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Understanding the New Island That Just Appeared Off of North Carolina

A brand new island has appeared off of the coast of North Carolina and is bringing about a spritely discussion on how changing coastlines are impacting the region.

The new island on the North Carolina coastline was first spotted in April 2017 off the Outer Banks on the eastern end of the state. The formation process actually started in December 2016. The island is about a mile in length with most of its mass having been added between April and May.

It is specifically located off the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The island is divided from the mainland by about 50 yards of water and has a noticable curved shape that makes it easy to spot from a satellite.

The island was formed as waves and tides on the coastline shifted enough sand to create the land mass. There are often times when enough sand is shifted to where it will protrude from out of the ocean’s surface.

While several smaller land masses are often formed this way, the massive body of this small island makes it much more unique. This especially comes as it can be clearly observed through satellites in outer space.

The island has been informally named Shelley Island. This name comes from how the island is filled with a number of shells.

As intriguing as the island has become, it is dangerous to try and get onto. Officials in North Carolina are asking that people not try to take the short trip to the island due to rip currents in the area. Several rescues have taken place to recover people who have tried to travel to the island on their own. Officials say that those who do want to get onto the island should travel by boat.

Could It Disappear?

Although Shelley Island is relatively large in size when compared to other smaller barrier islands, there is a risk that the island could be destroyed in the future. Massive weather patterns can cause such islands to be shifted or destroyed as intense waves and wind conditions can cause the sand that forms such an island to scatter. This is a point that occurred in 2012 when many smaller barrier islands were destroyed following Hurricane Sandy.

Concerns About Land Mass Losses

One point that the case of Shelley Island brings up involves how land masses are quickly being lost around the Atlantic coastline. The Environmental Protection Agency particularly states that land loss totals have increased around the shoreline in recent years.

In particular, about 8 square miles of coastline from Florida to North Carolina was lost from 1996 to 2001. Another 5 square miles had been lost from 2002 to 2006. About 3.5 more square miles were also lost from 2007 to 2011.

The loss of land mass around this part of the shoreline is much greater than what the northern part of the Atlantic shoreline has experienced. From 1996 to 2011, the Mid-Atlantic region that covers Virginia up to Long Island lost about 4 square miles of land. Part of this time period was impacted by a development in the late 1990s when the total amount of land mass actually expanded by about one square mile along with part of the shoreline.

The report suggests that while the rate of land mass loss on the Atlantic shoreline appears to be slowing down, it is still a concern as many areas along the coast might still be at risk of harm. The development of Shelley Island only highlights how fragile the situation on the coastline can be as land masses can be naturally built or destroyed quickly.

Risky Waters Around

One point that could be explored with regards to shorelines breaking apart entails the difficult waters that are along the Atlantic coastline. The waters around the North Atlantic Ocean are often impacted by the Labrador Current cold front. This can collide with the warmer Gulf Stream to create massive tides and rough winds. This can be dangerous for many ships as the intense conditions can cause ships to break apart or sink.

The rough conditions also make it so the waters can eat away at the shorelines over an extensive period of time. This means that smaller land spaces like Shelley Island can be destroyed just as quickly as they can be created.

Interestingly enough, this new island has revealed a few bones from old marine animals as well as wooden bits from many ships that have sunk in the past. It has been difficult to determine where those boats were from.

The development of this new island off the coast of North Carolina is expected to be reviewed in further detail over time. This comes as there are concerns over how well land masses can be lost along the coastline over time.

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