The Outer Banks of North Carolina
I specialize in making fine jewelry, therefore I purchase some of the rarest and most perfectly conditioned shards from collectors all over the world. However, they are never altered in any way and are always set as they are found, with the only exceptions being earrings or charm pendants that I will drill tiny holes into in order to make connections. I never tire of the hunt for sea glass on my local beaches, however, and collecting shards along the Outer Banks of North Carolina always makes me wonder where life began for these precious treasures.
Although Native Americans were undoubtedly the first inhabitants of the Outer Banks, the first visitors from the period of the early 1500s to the early 18th century were pirates and former privateers who had been under the protection of the British crown. The privateers did not discriminate, and attacked any ship possessing a bounty of carge, including the British. As for the pirates, who only needed a fast ship and a crew that would do anything for treausre, Blackbeard was our most infamous and frequent visitor. A large, muscular man with long black hair and a beard braided in pigtails, it is reported that just before boarding a captured ship he would light slow-burning matches and insert them in his beard to give off wisps of smoke.
The early history about the Outer Banks is mostly about the people who lived there during this time, most of them drawn by the wreckage that littered the beaches and surrounding inlets. The miles of beaches and sandy dunes were frequently strewn with boxes, crates, and barrels full of bounty ...gold, silver, rum, whiskey, and sugar brought many of the first settlers of the new world to our area.
Living in the most dangerous part of the new world was difficult at best. With no significant shelter to protect them from the raging storms, only minimal amounts of water collected in canvas 'catch basins', constant battles with the natives, famine, disease ...always a step away from death's door. These were the first new world residents of the 'Banks'.
The term 'Graveyard of the Atlantic' is a name given to the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Outer Banks and Virginia coastline south of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Henry. In this area of the ocean, the cold waters around Greenland collide with the much warmer temperatures of the Gulf Stream flowing north from the Caribbean Sea.
The combination of severe weather, strong currents, and navigational challenges along the coast have combined to cause the loss of thousands of ships and countless human lives. Additionally, the Civil War battles and german U-Boats of World War II have also contributed significantly to these numbers, as have countless vessels lost or sunk during Prohibition, when rum-running was a part of our history. Since record-keeping began in 1526, more than 2000 ships have been lost in the waters off our coastline.
To be sure, the Outer Banks is a great place to look for sea glass treasure, and in my lifetime I have personally amassed a collection upwards of half a million pieces!!!