Archive for June, 2006

Malaria in North Carolina

Monday, June 26th, 2006

This is mosquito season and news of flooding from heavy rain from the coast usually means a bumper crop. In some parts of the world this would mean a season of death and sickness, but here the malarial cycle has died out.
The path of malaria through western culture is an extremely fascinating story. It was not really associated with mosquitos until the mid-1800s. Mal-aria is Italian for “bad air” as it was thought that air from the swamps around Rome brought the fevers.
Each year, 1 million people—mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa—die from Malaria’s fevers, weakness and hemorrhaging. Visit the CDC’s malaria project and Bill and Melinda’s foundation to find what’s going on and ways you can help. While you’re at the CDC site, buy someone a bednet.
Malaria in North Carolina


In North Carolina, malaria was around in strength into at least the 1940s. State records show that in 1900, there were 92 deaths from malaria more than typhoid, whooping cough, measles or accidents. As Margaret Humphreys notes in her book Malaria : Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States , the death rates were disproportionately high among African-Americans. The state’s 1900 figures show 62 colored and 30 white deaths from the disease with most of the reported cases from the alluvial plain.
Getting away from the swamp air in said plain was one reason the government relocated on occasion to Hillsborough. New Bern must have been a bit like Eden in Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit.
In her Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History (Electronic Edition), Guion Johnson notes a malaria-driven custom that became imbedded in the culture of the state:

To escape the heat and malaria of the coastal towns the people of Eastern North Carolina had retired in colonial times to the edge of the piedmont where they might find cool springs out of reach of the “miasma.” This custom was continued in the antebellum period until it came to be a means of distinguishing those who were fashionable in town life from those who were not. There were some who made a yearly pilgrimage to Saratoga and other northern resorts as well as to springs in Virginia and North Carolina. “The ‘Spring season’ is almost at hand, and soon the moneyed part of our population, who have time at their command, will be moving off on various lines of travel, in pursuit of health and excitement, at the numerous watering places and fashionable resorts of the Union,” wrote the Southern Weekly Post of Raleigh on July 2, 1853. “Newport, Saratoga, Niagara, Cape May, the Virginia Springs, Old Point, Nag’s Head, and many other places of less note, will be thronged with visitors, and almost every one of these will have some plea of ill health, some dyspepsia or rheumatism or other, to reveal to their acquaintances as the true cause of their travels.”

Of late, there has been at least one recent case of congenitial malaria in Raleigh and other non-congenital cases among Montagnard refugees in the 1990s. There is concern, however, that climate change would aid the reintroduction of malaria to North Carolina. The disease and the response to it, both societal and biological , remains an intense subject of study.
Feverish Book
The best book I’ve ever read on malaria was The Fever Trail, which focuses on the “discovery” of quinine and its attempted exploitation by the West. At one point, the book notes, Bolivia and Peru were exporting millions of tons of bark each year to Europe. Though they were clear cutting huge stands of particularly potent species, the South Americans realized they had a treasure and outlawed exportation of seeds or plants. The western empires saw control over their own supply—through plantations in India and Java—as essential to their expansion. The Brits, in particular, needed it for conquest in India and Africa.
Author Mark Honigsbaum does an amazing job of weaving this all into a brilliant narrative. Throw in a couple of eccentric Royal Academy scientists, a monk-like hypocondriac and some of the nastiest jungles and hillsides on Earth and you’ve got one of best quest stories ever. Great for reading on those feverish, mosquito-filled nights of summer.


If I wasn't stuck at home I'd be . . .

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Watching the trout race at Great the Smoky Mountain Trout Festival in wonderful Maggie Valley.
We’ve got quite a trout heritage here in the Old North State and some fine remaining streams. But those TVA and Ohio Valley smokestacks keep cranking out the acid rain-causing hydrocarbons and people keep building right up on the buffers. Then there’s the problem with non-native crayfish and, of course, logging.
So give it up for the trout and the people who love ‘em—they’re having to put up a hell of a fight.

Crabbing on the Sound

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006


Finally got the film together of Eddie Willis’ technique. In this clip he’s moving along a line of crab pots in a little area of Core Sound he and his family have worked for generations.

Here’s a description from a recent story I wrote about development Down East:

Eddie Willis adjusts his course a bit then steps back to get his hook. He snags the float in the water, loops the line around the pot puller–a motorized pulley, essentially–and cuts it on. The line comes in, the dark mesh crab pot surfaces and is drawn toward the boat. Willis pulls it up on the edge and opens the trap. A half dozen crabs scatter out into the black tubs on the deck. He sets the latch, grabs a mullet from a bucket and rebaits the pot. It’s barely over the side before he’s back at the helm gunning the engine and lining up the boat for the next float in the line.

Video: Eddie Willis working a line of crab pots in Core Sound

Saturday Evening Nature Blogging

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

These photos are from a recent visit to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. They were taken along the path behind the park ranger station at the tip of Harkers. Worth a visit—especially at low tide when you can really see the salt marsh bottom from a walkway that extends a couple of hundred feet into the marsh and sound. Lots of nice rotting logs and driftwood if you like that kind of stuff.

Cape Lookout 1





Friday, June 16th, 2006

Always a strange feeling to have it start to flood on a sunny day, but that’s what happens when you live downstream from a growing patchwork of impervious surfaces that gets a lot of rain. Goldsboro and Kinston get ready.

Co draan

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

CharO’s Tommy points us to recent fun with mapping and surveys on the never-ending question of what people call their sodie-pops. While soda is the winner, many North Carolinians, the research notes, prefer the term “drink.” Some suggest it is pronounced “drank,” but my experience is that often the k is dropped. I have also rarely found it used without the word “cold” in front of it (pronounced “co” as in co-pilot). I grew up in the midwest pop region, but stopped using the term in the early 1970s after moving to Florida where “coke” was a generic term. A few years of playing in rock bands with native Chapel Hillians and I use the term “co draan” even when I don’t want to. Lovely map of it all.

Here’s the county by county breakdown (more…)

High Tide on the Sound Side

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Here’s the article in the Indy that came out of the trips Down East.


High tide on the sound side

Waterfront property. No zoning or impact fees. Low taxes. Must sell. It’s not hard to understand why the Inner Banks are booming. How they’ll grow is harder to figure.

By Kirk Ross

You don’t have to tell Carolyn Mason there’s a land rush Down East. She lives in Bettie, near the bridge to Harkers Island and not far from an area that’s seeing a surge in subdivisions along what was once a dynamic coastline of creek channels, shellfish beds and spartina grass.

“Things have shocked all of us,” she says. “We know that growth happens, but they’re putting houses where we’d never dream of putting something–we’re talking wetlands, mud flats.”

More than that, she says, the pressure to sell off what has been family-owned waterfront for several generations threatens something even more rare. (more…)

A Tour of Core Sound

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Got in Captain Dennis Chadwick’s trusty old number and headed out with Coastkeeper Frank Tursi last week for a tour of Core Sound and to meet up with crabber Eddie Willis. The sound is still the cleanest of our coastal waters but it is threatened by upstream stormwater runoff and will surely be affected by the surge in development.


The Sound is very shallow in parts and tricky to navigate. We were fortunate to have someone of Capt. Chadwick’s expertise. In addition to time in the Coast Guard, he spent 20 years as a captain for the NC Ferry Division making the run between Cedar Island and Ocracoke. He and his wife Robin have a kayak and adventuring company. His family’s ties to the area goes back to 1726 or so when Samuel Chadwick got the first whaling permit. Here he is discussing the early days of Harkers Island and vicinity. We were moving pretty slowly at this point but it was still windy out there.

Audio: Dennis Chadwick telling a story while piloting a Harkers Island skiff in Core Sound

An interesting stretch of days

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Got a whirlwind education on growth issues confronting Down East over the past several days.
Got up early last Thursday, June 1 and drove down to Harkers Island. Never been there. Used to go through the area a good bit on the way to the Cedar Island ferry. The place feels like somebody’s home.
The event I went to was the NC Coastal Federation’s annual State of the Coast Report. This year, the report focuses on the potential loss of fishing communties—we’re talking villages and family groups that have been around for centuries—due to a boom in development in the newly dubbed Inner Banks of North Carolina.
Got to hear David Stick tell the story of trying to develop Southern Shores and the wild ride of setting up and explaining coastal regulations in the 1970s. We also got to hear the experiences of several grassroots (spartina roots would be more accurate) the federation singled out for service to their communtities.
Then I got in a boat with Coastkeeper Frank Tursi and Dennis Chadwick, whose family goes back to the early 1700s, and we wound our way through Core Sound to see crabber Eddie Willis at work. From the water, the development is a little easier to spot. You scan the coastline and there’s a group of houses, some trailers, somebody’s backyard full of boats and whatnot. And then there’s something that you’d see on Wrightsville.
Got back to the van and drove to Atlantic to the end of U.S. 70. Then drove home.
On Sunday, the same day Jay Price’s story about the exploding growth on the Inner Banks was all over the front page of the N&O, got back in the van—this time with the missus—and headed back to Harkers for the afternoon. Couldn’t think of a better person to tell the story than Jay. Somewhere Woodrow is smiling.
Walked the seashore up near the park headquarters and moved through the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center town by town. Could have stayed all day, but a crowd started to gather for a 50th wedding anniversary. The cookies looked good, though.

After sitting amid the shell hash on the beach at Pine Knoll Shore for a little while, we headed up to New Bern where we had the surreal experience of a fifth floor balcony at the Sheraton overlooking the Trent River and that lovely marina while Jazz on the Trent closed out Neuse River Days.
While all that was going on folks were checking in for NC Sea Grant’s Changing Waterfronts forum at the lovely new New Bern Convention Center. That conference was well done, well attended and an eye opener. There are so many things that could happen but many of the counties in question are just totally unprepared to launch a comprehensive plan, let alone draft a serious set of zoning ordinances. Then, we drove home.
And stopped at Wilbur’s, of course, even though it was raining like heck.
I’ll flesh it all out soon.

Heber Guthrie is still building boats

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Heber Guthrie learned his craft from his father Chancellor and his uncle, legendary Harkers Island boat builder Julian Guthrie. Heber’s been building boats since he was 14—some 40 years ago. In the photo he’s working on a sailing skiff with a sprit. Had to look that one up. From an English sailing dictionary:

SPRIT. A large spar used to extend the peak of the spritsail. It extends between the peak of the sail and the foot of the mast (starboard side), to which it is held by the muzzle and band; it is supported by the standing lift (stanliff) and the head rope of the sail. the downward thrust of the sprit is taken by the stanliff. Pronounced “spreet”.
SPRITSAIL. A sail extended by a sprit.

This boat was designed so that everything could lay flat. As he says in the audio, Heber learned the design from his Uncle Julian, but he follows no written plan. His wife Diane told me that he carries the plans around in his head.
He once built a boat for the Smithsonian in six days. “There weren’t a lot of talking during those days, no,” he said.

Audio: Heber Guthrie on Boat Building