All the necessary caveats aside–stroll in a storm if you want to understand the danger, drama and brute reality of coastal shipwreck and salvage. (Unless, of course, you actually get shipwrecked or do marine salvage on the side.) As luck would have it, I left New Orleans to teach a class on Cape Cod and Irene chased me up the coast. Daring the 50-60 knot winds, I made my way down to the Shining Sea Bikeway and Martha’s Vineyard Sound. I certainly wasn’t the only one (check out these folks who were also out in the thick of it). Rocks covered the bikeway. Waves pounded the beach. Wind bent over bushes and trees. But pictures, especially my pictures, totally fail to capture the scene, so I took a few then watched.
Studying shipwrecks in the archives only gets you so far. If nineteenth-century shipwreck and salvage once seemed romantic, after Sunday morning I am sure they were terrifying. I still can’t imagine how folks decided to launch boats from the beach in these (and much worse) conditions to save shipwrecked mariners. Harder still to imagine being stuck on a vessel getting pounded by wind and waves a few hundred yards offshore–just far enough to know you couldn’t make it ashore alive. Those dusty books and manuscripts will read a little different after my Irene walkabout. Be safe, but if you can — get out in that next storm!