Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chincoteague and Assateague Are Barrier Islands

People who do not live on or near water usually don't have a real grasp of what a barrier island is.  During hurricane season, these people watch the flooding and washing away of barrier islands during big storms without much understanding.  Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, in Virginia and Maryland, are barrier islands.  They came about from wind and tide, and probably will be undone by wind and tide.  To understand barrier islands, and how they work, I suggest reading a short, but sweet article, which includes a map of changes to the northern end of Assateague found at:  http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/barrier-island.htm
  People have lived year-round on Chincoteague since 1650, and the island known as Chincoteague today would not be recognized by the sailors of older days.  With each heavy north-easter and hurricane, the sandbars and channels change; there are wash-throughs that break islands up, and there are silt-ins that join smaller islands together.  Chincoteague Island itself is made up of more than one island; the secondary part is Piney Island, and I'm certain that more have merged over the centuries.  Assateague Island has broken into several pieces over the years, reformed, broken and reformed a myriad of times.  It's a part of being a natural barrier island...
   And barrier islands have multiple ecosystems, which make them wonderful places to live and visit - but these ecosystems are very delicate, and all it takes is one large storm or hurricane to wipe all traces of settlement away.  In my grandfather's house on Chincoteague, I always remember the high tide marks on the wall paper.  I always called the specific room I'm remembering "the dining room" - my Mom always hooted with laughter when I called it that and said it was "the big kitchen..."  If you enetered the house via the front porch, the front door was a little to the left of the front left corner...  you walked straight down a hall to the little kitchen, which held the stove, refrigerator and sink, and then stepped up into the big kitchen, where there was a built-in china cabinet.  The wall paper was an Edwardian rose print - a pale blue-gray background, with tiny golden yellow vertical trellises, and gigantic old fashioned pink roses on pale green stems with leaves.   The floor boards in the corner opposite the china cabinet were permanently warped from so many sea water immersions, and my favorite rocking chair which sat there, was normally in a rocked back position....  And then there were the five horizontal high tide marks on the wall paper.  I know the highest mark was from the Ash Wednesday storm in 1962, and the next highest mark was the hurricane of 1938 - but Mom couldn't tell me the dates of the other water marks...
  More tomorrow.

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