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Rocket Debris Isn't The Only Weird Thing That Washes Up On The Outer Banks

Bobistraveling / Wikimedia Commons
The beach at Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Last weekend, a 10-foot long sheet of metal from a SpaceX rocket washed onto Ocracoke Island. It’s the second time SpaceX debris has washed ashore in a year — last time it was a 15-foot chunk. 

When something washes up on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Dave Hallac and the rest of the National Park team take action. 

Hallac said his team sees plane parts, entire boats, dead dolphins and whales. He said they've even seen unexploded ordinances —which is jargon for unexploded bombs, or torpedoes.

“[The bombs and torpedoes] may have been lost — or just didn’t explode — as part of military activities in the past,” Hallac said.

When one of those comes ashore, Hallac has to call up the Navy to take care of it. 

Just off the coast of Cape Hatteras is what Hallac and others call “Torpedo Junction” from the undetonated explosives used for target practice during military training in World War II. Last summer, they had a couple WWII-era ordinances make landfall.

East of Ocracoke is what Hallac called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" — with tons of debris from shipwrecks.

“There’s quite a bit of history, both out of the shore and on the shoreline,” Hallac said.

Hurricane Michael may have pushed the rocket part toward Ocracoke — hurricanes and storms often do. Most debris that washes ashore is destroyed on top of being unusable. Most of it can’t be identified. But, in this case, some of a visible serial number made it possible to find the owner. 

Hallac and the National Seashore are holding onto the part — at least until Elon Musk, or someone else from SpaceX, walks through their door to get it.

Cole del Charco is a journalist, writer and radio producer from Hickory, North Carolina.