Why there’s an Oregon on the East Coast

On this day in 1846: A hurricane punches through the Outer Banks into Pamlico Sound, creating Oregon Inlet (named for the first ship to pass through, the sidewheeler Oregon) and Hatteras Inlet.

Before the storm, Cape Hatteras was joined to Ocracoke Island.


On the beach, a wealth of not-very-helpful evidence

On this day in 1906: “Cork life vests began to wash shore between Cape Hatteras and Kinnakeet. During a two-week period, over 400 made their way to Hatteras beaches….  Those that were identified bore the markings ‘Caswitz Rettunysyurcer, G.R.P.’ ‘Sealanan’ and ‘Smeskf.’ Along with the life vests, pieces of unmarked wreckage also washed ashore 3 miles to the north.

“Surfmen believed that because the life preservers washed up in such a short stretch of beach, and because of the large number of life vests, that had a wreck occurred it was most like a passenger ship close to shore. No maritime records corresponded with the names of the life preservers, and because no other traces of a wreck washed ashore, the incident remained a mystery.”

From “On This Day in Outer Banks History” by Sarah Downing (2014)

What puzzling names (?) on the life vests — even Google seems stumped….


Sinking of sidewheeler leads to mandatory life preservers

On this day in 1837: The steamship Home, seeking to break its own record for fastest passage from New York to Charleston, fails to survive a storm off Cape Hatteras. Of 135 passengers and crew members, 90 perish.

The storm is not especially violent by Outer Banks standards, but the sleek, 220-foot sidewheeler, converted from inland to sea use, can’t handle the high waves.

When the boiler fires go out, the captain turns the Home toward land and grounds it seven miles east of Ocracoke village. As the ship begins breaking up, chaos rules – only three lifeboats and two life preservers are aboard.

At the time the Home disaster is the deadliest ever on U.S. shores. In response, Congress will pass the “Steamboat Act,” requiring all passenger ships to carry a life preserver for each person on board.