Angle to Key West: Alabama Lost (12/23)

Blemishes on the Horizon

Dauphin Island, Alabama – December 23, 2012

The last of the Mississippi gulf islands faded behind me and the thin strip of sand at the tip of Dauphin Island rose out of the water. I slid to the north, putting the island between me and the waves coming in from a southern wind.

Darkness fell, but an almost full moon lit up the sky, so I kept on, relishing the white sand and pushing for miles, trying to outrun a storm two days away.

I heard waves breaking on the other side of the island, crashing and rolling, their sound filling the air, strange against the glassy water underneath me. The island narrowed until the waves sounded like they were next to me and crashing just a few feet away.

I beached the boat and scrambled up a pile of rocks to look at the ocean, staring out like a guard on a castle wall to see what wild creatures made such roars, watching the sea break itself underneath me, embracing the wild of it.

The flicker of a hundred lights along the horizon stopped my imagination.

For a moment I thought I was turned around, that I was staring at the mainland somehow, but I caught myself. It wasn’t the mainland, I was staring into the gulf, staring where for two nights there was nothing but endless horizon, nothing but black sky and stars, darkness and the roar, nothing but an ocean beating into the shore.

Instead of imagination, a memory flicked into my mind. A desk in Gulf Restoration’s office back in New Orleans, a man named Raleigh telling me about the fight against oil and gas drilling along Mississippi’s gulf coast.

“We’ve fought and won this battle before,” he told me, “but the thing is that we can win again and again, but we only get to lose once.”

I stood on the rocks and counted rig after rig after rig, glowing from one edge of the horizon to the other.

Alabama lost, once.


The Gulf Islands National Seashore belongs to all of us. The horizons, the beautiful beaches, the chance to see a place left wild. Places like this are rare in our modern world. Oil rigs and beach houses are common. 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, help save them. We don’t get a chance to lose twice.

7 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Alabama Lost (12/23)

  1. I am ribbing you with this comment… here we go. I don’t know if I can trust your opinion about these islands of paradise. Those islands do sound beautiful, but you just left behind an industrial river. This is similar to a man living in a cave that is blinded by a flashlight. Alright, enough of that. You deserve a long paddle in paradise, and I hope you keep finding it. Paddle on Bro.

    1. I’ve eaten steak before and I will eat it again. Doesn’t mean I get it confused with beef jerkey! 😉 But yes, compared to the Mississippi this is the Land of the Lost! That said, you can just look at a map and see how rare undeveloped islands are. Wish you were out here, Pete!

  2. i’d risk my skin on a big D adventure for the chance to see a place left wild! i hope you make it to orange beach safely. 😉 watch out for pirates!

  3. Very evocative! And the people in Massachusetts are squabbling about Cape Winds. Thank you for the daylight photo mimicking your title and words from the night before. Truly, “Alabama lost, once.”

    1. For me it was a good reminder that these battles are going on right now. Not tomorrow, not next week, right now and we need to get out there and get involved. Things can change in a heartbeat.

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