TILGHMAN — Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Tilghman Island is inviting the public to its Saturday, Feb. 15, Sip & Socialize Speaker Series for a talk on the Chesapeake Bay’s Chessie, and the story of the legendary serpent’s rise and fall, and the many ways in which the creature’s career intersected with life on the shores of the nation’s largest estuary.
The event will start at 5 p.m. in Phillips Wharf’s classroom, with wine, refreshments and light snacks before the presentation. There will be time for discussion following the speaker presentation.
Sip & Socialize speaker Eric A. Cheezum will share the story of the legendary sea monster that surfaced in 1978 out of the Potomac River’s waters. Cheezum is a native of Preston, where he operates a family farm and researches, writes and teaches history. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of South Carolina in 2007.
“Initially reported in rural Virginia, the serpent was propelled to stardom by newspapers looking for stories to offset the August news doldrums,” Cheezum said. “By 1980, the creature — now dubbed “Chessie” — had migrated into the Chesapeake Bay’s northern section. Reputed to be friendly and nonthreatening, the estuarine serpent quickly became a major pop culture sensation in Maryland.”
In 1982, Cheezum said, a couple filmed what they thought was the monster, starting a serious scientific debate over the existence of what zoologists and video analysts termed the “Chesapeake Bay Phenomenon.”
“Three years later and now at the zenith of its celebrity, Chessie was nearly protected under state environmental law, and for the second half of the decade its image was appropriated for use in environmental advocacy,” Cheezum said. “Then, after 15 years of fame, sightings stopped coming in.”
Bring your curiosity and questions to the Sip & Socialize, as Cheezum has a wealth of knowledge to share. Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Sip & Socialize Winter Speaker Series is free, with donations accepted.
Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Sip & Socialize Winter Speaker Series features volunteers, experts and Chesapeake Bay industry professionals on topics pertinent to the Chesapeake Bay, wildlife and environmental changes, with more in the series posted at phillipswharf.org.