Bay Journal

Tom Horton

Fox Island: Right where it should, and shouldn’t, have been

I was just 33 when I met her, turning 50. A 40-year relationship ensued — intimate, though I shared her with so many others. And now we’re parting.

It was educational.

The 11-bedroom lodge on Great Fox Island, built in 1929 amid protective tidal marshes at the juncture of Tangier and Pocomoke sounds, was a base for waterfowlers for her first half-century.


Rachel Carson no stranger to the Chesapeake, its creatures

Some of the finest nature writing about the Chesapeake Bay scarcely mentions the great estuary by name and studiously avoids naming specific places. Its author, for years, chose not to use her given name, Rachel, presuming readers would think “R. L. Carson” male and more credible.

I don’t know why in her first book in 1941, Under the Sea Wind, the writer most famous for Silent...

Ignoring science won’t make looming climate calamity go away

Always, I’ve assumed knowledge equals power. If you do the science that makes sense of a mysterious world, it enables you to comprehend your problems and you’ll eventually solve them.

But what if it’s not always, or no longer, true? What if knowledge turns out to have no sway over the two overarching environmental crises of our time — climate change and the exhaustion of natural...

Here’s a word to the wise on Chesapeake Bay: Full

In the beginning was the Word .… and the word was Full.

So, I didn’t invent the foregoing writing technique; but sometimes it’s best to just begin at the beginning: Distill your focus to a word and probe the implications of that word.

Chesapeake continues to be a classroom for its retired iconic educator

It was the best day I would spend in a “classroom,” drifting through the summer wetlands of the Patuxent River as the “professor” stood tall in his canoe, informing his floating gaggle of schoolchildren about plankton, fish and the food web; of birds that had flown across the continent to harvest the swelling crops of seed from the tidal marsh; and the joy and wonder of how it all...

Leave it to beavers: Species’ ability to alter land should be revisited

You want to tell students everything you know. But when you have just 16 three-hour classes a semester, and you’re trying to spend four or five of those sessions outside with watermen and farmers and scientists, or paddling through climate-changed landscapes, you have to choose.

Recently, my choices have moved upslope, come ashore, for a couple of reasons.


Lure of mainland tugs at roots – and hearts – of Smith Islanders

In the spring of 1987, I made the best move of my life — to remote Smith Island, MD, whose fisherfolk had endured for more than three centuries, 10 miles offshore in the center of Chesapeake Bay.

It never crossed my mind I’d end up making a book on the place, An Island Out of Time (W. W. Norton, 1997), and now a short film of the same name. The new Bay Journal production, An...

Trickle up effect: Reducing Bay’s nitrogen will lower greenhouse gas level

A tale of two gases: both colorless, odorless and essential to life; now also both imperiling life as humans boost them to unnatural levels.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) gets the most press, though it’s a mere trace of Earth’s overall atmosphere, at about .04 percent. But that’s now around 40 percent higher than natural, enough to risk calamitous climate change if we don’t soon change our...

How can we understand a Chesapeake we’ve never seen?

Nowadays, around 350 million to 450 million blue crabs inhabit Chesapeake Bay, according to accurate surveys. That’s not harvests, mind you, but all crabs — soft and hard, from thumbnail size up. It supports fishing that both watermen and chicken-neckers are fairly happy with.

But how happy should we be? Should we expect more in our quest to restore the estuary’s health?

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About Tom Horton

Tom Horton's avatar

Tom Horton is a contributing writer and columnist for the Bay Journal. He wrote for the Baltimore Sun on environmental issues from 1972 through 2006, with a five-year time out when he ran education trips on Smith Island and wrote “Turning the Tide” for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He is author of several books on the Chesapeake Bay, including “Bay Country” and “Island Out of Time” and numerous articles for publications that include National Geographic, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He teaches writing and environmental topics at Salisbury University.

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