As mentioned earlier, we're on Ocracoke Island, NC, this week. This is our second trip here, and I'm already remembering just what we loved so much about this place two years ago — it's laid-back, has miles of pristine, condo-free beaches, bunches of great restaurants and the Ocracoke Coffee Co./Java Books, one of the coolest coffee shops around.
We took a trip up the coast today; we crossed on the Hatteras Ferry to do some sight-seeing that we didn't have time for on our first trip, two years ago. This morning we climbed the Cape Hatteras lighthouse (erected 1870), the tallest lighthouse in America, protecting one of the most dangerous spots on the east coast (referred to as "the Graveyard of the Atlantic, due to the number of shipwrecks over the past couple of centuries).
From there we drove up the coast to Roanoke Island to see Ft. Raleigh, the site of the aptly-named "Lost Colony." A colony of English settlers, led by John White, was planted on the island in 1587, in the midst of pre-existing tensions with the native population. They quickly ran short on supplies, forcing White to sail back to England to re-supply. His return was seriously delayed. When he did finally arrive back on Roanoke in 1590, virtually all traces of the settlement had disappeared. He and his men found the ruins of a few structures and the word "CROATOAN" carved into a tree. Four hundred years later, the fate of the those settlers is still unknown.
Vacation reading always presents a dilemma: I bring along the books that I am currently reading, but find that there is always something else that sparks my interest on the trip. So, this time (as on other occasions), I've dropped my current list in favor of some vacation reading.
Ocracoke is the kind of place where you wouldn't mind sitting around all day on the beach or at a coffee shop with a novel. So, I've been reading Jose Saramago's Seeing, an account of what happens in a democracy when the people turn on their leaders by turning out en masse to cast blank votes.
Ocracoke is perhaps best known as the place where, in 1718, Edward Teach (a.k.a. Blackbeard) was killed in an encounter with British naval forces. So, I'm deep in the middle of David Cordingly's masterful Under the Black Flag, which cuts through the mythology and romance associated with the great age of piracy to present a frank and realistic portrait of what piracy was all about and what it was like to be a pirate. Highly recommended!
Finally, today I picked up a copy of Thomas Harriot's A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. This is a wonderfully done facsimile reprint of the 1590 original. Harriot was the premier English scientist and mathematician of his day. He accompanied Sir Richard Grenville on his 1585 expedition to Roanoke Island (the trip before the ill-fated members of the "Lost Colony" set sail in 1587). While there, along with John White, he studied and wrote extensively about the flora and fauna of "Virginia" and the manners and customs of its natives, the Southeastern Algonkian Indians. His collected notes, along with White's skillful illustrations, are what make up the Report. It is remarkable for its objectivity — it treats the natives neither as barbaric savages nor as "noble savages" — a trait that is absent from other early "first contact" narratives.
See you later this weekend!