In preparation for the students' arrival, Mike and I went out to Smiths Island today with various equipment - buckets, screens, dustpans, a transit, and many implements of vegetational destruction. It's been more than a year since I was last out and didn't know how active nature had been in reclaiming open spaces. Also, we wanted clear paths for students and (next Saturday) Bermudian visitors to use. En route out in Rick's boat, we ran into Garth Rothwell, who very kindly let us not only use his dock, but his cottage with a fridge and bathroom as well. This had been a real worry for me: although finding a spot behind a tree was fine by me, I was pretty sure students would mutiny if forced to do this for a month. I was even considering reviving the use of a 19th c. privy as an alternative when Garth came through for us!
After landing gear and hiking in, we found the paths pretty overgrown. A few years back I read a book called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman about how nature will fairly quickly undo much of the built environment of humankind (except plastics and nuclear waste, which will be around forever!) - his premise was very much confirmed at Smiths Island - amazing how fast trees can grow in 2 years! Saws, machetes, clippers, etc. were deployed with a vengeance. I was happy to see that the poison ivy was fairly minimal. We sprayed it from a safe distance with something toxic to hasten its demise. That said, the eastern half of the Park was both impenetrable and densely covered with poison ivy. We won't be digging there, even if the Holy Grail sitting on the Ark of the Covenant are there together...
Hurricane Igor (2010) it turned out, toppled the 19th c. stone cottage in the island's center and it is almost impossible to spot even though it lies just 15 feet in from the main path. We couldn't re-find the Smallpox Bay cabin/quarantine house either. Thankfully, the Oven Site was in fine shape. We cleared most of the accumulated leaves and re-established the central axis of the grid for the site, in preparation for excavation on Monday. Here's Mike by the hearth:
So all is well so far. Students arrive tomorrow, provoking a flurry of shopping. I have to forget Wegmans prices and get used to the shock that is grocery shopping in Bermuda... Cross your fingers and hope the sunny dry weather holds for us.