Trail Blazing . . October 28 2009

By Neal Hitch

For the last five days we have been cutting paths through the bush on Pine Cay. The first paths are cut with a machete as you try and work your way into the areas that have not been explored. You have to keep your eyes open for the small things. A brick, a small ceramic fragment, or occasionally a cut foundation stone, all are indicators that this area might have been a building within the fort. When small things are found, the area is investigated. If it is determined that the area is a possible building site, a larger trail is cut back to it so that it can be measured from another known location.

Many of the sites that have been located and documented were recorded by individuals in the 1990s. They were the real trail blazers, exploring and documenting foundations on Pine Cay in the 1990s. We have come to call them the Ft. Georgians. Their records allow us a baseline to assess both erosion and degradation of the site. Locating the known sites on Ft. George was the first priority. We are now beginning to explore for unknown sites.

Yesterday, I came across a tree that had been blown over during the September Hurricanes. There was a piece of copper stuck in the roots. As I worked to remove the copper object I found fragments of glazed storage containers. I brought the metal detector back to the site and located several iron artifacts like brackets and nails. I then came across a pewter button with a crown in the center. Ah, a button from the coat of a regular British infantry uniform. I think I have found a building site, one that has not been located before. I cut my way out in two different directions so that we can link back to where others were working.

Today, I returned to Grand Turk to produce some maps of the areas we have been documenting. I woke up this morning with a new surprise from my trail blazing efforts yesterday. My arms are covered with Poison Wood burns. Poison Wood is a tree that is like poison ivy on steroids. Its leaves are covered with a oil produces a chemical burn when you touch it. We have been warned to look out for it. I guess I was so focused on the small stuff I neglected to look out for the big stuff. It is miserable, I must say, and I am glad I am not in the bush today.