Five years ago my husband invited me to row on the ocean to explore hundreds of islands in northern Maine that are part of the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA). His proposition was intriguing as it would allow us to explore one of the few locations in this country that has remained untouched and pristine, due primarily to the islands’ inaccessibility by anything other than kayaks and rowing shells. MITA is the oldest American water trail, spanning 200 islands along 375 miles of coastal Maine. As members, we are allowed to camp on selected islands owned by a variety of organizations and private patrons besides MITA itself.
Rowing on the Maine coast is daunting for several reasons. Using a rowing scull on the ocean requires constant vigilance; one slip of your ten-foot oar and you capsize into 50-degree waters. Waves and wind changes are unpredictable. But what you get in return is priceless. Seals and dolphins swim with you.
The islands are extraordinarily beautiful, peaceful and private, and you sleep with the scent of rosa rugosa, spruce and fir.
This year I was particularly aware of the strength of the tides!
Every year some aspect of this area affects me. The tides this far north are 12 feet, which means 2 feet of water rises every hour. The island with the wide sandy beach that you pull into will be engulfed within hours, so you set your camp high and moor your boat accordingly.
In 2010, the ocean along the Maine coast rose 6 inches.
I was also acutely aware this year of the ocean levels and global warming. Although subsequent years have been better, we are at risk of losing much of what we love about this extraordinary place in the next few decades. Greenland is 1200 miles away from here, about the distance between New York City and Orlando; scientists indicate that the melting of Greenland’s glaciers will raise the ocean 10 feet in the next 50 years.
At the same time as warning me, this area gives me hope. As a member of MITA, I am always amazed at the contributions we members provide, be it money, island clean-up, publicity and fund-raising. I am hopeful that this commitment of stewardship will increase around the country.
Our contributions as individuals have always been dwarfed by the contributions of groups of people. I am confident that our collaborative efforts may one day turn the tide for this amazing landscape.
Elisabeth Post-Marner, Principal