Cumberland is one in a string of narrow, sandy barrier islands just off the southeast coast of Georgia. Formed by the rise and fall of sea level during the last ice ages, barrier islands are fragile and ever-changing. They move in response to tides, currents, and storms. Barrier islands create rich habitats that are nurseries for many species. Marshes form between the mainland and barrier islands. These broad expanses of cordgrass and other salt-tolerant plants protect and nurture birds, fish, crustaceans, and turtles.
The sea advances and retreats twice daily, carving tide pools and patterns in the sand at the water's edge and undercutting, adding to, or moving dunes. Windblown sand buries shrubs and trees in the inter-dune area between beach and forest. Sea oats, a protected species, often grow on and stabilize dunes, but their root systems are easily damaged when trampled by people and animals. the beach hosts pelicans, sandpipers, gulls and osprey feeding along the water's edge and diving for fish in the ocean.
Live oaks form a dense canopy that shelters palmettos and delicate ferns cradled in branches. Spanish moss sways in the breeze. Painted buntings, summer tanagers, cardinals, and pileated woodpeckers add color to the forest's palette. You may also see white-tailed deer, turkey, armadillo, and occasionally a bobcat. Farther inland, on warm spring nights, rain-fed freshwater ponds host the booming courtship of bull alligators.
At low tide the saltwater marshes between Cumberland Island and St. Marys on the mainland resemble broad, tallgrass plains. Birds wade in grasses or feed at creek banks. Fiddler crabs scurry across the mud flats and eat decaying vegetation. Raccoons hunt for crabs and shellfish. At high tide, grasses sway with the current and disappear into it.
|A Timucuan Village|
In June of 1564, French explorer Rene de Laundonniere was greeted by an impressive figure when he landed his ships near the Somme River. The man had olive skin covered with red, blue and black tattoos. His face was painted and he wore jewelry made of copper, shell, feathers, and fish teeth. Two years earlier Laundonniere accompanied Jean Ribault, another French explorer, when an alliance was struck with this same powerful chief. On this occasion the chief presented his bow and arrow to Laundonniere signifying their continued pact.
|Yamacraw Indian Chief Tomochichi and|
In 1739 war was declared between England and Spain, and in 1742 Spain attacked the fortifications on Cumberland Island. The Spanish knew they had to befriend and control the Indians, so they established a system of missions along the east coast. The Indians that converted would gain religious instruction, education and protection of the Spanish military garrisons, and greater access to European trade goods.
Live Oak trees were used to build ships, as depicted above, such as the USS Constitution. Today the Live Oak is valued for its beauty.
|Sea Island Cotton|
|Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin|
|Thomas Carnegie III plays croquet|