Everything had changed. Long gone was the mountain of bones that inspired the island’s first European name, Massacre Island. Some say the bones were scattered throughout the world as people visited the island in the 1700’s. We may never know, but what we do know is that human interest remained on the island for its strategic location into Mobile Bay.
Fast-forward over 300 years. Massacre Island (see previous article) is now known as Dauphin Island. Many say the name Dauphine was the name of royalty in France and was adapted to Dauphin, but dauphin is french word for dolphin, which congregate off the shores of the island.
Today’s modern day explorer no longer needs to arrive by ship, they can arrive by car via a 17,814 foot bridge. That is the method I use as I step foot on the shores of the island that is rich with history.
To the Beach
The white sand of the Gulf was temporarily cool as the heat of the day was still in the future. The sun had yet to rise as sandals displaced the almost 90% quartz sand. The crystals sifted quickly through openings in the sandals, making forward momentum slow.
Waves calmly reached up to the sand which could only be heard, but not seen. Sand dunes were speckled with the long flowing steams of federally protected sea oats, defending the land from the sea. A narrow path lead to the top of the sand dune allowing one to view the great expanse of the Gulf of Mexico.
To the west the beach soon succumbed to the erosive forces of the waves and was slowly dragging a pine forest into its depths. To the east was the remnants of Pelican Island, which had recently merged once again with Dauphin Island.
This small stretch of private beach would soon become the place that would allow a full awaking as I searched the shore each morning not only for shells, but also serenity.
The alarm would bring me out of my deep sleep around 5:20 a.m. Allowing me just enough time to put on my clothes, grab a drink, and head down the block onto a long boardwalk, just minutes before sunrise.
First light has always seemed special when visiting the beach. To me it is a combination of new beginnings, solitude, and just the simple act of exploring the beach to see what the waters had brought to land that day. These tiny accumulation of moments over seven days would leave the biggest impact on what the Gulf means to me.
To Shell or Not to Shell
Our beach was not very giving of its shells. It was located in a cove that protected it from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Even though our beach house was only seven feet above sea level it did not receive a drop of rain into its interior during the storm.
This protective cove was not good for finding shells, though. Still I tried every morning. Small shells, less than a dime in size was the primary find. To me this was fine, because my short time here was not truly about finding shells. It was more about slowing down and pushing to the back of thought the demands of everyday life.
The island was conducive to slowing down. It was not your touristy beaches, such as Pensacola or Gulf Shores. There was not even a stop light on the island. There were no fast food restaurants, or a Wal-Mart.
At first I wondered just what I had stepped into. The pace just seemed too slow, but as the days wore on, I also slowed.
I had found in a small 14-mile island, that once held the dreadful name of Massacre Island, a state of being that is hard to come about in our modern society, serenity.
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