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Notes and Quotes by Tom Morrow

February 19, 2015

Touring the Outer Banks where history was made

by Tom Morrow

Some years ago, I spent week in North Carolina where I visited the Outer Banks on the extreme eastern edge of the state. Unless you’re in Maine, you can’t get much further east in the United States than standing on the white sandy beaches of this thin piece of land facing the Atlantic.

The Outer Banks is a string of small islands stretching from near the Virginia border and the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay down to Wilmington, N.C. One of the largest of these islands is Bodie Island, which includes the communities of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head.

Of course we all know Kitty Hawk was where the Wright Brothers made their historic series of flights in December 1902-1903, but the actual site today is in Kill Devil Hills, now an incorporated city. Back in 1903, the entire area was known as “Kitty Hawk,” so both locations are correct.

The National Parks Service has developed a wonderful visitors’ center dedicated to the two brothers. The distance of those four powered flights are marked in stone, and the rail they launched their powered flying machine is still there.

By the way, those four distances: 120 feet, 175 feet, 200 feet, and 852 feet.

Earlier glider flights beginning in 1902, were from Kill Devil Hill, which is to the south of the markers. When the Parks Service began its preservation in the late 20s, they discovered that sandy hill had shifted south some 450 feet from where the brothers had launched their gliders. To preserve the entire area, grass was planted to hold the hill in place.

LOST COLONY – The mystery of the Lost Colony on nearby Roanoke Island is the primary story being told at another National Parks visitors’ center at Fort Raleigh.

In 1585, the first English settlers in the New World were sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to what was then known as Virginia. When the colony was running short of supplies, a ship was sent back to England. When it returned, the fort and the community were abandoned. Searches turned up nothing. To this day, no more is known about the fate of the colony.


This visit inspired me to write my 2014 novel, “The Beacon on Kill Devil Hill.” There is beacon on top of the huge monument dedicated to the Wright Brothers and their historic feat. If you’re interested in reading this novel, send me an e-mail and I’ll ship one off to you: quotetaker@msn.com