WWII on the Outer Banks

The history of the Outer Banks is remarkable, and at times it has been tragic. No more so than activities on the sea’s edge during World War II. Since North America was discovered by European explorers, shipping has hugged the coastline, riding currents that head south before bearing east for Europe. The Germans were aware of this pattern, and during WWII, their submarines exacted a terrible toll on ships off the coast of the Outer Banks.


1942 Loss of Ships

The Battle for the Atlantic hung in the balance in 1942 as German U-Boats preyed on allied shipping in wolfpacks. Seventy ships sank off the North Carolina coast during that year, and 56 of those ships within sight of the Outer Banks from Ocracoke to the Currituck Banks.

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Outer Banks History – More Unique Facts

People tend to take for granted the history of the communities in which they live or visit, and the Outer Banks is no exception to this observation. Most know about major local history events like the story of the Wright Brothers and The Lost Colony, but often lesser known facts can prove to be quite interesting in understanding the history of a region. Here are five facts you may not know about our area:

The Village of Duck is one of the oldest towns on the Outer Banks.
There are no records that indicate when the first residents came to live in Duck, but by the early 19th century there was a permanent settlement—and the evidence tells a sad tale of difficult lives and early deaths.

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Milepost 6 Shopping Center

There aren’t many large shopping centers on the Outer Banks. For the most part, local businesses are found in the small strip centers that dot our local landscape. There’s a number of reasons for this fact. In earlier days there was a scarcity of large land parcels available for development and not a clear vision for business growth. Regardless, these strip centers add to the charm and character of the Outer Banks and have allowed for unique small shops and restaurants to thrive.

One of the smallest and most popular of those small strip centers is MP6 in Kill Devil Hills. Located on the west side of the bypass at milepost 6, this center is easy to locate by looking for its dominant green sign with white lettering.

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Karaoke on the Outer Banks

Karaoke_OBXIt’s Wednesday evening at Jolley Roger in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Two young women are well into belting out a hip hop song, the karaoke beat is booming, and they haven’t missed a word yet. Friends are cheering them on and when they’re finished the people sitting around the bar let out a cheer and clap for their performance.

A man with a burly build, beard, long hair and several tattoos comes up to the mike next. He takes in a deep breath, focuses in on an attractive blond haired woman at the bar and sings George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart.” It’s a beautiful ballad about finding true love, and when he sings the first line, “Our love is unconditional, we knew it from the start …” everyone can tell at that very moment there’s no one else in the room except her.

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Outer Banks Sailing – SailNC

OBX Sailing - Sail NCThe Outer Banks has always been known as a place of consistent winds with regional sounds and estuaries providing a vast palette of protected waters. Yet for some reason, sailing has never been a large part of the Outer Banks experience.

This may be changing thanks in part to SailNC, a local organization that has been promoting the Outer Banks as a sailing destination for the past three years. It all began with our rich history of being home to a skilled boatbuilding workforce. Working with area businesses and sailors, as well as the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, SailNC became a part of the local scene in 2013. What the organization has been able to accomplish in a few years is pretty remarkable; there have already been four regattas held in Outer Banks waters since 2014.

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Jubilee Music Store on the Outer Banks

Ronnie Swaim Jubilee Music StoreMusicians walking into Ronnie Swaim’s Jubilee Music Store will feel a sense of homecoming. Located in the Seagate North Shopping Center in Kill Devil Hills, Ronnie’s corner of music delights is reminiscent of an age-old country store filled with an assortment of guitars, mandolins, ukuleles and other instruments.

When you talk to Ronnie, there is logic to the evolution of him owning a music store that mimics days gone by in the old South. This is a casual place where folks gather to discuss this and that. “I was born and learned to play music in the hills of North Carolina, back in Elkin,” he says. “I can play most anything with a string on it, starting with a guitar ‘bout the time I was nine years old and then moved on to the banjo and mandolin. I don’t read music but I have a lot of fun playing it.”

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Wanchese Fishing and Tradition

Wanchese Mack Etheridge Fishing
Photo Courtesy of the Outer Banks History Center

Away from the sporty fishing boats with teak decks and sportsman fishing chairs, and hidden from view from head boats that charter hopeful fishermen offshore, lies the village of Wanchese. Located on the south end of Roanoke Island, this village appears as a sliver of Outer Banks lifestyle that froze in time over 50 years ago.

Chief Wanchese gave the town its name. One of two tribal chiefs who went to England when the first Lost Colony ship sailed home, he returned disillusioned with European culture and civilization. The belief is that he was at the heart of the tribal push to force the colonists out, although Governor Lane’s heavy handed approach to these indigenous people contributed heavily.

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Meghan Agresto – Water’s Edge Village School

Meghan Agresto Corolla LighthouseMeghan Agresto wears a number of different hats. She is the Site Manager for the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, and she is one of the founding members and President of the Board of Water’s Edge Village School (K-6 charter school) where she teaches Spanish. Meghan and Luis, the lighthouse Keeper, have resided in Corolla with their children for eleven years.

“I love it,” she says. “I like having enough work to spend February in Corolla thinking over the meaning of life.” Meghan thinks fast, speaks quickly and seems to find humor is most situations. Understanding her background, her developed sense of humor is no surprise. Before relocating to the Outer Banks she had worked in areas that brought her in contact with some of the most challenging elements of society.

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Lesser Known Facts about Blackbeard the Pirate

Blackbeard FactsIt’s well known that the Outer Banks has a love affair with pirates, which is based more on imagination than reality. The truth is that pirates, by nature of their business, were not often revered in this manner.

If there’s one pirate who stands out as an Outer Banks original, it would definitely be Blackbeard who met his demise on November 22, 1718 off of Ocracoke Island. Angered by the support the pirate was receiving from North Carolina officials, Governor Spotswood of Virginia sent Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy to hunt down the pirate.

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Unique Outer Banks Festivals

The Outer Banks is home to some truly interesting people and from them spring diverse concepts for gatherings and festivals. Their unique perspectives are at the heart of our active arts community and many of the quirky shops and restaurants found within our communities.

Throughout the years, a number of festivals have sprung to life in celebration of our laid back and creative Outer Banks lifestyle. Many are well-known and attended, like the Mustang Music Festival, Outer Banks Taste of the Beach, OBX Seafood Festival and the Duck Jazz Festival. However, there are others that are not quite as popular but are definitely worth attending.

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