Cape Fear

Well, most people are at least fairly sure an area called “Cape Fear” exists. More people know a couple of prominent movies were made to capitalize on the name. Perhaps, enough time has passed from the production of these films (and DeNiro’s menacing stares) that we can step back and figure out what the area name means.

The name comes from the 1585 expedition of Sir Richard Grenville. Sailing to Roanoke Island, his ship became embayed behind the cape. Some of the crew were afraid they would wreck, giving rise to the name Cape Fear. It is the fifth-oldest surviving English place name in the U.S.

But what is it?

Cape Fear is a prominent headland jutting into the Atlantic Ocean from Bald Head Island on the coast of North Carolina in the southeastern United States. It is largely formed of barrier beaches and the silty outwash of the Cape Fear River as it drains the southeast coast of North Carolina through an estuary south of Wilmington. Cape Fear is formed by the intersection of two sweeping arcs of shifting, low-lying beach, the result oflongshore currents which also form the treacherous, shifting Frying Pan Shoals, part of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Graveyard of the Atlantic? Well, that needs to be looked up.

Graveyard of the Atlantic is a nickname of two locations known for numerous shipwrecks: the treacherous waters in the Atlantic Ocean along the Outer Banks ofNorth Carolina and the Virginia coastline south of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Henry; and around Sable Island, off the coast of central Nova Scotia.

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