Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Taylor Creek's exquisite coastal scenery

Taylor Creek knocks me out every time I see it. It’s one of North Carolina’s special places, lined with historic homes and an assortment of sailing and motor vessels tied up on one side and one of the world’s loveliest views of the coastal environment on the other.
Pick the right spot and you can watch the feral ponies feeding at twilight, study the shorebirds and egrets and herons on Carrot Island and, with just a little elevation, spot the fishing boats and cargo ships coming in and out of Beaufort Inlet between Bogue Banks and Shackleford Banks.
And if you’ve ever tried to maneuver a 37-foot, 10-ton cutter in the current when it was at full flood with the wind blowing from another direction, you know it can be an exciting place. (That’s when I learned to use pilings as a pivot point getting in and out of the town docks.) The creek has strong twice-daily high and low ties, and woe be to the captain who lets his vessel get caught broadside against the current with not enough power on.
A couple weeks ago I spent a few days in a rocking chair on the front porch of a house overlooking Taylor’s Creek. We saw 20 of the wild horses nosing around in the shallows one morning.
We were there to fish but the weather was foul for a while, and I enjoyed just sitting and watching the scenery that Rachel Carson saw when she first came to Beaufort in 1938 to do research at what was then called the U.S. Fisheries Station.
She spent several years there studying the coastal ecology, and later published “Under the Sea-Wind” (1941) and “The Edge of the Sea” (1955) based in part on her studies. It was much later in her career -- 1962 -- that she published perhaps her most well-known book, “Silent Spring,” prompting concerns about pesticides. She died in 1964 from cancer.
May 27 was her 100th birthday and it has prompted a spate of articles celebrating her work as “the mother of the environmental movement,” her research that later led the Environmental Protection Agency to ban DDT and prompting sharp criticism from those who now argue that the DDT ban has led to many deaths from malaria, even though other pesticides have proven effective against mosquitoes.
“Thanks to Rachel Carson, endangered bird species in the untied States have recovered, including the Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, peregrine Falcon, and osprey,” according to Michael Fry, director of American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds campaign.
Detractors, including columnist John Tierney in Tuesday’s New York Times, argue that Carson “used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass.”
The area where she did her research nearly 70 years ago is now preserved as the Rachel Carson North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. There’s a terrific website with, appropriately, a birdseye view of the reserve, including downtown Beaufort and Taylor Creek, Beaufort Inlet, Shackleford Banks and North River and Back Sound. It’ll take you back.

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