UGGHH, WIND!! We kayakers try to dismiss it as “air with attitude,” but sometimes that just makes it mad. On rare occasions, though, we find wind delightful. Like, when a tailwind surfs us all the way home. Or THIS: one artist’s relationship with our nemesis that astonishes us no end. Geek on!
All posts for the month June, 2013
Lost…But Not Forgotten
By Donna York-Gilbert
(The author’s feature on Edingsville Beach appeared in Charleston Magazines 2002 July/August issue under the title “Gone with the Wind”)
If there is ever a way to go back in time, the Old Edingsville Beach Road can get you there. The road itself is seductive, mysterious, and hauntingly quiet, yet this road holds the secrets to the past. The gnarled limbs of the old live oaks are dripping in Spanish Moss and leaning in as though they long to tell the stories of the past: the past that was filled with wealth, slavery, extravagance and tragedy; the past that resurrects itself with the ebb and flow of the tides washing up treasures along the shores of our own Jeremy Cay.
By the end of the 18th century, slavery and Sea Island cotton turned farmers into aristocrats in the backwoods of Edisto Island. The salinity of the Edisto Island marshes made rice planting difficult. The British stopped importing our Indigo following the American Revolution, so the planters relied on the slaves to show them a West Indian way of growing another crop, cotton. And this was no ordinary cotton. Edisto’s Sea Island cotton became the finest in world rivaling even Egyptian cotton. This King of Cotton was so fine, it was pre-sold at a premium years before the seed was planted. It is even said the Pope of Rome had his robes made from this silky, protestant-born, slave-harvested delicacy. This unique cotton and the high demand from around the world made the Edisto Island planters among the wealthiest planters around. And wealthy planters became the South’s aristocracy.
This newfound royalty of Edisto plantation families married one another and ultimately connected the planters through blood and marriage. This unprecedented wealth allowed these families to own town-homes in Charleston and pursue other places of luxury and recreation…anything to escape the burdensome heat of those balmy Edisto summers.
Stifling heat, no breeze and abundant mosquitoes tarnished the charm of plantation life. Mosquitoes thrived in the farm-like environment of fields and stagnant ponds, and so did the fatal disease, malaria. It didn’t take long before the Edisto gentry discovered a healthy retreat nearby called Edingsville Beach. The ocean breezes had a medicinal quality to them and no one was dying of the dreaded diseases that plagued them inland on the plantations. Little did they know, but the breezy salt air kept the mosquitoes, and their deadly malaria at bay.
Word spread rapidly about this tiny barrier island called Edingsville Beach. The Mikell family owned Edingsville Beach in the early 1800’s. At one point, the Edings family owned the area and leased vacation lots to the planters as a summer respite. The plantation families built gracious, two-story, brick houses with sweeping verandas and fireplaces flanking both sides of each home. Elegant parties, regattas, horse races and elaborate banquets were the norm at this seaside resort for the Edisto principality.
Each May, the Edisto planters would load their horse-drawn carts with the plantation furnishings and retreat to Edingsville Beach until the first frost of autumn. The men would return to the plantations each day to make sure all was in order, but would surely be back at the beach for the 3 o’clock dinner. Sounds of ladies laughing and splashing, men serenading their lovers, and echoes of sheer delight could be heard throughout the 19th century at Edingsville Beach.
In its heyday, there were at least 60 dwellings at Edingsville Beach. Among the summer homes was a schoolhouse for the boys to keep up their studies. There was an Episcopalian and a Presbyterian church. And you can be sure there was a billiard saloon serving libations to all the God-fearing congregants along the shore. The Atlantic Hotel was built by the Edings family in 1852 and was advertised in the Charleston Courier as a “salubrious Atlantic watering place.” Carriages, Buggies, and saddle horses were available for the hotel guests. “Seaside Surry” and “Riviera of the Low Country” were other terms of endearments used to describe this playground for the rich. These were heady times for vacationers on the famed Edingsville Beach.
But like a page ripped from a great southern novel, the grandeur vanished and was literally gone with the wind. The War Between the States did little damage to Edingsville Beach but it took a financial toll on the planters. It was a series of storms and hurricanes from 1881 to the turn of the century that extinguished Edingsville Beach.
At the time, it sure seemed as though God was punishing the South and using nature’s resources to wash away any evidence of her wealth and sins. There was no evidence left of Edingsville’s golden era existence except for a tabby brick fireplace, broken trinkets, and mere memories of a magical time and place.
Like the legendary Atlantis, the 19th century Edingsville is a mere memory of a once flourishing society buried at sea less than a mile from the shore of Jeremy Cay. And like Atlantis, this glorious village, with all its grandeur and extravagance, rests quietly, waiting to tell her stories to anyone who will listen.
Today, if you are standing on the shores of Jeremy Cay you may see remnants from those days roll up with the breaking of the waves. From china, to slave tools, or bricks from the old mansions, Edingsville Beach sends whatever she can to remind us of her beauty and glory from another era.
The developers of Jeremy Cay have created a paradise from a slice of history. The lagoons, the pristine shells, the ancient fossils, and the abundant wildlife are rivaled only by the panoramic views and the brilliant rise and descent of the sun. The moon itself must favor Jeremy Cay, for it hovers so closely and luminously that even in the darkest hours, breathtaking sites are in full view. So, as you gaze out at the whispering marsh grass or reflect on the sea’s horizon, be ever so quiet and let the many ghosts of Edingsville bring her history back to the glistening shores of Jeremy Cay.
Sidebar; Some of Edingsville Beach’s inhabitants included the families of Mikell, Townsend, Middleton, Wescoat, Reverend Wilson, Johnson, Hopkinson, Becket, Hanahan, Street, Lagare, Mitchell, Murray, Jenkins, Pope, Seabrook, Bailey, Whaley, LaRoache, Whilkonson, Baynard, Edings and Swinton.
More from Edisto Island, S.C…
A little video of our paddle through salt marsh, Frampton Creek, and the North Edisto River. Seemed like everybody was out crabbing and fishing that day—but the bottlenosed dolphins did it best. A wonderful day on the water.
Everything flows to the ocean…
Scenes from our vacation in Edisto Island, S.C.
May 24-June 1
Rocky Mount, N.C. Traffic flowed on I-95 southbound, but we didn’t need highway signs to tell us we were heading in the right direction. Somewhere around Richmond, cars become the minority. Pickup trucks rule. And bumper stickers, like GUN CONTROL MEANS BEING ABLE TO HIT YOUR TARGET and the cheery IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU’RE IN RANGE!!!
Dillon, S.C. The radio tells us, “Jesus is the answer to every question.”
Now, even we non-Christians know this to be true. For example:
Q: What’s the square root of 5?
A: Christ! How should I know!!? (Of course, if you’d asked Alex, he’d say, Jeeez! it’s 2.2360679.
But he is Geek Orthodox.)
Edisto Island, S.C. At last! Fourteen hours of driving gets you to paradise. One of South Carolina’s sea islands, Edisto is relatively undeveloped (year-round population: 650). In fact, until the first bridge was built in the 20s, driving over beds of oyster shells at low tide was the only way onto Edisto Island. Much of it is under conservation easements, so (fingers crossed) it will remain unspoiled.
The house we rented was on Jeremy Cay at Edingsville Beach, surrounded by salt marsh. The ocean view out front was wonderful…
…but hold the phone! Look what’s out back!
Frampton Creek, right outside our door! Our own salty ribbon that winds 3 miles through muck and mud flats and neighbors’ crab traps, spilling out into the Atlantic.
Tidal range here is about 7 feet. As it happened, we arrived during a spring tide (full moon), so high and low tides were extreme.
We launched from our little dock, winding through Frampton Creek on the ebb, out through Frampton Inlet to the Atlantic. Paddling ocean swells past Botany Bay, we rode the flood up North Edisto River. Here’s a taste of the experience. Enjoy! (Click on first image to begin fullscreen slideshow.)
Alex’s new hat. A self-described “visibility freak,” Alex jumped on this one from American Science & Surplus, a terrific Willy-Wonka-geek-supply-candy-store recommended by our kayaking pal (and toymaker) Gary. In fact, we ordered 6 of them. So folks/boaters all around the Sound can see us and know who we are (but pretend they don’t!).
The hat’s maiden voyage was a calm Sound crossing on Sunday, June 16—Fathers’ Day—from Larchmont to Port Washington, 3.3 NM away on Long Island’s North Shore.
Jim (above) deemed the hat “MEN AT WORK.” But you gotta admit, it works as advertised…
Calmest crossing ever. We landed on the beach at 40 52.088 N 73 42.55 W to stretch our legs. Our kayaks were vibrant against the sand and sky.
A few feet away, honeybees “pulsated with vigor and energy.” Eureka! A treehouse! Jim and Alex climb up, going from MEN AT WORK to MEN AT PLAY. The hat is vibrant as ever.
We resolve to pack a picnic someday and return. Back in our boats, we paddled a short distance SE to a park we’d heard of but never seen. Eureka again! A very different kind of house…this one built by Howard Gould originally, later becoming the home of Daniel and Florence Guggenheim in 1917. Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve: An example of the vibrant extravagance of The Great Gatsby-esque, 1920s Gold Coast lifestyle.
Ah, summer! Paddling past crowds at Orchard Beach last Sunday, we were reminded of 1) how obnoxious jet-skis are, and 2) Francesco “Frank” A. Pia, whose keen observations as an Orchard Beach lifeguard revolutionized water safety.
The article by Keith O’Brien, below, appeared in The Boston Globe (August 8, 2010). Parents, sailors, kayakers, everybody—please make it #1 on your summer reading list.
How We Drown
We think we know what drowning looks like. But what if you can be watching, paying attention, and still not know that someone is going down?
THE SCENE in the popular imagination is almost always the same. A swimmer in the water – typically a child or a young woman in a bikini – calls out for help, splashing and screaming for a lifeguard. The swimmer is drowning. Of this, there is no doubt. And depending on the narrative, one of two things happens next: After more splashing and screaming, the swimmer will drown. Or the lifeguards will hear the person’s calls for help and make a daring rescue.
It’s a dramatic, often horrifying, moment, depicted in television and film again and again. And thanks to these pop culture portrayals, it’s what we look for while we’re at the beach or the pool. We think we know what drowning looks like. Surely, we’d be able to spot the signs. But what if we’re wrong? What if it’s possible to be an attentive parent and still not see that a child is drowning? What if the reality – the truth about how a drowning victim really goes down – is far scarier, and more silent, than we’ve been led to believe?
Four decades ago, Francesco A. Pia – then a young lifeguard on one of New York City’s busiest beaches – began exploring that very idea and came to some startling conclusions. He paid a student to train a 16mm movie camera on his beach, filming near-drownings and rescues. When he analyzed the results he found that Hollywood’s version of what happens in a drowning was complete fiction. And far more alarming than that, he found that water safety experts had it wrong, too. There is, in fact, almost never any shouting or waving involved with a drowning. Quietly and quickly, usually without a word to anyone, people struggling to stay afloat slip beneath the surface of the water – gone, sometimes, in cases involving children, in 20 seconds.
“It’s the rule rather than the exception,” Pia said, “that a drowning person is often surrounded by people who are unaware that a drowning is taking place. We had one case where a boy was drowning – he was probably about 12 years old – and there was a man side-stroking right in front of him. You can see the boy’s eyes tracking him as the man is swimming and he just keeps going by. This is not a case of the side-stroker not caring. He simply did not know that the boy was drowning.”
Pia’s findings, released in an instructional video called “On Drowning” in 1971, didn’t initially revolutionize water safety. One longtime expert said Pia’s views were so unorthodox at the time that many dismissed both him and his film. But in fact his conclusions echoed an earlier study which looked at 248 near-drownings. That study, done in 1966, reported that in nearly one-third of the cases the victims provided the lifeguards with little or no sign that they were in trouble. And ultimately, the water safety industry came full circle on Pia. In recent years, he has literally written the textbook on preventing drownings. Today his findings are widely accepted as fact, and he is considered the go-to expert on the topic by organizations like the American Red Cross.
But despite Pia’s efforts to spread the word over the years – first to lifeguards and later to the public – most beachgoers and parents still have no idea how to spot someone struggling in the water. Raised on the movies and, of course, “Baywatch,” we’re often looking for drama, thrashing, and panic. But the truth is, Pia said, we could be looking right at someone who’s drowning, even a loved one, and not think twice about it.
It is every parent’s summertime horror and, this summer, it has come to both Lynnfield and Brockton. Last month, twin sisters, not even 3 years old, drowned in Lynnfield after somehow managing to slip unnoticed into the family’s backyard swimming pool. And just last week, 4-year-old twin sisters in Brockton did the same.
Such tragedies, according to studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, account for more than 200 deaths every year. And parents, seeking to assure themselves that such a thing could never happen to their family, tend to blame inattentive parenting as the real cause.
Certainly, that’s a key issue. But even parents who believe they are paying attention while their children are swimming spend too much time texting or talking to friends, according to longtime water safety consultant Gerry Dworkin. And even if they are engaged and watching, he said, they are often watching for the wrong thing.
“They may be looking for somebody who’s actively struggling in the water, with the victim calling for help, waving for help, and so forth,” said Dworkin, vice president of Lifesaving Resources Inc., a New Hampshire-based water safety consulting and training company. “And drowning victims don’t look like that. To an untrained observer, a drowning victim looks like they are playing in the water when, in fact, they’re engaged in a life or death struggle.”
Statistically speaking, drowning is a rare occurrence. In 2007, the last year with complete data, the Centers for Disease Control recorded 682 drowning deaths among children under age 15. And yet, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children in that age bracket, just behind car accidents. Among children under the age of 5, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, according the CDC, far more likely than other things that parents routinely fear: fires, suffocation, poison, even guns. And on Pia’s beach in the Bronx, drowning wasn’t all that unusual. By the Fourth of July every summer at Orchard Beach, he said, at least two people, maybe more, would have drowned.
Pia had been taught to spot potential drowning victims, he said, by looking for “convulsive agitation” in the water. But he soon realized that most near-drowning victims agitated very little whatsoever, and rarely called for help. Instead, they exhibited something that he called the instinctive drowning response.
In his grainy, color footage gathered at Orchard Beach, the victims time and again flap their arms at their side, as if trying to use the surface of the water as a platform. They go vertical in the water, straight up and down, angling their airways toward the oxygen. And the goal, he pointed out, is not yelling for help – that almost never happens – but something far more primal: just breathing for as long as possible.
“They are trying to avoid suffocating in water,’‘ Pia said. “And the elegance of this particular theory is that whether they’re male or female, old or young, heavy or thin, African-American, Caucasian, or Hispanic; whether they’re drowning by themselves, drowning with another person, drowning with three people, or even, in one case, we had four people on film drowning – the same arm movements are there, the same body position, the same activity. So this is instinctive. Hence the term ‘instinctive drowning response.’”
These days, from the shores of American beaches to the offices at the CDC, lifeguards and policy makers know better what to expect from a drowning victim. Even if they are not taught the term that Pia coined, instinctive drowning response, they are taught the central idea: that drowning victims will not likely wave or yell for help; that they will look like they are “climbing a ladder” in the water; and that the struggle, much to a parent’s horror, will not last long.
“Most children don’t even understand what’s happening to them, particularly young children,” said Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a pediatrician by training and a medical epidemiologist at the CDC. “And that’s why we warn parents of young children that drowning occurs very quickly and very quietly. Descriptions from children who have survived a near-drowning say, ‘I went underwater and I went to sleep.’ They just don’t understand what’s happening.”
This knowledge, Gilchrist said, helps explains the typical response we often hear in the aftermath of a drowning: “He was there one minute and I turned around and he was gone.’‘ Victims, especially young children, can drown in 20 to 60 seconds, Dworkin said, and it’s not only parents who fail to see that someone’s drowning. Sometimes, Dworkin said, trained lifeguards sitting right there miss it, too.
“I’ve had several major cases where the victim has been in distress – and you can see it on the security video camera footage,” said Dworkin, who also works as a forensics expert in drowning cases. “But after the distress, the victim has been unconscious at or below the surface of the water for six or eight minutes, and the lifeguards failed to recognize that there was a problem.”
One such case involves a 4-year-old named Jonathan “Yoni” Gottesman. In August 2005, he attended a day camp at an athletic club outside Santa Barbara, Calif. Near the end of his first day there, he and other campers hit the pool, where, according to grainy security tape footage shown at the civil trial and posted on Yoni’s memorial page on the Internet, one counselor dunked Yoni and other children multiple times.
As the counselor and the other children swam away, continuing the game, Yoni swam toward the pool’s edge, but could not make it and soon stopped swimming altogether. For the next eight minutes, no one in the crowded pool noticed the limp body of the little boy floating face down in the water. Not his fellow campers, not the counselors, not even the lifeguards – negligence that is almost inexplicable, and which led to Yoni’s death and, just last year, to a $16 million jury verdict against those charged with watching him that day.
But lost in the shocking outcome is a moment that is subtler, but almost as frightening to a parent. It comes in the video footage as Yoni tries to keeping swimming, to keep up with the others. One moment, the 4-year-old appears to be paddling, pushing through the water and toward the wall, toward safety. And the next moment, literally a few seconds later, he’s not moving at all. Just like that, the little boy stops breathing and begins to drown.
Also recommended: Do You Know What Drowning Looks Like?.
They’re baaaaack! The 17-year cicadas (aka, magicicada septendecim, aka, Brood II) were on hand (and on footpaths, trees, the restrooms, the sinks, our tent, the car, and everywhere else!) to welcome us to Prince William Forest Park campground, just south of Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 1. Driving home to New York after vacationing in South Carolina, this is a favorite “halfway point” of ours. Just pitch the tent and go to sleep. Or not. Listen…this is the sound of one very, very long night:
Where do they come from? Why now? Why us?! These are questions that plague (ahem) you as you hunker down in your sleeping bag, wondering if you’ll get eaten alive if you dare feel around outside the tent for your flip-flops.
Fortunately, no. They don’t bite or sting. Their worst—aside from keeping you up all night—is suddenly buzzing over and landing on your shoulders and legs and head (in their creepy red-eyed view, every vertical thing is a tree). Not a happy thing at 5 a.m. as you shuffle off to the cement-block ladies’ room to brush your teeth.
But from the safety of the good ol’ Subaru, Brood II cicadas are awfully interesting! This from wync.org:
As many as one million to five million cicadas can be found per acre, according to research scientist John Cooley from the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He also runs the website Magicada. When the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees, they start to make their way out of the ground and into our world.
Cicadas live in the ground, near trees. They feed off the roots of trees. And they only come out for a few weeks, during which time they will molt and then mate. The females will lay eggs that hatch and the nymphs will then burrow underground to start a new 17-year-cycle.
That is, unless “foodies” like Gene Kritsky have their way. A cicada expert, he tells the Daily News:
The key to harvesting the bugs for eating is when they are newly hatched, called tenerals, sometime in the early morning. They should be white and still soft, with the females and their distinctive pointy abdomens the most appetizing and nutritious because of their protein-filled eggs.
Ummmm, WHAT?! You mean, we could’ve done better than Egg McMuffins?! Apparently so. In 2007, when the 17-year cicadas struck the Chicago area, cook Marilyn Pocius held a “cicada potluck” (tagline, “I ate a cicada and I don’t have to eat another one for 17 years”). The resulting entries were an incredible array of creativity — cicada sushi, JELLO, pizza and even chocolate chip cookies.
“I will say that they tasted pretty good—mild and nutty like peanut butter,” Pocius told the Daily News by email. “And of course they were delicious when battered and deep fried. But then what isn’t?”
And get this: they’re kosher! Bon appetit.