David Lauderdale

Lowcountry again lifting anchor on intellectual pursuits

As the Lowcountry immerses itself in intellectual tourism, we can turn back to a little nugget in an old book for inspiration.

It proves that capturing the curiosity of visitors who are willing to learn, explore and even do homework while on vacation has long been part of the local vision for success.

Maybe this tidbit can encourage those trying to establish a Hilton Head Institute fall event for intellectual and artistic pursuits.

Maybe it can boost the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, which recently outlined new ways to tell the story of the Gullah culture along our shoreline.

Perhaps it can hearten Beaufort's ongoing push to capitalize on visitors charmed by history and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

It should speak to those who want to fill in the blanks in the story of America's first village for freed slaves, Mitchelville, and invite the world to come explore.

I've shared this nugget before. It comes from a $3 used book bought from the Friends of the Hilton Head Library. It's in "America's Inland Waterway: Exploring the Atlantic Seaboard," written by Allan C. Fisher Jr. and published by the National Geographic Society in 1973.

Fisher and photographer James L. Amos sailed the entire Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in a sloop-rigged motorsailer named Andromeda, capturing its culture, nature and intrigue.

From our community come photographs that look like paintings: three boys riding an ox cart by the weather-worn First Union African Baptist Church on Daufuskie Island, Andrew Kidd oystering in Bluffton's May River, and a two-page spread of "evening quiet settling over the boat-rimmed basin of Harbour Town" on Hilton Head Island.

"Harbour Town on Hilton Head is the handsomest marina on the entire Waterway," the book says. "Here people with talent, taste, and a great deal of money created an attractive little town designed to look like a Mediterranean village."

We weren't at the dinner table when Sea Pines founder Charles E. Fraser hosted the National Geographic contingent, but we can almost hear his excitable voice.

The book quotes Fraser:

"Now traffic on the Waterway is largely limited to people moving great distances. But it's much more manageable and practicable to enjoy the Waterway over shorter distances. Why not take people down interesting sections of it in houseboats, in convoy, rather like a covered wagon train? Have cassettes aboard that they can turn on at certain channel markers and hear about what they are seeing and its history. Have them go ashore at various places for lectures about the ecology, field trips, cookouts. That could develop into a whole new activity."

The book's foreword by Cornelius Shields says the trip down the Intracoastal Waterway documents "the beauty and contentment available to anyone who will take the time to seek them."

That pursuit captures Beaufort County's past. It also can inspire its future.