Tidal Technology

Rice was a major export from #Charleston throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and became a source of considerable wealth, as well as the basis for a slave labor system. Grown in massive amounts in low wetlands that were steamy hot and filled with mosquitoes, rice production was hard labor in tropical conditions that those of European descent were not used to, whereas rice had been cultivated in West Africa for centuries in even more sweltering conditions. There had also been a thriving slave trade in West Africa for centuries, so that’s where Americans went for gangs of slaves to work the rice fields. The means of cultivation was very simple in Africa, involving flooding of fields with fresh water to irrigate and flooding with brackish water to kill off competing vegetation. The idea was recreated in South Carolina lowlands with the use of rice trunks and gates, such as this one in the Charleston Museum, in which the tidal action along coastal rivers would be manipulated for the fresh or salty version to flow in the fields. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Rice trunks and gates

Historic Hangout

Everyday on my walking tour, I take visitors along the historic waterfront promenade we call the High Battery. This pleasurable walkway overlooking scenic Charleston Harbor was first completed in 1854, but got its name from a fortification built in this area after the American Revolution where a row of cannon, a cannon battery, stood for so many years that the name has stuck. Standing about 14 feet above mean sea level facing the harbor and Fort Sumter, the height of the stone structure added to its lofty name and appeal. And as the boys in this picture enjoyed the breezy outlook back in the days of tall-masted ships that crowded the waterfront at that time, today visitors are still mesmerized by one of the best tourist attractions in Charleston that is completely free. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarsk” alt=”The High Battery

Furious Fiddler

The colorful crustacean that swarms in coastal creek beds each Summer gets its name from its habit of waving claws much like a violin player sweeping strings with his bow. This behavior is actually a mating routine, in which males, who have the bigger claws, are making themselves appealing to females in fiddler crab fashion. Besides sitting near the bottom of the salt marsh food chain as a tidbit for fish, birds and larger crabs, the fiddler provides a valuable service with its tunneling into mudbanks for habitat, which great helps aerate the creek beds and promotes growth of other plant and animal species. <img.src=”Charleston Nature and Wildlife” alt=”Fiddler Crabs

Hardly Historic

With statuesque oak trees, exquisite wrought iron gates and grand houses overlooking the Ashley River, Murray Boulevard at first glance seems to be one of the most historic areas in #Charleston, yet nothing was here at all prior to 1911. The southern tip of Charleston’s peninsula was once no more than sand flats and mud banks, and the closest anyone built with houses the still stand today was on what would become South Battery Street, a full block inland. But filling of the area began in earnest when Charleston philanthropist Andrew Buist Murray donated part of his considerable fortune in a project that would take more than a decade to complete, as acres of river bottom were dredged to build the promenade that now bears his name. The first house was built on Murray Boulevard in 1913. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Murray Boulevard

High Half

Wandering around the parts of #Charleston where the buildings are older, visitors will often see houses with half-gable rooftops. Some of these are row house, but some are free-standing, and in each case, the gable lowers toward the side of the property where there is some open ground, and never lowers toward the ground of another separate property. These are all houses built long before Charleston’s first tapped water became a reality in 1879, when the first artesian well was successfully drilled. Prior to that, the cleanest water came from above in the form of rainfall, and any method of catching, collecting or storing it was considered a good idea. Some could be diverted through gutters and pipes to metal attic vats, but much of it cascaded off the roofs into the ground below, so many Charleston gardens featured masonry cisterns to catch the flow, and run-off was good for plants that may have included citrus fruits and herbs. The half gable, therefore, became a good way to divert all the water that struck the roof back into the owner’s property. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Half Gable Roofs

 

Opulently Original

The 1818-era Aiken Rhett House is on of six museum houses in #Charleston, but is unique in way that separates it from the  others. The grand 19th century home of Governor William Aiken is preserved, not restored, and it looks much the same as it did when Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended a reception in its grand ballroom during the Civil War. The house is an Italian Villa design with later Greek Revival entrance, and also has a fully intact area in the rear garden with slave quarters and carriage house. It is not air-conditioned, so it can be stifling in Charleston’s Summer heat, but still a magnificent structure that literally takes you back in time. <img.src=”Charleston Landmarks” alt=”Aiken-Rhett House”

Fawning Friends

The deer population has exploded in coastal #South Carolina, so the annual deer hunting season that begins in mid-August is largely sanctioned by the state Department of Natural Resources to cull the herds so that they do not over-populate to the point of starvation. Still, I would hope there is a better way, and any close encounter for me would make it difficult to do any harm to such a delicate creature. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Deer Hunting Season

Limestone Labyrinth

It may come as a surprise to find out that not far from the flat #South Carolina coast, there are a wealth of underground rock caves. Forty million years ago, the Coastal Plain of South Carolina was a sea bed, and the many centuries of calcium deposits from decaying sea life left the receding ocean front filled with limestone. Now a full hour’s drive from #Charleston, Santee State Park features this incredible rock formation that has passages that wend their way deep below the surface with ice-cold water trickling through them. The caves are ideal habitat for the Rafinesque big-eared bat, which thrive in the cold, dark caverns and give  them a creepier nature. However, like all bats, the creature’s diet is primarily insects, and provides a helpful pest control along the banks of Lake Marion, where the park is located.  <img.src=”South Carolina Natural History” alt=”Santee Limestone Caves”

Junior Giant

Many years before it emerges from the sea as a hulking 300-pound creature, the loggerhead sea turtle begins its odyssey as a tiny hatchling barely larger than a person’s finger. The Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge near #Charleston, SC, is one of America’s largest nesting and hatching grounds for this amazing creature, which comes ashore on Summer nights in dark, remote beach areas to dig nests and deposit clutches of about 60 ping-pong sized eggs . The loggerhead is an air-breathing reptile that lives its life in the sea, but must drag its massive carapace and land-clumsy flippers on to remote beaches to lay its eggs in the sand, where they hatch about six weeks later and dash into the waves to renew the cycle. Because Cape Romain is the longest stretch of unspoiled coast line in the Atlantic U.S., thousands of loggerheads lay eggs here each Summer and this is crucial to keeping the species alive in the South Atlantic. <img.src=”South Carolina Wildlife” alt=”Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Legendary Libation

The propensity for alcohol consumption  in historic #Charleston has always been well known. In the colonial period, there was so much drinking at various “tippling houses”, that the city passed an ordinance in the 1730’s prohibiting  such taverns from serving sailors the day prior to embarking from the seaport. And the heavy indulgence of Charlestonians long ago earned the city the nickname “The Madeira City”. Temperance movements became particularly strong in the 19th century, and in 1893, the state of South Carolina passed the Dispensary Act, which prohibited sale of “alcoholic merchandise” from any source other than state-approved dispensary shops. The state got in the business of making the alcohol served as well, and it was sold in bottles with a uniform symbol of the palmetto tree with crossed palmetto logs. The Dispensary Act created such a spate of boot-legging in Charleston that it was finally repealed in 1907. Today, a distiller has used the Dispensary’s original 1898 bourbon recipe to recreated a concoction that is being sold with the old Dispensary logo. Hopefully it will not lead to any prohibition.<img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”South Carolina Dispensary