Right whales are emblazoned on the Carteret County official seal. Known as “The Armorial Bearings of Carteret County,” the dominant colors on the graphic image are red, black, gold, silver and white.
According to Carteret County documents: The silver diamonds on the shield are representative of the Coat of Arms of the original Sir George Carteret family. He was one of the eight Lords Proprietors of Carolina, so named by King Charles II in 1668.
Carteret County was named for John Lord Carteret, grandson of Sir George Carteret. Formed in 1722, Carteret Country was formally chartered in 1739.
Carteret County’s seal contains black tridents that are representative of Neptune, Roman god of the sea.
The yale is a mythical heraldic beast atop the helmet. On the Carteret seal, this creature has a body of an antelope with curved horns and a lion’s tale. It is clutching the shell of a sea scallop, a symbol of courage.
The black right whales appear quite jovial and are there as “supporters,” appropriate for an oceanside community like Carteret County. (The “supporters” come from the practice of a Knight’s aides dressing in various animal costumes to attract challenges at tournaments.)
The idea for a Carteret County Coat of Arms was brought before the Board of Commissioners in 1976 by two civic-minded women from Beaufort – Emily Louise Loftin and Thelma Ellen Pake Simpson. Emily Loftin was a retired librarian and school teacher, and Thelma Simpson was a historian and book author.
The request was officially made by John Kenneth Newsome, Chair of the Board of Commissioners at the time, and submitted to the Officer in Waiting of the College of Arms in London, England.
The process involves approval by the Earl Marshal and the eventual signing of the “letters patent” by the King of Arms. (Serving as Earl Marshal at the time was British Army Maj. Gen. Miles Francis Stapleton Fitzalan-Howard, 17th Duke of Norfolk.)
The unveiling of the Carteret County Coat of Arms occurred in 1977, and the original artwork hangs in the Board of Commissioners Room in the county courthouse in Beaufort.
The North American right whale became so named by whalers in the 18th century because it was deemed the “right” whale to hunt – easy to spot from shore, rather slow moving and so buoyant that the whale floated to the surface when killed, providing a bounty of oil, meat and bone.
“The right whales were hunted to the brink of extinction,” reported Abigail Dillen of Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization specializing in environmental law.
“Scientists estimate that only 300 to 400 of these whales remain,” Dillen said. “Although listed as endangered in 1973, the North Atlantic population of right whales has made little progress toward recovery.”
Earthjustice observed the 15-year anniversary of National Endangered Species Day on May 15, 2020, by publishing its listing of the 15 species of wildlife that the organization is especially “fighting for” this year through its various projects and cases.
The North American right whale is among them. (Other sea creatures included on the list of top priorities include orcas, wild salmon and bowhead whales.)
If right whales were to become extinct, it would rock the entire heritage and culture of Carteret County. The whole foundation of county government might topple and come crumbling down.
Who wants an official seal that looks like a fallen Humpty Dumpty?
The right whale “supporters” depicted on the county seal deserve the support of the county’s elected officials. “Saving the right whale” is the right thing to do.