There is a reason why the coast of North Carolina is known as the "Graveyard
of the Atlantic." More than 2,000 ships have sunk in these waters since
people began keeping records in 1526. After all, the Outer Banks is the
spot where the cold waters of the Labrador Current, which originates around
the coast of Norway, collide with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.
In addition, shifting underwater sand bars, the Diamond Shoals, conspire to send ship after ship to the depths of the Atlantic. And while we may think that all of the fighting during World War I took place in Europe or in the Pacific, German U-boats added hundreds more ships to the lists of casualties from 1915 to 1919.
The Outer Bankers (the correct way to refer to residents of the Outer Banks) did not give up in the face of such adversity. Before the Coast Guard existed, lifesaving stations, wooden shanties where diligent and hardy men would keep watch out for endangered ships, dotted the shore. At the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, located 15 miles south of Oregon Inlet at Rodanthe, six men saved the lives of 42 men of the British frigate, the Mirlo, when a German U-boat surprised our allies. Only 11 Crosses of Honor have ever been awarded in this country. The men of Chicamacomico hold six of them. The restored station reenacts drills every Thursday during the summer months.