for sustenance. It must have been a beautiful, bountiful outpost.

skiffOne of the first photographs that I made at New Inlet was taken in 1979 as I was testing a brand new 400mm Novoflex lens for the first time. I parked my truck on the shoulder of highway 12, stood in the bed and made 4 handheld, identical exposures to see how the lens worked. The shot later became a somewhat iconic image as the cover of Hatteras Journal, written by Jan DeBlieu.

bridgeI took a similar shot in 1982. John Herbert’s sail skiff, once again, served as a crucial element in the composition.

St. ClairBy January of 1985, the fish camp once owned by St. Clair Midgett had dropped from it’s foundation into the water. Later that same year, when Hurricane Gloria blasted through, it took what was left, completely away.

fish campIn May of 1985, I shot this smaller camp just northwest of St. Clair’s. It too was taken out by Gloria.

 

Oregon Inlet

We hear a lot about Oregon Inlet, and the bridge spanning it. Nowadays you can hardly talk about one without mentioning the other. It’s nothing new and has been an issue for a long time.

When I first came here, driving over that beautifully curved bridge across the inlet was an awesome experience, the vistas remarkable. It was sort of an environmental work of art that served a purpose, getting to and from Hatteras Island. I would eventually learn that it was a bit more than that.

trawlers

In April of 1977, while driving to Nags Head, I watched 4 trawlers coming in through the well-marked channel. There was no traffic and I had just gone over the peak of the bridge. I stopped overlooking Bodie Island spit, got out and took one shot with a 400mm lens on a fairly new Nikon F2.

aerial

In January of 1985, we had a severe cold snap. Temperatures were low enough to freeze portions of the Pamlico Sound. I was so impressed that I hired a pilot to take me up and shoot the ice flows from above. We ascended to 7,000 feet, and the view was spectacular.

bailey boy

December of that same year, I was shooting a story on commercial fishing for Outer Banks Magazine. Arrangements were made for me to spend 3 days on a trawler from Wanchese, where Captain Terry Saunders welcomed me aboard the Richard Wayne”. There were 2 days of fair weather, but when a northeaster set in on the third day, the boats decided to come in early. Crossing the bar at the mouth of the inlet was rough, and Captain Stevie Daniels maneuvered “Bailey Boy”  through, right behind us.

station

I flew during a northeaster in 1989 and made shots along Hatteras Island. There was no jetty in place at the inlet yet, and the Coast Guard Station was beginning to wash away. At the time, they were abandoning the station and moving to a newly built facility on the north side, next to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

bridge

No recollections of Oregon Inlet would be complete without mentioning the October 1990 incident of a dredge taking out 400 feet of Bonner Bridge. I made this shot that December riding the ferry across the inlet when repairs were being made.

aerial '05

On an overcast September day in 2005, I went airborne with a videographer shooting a documentary on rising sea level. The section of the bridge that was taken out in 1990 is noticeable as a darker shade of gray in the pavement.

Irene

Hurricane Irene radically reshaped Oregon Inlet in 2011.

The only inlet on the east coast facing northeast, Oregon Inlet was originally formed in 1846. Since then, it has migrated over 2 miles south. Watching the area change and shift over the years continues to be fascinating. It’s a display of man’s engineering prowess in the face of some of nature’s most powerful forces. It’s also very expensive.

 

 

Terns Turning

Last week I had a chance to get a boat ride out on Pamlico Sound to a spoil island near Hatteras Inlet.
Spoil islands are man made from sand dredged to maintain the ferry channel between Hatteras and Ocracoke.
These “engineered” islands make good habitat for nesting terns and other colonial waterbirds, like Black Skimmers.
With the Summer season drawing to a close, nesting is done.


Lots of activity still prevails, and the mature birds continue to catch fish for growing juveniles.

The adults are loosing their handsome breeding appearance in favor of less dramatic winter plumage.


An adult sandwich tern, in non-breeding plumage, brings its catch in for a family member.


This island has a mix of Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns.
Adult Royal Terns have orange bills, and their juveniles have yellow bills.
Mature Sandwich Terns have black bills with yellow tips.
Their corresponding juvenile’s bills are dark and less distinctive.


Next Spring the tern population will renew the species once again,
looking their best in bright breeding plumage.