Love Your Island: What's In A Shoal?

If you love this island, you probably know all about the Frying Pan Shoals. Long and treacherous, they have been "wrecking" havoc on ships since the beginning of European Exploration of the area. The almost 30 miles of sandbars are littered with Shipwrecks. In fact, from May 1994 to August 2008, over 130 new shipwreck locations have been discovered in the area encompassing the Frying Pan Shoals (Cape Fear, indeed.)

But there might be a few things you have yet to learn about the Shoals of Bald Head Island. Read on for 10 fun facts about our Shoals!


1. The Frying Pan Shoals aren't the only Shoals of Bald Head Island. Just stand on West Beach and look towards Oak Island during low tide and you'll likely see some birds resting on the Jay Bird Shoals!  (The Jay Bird Shoals are not nearly as big or dangerous as the Frying Pan Shoals, but when boating around BHI, you should be aware of them!)

2. Wait, back up.  What even is a shoal?! A shoal, sandbank, sandbar, or gravelbar, is a linear landform completely within or extending into a body of water. It is typically composed of sand, silt, and/or small pebbles.

3. The most prominent features along the shoreline of the Carolinas are the capes. From north to south, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Cape Fear, and Cape Romain segment the coastline into the northern outer banks, Raliegh Bay, Onslo Bay, and Long Bay regions. Continental shelf areas seaward of the capes are characterized by large, highly dynamic shoal complexes.

4. The name Cape Fear comes from the 1585 expedition of Sir Richard Grenville. Sailing to Roanoke Island, his ship became embayed behind the cape. Some of the crew were afraid they would wreck, giving rise to the name Cape Fear. It is the fifth-oldest surviving English place name in the U.S.

5. The Frying Pan Shoals appeared as early as 1738 when James Wimble noted them on his map of North Carolina as "Cape Fair Shoals". By 1770, on Abram Collet's map, they were known as the Frying Pan Shoals. If you look at them from above, its clear how they got their name; they're shaped like along-handled frying pan.

6.  Like a beach (and a barrier island), shoals tend to shift periodically making their exact position hard to specify.

7. Because of the Frying Pan Shoals threat to ships, light ships were stationed at the shoals from 1854 - 1964 (with interruptions during the Civil War and WWII).

8.  Dissatisfaction with the lightships led to the erection of two lighthouses - The Cape Fear Lighthouse in 1903, a 150-foot iron tower that was demolished in 1958, but whose base you can still see (in the circle of the BHI Conservancy campus!) and the Oak Island Lighthouse, which was activated in 1958.

9.  In 1964, the lightships were replaced with the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower.  Still standing today, the Tower is 125 feet tall and located just under 30 miles from Bald Head Island. If you're interested in what's going on out on the Shoals, check out the Tower's Shark Cam!


10. If you like surf fishing, the shoals of BHI are the place to be! There's a reason the Thad Wester Fishing School instructors bring their students to West Beach and the Cape Fear Point.  The Thad Wester Fishing School is the oldest fishing academy on the island and is run by people who have been fishing Bald Head's beaches for decades.


-- blog comments are disabled --