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Americas Now 07/16/2012 Submerged

07-09-2012 10:47 BJT

By Sean Callebs

The eastern coast of the United States is fighting a rising tide.In fact, sea levels are creeping up from Boston, Massachusetts to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina more than anywhere else on earth, according to a new study out by the U.S. Geological Survey.It means that people in New York, Washington, D.C. and other areas will get more and more low-level flooding more often.And along the Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. State of Maryland, the situation is dire. There are a number of islands that are just washing away. One such natural wonder is Smith Island, home of some 250 residents.

You leave the life you know on the mainland, behind -- as you churn toward Smith Island. At first glance, an idyllic nugget of land nestled along the Eastern Shore of one of nature’s wonders: the Chesapeake Bay.  For generations, many here have made a living off the water, where soft shell crabs are a delicacy. But what isn’t instantly clear to the untrained eye is that this island—which islocated about ten miles from the town of Criswell, Maryland--is sinking, being reclaimed by the water.

The eastern seaboard of the United States is losing more land to rising sea levels more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth.  No one knows exactly why.  It could be the rate at which glaciers are melting in Greenland.  Or it could be subtle changes in the currents of the ocean.  But one thing is for sure: life on Smith Island—the last inhabited island in the state of Maryland—is washing away.  And locals can do little more than watch it happen.

Once fertile soil is turning to marshland, and in as few as 50-years, Smith Island as we know it could be gone.

There are only about 250 people living on the island today, and most of them just try to ignore the fact the island is eroding rapidly.  81-year-old Jennings Evans is the anointed expert on Smith Island.  He said, “It’s a natural thing for people who live here.  They don’t waste time worrying about (the island eroding).  They figure at some point…they’re going to have to leave one way or the other.”

Kristin Smith runs the Smith Island Baking Company.  Her small shop ships Smith Island cakes all over the United States.This caloric dynamo is the official state dessert of the state of Maryland.  “It’s a tradition that is passed down from mother to daughter”, she said.  “Lots of people say when you learn how to make a cake you become a lady here on the island.”

Smith maintains her husband can trace the family tree back 18 generations to the man who founded this island.Like many others, she knows the water is winning the battle, but is not consumed with the problem.  “We’ve been here 400 years, so none of us feel like that is in our future”, she said. “But you can see at moon tides, how much different…how much higher the water is coming.”

As water levels rise, this rich sea grass floating just under the surface slowly dies, and with it, wonderfully rich habitat for all sorts of wildlife is wiped out.Matt Whitbeck is a wildlife biologist for the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  “We hear a lot of debate whether sea level rise is actually happening”, he said.  “If you come to… the eastern shore of the Chesapeake… it is clearly happening. 

Amid the well-kept modest homes, the truth is there.And while residents may choose to ignore the inevitable, experts say, it is happening.Smith Islanders know they will eventually surrender to nature...  but they won’t go easily.

“You would have to take me off kicking and screaming”, says Smith Islander Jennings Evans.  “We wouldn’t go voluntarily!”




Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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