Reading Matters

‘The fright of these poor animals’ in Outer Banks hurricane of 1899

Whatever the book, if it’s set on any coast, anywhere in the world, I look first in the index under “Hurricane.”

Here’s a new one just out from Blair Publishing in Winston-Salem. “Voices from the Outer Banks,” edited by Stephen Kirk ($12.95 paper), is a collection of personal accounts of, well, stuff that happened over the years on the Outer Banks. Categories include Sir Walter Raleigh and the Lost Colony, Blackbeard, the Civil War, lighthouses, the hunt clubs, the tourist trade, the Ocracoke mailboat, Bonner Bridge, etc.

It’s a small, cozy-looking book, the perfect gift for anyone you know who’s making that long trek to “the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven,” as Ralph Lane described the mainland in 1585.

The entries on Hurricanes did not disappoint. “The Hatteras weatherman describes the San Ciriaco hurriicane” of Aug. 21, 1899, is thrilling to read:

“In many houses families were huddled together in the upper portion of the building with the water several feet deep in the lower portion, not knowing what minute the house would either be blown down or swept away by the tide...

“Cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens wre drowned by the hundreds before the very eyes of the owners, who were powerless to render any assistance on account of the rushing tide. The fright of these poor animals was terrible to see, and their cries of horror when being surrounded by the water were pitiful in the extreme...”

Kirk has ranged far and wide (and deep) in accumulating this fascinating information. “Voices from the Outer Banks” is the kind of book you travel with and read aloud in small bites between gazing out to sea.