My wife and I splurged for our 20th wedding anniversary and spent 2 days at Point Pleasant, South Carolina located across the Ravenel Bridge from Charleston. Our vacation gave me the opportunity to visit the Charleston Museum. This institution owns hundreds of locally found Pleistocene vertebrate fossils but much to my chagrin they only have 1 display case devoted to my obsession, and the museum curator wasn’t present, so I couldn’t ask him to bring out the rest as I had planned. I noticed 2 errors in the display case. A ground sloth toe claw was labeled as belonging to a Megatherium americana. The label wrongly stated that Megatherium lived in South Carolina. Megatherium was restricted to South America. The toe bone claw likely belonged to an Eremotherium laurillardi, a species common to the the coastal plain of southeastern North America until about 30,000 BP. There were 3 megalodon teeth in the case, but this giant great white shark became extinct before the Pleistocene. The display case also holds fossils of a mastodon lower jaw bone and teeth, a mammoth tooth and partial tusk, a bison horn, a llama bone, a giant beaver tooth, and a dire wolf lower jaw and teeth. All the below photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
The Charleston Museum has hundreds of locally found Pleistocene vertebrate fossils but only keep about 15 on display. I wish they would have had all of them on display but I guess Civil War stuff is more popular, and they choose to make space for that.
In contrast to the meager display of Pleistocene fossils, the avian collection is quite extensive and excellent. They also have mounted taxidermic specimens of North American mammals, including the largest polar bear on record, a subject I already discussed on a previous blog entry (See https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/bearzilla-the-biggest-bear-in-history/). The polar bear specimen has no connection to Charleston, other than the museum has possession of it.
Gavialosuchus carolinensis lived in southeastern North America during the Oligocene 33-25 million years ago. It was a large saltwater crocodile with a long snout and it may or may not be closely related to extant gavials native to modern day India. Their evolutionary relationship to living gavials is in scientific dispute.
Skeleton of an extinct moa from New Zealand. My wife was impressed with this bird. The collection of avian specimens at the Charleston Museum is excellent.
Dugong fossil from South Carolina’s late Oligocene or early Miocene.
This is the only place you can see these once common birds which are now extinct. The passenger pigeon looks like a big mourning dove and the ivory billed woodpecker resembles a pileated woodpecker but there is no extant species in North America like the Carolina parakeet.
Specimen of the extinct Bachman’s warbler and its nest. This is 1 of only 2 or 3 Bachman’s warbler nests left in the entire world.
Painted bunting and green jay. This display case explains that the museum stores thousands of specimens they don’t have space to display.
A 2500 year old mummy. It’s the real thing…not a replica.
A canjo. Some ingenius pioneer made a banjo from a tin can. I wonder what songs he could play with this improvised musical instrument.
A storm surge from Hurricane Hugo unearthed a Civil War army encampment near Charleston, and all of the excavated artifacts from this site are owned by the Charleston Museum. There is a whole wing devoted to the Civil War, and I was surprisingly fascinated with the displays of historical firearms. They have old fashioned muskets, pirate blunderbusses, and an 18th century fowling piece that looked like a long skinny=barreled shotgun. Many of the handguns were literally called dueling pistols. Only “gentlemen of breeding” engaged in duels, but to modern sensibilities, dueling seems like an immature and silly way to settle a dispute. Imagine Mr. Smith calls Mr. Jones a shmuck. Mr. Jones then challenges Mr. Smith to a duel for calling him a shmuck. Both duelists get their choice of 2 seconds (buddies) and a surgeon. I suppose if Mr. Jones wins the duel, it proved he was not a shmuck, but if he lost the duel, it proved he was a shmuck. And if they both shot each other (as occasionally happened), it proved they were both shmucks.
I’m not a gun nut but I was more interested in the firearms than I thought I would be. Here is a collection of dueling pistols. Gentleman of high breeding settled attacks on their honor with duels. They were allowed to simply horsewhip or beat up men of lower social status. Dueling sounds immature to me. The last duel in South Carolina occurred in 1880 long after it had been outlawed.
The middle rifle has 7 barrels of .50 caliber. It was used to shoot down sailing masts and would also take out many sailors. Must be fun to shoot.
A replica of the H.L. Hunley rests in front of the museum. The original was discovered long after this replica had been displayed. It differs from the real thing in a few details. The torpedo was rammed into the ship. The explosion sank the ship but the sub must have been too close because it sank too. Imagine the stupidity of the chumps who agreed to get inside this contraption.
Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina
We splurged on our 20th wedding anniversay and stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
Inside one of the wings of the 4 story hotel.
The hotel room was nice, but as soon as I tried to sleep, I noticed the vent in the room sounded like a retching robot. This odd noise was constant. I complained to the front desk, and they transferred us to a nicer quieter room with a view of the harbor instead of a dumpster. I usually can endure a great deal of distress, but I wasn’t going to pay an outrageous price for a room where I wasn’t going to get a good night’s sleep.
Driving in Charleston is difficult. After we went to the museum we planned to eat lunch at the Hominy Grill, but I was unable to find an available parking space. Every other street is one way and the traffic lights are posted on the side instead of over the middle of the road, making them difficult to see. I had to watch for cars, frequent bicyclists, pedestrians, and horse and buggies; while navigating this maze of one way streets and oddly placed traffic lights. Moreover, distracting eye candy was everywhere–Charleston has more beautiful women per capita than any other city I’ve ever visited, and the pervert in me had to make sure I checked out all the visible jiggle in my vicinity but without wrecking into the bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, and horses.
The Yorktown, a famous WWII aircraft carrier, is mothballed and anchored near the hotel. It saw action in the Battle of Midway.
The Fish House Restaurant is a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Food is good but priced at least double what it should. I was too tired of driving to look for a reasonably priced restaurant the night of our arrival.
Yachts? Big deal. I was more excited about seeing the bufflehead ducks in the harbor.
View of the harbor from the balcony of our room.
The Ravenel Bridge connects Patriots Point with North Charleston. What an amazing feat of engineering.
There’s a nice long fishing pier adjacent to the Ravenel Bridge.
The pier is made of tabby–a conglomeration of sea shells and cement.
The people in South Carolina are friendly, but the state infrastructure is the pits. The roads are terrible and the signs are confusing or absent in some cases. If it was within my power, I’d fire a few traffic engineers and raise state taxes so they can fix their sorry roads. By the time we arrived in Charleston it was late, and I was too tired to look for a place to eat besides the hotel restaurant known as The Fish House. The food was good but wildly overpriced. I paid $21.95 for a plate of fried oysters, mashed potatoes, and collard greens. Salad doesn’t come with the meal, but they do serve soft pretzels with homemade mustard. My wife had crab chops topped with a tasty corn relish. The following day, after we failed to find parking for the Hominy Grill, we ate lunch at a place called Toast. It’s an overpriced sandwich shop, and the dumb waitress tried to convinced my wife that the Cajun mayo with their shrimp wrap was not spicy. My wife doesn’t like spicy food, and of couse the Cajun mayo was spicy. I ended up eating half her sandwich to go along with my oyster po boy. That night, for supper, we found a family style restaurant on Point Pleasant called the Okra Grill that served…okra. I wanted locally caught fish, but I wanted it prepared in a different way than fried because at my age I’ve gotten tired of fried food. Locally caught fish, prepared a different way than fried, was not on the menu. Nevertheless, the food was well prepared, and the prices were reasonable. In fact it was cheaper than our lunch time sandwich shop bill. I had fried flounder, butter beans, okra and tomatoes, and hushpuppies. It was typical southern food, but done well. My wife and I split a banana pudding for dessert.