Eastern tip of Horn Island, Gulf Islands National Seashore – December 22, 2012
West Ship looked like a penny on the horizon. East Ship like a company of trees stripped naked by a hurricane. Horn like nothing but faith in a map and compass. But they all came, one after another, with white beaches, dunes, and crystal water.
Giant fish raced away under the bow kicking up trails of sand like smoke from a dragster’s tires. Rays glided past like winged shadows. Pelicans flew inches above the water in long lines that looked pulled from a postcard.
A dozen dolphins came at sunset, their fins slicing through the pink water, their breath a hollow pop of air. Each time they disappeared, I stared and waited, hoping to see them again like I stare and wait at the night sky for shooting stars. They are the same–beautiful, uncertain, wild.
This can’t exist, I thought, not along a coast snatched up and cut into square lots for houses built on stilts, not in a world where a hundred feet of shoreline is worth a million dollars, but it does.
The wind died with the sun and left the water still and silver-black in the moonlight. The bay looked like a glass filled to the brim. Stars glowed across the surface and silence made each stroke of the paddle loud.
Lights from Gulfport and Pascagoula lined the far shore like the edge of civilization’s march to sea. They felt pushed away, far, far away from the Gulf Islands where shifting sands are left free to move and break apart in storms, to drift over lifetimes longer than our own.
I glided past silver dunes and crescents of powdery sand. I listened for the hollow breath of dolphins in the darkness. I watched Orion walk across the ceiling of the world.
It is so wild out here, untouched and beautiful. You don’t have to imagine the way it once was, you only have to look.
Mississippi’s Gulf Islands are some of the last undeveloped barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve paddled 3,000 miles through this country to get to them and I can tell you that they are crown jewels, they are the Gulf’s Isle Royale and Apostles, they are so beautiful.
Waters just off their shore are about to be opened up to oil and gas drilling unless all of us who care stand up and say no.
The Gulf Restoration Network is working as hard as it can to keep these islands pristine. Visit their webpage and learn how you can help. Even something as simple as a phone call, email, or $5 donation could be the difference between staring at an endless horizon or a gas rig. These are your islands, save them.