Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s first national seashore, was established in 1937 to preserve significant segments of unspoiled barrier islands along North Carolina’s stretch of the Atlantic Coast. Barrier islands are narrow, low-lying, dynamic landforms which parallel ocean coasts, are separated from the mainland, and are constantly moving and reshaping in response to storms, ocean currents, sea level changes, and wave and wind action. These processes continue to influence the islands today through the processes of erosion and accretion of the shoreline; overwash across the islands; and the formation, migration, and closure of the inlets.
The area now known as Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a long and rich heritage. The islands that make up the seashore have been home to Native Americans, farmers, watermen, slaves, lighthouse keepers, surfmen, and many others who continue to shape the heritage of the area. The people have witnessed events that include hurricanes, the death of Blackbeard the pirate, Civil War battles, the construction of its now famous lighthouses, the birth of the USCG in the lifesaving stations, hundreds of shipwrecks, Billy Mitchell’s test bombings, Reginald Fessenden’s first radio broadcasts, the building of dunes by the CCC, scientific strides in weather forecasting, u-boat attacks, and much more.