Albemarle Sound is the second largest coastal estuary in America (only the Chesapeake Bay is larger), located on the coast of North Carolina at the confluence of a group of rivers, including the Chowan and Roanoke. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Outer Banks at its eastern edge.
In 1586 the first European explorers sailed up the fifty-five mile length of the Albemarle Sound. Half a century later, the first European settlers came south from Virginia, establishing agricultural and trading colonies along the shores of the Sound. The Albemarle Sound soon became a very important thoroughfare, with small trading ships carrying cargo to and from other colonies, and larger merchant ships bringing spices, silks, and sugars from the West Indies.