The Gulf Stream flows north from the Caribbean; the Labrador Current descends from the north, and when those two powerful forces of nature collide, one hell of a storm results. Accordingly, North Carolina's 320-mile coast, is labeled the "graveyard of the Atlantic" as it curves south from Virginia, featuring three capes - Hatteras, Lookout and Fear. Another factor affecting Wilmington is that strange
tide changes makes local shipping lanes hazardous, providing a narrow margin of entry up river. However, to the delight of the South, this dangerous phenomenon actually served to keep the
Union navy off of the river for four years during the Civil War.
Wilmington sits 30 miles up the Cape Fear River, a short drive from Mrytle Beach, a
favourite destination for retired Canadian snowbirds. Bob Jenkins, a knowledgeable retiree, guides our tour. We start at the foot of Market Street, city centre, on the site of the old ferry
landing with the battleship North Carolina, an imposing backdrop, her 16 inch guns looming in the air. Jenkins notes the myriad architectural
details including Belgium paving blocks used as ship ballast while we slowly wind our way to Bellamy Mansion, an example of beautiful antebellum architecture and the city residence of planter, Dr. John D. Bellamy. Built in 1859, its twenty-two rooms are girded with magnificent Corinthian columns.
According to Jenkins, the term, "Yankee," has nothing to do with Miss Scarlett and the Civil War. It's an Anglo Saxon bloodline running from the east coast of England to the Scottish border whose inhabitants immigrated for religious freedom. Yankee is Dutch. New York was called New Amsterdam, bought from a tribe speaking Algonquin, and the Dutch word for English talker is Yankee.
"Yankees are groups of people looking for God and speaking English," says Jenkins.
"Southerners" are families from the southeast and upper west coast of England. "They ain't looking for God. They got a divinely appointed King. They're looking to extend their family wealth."
Wilmington is adorned with historic plaques. Woodrow Wilson was raised here, his father a Presbyterian minister. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science
Church, was a native as was Anna McNeill Whistler, better known as "Whistler's Mother."
The city is strategically positioned along the only river that flows directly into the Atlantic. Others empty behind barrier islands that are called the Outer Banks.
Wilmington's 39-foot deepwater port facilitates commerce with the water moving in two directions when the tide changes every six hours.
Florentine explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano arrived here in 1524, and Stede Bonnet, gentleman pirate, frequented the convenient inlets, bays and backwaters. The river served as a highway to the world, bearing tar and turpentine, rice and cotton and offering a convenient route to upstate North Carolina for the flat-bottom riverboats loaded with tobacco, livestock, pine planks and people.
"Carolina gold" or rice was cultivated and sold globally, commanding four times the price of other strains. Profitable speculation occurred when yellow pine, a hardwood valued by England for ship building, was discovered inland. The resin was employed as a medicine. Our resourceful
leader provided samples from his backpack.
Jenkins characterizes the native sons as "unpretentious" and local business people do not seem to mind our disruption when he deliberately navigates us through several impressive business offices to illustrate their unique architectural preservation that accurately reflects the past yet melds nicely with the present.
For shell collectors and sun-worshippers, there are thirty-one miles of wide, sandy beaches accessible nearby - Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville. The Cotton Exchange, Old City Market and Chandler's Wharf on the waterfront are the focus of April's well-attended Azalea Festival, one of 65 annual events that celebrate the region's rich history, culture and arts.
With an aquarium, Fort Fisher, a Civil War battlefield, a state park laced with wild Venus
Flytrap, museums, galleries, "Hollywood East" movie studios, (Forest Gump and Prince of Tides
were filmed in the area) golf, kayaking, pier fishing and performing arts that include a complete range of productions from the contemporary to Shakespeare, we could easily stay much longer.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/