Since April, so-called “Shelly Island” has grown from a small sandbar to a full-fledged island in the Outer Banks island group, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Now about a mile long and three football fields wide, it’s right off the coast of Cape Point, a popular surf spot on Hatteras Island.
Locals are cruising over in rafts to pluck shells from the new island’s sands, Travel + Leisure reports. An inlet with dangerous currents, sharks and stingrays separates Shelly Island from shore, making it dangerous to visit without proper expertise, according to Paul Paris, a research scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Studies Institute.
The island’s appearance isn’t due to climate change, Paris said. Dave Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, told The Pilot the coastline near Shelly Island constantly changes shape due to currents and storms. It’s not uncommon for features like Shelly Island to appear one season and disappear by the next.
While its lifespan may turn out to be short, the spot is indeed an island by standard definition, Paris added. The trick is sneaking a visit before it disappears.
In North Carolina, “we live on a very dynamic coastline, and it’s changing all the time,” Paris said. “Things like [Shelly Island] come and go offshore. Whether it’s there next year or not is anybody’s guess.”
Visitors should not swim to the island, Paris said, but experienced kayakers may be able to proceed through the inlet with caution. A small boat would work, too, if its operator is experienced.