Archive for November, 2009

Wind, waves and water

November 23, 2009

The Cape Henlopen Lighthouse.

Mother Nature always wins in the long run.

As more and more people choose to live within a few miles of the coastline, a change in the environment is inevitable. Even with the best environmental designs to deal with development, man’s imprint has an effect.

The recent series of fall nor’easters along the Sussex County serves as a reminder that wind, waves and water are part of the landscape of living along the coast where storms have been part of history.

And there will be more storms in the future, and at some point either a hurricane, which has never officially hit the coast with full force, or another major nor’easter like the storm of 1962 will hit the area again.

Millions of dollars have been spent over the past 10 years to build up the Delaware coastline in a never-ending battle to keep sand on the beaches and dunes. That shifting sand and beach grass is all that stands between businesses and homes and total destruction in a storm.

During this past nor’easter, those shifting sands making up the dunes held the line and prevented damage to everything behind them. The dunes themselves took a major hit and are in need of immediate repair.

The ebb and flow of the currents, tides, waves and moving sand is a marvel of nature that many tend to take for granted.

If you doubt that Mother Nature wins in the end, consider the fate of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse. Built in 1767 and rebuilt in 1777, the lighthouse stood as one of the original lighthouses in the United States for nearly 150 years.

But shifting sands on the Great Dune played into the fate of the beacon. Estimates are the dune was losing 3 to 5 feet of sand per year, and nothing done to stem that loss succeeded. With the foundation severely compromised, during an April 13,1926 nor’easter, the lighthouse fell onto the narrow beach.

Locals estimate the original site of the lighthouse is now about one-half mile out in the ocean.

With sea-level rise estimates, storms and the natural shifting of the sands, one has to wonder how long man can hold off the sea along the Delaware coastline.

The angry ocean during a recent nor'easter.

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After the storm

November 16, 2009
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The dairy farm along Route 9.

At Punkin Chunkin it’s cool to be a red neck

November 12, 2009
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Only in Sussex County.

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Let's Bounce.

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Another shot by Old Glory.

Punkin Chunkin is one of those truly unique events that you have to attend in person at least once in your lifetime. There are sights to be seen that can be witnessed nowhere else. It’s one of the times when being a red neck is cool.

Although I enjoy the event, I wish I had attended some of the chunks when the event first started 24 years ago. Back in the early days, the chunk was really local with most the participants and spectators coming from Sussex County.

That is not the case today.

Today, thanks to national – and even international – TV exposure the event has transformed into an international spectacle attracting foreign teams and press, as well as teams from states throughout the U.S. Teams – with accents nothing like the rednecks who profess to organize the event – tend to dominate the top spots in every category.

Sponsors are needed, just like in NASCAR, to offset the high prices of some of the machines. The firing line has grown to almost a mile long. That’s a big change from the first few events with a couple of guys tossing pumpkins from homemade machines.

No one from those early days could have imagined the high-tech machines that now shoot gourds almost a mile. The first winners, Bill Thompson and Trey Melson, tossed their pumpkin 178 feet – on a bet with Lewes blacksmith John Ellsworth.

Just 25 spectators showed up to find out what was going on at the first chunk. Now, tens of thousands of spectators come from all over to catch a glimpse of the men and women and their fancy machines.
Gaining a spot on the Discovery Channel has helped to catapult the event even more into the rare air of extra-special events.

It’s outgrown three sites, with a burgeoning budget large enough to finance a small army.

The Punkin Chunkin committee has done a good job staying focused on its roots. The founders are considered celebrities in the world of tossing pumpkins; history is still treasured.

Even so, the event has become so large that some of the luster that attracted people in the early days has worn off.

If you want to recapture some of that luster from the early chunking days, watch those competing in the human-powered, catapult and torsion divisions.

Yeah, Punkin Chunkin is a time for beer drinking and cigar smoking and a time for people to act a little weird. It’s also a time for some of the nicest people in any sport to meet and play with pumpkins in a very large field to help raise money for charity.

Photo of the week

November 9, 2009
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Only in Sussex County during Punkin Chunkin.

The four Cs are missing the S

November 2, 2009

It must be a New Castle County thing, because I’ve never heard it mentioned. The drivers in the state economy are called the four Cs: chickens, chemicals, credit cards and cars.

It was a topic of conversation Wednesday, Oct. 28, during the 16th annual Today and Tomorrow Conference at Delaware Tech College in Georgetown.

Of course, three of the four have taken major hits over the past few years, and it’s probably time to revise the list.

And missing is the letter S, because without the sand along the beautiful coastline the massive tourism industry in the state would not exist.