Against the Tide
One Man's Quest to Save a Vanishing Island

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Map of Holland Island, Md.
Holland Island, before and after. Click to see a larger map.


July 17, 2001 As a child in the 1940s, Stephen White loved visiting Holland Island, a barrier island off Maryland's Eastern Shore in the Chesapeake Bay. He never forgot the place, and in 1989 he bought a boat to make a nostalgic trip back.

But White found Holland Island so changed by erosion that he barely recognized it. Once 350 acres and home to several hundred watermen and their families, it's now a mere 85 acres and has been carved into three parts by the tides that wash its soil away.

While exploring what remained of the island, White, a retired Methodist minister from Salisbury, Md., stumbled upon a cemetery where one stone marked the remains of young Effie Wilson. "Here's this 13-year-old girl and the first words in her epitaph are 'Forget me not is all I ask, I could not ask for more.' I stood up and I'm not ashamed but I must have cried for an hour. And I said, 'This cannot be, this cannot stand.' I said, 'God being my helper, give me health and strength, I'll save this island some kind of way.'"

Headstone of Effie Lee Wilson, whose epitaph inspired Stephen White's quest to save Holland Island
Headstone of Effie Lee Wilson, whose epitaph inspired Stephen White's quest to save Holland Island.
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White bought Holland Island, and now works to preserve both its history and its acreage, part of an ever-diminishing nesting habitat for the area's herons, egrets and other waterfowl. In 1995, he established the Holland Island Preservation Foundation and has appealed to the Maryland Port Authority for dredge materials, which he hopes to use to restore the island to its former size. For now, White makes weekly trips to the island in his old 19-foot boat, to build rock-and-textile-tube jetties he hopes will protect the shoreline.

On Morning Edition, White talks about his quest to preserve the island.

To learn more about Holland Island and the Chesapeake Bay, visit these Web sites:

Holland Island Preservation Foundation. Stephen White's Web site.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Formed in 1967, this 80,000 member organization motto: "Save the Bay" is one of the oldest private foundations in the region.

Maryland Sea Grant. Hosted by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, this program supports marine research and education.

Chesapeake Bay Program. A regional partnership formed in 1983 by the the federal Environmental Protection Agency and representatives from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, with the goal of protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Chesapeake Bay Trust. A nonprofit trust that funds projects to restore and protect the Bay and its tributaries.