• Eight Days Down The Cape Fear River

    from Our State Magazine

    …   After 170 miles of paddling, downtown Wilmington appears at the confluence of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers.

    We ducked underneath a railroad bridge at Navassa as a large sightseeing boat was bearing down on us. “We love you, Kemp!” screamed a dozen women and girls onboard. Kemp shook his head and smiled. The captain was a friend of his, Kemp said. He wasn’t really that popular.

    At 11:30, we paddled underneath another highway bridge at the mouth of the Northeast Cape Fear River, and suddenly we were downtown, passing a Coast Guard cutter and the Battleship North Carolina, waterfront parks, buildings, fountains, and cars. Men and women eating lunch at riverside restaurants watched us take stroke after stroke. Joggers glanced at us. Dogs sniffed in our direction. We sat up straight, and stuck out our chests. We paddled toward Dram Tree Park like runners entering a stadium at the end of a grueling marathon.

    We turned left, just above the noisy Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, and pulled onto a ramp, where Cape Fear River Watch volunteers, friends, and onlookers greeted us. We walked up the street to Elijah’s for a big lunch and Endless River beer. It felt like our journey was over, even though we weren’t done just yet. “The worst part of the trip ending?” Chris said. “You don’t get to paddle the next day.”

    As we walked, one of the onlookers stopped me. “How was the trip?” she asked.

    It was like having a new job, I said. A good job. I got up in the morning, and got to work paddling. At the end of the day, I had dinner, relaxed, and went to bed. The next morning, I got up and did it again. It was simple. As simple as I dreamed it could be.

    And with that, on the seventh day, we rested.

    The last day of paddling was an afterthought. We had 26 miles to go, and the wind was at our backs, with a falling tide to push us. We’d reach the river’s end by lunchtime. We left Dram Tree Park at 5:30 a.m. with light boats, carrying just some water and snacks. We paddled into the blackness of the 42-foot-deep shipping channel and quickly encountered a container ship, the Maersk Wakayama, being guided by a tugboat to the mile-long State Port just south of downtown. We gave it a wide berth. The ship was almost the size of two football fields and its captain likely couldn’t see us.

    The Cape Fear River was now an estuary, and as its water dried on our coats, it left behind a salty residue. The channel was a mile wide. We passed Island 13, a splinter of land bulked up by sand and dirt dredged from the riverbed. Ahead, the water disappeared into the horizon, under a blue sky flecked with high, pink clouds. Pelicans, ibis, and seagulls circled above us.

    View images and read the full story of paddling 200 miles down the Cape Fear River at Our State Magazine.

     

    World War I and its “Indescribable Desolation”

    By Nancy Gadzuk

    Jan Davidson, Historian at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, spoke at the January 16, 2017 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

    Jan spoke on Service, Sacrifice, and Memorialization: New Hanover County Residents and World War I.

    The United States entered World War I in 1917. The war was sold effectively to citizens as a fight for democracy, and colorful propaganda posters promised “Adventure and Action” while serving the country.

    World War I was considered a total war that required mobilization on every front. Everything and everyone had to come together: mobilizing business, labor, finances, and, especially, mobilizing “Red Blooded Fighting Men Between 18 and 40.”

    Wilmington became the biggest source of draftees in the region, with the majority of its draftees African American. Women were called to serve as nurses.

    It was a terrible war, known for its “indescribable desolation” and killing its soldiers both in action and through disease, all the while setting the stage for World War II.

    Those soldiers who did return did not come home unharmed. As one North Carolina returnee wrote from a psychiatric hospital, “We aren’t the same animals at all who left home.”

    Wilmington’s World War I Memorial was first erected in 1922 to honor New Hanover County’s war dead. The monument was moved, restored, and rededicated along the downtown Riverwalk in 2014.

    The following quote from the Roman poet Horace (born 65 B.C.) is inscribed on its base: “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori. ” This was a well-known rallying call during World War I, translating to: “It is sweet and proper to die for your country.”

    Dulce et Decorum Est is also the name of the best known poem from the first World War, written by British soldier Wilfred Owen. Owen was killed in action in France one week before the Armistice.

    Dulce et Decorum Est

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.


    Cape Fear Museum’s Historian Jan Davidson:  A Moving Monument – Wilmington’s World War I Memorial