Today was a long day on the island. Our staff was back on hand after only hours of sleep to continue to keep things under control. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was met with a sympathetic smile or a warm hug as they got off the ferry. I found myself the unlikely transporter of media today, as we brought news crews from all three of Charleston’s networks and the newspaper to the island.
We boarded the 9:00 ferry for coffee with a legion of people returning to the island after a few hours of sleep. Tales of last night’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things abounded. A crew of seven young men, searching Dewees Inlet for their missing friend were some of the first 911 callers and came ashore and grabbed hoses to help. Fire hoses are heavy, and they ran lines and battled at the edges, keeping Jan and Bubber’s home from burning. Jim and Bubber working the smaller catch-fires at the edges, Paul working on the water, Ginny watching the gauges, Rita getting off work and spending all night at the fire, Joe still working this afternoon (as well as Terry, Ryan, Robert, Kim, and Lori). Jane and John calling it in from the boat, Janet keeping Colette save away from the blaze, etc. I know I am missing some; everyone helped in some way.
News crews came back and forth all day today, as we stressed to them that fires can happen anywhere, but the amazing thing was the way we have a plan; it worked, and things were contained. The overwhelming sentiment from ferry riders was gratitude.
Jennifer Mathis has participated in beach sweep on Dewees Island in the past, and she and her family are regular visitors to the island. (Through her design business, Blue Bowl Interiors, Jen has also done some great room makeovers, but that’s another story.)
Just like the Dewees Island’ Environmental Program Board on the island has encouraged us to reduce our waste, Jen’s main mission was to draw attention to the issue of plastic waste in the oceans and waterways. Her family was inspired by an exhibit on the west coast, as the website FromHeretoSargasso explains:
By using garbage to create something beautiful and draw attention to the challenges of discarded plastics in the ocean, we hope to change attitudes toward our throw-away society. The project is inspired by The Washed Ashore Project, an art installation at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito… We hope to inspire you. We want you to think about your daily choices and how they affect the planet at large. We want you to be moved by the actions of local students and help protect our pristine beaches and the wildlife therein.
Local Metalsmith Sean Ahern created the form, SOA student Elsa Cline designed the pelican sculpture, and other SOA students assembled it and gave it the 3d exterior. Many different sponsors from the community came forth and donated time and treasure, and the final result is two unbelievable sculptures, one of which will find a home at the S.C. Aquarium, the other will be unveiled tomorrow at Shem Creek. We have been involved in this project as volunteers and sponsors; you can read more about our participation on the project blog. We’ve collected trash, cleaned it, helped with the website and publicity, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves along the way. We have learned so much: from getting us all to think about our bottled water consumption and consumer habits to inspiring us by changing the world a little bit at a time. Dewees is so fortunate to be part of the dialogue around marine debris and our abundant natural resources. We’ll be there tomorrow; please stop by and visit this fantastic sculpture assembled by SOA students.
Xanthozylum Clava-Hercules is blooming right now, and it seems to be host for a wide variety of pollinators that are drawn to it. This plant is also known as Hercules Club, or Southern Prickly Ash. It is a pretty amazing tree native to the lowcountry. Dewees Island Ecologist, Lori Sheridan Wilson, often gives a taste of it to students when she is on an ecology tour of the island. “Native Americans might have taught the early settlers about the medicinal properties of this tree,” she says, breaking off a piece to share. “You can chew the bark or leaves and experience a numbing sensation that relieves a toothache.”
On mature trees, the bark is covered with large, spiny protuberances (hence the name prickly ash), and it loses its leaves in the winter. The tree loves calcium rich soils, and is sort of a barrier island specialist, tolerating salt spray periodically. It is a native citrus relative, and a host tree for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, whose caterpillars actually resemble bird droppings as a way of camouflage. SCDNR, in a great downloadable publication called Best Management Practices for Wildlife in Maritime Forest Developments recommends planting Hercules club as a way to attract caterpillars and butterflies.
Some plants that are preferred food-plants for caterpillars and adults include: Hercules club, black cherry, sassafras, fennel, red bay, passion-flower, milkweed, pawpaw, violets, loquat, Carolina laurel cherry, daylilies, Salvia, rosemary, asters, marigolds and honeysuckle.
Last week, one bush was covered with pollinators of all shapes and sizes: from ants to bees to wasps and hornets to butterflies and moths. A mockingbird hopped from branch to branch, snacking on the insects which were drawn to the blooms.
This weekend, there was a turtle rescue in Dewees Inlet, according to the blog from the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital. Still alive, but severely debilitated, the turtle managed to survive the night Saturday after being rescued by members of the (IOP/Sullivans) Island Turtle team and SCDNR and transported to the hospital.
Rescuers Courtney and her dog Moses, are no strangers to sea turtles, spending a great deal of time in coastal waters for work (Barrier Island Eco Tours) and play. While enjoying the beautiful spring day, Courtney and Moses encountered the sea turtle floating at the water’s surface and it was obvious the animal was in distress. As they inched the boat closer to get a better look, the turtle was unable to dive.
Rescuers got the turtle to the hospital, where they assessed its condition and started treatment, according to Kelly Thorvalson.
Crown Castle, the owners of the cell phone tower on the Isle of Palms, removed the shorter, old cell phone tower on Saturday. A new much taller tower was installed on the same property months ago and Crown Castle has been transitioning the antenna equipment over.
It’s our understanding that the primary motivation for installing the new taller tower was to improve radio communication for emergency services, including the police and fire service. Along the way it appears that Crown Castle boosted the height of the cell phone antennas.
Below you can see pictures of the tower as they’re getting ready to take it down with an articulating crane truck and after the old tower was removed.