In an age of rising sea levels and shore erosion, the sudden appearance of new coastal land can encourage and inspire. Along North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a brand new island has emerged from the sea like a plant sprouting from a seed. The sandbar, which has been called Shelley Island by some locals for its abundance of sea shells, is attracting adventurous visitors, who choose to brave the elements and the occasional discarded fish hook so that they may see the shoreline’s newest addition.
Shelley Island is located near Cape Point, a globally-renowned surf-fishing location, and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on North Carolina‘s Outer Banks. To reach Shelley Island, visitors must pass near powerful currents that could easily pull a person out to sea. “We’re worried about shark bites, but we’re more worried about drownings,” said Bill Smith, president of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association. Rays and sharks patrol the waters and the discarded hooks from many fish tales could be embedded in the sand, threatening barefoot revelers.
It is entirely possible that Shelley Island may disappear within a year, or it may expand even further into the ocean. Cape Point is constantly shifting. Admirers of the wild seashore have been fortunate with a particularly accessible season, the better through which to enjoy the scenery. Those who visit should count themselves fortunate, as future generations may not be able to experience this unique and fragile ecosystem. The coastline of North Carolina is among the most vulnerable parts of the Eastern United States to the effects of climate change. The barrier islands, which have served to protect the inland areas from devastating storms, may be overwhelmed and submerged by the end of the century.