Monday, May 25, 2009

Flyin High

There are many ways to see a swamp. You can canoe. You can kayak. You can walk on a boardwalk. You can slog through the water. You can even hop from cypress knee to cypress knee. Or, you can fly.

Buddy Wehman, a retired pilot lives just outside Harleyville, SC and keeps his 1939 Fleet biplane in a hanger at the Summerville airport. After months of looking at aerial Google maps I wanted to see for myself the braided channels and towering trees of the 1,600 acres. I love anything that changes my perspective. My main motivation, however, was to document the dichotomy between old growth forest and clear-cut lowcountry.

On Monday morning I met him at the airport and we waited an hour for the fog to dissipate. To kill time he dissected the simplistic anatomy of a biplane and told me about the time the propeller nearly severed his femoral artery. All alone, he used a belt for a tourniquet and drove himself to a hospital 30 minutes away. I figured I was in good hands should our plane crash into the Hudson, or in our case, the Edisto. Any fears or uneasiness about flying in a seventy year-old plane quickly vanished once I put on the leather hat and goggles.

Flying high over the eastern edge of Harleyville we had a great view of the wetland transition zones. This whole area is located along the Four Holes Swamp watershed draining some 500,000 acres of land. As seen in the photos below the dividing line between secondary growth and primary forest is pretty abrupt.

Imagine 60 miles of this landscape once again connected, uninterrupted, and allowed to flow freely to the Edisto River. National Audubon and other conservation groups are slowly buying up pieces of private land to revert logged sections back to old growth. This sort of thing takes a lot of money and of course, a lot of time.

This is what is known as Mellard's Lake. The house I live in is at the middle bend just on the left.

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