Distance to a Road: 6.7 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: Yes
Public Land: Yes, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Travel Method: Motorboat
Travel Time/Distance One-Way: 1 hour, 9.5 miles
Something We Learned: Some Remote Spots are located on dynamic landscapes that change quicker than the available GIS data can incorporate. Barrier islands are one such example.
We are working to precisely calculate and travel to the remotest locations in each of the 50 United States. We call this unique endeavor–Project Remote. Below is a written account of our 1-day boating expedition to document the South Carolina Remote Spot. This is our third state Remote Spot documented as part of Project Remote.
We hire a local captain to take us by motorboat out to the distant barrier island that contains the Remote Spot, and get us back, hopefully by noon. Rain and wind are forecast to begin around noon. We motor due east into a huge expanse of salt marsh and bay all federally owned by the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Like most Refuges, this one protects and manages critical habitat for birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and other resident bird species. There also is a Wilderness Area protected within its boundaries.
As we get near the Remote Spot, two prominent human structures stand out–the Cape Romain Lighthouses. While calculating the the South Carolina Remote Spot, we debated whether such prominent human structures should affect the calculation. Based on the lack of roads and the site’s long-since abandonment, we decided that the lighthouses should not skew the SC Remote Spot. We stuck with our quantitative definition of remoteness.
Their presence near the Remote Spot is a substantial reminder that human influence, either past or present, is pervasive in the landscape.
The smaller, red lighthouse is a conical brick structure that stands 65 feet tall and no longer has its lantern at top. The larger lighthouse is octagonal, stands 150 feet tall, and retains its lantern atop. The upper two thirds is longitudinally white and black striped. The taller tower leans slightly.
Past the lighthouses, we reach the protected side of the barrier island containing the Remote Spot. Captain George Gallager safely brings us to shore. Upon reaching the shore and concluding that our calculated Remote Spot will be situated on dry, vegetated land, we let out a collective sigh of relief.
Before the trip, after we had entered the Remote Spot coordinates into the GPS, the waypoint was situated over water when viewed on our uploaded topographic map series. We attempted to confirm whether land actually existed at our calculated Remote Spot with satellite imagery, but available satellite images were multiple years old, and the most recent one was not all that recent. We had no way of confirming whether land actually existed at the Remote Spot. Barrier islands are dynamic landscapes that migrate and erode because of the energetic forces of wind and water. They apparently migrate faster than maps can keep up.
The protected side of the island is a pristine, low-energy coastline with a mixture of beach and salt marsh. The Remote Spot is upslope, just feet away now…
The remotest location in the entire state of South Carolina currently resides near the tip of the barrier island. It is a coastal sand dune ecosystem with a diversity of salt-adapted vegetation, including abundant sea oats (Uniola paniculata) grass.
A bank of tightly packed vegetation debris provides evidence of water transport over what normally is high ground. Hurricane Irene (2011) probably is to blame.
Closer inspection of the debris bank shows that someone lost a flip flop. We have yet to experience a coastal Remote Spot in the East devoid of human trash either directly on or very near the R-spot.
Some trash items are just eye-sores and probably do no real harm to ecosystems. Like flip flops, for instance. But some trash is harmful ecologically and aesthetically–like gallon oil containers with the cap screwed on. They slowly deliver toxic chemicals into the environment for years. We have to do better than this, from both a regulatory and educational standpoint. Marine dumping and ocean-transported human garbage has become a worldwide problem.
One of the succulent, salt-adapted, near-shore plants commonly observed at the Remote Spot. ID pending.
Another near-shore succulent plant. This one has spiny stems and leaves. ID also pending.
An inlet to the south opens into the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny dark spot on the left side of the photo at the horizon is a Refuge sign. The diversity of plants is noted.
Ryan confirms cell phone coverage at the South Carolina Remote Spot. Dad is happy to hear from us. There must be places within SC that don’t receive cell coverage…but the South Carolina Remote Spot isn’t one of them.
At every Remote Spot we conduct our 15 minute Remote Spot Assessment (RSA). During this period, we record quantitative data on direct or indirect human presence/absence. We observe sights, sounds, and smells of anything of human origin, then we identify it, estimate distance, and record the compass bearing of the datum. This information helps us measure remoteness. Additional to the RSA, we also make ecological and wildlife observations. Last, and not least, we make high resolution, panoramic photo and video of the Remote Spot. Through Project Remote, we are measuring remoteness as it currently exists in the United States. This work provides a baseline of information on remoteness (i.e. roadlessness) that is useful to current and future roadless area conservation efforts.
Skyla wanders off toward the water while we conduct the Remote Spot Assesment. She is learning exceptionally well about the wide world around her. Her ability to be self-sufficient has grown lately. We’re thinking that Project Remote is stimulating her well.
After all the scientific work is done, we corral Skyla back to the Spot for our traditional photo of the Remotest Family–this time, the Remotest Family in South Carolina.
A short jaunt up the beach while the captain returns provides another reminder of humanity in South Carolina remoteness. We wonder what would compel a person to drop a beer can in the middle of a pristine wild area.
The remotest sanderling in South Carolina. This one is in its winter plumage.
A flock of eastern brown pelicans glides along with us for a while during the return boating trip. The Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge protects the largest nesting rookery for brown pelicans on the entire South Carolina coast. It is sometimes hard to believe that they were once federally listed on the brink of extinction due to pesticide pollution. Their comeback is one of the great, awe-inspiring success stories in American conservation, thanks to the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, just one year after their complete delisting, the largest nesting rookery along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana took an oil bath courtesy of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. Only time will tell how the population fares. Conservation is an ongoing battle. We must never cease efforts to protect our natural heritage.
We return to port at approximately noon. Our entire trip, including documentation time lasts about 3 hours. Travel distance by water one-way to the Remote Spot from McClellanville is 9.5 miles for a total out and back distance of 19 miles.
Project Remote Fundraiser: After reading this website, you might be surprised at just how hard it is to get away from a road or a town nowadays–and instantly understand that we must now as a nation speak out to protect remaining public roadless areas from further roads development. Project Remote is now over half-way done! Our goal is to raise enough funding simply to offset the cost of traveling frugally state by state, completing the documentary field work, and maintaining this website. If you like what we do, please make a donation to support Project Remote today. Thank you so very much for helping us to preserve what’s between the roads in America…
—The Remote Spotters