It’s been a little over a two months since an island popped out of the sea near North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and already people are finding themselves stranded on its sandy shores.
Officials for Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) — along with emergency officials — are urging beachgoers to refrain from swimming over to Shelly Island after no less than five people have needed to be rescued from the newly formed landmass when high-tide trapped them on the island, reports The Virginian-Pilot.
According to Bob Helle, the assistant chief of the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad, a number of bystanders in kayaks also aided in rescuing a few others struggling swimmers trying to make it to the island.
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Shelly Island first appeared as a “little bump” in April, but soon grew in size until the sandbar was a mile long and “three football fields” wide, The Virginian-Pilot reported last month. Due to its proximity to Cape Point and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, it quickly became a popular tourist destination for seashell collectors and curious tourists.
As the site began to draw more and more people, North Carolina officials issued warnings about the dangers of visiting the island — and especially the strong currents that make it tough to swim to.
A local who spoke with National Geographic also warned of sharks and manta rays in the waters, as well sharp whale bones poking through the sands of Shelly Island.
Last week, however, officials again urged visitors to use kayaks or paddleboards when traversing the waters — and above all, to refrain from swimming or even walking over the island at low tide, as the waters have a tendency to shift and swell during high tide.
“A shell is not worth your life,” Helle told The Virginian-Pilot.
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Several small islands have appeared in the Outer Banks over the last few decades due to shifting sands churned up by rough winds and waters, reports National Geographic. Experts further told the site that Shelly Island will likely be “wiped out” within a year.