Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
“Fire and Ice”
The theories as to what caused Bladen County’s bay lakes are as numerous and varied as the lakes themselves.
In a recent story, I examined some of these theories, which included the hypothesis that they were caused by, respectively, wind and rain, the recession of an ancient sea, giant schools of prehistoric salmon, and meteorites. No one’s yet mentioned Paul Bunyan dragging his giant ax through the region, digging up the lakes as his blade trailed behind him, or Babe the Blue Ox forming the bays with her giant, unmanicured hooves ... but if I float those possibilities long enough, someone will believe it — that’s the nature of journalism ... scream something from the rooftops loud and long enough and a faction of people will take it for the gospel.
Well, add to these theories a new one posited by Jim Marple, a Wisconsin native and current resident of St. Pauls. While Marple is no scientist — he spent 35 years as a landscape designer — he does have an intriguing answer as to what caused the lakes ... a theory that is a kissing cousin to the meteorite hypothesis.
Marple, a tall, craggy man who has obviously spent a lifetime outdoors planting shrubs and bushes, visited my office last week to tell me what he believes really caused the bay lakes.
His answer? An asteroid — a really, really big one that struck what is now Lake Michigan about 11,000 years ago while the continent was still in the throes of the Ice Age, sending a shower of broken glacier thousands of miles, skipping across the landscape and creating the shallow depressions know as bay lakes wherever they landed. Marple says this explains why no meteorite fragments have ever been found at any of the bay lakes, which range from New Jersey all the way down to Florida — the ice bombs, unlike meteorites, simply melted after carpet bombing much of the southeast; an idea akin to suspense writer Agatha Christie’s fictional Miss Marple character — no relation to Jim — surmising that a stabbing victim in which no weapon could be found was dispatched with a sharpened icicle that simply melted away.
“If you look at a seismic survey of Lake Michigan, you’ll see that at the bottom of that lake there’s a huge crater with concentric ridges, indicative of some sort of massive impact,” said Marple. “Also, the water level of Lake Michigan was massively affected about 11,000 years ago and no one knows why.”
Marple says this theory is the only one that truly makes sense and that scientists have not brought it forward because they are too rigid in their thinking and have a problem with seeing the whole picture when hypothesizing.
Marple also backs up his theory by saying that when the impacts that formed the bay lakes occurred, the root system of the trees that had once existed where the lakes now are were filled with compacted sand; he says this was a result of melting water filling the root balls after the trees were blown to kingdom come.
Marple, who has been working on this idea for years, says the basis for his belief can be traced to his childhood days spent tossing rocks across the frozen tundra of Wisconsin — an action that formed depressions remarkably like the shape of the bay lakes.
Marple even goes so far as to say the term “bay lakes” is itself misconstrued. While conventional wisdom says the bay lakes are named for the bay trees lining the lakes throughout the Carolinas, Marple says that many of the lakes outside the Carolinas do not have bay trees.
“Bay lakes came from the Spanish for lakes, called ‘bahai,’” said Marple. “And the French called these lakes ‘bayous.” So ‘bay’ is simply a derivative of these words.”
Marple says there are similar, shallow depressions in South America that he believes were caused by another ancient, extraterrestrial impact that hit somewhere in Antarctica and peppered South America with glacial bombs.
Marple says he has talked to many scientists about his theory and has been greeted with both excited agreement and benign indifference. He says he’s never published his beliefs because he doesn’t have the fortitude to sit down and write it all out. Instead, he’s spreading his idea via the newspaper, hoping to get the idea accepted before some big-time scientist claims it for his own.
Well, here it is.
You be the judge.
You know, as old Mr. Frost said, perhaps the world will end in fire or ice; however; according to Jim Marple, the world of the bay lakes began 11,000 years ago with an impact of fire from the sky, followed by a cascade of ice.
Me? I believe that ice would definitely suffice in creating the bay lakes. And that the same fire from the sky that supposedly instigated all this could eventually destroy the world.
But rather than dwell on the possibilities of extraterrestrial annihilation, I’d rather go cool my hot thoughts with a cool plunge ... White Lake, here I come.
—Tim Wilkins is the editor/general manager of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached at 862-4163, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.