From the pained calls of the black skimmers and the compelling behavior of the tidal currents to the sweeping throw of the cast net and the exact route of the Confederate troops: You can learn a lot out on the Lowcountry waters – just take it from Anton DuMars ’99.
“There’s always more to learn,” says Dumars, an adjunct geology professor who has been exploring the salt marshes around Folly and Morris islands for 35 years, picking up some rich lessons along the way. “If there’s one thing you’ll learn out here, it’s that everything changes – there’s always something new.”
It’s with that lesson in mind that DuMars decided to try something new himself: In 2008 the Coast Guard-certified captain and former Navy submariner opened Tideline Tours, providing professional tours to private groups on either his 11-passenger 23′ Carolina skiff, Tideline, or his 24-passenger vessel, The Pluffmudder.
Since then, the company has been making waves among locals and tourists alike, steadily stirring up business through good press and word of mouth. And, with returning customers ranging from the 54th Massachusetts Regiment to the 3-year-olds at the N.E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center – it’s safe to say just about anyone can appreciate a ride with Tideline Tours.
“I adjust the tours to the group,” says DuMars, adding that he always gives passengers the chance to interact with their surroundings. “We get out and explore – see what we can see.”
Although children as young as 18 months can enjoy the sights and sounds of the excursions, the most hands-on ecological expeditions – the Coastal Classroom tours – are designed specifically for older kids (middle schoolers and up) interested in the inner-workings of the coastal processes, the barrier islands and the creatures living there. Regardless of the specific tour, however, everyone comes away with a better understanding of the marshland ecology.
“People come to realize that the marsh is a living, breathing entity. You can’t see this from a rolled-up car window while crossing the causeway,” says DuMars, urging: “Come play in the marsh! You’d be surprised what you’ll see once you’re out here – I know I am.”
And – to hear him tell stories of dolphin jumping out of the water in perfect five-figure formation and even tail-walking across the water’s surface – it’s easy to see why.
“I see something I’ve never seen before pretty much every time I come out here,” says DuMars, who uses an iPhone to track dolphin and a hydrophone to identify the voice of an individual dolphin and “follow him wherever he goes.”
Listen below to Anton Dumars’ recording of the echo-locating pulses (and a song!) of four dolphins in Folly Creek:
Still, DuMars is always careful not to overstep his boundaries. After all, he’s been out on the water enough to learn a little consideration.
“You have to respect the natural world and your own limitations,” he says. “Being among animals in their natural habitat makes me realize that we – all animals – need community, but we also need our own space.”
And DuMars has certainly found his.
“This is my little domain,” he says, waving his hand out at the river before him. “Out here, I feel pretty good – I’m confident in myself and what I know about my surroundings.”
But, of course, he also knows there’s plenty more to learn.
This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of the College of Charleston’s employee newsletter, Portico.