Ribbon of Sand

In RIBBON OF SAND, authors John Alexander and James Lazell investigate the human and natural history of the Outer Banks. They demonstrate how the combined action of wind, sand, and water has created a unique ecological system along 180 miles of barrier beaches on the North Carolina coast. Never more than thirty feet deep, these sandy barrier beaches are constantly reshaped by the forces of wind, waves, tides, and storms. The shallow continental shelf and the notorious shoals have caused many ship wrecks off the Outer Banks. The fragility of the coastal environment and the constant threat of hurricanes argue against proposed offshore drilling.

The harsh environment of the Outer Banks supports a unique ecological system of sand dunes, maritime forests, and salt water marshes. To survive the rigors of this arid, salty environment, with its periodic overwash, some species have evolved unique cooperative relationships, notably among the king snake, the rice rat, and the wax myrtle.

Stories of the Lost Colony, Blackbeard the pirate, and the Wright Brothers highlight the human history of the Outer Banks. The same navigational dangers that discouraged early English settlement provided a safe harbor for the British pirate Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, who was finally defeated by Robert Maynard in 1718. The windy, sandy conditions of the Outer Banks proved to be an ideal environment for Wilbur and Orville Wright, who came to the Outer Banks for three seasons, from 1900 to 1903, to experiment with their motorized gliders before their first successful flight on December 17, 1903. The unique human and natural history of the Outer Banks argues for their continued protection.