Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Exploring Ship Island

Scene on Ship Island
Saturday October 16, 2010

We did not get cold at all during the night – wonderful sleeping temperature, quiet, peaceful. We were up about 7:30 and Jane made a micro-wave omelet. New venture and very good considering - beat 3 eggs, ass 4 cheese cubes (chopped) and 2 slices of pre-cooked bacon torn into small pieces. Add salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into 2 microwaveable cups. Cook 30 seconds – stir and cook another 15-20 seconds. If not done – cook another 15 seconds. One of the best parts is you have NO dishes to wash! It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and a slight breeze. We packed up and headed for the visitor center that was probably 2 miles away. They were hosting a huge litter pick-up today and there were young people with bags everywhere! We got our passport stamps and looked around the exhibits.

We were on the road about 10 headed to the Small Craft Area in Gulfport where the Ferry would take us to West Ship Island – on Saturday there were two ferries – one at 9 am and one at 12 noon. First we passed through Biloxi with it's numerous casinos.

One of the numerous casinos

Along the way we observed remnants of the damage of Katrina. There would be a huge home, a vacant lot which obviously had been a huge home, and then another home in some stage of repair. There were not very many businesses or motels along US 90, the road near the shore. It was easy to see the remnants of many. The damaged buildings were mostly removed but it was obvious where new structures had been built or land was standing empty. Lots of for sale signs!

This ferry trip and Ship Island were known as highlights of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are several costal barrier islands about 10-12 miles off the Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Gulf Coast. They become one National Seashore….we would ride a people ferry taking about an hour to reach West Ship Island where the National Park Service has arranged for visitors to the beach and Fort Massachusetts. We boarded the ferry at noon and arrived at the island an hour later. The trip was pleasant and very smooth. The crowd was diverse from a few retirees like us, families with children (even several small babies) and young people. I am going to estimate there were 60-75 people on our ferry. We saw lots of jelly fish in water and one string ray.

One of numerous sites inside fort
Outside Ft. Massachusetts

Upon arrival at the Island we immediately had a tour of Fort Massachusetts. The fort was built over a long period of time from early 1800’s until after the end of the Civil War. One battle was fought here during the Civil War but both the South and North held the fort at different times. The brickwork was outstanding and the one cannon left was one of the largest ever seen by us. During Katrina – the storm surge was 22 feet above the top of the fort!

Arriving at the beach

After the tour we walked the ½ mile to the coast set up our chairs, enjoyed gazing at the gulf, some wading, and walking along the surf. There were almost no signs of the oil spill. There were some very small tar balls (1/4 -1/2 inch) the tar was soft and could be easily mashed with the foot. The water was crystal clear.

B/P clean-up crew area

We saw tents down the beach about ½ mile so walked down to see what was going on. It was a B/P Oil Crew. There were 50-60 men and women with gloves, tools, and booties over their shoes. They were working in teams -resting under the tents and then digging and sifting through the sand. There were two barges right offshore – one with port-a-potties and another that had furnished food (we saw it when we got off the ferry but did not realize what it was). One of the young men managing the barge with the port-a-potties told us they move up and down the beach cleaning a 100-200 foot area in a day. They will go over the same area of beach more than once to remove all tar balls. The contractor that brought us to the island uses a second ferry and brings these workers back and forth from the mainland each day. As we were leaving at 5 PM – their work day was over too. All the tents were taken down, the bags of trash, tar etc were carried back to the barge on ATV’s. It certainly looked like they had the operation well organized.

We enjoyed the time in the sun and surf. The 4 hours on the island was about right – we were not tired and did not get sunburned at all. Jane put on some sun-screen after the first hour but Ben never did.

We saw monarch butterflies in abundance on the island and a dolphin along the ferry on the return trip. As we came down the pier to the ferry we saw a guy dumping his throw net on the pier. He had a 10 gallon bucket full of mullet from an hour or so of fishing! The trip back again took about an hour and was uneventful.

When we got back to Gulfport we headed back to Biloxi and looked for a seafood restaurant. We selected the Port’O Call Seafood Restaurant. It was OK – we had a seafood platter and divided it with each of us having gumbo and a salad. It was just the right amount of food. It was not bad at all but it was not good enough to go back.

When we got back to camp it was pitch black at 7:45 PM – we got set back up and Ben watched a WW II video and Jane edited photos and wrote this blog.

Tomorrow we will venture west to Bay St. Louis and then drive back on US 90 to see more Katrina Damage which they say is significant. The other notable things to see are numerous sculptures that have been carved from the many dead trees. Then in the afternoon we are going to the Mullet Festival!

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