Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gascone

On July 28, 2016, I posted a blog about the Ocracoke family names, Gaskins & Gaskills.

A few days ago I was chatting with Euphemia Gaskins Ennis. She told me that her father, George Gaskins (1887-1967), told her that the Gaskins (Gascone) family was originally from France [further research suggests they moved to County Offaly, Ireland], that they then settled on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, then moved to Craven County, North Carolina, and eventually to Ocracoke.

I have discovered that a Thomas Gascoyne was living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1623. Gaskins Point is still recognized as a landmark on the Occohannock Creek.

Chart Showing Gaskins Point, Occohannock Creek, VA










Ellen Marie Fulcher Cloud, in her book, From Whence We Came, confirms Euphemia's information, writing that "The Gaskins seem to have been most thickly populated in Craven Co. in the 1700 and 1800s."

I found the following information on The Internet Surname Database:

"This interesting and unusual surname [Gascone] is of early medieval English origin, and is from a regional name for someone from the province of Gascony [a Basque-speaking area of southwest France], from the Old French 'Gascogne'....The surname was first recorded in the early 13th Century.... The modern surname can be found recorded as Gascoigne, Gascogne, Gascoyne, Gascone, Gasken, Gaskin and Gasking."

Our Ocracoke Newsletter for this month is an article by Philip Howard, My Ocracoke, Living amidst 250 years of Howard family history. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082116.htm.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"My Ocracoke"

Earlier this year the editor of Outer Banks Magazine asked me to write an article about the Howard family of Ocracoke. The article was printed in the 2016 issue (Vol. 4), and was accompanied by photographs taken by Daniel Pullen.

Our Ocracoke Newsletter for this month is a reprint of that article, My Ocracoke, Living amidst 250 years of Howard family history. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082116.htm.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Argentine Ants

They march through the yard, across the boardwalk, up the side of the house, and disappear into my attic. Fine, pink dust filters down onto floors and furniture. They are tiny Argentine ants, an invasive species that has taken up residence on Ocracoke.

Argentine Ant, from Wikipedia (Penarc)
















 In 2009 John Brightwell, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State University, began studying the Argentine ant population on Ocracoke Island. The ants have produced a "supercolony" whose numerous queens spawn tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of new workers each year. It is not unusual for an island home to be invaded by great numbers of these ants. Although they do not sting, they are a nuisance, and a threat to the ecology.

According to Eleanor Spicer, author of an informative article, "Coastal Invasion: The Argentine Ant," in Coastwatch, a North Carolina Sea Grant magazine, the ants can be controlled, but probably not eliminated.

If you see these invaders marching across your kitchen counters, go out to the Variety Store and purchase some ant killer. Just be prepared to tackle the problem again when they return.

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Another Ocracoke Story

I was visiting an older islander recently, and she told me this story about her father:

George, didn't like to talk much. Telephones had just come to Ocracoke, and he especially didn't like to talk on the telephone. One evening the phone rang and George answered it. His wife could only hear his half of the short conversation: "Hello...No...No, he isn't here...I have no idea when he will be back."

When the call ended, his wife asked George who had called. "I don't know who it was. He had the wrong number. He was calling for Mr. Rondthaler."

"Did you tell him he had the wrong number?"

"No, he just asked if Mr. Rondthaler was here, and I told him 'No.' Then he asked when Mr. Rondtaler would be back. I told him I had no idea."

"But Mr. Rondthaler is dead. Why didn't you tell him he was dead?"

"He didn't ask me if he was alive or dead. He just wanted to know when he would be back, and I told him I had no idea."

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Figs & Wasps...Again

Now that the Ocracoke Fig Festival is over, we are going to investigate the fig,  one of the most interesting "fruits" on the planet. I have addressed this issue before, but I think it is worth repeating. You see, a fig is not a single fruit after all. Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, describes it as a "garden enclosed."

Each fig is a syconium (or multiple fruit), a hollow, fleshy receptacle with hundreds, or even thousands, of small flowers within. Kris Hirst, at http://archaeology.about.com/od/domestications/a/fig_trees.htm, describes the fig this way: "Each species of fig tree in the wild comes in two types: the hermaphrodite fig, that produces pollen but does not produce seeds to generate a new tree; and the female, that produces no pollen but does produce three crops of figs throughout the year, one of which if pollinated, produces a seed that can make a new tree."














"If pollinated" is one clue to understanding this very unusual plant. Many of our readers are aware of fig wasps, the tiny (almost microscopic) critters that are essential to the pollination of figs (each species of fig has a specific fig wasp that is necessary to pollinate that species of fig). The particulars are extremely complicated, but, as Hirst points out, "all fruit of a regular fig tree have fig wasp embryos in them; whether the fruit is consumed by the wasp embryo or not determines whether the fruit survives to adulthood."

However, and this will be important to readers who are squeamish about ingesting insect parts, Hirst is writing about "regular [pollinated] fig trees." Domestic figs are parthenocarpic. They require no pollination, and therefore no wasps, in order to produce edible "fruit." Hirst continues, "Since these trees are not fertile (even if you can produce fruit you can't produce a working seed without pollination), the only way a parthenocarpic fig tree can reproduce is with the assistance of another symbiote--a human being. It's not difficult to propagate parthenocarpic figs: all you have to do is cut a branch and root it."

And that is exactly how Ocracoke fig trees are propagated, by rooting a cut branch, or by low-hanging branches naturally sending roots into the soil.

Enjoy your wasp-free Ocracoke figs! Jars of preserved figs are still available in many shops in the village, including on-line at Village Craftsmen.

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tragedy


Tragedy struck two Ocracoke families last week. 13 year old Lee Winstead, son of island resident, Fess Winstead, died August 10. The following day Debbie Fraga, sister of islander, Ken DeBarth, drowned after being caught in a rip current. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families, and to the families of the island’s other drowning victims this summer.

The Family of Debbie Fraga posted an open letter to the Ocracoke Community acknowledging the importance of a compassionate and caring community in times of need. 

In response to ocean drownings, island resident Tom Pahl posted his observations on how to recognize rip currents. We have re-posted his thoughts on our Facebook page for August 15, 2016. For readers who are not on Facebook, I have added Tom's observations below.

Again, our hearts go out to all the families of Ocracoke residents and visitors who have lost loved ones in recent tragic accidents. Life is wonderful, but fragile. We continue to hope that our island family and friends have a safe and accident-free rest of the summer.   

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.  

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Tom Pahl's observations about recognizing rip currents:

I swim in the ocean almost every day. I usually swim parallel to shore between 50 and 100 yards. I have been doing this for several years and I've observed some markers for unsafe conditions.
Rip currents aren't as simple as the diagram depicts, nor as easy to detect. Before you go in the water, spend some time observing the wave patterns.

GOOD WAVE PATTERNS:
Waves approach and break parallel to shore.
Waves come in at a steady pace
Waves are spread apart by an even distance.
Waves break on the far sandbar, re-form and break again on shore
Bottom is smooth and deepens at a steady rate

DANGER SIGN WAVE PATTERNS:
Waves approach at an angle to shore
Waves approach from two angles and criss-cross
Waves approach at different speeds and overtake each other
"Far sandbar" is close in, creating a "lagoon" at water's edge
Bottom is "hilly," rising and falling unpredictably

The "lagoon" effect is currently playing out and it's dangerous. There is a broad sandbar all along the shore which has formed close enough in that it captures lots of water which pours into the "lagoon" with the breaking waves and then, as that trapped water seeks an outlet, it creates strong fast currents which most times run parallel to shore, but sometimes cut through the sandbar and flow out.
I am heartbroken by the recent drownings.

Please be careful, take time to assess the conditions before you go in and if there is any doubt, keep your feet on the bottom, keep your feet on the ground.
 

Monday, August 15, 2016

LV-71

On March 9, 1898, the United States Lighthouse Service assigned Lightship No. 71 (LV-71) to be anchored off Diamond Shoals, North Carolina. According to David Stick, in Graveyard of the Atlantic, LV-71 was "a tub-like 124-foot vessel, held in place by 185 fathoms of heavy chains (the links were eight inches in diameter) firmly attached to a 5,000 mushroom anchor imbedded [sic] in the sandy shoal."

USCG Photo, ca. 1910














On August 6, 1918, LV-71 was sunk during World War I when a German U-boat attacked her. All twelve crew members survived by rowing away in the ship's whaleboat as soon as the U-boat began firing. As Stick writes, it would normally have taken "something like five hours to get underway. Even if it had taken only five minutes [the crew] wouldl have stood practically no chance of eluding the U-boat in [the] lumbering light vessel...."

The LV-17's shipwrecked remains were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.