Who Was Rachel Carson?

IMG_1900-634Looking across Taylor’s Creek towards the Rachel Carson Reserve

On visiting Beaufort, your eyes are immediately drawn to the water.

Whether you’re crossing over Gallant’s Channel coming into Beaufort from points west, or strolling along Front Street and gazing across Taylor’s Creek – you’re confronted by water.

From nearly every point along Front Street, you’re faced with that collection of islands, marshes, and strips of sand that offer Taylor’s Creek its southern border, and its very definition as a body of water distinct from the surrounding rivers, channels, and sounds.

As we all know, that collection of islands, marshes, and strips of sand bears the name Rachel Carson.

Like many I suppose, that name meant little to me in the past, in fact I never really used it much, referring to the whole area across Taylor’s Creek simply as Carrot Island, like I’ve heard many others do. It was simply the home of those wild horses, and a cool place to sit on the sand, drink a beer, and look back over at the town we all love.

A few years ago, I was discussing Beaufort with an acquaintance at an unrelated conference.

This person immediately mentioned Rachel Carson and began discussing her as someone I must know all about being a frequent visitor to Beaufort.

I faked my way through the conversation, and though I was proud of myself for not letting my ignorance show, I am certain that my conversation partner could see right through me, as I then knew next to nothing about Rachel Carson. I was vaguely aware that she had written a book about pesticides that got a number of things changed, apparently for the better, but I assumed she was just a radical of some sort and that the familiar spot in Beaufort was named for her out of some debt to political correctness.

As I’ve studied a bit more, I know better now.

How did I come to this knowledge?

It started for me with actually exploring the Rachel Carson Reserve, and becoming exposed to Carson’s work, especially those books other than her most well known work, Silent Spring (affiliate link).


But, my interest was really piqued a few years ago when I can across this quote from Carson about Bird Shoal:

Some of the shoals bear the names of the creatures of air and water that visit them – Shark, Sheepshead, Bird. To visit Bird Shoal, one goes out by boat through channels winding through the Town Marsh of Beaufort and comes ashore on a rim of sand held firm by the deep roots of beach grasses – the landward border of the shoal. The burrows of thousands of fiddler crabs riddle the muddy beach on the side facing the marshes. The crabs shuffle across the flats at the approach of an intruder, and the sound of many small chitinous feet is like the crackling of paper. Crossing the ridge of sand, one looks out over the shoal. If the tide still has an hour or two to fall to its ebb, one sees only a sheet of water shimmering in the sun.

Actually visiting Bird Shoal – and other surrounding spots, especially Sand Dollar Island, makes this quote come alive even more.

IMG_8384-634Bird Shoal

So, recently I asked myself the question:

Who was Rachel Carson?

I did a little homework, but figured I would start by actually reading her books. While I’ve skimmed several of them, I thought I would start with the one that contains that wonderful quote from above.

It’s called the The Edge of the Sea (affiliate link) and I invite you all to pick up a copy and join me in a Beaufort Book Club of sorts. The Edge of the Sea (affiliate link) is widely available at many libraries and bookshops and online from sources like Amazon.

I’ll be writing about the book in the weeks to come and answering that question – Who was Rachel Carson? – not through biographies or other information but by what she herself wrote about the sea and all that is in it.

Thanks for reading!

And don’t forget to:

Relax…you CAN get there from here!


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