Monday, October 01, 2007

7 Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay

I love the Chesapeake Bay and I believe it is best seen from the water. I have seen sites of spectacular beauty along its shores, especially from the deck of the Skipjack Martha Lewis. Several sites impress me with their beauty and so it has occurred to me to develop a list of the 'Seven Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay." Much to my surprise, apparently no one has done such a thing.

My list is barely begun, but I offer the following candidates:

1) The view from Turkey Point. This is an absolutely breathtaking panorama which allows a person to see more than thirty miles to Poole Island. From water level, the island is only a barely visible dark smudge, but from atop the 100 foot bluffs, the island is a broad expanses. Add to this the Turkey Point Lighthouse, built 1833, and the hawks and other migratory birds that use Turkey Point as a launching point to cross the bay, and you've got my number one pick.

2) Sharp's Island Light. The famous Leaning Lighthouse of the Chesapeake. It was nudged over by heavy ice in 1970. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is more famous, but why? Sharp's Light was built in 1882 on what was then Sharp's Island. This is one of several islands of the Chesapeake that has completely eroded away, becoming a set of shoals that require the light for warning. There are very few places in the world where a historic structure is still standing when the land under is has disappeared. Sharp's Light is our very own Atlantis.

3) The Calvert Cliffs. They line the Western Shore for more than thirty miles, a stretch with no harbor, making them a peril to mariners when storms blow out of the east. More than one ship has been sunk here. In addition, the cliffs have yielded more than 600 species of fossils. Because they are constantly eroding, they are constantly revealing new fossils. Crocodile teeth, anyone? Prehistoric crocs from the Miocene period lived here when the Cliffs were at the bottom of a shallow sea. The Cliffs are also the highest shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay.

4) The Skipjack Fleet. Listed on the National Register in 1985 and listed in 2002 as one of the eleven most endangered historic places in America by the National Historic Trust, these beautiful hard working vessels and the people who keep them afloat are truly a wonder. Official boat of Maryland, the number that are still dredging could be counted on one hand by a man who has lost a few fingers.

These four seem to me shoo-ins for Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay. I am undecided about the rest of the Wonders. I prefer natural wonders, but there is Sharp Island Light and the skipjacks... If we are to include man made wonders, then the C&D Canal, dug by hand with dirt hauled in baskets by mules is a prime candidate, and so is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Yet I admit to having a bias against the Bay Bridge. Maybe it's simply too new for my historical taste.

As for other candidates... Tangier Sound offers possibilities. And I admit to a great fondness for the little town of Wingate. It's a tiny place composed of two churches and seventeen crabboats where people are in bed by 9 at nine because they get up at 3 in the morning to go to work crabbing or in picking crabs in the crabhouses, and the docks are missing most of their boards. But the view of skipjacks heading out in the morning mists is something never to be forgotten.


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