The Graveyard of the Atlantic


We drove on to the end of the point, getting out to view the beach and the lighthouse over the dunes. The beach was a blasted plain of sand and shells, crushed into a fine powder by the still raging surf – I doubt I have ever seen the ocean so consistently rough in all our travels. Behind the dunes, quiet ponds reflected the increasingly blue skies and dead grey scrub trees that littered these barrier islands like slender ghosts rising from the ground, petrified for all time.

We doubled back along this dead-end road, stopping to see the original site of the lighthouse; it is now a beach strewn with the rocky rubble from the old foundation stones. Pops found the stone circle of the old base next to the ruins of an interpretive sign washed askew by the surf. Here, where the dunes had been moved back, the wind was as wicked as ever, taking his breath away as he staggered around taking photos and adding shells to our collection.

We drove on southward, to the very end of the isle, where a ferry could take us on to the next island. But this was not the plan. We went on to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, a unique place that housed relics retrieved from the wrecks off the outer banks shores, and offered a look at local history and culture. Here was a bell from a lightship sunk by U-85 during World War 2 – a bell made by a foundry in Bath Maine that John Fuller, Granny’s father, worked at for a time. There was a hatch from the sunken U-85 as well, relics from Blackbeard’s vessel, a review of the USS Monitor wreck, and many others – and local history and lore. And most of the Fresnel Lens from the Cape Hatteras light.

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