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.
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.”
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.