There were a wealth of stories told last weekend in Hatteras village at the second annual Hatteras Storytelling Festival.
170 people came to the Hatteras Civic Center from Friday through
Sunday, May 2-4, to hear tales from the island and eastern North
Carolina from those who wrote about them to those who lived them.
year’s festival kicked off Friday evening with a Taste of the Village,
where folks could sample food from Hatteras restaurants and shops.
evening’s entertainment included Kevin Duffus, an award-winning
filmmaker, author, and historian based in Raleigh, N.C., and Clyde
Edgerton, an award-winning novelist, musician, storyteller, and
professor of creative writing.
Duffus told the audience about
his efforts to find historical truth about Outer Banks legends on such
things as the infamous pirate Blackbeard, to shipwrecks and salvaging,
to the mystery of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse’s Fresnel lens, which
went missing during the Civil War.
Duffus eventually solved that
mystery and what remains of the lens is on display at the Graveyard of
the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
Next up was Southern
novelist Clyde Edgerton of Wilmington, N.C., who talked about family
storytelling and entertained all with readings from his many
novels. He was joined by his daughter, Catherine, and Hatteras
villager, Clifford Swain, for several foot-tapping gospel songs.
began with a presentation for preschool and elementary students at the
Hatteras library and a presentation by Ben Cherry, aka Black Beard, at
the Graveyard museum.
After lunch, the audience was just about
rolling in the aisles at the stories and tall tales of Rodney Kemp of
Morehead City, N.C., who is also known as “The Fish House Liar,” and is
a well known storyteller, historian, and educator.
Hatteras village’s Clifford Swain was back on stage with his guitar and harmonica for some more of his great music and stories.
taking the stage after dinner was Eastern North Carolina’s Bland
Simpson, a renowned author, storyteller, pianist, and professor at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He entertained with
stories and music.
Saturday evening ended with a bluegrass concert with Nu-Blu of Siler City, N.C., and Hatteras Island’s own Banjo Island.
the final day, Sunday, the afternoon began with a gospel music concert
and then proceeded on to local stories from a panel led by James
Charlet, Hatteras historian who currently serves as the historic site
manager of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site &
Museum in Rodanthe.
The panel’s theme was the United States
Life-Saving Service, which merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service
in 1915 to become the U.S. Coast Guard. The stories and rescues from
the past and present kept the audience spellbound.
First on this
panel was Nevin Wescott, a Dare County native and great-grandson of
Josiah Wescott, station keeper at Chicamacomico in 1888. He
shared his memories of his ancestors’ three generations of service in
the Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard at stations Ocracoke,
Cape Hatteras, Nags Head, and Oregon Inlet.
historian Danny Couch told the story of the schooner A. B. Goodman that
wrecked in 1881 just over the dune line outside the Civic Center. The
rescue was led by two of the heroes of the Life-Saving Service, B.B.
Dailey and Pat Etheridge.
After Couch warmed up the crowd,
Charlet told the story of one of the most famous and dramatic rescues –
the rescue of the crew of the British tanker Mirlo, which was sunk by a
German submarine on Aug. 16, 1910 just offshore from Chicamacomico
The Mirlo was carrying a cargo of gasoline,
which ignited the ocean into a ghastly inferno. The station
keeper at the time was Capt. John Allen Midgett, who led his crew out
into the fiery Atlantic to rescue 42 survivors of the 52 men on board
And, finally the story of the lifesavers came full
circle as two young U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilots kept the
audience on the edge of their seats for almost an hour with their story
of the dramatic rescue of 14 sailors who survived the sinking of the
tall ship HMS Bounty during Hurricane Sandy in late October of 2012.
Lt. Jane Pena was a co-pilot on duty the night of Saturday-Sunday, Oct 28-29.
said the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City, N.C., was aware that
the HMS Bounty with 16 sailors on board was in trouble more than 90
miles off the coast of Hatteras. The three-masted sailing vessel had
lost power and was taking on water in an area mariners call the
“Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its infamously treacherous seas and
The crew was waiting until daylight to abandon ship.
But with its pumps failing, they were forced to abandon ship early on
Sunday morning in the darkness. Adrift in two life rafts they were
powerless against the raging seas. Sandy’s winds were in excess of 60
knots and an HC-130J Hercules airplane from Air Station Elizabeth City
Pena said her crew was called about 3 a.m. and
informed that the crew was abandoning ship. Elizabeth City launched
rescue helicopter CG6012, piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Steve Cerveny, with
co-pilot Pena, to begin rescue operations. Wearing night vision
goggles, the helicopter raced to the scene amidst heavy rain and
powerful winds. They had to fly low, at about 300 feet, to stay below
the clouds and arrived on scene just after sunrise Monday morning.
didn’t take long before they spotted a survivor in the water, adrift
and alone. The survivor was wearing an insulated suit and co-pilot Lt.
Jane Pena spotted the strobe lights attached to it. Before they could
hoist the sailor to the safety of the helicopter’s cabin, the aircrew
had to overcome the challenge of safely deploying their swimmer and
rescue basket amidst Sandy’s fury.
The crew on the helicopter
rescued the survivor in the water, and then a rescue swimmer was
hoisted down to a lifeboat, and the crew lifted up five survivors off
that boat before the aircraft had had to leave to get back to the base
before fuel ran out.
By that time, Lt. Cmdr. Steve Bonn, the pilot of a second Coast Guard helicopter, had arrived on the scene.
He and his crew hoisted another nine survivors onto their helicopter.
Two sailors perished – a woman whose body was located the next day and the captain who was never found.
two pilots’ detailed story of the rescue in the worst of conditions
totally engaged the audience and kept them asking questions until the
The third annual Hatteras Storytelling Festival
will be Friday through Sunday, May 3-5, of next year. Links to ticket
sales and accommodation packages—as well as more information on next
year’s schedule of events and the performers—will be available on the
event’s website, www.hatterasyarns.org.
For more information on the genesis of the festival, go to http://islandfreepress.org/2014Archives/02.24.2014-PopularHatterasStorytellingFestivalReturnsMay2-4.html.
comments powered by