Outer Banks

Turning Ocean Waves Into Drinking Water

Jul 3, 2016
photo of launching SAROS into the ocean
Michael Beswick/The Outer Banks Voice

A North Carolina start-up company is testing a device that turns ocean water into fresh drinking water. Their technology uses wave energy exclusively to power reverse osmosis.

Chris Matthews, Justin Sonnett and Laura Smailes co-founded EcoH20 Innovations in 2014, but its inaugural project’s roots go back a year further. Matthews and Sonnett began working on the SAROS desalination device during their senior year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where they were both studying mechanical engineering.

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

When Virginia Dare, America’s original “anchor baby,” was born on Roanoke Island in the 1500s, top-level predators were everywhere in the area now known as North Carolina.

A picture of an oil rig

A conference devoted to the plans and potential issues of offshore oil drilling brought together scientists and policy makers in New Bern on Friday. “Shaping Our Economic Future: Drilling Off The N.C. Coast” was sponsored by the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

An image of a hiker new Dover, N.C.
Lorie Hansen

Close to 1,000 miles of North Carolina stretched in front of her, from the harsh winds and sizzling heat of the state’s highest sand dune on the Outer Banks to the steep, muddy terrain of Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain peak in the state.  

Despite the obstacles that lay ahead, Lorie Hansen knew it was time for her to hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

An image of Herbert C. Bonner Bridge
Smkybear / Wikimedia Commons

The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge is old— 52 years old, to be exact. Since 1963, the aging Bonner Bridge has connected the Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe in Dare Co. and served as a link from Hatteras Island to the mainland. After years of repairs and legal tangles, the bridge is now being replaced by a new parallel bridge.

Scott Cahoon, Hatteras Island Phantom Photography

As you stroll out toward the end of the Rodanthe Fishing Pier, it is impossible not to notice that it’s not entirely straight.

It goes a little bit up. It goes a little bit down. The pier jogs a little to the right and left in different places. A few boards are loose, too, and it’s mighty windy. In other words, it’s not perfect, but for Terry Plumblee, being here is a lifelong dream come true.

Image of geovisualization of potential inundation due to sea level rise in the Albemarle- Pamlico Estuarine System.
East Carolina University (Brent Gore, Matt Carey, Travis Hill and Michelle Covi)

A few weeks ago, the ocean washed away a 200-foot stretch of Highway 12 in Kitty Hawk.

It wasn’t destroyed by a hurricane or a Nor'easter. It was just another storm. Geologists say it is one more example of how life is changing along the North Carolina coast, thanks in part to the rising sea level. 

US Army Corps Of Engineers

North Carolina’s most recent Sea-Level Rise Report is the product of decades of tidal gauge data, computer modeling and hundreds of years of collected scientific expertise. But Jon Britt doesn’t need all that to tell him the water’s getting higher. He just needs to look out his back door.

Image of Katharine Wright sitting beside Wilbur before her first flight in 1909.
Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University

The state of North Carolina has many claims to fame, but there is likely none more popular or controversial than the slogan on the state license plate: “First In Flight.” The phrase commemorates the spectacular achievement of brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright who piloted their first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903.


A picture of an oil rig

 Two elected officials from North Carolina addressed a Congressional hearing today examining the impacts of the Obama Administration plan to open the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf to oil exploration.

This morning, Governor Pat McCrory restated his general support for the plan to the House Subcommittee On Energy and Mineral Resources.

“Energy development is good for the country’s energy independence and it’s good for North Carolina’s jobs and future careers,” McCrory said. “Let’s start this process now and stop the delays immediately.”

A picture of an oil rig

The fourth floor ball room at the Ramada Inn - Kill Devil Hills offers an expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean. And what might be out there has David McGowan envisioning a financial windfall for North Carolina, and the growth of an entire infrastructure to support it.

Hazelnut, newest member of the herd of ponies on Ocracoke, NC. Born born on February 4, 2015 at approximately 10:00 a.m.
National Park Service

Say hello to Hazelnut! She was born mid-morning a couple of days ago into the celebrated Ocracoke pony herd.

Hazelnut's father is a direct descendant of the original Ocracoke ponies. The mother joined the herd in 2010.

The ponies are an important part of the region's history. Legend has it that the “Banker” horses survived being thrown overboard by European ships carrying livestock to the New World in the 16th or 17th century.

Representative Paul Tine

A state legislator who was previously a Democrat has become unaffiliated because he feels he can get more done that way for his district. Representative Paul Tine of the Outer Banks says he wanted to stay within the moderate Democratic fold, but he felt the party was veering too far to the left for him. Tine also feels that as an unaffiliated legislator, he can work with the Republican majority to benefit his district. He says the Outer Banks benefited from strong legislators, including former Democratic Senator Marc Basnight:

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

A series of videos and photos show masses of sharks on the North Carolina shoreline. Two videos posted online this week show what appear to be blacktip and/or spinner sharks in a feeding frenzy near Cape Lookout.

The sharks are further ashore than usual, feeding in just a few inches of water.

Nancy Fish, with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said it's a migratory season for fish, which can lead to shark activity closer to shore.

Jennette's Pier
Dave DeWitt

Whether it’s in the mountains or off the coast, North Carolina has plenty of wind. It also has a lot of land, suitable ports, and infrastructure to become a major player in the industry along the east coast.

But that hasn’t happened.

Beaufort, NC
3.26 via Creative Commons/Flickr

Courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, here are eight ideas for the long weekend:


A new, longer ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks is now permanent. 

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation made the announcement Monday. 

Tim Hass of the state Ferry Division says the original shorter route continues to be a problem.

Every year on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, female sea turtles return to the beaches where they were born to lay the next generation. The turtle digs a hole in the sand with her back flippers, lays her eggs, covers the nest and heads back into the ocean.

This summer, researchers report finding a healthy number of sea turtle nests — a good thing, since they are a “threatened” species.

A Dare County sheriff's deputy walks down damaged Route 12 after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Steve Earley / Virginian-Pilot/AP

A new report from NationalGeographic.com begins this way: "Development and climate change are causing the islands to slowly vanish, scientists say."

A picture of a woman photographing a beach house on stilts.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

The panel responsible for studying sea-level rise along North Carolina's coast met Monday in New Bern. It was the first meeting under a new mandate to look at the forecast for sea-level rise for a shorter time period.

Four years ago the Coastal Resources Commission's science panel issued a dire report saying oceans could rise 39 inches by the year 2100. The state then issued a moratorium on using that prediction for policy purposes. The new guidelines for the science panel call for a 30-year prediction.

A screenshot captured Saturday at Mirlo Beach near Rodanthe shows the surf advancing on Highway 12.
NCDOT / facebook.com

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $20.3 million contract for beach re-nourishment just north of Rodanthe. The contract is going to the same Illinois dredging company that re-nourished the beach in Nags Head just before Hurricane Irene hit the area in 2011, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, of Illinois.

Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar
Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar

Hurricane Arthur is continuing its path toward North Carolina's Outer Banks. Residents on Hatteras Island are under a mandatory evacuation order. But many other residents and business operators in Dare County are taking a wait-and-see approach to the storm.   Karen Overbey is a manager at the aptly-named Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar in Kill Devil Hills.  She says the hurricane hasn't driven their customers away so far.

An aerial view of Tropical Storm Arthur.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Tropical Storm Arthur has formed off the coast of Florida, and is headed toward North Carolina. It isn't clear yet whether it will make landfall later this week.

Cyndy Holda of the Outer Banks Group of National Parks said local governments and businesses have hurricane action plans in place. However, she said, the Independence Day weekend is an inconvenient time for a storm to hit the beaches.

Loggerhead sea turtle
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Topsail Island

In the fall of 2012 a severely injured loggerhead sea turtle was rescued off the coast of North Carolina.

The loggerhead was brought to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, and then was transported to North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine where a team worked on her injuries. The team named the turtle Nichols and began to figure out the extent of the damage.

Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier, August 4, 2013
Alistair Nicol / Flickr/Creative Commons

Cape Hatteras has been ranked as the sixth best beach in the nation by a leading beach expert, Dr. Stephen Leatherman ("Dr. Beach") of Florida International University.

Here's the list: