North Carolina’s Shelly Island may have vanished below ocean waters – possibly forever – but that’s not discouraging the Virginia man who filed a deed for ownership of the mysterious landmass.
Ken Barlow of Mechanicsville, Virginia, believes the mile-long island is still there...but its no longer a separate island. It has merged – at least in part – with nearby Cape Point, he says.
Either way, he claims he owns the spot where it once sat.
“My land is in the exact SAME spot. It cannot ever move. Metes and Bounds exist for this exact reason,” said Barlow in an email to the Observer. “I was on the point last Saturday and used my hand held GPS and my trucks GPS to confirm my land is above the water line and was blending with the point just as I predicted. My land will always be there.”
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The National Park Service, which manages Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has never conceded Barlow owned the 27-acre island. However, the island vanished before the dispute reached the courts.
Barlow is undeterred.
“I will NEVER relinquish what I own to the National Park Service. I will defend that property with the necessary force to repel invaders, such as the NPS.... Dare County Records of Deeds says I own this property. End of story.”
State officials have said no private citizen can own such a sandbar under a law that says title to any island formed in navigable waters “shall vest in the state.” If the sandbar merged with Cape Point, officials have said it would then belong to the national park service.
New photos from NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite show the island is no longer sitting just off Cape Point. NASA said a series of storms redistributed the sands of the sandbar.
The reasons for the island’s formation and evolution are complex and not entirely clear, says NASA. Coastal scientists speculate weather conditions were just right in 2017.
“Winds were strong enough to stir up the waves and currents that carry sand alongshore from the more northerly barrier islands toward the cape,” says NASA. “Then winds became calm enough for that sand transport to be halted by obstacles such as circular currents within Hatteras Bight and the expansive shoals of the cape. Sand accumulated, an island grew, and tourists flocked to the area to witness the spectacle.”
The storms first split the island, with one half connecting to the mainland (which Barlow claims he owns). The other tiny remnant remained isolated and winter storms continued to batter what was left of the island and wash it away, says NASA.
Such swift changes are common on the state’s barrier island systems, say experts. In this case, the island got big enough to become a tourist attraction, with many noting it was filled with unique and well preserved sea shells.
Barlow filed a Quit Claim Deed to the island on Aug. 7, which he says gave him “all right, title, interest and claim to the island.” He put up signs and planted sea grass to keep it from washing away. The claim was disputed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
His plan was to do nothing with the island, other than keep it out of the hands of the National Park Service and its policies, which Barlow says are “incompetent.”