A year ago at this time, I was spending a glorious warm and sunny day on Saunders Island in the West Falklands. On this island about the size of the city of Boston with a population of six (that’s people – there were thousands of sheep and penguins), our film crew was packing for departure the next morning.
It had been a good week here a few hundred miles north of the Antarctic Circle, having followed Cape Cod’s John Kendrick and the Columbia Expedition to their landing spot on the first-ever voyage ‘round the world.
The next day, Friday, we were to catch the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) bush plane back to the capital of Stanley, and then the weekly LAN Airlines on Saturday for the journey home. Friday was my birthday, too.
Departing on Friday.
Friday the 13th.
So that didn’t work out. Fog crept into the Falklands, and FIGAS used to flying in the prevailing weather of high winds balked at doing the same in fog.
We were stuck, missed the LAN flight home and were stuck for one more week in the Falklands. Over 7,000 miles from home. Happy birthday.
I really do like my birthday, though. It’s May and typically the tulips are all out here on the Cape. Except for this year when they bloomed soon after St. Patrick’s Day. I heard that while I was gone, the weather here was similar to that in the Falklands, the seasons being reversed so that down there it was like November here. Except here was like November here. Or perhaps more like May here, which usually involves week-long nor’easters that blow the blooms off the trees and have us back in our winter parkas for a week or more.
There’s annual town meeting, too, which I have always been pleased Chatham tries to schedule for my convenience. As a student of political science, my point of view was informed by the purest form of direct democracy in the world. And who doesn’t want to cut short their birthday dinner to go sit on a hard chair or bench for four hours of discussion – less than five minutes on a multimillion dollar budget, but perhaps an hour for an article of a thousand dollars or less? Except as a single parent, the real imperative in recent years is to get nine-year-old Sofie to bed on time.
Well, at least there’s a town election we can go to. She loves elections, and always asks me why I chose the person I did, and what job each person is seeking. Having been a selectman, I can kind of describe what it is, but it usually comes out sounding less important than it is. “We sit around a table and talk and vote to ask people who work for the town to do things.” No wonder only three people are running for two spots. It is still three, yes? It’s hard enough to explain all this to her.
But while other people get free drinks on their birthday, fate often conspires against me. Aside from being stranded far from home last year, when I turned 16 a Winnebago hit me in a VW bug in front of the Cape Cod Mall, and years later someone hit me and tried to run me over while I was already on crutches. I was thinking that this year I just ought to wear a helmet and hole up in the basement with some delivery pizza. Except there is no delivery pizza in Chatham, and I’m not so sure about taking the risk of heading out to pick one up.
I’ve been hoping that bad fortune used up all its firepower last year with the stranding. Some years, all I do is sprain my ankle. But that’s more of a sure sign of spring. With big feet and small ankles, I only need to get out on uneven pavement after months inside for me to soon end up face down in the street. Doesn’t count.
Same goes for the recent profile of me in this year’s Chatham Magazine. Written by The Cape Cod Chronicle’s Jennifer Sexton, her words were later changed at the editorial offices of the Hyannis-based publication to claim that I am “currently a Chatham selectman.”
In reality, it has been 10 years this May since I was on the board of selectmen. If it weren’t for the fact that this erroneous correction reflects poorly (and without merit) on Ms. Sexton, or that they misspelled Sofie’s name wrong despite having the correct spelling also provided by Ms. Sexton, I would almost laugh. Could I use this to get a better table at CBI’s Mother’s Day brunch?
But absurdities don’t count. I’m watching out for something seriously bad.
The suspense has been killing me. I really have grown fond of all 10 fingers and all 10 toes, and seeing through both my eyes, and more often than not having the ability to put a couple words together coherently enough to order that pizza. I’d hate to lose any of these.
Especially the pizza. Deliveries gratefully accepted at my bunker through Monday. Drop it and run for your life.
On the breezy, sandy shores of the Straits of Magellan, a man in brown coveralls is smoking a plank. One end sits in a repurposed oil drum and slowly the other end of the wood is being pulled in a lateral direction. Warped, the plank is, to sheath the sides of a schooner.
FALKLANDS SERIES PREMIERE!
The crew of Hit and Run History leaves their home on Cape Cod to return once again to the track of the Columbia Expedition. As a Falklands Island Radio Service interview plays, we follow the intrepid Gumshoe Historians on their journey south. We hear HRH’s plans in the Falklands, and what brought Columbia there in February of 1788.
During a brief layover in Santiago, they meet University of Chile History Department Head Celia Cussen. Then it is back to the skies, with HRH winging their way down to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, then east to the Falklands, and finally a long, rugged drive from the airport at Mount Pleasant across a vast, barren landscape to the capital of Stanley.
It's going to be a long week.
Get the episode on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hit-and-run-history/id519420962.
Or watch on Hit and Run History's new Blip show page blip.tv/hitandrunhistory.
Cape's Girl Adventurers offer a tasty reward for any family of four pledging $250.
Or for a $40 pledge a DVD of the completed film
Making plans for the summer? Ava and Sofie, the Cape's hosts of the WGBH Kids series Through My Eyes, have a deal for you: catching the tide for a genuine Cape Cod experience of a day out on the shimmering waters of Nantucket Sound and getting a basket of clams.
The girls are running a Kickstarter campaign to bring their innovative elementary education travel series down to the very end of the Earth: Cape Horn. They've been offered cabins aboard a cruise ship that rounds the tip of South America. In return, they need to raise the airfare to get down there. And they only have 2 weeks left to do it.
So in the dead of winter, they decided to offer a CLAM TRIP!
People visiting Cape Cod in the summer are always fascinated to learn about digging clams and quahogs. Oftentimes, they will stop while commercial diggers are working and ask questions. Moms, dads and kids. Everyone wants to know more. But without their having a permit or the equipment, there's little they can do other than watch.
So why not see about taking a few of you out for the day?
For a $250 pledge, commercial shellfisherman, master mariner (and TME producer) Andrew Buckley will take you and up to 3 of your family out shellfishing on the waters of Cape Cod.
"For commercial fishermen in Chatham, our commute is a boat ride and our office is the shore," says Buckley. "Our hours are determined by the ever-changing time of the tide each day. We can be digging softshell steamer clams when we can find them, or hardshell quahog clams which are in abundance."
To make a Pledge and
go clamming, visit
their KickStarter here.
This offer includes one non-resident family permit good for the WHOLE YEAR. That means you once you have it and learn the basics, you can head out yourself and bring yourself back some plenty of tasty bivalves every week.
Of course, this offer is subject to weather and tide conditions, availability, our discretion and local rules (see FAQ http://bit.ly/fJEzQ2). You have to get yourself to Chatham, Mass. yourself, too.
"And while we're out there, we might see a few seals, and who knows? A great white shark?" muses Buckley. "Chatham is now America's White Shark City."
So what are you waiting for? This is a great value -- not just another day at the beach. Grab this offer before someone else snaps it up! Head to www.avaandsofie.com right now!
A century or two ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a young Cape Codder to head off around Cape Horn to China. Multi-year voyages, these were as much education as employment, setting the stage for a career on the sea. Go out as a cabin boy, come back as a an able-bodied seaman, then leave as a seaman, come back as a mate, and then mate to shipmaster.
For a three-year voyage, that’s nine years right there. It is no wonder that sea captains typically retired, if they survived, in their 30s. With the capital they had accumulated, they might set up a store to support themselves and their families. So it was a young man’s game, a very young man’s game. But exclusively for men.
How times have changed.
Last spring, my daughter Sofie and her friend Ava took to skies, flying across the globe to visit China’s Pearl River Delta. No pleasure trip this was. That is unless your idea of relaxation is two girls, age 7 and 8, exploring and filming for 13 hour-days of nonstop movement.
Like the ships of old, this young crew were looking to bring back a valuable cargo.
In this case, the cargo was their experiences, to be shared after months of studio work, with voice-overs and film editing. Through My Eyes premiered their China series on WGBH last October as the centerpiece of their Kids’ website. Sofie and Ava’s cargo were 10 videos, documenting their firsthand encounters with the one area of China open to their predecessors centuries earlier. Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Macau.
I had the honor to participate, and to watch my daughter visit the same places I had 13 years earlier. She had seen pictures of the Five Story Pagoda in Guangzhou, Victoria Peak, overlooking the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, and swirling tiles of Senado Square in Macau. I have to admit I still get a little choked up watching the episode in the Foreigners Cemetery in the Pearl River. Having grown up exploring the cemeteries of Chatham, she learned her alphabet reading the inscriptions on the tombstones. Now here she was in a place I had found hidden in the jungle a decade earlier that told the stories of the sailors who nevercame home.
She and Ava got to convey their own personal observations of the people they met and the places they visited. For the elementary school classrooms watching all across the country, what these two girls were saying and doing was gripping. Much more so than if an adult had been on-camera or off, spoon feeding the information they deemed important. Kids see things we don’t.
For centuries, those who have grown up on the Cape have learned to survive by their ingenuity. A seasonal economy in a place with few resources means you have to remain flexible, act on opportunity, and often take those skills elsewhere if you ever wish to have a life here. Yet those houses down on Lower Main Street in Chatham are a testament to the hold of the place on those who would span the globe for their livelihood. It is a good place to live, once you have the means.
That is Cape Cod’s creative economy at work. It was in evidence when Matt Griffin and I set off to tell the story of the Columbia Expedition, and its commander, John Kendrick. It continued when our Hit and Run History crew dove into Cape Verde during the dengue fever epidemic as we followed the Columbia’s track. And when we were stranded in the Falklands for an extra week last year, by making the most of it by getting deeper into our story. We seize every opportunity to increase the value of our cargo.
So these two girls, age 7 and 8, left as globetrotting newbies and returned as an experienced travel show crew. Fittingly, they’ve set their sights now on a trip around Cape Horn this spring. Natural science will be at the fore as they explore the fjords, glaciers and penguins at the very end of the Earth.
And perhaps just as fittingly, Sofie’s added another option to her career plans. Besides wanting to be a veterinarian, she told me, “Once Through My Eyes wraps up, I think I want to open a store. But when I’m older because we still have lots of places to go. Like when I’m a teenager.”
Following on the success of their China series as the centerpiece of WGBH's Kids site, Cape Cod's girl adventurers have been given a great opportunity. Their friends at Hit and Run History, headed down to the tip of South America this spring, have offered the girls cabins for a cruise around Cape Horn with Cruceros Australis.
In exchange for the cruise, TME's part of the bargain is to raise the money for the airfare for us all. That's a fair trade and an excellent way to continue our series. Plus, with HRH's professional camera crew, the quality will be even better.
Turn it UP.
Join Cape Cod's interpid Gumshoe Historians on WGBH in a few short weeks as we head deep into the Southern Atlantic for our third installment. The adventure of a lifetime continues. Hit and Run History: The Columbia Expedition follows the first American voyage 'round the world down to the Falklands, 300 miles east of the tip of South America.
In planes, trains, automobiles and boats, our crew ranges across the islands, tracking the shipboard violence and treacherous weather that sent a 19-year old sailor cowering in a cave amongst the penguins and ruins 7,000 miles from home.
#10 China: Through My Eyes on WGBH
In episode 10 of the China: Through My Eyes series on WGBH, Sofie and Ava investigate Macau, a former Portuguese colony with a fascinating mix of cultures. How does this place look, sound, smell and taste different from Hong Kong? From Guangzhou? From home?
The girls take a long hike through the streets and parks of Macau, noticing the colorful Portuguese architecture, black and white tiled streets and a swirl of tourists from around the world. Up hills and down, the girls explore this unique destination filled with natural beauty, historic ruins, public squares teeming with people, tiny shops in winding streets and a casino district that lights up the night sky.
Watch MACAU WOW on WGBH Kids site here.
Running weekly through the fall, Through My Eyes is the centerpiece of WGBH's Kids site. This elementary education travel series follows these two Cape Cod girls as they visit China's Pearl River Delta in the run up to Easter. Through My Eyes is a production of Thunderball Entertainment Group, the Cape Cod Community Media Center and WGBH Boston. Learn more at www.wgbh.org/tme.
Boston's WGBH is PBS's single largest producer of web and TV content (prime-time and children's programs), including Nova, Masterpiece, Frontline, Antiques Roadshow, Curious George, Arthur, and The Victory Garden. Learn more about China: Through My Eyes on their Facebook page at facebook.com/tmeyes.