Smith Island’s Odd, Earned Confidence

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Tyler G. Tyler, right, pulls crab pots at the start of blue crab season. ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEO: ROB KUNZIG

Not worried about the future that climate change has in store for us? Does not sound too cool, or smart. But then, hmmm. Maybe these folks are on to something. Thanks to Atlas Obscura:

Maryland’s Smith Island, Home to a Vanishing Dialect and Rising Sea Levels

Despite climate scientists’ predictions, the laid-back inhabitants aren’t too concerned.


Tyler Tyler misses a crab pot, which is understandable. The seas are already rough this morning, and the sky-blue float marking his pot vaults up and down with the swells. With one hand on the throttle and the other on a gaffing pole, he guns the diesel on his crabbing boat, the Ruth, and whips it around for another pass. Glad Tyler Sr., grandfather and lifelong waterman, doesn’t interfere. This isn’t his boat; he’s just here to lend a hand. Tyler Tyler’s gotta learn.

Their family was among the first to inhabit Smith Island, Maryland’s last offshore settlement, in the 17th century. Since then, Tyler men have fished the Chesapeake Bay. They were born on the island, raised children on the island, and died on the island. Like the other islanders, they spoke a dialect unique to Smith—a slow, sly tongue that, due to the island’s isolation from the mainland, evolved inward rather than outward, building on its own eccentricities rather than absorbing the linguistic tics of the mainland.

Tyler Tyler wears polarized Oakleys, a camouflaged beanie and a faint, fuzzy beard. Were he more like his peers, Tyler would have left the island to live high and dry on the mainland. But he’s not—“I’m not much of a people person,” he says—so he decided to try his luck on the water…

Read the whole story here.

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