north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     The failed attempt by English settlers to establish a colony on Roanoke Island, memorialized in “The Lost Colony” outdoor drama and commemorated at the National Park Service site, is a key event in North Carolina history. The subject marker designates the entry passage used by the Roanoke settlers. While considerable doubt exists as to the course followed by expedition scouts Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe in 1584, there is agreement as to the passageway used on subsequent voyages, 1585-1590.

     Port Ferdinando, on the north end of Hatteras Island, has been a closed inlet since at least 1657. It was located about a mile north of present Oregon Inlet (opened by a hurricane in 1846) near the Bodie Island Lighthouse. At the time of the Roanoke voyages, the inlet actually was two inlets, separated by a small island. The upper and less important of these two came to be known as Port Lane, named for Ralph Lane. The more significant of the inlets took its name from pilot Simon Fernandes. Portuguese by birth, former pirate Fernandes piloted the lead ship in the 1584 Amadas and Barlowe expedition as well as ships in subsequent Roanoke voyages in 1585 and 1587. Port Ferdinando is identified as such on a 1585 John White map.

     Port Ferdinando served as the principal entry point of men and supplies for the Roanoke colony. It was there that the larger ships anchored and that the smaller vessels embarked for the island. The site was the base of operations with up to nine vessels rendezvousing there in 1585 when the colonists planted themselves on Roanoke Island. Just inside the inlet mouth they buried barrels in the sand to collect rainwater. These were among the relics discovered first by Spanish explorers and in 1590 by Englishmen in search of the colonists.


References:
David Beers Quinn, ed., The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590 (1955)
William P. Cumming, Mapping the North Carolina Coast: Sixteenth-Century Cartography and the Roanoke Voyages (1988)
David Stick, The Outer Banks of North Carolina (1958)
David Stick, Roanoke Island: The Beginnings of English America (1983)
Wilson Angley, “An Historical Overview of Oregon Inlet” (unpublished research report available in Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 1985)


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north carolina highway historical marker program


A detail of John White's 1585 map shows Port Ferdinando.

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources