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Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras is one island in the long chain of barrier islands just off the east coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore accounts for roughly 70 miles of the 125-mile stretch of barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks and is separated from the North Carolina mainland by the Pamlico Sound. Like all of the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras is in constant flux—shaped by environmental and human forces including sea-level change, storms, and infrastructure. Storms, shallow water, and shifting sandbars have sunk over 1,000 ships off Cape Hatteras since 1600, giving this area the nickname the “graveyard of the Atlantic.”

USGS scientists have been working to understand what controls these dynamic sediment transport processes and to assess the risks that storms and changing sea-levels may pose to Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks. Plant and animal life on the Outer Banks are adapted to sandy, salty conditions that can seem stark, but these islands support rich and diverse ecosystems.

Map of Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Map of Cape Hatteras National Seashore