For nearly half a century, Roger Hitchens has immersed himself in underwater chores

Interview by Marie Cook Waehler  |  Photograph by Scott Nathan
From the July 2014 issue

PropDiver-byScottNathanSince the 1960s, Roger Hitchens has been a “prop diver” and underwater specialist, immersing himself in local waters for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s dive team and the private firm he founded in 1975. The longtime Ocean View resident — whose family moved there from Millsboro when he was just 6 months old — also had a 31-year career at DuPont, climbing the ladder from floor sweeper to supervisor of mechanical and chemical engineers, before retiring in 1991. Even when working full time, Hitchens still spent plenty of time in the water: He estimates averaging 200 to 300 dives a year in his heyday, most of them doing repair work for local boat owners. (The term “prop diver” refers to maintenance done on propellers, though tasks are far-ranging, from mending holes in hulls and repairing shafts to finding dentures and diamond rings that were accidentally dropped overboard.) As Hitchens approaches his 75th birthday, he sat down with Delaware Beach Life to talk about this difficult and sometimes dangerous pursuit.

As development marches on, conserved lands benefit plants, animals … and people

By Lynn R. Parks | Photograph by Kevin Fleming
From the July 2014 issue

ParadisePreserved-byKevinFlemingFor people interested in preserving the Earth’s forests, recent news has been pretty bleak. In the November 2013 issue of Science magazine, researchers cited satellite imagery and global data in reporting that the world lost 2.3 million square kilo­meters of forest from 2000 to 2012.

A United Nations report puts the decimation in more graspable terms: Nearly 13 million acres of forest is lost every year — the equivalent of a soccer field-sized woodlot every second.

Closer to home, the Delaware Department of Agriculture estimated in 2006 that 3,000 acres of forest were being ripped out every year to accommodate residential or commercial development. That number is down now, says spokesman Daniel Shortridge, because of the recent recession and slow recovery. But many of the anticipated developments that the estimate was based on are still pending, waiting for the right economic conditions to get underway.

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry’s birth 50 years ago ended a long and difficult labor

By Pam George
From the July 2014 Issue

CapeMay50thPasses for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry’s inaugural voyage on June 30, 1964, were prized possessions, many of them surely destined for scrapbooks. Indeed, “Souvenir Memento” was printed above the day’s departure and arrival times, and the numbered tickets had a drawing of a ferry cruising by a lighthouse in the left corner and a blue-tinged photograph of the real vessel on the right.

But on that momentous day, holders of those free passes had to navigate bumpy roads to reach the ferry. The planned access route, the Theodore C. Freeman Highway, had yet to be built, and there was no terminal. Officials gathered at 11 a.m. at the site of the future building for a dedication ceremony. It was quick. At 11:45 a.m., the first vessel left Lewes for Cape May, where officials repeated their addresses at 2 p.m.