Hatteras: Keeper of the Outer Banks


Keeper of the Outer Banks

2nd Edition

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HATTERAS ISLAND IS A BARRIER ISLAND, part of the famed Outer Banks that runs parallel to the North Carolina coast. But any map, let alone a satellite view from space, will show the island is not a part of North Carolina at all. Hatteras belongs to the Atlantic Ocean, as much a part of the sea as fish and waves, and as much at the sea’s mercy as sandcastles on the beach. And it belongs to the heart.

In Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks, award-winning coastal writer Ray McAllister returns to the site of his family’s annual vacations a quarter-century ago. Much has changed on Hatteras. But even more has not. Elsewhere, fast-food restaurants, strip malls, and beach-dominating duplexes have overcome resort islands. But the storm-buffeted Hatteras—as much as 30 miles from the mainland and largely protected against intruders by national seashore status—has kept its soul.

Hatteras has long been known as a world class sportfishing and windsurfing spot. Its famed lighthouse, historic lifesaving stations, pristine beaches, and six small towns are magnets for tourists. But the Hatteras soul is also built on an extraordinary history: early Native Americans who glimpsed Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci in the 16th century, raids by Blackbeard and other cutthroat pirates, hurricanes that ripped apart the island, so many shipwrecks that its treacherous coastline earned the sobriquet “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Civil War battles, and even a coastal war with German U-boats. It was here that radio pioneer Reginald Fessenden in 1902 transmitted the first musical notes received by signal, that a heroic lifesaving crew saved 42 British seamen whose tanker was destroyed by a German submarine in 1918, and that General Billy Mitchell’s 1923 demonstration of the effectiveness of air power helped lead the establishment of the U.S. Air Force.

Hatteras Island also includes the stories of fishermen, tourists, surfers, beachgoers, historians, and Hatteras families who have lived here for generations and others who hold dear this island constantly being redefined by wind and wave.

(*Originally published by John F. Blair, Publisher; distributed here through Beach Glass Books)


from the News Media:

“Ray McAllister’s storytelling is superb. … This is one accessible book – so much to enjoy.”

  • THE NORTH BEACH SUN, Outer Banks, N.C., Bill Rickman

“Romantics love this state’s Outer Banks. Former Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Ray McAllister understands why. In the introduction to his new book ‘Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks” (John F. Blair, Publisher, [$19.95 hardcover, $13.95 paperback]), McAllister writes that he discovered atteras unintentionally in 1982. He was headed to the more popular Nags Head destination, but decided to keep driving south. “It was so good that we kept going back,” he writes. McAllister’s historical-travelogue approach (with plenty of historical photos) will have you headed [to Hatteras].”

  • DURHAM HERALD-SUN, Cliff Bellamy

“McAllister’s style is powerful, poetic, yet very easy reading. It’s like he is your worldly neighbor who went on vacation and came home to personally tell you the secrets he discovered on Hatteras Island. If you love not just the Outer Banks but its heart and soul, Hatteras Island, the Keeper of the Outer Banks, you will love this treasure.”


“Longtime Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Ray McAllister has written two books about local resorts, “Topsail Beach: Mayberry by the Sea” and “Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island.” He continues the series but moves up the coast, for ‘Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks’ (Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, [$19.95 hardcover], $13.95 paperback).
As in the other books, McAllister delivers easygoing essays on a number of enthralling topics, such as the Outer Banks pirates, the story of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the first radio broadcast of music anywhere in the world (at Hatteras Island in 1902), the history of the local lifesaving stations and the mystery of the beautiful five-masted schooner Carroll A. Deering, which showed up off Hatteras in 1921, minus its crew. (No one ever answered what happened to them.)
“Hatteras Island” also offers McAllister’s salute to the Outer Banks fishing piers and a profile of the great David Stick, author of ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ and other classics. Hatteras Island is a keeper.”


“The islands of North Carolina are favorite places to escape — and not only from the Tar Heel State’s neighbor to the north.
Ray McAllister, a former columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the current editor of Boomer Life magazine, has become a chronicler of the sites, first in “Topsail Island: Mayberry by the Sea” and “Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island,” and now in Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks (297 pages, John F. Blair, [$19.95 hardcover,] $13.95 [paperback]).
Graced by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Hatteras falls near the southernmost point of the Outer Banks. Brimming with history, it’s also a relaxed and relaxing place where beach-lovers can find peace. As such, McAllister, though writing of Hatteras’ long history, instead calls this book “a conversation with an island.”
It’s a conversation to be savored, in a hammock at a beach house in July or under a blanket in an armchair in January.


“Ray McAllister, a veteran journalist from Richmond, Va., has written one of the year’s most interesting new books for all of us who love Hatteras Island. … This book is a look at the island’s history, the contemporary life and issues here, and a brief glimpse of what the future might be. That’s a lot to cover in one book, but McAllister has pulled it off, managing to weave all the pieces together in a style that is very readable. …
McAllister’s background as a journalist is apparent in the care he took in his research and reporting. His reporting of places, names, and events is admirably accurate. It’s hard to find an error, which isn’t always the case when outsiders come here to write about Hatteras.
The author is really perceptive when he writes about the life and lifestyle of today’s islanders – of why we are here, why we stay here or don’t, why we put up with the inconveniences of island life and the storms.
And, finally, I really like the way McAllister describes the book in his preface. …
“This book is … a conversation with an island.
“It is shared memories with a warm beach, recollections of a storm, tales from a violent ocean. It is hot July days and dreary February days and the promising days of early May. It is wind and sunrises and sunsets and blowing sand and churning surf….It is long-dead fishermen and lifesavers peering out from old photographs, and tourists and kite boarders smiling from new ones, and natives and transplants brought together every summer, the latter sometimes charmed by the former and the former simply putting up with the latter until, by God, they leave. All share and celebrate this ever-changing — ever-challenging – spit of land that nobody should be able to live on. But don’t you dare try to tell them they shouldn’t be here. They would be no place else.”
This is an eloquent or insightful description of what our life is like here and why we stay here.
Whether you have lived here all your life or have come here more recently or are a first-time visitor or a visitor who keeps on coming back, you will enjoy reading this book.
As McAllister says in the final line of his preface:
“Pull up a chair. Have a listen.”

  • ISLAND FREE PRESS, Irene Nolan

from the Authors:

“Every line of this colorful, detailed, fluently written and thoroughly enjoyable portrait of Hatteras Island brings the place to vivid life. Ray McAllister transports the reader into a starkly beautiful landscape of sand, shaped by wind and pounded by tide. The scrappy islanders talk to the reader like old friends, and their history unravels as fascinating personal stories. As I read his book, I had to resist the urge to get in the car and drive until I came once again under the compass of that tall striped lighthouse and commune with the ghosts of those old time keepers.”

  • PHILIP GERARD, author of Hatteras Light and Cape Fear Rising

“Pirates, hurricanes, endless summers, shipwrecks, U-boats, and the restless eternal sea. They’re all here in this elegant meditation on Hatteras Island, its history, and its people. In the hands of a master storyteller, the allure of the Outer Banks comes palpably to life. Reading these pages, I would swear my heart rate slowed just as it does whenever I return to that timeless ribbon of sand that Ray McAllister captures in Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks.”

  • NELSON D. LANKFORD, author of Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861

 “Ray McAllister’s Hatteras Island: Keeper of the Outer Banks comes as close as any writer ever will to capturing the elusive soul of that intrepid ribbon of sand and its remarkable inhabitants at the edge of the Gulf Stream. These stories inspire daydreams of escaping with the family and their boogie boards, surf rods, sun screen, and sandals southbound over the Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet until the great lighthouse at Buxton looms on the horizon. Read this book now – and then take it to the beach as well, because Ray McAllister’s Hatteras Island is a keeper.”

  • JON KUKLA, author of Mr. Jefferson’s Women and A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America

 “As a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Ray McAllister wrote with clarity and passion that made him one of the top writers in the state of Virginia. Now, McAllister has refocused his literary talents, and his ability as a wordsmith brings to life pirates, hurricanes, and the people of Hatteras Island, past and present. It’s a must read for natives and visitors alike.”

  • LARRY CHOWNING, author of six books on the Chesapeake Bay and Civil War

“A dream book for beach buffs, especially anyone who knows – and therefore loves – the Outer Banks of North Carolina! Ray McAllister serves up all the colorful lore and the quaint appeal of historic Hatteras today with feeling, even a sense of reverence that is entirely appropriate.”

  • C. BRIAN KELLY and INGRID SMYER, authors of Best Little Stories from the Life and Times of Winston Churchill, with “His American Mother Jennie”.

Chapter One    Keeper of the Outer Banks
Chapter Two    Beginnings
Chapter Three    Pirates
Chapter Four    The Ghostship of Diamond Shoals
Chapter Five    Wars Off the Shores
Chapter Six    The Lighthouse
Chapter Seven    Hurricanes
Chapter Eight    Music in the Air
Chapter Nine    The Lifesaving Stations
Chapter Ten Firepower in the Air
Chapter Eleven    A National Seashore
Chapter Twelve    Highway 12
Chapter Thirteen    Bard of the Banks
Chapter Fourteen    The Tri-Village: Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo
Chapter Fifteen    Around the Cape: Avon, Buxton, Frisco
Chapter Sixteen    The Fishing Piers of Hatteras
Chapter Seventeen    Hatteras Village
Chapter Eighteen    This Hatteras Life
Chapter Nineteen    Hatteras Tomorrow


(*sells hardcover; most others, paperback-only)


  • *Island Bookstores, Duck, Corolla, & Kitty Hawk
  • Cotton Gin, Jarvisburg, Corolla, Nags Head, Currituck Beach Lighthouse
  • Duck’s Cottage, Duck
  • Corolla Books ‘n’ Cards, Corolla
  • Lighthouse Gallery & Gifts, Nags Head
  • T-Tops/Bendick, Kill Devil Hills
  • Farmer’s Daughter, Nags Head
  • Gulf Stream Gifts, Nags head
  • Forbes Candies, Kill Devil Hills & Nags Head
  • Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, Manteo
  • *Manteo Booksellers, Manteo
  • *Roanoke Island Festival Park, ManteoHATTERAS ISLAND
  • *Chicamacomico Life-Saving Museum
  • Askins Creek Store, Avon
  • Sandcastles, Avon
  • *Buxton Village Books
  • Dillons Corner, Buxton
  • Frisco Native American Museum
  • Lee Robinson’s General Store, Hatteras
  • *Graveyard of Atlantic Museum, HatterasOCRACOKE ISLAND
  • *Books to be Red
  • Ocracoke Variety Store
  • Village Craftsmen