Terra Sigillata

For those of you following Twitter or watching the television in the university cafeteria, you’ll know that the North Carolina port of Morehead City is being evacuated. Nine containers of an explosive, pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), have been punctured and there is concern of an explosion. (This report now says that of the nine containers, only one has been punctured – by a forklift operator).

Not only do I have relatives out on the barrier island but science bloggers Kevin Zelnio and Southern Fried Scientist are stationed out there at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, about four miles from the port. Zelnio started off on Twitter scaring the hell out of me with a message to his wife and kids until I realized he was writing in jest (I think).

For those of you who know the NC coast, the mainland port of Morehead City connects to the Bogue Banks beaches, a barrier island that runs almost horizontally east-to-west. The bridge from Morehead leads to Atlantic Beach, a favorite destination for military families stationed inland, as well as the family-friendly beaches of Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path, and Emerald Isle before snaking back to the town of Swansboro.

For ScienceOnline2010 attendees who may have never been to North Carolina, never fear. This incident won’t interfere with your travels (well, maybe for Zelnio and SFS) or the meeting proceedings. Morehead City is safely 181 mi/291 km from the Sigma Xi meeting headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

I can tell you that we expect the meeting to be a blast but this is not exactly what I had in mind.

Morehead evacuees.jpg

Dispatched via Twitter to @abelpharmboy: @sfriedscientist @kzelnio @bomaiblat and bluegrassbluecrab evacuating in style (not in order, not drawn to scale). None are known to have PETN in their underpants.


  1. #1 Dave Munger
    January 12, 2010

    “This report now says that of the nine containers, only one has been punctured – by a forklift operator”

    That makes a lot more sense than the original news/twitter reports! After one container was punctured, how could it have happened nine more times?!?

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    January 12, 2010

    … er, or, rather, eight more times… whatever.

  3. #3 tarheeled
    January 12, 2010

    There was some joke when Clinton was leaving the White House about him retiring to NC because they had a lot of towns that sounded good to him. Morehead City was one but I can’t remember the others.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    January 12, 2010

    I want to know which blogger was driving the forklift!

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    January 12, 2010

    Now the NYT is reporting 2 containers, 9 drums punctured. And the main interviewee for the story is a bartender. Coincidence? I think not.

  6. #6 Sigrah
    January 12, 2010

    Ahh, to be at the Royal James, double cheeseburger, fries and cold beer in hand. I am envious!!

    Glad I found this blog!


  7. #7 SouthernFriedScientist
    January 12, 2010

    Thanks for all your support during a difficult time. For the record, I too had a double cheeseburger with a cold beer. then another.

  8. #8 Kevin Z
    January 12, 2010

    Abel, this is priceless!

    For the record, my final lunch would have been an egg salad on toasted rye with swiss cheese, jalapeno poppers (ranch sauce of course) and 5 Fat Tires.

    I think this scenario highlights the importance of me getting a droid phone with a data plan. In a real emergency scenario, tweeting by mobile would be a real pain in the ass.

  9. #9 SouthernFriedScientist
    January 12, 2010

    The whole chronology of tweets is up at
    Enjoy and see you at scio10

  10. #10 Shriveled Raisins
    January 18, 2010

    Great meeting you helped organize and run even though deathly ill, Abel. Really enjoyed it and learned a ton. Now get some rest!

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