A Travellerspoint blog

Day 98 - Kitty Hawk & Roanoke Island (The Lost Colony)

We finally left Virginia and arrived in North Carolina. After a short stop at the Dismal Swamp, we visited Kitty Hawk and Roanoke Island Festival Park.

sunny 64 °F


Miles Driven - 110
Weather - Much Nicer, Sunny, cool but tolerable
Camped at - "The Refuge" RV Campground on Roanoke Island


We are doing so much on this trip and really enjoying a lot of things we see, but it is so hard keeping up the blog - tis true. I enjoy it, but after a day of driving, sightseeing, and some chores - it is so hard to maintain the discipline to write it all down - expecially over an extended period of time. Once again, I am so appreciative that so many people took this time to keep diaries, colonists, Lewis & Clark, pioneers out west, etc.


On the map, we'd seen the Dismal Swamp close to the road we'd taken to get to the campground. But we got to the campground after dark so didn't realize just how close it was. This morning, as we pulled out of the campground to turn south on the main highway, across the street was a rack of canoes. Not 20-30 feet beyond the road was an old canal at the edge of the swamp. If we'd wanted to visit the swamp (which we did), we could have just rented a canoe from the campground office (which we didn't, but it might have been a good idea).

Anyway, we drove south just a few miles and finally crossed into North Carolina. There were so many things in Virginia that I still wanted to see - but winter has caught up with us and it's time to move on - at least Mom was trying not to get too hyper about this.

Shortly after we passed the border was a Visitors Center that also had nature walks and some information about the swamp. We picked up lots of brochures and information about NC, put our state stickers on the RV and took a nature walk. They also keep a small patch of cotton for those who've never seen it growing before.


Mom is pretending to be afraid of snakes here, but in reality she's never been. On the other hand, I hate the things. Fortunately we didn't see any today.


North Carolina is planning to build a really nice state park for the Dismal Swamp (there is a visitors center on the west side in VA, but nothing on the eastern side or in NC). Here's a slightly better view of the old canal along the edge of the swamp.


From here, we continued south and east until we crossed a long bridge onto the 'Outer Banks'. These are a series of long, skinny islands that extend for almost the entire length of North Carolina's Atlantic Coast. Our objective was Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers flew the first successful airplane. Before we even got to the park sight was this monument to aviation. Each piller has a plaque listing significant dates and events in aviation history, starting with the Wright Brothers of course.


Six miles down the road is the park itself. It also has a visitors center with a museum (& gift shop).


Inside are some very informative displays which helped explain why the Wright Brothers were successful when so many others had failed. When they first started out in 1901, they built a glider using information and materials available from other 'experts'. It did not do very well and the Wrights almost gave up, realizing that most of the available data on flying was incorrect. Instead what they did is try to learn what worked and what didn't by testing, expermenting and analysis. They built a wind tunnel to test there ideas (this one is a replica)


Then they started testing different shapes for wings and propellers especially. They kept careful notes and records in order to keep improving on their tests and knowledge.


In 1902 they built a new glider and tested it again at Kitty Hawk. These tests were quite successful and the brothers realized they had solved many of their problems from their earlier tests. They then focused on building an engine. In December, 1903 they returned to Kitty Hawk to test their new plane (they called it a 'Flier'). Although they were from Ohio, they selected Kitty Hawk for their experiments because it is quite windy, especially in winter. They also needed the soft sand for hard landings! They built the plane in Ohio, then assembled it once they got to NC. It didn't have wheels, so had to be launched from a 60' rail placed in the ground (essentially a 2x4 with a metal plate along the top).

Here is a full scale model of the original Flier that is housed in the visitors center (the original flier is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.) The pilot had to lay on the surface of the wing while working the controls. The propellers are on the back of the wings by the way.


Outside were replica's of the two buildings the Wrights used, one for a hanger and the other to live in while they experimented. These are located about where the originals were.


Near the buildings is a railing similar to the one used to launch the plane. A larger piece of granite marks the spot where the plane took off. Four smaller markers show where each flight landed. The Wrights made four successful flights that day, each one further then the previous. The first flight lasted about 12 seconds and went 120 feet. The fourth lasted 59 seconds and went 852 feet. Orville & Wilber Wright took turns piloting their 'Flier', both had extensive practice flying the previous glider so knew how to work the controls.


This is more level than I'd expected, I always thought they took off on a downhill slop. Also, 120' isnt' very far - you could almost walk it in 12 seconds, which is how long it too the plane to go this far! (It only went 6.8 mph during that flight)

A few hundreds yards south is the largest sand dune (Kill Devils Hills) where many of the earlier glider flights were made. A large memorial has been erected at the top.


In 2003 a new sculpture was added on the back side of the dune. This is really cool because it is life size and contains statues of many of the people who were there during the first flight. What I liked about this one is that you can walk around and through it and feel like you're part of the action! The Wright Brothers often used local men, especially from the nearby U.S. Life Saving Station, to help them move the plane or gliders from the hanger and launch them. One of the men shot the famous picture of the actual first flight - it turned out he had never used a camera before! (The Wrights were amature photographers and undoubtedly set the camera up and told him what to do).


Quite an interesting place.

The next place we visited was a little further south on Roanoke Island. This was the location of the Lost Colony, Englands first attempt at colonizing America in 1585 (22 years before Jamestown). Like Plymouth and Jamestown, there is a museum and reconstructed Colony complete with ship - this one is called "Roanoke Island Festival Park". We decided to start with the ship, the Elizabeth II.


I enjoyed climbing around on an old square rigged sailing vessel, but we needed to move on to the English settlement. I was surprised to see tents here, although I'm not sure why I should be surprised. Certainly they used tents in medival europe - I just hadn't seen them before in Plymouth or Jamestown, so hadn't thought about it. The English compound had three re-enactors in period dress when we visited, they were all very good.


Inside the tents were beds or cots, tables and some armor typical of the period. This one had a table set up with typical dishes from the late 1500's. The square wooden plate is called a trencher or trench board. If you traveled, you took your board (plate) with you. An inn providing 'board and room' meant food for your trench board as well as a room.


This is Phillip, the carpenter or one of the craftsman in the colony.


They don't know for sure if they used a lathe in this colony, it was very short lived after all. However, it wouldn't be unheard of. I took a short video of Phillip demonstrating how he uses the 1585 era lathe. At the very beginning, I pan up to show you how the sapling provides the tension at the top - then Phillip starts talking so I panned down a little quickly - just wanted to mention it so you're looking for the structure of the device at the beginning (it's only on briefly).

Posted by jl98584 21:04 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Last week in Timaru, NZ, friends took us to the local museun, where hangs from the ceiling a replica of the plane developed and flown there by one Richard Pearce, shortly before the Wright brothers' flight. It also is a bit closer to today's planes--with even flaps on the wings and tail. I can't give you the details of how far it flew, etc., until I unearth the brochure from a pile of such things.

by msj

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.