It’s the Year of the Oyster! The Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation, the Daufuskie Island Conservancy and the Daufuskie Island Elementary School in cooperation with the Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head, the Haig Point Naturalist Program and the Daufuskie Island Rum Company will present an island-wide, year-long series of educational programs, field trips and social events celebrating the environmental, economic and cultural importance of the oyster – past, present and future.
Surrounded by oyster reefs and spartina grass the world is our oyster on Daufuskie Island. Healthy reefs keep erosion at bay, improve water quality as oysters filter up to 50 gallons of phytoplankton and sediment-filled water per oyster per day all the while creating essential habitat for a wide variety of marine species and birds.
When free-floating oyster larvae settle on a hard surface, an anchoring foot forms and the oyster grows in place until its life cycle is interrupted – often by humans or other predators (American Oyster Catcher, crabs, carnivorous snails, sea stars, fish and sting rays). And despite their tough exterior, oysters are sensitive to salinity, water temperature, pollution and wave action.
Members of the Bryan, Grant, Hamilton, Hudson, Jenkins, Robinson, Simmons, Washington and Wiley families were oyster workers on Daufuskie employed by the Graves’, Cetchovich’s and Maggioni’s. Daufuski Oysters whose tins adorn the shelves of many island homes were a mainstay of the island’s economy through the 1950’s when water pollution tainted the oyster beds and changed the lives of generations of island residents.
Oysters have had ceremonial and cultural uses (shell rings and shell middens) and were used as tools and for trade. Tabby, a mixture of water, crushed oyster shell, sand and lime from burnt oyster shell created the structure for retaining walls, fortifications and homes including the slave dwellings along Daufuskie’s shores.
Oysters have inspired local artists including Sharon Havird, Monica Ferguson and Paula Nickels. Crushed oyster shell is used in landscaping, as a soil amendment and as a supply of calcium for laying hens. For centuries oysters have been the subject of poetic, scientific and food writing. Oyster farms are popping up all over the world supplying oyster bars and oyster roasts. As a sustainable food source, oysters are a centerpiece of Lowcountry cuisine and part of our identity.
Please join us as we honor the oyster in 2016! Check the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation and the Daufuskie Island Conservancy websites for a complete list of events and look for YOTO-ware and accessories by John Hill.
“Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods. They stay in bed all day and night. They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers and wait for their meals to come to them.”
~Hector Bolitho “The Glorious Oyster”
THE CLOISTERED OYSTER by Jenny Hersch
The cloistered oyster hid in pluff mud
The flustered oyster got soaked in a flood
The oyster connoisseur had excellent taste
The oyster impostor flew off into space
The rejoicing oyster was filled with delight
The amateur oyster’s future looked bright
The oyster entrepreneur’s start-up went public
The oyster restaurateur had a pain in his stomach
The loyal oyster’s valve was divided
The boisterous oyster’s exuberance misguided
The oyster raconteur spun yarns with her foot
The oyster saboteur’s big plans went kaput