Cape Point on Outer Banks is now being called ‘Cape Nub'

Cape Point in Buxton is the smallest it has been in years due to erosion and wave action. Photo courtesy of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Cape Point, the famous Outer Banks spit of sand with world class surf fishing, now has a new nickname: “Cape Nub.”

The area, which is normally shaped like a shark’s tooth jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, is currently just a small, round bump.

It’s been shrinking since Hurricane Dorian struck last September, said Dave Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina.

“There really isn’t a point anymore,” he said. “People are jokingly referring to it as Cape Nub.”

An aerial view of the site from last September compared with now shows the sand disappearing into the water 1,100 feet closer to shore. The area dwindled from about 40 acres to half that size.

Six years ago, measurements on Google Maps show it was 67 acres.

From Virginia, the Outer Banks follow the North Carolina coast south to Buxton before turning westward. The point forms at that bend. Waves coming from two different directions crash into each other.

The chaotic scene is a favorite video on social media.

Cape Point is world renown for surf fishing. Crowds steer four-wheel drive vehicles off the road and onto the beach, park in the sand a few feet from the surf and spend the day or night casting a line. People have made lifelong friends fishing on Cape Point over the years.

Trucks park side by side following the contour of the shoreline, and it can get crowded. Finding a good parking place on the much smaller beach is even harder now.

Maps on a North Carolina Sea Grant website going back to 1984 show that some years the land mass is long and narrow. Some years it is shorter and broader.

Three years ago, a large sandbar formed near the point and became famous as Shelly Island. And three months ago, a sandbar off the point looked like it might grow into another island. It ultimately disappeared.

The tip itself whips back and forth over the years, at times pointing west, south and east.

“There is only one guarantee,” Hallac said. “It will change again.”

Typically, the predominate northeast winds send sand southward and erode the beach on the north side of the point, said Spencer Rogers, coastal construction and erosion specialist for the North Carolina Sea Grant. The south facing beach below the point normally expands.

A storm can change it overnight.

“What’s there today might not be there tomorrow or the next day,” he said.

Recently, the south beach has been eroding. It has nearly breached a salt water pond located just off the shoreline, Hallac said. The pond of about 50 acres was dug in the 1970s for sand to widen the Buxton beach.

Long time anglers who have watched the changes over the years are concerned, said Al Adam, who has fished there for nearly 50 years.

“I have never seen it that small,” he said. “It was 200 yards further out just this spring.”

The volatile currents that churn up food for the fish who feed here and seek cover in the surf have changed, he said. The wave action seems calmer with less white water. That means the fishing may not be as good, he said.

Anglers can be sure that Cape Point will reform in some way, Rogers said. The prevailing currents have dictated it for thousands of years.

“The short story is that it changes a lot,” he said. “There will be a point somewhere.”

Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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