Day 024 – Buxton, NC > Sealevel, NC

On the ferry between Hatteras and the island where Ocracoke is located I met a guy from Bellevue, Washington that working in the oil and gas industry moving around the massive pumps and related equipment that are used to frack wells.  Fracking has been in the news a lot in recent years because the number of new wells going into production and the opposition by people that live where those wells are being drilled.

Fracking is the process of pumping a mixture of water, sand, lubricants, bacteria inhibitors, corrosion preventatives and other chemicals into a well at tremendous pressure (5-10,000 psi) so that the rock formation fracture creating thousands of pathways (1/8 of an inch wide) for the oil and gas to escape the rock. To increase the amount of rock fractures even more the well is drilled vertically to the depth of the target production zone and then the drill bit is guided through a 90 degree turn and then it continues drilling horizontally for thousands of more feet.

The reason people are concerned, myself included, is the potential for groundwater contamination through the borehole or on the topside through the production process, the amount of water used (up to 5 millions gallons per well) and the leakage of natural gas from the the actual well itself, which is a many times more efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2.

At the same time over the past ten years we have greatly increased domestic oil and gas production which means we buy less from other countries (more energy security for us) and employ a lot more people in that part of the economy than we did previously. It also means a lot more greenhouse gasses going into the atmosphere and less pressure to develop alternative sources of energy, which I think is going to cause serious pain to future generations.

The ferry ride was only 45 minutes. Once we docked I waited for all the cars and motorcycles to exit the ferry and zoom off to Ocracoke while I slowly peddaled the 13 miles against a 10-15 mph wind all by myself under the hot sun. It wasn’t all that bad, just funny to me the different experience I was having vs everyone else on the ferry.

Ocracoke is a cute place. Lots of golf cars ferrying people around, some touristy stuff, but also a lot of history if you want to partake. I didn’t have time or much desire, but if you got the Outer Banks spend at least one night there. I had lunch overlooking a small bay and then hopped on the next ferry to Cedar Island this time it was 2 hours and 45 minutes and I dozed most of the way. Before I got on the guy checking tickets asked to search my bags, which seemed odd to me, but I opened them up and he really didn’t even look in them. I didn’t see him opening any car trunks so I don’t know what that was all about, but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

Once on Cedar Island I rode as fas as possible to a campground at Sealevel run by a very elderly couple and promptly took a shower and went to sleep in my tent under a pecan tree.