An Exploration of Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island Museum

The Cumberland Island Museum overflows with preserved specimens, pickled sea turtles, a baby sperm whale, a box labeled "cheloid gut remains," stacks of sea turtle shells, piles of bones, shelves cluttered with jars, drawers filled with birds, moles, and mice. "It's a working collection," said Dr. Shoop. "We host researchers on a regular basis."

Whenever a creature dies, the rangers call. The Shoops respond. They've picked up thousands of sea turtles, hundreds of dolphins, whales and alligators, horses and pigs-looking for correlations, tracing bloodlines, deciphering reasons for mortality.

Immersed in their work, the Shoops have no phone, no Internet access. They use horses as their primary means of transportation, or an Amish buggy; they tend a large garden, use a cold outdoor shower and organic toilet — a life right out of the pages of Mother Earth News. "And when we die," Dr. Shoop says, gesturing to the clutter of wood buildings making up their compound, the spring-fed pond, the horse pastures, "this all reverts to the park. Gets knocked down and plowed under."

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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