The Roanoke Voyages (1584-1590), Inlets Open and Inlets Used Affecting the Voyages

The following is the eighth segment of a guest blog post series by Roger L. Payne, author of The Outer Banks Gazetteer: The History of Place Names from Carova to Emerald Isle. A book over twenty years in the making, The Outer Banks Gazetteer is a comprehensive reference guide to the region’s place names—over 3,000 entries in all. Click here to view Roger Payne’s entire guest blog series.

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The following inlets, from south to north, were reportedly open and depicted with mixed applications on later maps (see entries in The Outer Banks Gazetteer). There were other inlets opening and closing in the area from Ocracoke to Roanoke Island, but were not open during the Roanoke Voyages.

Wokokon Inlet – No real evidence exists indicating this inlet existed other than shown on small scale or partially contrived maps in the early 1600s, with Wokokon variously placed and presumed since the area vaguely marked the southern limit of Wokokon, which defined vaguely most of now Ocracoke Island and northern Portsmouth Island. Some authors speculate that this might be the initial passage used by Grenville (1585 2nd Vayage), but not likely since if there was an inlet here it was small, shallow, and probably just awash. Grenville used Ocracoke Inlet. Could have been in the breach prone zone where High Hills Inlet was located 10 miles southwest of Ocracoke (village) (last closed 1961).

Ocracoke Inlet – opened prior to 1585 and is still open, having been open continuously since before 1585, though at that time one to two miles or so northeast in 1585 of its present location. This inlet was not mentioned by Amadas and Barlowe (1st Voyage – see First Voyage Part 2) but was noted specifically by Grenville (2nd Voyage) as the location where a blunder by the pilot Fernándes caused the ship Tyger to wreck and spoil supplies. Also, during the second voyage about two weeks were spent in this area before proceeding toward Roanoke Island. No doubt, subsequent voyages might have stopped at or at least noted this inlet as they passed.

Chacandepeco Inlet – opened before 1585 and closed in 1672 (Cape Hatteras area just east of Buxton). The inlet is not mentioned in any of the voyages until indirectly by White in 1590 in his rescue (Fift [sic] Voyage – Hakluyt 1590). This is probably the inlet “at the northeast point of the barrier island Croatoan” which White noted at 35 degrees and one-half (off slightly) while sailing for Roanoke. The actual location of the inlet being described might have been about 15 miles north at southern Salvo. 

Keneckid Inlet – Sporadic references and probably three miles south of Salvo in No Ache Bay area. Perhaps a temporary inlet, in early references and a few early deeds, but location uncertain. Though specific open and close dates are unknown, it might be the “fret” (breach) to which John White refers as where the ship anchored when searching for Lost Colonists (Fifth Voyage 1590) though not likely it was open until early 1600s. White refers to anchoring at extreme northeast point of Croatoan, which could have extended farther north than the later cartographic application. White specifically states the breach or water passage was “35 degr. & a half,” which is in the No Ache area just south of Salvo. However, if his calculations were off by about 15 minutes of latitude, he would have been anchored at former Chacandepeco Inlet (near Buxton) open 1590 when White arrived. 

Port Ferdinando (Hatarask, Gunt, Gun, or Gant) Inlet – opened before 1585 and closed in 1798. This inlet was known to be open and located due east from the southern tip of Roanoke Island. The inlet was just north of the barrier island known as Hatarask by the indigenous peoples and as recorded and applied by White in 1585 and DeBry (based on White) in 1590. Some authors have applied Hatarask as the name of the inlet, but it was named, Port Ferdinando, in 1585 (most concur) for Simon Fernándes, expedition Pilot on the first two voyages and the Lost Colony Voyage (Voyage 4). Also, the term Hatarask was probably more aptly applied to the island than the inlet; for example, in 1590 White indicates “we came to an anker at Hatarask,” and while possibly referring to the inlet, he was most likely using indigenous peoples’ reference to the area. On a later version (date unknown) of White’s 1585 map, the name Port Ferdinando had been added as well as Trinety Harbor. 

Port Lane (possibly later Roanoke Inlet) – open before 1585 and closed 1660s or is most likely what later was named or renamed Roanoke Inlet after migration (late 1600s or early 1700s) or closing just before Roanoke Inlet opened just to the north. This inlet was most likely used only incidentally because the much better Port Ferdinando was just south, and this inlet was shallow and unreliable. This inlet most likely became Roanoke Inlet, and was the companion channel just north of Port Ferdinando (Hatarask, Gunt Inlet). Old Roanoke Inlet was the former Port Lane used on some maps and charts in the early to mid-1800s.

Trinety Harbor (Trinitie) – opened prior to 1585 and closed by 1660. There are some who do not believe this inlet existed, and that it was even a cartographic invention based upon hearsay. While not labeled on White’s original 1585 map (added to a later version), it was labeled on DeBry’s 1590 map, and so it clearly existed. The inlet was named on numerous later maps though most likely had simply been copied from DeBry’s 1590 map. Its location has been placed by various authors and researchers from Kitty Hawk Bay north to Beasley Bay, (almost 20 miles), but was really just north of Duck. It is likely the inlet through which Amadas and Barlowe passed on the First Voyage. Curiously, most occurrences are without the English spelling, Harbour – only Keulen (1690) and Hondius (1606) use that spelling.

Roger L. Payne is executive secretary emeritus of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.