By Craig Welch
PUBLISHED JUNE 27, 2017
It appeared out of nowhere in April just off North Carolina’s Outer Banks—a new land mass poking through the surf, a brand new Atlantic Ocean island.
Along this dynamic stretch of sea, where the cold, southbound Labrador Current churns and crashes into warmer Gulf Stream waters, it is not unusual for patches of ground to emerge and then quickly subside. These are, after all, some of North America’s roughest waters, a shallow region of swirling tides, hidden shoals, and harsh winds known to sailors as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Yet even for this place, this new formation is of a scale rarely seen. The crescent-shaped spit is close to a mile long. At its widest point, this island reaches a football field or more across.
“It’s a hoss,” says Danny Couch, 57, a local historian, tour guide and lifelong resident of nearby Hatteras Island. “Every 10 to 15 years we’ll get something that’s pretty dramatic. But this one is the largest one I’ve seen in my lifetime.” (Learn about the fight to save a nearby iconic lighthouse.)
NOT EXACTLY PARADISE
The appearance of this new island is drawing attention from coast to coast, though experts warn that it’s surrounded by dangerous currents. Whale bones poke through its sands, along with the ribs of old shipwrecks. Beautiful seashells dot its beaches. The ripping seas separating it from the rest of Cape Hatteras National Seashore have brought in sand tiger sharks and “oceanic manta rays the size of car hoods,” Couch says.