With love, Aleta:  Remembering Ocracoke's famous mailboat

“We always waited for the mailboat to come in. That was something that we enjoyed, going and seeing the people who were on it, because it carried some passengers and also some freight for the island people and for the stores. We enjoyed doing it just to get away from home and see what we would get that evening in the mailbox,” recalls Della Gaskill, remembering when she was a girl growing up at Ocracoke.

Today Ocracoke’s beloved mailboat, the Aleta, lies at the bottom of the South River in mainland  North Carolina, no doubt providing a fine habitat for fish and other marine life.  She lives on, however, in the memories of those who once peopled her decks as they traveled to and from Ocracoke or gathered on the dock to greet her, collect their mail, and welcome the passengers she carried. She lives on in books that describe her short but memorable history, and now she is the focus of a new exhibit at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
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Arctic Seals appearance on North Carolina beaches is a puzzling....WITH VIDEO

A mix of seal species is appearing on North Carolina beaches with more and more frequency, but no one knows why. Could it be a consequence of a changing climate? One Duke University scientist is determined to find out.
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Island Living: Why I hate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has always been one of my least favorite holidays, where I would traditionally watch as all of my excited colleagues got flowers delivered to their desks, while I jealously looked on in my intentionally all-black work outfit. After work, I’d drink beer while fishing or bowling with other single friends -- which is literally the most un-Valentine's thing you can do -- or head home and watch a documentary, horror movie, or "Deadliest Catch" marathon.

Once I was finally attached, I still wasn’t that big a Valentine’s Day fan, because there’s this unspoken and universal assumption that, as a woman, you’re supposed to make yourself look sexy -- or at least presentable -- and go cook something awesome for your loved one. I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely horrible at both of these things.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if my distaste of the holiday is somewhat misplaced, especially on Hatteras Island where the environmental conditions for ogling, flirting, and even love are arguably at their best.
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The Night Sky: Winter stargazing on the islands

Welcome to the Island Free Press' newest column that will inform readers about the night sky on Hatteras and Ocracoke. Our new columnist is Gerry Lebing, a serious stargazer who even built a small observatory next to his house in Waves.  We enjoy the darkest night skies on the East Coast in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Let's enjoy them!  
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GeeGee Rosell talks about new community reading program in radio interview...WITH AUDIO

GeeGee Rosell, owner of Buxton Village Books, was the guest on the on the Radio Hatteras interview show, "To the Point," on Sunday, Feb. 1. In the interview, Rossell talks about the new community reading program that she is sponsoring with Radio Hatteras.  The program is called "Hatteras Island Reads." 
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The plasticized ocean threatens marine environment

Off the coast of North Carolina lies what is known as the North Atlantic Gyre. It’s a large system of rotating ocean currents, often driven by strong winds, that’s centered near Bermuda. It includes the Sargasso Sea and the Gulf Stream. Within its center, drawn in by the currents, lies what Lisa Rider, coordinator of the N.C. Marine Debris Symposium, describes as a plastic soup. This floating mass of plastic is not the only area of North Carolina waters that is awash with plastic pollution, however. The waters in our sounds and rivers are also filled with plastic debris, she said.

The plastic pollution is a huge and ever-increasing problem threatening North Carolina’s marine environment.  
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Ocracoke plunges into the new year

All things considered, it wasn’t that bad. “The water was warmer than I expected,” said Whisper Meacham.  

This was the general consensus of the brave souls who gathered on the beach at the airport ramp and welcomed the New Year by diving into the Atlantic Ocean.  Joelle LeBlanc, who helped publicize this relatively unorganized event, thought there were more than 35 plungers and perhaps an equal number of friends, family and the curious watching from the beach.  
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Frank Miller: The International Hatterasman

Sitting in a booth at the Hatterasman Drive-In, eating a fried flounder sandwich, it’s hard to imagine Frank Miller, the new owner,  is a man who has walked the halls of power in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much of the talk centers on what it takes to run the drive-in, how he has some kids who are working for him whom he really believes in, and plans he has for the summer and beyond.

Part of his plans include creating a place where the Hatteras Island veterans' community will feel comfortable coming to have a cup of coffee and meal—and that’s part of the story that brought him to Hatteras village.  
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Ocracoke author's newest book stars a cat and a dog

Ocracoke author Pat Garber's newest book, "Paws and Tales," is a story told by a dog and a cat, which doesn't seem at all strange to anyone who knows the writer -- an animal lover whose two most popular books feature the island's wildlife.

The new book features mystery, adventure, and romance all rolled into one story that will please the young, young-at-heart, and Ocracoke lovers everywhere.
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One-year check-up on Hatteras medical center is radio show's topic...WITH AUDIO

A one-year checkup on the Hatteras Village Medical Center, which is celebrating the first anniversary of its re-opening, was the topic of the Radio Hatteras interview show, "To the Point," on Sunday, Dec. 21.

The guests for this week's interview were Dennis Robinson, who is vice-president of the board of directors of the community non-profit that runs the center, and Gail Covington, a nurse practitioner who is the health care provider.  
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Saving cold-stunned sea turtles is topic of "To the Point" radio show....WITH AUDIO

Two men from Frisco talked about the intrepid work of a small band of volunteers and their work to save cold-stunned sea turtles on the show that was broadcast on Sunday, Dec. 7, on the Radio Hatteras interview program, "To the Point."

"To the Point," which is hosted by Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan, airs on the island's community radio station, FM 101.5 and FM 99.9, at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month.  It is repeated on the second and fourth Sunday.

The guests for the interview were Lou Browning and Frank Wells, both of Frisco. And they need your help for this very important work.  
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Rare group of American white pelicans is wintering on Pea Island

Each fall, the annual migration of birds along the coastal flyways usually results in a rare or unusual species making an appearance, much to the pleasure of bird watchers and nature photographers.

On Hatteras Island, at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, such birds have been hard to overlook. Anyone driving along  Highway 12 through the refuge has probably noticed these enormous, plumed giants.

Fortunately, you won’t need to get up before the rooster crows, go crawling through thick shrub thickets or make silly sounding bird calls to see these feathery beauties. A group of American white pelicans have found the refuge’s waterfowl impoundments much to their liking and have not been shy about mixing in with their Eastern brown pelican cousins. A few white pelicans have shown up here in the past, but the significance this year is that close to 150 of the birds have taken up residence.  
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Hatteras  Community Emergency Response Team is topic of radio show...WITH AUDIO

Two leaders of Hatteras Island's Community Emergency Response Team were interviewed about the team's work on Sunday, Nov. 16, on the Radio Hatteras interview show, "To the Point." The guests for the program were Kenny Brite of Avon and Larry Ogden of Waves.

The teams, under the direction of emergency responders, provide critical support after disasters by giving immediate assistance to the victims, providing damage assessment information, and organizing other volunteers at the disaster site. The role of a CERT volunteer is to help others until trained emergency personnel arrive.

Hatteras Island's team was formed last year and has 66 members -- but it would like your help.
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Archaeologists to investigate possible site of Civil War fort this week

After a painstaking study of historic maps, documents and photographs zeroed in on the presumed site of a Civil War fort in Waves on Hatteras Island,  the actual work on the ground is set to begin this week to prove its location. 

Mel Covey, a local history buff who grew up in Rodanthe, said that retired East Carolina University archaeologist Larry Babits will be leading an investigation starting on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the site of what Covey believes is the location of Camp Live Oak, an 1861 Union outpost built to defend against Confederates retaking Hatteras island.  
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The day that East met West in Hatteras village....WITH SLIDE SHOW AND VIDEO

This is story -- a very funny story -- with a happy ending about the day that a delegation of Chinese investors and government officials came to visit Hatteras village on a whirlwind tour of Dare County.

The story was told to me by Allen Burrus of Hatteras village, vice-chairman of the county Board of Commissioners.

I sure can't spin a tale the way Burrus can, especially with his wonderful island accent. However, I am going to give it a try.
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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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