24 November 2017

The Ten Mile Time Machine

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Approaching Tangier Island in Chopper 16.

Tangier Island in the far distance. Dan’s photo.

I flew to the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Tuesday to visit Tangier Island. It’s just a 25-minute ride on the WBOC Chopper, and one of the most beautiful rides I’ve ever had in Chopper 16 (Yea, and I get paid to do this!). We made the trip to do a quick story on the new (much needed automated (AWOS3) weather station, and the photos are mine. (I’ve added the video of the on-air story at the bottom of this post.)

We flew from Salisbury and crossed into the Bay at  Crisfield, Maryland, home to the best sunsets in Maryland.  Tangier is 10 nautical miles out in the Bay and you cross into Virginia just before setting down at the tiny airport.  The island reminds me of some of the villages in the High Arctic; very quiet, with the only sound being a non-stop wind. Most folks use electric golf carts to get around, and traffic is not a problem because there is none.


Tangier is in my viewing area and is a real bear to forecast. The Chesapeake Bay makes its own weather and it can get mean, so this new weather station is really good news and will lead to more accurate forecasts. Ask any forecaster who tries to forecast winds and waves in the Bay and they will get a cloudy look in their eyes and whimper a bit. It’s a real challenge and I could (and will) do a post on just this soon.

This Island of quiet where time seems to almost stand still is slowly slipping beneath the waves. The sea level is rising, and the data is quite solid that this Island is likely in its last century. The Mayor made news recently when he told former Vice President Al Gore on CNN that the water in the Bay was not rising and the Island was disappearing because of erosion. Disappearing it is, and the tide gauges and laser-equipped satellites are quite clear that the mayor is wrong.

Tide gauges in the Bay agree with orbiting satellites measuring sea level .The Bay area is also sinking slowly as well. Sea level rise is very fast in this region. Only parts of Florida and Louisiana are seeing higher rates.

I can understand why the islanders refuse to accept it. Tangier is a special place where generation after generation has made a living off the shell-fish catch in the Bay. Is there no more classic case of the Upton Sinclair effect? His quote from his book The Jungle says it all: “It’s impossible to convince a man of anything when his paycheck depends on it being otherwise.”

Click image for larger version. Dan’s photo. Request permission for any use. Classroom use is ok without asking.

Virginia’s senators are trying to push through a multi-million dollar project to slow the erosion on Tangier, and while it’s a lot of money to spend to save a tiny population, I can’t hope but think, that even if it delays the end for only a decade or two, its worth it. I did not feel that way before, but seeing it changed my mind. Interestingly, one of America’s first casualties of man-made climate change is a place where reporters can find virtually no one who thinks it’s real! The two senators trying to help them both know the truth though. It’s a delaying action at best.

The British moored their ships here before burning Washington in 1812. The fort they built on Tangier is now under the waves.


If you visit Tangier, you will easily spot the natives. The Islanders have a VERY distinct accent that traces its routes to Cornwall in England. Having been SW England recently, I can say they are indeed very similar! It’s been said that if you want to get an idea of how the founding fathers sounded, go to Tangier. It’s as close as you are likely to get.

So, go visit Tangier while you can. It’s going to disappear and the cause is the burning of fossil fuels. Science long ago ruled out the sun and natural climate cycles. Yes, the mayor will tell you the Bay hasn’t gotten any higher, but the measurements all say he’s wrong, and as Feynman said “Science is (indeed) what we do to keep from lying to ourselves. Oh yes, there is erosion. That’s what happens when the water rises up on land that was dry before.

Main Street on Tangier. Click image for larger version.

Below is the new AWOS3 station.

Below is the story we aired at 11 PM Friday, Nov. 24,2017.