For some Skidaway Islanders, the history of our island goes back only to the early 1970s, when the first modern bridge was built across Skidaway Narrows and development began in The Landings. Yet Skidaway Island has been home for human residents since pre-colonial times. In the middle decades of the 20th century, visitors from all over the world were attracted to the annual cattle auctions at the Roebling family’s Modena Plantation at the north end of the island.
Landings resident and University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Bill Savidge will examine the island’s history and lead a walking tour of the Roebling’s cattle plantation (now Skidaway Institute) in a reprisal of his popular program on Saturday, October 25, at 1:00 p.m. in the Marine and Coastal Science Research and Instructional Center the Skidaway Institute campus. The program, entitled “Bridges and Bulls: A History of Skidaway Island,” is part of the annual Skidaway Marine Science Day open house event.
“There is really a fascinating story here that pre-dates the island’s modern development,” Savidge said. “It includes the Guale Indians and the Franciscan monks, after whom Priest’s Landing is named.”
For example, few island residents may be aware of the direct tie between Skidaway Island and the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
The first Roebling to emigrate to the United States was John Augustus Roebling in the 1830s. An engineer, Roebling was one of the original developers of “wire rope” or twisted wire cable that made possible the construction of large suspension bridges. Roebling designed and began construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1870s and 80s. The manufacture of twisted wire cable became the source of the family fortune.
“Three generations later, Roebling’s great-grandson, Robert Roebling, purchased the northern part of Skidaway Island,” Savidge said. “He moved here with his wife, Dorothy, and their children and set up Modena Plantation as a breeding facility for angus cattle. In 1967 he donated his land to the state to become the home of Skidaway Institute.”
Savidge’s talk and tour is one of a wide range of activities that will be presented at Skidaway Marine Science Day, a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.
Along with UGA Skidaway Institute, the event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels; science displays and talks on current research programs; and hands-on science activities.
The UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. One highlight will be the public debut of “Rider,” a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle who will go on public display for the first time. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including a reptile experience, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.
The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will be given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.
The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will bring in remotely-operated-vehicles (ROVs) that are used in underwater exploration. Visitors will have the opportunity to operate some simple, hand-made ROVs in a swimming pool and pick up objects from the bottom. Gray’s Reed has also invited participating teams from the annual student ROV competition. The high school and middle school teams will demonstrate the ROVs they designed and operated in this year’s contest.
Also on display will be exhibits from environmental and education groups, such as The Dolphin Project, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.
For the second year in a row, Skidaway Marine Science Day will be targeted as a “landfill free” event. Last year the event attracted nearly 2,000 visitors, but generated only nine pounds of unrecyclable trash. The event organizers will use recycling and composting bins to collect and recycle materials in an attempt to reduce the stream of trash ultimately headed to a landfill.
All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day are free. For additional information, call 912-598-2325, or go to http://www.skio.uga.edu.