Welcome to the Golden Isles. Well, the "Low Country" kinda ended back in Savannah - at least everyone quit calling it the "Low Country." There are four large barrier islands in between that don't have a name - but here people start calling it the Golden Isles - so I guess we conform.
A couple of wild-life management people have told me the name Golden Isles comes from this new specie of tidal marsh grass that grows here. At sunrise and at sunset the fronds on it glow a golden color. Others say it is because Blackbeard and other pirates are suspected to have buried their treasure here. What ever it is, the marshes do glow gold, and it is hard to photograph. The glare wants to blow the photos out - this is about as good as we are going to get.
This is our last day in Darien GA - along the banks of the Altamaha River. This is a working town - the only hint of pleasure boating I have seen is this rack of kayaks sitting on a hill above one of the fishery docks.
In the background you can see the stacks of blue and grey bins.
This is the home of Golden Island Int - a different kind of fishing operation.
It was started 17 years ago by Terry Chuang. Terry's family in primarily from China, and he became aware of a specie here that is a delicacy in China, but is ignored here.
Those of you who live in the Carolinas, Georgia or Florida will recognize this right away.
This is the specie Stomolophus Meleagris, commonly called the cannon-ball jellyfish or jelly balls. They have no poisonous tentacles, and they wash up on the beaches by the millions this time of year.
These are dried, then sliced thinly to be used as a garnish on salads and other dishes. They have no inherent taste, but they take on other flavors well. Prepared properly, they have a slightly crunchy texture - kind of like a sort of noodle. They have caught on a bit in North America, but the primary markets are Asian.
Shrimp boats can be adapted to harvest them. The primary differences between these and shrimp is that these are much larger and they live on the surface of the water rather than the ocean floor.
So the nets are replaced with a much larger mesh, and the nets are set up to skim the surface by using small buoys - rather than drag the bottom using weights.
April Harper was a big help showing me around the operation.
It is a busy place with over fifty employees, and you can typically find April with her hands full handling details of export and day to day operations. She balances raising a few children in the mix as well.
A shrimp boat - on a good day can bring in 100,000 pounds of these jelly fish. When the boat arrives at the dock, there is a huge vacuum that sucks them out of the boats hold and up onto a conveyor.
They are then loaded into large plastic bins,, which fork trucks take to an are where the umbrella - or hood of the jellyfish is separated from the stem.
They are then run through a large washing machine, and put back into the vats.
They are then mixed with a combination of salt and alum to begin the curing process.
Those vats are then placed in the huge stacks to cure for a couple of weeks. During this process, the jellyfish lose 80% of their weight in the form of water that drains out of them.
Now, this place packs and ships around five million pounds of these a year. Since they lose 80% of their weight, that means they have to bring in about 25 million pounds of these. That's a lot of jellyfish.
After having cured, they are packed in color coded buckets - blue lids for umbrellas and green lids for stems.
They are put on pallets and packed into semis for shipping. A few go to New York and Canada, but the bulk goes to the Asian market.
And at the end of the day, they scrub the place down, and start all over again the next morning.
Terry was a pioneer in this industry - Florida just started it a few years ago when these jellyfish started clogging the intakes to the nuclear power plants. South Carolina has yet to get into the game, but it is an industry that is here to stay.
Just up the road is an old mansion that locals are just recently trying to restore. It has quite a history - perhaps when we come back through it will be open as a museum.
In the middle of Darien is a grass circle with large trees and a fountain that they call their "square." Alongside it are two historic churches. The first is Methodist - founded in 1836. When the Union came through here during the civil war, they tried twice to torch this church - but it wouldn't burn. So it became a rallying point of sorts for the people of the area when it came time to rebuild their town.
This next one is episcopal - and the Union soldiers were successful in burning it. It was rebuilt in 1879.
I can't figure out this next shot. It is wood - fully encasing a metal pole in a cemetery. The pole is not bent - it looks though as someone cut away a tree. You would think the tree would have bent the pole - it is rather a mystery, and I couldn't find anyone to ask about it.
And this old hoist truck - they still use it on the shrimp docks.
The seat is entirely gone, no hood - but still running. I asked what year it was, and no one seemed to know. They just knew it was "old."
And today's parting shot - a small place along the river just outside of town.
I didn't stop to check it out, but located right on the water with a name like Mudcat Charlie's it has to be good.
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