We boarded the American Star and headed out of the Baltimore Harbor. Just as we approached the Key Bridge, there was an abandoned fort on the port side named Fort Carroll. It was built under the guidance of Robert E. Lee. We know him from the Civil War, but he was one of the finest US soldiers prior to the war.
Most of the people on the cruise are much older than us. Dinner conversations often have too much information … mostly about bodily functions. “I can’t eat melon because it will give me gas.” “He is back in the room pooping.” “I take insulin four times per day.”
Our cruise director tells funny jokes. This is my favorite. “When my grandmother was 78, the doctor to her to walk three miles a day. She is now 104 … but we don’t know where she is.”
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the USA. It is about 200 miles long and 25 miles wide at its widest point at Crisfield, Maryland and 4 miles wide at its narrowest point at Kent Narrows which is where the Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses the Bay. (We live near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge “Tunnel” in Virginia Beach.)
Patuxent, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, Susquehanna, and James Rivers are the six major rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay, but there are over 190 smaller rivers that contribute to the Bay. Six states are in the watershed for the Chesapeake: New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal water body where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. The north of the Chesapeake Bay has a salinity of 0.5 ppt (parts per thousand). At the south of the Chesapeake Bay at the Virginia Capes (Cape Henry and Cape Charles), the salinity is around 30 ppt. However, a big rain greatly affects the salinity and therefore the aquatic animals.
There are two types of migratory fish:
- Anadromous fish are born in freshwater, migrate to the saltwater oceans, and return to freshwater rivers to spawn. An example is striped bass.
- Catadromous fish are born in the saltwater, migrate to freshwater, and return to the saltwater to spawn. An example is the American eel. They go to Bermuda and the Bahamas to spawn.
The American eel is a favorite for holiday dinners. USA is the largest producer of eel and has a huge market overseas. Live eels are sent overseas in huge tankers with oxygen pumps. They are one of the few aquatic animals that can’t spawn in captivity.
Baby eels called elvers are like gold and only Maine and South Carolina have legalized the sale of elvers. The American eel is a barometer species to indicate the health of the Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay is a bird migration corridor. First come the songbirds looking for forest, marsh and meadow. Then come the falcons and hawks who hunt the songbirds. Next come the ducks: teals, mallards, and diving ducks.
Market hunting is when birds are shot in large numbers. It used to be a trend but isn’t not done any longer. Sport hunting is big business. Even decoys are sometimes worth one million dollars.
Agriculture once included tobacco. Today, tomatoes, peaches, watermelons, cantaloupes and white potatoes are grown around the bay.
The loblolly pine is a fast-growing maritime tree. From seedling to harvest takes 24 years.
Chickens are big business on the Eastern Shore with such names as Tyson and Perdue. (Salisbury, MD, is the Perdue headquaters.) They harvest two million chickens per week. This industry uses too much groundwater and makes too much chicken excrement. The smell of ammonia is rampant in the summer.
John Smith came to the New World with the first English settlers of 104 men and boys. He was one of seven leaders. Their objective was to find gold like the Spaniards in the south (Florida). He was a soldier and was known for his horseback and battle skills. He had worked for the Hapsburgs, was wounded in battle and sold into slavery. His coat of arms has three Turkish heads on it which is a reference to one of his gruesome conquests.
Starting in 1607, Captain John Smith set about exploring and describing the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.