Something in the Air?
By Roger Hillis
From the Holiday 2014 issue
When Matt Zelewsky booked a room at Hotel Blue in Lewes to ring in the new year with his wife, they were told their balcony might offer a view of fireworks after the stroke of midnight. At about 12:15 a.m. this past Jan. 1, Zelewsky stepped outside and had a close encounter of the unusual kind.
“There were nine lights flying north of the canal, and they were going east to west,” he says. “They were flying at different speeds and I could tell they weren’t Chinese lanterns or anything like that. It was kind of surreal.”
Though late-night comedians might joke about yokels sighting UFOs in the heartland, a slew of reports from coastal Delaware and surrounding areas offer a different view.
Serving at Cape Henlopen
Sailors had rough conditions, but pleasant reception, during World War 1
By William H.J. Manthorpe Jr.
Editor’s note: Most locals know that the U.S. military was active on Cape Henlopen during World War II, but few may know that its presence there started to grow during World War I. This edited excerpt from “A Century of Service, The U.S. Navy on Cape Henlopen,” by William H.J. Manthorpe Jr., tells about conditions at the military facility called “Naval Section Base, Lewes” in 1918.
Since 1873, the military had land on Cape Henlopen for the purpose of constructing defenses. In 1889, some of that land was used to construct the Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Station and Hospital.
[In 1917, Naval Section Base, Lewes] took over the barracks and other facilities of the former Quarantine Hospital. Those facilities were old and had been unused for several years, and they had not been luxurious to begin with.
A rare influx of Arctic owls last winter was an education bonanza
Last winter, we on the Delaware coast were treated to an unusual sight: a historic invasion of snowy owls from the Arctic. According to Bill Stewart, director of Conservation and Community for the American Birding Association, the influx began north of us the week before Thanksgiving, when 380 owls were suddenly spotted on Cape Cod. It simply grew from there, spreading down the East Coast with outliers as far south as Florida and as far east as Bermuda.
Snowy owls are the largest owls in North America. The males, with the exception of some spots or bars of bluish gray, are almost pure white. The females are considerably larger and are usually more heavily barred. These are birds of the treeless tundra, so perhaps it was not surprising that they gravitated toward Delmarva’s farm fields and sand dunes. They also liked airports. In fact, Stewart has a video of an airport shot from above that, from an owl’s point of view, bears a surprising resemblance to a tundra laced by rivers.