We took off for the outer banks.  We headed east and ended up at Nag’s Head.  I had wanted to see the Wright Brother’s museum at Kittyhawk but there is a great deal more to see there than I realized.  This is close to the old settlement of Jamestown as well as the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke.  There was a lot to do but first we found our hotel which was conveniently right on the beach.

The “outer banks” are a series of barrier islands along the coast which were originally little more than sand bars that move around over time with the effects of wind and the sea.  For a very long time there was nothing there but a few lighthouses and a few hardy souls who made a living fishing.  With the tourist industry has come trees and shrubs to stabilize the terrain (until a powerful hurricane comes along to show us humans who’s really the boss, which occasionally happens) and lots of beach houses and other things like restaurants called Dirty Dick’s (“I got crabs at Dirty Dicks!” according to the banner being towed around by an airplane). 

We went out to the beach but I don’t care much for ocean swimming and had not packed any swimming gear.  (I guess what I really dislike is the sunburn) I limited myself to strolling along and letting my feet get wet.  We watched the birds awhile and then decided to get back in the car and drive north to the end of the island to see the Currituck lighthouse.  I had a bit of trouble with nomenclature; some words out there refer to towns (like Kittyhawk), others refer to geological formations (Bodie island, Currituck beach, etc), some words are for regions (Cape Hatteras national seashore), and some serve multiple purposes (Nag’s Head). But I’m the only one who seems to be concerned with sorting all this out.

The lighthouse itself is one of those Victorian era marvels that are almost forgotten now except for artists who like to paint nautical themes.  It is a tall brick structure of a sort which is not built any more.  There is a great deal of cleverness that went into the building of lighthouses which almost nobody is aware of these days. It is not easy to build a brick structure that tall without having a steel frame to hang it on. To have built a structure that withstood the worst weather that Mother Nature could throw at it and last over 100 years is no small feat.  In addition, the lights available to them back then were pretty feeble and so the Fresnel lens was invented to concentrate those few photons of light out to sea.  Then the patterns of light were modulated so that the ships could know by looking which lighthouse it was.  The Fresnel lens that most of us are familiar with is simply a flat thing that sits on overhead projectors and occasionally is adhered to the rear window of RVs to help out when backing up but the lenses of lighthouses are enormous glass sculptures that are spherical or oval shaped and large enough to stand inside.  Most of them were modulated by a clockwork mechanism and all this had to be kept operating in the worst weather.  In many ways they are a monument to cleverness as well as stubbornness.  This is why they usually had keepers who lived there full time.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is now surrounded by tall pine trees which frustrates those photographers among us.  Why this was done is something I did not find out but I wish it were otherwise.

From here we had dinner and then sat up late chatting (again).  To our credit, we were not always talking about the old days but of the present and often the future.