Thoughts of the Lowcountry of South Carolina and its Rich History

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As I’ve worked through the entire coast of the state and corresponded with many enthusiastic residents who’ve made purchases from the first group of maps that I issued, I’ve really grown in my appreciation of the varied history of the area.  While almost anyone with a little knowledge of US history knows something about Charleston and Fort Sumter, this really only begins to scratch the surface.  As numerous folk have generously pointed out to me, there’s really a lot to explore throughout the coastal areas, such as Sullivan and Edisto Islands with their forts, plantations and dramatic natural features, and people are still actively connected to this past and want to share what they know.  And, despite quite a lot of material on the subject being available, beautiful and comprehensive visual representations of the context, such as what I strive for in my maps, are not nearly as prevalent.  Similar to a then-and-now map comparison that I did a number of years ago of an island in New Jersey, when I physically started to compare the same areas roughly 100 years apart, the dramatic differences that have resulted from major events as well as coastal actions, become very apparent.  Wind and water, along with man-made activities, contributed strongly to significant shifts of land, rivers, coastlines and structures.   I’ve become thoroughly engrossed in the choices involved in “getting it right” as well as wanting to authentically represent these areas of the late 19th Century in a way that will resonate for the people who are still connected to it, as well as for anyone else who may just decide to investigate it.  Like my other historic map, it takes longer to pull together, as properly doing justice to the trove of information is not just a matter of checking it with an atlas.  Historic documents often conflict with one another and the standards of exactness vary broadly over time.  Still, I’m quite pleased with how it’s coming along and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about an area that, although I was aware of, was not really very familiar.  It has been anything but tedious and I hope to complete the map in the coming months, but I’ll surely have a tinge of sadness for the end of the exploration.  Hopefully others will get a share of these feelings when they see the result.  Keep a lookout for the South Carolina Historic Coastal Map.

 Cheers, Joe

 

It’s Shark Week!

SHARKAs a resident of the Jersey Shore and an ardent mapmaker, it is almost inevitable that I’d be interested in its history. So it was especially intriguing for me when, a few years ago, a local acquaintance started talking up the Shark History of the area. Several excellent books were recommended, “12 Days of Terror” and “Close to Shore”, which describe the singular Shark Attack events of the Summer of 1916.

It was so engrossing, almost too hard to fathom, that I was inspired to make a “Summer of Blood” Shark Attack Map which depicted all of the locales from the first attack in Beach Haven, LBI north to the last ones in the Matawan Creek. It was fun and enlightening to illustrate the series of attacks which became the eventual backstory for JAWS. Now, the 100th Anniversary of these grizzly attacks has arrived. Nothing like them has happened before or since, so those 12 days in early July remain unique and continue to pique our imaginations.

Imagine the start of an especially hot summer; polio is rampant in the cities; President Wilson relocates the Summer White House near Sea Girt; the world press is gathered at the Jersey Shore; the US is about to enter World War I; German U-boats patrol off the coast. And then sharks start attacking swimmers! This confluence of events and the ensuing frenzy were almost too much to imagine. How could anyone with a pulse not be fascinated by the daily reports? Steven Spielberg certainly thought so. And now, 100 years later, we look back and rekindle that same fascination all over again. There were never any final explanations or resolutions. Why did these attacks happen and could they happen again? Clearly our interest in sharks continues to grow. The ocean is an endless source of mystery and wonder.