National Geographic : 1958 Jan
Slow Boat to Florida The bargeloads of pulpwood and rolls of kraft paper we had passed on the waterway prompted us to investigate an industry that now looms larger than cotton or naval stores, for years the chief bulwarks of the seaport's economy. When the paper industry began making paper from pine, the South's tremen dous stands of fast-growing pine became an economic asset that has effected an industrial revolution. Accompanied by a young engineer, Philip Beckwith, we toured the Union Bag-Camp Paper Corporation's gigantic Savannah plant (page 34). Each day roaring machines con vert 3,100 cords of pine into 2,000 tons of kraft paper and paperboard, enough to cover a highway from Georgia to Pennsylvania. "The plant's weekly bag output," Beckwith told us, "is large enough to take home almost half the Nation's weekly food supply." In a sense, the Union Bag-Camp mill sym bolizes the transformation of the South, for it occupies the former site of the Hermitage, an ante bellum industrial plantation owned by Scotsman Henry McAlpin, whose slave tended kilns baked much of the brick still seen in Savannah buildings. Only Cow Terrapin Go to Market Back on the waterway, we called on Mr. and Mrs. William Barbee at Isle of Hope, a pleasant oak-shaded suburb of Savannah on the Skidaway River. The Barbees operate the country's leading diamondback terrapin hatchery-or "farm," as they call it. Their stock in trade figures importantly in the lives of a small but dedicated band of gourmets who believe that a festive dinner needs a terrapin course as much as it needs knives and forks. Hundreds of diamondback terrapin (Mala clemys centrata) crawled about or lay like stones in a shallow, wire-enclosed pool just inside the entrance to the Barbee establish ment, which resembles a country store. "Those are bulls," said Mr. Barbee. "They serve as breeding stock; only the cows go to market. Come along and I'll show you some in the fattening pen." We followed him to a board corral con taining several hundred female diamondbacks, which were much larger than the males. They chewed on fragments of crabs dribbling into the pen through a pipeline from an adjoining crab-meat cannery, another Barbee enterprise. In the near-by hatchery we saw thousands of terrapin ranging in size from a 25-cent piece to slightly larger than a man's hand. "This is where the terrapin are born," said Mr. Barbee. "My father started breeding terrapin in 1898, after some scientists told him it couldn't be done, and he passed the method on to me. How we incubate the eggs is a family secret. Now and then we strengthen the herd with wild terrapin from the marshes." Famed Restaurants Buy Diamondbacks When the females reach an age of six to nine years and measure at least five and a half inches along the bottom shell, Mr. Barbee transfers them to the fattening pen. As orders come in, he packs the live reptiles between layers of Spanish moss in ventilated tins and barrels and ships them to such famous eating places as Liichow's and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, Harvey's in Washington, D. C., the Queen City Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Miller Bros. in Balti more, Maryland. "In a good year we'll ship 150 to 200 dozen, at from $24 to $36 a dozen," said Mr. Barbee. "Restaurants charge from $2.75 up for a serving of terrapin stew-expensive, but it's awfully good for you." On the 85-mile stretch from Isle of Hope to St. Simons Island, gateway to the "Golden Isles of Guale," the Intracoastal Waterway meanders through Georgia's 9,000 square miles of tidal marshland. Here we were introduced to the giant sting ing horseflies that plague the marshland in springtime. As soon as the sun was high, the bloodthirsty creatures swarmed aboard and zoomed about the ship, alighting frequently to nip one of us. Dorothea retreated to the cabin and put the screens up. Joe and I remained topside, swatting furiously. Picturesque and lively place names mark the waterway's route past the coastal islands of Georgia. We passed Burntpot Island, Cane Patch Creek, and Sometime Creek. Soon we Palm Beach Visitors Ride a Cycle-buggy on the Royal Poinciana Way A strip of elegance on a narrow 15-mile-long island, Palm Beach has long been known as society's winter capital. Magnificent mansions front the Atlantic on the slender sliver of sand. Royal palms grow in profusion, lending a tropical beauty. National Geographic Photographer B. Anthony Stewart © N.G.S.