National Geographic : 1965 Sep
where he tended the diesel station that gen erates all the island's electric power. "My middle name is Bell, too," I said. "Well, we must all be telephone Bells!" laughed my host. "Righter than you think," I said. Then I explained that Grandfather-the inventor Alexander Graham Bell-was responsible for my lifelong interest in the island and the reason for my being here. "Forgive me," said Mrs. Bell. "I have al most forgotten how to behave with visitors we have only four government boats a year. You must come to our house." Wind Sandblasts Vegetation The Bells gathered up their berries, and we made our way to a neatly painted frame house. As we passed through the vestibule, she reached into a big freezer and pulled out a can of lemonade. A moment later we were sipping a refreshing drink over strawberry shortcake and discussing their life here. Some of the Bells' furniture was damaged when it was brought ashore ("the boat broached and water ruined our record player"); still the house was cozy and attractive. Pots of begonias and fuchsias dotted the living room (page 405), and I recalled Grampy Bell's journal: "Flowers of various kinds are grown successfully indoors, but the dwarfed appearance of all vegetation out of doors shows that the weather is not always mild." "Yes," said Mr. Bell. "Wind and sand cut everything down. We haven't a single tree." "You're interested in geography," said Mrs. Bell, handing me a map. "Sable is a floating sand island, constantly shifting, anchored to the continental shelf. See how it has moved bodily eastward and gotten smaller since its discovery about 1500." Portuguese cartographer Pedro Reinel called it Sanda Crus, and on early English, Italian, and French maps it varied in size. In 1633 a Dutchman, Johannes de Laet, reported "Sable... is about [forty miles] in circuit... the sea... being shallow and without harbors, and having a bad repute for shipwrecks." Others, perhaps out of pure dread, calcu lated the island as 200 miles long with dunes towering 800 feet! The west end retreated be fore the storms: 6 miles between 1766 and 1899; 3 between 1899 and 1959. Meantime, the eastern tip actually grew (opposite). Voracious seas and winds have gnawed at the island's dunes until today it measures scarcely a mile wide and about 23 miles long. Broad sand beaches and far-reaching shoals are remnants of the old island. uuA( Ml- DT IYLLVILLC GCLL ltUbVtNUK(AR(V-) AND GILBERT M. GROSVENOR© N.G.S. CHART ) R. I. MACDONALD Victim of explosive winds, the old boathouse may collapse with another severe storm. Joseph P. Blair III of Miami, Florida, studies the date-1893. Map shows known wrecks since 1800. Mr. Har rington points out White Mist's anchorage to bosun Stanley Judge of Gorham, New Hampshire.