In 1985 Jan DeBlieu moved to Hatteras Island and took up residence in the old home of one of the Outer Banks' most historic families. For more than a year she explored the island's dunes, marshes, waters, and towns to study its complex natural cycles, its fragile ecosystem, its bird, plant, and marine life, and the seasonal routines of its stoical residents. In Hatteras Journal she writes evocatively of a harsh but alluring world, where "in summer the sea oats explode with tawny seeds, the black shimmers glide over Pamlico Sound, the loggerheads heave themselves ashore on silent nights." Along with her perceptive observations about the natural life she encounters, she describes the futility of former government policies such as dune construction, the dangers of peat mining to the sounds and bays, the efforts to protect loggerhead turtles on Bald Head Island, and the evolution of Hurricane Gloria and its effects on the barrier islands. This is a vividly rendered account of the rigors and rewards of dwelling in a habitat where only the most resilient forms of life—natural and human—manage to prevail.
Jan DeBlieu is the author of four books and dozens of articles and essays about people and nature. Her first book, Hatteras Journal (Fulcrum 1987), is considered a regional classic on the Outer Banks. It was reprinted in paper by John Blair, Publisher in 1998. Meant to Be Wild (Fulcrum 1991) was chosen as one of the best science books of the year by Library Journal. Wind (Houghton Mifflin, 1998; Shoemaker & Hoard 2006) won the John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing, the highest national award given for a volume of nature writing. Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars was published by Shoemaker & Hoard in Spring 2005. All Jan’s books remain in print. Year of the Comets was released in paper in December 2006. Most of Jan’s work explores the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes where we live and work. She has contributed essays to many national publications, including The New York Times, Audubon, and Orion. In the spring of 2003 Jan was named the Cape Hatteras Coastkeeper for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a grassroots environmental group that works to protect coastal waters from pollution. A longtime environmental activist, in the late 1980s she helped form a group that successfully kept oil companies from drilling off the Outer Banks. She lives on Roanoke Island with her husband and son.