A Big Bite of Holgate Spit history...
Below: First perspective, a modern, 2017 aerial view.
The red outline will be used as an overlay of older maps. It should be kept in mind that the far south end has changed significantly in just four years since the shot was taken, though this map is close enough for comparison. I'm hoping one of my flying buddies will get me a recent shot of the Holgate Spit, which I can then adjust for a perspective with the older map images.
In case you're wondering, it was the Army Corps, not me, that is running with the whole Holgate Spit thing. Whatever.
Let's get started:
Below: Here's a 1874 image of south LBI. It should be noted that, by this time, maps were becoming quit accurate They were drafted using advanced surveying methods, often based on triangulation, i.e. you can bank on this map.. .
Technical point regarding this 1874 image ... via usace.army.mil
The Holgate spit is attached to the SW end of LBI, but in a position seaward of the present spit. ... Although only a single opening exists between the adjacent barrier islands of LBI and Little Beach Island, the chart names two “inlets” within the present extent of LEI. These features are named “Tuckers Cove Inlet” and “Little Egg Harbor Inlet” with the former trending to the E and closer to the Holgate spit, and the latter closer to Little Beach Island and trending SSE.
Of local interest -- "Although not legible at the presentation scale, the 1874 survey includes the notation 'Old Inlet,' shown at the green arrow east of the Holgate spit. It is inferred that at some point prior to 1874 an additional inlet (a breach of Holgate spit) was present that closed by 1874."
Below: One of the more attached-to-LBI periods of the Holgate spit is shown in this 1894 image. The Spit and Holgate proper are well melded, though Tucker's Island is all but part of LBI, even taking over the name of the nearby beachfront. I recall reading there was even a wooden walkway from Tucker's to LBI.
This 1894 map clearly shows that present-day LBI overrides a goodly portion of former Tucker's Island. The portion of Tucker's which held the famed lighthouse -- made more famous by photos of it falling into the inlet (below) -- is now located out to sea. That was proven by a recent study done by the Coyle family, who used a skilled surveyor to locate the site of the former lighthouse, based on known-accurate latitude and longitude coordinates.
Field trip: Stand on the shore of the last stretch of Holgate, look seaward. Out there a solid quarter mile -- if not further -- is where the lighthouse site is now submerged. Any solid remains are surely way down by now, as that area has accrued sand out the wazoo.
LAYERS ARISE: Back on the beach, the Forsythe Holgate Refuge and adjacent state-owned beachline overlies a large chunk of former Tucker's Island. And it might have shown during recent high erosion events. Large outcroppings of thick sedge-based materials have been exposed -- then covered again by returning sands. Those outcrops were most often located exactly where this old map shows Tucker's had once been. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on those outcrops being good old Tucker's Island sod rising from a Spit-ish grave. Should they show again, I'll be a lot more historically respectful.
Afterthought: Loose sod-like clumps that broke off those layers are still all over the place down there. I'm now compelled to grab some and essentially dissect them in search of any small/microscopic indications of human activity that might then be associated with Tuckers.
Thinking treasurely, who knows what sort of Tucker Island relics are ready to be exposed, lying just below the current Holgate sands? I'm keeping in mind that any obvious Tucker's artifacts should be loaned to the Maritime Museum or even the state. What's more, any artifact found on the Refuge's Clam Trail zone is the property of Forsythe, no questions asked.
Below: The leaning tower of ... oh, wait, that's more than just leaning, isn't it?
Below is a replica image of Tucker's Island. It shows there was more than just minor human activity thereabouts. It often entertained hotel loads of folks, as written history clearly indicates. In some ways, it was once the gateway to Beach Haven/LBI.
Thinking in relic terms, there's virtually no chance the trash from the many visitors and longtime residents on Tucker's was shipped to the mainland. Decades upon decades of buried throwaways, likely thousands of bottles, still lie within submerged middens, left behind in the island's passing. Midden is a nice way of saying buried trash dump. How deep down might those olden middens be? Since the state won't allow artifact dredging, we might never know, unless erosion suddenly unlooses the contents of one.
By the by, old bottles from that era, especially those made specifically for local merchants, are profoundly collectible. It's even conceivable there's a bottle out there with embossing reading "Tucker's Island, NJ," though after 50 years of bottle digging, I think I would have dug at least a piece or two of such.
And then there's a famed, heavily-embossed squat bottle produced by the Green Banks Glass Works and bearing "Tuckerton NJ." It was made for an in-town African-American barber and amateur druggist named "CP Moses" and sold primarily through advertising in Philadelphia newspapers. It contained a horse medicine, possibly needed to treat sick Tucker's Island horses. This might be the most valuable bottle in all of NJ. It has been dubbed a "five-figure" (value) bottle. Locally, it's the holy grail of bottle hunting.
By the by, bottles in the bay, especially when surrounded by rusty material, do not always get hazy and frosted. That common water-worn look almost always comes from a bottle being rolled along the bottom for who know how long. I've seen bottles loosed by dredging come up in very good condition.
INLET, THEN NOT SO MUCH: Here's a 1920 look at the gaping opening that was Beach Haven Inlet. I can't tell if that's shoaling toward the east end of the inlet or a larger vessel, since some larger boats used the quick cutover to Little Egg Harbor. On the other hand, the surfline -- which I'm using as a size perspective -- might have been monstrous this day.
Note again where the red modern LBI outline lies. The south end dynamics were apparently wild even without climate change as the the main blame, though many a dedicated global change-ists will assure the impacts of a climate swing were already in play back then.
Just as noteworthy is how far to the east the Holgate Spit still resided, though obviously on a slow migration westward.
It might also be surmised that LBI was hypothetically at its modern-time longest, despite officially being divorced from its true south end. It was merely a temporary parting of ways.
BELOW: This not-so-great map from 1940 is described as showing "The widening of the 1920 breach (Beach Haven Inlet) in both the NE and SW directions such that its width was about 8,000 feet."
I suppose I had read before that Beach Haven Inlet had gotten mighty wide in its glory days ... but 8,000 feet!
Since we now use 1,000-foot segments to mark distances on the Spit/Refuge, 8,000 feet would pretty much cover most of the far south end. This size might be discernable on the map.
It's hard to fathom standing in Holgate proper and barely being able to see the remains of the Spit in the distance. Out of historic precedent, all that remained of the Spit in 1940 was confusingly dubbed Tucker's Island, as is the current mis-dubbing of the 40-year-old sedge island just inside the south hook of Holgate.
Looking closely, this map indicates the original deep-water section of the inlet, a navigable waterway originally flush to the current parking area, was moving southward, which is what led to LBI slowly reclaiming its Spit, north to south.
The Beach Haven Inlet's migration would lead to its moving southward some 12,000 feet, to combine with Little Egg Inlet. That move happened in very short order since I came on scene in the late 1950s and it was all one big happily connected Spit and Island, though the portion of Little Egg Inlet closest to the tip of Holgate was still being called Beach Haven Inlet, to colloquially becoming the North Cut.
Above: This Corps 1956 aerial view is more confusing/starling to me than many of the much older maps. It clearly indicates the Holgate end was many thousands of feet shorter not all that long ago.
I know I often write of how much longer Holgate is now becoming, as replenishment sand migrates southward, but the apparent growth spurt from 1956 to 2017 is full freaky. It is likely behind the thinking of a researcher I interviewed who swore Little Egg Inlet is doomed to close by connecting with Little Beach. Of course, he was talking in perfect world terms, fully recognizing it would all be mute if sea rise steps in ... and over.
As of last week, I can anecdotally confirm that Little Beach sure looks a lot closer than even a couple decades back.
Again, I need a today shot of where Holgate is at to determine where it might be going, double time.
Photo: Amy Traverso
Cream of Tartar Biscuits
These cream of tartar biscuits have been one of NewEngland.com’s most popular recipes for years, and to be honest, we were a bit surprised by their popularity. This was, after all, just a biscuit recipe, right? Sure, the use of cream of tartar—an acidic, crystalline compound that’s a byproduct of wine making—was a novelty. Maybe that had a certain old-fashioned charm. But cream of tartar is commonly found in baking powder, where it’s combined with baking soda. So why not just use baking powder and skip the extra trip to the grocery store? Why did our readers like the recipe so much?
Then we made the biscuits, and realized that our readers were on to something! And by updating the recipe a bit— replacing hard-to-find lard with unsalted butter and incorporating a folding technique that produces loftier layers—we found we had a real winner on our hands. These cream of tartar biscuits are lighter, fluffier, and crisper at the edges, and a little bit of science explains why.
You see, many biscuit doughs are made with baking powder as the leavening agent. And baking powder is typically made of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part cream of tartar. In the presence of a liquid, the acidity of the cream of tartar activates the baking soda, causing it to start bubbling away, and that, in turn, is what makes the biscuits rise.
Now, if you look at the ratios in this recipe, you’ll see that we have 3 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda. So the extra acidity in the mix gives a real boost to the soda, as evidenced in the way the biscuits puff right up. The cream of tartar also adds a very subtle tang—similar to the tartness you get from using buttermilk. But since most of us don’t typically keep perishable buttermilk on hand, it’s actually easier to buy a jar of cream of tartar and make your biscuits this way, since it keeps indefinitely in your spice drawer.
So the next time you crave biscuits, give these cream of tartar biscuits a try. You’ll find that being able to control the amount of acidity and leavening in your biscuits really does produce a better product.
Yield: 8 to 10 biscuits
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 3/4 cup cold milk
- 2 tablespoons melted salted butter for brushing
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Set your oven rack to the middle position, but do not preheat it yet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and use your fingers to blend it them together (the best technique is to rub your thumb against the tips of your fingers, as if you're making the universal sign for "money.") Keep going until you have a shaggy mixture with pea-sized bits and little flakes of butter. Add the milk all at once and stir with a with fork until it's almost fully combined, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Using your hands (never a rolling pin), gently press the dough out into a rough 1-inch-thick rectangle, then fold in half lengthwise, turn it 90 degrees, and gently press it out again. Repeat this process five more times, lightly sprinkling the dough with more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. On the final turn, press the dough out to a 1-inch-thick rectangle and use a pastry cutter or ruler to make the edges as straight as possible. Use a sharp knife to cut the biscuits into 8 or 10 equal pieces, depending on what size you want your biscuits to be. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, placing them close together but not quite touching, so that they support each other as they rise. Brush the tops with the melted butter, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill while you heat your oven to 450º.
When the oven is hot, transfer the biscuits to the oven and cook until golden brown and puffed, 9 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature.