Warner, William W. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. (N.Y.: Penguin, 1976, rp. 1994) ISBN 0316923354 (paperback, available used in various earlier printings)
Warner's focus on the three topics of his subtitle enables him to see them as a system rather than as isolated individual people, species, or bodies of water. How does a systematic view of a situation work? What burdens does it place upon analysts, and what benefits do they receive in return? Think especially of the varying kinds of evidence Warner works with, and the various departments at Goucher which would teach you how to interpret that evidence? Biology, Chemistry, History, Religion, Philosophy, Sociology, Political Science and Public Policy, and English (he's a journalist!) come to mind immediately. How does this interdisciplinary approach to his task relate to your voyage through Goucher's curriculum?
The watermen of the Chesapeake Bay have an interesting history, which Warner and others have traced using historical studies and personal interviews (especially see Tom Horton's An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake). How does the formal, academic study of history tell the story of the watermen? What does the historian have access to that the watermen do not? What kinds of information does the personal-interview style of historical researcher discover that the historian ordinarily cannot, or even does not want to find? Which kind of research best suits your personality and habits of mind? The choice shows up in many majors. In Biology, it's the difference between laboratory and field research. In English, it can be the difference between working with dead or living authors, or between writing from a study of literary tradition and writing mainly based on personal experience. All the other disciplines pose similar choices for their majors? How do you think you will choose, and are you willing to experiment with both?
Click here for access to the John Carter Brown Library's historical map collection and start the "Insight Browser" after first disabling your browser's pop-up blocker. (You can restart it as soon as you've got the map.) If you search on the keyword "Maryland," you can see a 1677 (?) map of the region before significant European development had altered its appearance. What features would Warner's watermen recognize today, and what has changed? What features are named that no longer exist?
The state of the crabbing industry and of the crab population in the Chesapeake has generally continued to decline in the years since 1976 when Warner wrote, and even since 1996 when Horton published Island. What was the previous year's crab harvest and what were the major factors influencing water quality in the Bay? Human development and industry continue to play a major role, but natural events sometimes dramatically affect life on and in the Bay. In 2003, for instance, Hurricane Isabel struck the Eastern United States in North Carolina with winds up to 140 knots, and passed directly over the Bay as a tropical storm bearing sustained southerly winds of 42 to 58 knots for many hours (as measured at Thomas Point Light weather station). Ocean water was driven up the Bay by the steady southerlies and flooded low-lying areas of Baltimore and surrounding communities when the storm surge hit the top of the Bay. In June, 2006, heavy tropical rains fell for days, breaking even Isabel's rainfall totals for the region and sending a huge "slug" of freshwater runoff down the Susquehanna River into the Bay. What is Bay's position as an ecosystem balancing between such natural events and the growing, but gradual human pressure on its composition? How do the watermen figure into this system? How are the crabs affected?
Warner and Race: Warner, like Horton, is very reluctant to discuss the issue of race on the Eastern Shore. This is all the more surprising (or perhaps not?) because Cambridge, Maryland, was the site of one of the earliest collisions between the 1960s "Black Power" movement and white racists who were attempting to roll back the clock to pre-Civil-War segregationist practices. Click here for a 1997 newspaper article that recounts the circumstances of the 1967 Cambridge incident involving H. Rap Brown and Spiro Agnew (then governor, later the disgraced Vice President of America who resigned from Nixon's administration after his corruption while governor was exposed). The night after Brown's radicalizing speech, most of the black-owned businesses and an all-black segregated school in Cambridge were burned to the ground by persons who were never arrested. Brown responded to the press that "Violence was as American as cherry pie."
More Warner Links:
Eastern Shore and Virginia Bay Dialect: no sound files but unusual pronunciations are spelled out.
Mid-Atlantic Dialects: a survey of the dialects spoken from Buffalo, NY, in the North, to the Virginia Piedmont in the South. This can help to situate "Eastern Shore" and "Delmarva" speech within a spectrum of dialects so that we do not mistakenly believe that only those on the Eastern Shore have dialects.
SmithIsland.org: The home page of the Crisfield & Smith Island Cultural Alliance. On the issue of commodification of "Island Life" as a tourist consumable, take a look at this admittedly beautiful but functionless model of a Jenkins Creek scrape boat: http://www.smithisland.org/jewel.html, Its beauty should not blind us to the fact that it is only a 17-foot model of these 28-foot crabbing boats, and it does not float, but resides on land in a museum for easier tourist access.
Chesapeake Bay Program's "Blue Crab" web page: This offers visual details and updated figures on the crabs' habitat and nature to augment what Warner told us in 1976.
The NOAA Chesapeake Blue Crab Assessment for 2005: This is the official survey of the crab fishery, or "the Federal Government's Crab."
The National Zoo's Blue Crab Page: More information about crabs, but mainly you will want to see the "Octopus Cam" page, which is linked to this page.
General Bay-Related Links:
For Colonial era map of the Bay (circa 1677) to compare what the colonists saw when they looked at this region, see my web page for Warner and check out the John Carter Brown Library's historical map database. As promised, here is the link for the Thomas Point Light weather station. For additional help visualizing the Bay as the crabs know it, here is the NOAA chart in an online version: http://www.nauticalcharts.gov/bookletcharts/12280_BookletChart.pdf Chesapeake Bay Asteroid Impact Crater Chesapeake Bay Satellite Image (USGS) Chesapeake Bay Navigation Charts