Historian's Coast: Adventures into the Tidewater Pastby Cecelski
Each of these essays examines a different aspect of North/i>
Beginning in 1996, historian David Cecelski published a series of essays called "A Historian's Coast" for Coastwatch, the magazine produced by the North Carolina Sea Grant Program. Nineteen of these essays, along with some previously unpublished pieces, are collected in this new book.
Each of these essays examines a different aspect of North Carolina's coastal history. Many center around a little-known book or unpublished material. In an effort to make the musty archives come alive, Cecelski sets out to see what the original inspiration for the source is like today.
One essay travels the Waccamaw River, following the same path Nathaniel Bishop wrote about in a book, published in 1874 and 1875. Other inspirations for the essays in this collection include Cecil Buckman's 1873 travel log kept aboard the schooner Ogeechee; passages about Bogue Banks from T. Gilbert Pearson's 1937 autobiography; sections about the Great Alligator Swamp from an unpublished reminiscence by Benjamin Nathan Basnight in the 1920s; Elliott Coues's work while stationed at Fort Macon from 1869 to 1870; James Battle Avirett's 1901 memoir about growing up at the Rich Lands plantation; and Henry Beasley Ansell's unpublished recollections of Knotts Island, written around 1907. When the essays draw from rare primary sources, Cecelski offers a sample of the original material in a sidebar.
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Read an Excerpt
Long before she was famous, Rachel Carson visited Bird Shoal. Her best-selling books about the sea lay years ahead of her. She had not yet dreamed of changing history with Silent Spring, her trailblazing expos� on the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. At Bird Shoal, she was an obscure young biologist discovering the mysteries of the sea. She wandered the island in peace, ankle-deep in marsh mud and entranced by the beauty of whelks and sea anemones. . . .
I do not know exactly when Carson first visited the North Carolina coast, but she had certainly explored the Beaufort vicinity by 1940. Her first book, Under the Sea-Wind, was published in the fall of 1941 and opened with a long evocation of a May evening at Beaufort's Town Marsh and Bird Shoal.
Carson's prose brings that spring night to life. Shad burst through Beaufort Inlet. A black skimmer rested after a long flight from the Yucatan. Newborn diamondback terrapins slipped into the dark waters of Back Sound. And in a passage that I have remembered since I first read it as a teenager a marsh rat caught "the scent of terrapin and terrapin eggs, fresh laid, [that] was heavy in the air." The rat devoured one of the eggs, then, blinded by gluttony, was speared by a blue heron.
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