Jug Handle Bridge at Rodanthe Is Taking Shape

A 155' piling being delivered to the Rodanthe side of the Jug Handle bridge project.
A 155′ piling being delivered to the Rodanthe side of the Jug Handle bridge project.

If all goes as planned, sometime next year, probably close to summer, the Jug Handle Bridge that will by pass the S Curves just north of Rodanthe will have its ribbon cutting.

The S Curves, just north of Rodanthe, is one of the most dynamic areas of Pea Island.

There have been one or two glitches along the way, but fur the most part the project is pretty close to being on schedule.

The two biggest glitches were Hurricane Dorian. That’s a weather glitch and weather is by far the biggest concern of project managers.

The other glitch was a problem with the concrete pilings that will support the bridge.

The problem has been corrected, by back in December inspectors noticed minute cracks were developing in the pilings. Luckily the problem was noticed quickly, although one of the defective pilings had been driven. That piling has been removed—a very difficult process.

The bridge is being built from the north and south simultaneously. It was on the north end that the defective pilings effected. As a consequence, the north end is running a little behind the south end that is coming from Rodanthe.

The process of building the bridge is remarkable for how straightforward the process is, yet how critical each component is coordinated.

Because the bridge is designed to have a 100 year lifespan, the pilings have to be driven deep beneath the waters of the Pamlico Sound. The pilings for the main part of the bridge are 155’ long and since the bridge will be about 25’ above the surface of the water, the pilings are being driven 130’.

The cranes and gantries the handle the pilings were custom built in Italy and watching them place the pilings is like witnessing a very slow moving dance of remarkable intricacy. 

We’ll file more reports on the progress of the Jug Handle Bridge from time to time as it continues it trek across the Pamlico Sound.

There is always something interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Book your stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover what life on a sandbar is all about.

Rodanthe Old Christmas – 250 Years of Tradition Keeps Customs Alive

Riding old Buck in the 1950s at a Rodanthe Old Christmas.
Riding old Buck in the 1950s at a Rodanthe Old Christmas.

They’re celebrating Old Christmas at the Village of Rodanthe today. It’s a tradition that goes back at least 250 years. Maybe even a bit longer, it’s hard to say.

It all depends on when a group of isolated villagers in Colonial times along the Outer Banks were told that England had adopted the Gregorian Calendar—the calendar we use today. Great Britain switched over from the Julian Calendar in 1752. 

That calendar had been steadily losing time and becoming less accurate because it didn’t account for leap years accurately.

When England switched, the only way that Parliament could see to do that was to simply delete 11 days from the year—that’s how inaccurate the Julian Calendar had become.

When the good folks of Rodanthe heard about the new date for Christmas—well they chose to ignore it and a wonderful tradition was born.

We’re not sure how the villagers celebrated Christmas back in 1752, bu nay the early 19th century tradition was taking hold, a tradition that included a lot of food and games music and the appearance of the mythical Old Buck. early

Old Buck it seems, was a bull who escaped from a shipwreck and came ashore somewhere on Hatteras Island. According to legend the local cows took a real liking to him. At some point in time, it’s unclear exactly when, he disappears from everyday life, making his appearance only at the Old Christmas celebration. 

The Rodanthe Old Christmas is held every year at the Rodanthe Community Center on the first Saturday before the Epiphany.

There is always something interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Plan your stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover what live on this sand bar is really all about.

Nor’easters Create Perfect Conditions for Big Surf Waves

Surfing the break at Kitty Hawk, March 7. Photo, Brent Nultemeier.
Surfing the break at Kitty Hawk, March 7. Photo, Brent Nultemeier.

Amazing Conditions Greet Surfers on Wednesday

Maybe it was the back to back nor’easters that created the perfect conditions for the waves that rolled in on Wednesday. Maybe it was the wind shifting just enough to the west to stack those massive waves, so they were no longer an unreadable swirl of currents.

Whatever it was, something happened yesterday to create an almost perfect winter surfing day.

Make no mistake, this was a day for the best only. Ten and twelve foot waves—and a few bigger—breaking 75 yards offshore are conditions only suited for the most experienced, but the action for those few who did get out there was incredible.

Significant Impacts Experienced

That is not to lessen the impact of the storms that battered the Outer Banks this past week. Somehow NCDOT has managed to get the S Curves north of Rodanthe opened almost immediately after being completely under water. A remarkable feat, but it also means Hatteras Island is not cut off from the rest of the world.

North of Oregon Inlet the relentless pounding of that perfect combination of storms pushed seawater over parts of the Beach Road in Nags Head and on the north end of Kitty Hawk.

In spite of the overwash, it does look as though the beaches that were nourished have held up well. Nourishment is used for shoreline and infrastructure protection. Five days of 12-15’ waves with a strong onshore wind is going to push water inland no matter what.

At first glance though, it looks like the overwash in Kitty Hawk was not nearly as severe as it has been in the past, and critical areas of the Beach Road that have been washed out as recently as last year, were not affected at all.

It looks as though there is another storm brewing, forecast to push offshore this weekend. Like the past two, the brunt of its power will be to the north of the Outer Banks…but the waves will certainly be rolling in.

Pamlico Shipwreck Mystery Moves Closer to Being Solved

An image of the Pappy's Lane shipwreck during WWII.
An image of the Pappy’s Lane shipwreck during WWII.

Pappy’s Lane Shipwreck Yields Clues to Marine ARCHAEOLOGIST

For almost 50 years the shipwreck off Pappy’s Lane in Rodanthe has been turning to rust.

A forlorn, forgotten husk there was little to suggest it was ever anything other than some rusted barge that had grounded and wasn’t worth the effort to refloat.

Clearly visible from the shoreline, the shipwreck first caught Coastal Studies Institute Marine Archeologist Nathan Richards’ attention in 2010, but with no funds to really study it he had to wait.

When NCDOT presented their route for the Jug Handle to bypass the S Curves north of Rodanthe, the archeological survey team advising the transportation department felt the wreck might have some significance.

The state asked Richards to investigate and what he and his team of interns and graduates students discovered is an amazing story that begins in WWII.

Needing a landing craft that could transport up to a company of soldier at a time, the US government in WWII designed the Landing Craft Infantry Mark 3-LCI (L)(3). The extra L is for large.

The ship performed as hoped, except it was not well armed and without close arm support when troops went ashore, they were being slaughtered—that was especially the case at Tarawa—one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign.

To remedy that, some of the LCI being built were converted to gunboats—LCS Gunboat. According to reports, the LCS Gunboat was the most heavily armed ship by size and weight in WWII.

Although it has not yet been confirmed, circumstantial evidence seems to point to the wreck being a LCS Gunboat and according to Dr. Richards at a CSI Science on the Sound lecture on Thursday night, the ship seems to be the USS LCS (L)(3)-123.

At the time it ran aground and was abandoned, probably in 1969, the ship was long past it’s glory days and had been converted to a fuel transport ship along the Inner Coastal waterway.

It has not yet been confirmed, but anecdotal evidence suggests it was used to pull two other ships to open water that had run aground but in the effort ran aground itself and was unable to refloat.

A Different Tradition-Rodanthe Old Christmas

Celebrating Rodanthe Old Christmas in the 1950s with Old Buck.
Celebrating Rodanthe Old Christmas in the 1950s with Old Buck.

Every place that celebrates Christmas has some kind of tradition that is their own, but when it comes to being different, it’s tough to beat Old Christmas down in the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe.

Residents, family and offspring gather from all over the world on the first Saturday after the New Year to make merry at the Rodanthe Old Christmas. Everyone acknowledges that Christmas really does fall on December 25, but for the longest time the families that made up Rodanthe refused to go along.

A lot of traditions just seem to have sprouted up and people keep them going, but this one there is no doubt about when it began—1752.

That was the year England converted from the Julian Calendar that was almost right, to the Gregorian calendar that we use today that was remarkably right. When the change was made, everybody in the British Empire—which included Rodanthe—lost 11 days.

The decision to begin using the new calendar was greeted with considerable opposition. Some of it was religious—the Gregorian calendar is named for Pope Gregory, who developed it, and in heavily Protestant England that was unacceptable. Some was fear of change, some superstition.

But the British Parliament voted that the new calendar was the law of the land and the rest of the Empire followed suit—except for Rodanthe, where the continued to celebrate Christmas 11 days later than the rest of the world.

Rodanthe Old Christmas has become a wonderful celebration of the unique qualities of village life in an isolated area.

There are traditional foods that are prepared; there are games for kids and some for adults. Family members travel incredible distances to be on hand, which is why the celebration was moved to the first Saturday after the New Year.

The highlight is an appearance of Old Buck, a strong and—according to legend—virile bull who came ashore in a shipwreck. Old Buck, it seems, still haunts the maritime forests of Hatteras Island, reappearing only at Old Christmas.

The Rodanthe Old Christmas will take place on January 6 this year. Activities are centered around the Rodanthe Community Center.

Groundbreaking for Much Delayed Bonner Replacement

Bob Woodard, Chair Dare County Commissioners; Nicholas Tennyson, Secretary NCDOT; Governor Pat McCrory; Queen Elizabeth; Shelley Blake, NCDOT lead counsel; Representative Walter Jones; Malcolm Fearing.

Three years from now and a few hundred million dollars later, a replacement span for the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet will finally be in place. Today marked the official beginning of the process as politicians came from Raleigh and Washington, DC to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new bridge.

The weather was about as good as it gets on the Outer Banks in early March with temperatures in the mid 60s and a gentle south breeze. The speakers included Governor Pat McCrory and Congressman Walter B. Jones, and a theme that seemed to run throughout the remarks was the extraordinary sense of teamwork that ran throughout a process that included more than ten years of courtroom battles.

“I noticed the teamwork you had between your local city, county and state officials and the federal government and the private sector would step up to the plate,” Governor McCrory said.

It was a phenomena that Representative Jones also remarked upon.

“I want to thank the local leadership that came to Washington on a regular basis . . . and sat down with us and talked about the needs of this coastal county. That is what helps Washington understand, this is a different county,” he said.

The bridge, completed in 1963 was supposed to have a 30 year lifespan, but legal battles between the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and NCDOT over over where to place the bridge, environmental impact and how documents were created created years of litigation.

It wasn’t until June of this year the SELC and NCDOT reached an agreement that would allow the bridge to be built without further lawsuits.

The bridge is one of three project called for in the settlement. The other two include a jug handle at the Rodanthe S curves to avoid an area of consistent ocean overwash, and a new route bypassing the New Inlet area of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The replacement span will have a 100 year planned life and will include stainless steel girders pilings driven 100’ into the ground. There will also be improved navigational aids for commercial and residential watercraft.