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Day 6: November 2, 2022 – Tangier Island, I Have a Sinking Feeling

Our boat docked at the working waterfront town of Crisfield, MD, the self-proclaimed crab capital of the world. We have learned that every town on the Chesapeake has a unique story and long history.

Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Warner is a great nonfiction book about the crab industry and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977.

The whole town of Crisfield celebrates the crab. The high school football team has a crab on the helmet as they are the Crisfield Crabbers. They even crown a Miss Crustacean annually over a Labor Day weekend festival.

Crisfield is built on mountains of oyster shells that have been compacted into a firm foundation which is said to be as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Rob and I took an excursion to nearby Tangier Island on a 45-minute ferry.
Tangier Island can only be accessed by boat. Here are the crab shanties of the watermen.

This isolation of Tangier Island has had an effect on the English language. The language spoken is English, but it is an old form of English that goes back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England from 1558 to 1603. Tangier Island residents can trace their ancestors to Cornwall, England. They also have some unique sayings as well such as “It’s softening down” which means “It’s hot and humid.”

We had lunch at Lorraine’s, the only restaurant in town. Soft shell crab and crab cakes were served. Yum!

There are no cars, and no alcohol is sold. The population is 450. Young people leave for opportunities. Some return. Some people choose to retire here. Regardless the population is in decline.

Being a waterman is a hard life. It is hard to start as one needs a license, and a boat. It is best to hand it down much like a family farm.

This island is battling erosion. It has been predicted that the island will be gone in the next 50 years or even sooner if a big hurricane comes through. The elevation is 4′. Holland Island was once a populated island in Dorchester County, MD, but now no one lives there. The last house fell into the ocean in 2010.

The people of Tangier are Christians of deep faith. They have a cross and a crab on their line water tower.
We spoke with the friendly mayor, James Eskridge, nicknamed Ooker. (He had a pet rooster when he was little and this is what he called it. He has been called that ever since.) Ooker has an interesting idea. Every visitor should have to bring a rock to build up his eroding island.
Yes, even the little slice of an island plays a part in American history as evidenced by this historical marker.

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