> Visitors flock to the North Carolina coast each year to frolic in the waves, stroll on the sand, drop a line in the water and wait for a bite, or just laze under a brilliant sun and deep blue sky. But the coast is more than just a summer getaway.
> Fishing has been part of North Carolina culture for centuries, with indigenous tribes and then generations of coastal residents relying on the fruits of the sea for their food and their livelihoods.
> The sounds of the "hoi toid" are beginning to ebb along much of the Outer Banks. Dr. Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor of English, says the distinctive dialect of area residents is fading as younger generations adopt more mainstream grammar and pronunciation.
> Yellow signs dot North Carolina's beaches, warning people about stormwater discharge from nearby outfall pipes. Heavy rains wash contaminants off coastal roads and parking lots, and the pipes flush the bacteria and other debris onto a beach or directly into the ocean.
> Hazel, Donna, Fran, Floyd, Isabel. North Carolina has been smacked so many times by hurricanes that coastal residents are on a first-name basis with some of the worst storms.
> Coastal storms have raked North Carolina, with intense winds demolishing buildings and ripping apart infrastructure. They also have swamped the state, with torrential rains forcing residents to flee for higher ground and leaving homes uninhabitable.
> Jockey's Ridge State Park boasts the tallest natural sand dunes on the East Coast, but the claim to fame doesn't loom as large as it once did.
> The humpback whale was very sick when it became stranded on a sandbar near Ocracoke Island last spring, and Dr. Craig Harms knew the animal wasn't going to make it back to the open water alive.
> A carpet of algae filled Onslow Bay in October 1987, sickening fishermen and people on central North Carolina beaches and rendering oysters and other shellfish caught in area waters inedible for months.
> Under a searing summer sun, an NC State research team takes a small boat out onto Currituck Sound and drops some lines in the water. This is no ordinary fishing expedition, however.
> Rip currents can turn a carefree day into a tragedy. At least three people drowned off the North Carolina coast last summer after getting dragged offshore, and lifeguards and bystanders had to pull hundreds of others to safety from the powerful currents.