The legend of Shelly Island gets wilder every day.

Meghan Overdeep
March 16, 2018
Photo: Chad Koczera / @chadonka

Shelly Island, the mysterious landmass that captured the world’s imagination when it formed suddenly off the shore of North Carolina’s barrier islands in spring 2017, disappeared just as quickly as it appeared.

“When a sandbar developed off the shore of North Carolina’s barrier islands in spring 2017, some experts said that the feature was likely to be short-lived. They were right,” NASA said in July. “Since then, a series of storms has redistributed the sand and the so-called ‘Shelly Island’ is no longer an island.”

But Ken Barlow of Mechanicsville, Virginia doesn’t agree with NASA’s assessment.  Barlow, who filed a deed for ownership of the famous sandbar in August, and planted sea grass to keep it from washing away, believes the mile-long island is still there. According to Barlow, Shelly Island simply merged—at least in part—with nearby Cape Point. Even though it’s now below seawater, he claims he owns the spot where it once sat.

“My land is in the exact SAME spot. It cannot ever move. Metes and Bounds exist for this exact reason,” Barlow said in an email to The News & Observer. “I was on the point last Saturday and used my hand held GPS and my trucks GPS to confirm my land is above the water line and was blending with the point just as I predicted. My land will always be there.”

The National Park Service, however, has never conceded that Barlow owned the 27-acre island. To complicate matters, with help from hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria, Shelly Island vanished before the dispute ever made its way to court.

State officials explained to the Observer that under a law that says title to any island formed in navigable waters “shall vest in the state,” no private citizen could own such a sandbar. Furthermore, if the sandbar did in fact merge with Cape Point, officials have said it would then belong to the national park service.

WATCH Farewell, Shelly: North Carolina's Surprise Island Now Connected to Land:

Barlow, whose only plan for the island was to keep it out of the hands of the National Park Service and its policies, is reportedly undeterred.

“I will NEVER relinquish what I own to the National Park Service. I will defend that property with the necessary force to repel invaders, such as the NPS.... Dare County Records of Deeds says I own this property. End of story.”

Something tells us this story is far from over.