The Inner Sea Expedition cruise begins
from our dock in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina. As
we head out of Taylor's Creek the historic white clapboard homes
of Beaufort are to our north, Carrot Island is to our south,
and Duke Marine Lab is to our west. Fishing
boats and interesting sail craft, both modern and historic, are
usually found in Taylor's Creek. Discussion
for the start of the trip focuses on the general ecology of the
area, along with consideration of human impacts to the environment
that can be observed.
A short distance from Taylor's Creek lies the
lower Newport River and Bogue Sound. In these waters we deploy
a bottom dredge that harvests a vast array of invertebrates,
including crabs, sea urchins, sea squirts, soft corrals, bryozoans,
and dozens of other species.
While half of the students are studying the dredge
catch, the other the other half will be fishing! After about
20 minutes the groups rotate so that everybody does the same activities.
We provide everything that's needed for fishing. Likely
catch include pin-fish, sea bass, croaker and, occasionally, flounder
and small sharks. Taking students fishing is
a great way to spark their interest in the natural world.
When we travel towards Shackleford Banks, we pass
by Fort Macon and view the fort from the same positions the Union
gun boats did during the siege of the fort during the Civil War. Bottlenose
dolphin are often sighted as we cross Beaufort Inlet en route to
We usually spend approximately
one hour on Shackleford Banks and two hours of the program on
the boat. On
approximately 5% of the trips we conduct, the ocean waves coming
in Beaufort Inlet do not permit us to comfortably cross the inlet
in order to make it to Shackleford Banks. While
this keeps us from conducting activities on Shackleford, there
are several advantages when such a scenario arises. During
such conditions we restructure the trip to allow additional time
for the students to both fish and sort through the dredge catch. We
also are able to explore more areas in the boat. This
provides us with a greater likelihood of seeing more dolphin.
the trips where conditions permit us to travel to Shackleford
Banks (95% of the time) we explore the tidal bays on the sound
side of this remarkable island. Our instructors guide
the students as they pull seine nets to collect juvenile fish,
crabs, shrimp, and other life.Students also dig
for clams on the sandy bottom of the sound. Topics discussed
include food webs,
the importance of estuaries, and population considerations. Discussion
also focuses on the economic importance of shellfishing and how
pollution has affected this traditional livelihood.
Over 100 wild horses roam the
beaches and dunes of Shackleford Banks. Some of these "banks'
ponies" are usually seen, often up close, during a visit
to Shackleford. They make for an interesting case study
that includes biology, history, and social studies.
About Shackleford Banks: Shackleford
Banks is an 8 mile long completely undeveloped barrier island.
Known for its tall dunes, historic settlements long abandoned,
and for the wild horses that roam its shores, Shackleford Banks
is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.