Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Ghost Ships of Mallow Bay Revisited

On Saturday Barb and her friend Tomas joined me for a kayak exploration of the Ghost Ships of Mallow Bay. I visited these 4 years ago by crossing the Potomac since back then it was really the only way to access them. Now a park area has been created by the hulks with a boat ramp and kayak launch making it much easier to see them. We were a little early as the tide was still quite high. The water would not drop as low as my previous trip because of the full moon, this affects the tides, but we were still confident of seeing quite a few of the ruins. We had some time to kill and decided to paddle down the coast to look for fossilized sharks' teeth, something I've wanted to do for years. As we paddled out of the still bay water into the river we met up with two other kayakers who were river keepers making their way on a 9 day journey from DC to St. Catherine's Island. Click here for the link .The guy on the right in the top photo on their page is the one we spoke to who greeted us joyfully telling us we were the first kayakers they'd seen since beginning their journey.
Again my trusty iPhone was my only camera and I used it for all photos and video on this blog in its waterproof case. It's only shortfall is that the zoom is rubbish so I was unable to get photos of the beautiful bald eagles we saw sitting in the trees by the river and soaring overhead.
We landed on a small stretch of beach and set to scouring the sand, shells and small pebbles for the elusive sharks' teeth. We weren't really sure of what we should be looking for, so many images on the internet looked different and we had little concept of their size.
Tomas found a stone that we thought was a pretty good representation of a tooth but soon we were picking up driftwood, pieces of metal and anything else that caught our interest. I took a short video of the water washing over my phone, click here. We sat and had lunch and then noticing that the tide was turning we decided to head back towards the shipwrecks.
The water had calmed down a lot since we first started and the going was easy. We passed another small beach area where we saw a family of upturned rear ends and guessed they were also looking for shark's teeth. Tomas decided to paddle towards them to ask what they looked like and Barb and I both followed. We were glad we did, these guys were experts in their field and were finding a lot of them. Within a few minutes Barb had one and touched me by saying I could have it, knowing I was desperate to have one. I asked her if she already had some, and she said yes, at home, some that she'd bought! There was no way I was taking her first find from her and I really wanted to find my own but they were eluding me. Tomas found one too and I wandered down the beach wondering if I'd ever be lucky too. But soon enough I spotted a black shard poking out of the sand and having found my first was soon picking up others, as excited as if they'd been chunks of gold. Yet time was against us and we had to leave if we were to see the ghost ships before they were once again covered by water with the rising tide.
I found nine in total and keep them in a metal 'pot' which I'd found earlier on our first beach. We wondered if these may have come from the ship wrecks and been washed down river.
We got back to the ghost ships and the water was low enough to paddle around these lonely majestic hulks, timbers jutting out of the water with huge metal poles studding the water.
I paddled around slowly. It was hard work in some areas as the weed was thick, clinging to my paddles, making them heavy. I was pleased to see this, meaning that any boats with rudders would be unable to get close, and therefore ensuring it would not be too heavily populated with visitors. I saw some other kayakers and was amazed to see them skirting the perimeter of the wrecks and not venturing in to explore. Their loss.
As I made my way slowly alongside them they reminded me of vast skeletal remains of huge beasts, with rib cages poking into the air.
There's 3 great links below to articles explaining the ship wreck, the biggest in the western hemisphere, and possibly the world.
Ship Graveyard Immortalized in Water
The Sordid Story of the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay 
Fossil Guy's Trip 2005
And here is a video link:

I also knocked up a video  and that can be seen here.

The water was slowly rising and the hulks started to disappear from view, almost as though they were sinking once again, or dropping below the surface as though going to sleep. As I pulled my boat up on to the ramp I wished them a silent, 'Good Night".

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