On a summer day, Nantucket Harbor is filled with boats and their lively passengers. (Photo: Savannah Christiansen)
On a busy Nantucket Island wharf, Living on Earth’s Noble Ingram came across fishermen, music and historically-costumed tour guide Orion Couling.
CURWOOD: This summer, the Living on Earth team spent a week at the University of Massachusetts Boston Research Station on Nantucket Island to report on erosion and aquatic biodiversity. And while we were there, producer Noble Ingram headed to a busy wharf to record the sounds of the harbor for an audio postcard, as a folk band entertained visitors, fishmongers hacked up their catch, and a tour guide looked for customers.
[FERRY HORN, CHOPPING SOUNDS]
FISHMONGER: This is a black sea bass…
Cut it by its head and then go down the spine… and then…
Down the bottom and just kind of peel the fillet off.
COULING: You have 45,000 ships coming and going and 1,000 shipwrecks around Nantucket. And then you have over 800 pre-civil war buildings on the harbor. I’d say its haunted.
[FOLK BAND SINGING]
My name is Orion Couling. I’m a docent and a storyteller. This is a brand-new thing we are doing in Nantucket. This is the first time Egan Maritime Institute has been offering guided tours and to help it create a presence we decided we’d costume it. So, I was like, “I will totally wear costumes and tell history of Nantucket.” So earlier today I was down here in my privateer costume, which is like three layers of wool but its all part of my weight-loss training program for the summer, right? It’s not stop maritime fun for me.
Right now I’m wearing this summer keeper uniform. The keepers were the captains of the station and their job was to hand-select a crew and put them through incredibly rigorous training to become decent lifesavers. So the uniform I’m wearing, I’m wearing my white britches. I’ve got my spats and boots on. I’m wearing a blue vest, and my keeper hat, which looks a little bit like a train conductor hat. These are things we forget in America. The train uniform actually directly comes from maritime uniform. Our police uniforms come from maritime uniforms. Weird things like the billy club, the police still use to this day, goes back to a belaying pin on a ship, where you make a line off to. That’s what the billy club was. Any other questions?
CHRISTIANSEN: What is this?
COULING: This is an Appalachian mountain dulcimer. Do you guys want to hear something?
[VOICES IN THE BACKGROUND RESPOND.]
Yeah, sweet. This is what’s called a fast-hall shanty. Shanties are meant to time-out efforts on boats, right? So, everyone is working together. This is meant for heaving lines and putting up the mainsail, so it has a heartbeat to it. It goes,
[SINGING] “In south Australia I was born, heave away, haul away, South Austaria round Cape Horn. We’re bound for south Australia. Haul away, you roving kings! Heave away! Haul away! All the way you hear me sing. We’re bound for south Australia.
I walked out one morning fair. Heave away! Haul away!...”
CURWOOD: Orion Couling is a docent, storyteller, and singer for the Egan Maritime Institute. That audio postcard of Nantucket wharf was produced by Living on Earth's Noble Ingram.
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