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Her Presence-Frying Pan Shoals
by Beth Deese

As I stepped out into the morning fog, on July 25 of 2004, I could smell the sweet and salty air surrounding the docks. Finally, I thought, today is the day I would ride out to sea at some 28 miles off the North Carolina's Cape Fear coast. (I wondered if I would get seasick). Aboard the S.S. Winner Queen, we cruised by Prices' Creek, Bald Head Island, and Oak Island Lighthouses, as I watched the Carolina seaboard gradually disappear as civilization just faded away into some great distance. (Or was I the one fading away from the only world I ever knew)? Either way, I realized I was slowly drifting away from reality and toward some point or center of our planet. As we headed offshore to the end of the Frying Pan Shoals, a marine biologist shared with us some details of marine life and its animals. For example, also on board was a native blue crab. We also learned of a few birds and their characteristics that allow them to feed on fish by diving into the ocean water. After a couple of lessons in marine life, I finally started to feel the wind and sea spray hitting my face. Aahh, I now know the feeling of being out to sea, with nothing in sight but the mighty blue horizon. By now it is staggering to even try to walk on the top deck. Soon, a structure starts to emerge in the distance. Excited, I stood at the rail to watch as the Frying Pan Shoals Tower became larger and larger. I had no idea what to expect that day, however, my experience was overwhelming and surpassed any thoughts of expectations I might have thought. How one must have felt staying in this magnificent structure above water for four weeks at a time. Here, at last, my emotions ran wild as I glimpsed into the lives that must have been a part of this wonderful place. Many lives have been touched by this tower, and today I was blessed to have a chance to experience a piece of history that will soon be gone forever. I quickly realized the strength, continuity, fierceness, and loyalty this tower has represented for many years. But I also felt the sadness of a home being taken away, with nothing or no one to ever welcome again. I feel very lucky to have known this secluded tower, to stand at her attention, and the location was certainly humbling to me as a human being.

As we stood in awe, fishermen in the lower deck began to fish, excited about what they may catch. As we slowly moved away, further out to sea, I wished good thoughts for my new friend as she lives on in the lives she touched. After the saddened departure, I went below deck for lunch. Down below, however, I met up with two new friends who taught me how to deep-sea fish. Okay, for a little while I drifted away, and found something else exciting! I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed deep-sea fishing! Yeah, guys and girls….I'll be back someday.

After fishing, Mike Allen, one of the last Coast Guard crew members to serve on the tower, shared some of his experiences of living on the tower. Although the tower was built to withstand 50 ft. waves, Mike even said he would not stick around for that. "Twenty to twenty-five ft. waves were big enough, believe me," he stated. Mike truly talked with high emotions as he shared his love for the tower. "I hope to see her given a proper burial to sea," Mike said.

That day, I felt a sense of what each crew member must have felt manning the tower, be it calm seas, laughter, or a storm. My heart was humbled by the vast sea surrounding, and my soul felt the spirit of the sea.

And someday, someone will go to that exact spot of the tower, where it once stood, where it will dwell as an artificial reef. But they, sadly, however, may never know the realm of its presence.

This page last updated :Friday, February 10, 2006 5:33 PM