It’s always good to know the weather before going somewhere, and this was the philosophy of the United States Weather Bureau when it was established in 1870 by Ulysses S. Grant. Originally developed for wartime purposes, it started doing domestic duties when it was moved to the Department of Agriculture two decades later.
From the start, North Carolina has been important to the study of weather in the U.S., due to the Gulf current and Labrador current meeting right off the coast, often causing storms. The Weather Bureau built its first North Carolina station in Wilmington in 1871 and proceeded to build more along the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. Most of these were meant to be temporary, however, so a permanent station was later built at Cape Hatteras.
There has been a U.S. Weather Bureau station on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks since 1874, though it’s moved around to various locations. The structure that still stands today was built in 1901. It had two floors and eight rooms and was occupied by the weatherman’s family. This historic station also played a part in the tragic story of the RMS Titanic.
On April 14, 1912, two operators at the Hatteras weather station, Horace Gaskins and Richard Dailey, received a message from the Titanic: “Have struck iceberg.” The two sent the telegraph to David Sarnoff, an operator in New York, who dismissed the telegraph and called the pair drunks. They decided not to send an additional statement from the Carpathia about the sinking. The original telegraph is on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, where you can still read out the message.
The U.S. Weather Bureau used the Hatteras station from 1902 to 1946 and then abandoned it for some years. Eventually, the Outer Banks Tourism Board and the National Park Service collaborated to make it a welcome center, and the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Know Before You Go
The weather station building is next to the Red and White grocery store.