Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Return to the Swamp

Recently, we visited the primeval forest of the Great Dismal Swamp.
On Monday, I mentioned the Swamp's mosquitos, bears, and  poisonous snakes.
But there are more creatures there.
According to the The Great Dismal Swamp Welcome Center's article,
"The Great Dismal Swamp: A History,"
there are also many, many species of birds,
and 58 species of turtles, lizards, frogs and toads
(only one of whom we encountered, a young blue-tailed skink lizard,
which zipped through the grass with lightening speed).
And why are so many creatures at the Swamp?
Water. Black water.

I have never been there when the water wasn't as still as glass
and as dark as ebony. It is a tranquil scene.
The water is so dark brownish-black because of the tannic acid from peat and tree bark. 
According to the Dismal Swamp history at 
the junipers, gums, and cypress keep the water in Lake Drummond, 
a shallow natural lake in the middle of the Swamp, potable.
This is one reason the pirate Edward Teach "Blackbeard"
and others braved the dangerous Swamp:
to get the water, which stayed pure and fresh in kegs on their ships,
and which was purported to give any one who consumed it long life and vitality.
Of course, it didn't help in Blackbeard's case, since he died during battle in his late 30s. 
On the other hand, legend has it that after he was beheaded,
his body was thrown overboard
and that it swam around the ship three times before sinking--so maybe. 

I've never actually seen the water in Lake Drummond since it is accessible only by boat.
But the water in the low-lying swampland appears less palatable.

I'll close today by repeating a bit of folklore
having to do with the waters of the Great Dismal Swamp
that I discovered at this site:
It is the tale of an Indian maiden who drowned in Lake Drummond before she was to marry.
Locals claim she often appears on misty nights, a restless soul
paddling a pale white canoe across the dark waters. 
There are other stories of strange goings-on in the Swamp.
I'll share another one tomorrow
when I relay how George Washington himself came to be in the Great Dismal Swamp.

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