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Cape Lookout Discovery

The Cape Lookout Discovery 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. Beaufort is one of the most colorful and lovely ports on the East coast. 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.

From Taylor's Creek we head past Fort Macon, the NC State Port, and the US Coast Guard Station before entering the Atlantic Ocean. Discussion will focus on the interactions between the estuary and ocean environments. Traveling close to the remote shores of Shackleford Banks , we usually observe the Banks' ponies, tall dunes, and large maritime forest of this 9 mile long island. During the 16 mile trip to the Lighthouse, everybody will help us in searching the horizon for fins breaking the surface showing us the location of bottlenose dolphin! We usually encounter dolphin during this trip, often discovering pods of over a dozen individuals. Other likely observations include 300 pound sea turtles, huge schools of "bait" fish, jellyfish and other fascinating marine life.

As we head east the striking figure of Cape Lookout Lighthouse draws closer and closer until we reach the remarkable area known as "Lookout Bight", the huge inland bay which lies next to the lighthouse. We will dock right next to the 159' lighthouse, which has stood as a sentinel on Core Banks for over 140 years. Students will learn about the rich maritime history of the area, including stories of shipwrecks and daring rescues. We will walk right up to the lighthouse before dividing up into 2 groups for the next activities.

During our beach explorations, students will go on a scavenger hunt on some of the most secluded beaches in the state. We will collect shells and discover what they tell us about the beaches (most shells are thousands of years old!). Students will also discover the special adaptations of the animals and plants that live in the desert-like environment of the beach front. Back on the sound, the students visit a tidal flat that is rich with marine life. Using nets, the students collect a broad array of specimens, often including scallops, sea squirts, sea stars, juvenile fish, hermit crabs, and other amazing marine life. Depending on the grade level, discussion focuses on food webs, energy flow, predator / prey relationships, and human impacts on these areas.

About Cape Lookout: The Cape Lookout "Bight" is one of the most interesting and scenic natural areas on the East Coast. The Bight forms a giant bay which is connected to the ocean, yet protected from its force by the hooking shape of the Cape Lookout shore.   The Bight is known for its abundance of marine life and as a superb anchorage for ocean-going sail boats en route to Bermuda and the Caribbean. Located on Core Banks, these beaches are part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

photo by Keith Rittmaster

Photo courtesy of NC Travel and Tourism

Photo courtesy of NC Travel and Tourism

Carolina Ocean Studies PO Box 550 Carolina Beach, NC 28428 Phone: (910) 458-7302 Fax: (910) 458-9333