From The Lost Colony to Blackbeard, the North Carolina coast has always been full of unexplained mystery and mutiny at sea. But, not all unexplained mysteries in North Carolina are unhappy ones, as evident by the story of one of the state’s most untold legends, Hatteras Jack.
Throughout North Carolina’s history, our coastal waters have always been treacherous to navigate. Hatteras Inlet, between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, has always been especially dangerous for ships trying to get to port. With shifting sandbars and strong currents, many mariners struggle making it through these waters. In 1790, over half a century before the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was first lit in 1857, captain’s logs began to note a dolphin “as white as snow” preceding each boat through Hatteras Inlet. This dolphin, who was dubbed “Hatteras Jack”, always seemed to know the exact route to follow. It wasn’t long before captains began to trust and even seek out Hatteras Jack, blowing their foghorns as they drew close to the inlet. Hatteras Jack would lead the ships to safety and after a successful journey, he would jump and splash in front of the ship before disappearing back into the inlet waters to await the next ship in need of help. As the years went by, lighthouses were constructed and channel markers were in use, and Hatteras Jack was seen less and less. Finally, he disappeared, as it was evident that his work was done.
Today the Hatteras Jack moniker is seen throughout the Outer Banks, as the name “Hatteras Jack” seems to have proud and trustworthy implications.