At the widest part of the Chesapeake Bay, right along the Maryland/Virginia line, 12 miles off shore, lies a small archipelago. It’s called Smith Island, named after the first English explorer of the Chesapeake, Captain James Smith. It’s only accessible by a small ferry, twice a day, and if you miss the last boat, you’re done for. The island only lies at sea level, and is susceptible to all sorts of weather phenomenon like hurricanes, ice and drought.
It’s a beautiful place, filled with some of the most amazing birdlife in the region. It’s also a hard place and a hard life for the dwindling group of residents who live there. Most are watermen, meaning they crab, fish and oyster for a living. They still speak a variation of Cornish English and have a very distinctive accent. Everything has to be brought over to the island by boat, and generally once a thing arrives, it never leaves. But it’s a place that has always enchanted those who visit there, as I have done on numerous occasions.
The island has two main industries – the aforementioned seafood industry, and Smith Island Cakes, a multi-layered confection smothered with chocolate.
I recently stumbled across these evocative images, all taken by Jim Lo Scalzo of the US Environmental Protection Agency, via The Guardian.