North Carolina

Why are mysterious holes forming at Outer Banks? It’s a good sign, park service says

Activity in a sea turtle nest will sometimes cause a depression in the sand, says the National Park Service.
Activity in a sea turtle nest will sometimes cause a depression in the sand, says the National Park Service. National Park Service photo

A mysterious cavity formed Friday in the sand at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a week after Hurricane Dorian pounded the Outer Banks.

And it kept getting bigger.

The National Park Service roped off the spot for safety and later posted an explanation on Facebook, figuring tourists would puzzle over the widening cavity.

“Have you ever wondered what goes on under the sand?” the park wrote. “There are many signs of activity under the sand... Activity in a sea turtle nest will sometimes result in a depression... This activity causes the sand to shift under the surface and create the depressions.

“Hopefully soon after a depression occurs a nest will hatch and sea turtle hatchlings will make their way to the ocean.”

Similar holes have formed this week at other Outer Banks sites, and the National Park Service says it’s a sign the islands are rebounding from Hurricane Dorian’s wrath.

The Category One hurricane devastated parts of the state’s Outer Banks with winds near 100 mph and storm surge 7 feet above normal. Many of the barrier islands were flooded and dozens of new inlets were carved, National Park Service officials say.

At Cape Hatteras, rangers went so far as to warn tourists they might find unusual things buried in the sand by the storm... or things long buried that may have been exposed.

Wildlife experts worried some sea turtle nests might have been destroyed by the storm, but both Cape Hatteras and nearby Cape Lookout National Seashore reported signs of life.

Cape Lookout park biologists posted a video Friday, showing “one little hatchling” popping out of a hole in the sand and looking for the ocean.

The loggerhead sea turtle eggs hatched exactly “a week after Hurricane Dorian hit the beaches,” the park said.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.