Chesapeake Requiem

Chesapeake Requiem

A Year With the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

Book - 2018 | First edition
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Tangier Island, Virginia, is a community unique on the American landscape. Mapped by John Smith in 1608, settled during the American Revolution, the tiny sliver of mud is home to 470 hardy people who live an isolated and challenging existence, with one foot in the 21st century and another in times long passed. They are separated from their countrymen by the nation's largest estuary, and a twelve-mile boat trip across often tempestuous water--the same water that for generations has made Tangier's fleet of small fishing boats a chief source for the rightly prized Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and has lent the island its claim to fame as the softshell crab capital of the world. Yet for all of its long history, and despite its tenacity, Tangier is disappearing. The very water that has long sustained it is erasing the island day by day, wave by wave. It has lost two-thirds of its land since 1850, and still its shoreline retreats by fifteen feet a year--meaning this storied place will likely succumb first among U.S. towns to the effects of climate change. Experts reckon that, barring heroic intervention by the federal government, islanders could be forced to abandon their home within twenty-five years. Meanwhile, the graves of their forebears are being sprung open by encroaching tides, and the conservative and deeply religious Tangiermen ponder the end times. Chesapeake Requiem is an intimate look at the island's past, present and tenuous future, by an acclaimed journalist who spent much of the past two years living among Tangier's people, crabbing and oystering with its watermen, and observing its long traditions and odd ways. What emerges is the poignant tale of a world that has, quite nearly, gone by--and a leading-edge report on the coming fate of countless coastal communities.
Mapped by John Smith in 1608, settled during the American Revolution, Tangier Island, Virginia, is home to 470 hardy people who live an isolated and challenging existence, with one foot in the 21st century and another in times long passed. Yet for all of its long history, and despite its tenacity, Tangier is disappearing. The very water that has long sustained it is erasing the island day by day, wave by wave. It has lost two-thirds of its land since 1850, and its shoreline retreats by fifteen feet a year-- meaning this storied place will likely succumb first among U.S. towns to the effects of climate change. Swift provides an intimate look at the island's past, present and tenuous future. -- adapted from provided info.
Publisher: New York, NY : Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062661395
0062661396
9780062661401
006266140X
Characteristics: 434 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm

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MeOwnEyes
Feb 08, 2019

A Tangeirian resident allows a journalist to share her home while he researches the historical islands proud, hard working community that consists of a handful of last names. The majority of the islands income is from the prized blue crab, & oyster industry. Stories of the small, shrinking island have been reported by east coast newspapers, CNN, & politicians. Although 87% of the community are proud to be Trump supporters, ironicaly they believe that erosion, not rising sea levels, are the cause of their shrinking island. The much needed sea wall, & the decades long study by the army corps of engineers, has resulted in a hard sell for congress to approve funds for a dissipating population. Most of the youth are choosing not to remain after high school, which for generations, traditionally the torch had been passed on. The author reveals the intimate personalities of the big hearted, extremely strong faithed community. Unfortunately, due to global warming, the first tragic loss of a beloved American community, very likely will be Tangier, who at one time had over 2,000 residents. A very good read.

k
kpelish
Jan 28, 2019

The author lived for over a year on the insular and climate change-threatened Tangier Island. He gained the residents' trust, documenting the unique culture, the disappearing land, and crabbing, the primary and sometimes unreliable livelihood. If you like American history, wonder what an island community and all the inter-relationships are like (including some contentious ones with federal agencies or newcomers), or are willing to ponder how we're going to decide which climate change-affected communities to save, this is a well-written tale of a fight for survival alongside a deeply conservative, religious mindset.

d
DorisWaggoner
Nov 03, 2018

Some semi-spoilers here. Journalist Swift first went to Tangier years ago, and fell in love with this tiny island. More recently, he lived there for more than a year, learning about the lifeways of the hub of the world's blue crab industry. Well under 1000 people live on the island, which is sinking, or eroding, because of climate change. It's been inhabited since the Revolutionary War, when three related couples settled there and became “watermen,” using a variety of methods to pull blue crabs from the shallow waters around the island. The island's been shrinking since, though that fact hasn't been noticed until people began to pay attention to an 1850 map and others created since. Swift rents an apartment there, uses a bicycle to get around, and is soon accepted in most island activities. He even goes out on “potting” boats, spending long days helping to pull up crab pots, especially with the mayor, nicknamed “Ooker.” He hangs out in the two restaurants run in the summer tourist season, one by Ooker's wife and a friend. He becomes a regular with some of the older men in what they call the “Situation Room,” where they discuss the issues of the day, mostly fishing, the 2016 election, erosion, and island gossip. There is no privacy on Tangier. Long-ago Methodist missionaries created a conservative Methodist church. More recently an even more conservative breakaway church forms. Both stress the the power of God, prayer, and salvation. One accidental death in a storm while Swift is there kills an elderly man, who'd been “saved” a few months before. His son who was with him is rescued. The day after, the son and his wife are “saved.” There is great rejoicing, especially when the man's body's found, and he can be buried. Though undereducated, (there is a 1-12 school, and all parents know it would be the community's end if the school has to close and the kids must commute to the mainland) but everyone knows their Bible, a literal version. No environmentalists, they do know their island's in danger, and are angry at the government for not doing what they believe needs doing. Everyone votes for Trump, believing his business success and desire for a “wall” is just the ticket. Their stand becomes nationally famous, and Trump calls Ooker. Nothing changes. Swift points out at the end that Tangier's only one of many coastal communities, large and tiny, in grave danger from climate change. Not all can be saved. What values will the country use to decide which to save? An important book, and a page-turner.

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