Beautiful Swimmers Revisited
A documentary inspired by William W. Warner's 1976 exploration of watermen, crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
It’s been 40 years since William W. Warner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book introduced us to the creature that’s been captivating diners and scientists alike ever since.
Now, the Bay Journal presents Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, a documentary by author Tom Horton, photographer Dave Harp and filmmaker Sandy Cannon-Brown. This special project was produced with support from The Shared Earth Foundation and other donors.
Horton narrates the film’s journey around the Bay to look in on those who catch, study and eat blue crabs. He meets with scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, whose expertise on blue crabs is unmatched, as well as crabbers who’ve been pulling them from the Bay for generations.
Harp’s iconic images of the Bay, fishermen and the beautiful Callinectes sapidus weave the story together as it’s told from kayaks, fishing boats, research vessels and Horton’s 21-foot skiff. The crew traveled from Baltimore Harbor to Virginia’s Tidewater to retrace the life cycle and story of the crab.
The film demonstrates how science has evolved since Warner’s day to better understand the behavior of this enigmatic shelled creature and how it fits into the complex ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.
Beautiful Swimmers Revisited premiered on March 19, 2016, at the Environmental Film Festival at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC and aired on Maryland Public Television on April 26 as part of Chesapeake Bay Week. Additional screening took place at events hosted by Salisbury University, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth,Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Midshore Riverkeepers and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
"Warner’s book has never been out of circulation. Nothing published since, including James Michener’s blockbuster, Chesapeake, has surpassed it. Today’s Chesapeake is not the same bay in which William Warner conducted his inquiries of crabs and crabbing during the 1960s and ’70s. Yet much remains. In remoter parts of the estuary, it is still possible to revisit Warner’s storied haunts, even to go crabbing with characters he introduced in Beautiful Swimmers."
— Tom Horton
Tom Horton covered the environment for The Baltimore Sun for 35 years. He has written eight books about the Chesapeake Bay. His honors include the John Burroughs Award for the best book of nature writing, the David Brower award from the Sierra Club, and other awards from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Audubon Society. Most recently, outgoing governor Martin O’Malley honored Horton as an Admiral of the Chesapeake. He currently is a Professor of Practice in Environmental Studies at Salisbury University.
Sandy Cannon-Brown, founder and president of VideoTakes, Inc., is an award-winning environmental filmmaker whose work has taken her to Central and South America, West Africa, the Northern Great Plains of Montana, and the Everglades. In 2014, her independent film, Spat! Bringing Oysters Back to the Chesapeake Bay, premiered at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum during the Environmental Film Festival and aired on public television. She is an associate director for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, was honored as CEF’s first senior scholar in 2013 and named AU’s adjunct professor of the year in 2011.
David Harp has published four books of photography on the Bay with essays by Tom Horton, with a fifth coming out in 2016. His stunning photography has graced the pages of the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Audubon, Sierra, Natural History, Islands, Travel Holiday, and Coastal Living Magazine. He was the staff photographer for the Hagerstown Morning Herald and the photographer for The Baltimore Sun Magazine during the 1980’s. He is currently the photographer for the Bay Journal. He was awarded the Andrew White Medal by Loyola College of Maryland in 2004 and is past president of the American Society of Media Photographers.