Mallows Bay on the new National Marine Sanctuary stamp

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When Pierre Turcik first spotted Mallows Bay, his immediate thought was not the history of Charles County Bay or its haunting beauty, a curious blend of nature and industry. It was fish.

“I thought it would be a great place to go fishing,” he told me.

And so it has been, as it has with largemouth bass, snakeheads, catfish, and the occasional striped bass. But perhaps Turcik’s biggest take at Mallows Bay is the photo he took there in 2016. Last week it was released on a postage stamp, one of 16 Forever stamps honoring the National Marine Sanctuary System.

Photos on other stamps show things like coral reefs, rocky shores, fish, otters and seabirds. Turcik’s photo is different because Mallows Bay is different. On his, the skeletal ribs of an abandoned ship stick out of the water. Humans have left their mark on Mallows Bay.

The bay — on the Maryland side of the Potomac, across from Quantico Marine Base — is known for the “ghost fleet” resting there, more than 100 ships breaking up in the shallows.

“Most of the ships we know of are freighters built in World War I to send supplies overseas, but the war ended before they could get to Europe,” Turcik said (pronounced ter-sick). “They salvaged everything they could from the ships, then burned them and scuttled them in the bay.”

Ships have become artificial reefs.

“They provide fish with cover so they can be out of the mainstream, hide from predators, ambush prey, and build nests for spawning,” Turcik said.

Other animals also inhabit the bay: great heron, turtles, osprey…

“You almost always see bald eagles there,” Turcik said.

Turcik first heard of the bay while working for the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization in Annapolis that helped designate the place a national marine sanctuary, which he got in 2019. He visited it with Donald Shomettewho wrote a history of the bay.

It was while visiting the bay to take photos for an illustrated paddler’s guide to its attractions that Turcik captured this photo of a lone ship against a rosy sky.

“The main way to approach photography in Mallows Bay is to plan for the tides,” Turcik said. “You have to find the days when the low tide and the soft light of sunrise or sunset meet. There’s a bit of a limited window there.

He took his stamp photo near sunset, around 8 p.m.

“I looked towards the main channel of the river and saw him standing very proud out of the water,” he said.

Turcik likes low-angle shots with wide-angle lenses.

“For this one, I was at water level, lying flat in my kayak, drifting,” he said.

In 2020, a Postal Service representative approached Turcik about the photo, which was posted on social media. Turcik declined to say how much he earned for allowing his photo to adorn a stamp, but said it was the most he had ever been paid for one of his photos.

And now he’s patiently waiting to see the stamp in the wild, so to speak. He thinks it will be a pleasure to receive a letter with a Mallows Bay stamp on it. He pre-ordered five sets of sea shrines for his own use.

Turcik, 35, grew up in western Pennsylvania. He now works for the magazine of the American Fisheries Society. He likes to go fishing two or three times a week, although Mallows Bay is a bit far from Edgewater, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Kelly.

Mallows Bay, Turcik said, is a place “that has been very impacted by human activity. I think the fact that these wrecks were great habitat for wildlife is a testament to nature’s resilience. And that gives me hope. »

Another of his hopes: that people who send or receive the stamps will be inspired to learn more about the 15 marine sanctuaries in the country, which range from the Florida Keys to the Olympic Coast in Washington State. And that they will want to visit them, protect them and maybe take their own photos.

About William Moorhead

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