One afternoon last week, we decided to do a couple of tours. First, we stopped off at the Currituck Beach Light Station. It is 162 feet and has 220 steps. Construction on it began in 1873 and it was first illuminated in 1875. It still serves as an aid to naviagation, lighting up every 3 seconds and off for 17 seconds throughout the night.
The exterior of this lighthouse was left unpainted to distinguish it from the other lighthouses in the region.
When the kids got to the top, they were pretty scared! They mostly huddled near the buidling, though they did grab on to the rail to look over just for a few moments! The wind was pretty strong up there, so it made everyone pretty nervous!!
Right after that, we also went on a jeep tour to see the wild horses. The guide had such great stories and information, we were happy we went with the tour rather than just renting a jeep to go on our own. Horses were brought to the Outer Banks in 1823 by the Spanish so that they could be recaptured and used at a later time. It was too far and too difficult to bring the horses back with them to Spain.
Herd numbers on the Outer Banks dwindled at one point to as low as twenty, but now there are more than 100. There are horses on neighboring islands nearby and they are doing a breeding program to improve the stock.
We were lucky on this tour because we saw a number of small herds. The kids were very excited!! I’ll share our most spectacular picture — taken by my niece, AJ. Isn’t it a great photo?!!
The guide also stopped along the way and picked up some fulgurite. Any idea what it is? It is when lightning strikes the beach and melts the sand. Cool, right?! I’m glad that wasn’t me standing there! The amazing thing was that he stopped again and again and found piece after piece. Yikes!
Our guide also shared a story about the observation tower you see in the picture below: Our guide said that during WWII, this tower was used to look for German U-Boats. At one point, the watchmen thought they saw a German sub. They fired off a couple of shots and noted it in the log-book. Years later, an expedition found the remains of a U-Boat just off the coast with two shots through its hull.
I was intrigued by that story and went on to find out more. I was fascinated to learn that 397 ships were sunk off the East Coast (of the US) during WWII. This began in 1942, after the US joined the War. Many of these ships were destroyed by the 65 German U-Boats that lurked off the Outer Banks. So many people were casualties of the German U-Boats that the Outer Banks were nick-named “Torpedo Alley” or “Torpedo Junction.” Over 5,000 people were killed, many of whom were civilians and merchant marines.
Map Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
We’re always learning — even on vacation!
Here are some other posts I’ve done about the Outer Banks in previous years: