The Chesapeake Bay has been a staple in the history of the United States of America; but before the settlers and colonies, the bay was even more instrumental. Approximately two-thousand years ago, when the Chesapeake is rumored to take the shape it is today, there was life and commensalism abound. This was a time when the Native American population slowly began to migrate and establish along the eastern coast of North America. As they began, hunting materials and tools became more advanced, expanding their palate to the Bay’s gems. During this time Bass, Shad, Oysters and Clams dominated the waters.
Looking a thousand years into the future, the Native Americans have continued to develop as individual societies. Many relinquished their nomadic tendencies for a permanent residency; and thus, the agriculture of the Chesapeake Bay was originated. The Native Americans cleared nearby land for the growth of Tobacco, Corn and Beans. With the continued advancement of tools, many fish and crustaceans alike became a staple of food, in an ever widening food supply for the local Native Americans.
As time passes, there is a time of prosperity for both the agriculture and the humans that have inhabited the land for hundreds of years. Until the 1560’s, when the Spanish venture into the Chesapeake Bay and capture a young Native American child with the intention of creating a translator to a Missionary group in the Chesapeake region. However, this fails as when the St. Mary’s Mission group returns with the seeming lost child Don Luis; Don escapes the Spanish and leads a massacre against them. Thirty-Seven years later, John Smith and the Virginia Company of London settle at Jamestown, Virginia, the first English Settlement. During the next few years, John Smith creates incredibly detailed drawing and descriptions that are still being used today.
From here the history of such a bio diverse region becomes depressing and aggravating. Settlers spread disease, strip forests down for agriculture, over fish, over hunt, and push the peaceful Native Americans away from their homes they strived to build over one thousand years before.
When John Smith finished his excursions, he wrote:
“There is but one entrance by sea into this country, and that is at the mouth of a very goodly bay, 18 or 20 miles broad. The cape on the south is called Cape Henry, in honor of our most noble Prince. The land, white hilly sands like unto the Downs, and all along the shores rest plenty of pines and firs ... Within is a country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant places known, for large and pleasant navigable rivers, heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man's habitation.”
Thinking of how the Chesapeake bay appears now and the recent algae blooms that have been occurring at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore MD, it is frightening to believe that this was once not only a beautiful lush area, but the incredible damage that we as new age “Americans” have induced over four hundred years. As mentioned before Native Americans lived along the coast for over one-thousand years without damaging the very delicate ecosystem. Within one third of that time, the new age Americans have depleted crustaceans to near extinction. Oysters “lay as thick as stones”, as John Smith described; and in today’s Chesapeake, Oysters are a rare find, with stipulations on over harvesting. The overall clarity of the water today is disgusting compared to the clear water’s from the 1600’s.
What this means to us as a POPULATION who enjoy the Bay:
- Do pay attention to the world around you, the trends show that the world’s ecosystem is rapidly changing, but for the worse.
- Recycling and littering are two of the most direct attributes to the worsening health of the bay.
- We must, as a people, come to an agreement on how to preserve the Chesapeake Bay for future generations.
- I for one have loved not only catching Blue Crabs out of the bay, but eating them as well. But if we were to put a crabbing and harvesting ban on the bay for three years and allowed the Bay to recover naturally, there would be incredible changes. Oysters and Crabs are filter feeders, literally cleaning the water of the Bay. With them being in critical danger and few numbers, the water is being cleaned at a slower rate, creating more filth. I know that is going to hurt a lot of businesses, but a few businesses take a hit for a few years at the cost of a stable ecosystem seems more than a viable option.
I understand this is a radical thinking, but looking back on the bay and the observations from others a few hundred years ago; the American population should be appalled. We have taken a beautiful, stable piece of earth and turned it into a technological powerhouse at the cost of the natural beauty.