Shelly Island, looking east across Cape Point.

New! Different! Never seen before…Shelly Island is now a part of the Outer Banks.

Of course we don’t know how long the newest edition to the local shoreline will be here, but for the time being it’s pretty cool.

Shelly Island—it got it’s name because of the quality and number of shells, seems to have popped up out of the Atlantic off Cape Point down on Hatteras Island.

Popped up may not be quite the right description because basically it’s a bunch of sand that has managed to struggle above the Hatteras high tide.

It is, though, a pretty good piece of sand. About a mile long and 500-900 feet wide. 

According to reports, officials first began to notice sand gathering off the point in February in some aerial photos, but it wasn’t until May that Shelly Island appeared.

It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel that is easily crossed at low tide. HOWEVER, it is almost impassable without some form of water craft, SUP or kayak, at high tide. The current has been estimated to be a swift as five knots—which makes sense looking at its location—and sharks up to 5’ and large stingrays have been seen in the waters.

The dangers of getting to the island aside, this is a remarkable example of the forces of nature at work off the Outer Banks. Certainly there are a number of theories that can be advanced about how this came about, but they are just that…theories. Certainly the large amount of sand that moves past the shoreline plays a role, but what trapped the sand at that point seems anyone’s guess.

But, it is somewhat ephemeral. Maybe it will stay…maybe it won’t. So we’ll enjoy Shelly Island while it’s there.