Georgia's Lost Coast
Beyond the Nation's Shore

Members of the CLUI have been back and forth to Georgia over the past year, traveling through, giving talks, and meeting with students at Georgia Tech and the Savanna College of Art and Design. You will find more images and sites throughout the state in our online Land Use Database.

GEORGIA'S COAST IS a romantic and exotic locale. It can be considered as a contiguous, autonomous region, 10-15 miles wide, and 100 miles long. On the inside edge is the hard ground of the continent, with Interstate 95 running the length of it. On the outside is a continuous chain of lush barrier islands. Between them, a marshy swamp of meandering tidal drainage.  

This configuration has been more or less sustained over the past century. Only a few roads make it outwards, connecting the continent to the actual coastline. This separation has enabled the zone, mainland, marsh, and islands, to evolve into a hiding place of exclusive resorts, military bases, industries, and others seeking isolation. It was here that writer John McPhee had encounters with the Archdruid, David Brower, and where our nation’s nuclear submarines slip in and out from their nidus on secret perambulations around the globe.

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Tybee Island Broken Arrow Site
Somewhere in the sediment under the waters near Tybee Island is a 12 foot-long nuclear bomb, lost in an accident in 1958. The bomb was intentionally jettisoned by the pilot of a B-47 bomber, following a 2am mid-air crash with a fighter jet. The damaged B-47 landed safely after the crash. This was one of several Broken Arrow incidents in the USA (the technical name for an accident involving a nuclear weapon where the weapon is lost or destroyed but does not explode critically). Crews from the Air Force and the Navy were deployed the next morning to look for the bomb, but gave up after two months. There have been other official attempts to locate it, most recently in 2004, but without success. The Air Force says that the nuclear capsule, the plutonium pit, was not in the bomb when it was lost, but some records differ. Either way, the 7,600 lb Mark 15 bomb has hundreds of pounds of high explosives and enriched uranium. If it emerges from the sediment and becomes exposed to seawater, it will corrode, which will release radioactivity, which will no doubt aid in its discovery.


 

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Glynco Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
This is a major campus for law enforcement training, operated by the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security. It is located north of the coastal town of Brunswick, at a former Naval air station, converted to this new function starting in 1975. On site is a training neighborhood with 34 buildings: classrooms with mock libraries, court rooms, and interviewing suites, vehicle training tracks, shooting ranges, an explosives range, and a fully functional simulated port of entry training facility. It has dormitories and a cafeteria capable of serving 4,000 meals. Glynco is one of four sites in the USA operated by the FLETC (the others are in Artesia, New Mexico; Charleston, South Carolina; and Cheltenham, Maryland). Glynco is the headquarters.


 

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Jekyll Island Club
Jekyll is one of the Golden Isles of Georgia, the barrier islands used as resorts by America’s Gilded Age elite. The Jekyll Island Club, in the middle of the island, has dozens of structures preserved as historic sites, including the hotel, one of the grandest old resort buildings in the USA. It is surrounded by mansion-sized winter vacation homes. Privately developed in the late 1800s, the club included Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Goulds, Goodyears, and Rockefellers in its membership. The Island is famous as the place where the Federal Reserve System was born, due to a secret meeting of private bankers that took place there in 1910, arranged  by Senator Nelson Aldrich, the outcome of which was the Aldrich Plan, used to restructure the nation’s monetary system in 1913. Despite the new system, the club, like the country, was soon devastated by the Great Depression, and never recovered. The Island was bought by the State of Georgia in 1947 and is now managed as a privately operated public park. The current head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, visited the island in 2010 to commemorate the Fed’s centennial.


 

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Woodbine Chemical Plant
Woodbine is a former chemical complex in a remote coastal lowland area of southern Georgia, past the gates at the end of Union Carbide Road. The site is famous for a large explosion that occurred in 1971 when the facility was making flares and explosives for the Vietnam War. A small fire quickly spread through an assembly and storage building, culminating in an explosion that broke windows more than ten miles away, and was heard as much as 50 miles away. 29 people were killed and more than 50 suffered major injuries. The plant, with 34 buildings, was built by Thiokol in 1964, to make solid rocket propellant motors. It evolved into chemical production, and was sold to Union Carbide in 1976. It produced agricultural chemicals and insecticides for the next 35 years, passing through several corporate owners, including Rhone-Poulanc and Aventis. Woodbine’s current owner, Bayer Crop Science, closed the plant in 2012, and the site is undergoing environmental assessment.


 

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Kings Bay Submarine Base
Located in the southeastern corner of Georgia on 16,000 coastal acres, Kings Bay is a major submarine base, providing operational support for all the East Coast’s Trident nuclear submarines. The 25 square mile site was originally developed as a munitions storage and loading facility by the Army in the 1950s. After installing numerous munition areas, a long wharf, and over 47 miles of railroad tracks, the Army abandoned the site, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the base was reactivated by the Navy. Kings Bay has been expanding quickly in recent years, to include the addition of facilities for handling the Trident strategic nuclear missiles associated with Trident submarines.


 

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St. Marys Submarine Museum
A small, dense, and homegrown museum, housing the history of military submarining, especially related to Kings Bay, the sub base located at the north end of town. The museum has artifacts such as control panels from relatively recent nuclear subs, sub models, paintings of subs, and a working periscope which pokes out of its roof, offering views of Florida on the opposite bank of the St. Marys River. Across the street from the museum is the dock where boats depart to take people to Cumberland Island, the southernmost island along Georgia’s lost coast. Cumberland was saved from development (part of the story is covered in John McPhee’s book, Encounters with the Archdruid). Ruins of a Carnegie family mansion remain on site.