National Geographic : 1964 Sep
Chesapeake Country "Divers raised the iron from sunken hulls off Pig Point," the farmers told us. On Tangier no signs of the old war remain. Works of man have no permanence on land so little higher than the Bay waters that the people bury their dead above ground and build their frame houses without cellars. But the art of 20th-century warfare is very much in evidence. Jets streak across the Bay from the Patuxent Naval Air Station to bomb target ships beached off the island. They pull out of their runs directly over Tangier town. In the Chesapeake beyond the targets lies the wreckage of the old battleship Texas, re named San Marcos so another ship could bear her name. An early Army flyer, Gen. Billy Mitchell, bombed her to prove the effective ness of aerial attack. Bates dove to the wreck with an Aqua-Lung and drifted about in an eerie tangle of twisted plates. He found a school of rockfish in residence, also many sea nettles. The tide, running full, nearly swept off his face mask. I thought it a daring enough venture until, in Wenona, we met two young watermen who had rescued a nest of fledgling fish hawks from one of the target ships. They had ac complished their mission of mercy between bombings-using a fast boat! Wenona, a delightful village of watermen on Deal Island, has a tiny harbor so crowded with local craft that yachtsmen usually pass it by. But a sailor can always get a berth in any small Bay harbor if he knows how to handle his boat. Come in fast with everything set, aim for the berth you fancy, then drop the sails on the run at the very brink of disaster. Now throw a line to the Baymen watching critically from the wharf. At the same time call out calmly: "Would you kindly snub her, cap'n?" Somebody will snub her. Baymen like to see a sailboat handled smartly. Crisfield Packs - and Races -Crabs From Wenona we sailed down Tangier Sound to Crisfield for the annual Hard Crab Derby, a big event in a town that calls itself "Seafood Capital of the World." The slogan comes close to truth. Crisfield packs every Chesapeake seafood from shad roe to conchs dredged in the Bay mouth, but especially crabmeat. Packing houses line the busy canal that leads to the new Somers Cove Marina. Passing along the canal, which han dles more traffic than the town's main street, we heard the women crab pickers singing spirituals as they worked. The entrants in the Hard Crab Derby raced down a ramp before an audience of hundreds (pages 390-91). Trouble was they scuttled any direction they chose, and had not one big fellow representing Governor J. Millard Tawes of Maryland gone straight to the finish line, the race judge might have been in trouble. I was the race judge. They pick a stranger for this dangerous post. Governor Tawes, himself a Crisfield native, sportingly gave the prize to the second crab, representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. The summer south wind hurried Betelgeuse up Tangier Sound. In Hooper Strait, leading to the Bay, frantic gulls signaled feeding blue Scooters and Bicycles Outnumber Cars on Tangier Island's One Narrow Road Isolated Tangier, a dot of low-lying marsh land in the lower Bay, lies 12 miles from Crisfield. One passenger-mail boat daily provides its only regular contact with the mainland, and the thousand islanders, who draw their livelihood from the water, would have it no other way. Capt. John Smith first sighted Tangier in 1608. Islanders say their ancestors bought it in 1686 from the Poco moke Indians for two overcoats.