Hatteras Island's out-of-this-world tourist attraction

The silver reflective surface is throwing back the rays of the sun. From the windows that encircle the saucer shape, alien faces peer out. Suddenly a green man appears, crouching in the doorway. Cue the opening to a classic 1950s horror and science fiction TV show and a narrator in the background saying, “It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

Scattered around the alien’s home are images of other green beings and the remnant skeletons of humans who got too close in a nearby "cemetery" surrounded by a picket fence.

It is the Flying Saucer of Frisco -- aka The Frisco Spaceship -- a place where mystery and imagination meet the future and the past.
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Old oil test well at Hatteras lighthouse draws state's attention

Core samples from a decades old oil test well near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse that was abandoned as a dry hole in 1946 will get another look as part of the state’s effort to expand oil and gas exploration.  
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Dream of community radio comes to Hatteras Island

Driving south on Highway 12, you cross the Bonner Bridge and enter the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. As you close in on the tri-villages of Salvo, Rodanthe and Waves, tune your FM radio to 99.9. As you approach Avon tune up the dial to 101.5.

You may hear Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, Celtic, bluegrass, folk, beach or just about any genre of music you might imagine. Sometimes the playlist is sprinkled with all of them — an audio smorgasbord of musical styles.

Welcome to radio the way it was. Or perhaps, the way it should be.

Radio Hatteras Inc. is a non-profit operating two low-power FM stations on Hatteras Island, an enterprise known as “community radio.

Read the story by Russ Lay in The Outer Banks Voice.


What's all the noise over Seismic Survey?

While the debate over drilling for oil and natural gas off the North Carolina coast rages on, one thing appears certain: Next year, the first step in that process will begin, most likely, in the spring.

Nine companies have applied for permits to use seismic air guns to look for likely deposits of oil and gas off the Eastern Seaboard, including North Carolina, according to David McGowan, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council. That work, he said, could involve multiple vessels in the same region at the same time, though he doesn’t expect tremendous overlap in a gigantic area that stretches down the East Coast from New England to the middle of Florida.

Still, when the nine companies are finished, some people fear that the ball will be set irrevocably in motion for drilling off North Carolina.  
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The state of the sharks

Capt. Joe Purifoy and his crew make the biweekly pilgrimage to the waters off Shackleford Banks in Carteret County to catch sharks for Frank Schwartz, a researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. The routine is almost always the same: They trawl for small fish to use as bait and then they reel out about a mile of monofilament fishing line with dangling baited hooks. They fish at two places, a mile-and-a-half and 12 miles offshore.

“I wanted to find out what we have out here,” said Schwartz, who began surveying sharks off the North Carolina coast in 1972 and who’s going on his 47th year working at the institute as an ichthyologist, or fish scientist.

Schwartz, 85, has more than 1,300 trips under its belt, making his shark survey the longest continuous dataset in the United States that uses the same gear at the same locations.  
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The Plight of the Monarchs

September in Eastern North Carolina is the beginning of one of Mother Nature’s great annual events -- the fall migration of the monarch butterflies. All over the United States these lovely insects are on the move, with the eastern population heading to groves of fir trees in Mexico where they will congregate by the millions. They may travel up to 40 miles in a day.

In recent years, however, monarch populations have plummeted nationwide, and it is believed that their numbers have dropped from near a billion to less than 33 million. Orley “Chip” Taylor, a professor at the University of Kansas and the director of Monarch Watch, a monarch conservation organization, says that we may be on the brink of an immense ecological disaster.  
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Coastal History: A new clue into the New World

Digging on the Internet may prove to be more fruitful than decades of digging in the earth has been in deciphering the stubborn mysteries of early English exploration of the New World.

Thanks to new digitalization of some British historic records, a previously unseen document likely dating from 1584 to early 1585 appears to be communication from Sir Walter Raleigh about the first of the 1584-1587 Roanoke Voyages and details of the visit to England by Native Americans Manteo and Wanchese.  
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A Storm Gives Up Some Unusual Treasure From The Sea

On an early morning beach walk in Emerald Island this month, North Carolina Coast Federation naturalist Sam Bland spotted two unusual finds that washed up from the deep ocean as Hurricane Bertha passed well offshore.
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Science aims to save lives with better rip current forecasting

The waves aren’t that big. The water looks calm.  It must be safe.

Visitors to the Outer Banks might make that assumption as they cross over the dunes and look at the water. Most are unaware that rip currents can happen in seemingly calm conditions with 2- to 3-foot waves.

These powerful seaward channels accounted for at least seven deaths in North Carolina last year and on average, 100 fatal drownings annually nationwide. Rip currents are the number-one public safety risk on beaches in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

That fact is what drew local, state and international rip current specialists to the Outer Banks last week to continue to hammer away at new education campaigns and explore innovative data-gathering techniques.

Read the story in the Outer Banks Voice.


'Wicked Tuna: North vs. South' really is quite wicked

In what was likely the first time a bitter feud over fisheries quota has been transformed into swaggering entertainment, a sneak preview Thursday night of the premier of “Wicked Tuna: North vs. South” was met with raucous whooping and cheers by Outer Bankers at a standing-room only gala at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo.

 The spinoff of the National Geographic Channel’s popular "Wicked Tuna" series, which begins Sunday, Aug. 17, was shot last winter off Hatteras and Oregon Inlet, featuring local boats and Outer Banks fishermen battling “invading” Yankee watermen – who had a rough season up north -- for the notoriously limited bluefin tuna quota off Outer Banks waters. 
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Entrepreneurs out to prove that the drones are coming -- to help us...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Justin Davis wants to switch the focus on drones from their nasty reputation as missile-carrying killing machines and  privacy-invading spies. Davis wants people to focus on what’s good about drones. And for a remote, storm-vulnerable place like the Outer Banks, drones could become the public’s best friend.

Davis, the owner of Drone Camps RC in Rodanthe, said that drones have become very popular with people who use them to video “lifestyle adventures,” such as kiteboarding in Canadian Hole, kayaking in Pea Island, or hooking blue marlin on an offshore charter fishing trip. But once the regulators catch up with technology, Davis said drones will quickly become invaluable workhorses.  
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Island Living: Guilty Pleasures

My former-fiancÚ-turned-hubby and I just returned from our long overdue and much anticipated weekend vacation on Hatteras Island. (And now that we’re married, I suppose I can finally disclose his name. It’s John Smith. I am not making this up. In fact, I asked to see his ID on our first date.)

Anyway, I realized both during our trip and upon our return that every “vacation” back home to the Outer Banks is, well, a little different. When I’m on Hatteras Island, I’m relaxed, more carefree, and more inclined to take part in actions that I know are bad, but that feel so incredibly good that it’s easy to give in.  
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Honoring the Last 'Old Salt' of Ocracoke

The last of a generation of Ocracoke Island men who were true “old salts” died recently, but Edgar Maurice Ballance will be remembered on this island with love and respect.
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In his first novel, local author brings a bygone era to life

A lot of people say they’re going to write a book one day, but not a lot of people actually do it.  Of those who do, few actually get published, and even fewer sell out of their first printing in just 25 days.  “Well,” said Elvin Hooper, smiling with a youthful exuberance that belies his 65 years of age, “I guess I’ve just always been under the illusion that I was an author.”

Hooper is the author of “Chicamacomico: How it was back then,” and on a recent mid-summer afternoon, in between sips of sweet iced tea, genial conversation, and detours into tangential stories, he discussed why he wanted to write the book, how he made it happen, and what he hopes will come of it.  
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Looking Back: Ocracoke’s Historic Community Square

Located on the harbor in Ocracoke village, the Community Square has long been the hub of this island community.  Made up of the Community Store, docks, and several other businesses, this significant portion of Ocracoke’s Historic District has recently been the focus of a project to rejuvenate the square and preserve the island’s history and culture.
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Hatteras native turns her childhood memories into a series of books for young and old

More than 65 years ago, before Highway 12 stretched between the seven villages and Bonner Bridge spanned Oregon Inlet, small, resilient communities thrived on Hatteras Island.  Lacking a reliable road, direct access to the mainland, and many of the modern conveniences, life on the island was challenging, yet idyllic in its simplicity.

The children, especially, reveled in this time before the road.  The entire island was a safe haven, while its expansive beaches, untamed wilderness, and unique history provided an endless supply of excitement and adventure.

Jeanette Gray Finnegan Jr. who grew up in Buxton before the highway was built, recently began writing a series of children’s books based upon the island’s history, her childhood experiences, and family heritage.
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