Exploring North Carolina: Season 4

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Season 4

Episode 401: Fort Bragging Rights

We all know how important Fort Bragg is to the economy of North Carolina and the defense of the United States. Very few people are aware, however, that across this vast military reservation, there are numerous historic sites of American Indians, and of early Scottish settlers who spoke Gaelic. Fort Bragg, the home to some our nation’s most elite military units, is also home to a number of important plant and animal communities that are well protected and preserved by the military.

In this episode, Exploring North Carolina goes on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the most ecologically and historically significant locations at Fort Bragg with the archeologists and scientists who know it best.

Episode 402: The Naturalists

Because of North Carolina’s tremendous natural diversity, it has long attracted naturalists. The earliest ones set the stage for many of the scientists and natural history writers of today. A partial list would include John White, Thomas Harriot, John Lawson, Mark Catesby, William Bartram, Andre Michaux, and Asa Gray. What they saw and recorded, in words and images, from the late 1500s through the 1800s, act to inspire us to protect our remaining natural treasures.

In this episode, Exploring North Carolina features some of North Carolina’s best known naturalists/scientists alonsgide “The North Carolina Collection” at UNC-Chapel Hill where artwork and manuscripts of many early explorers and scientists are preserved. This intriguing half-hour also contains a personal appearance from, and remarkable interview with, a well-preserved, 250-year old explorer.

Episode 403: The Roanoke Super Highway

In this episode of Exploring North Carolina, take an 120-mile river trip from the salt water of the Albemarle Sound through a largely intact primeval forest to the “fall line” where the Coastal Plain ends and the Piedmont begins. This adventure, by powerboat and canoe, will take you along the “navigable” length of North Carolina’s Roanoke River, a major historical corridor for Native Americans and European settlers and one of the state’s greatest conservation success stories.

On this tidewater trip, get to know the creatures of the forest, air, and water in and along this remarkable river; learn why Native Americans called it the “River of Death;" and why flooding is the engine that brings new life to the river considered “North Carolina’s Amazon."

Episode 404: Giving Nature a Hand

It's not a secret that man hasn't always been a good steward of the land. Too many times we have looked at the earth’s resources as inexhaustible. Forestry, farming, and industrial practices sometimes left the land scarred. And these scars were never deeper than during the Great Depression.

To help restore the land, plant trees and build parks, President Franklin Roosevelt established the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps. The men of the CCC were sometimes called the “Tree Army” and “Roosevelt’s Woodsmen.”

In this episode of Exploring North Carolina, meet the men whose lives were changed forever by the CCC - men who gave nature a helping hand.

Episode 405: The First, Lost Colony

If you'd always thought that Roanoke Island was the first known European colony, or settlement, in North Carolina, you’d be wrong. South Carolina Archeologist Chester DePratter worked with David Moore of Warren Wilson College to locate Fort San Juan in the foothills of the Appalachians near Morganton, NC. This Spanish outpost (1566 and 1567), was established two decades prior to the famous settlement known as “The Lost Colony” at Roanoke Island. Fort San Juan may also be the site of the first European settlement in the interior of North America.

In this episode, join Archeologists David Moore, Robin Beck and Chris Rodning have, with an extraordinary team, as they reveal numerous, unearthed artifacts demonstrating the presence of Spanish Soldiers on a tributary of the Catawba River. Exploring North Carolina is privileged to visit the archeologists on-site and interview them at the location of Fort San Juan. Their discoveries have the potential of rewriting the history of European settlement in North America.

Episode 406: Fossil Fields

When one thinks of the great fossil fields of the world, the remote plains of Mongolia and Montana probably come to mind. In North Carolina one can only find sharks teeth or perhaps a few fossil shells, right?

Yet, many areas of North Carolina and the Southeast are actually very rich in fossils. Coastal fossil beds produce large shark’s teeth and whale bones, but they can also yield the skeletons of mammoths, walrus and giant sloth. Clay soils in the piedmont can yield the skeletons of reptiles almost 220 million years old.

Today, much of the research relating to North Carolina’s fossil past is being carried out at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. In this episode, Exploring North Carolina will travel back in time with the talented paleontologists of the Museum to visit lost worlds beneath Piedmont clay and the sandy soils of the Coast.

Episode 407: Fords and Mills

Early transportation in North Carolina depended on fords and ferries (river crossings), most of which were first used by Indians. In the 1700s, mills, powered by moving water, were essential to the economy of any growing city and county. The location of an accessible ford and the presence streams that could be harnessed for water power virtually dictated the location of population centers.

The outcome of battles in the Revolutionary War and American Civil War were often affected by the location of fords and ferries (necessary for large troop crossings), and mills (necessary to produce flour and meal for armies).

In this episode, Exploring North Carolina examines the social impact, geology, and geography of ancient river crossings and mill sites across the state.

Episode 408: Basin Basics

As you drive across North Carolina you see signs with messages such as, “Entering the Cape Fear River Basin” or “Leaving the French Broad River Basin.” In all, North Carolina has 17 major river basins, natural topographical boundaries that determine how and where water flows. Some rivers direct their waters to the Atlantic while others in the western part of the state flow toward the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

In this episode, Exploring North Carolina examines these natural basins and their self-contained ecosystems that often hold fish, mussels, crayfish and other creatures endemic to only one basin and visits with state and municipal water experts and biologists to learn “basin basics.”

Episode 409: The Edge of Life

Much of the life on the North Carolina Coast has its beginning in vast spartina marshes. In this episode of Exploring North Carolina, the birds, turtles, mollusks, finfish, and crustaceans that depend on marshes will be your hosts in this shallow, quiet world of beauty and productivity.

See the salt marsh, a place where North meets South when many plants and animals are at their southern-most or northern-most range here in North Carolina. In the same area, find fish commonly found in New York waters and a type of shell that is more common to the Bahamas. With the help of scientists and people who know the marsh best, ENC viewers explore the edge of life.

Episode 410: Logos vs. Leaves

What makes a child explore, grow and blossom? When and where do they learn to take chances? Have they learned to fear the wrong things? Have we taught them to feel safer in gated communities, and in lighted shopping malls?

Today, children can play games with virtual friends, in virtual forests, on a computer. Conversations take place on a cell phone, and friends are seen in Facebook, and not in a tree house. Children know more corporate logos than leaves, more product jingles than bird sounds, and catch more computer viruses than fish.

Exploring North Carolina examines American children's need for more time in wild, wide open spaces and with educators, scientists, and children as our guide, the episode demonstrates why children may be better off knowing more leaves than logos.

Episode 411: Colors of the Earth . . . Gold and Gemstones

Wildflowers and fall leaves are only part of North Carolina’s color pallet.  “Rock hounds” and gem hunters have long known that vivid shades of yellow, green, red, purple, blue and other colors can also be found in the rocks and soil found throughout the state.

In fact, when Conrad Reed skipped church one Sunday morning in 1799 to go fishing, he stubbed his toe on a very heavy, yellow rock in Little Meadow Creek (near present day Concord). He carried the stone home where it served as a doorstop for over two years. The heavy rock turned out to be a 17-pound gold nugget. Soon after this discovery, gold mines - some extremely productive - popped up all over Piedmont North Carolina. Some mines predated the California “Gold Rush” of 1849 by more than 30 years.

Over the years, a wide variety of precious and semi-precious gemstones have been found at sites across the state. The gold and gemstones are an exciting part of North Carolina’s rich geologic past, but they are only part of a much bigger story.

The North Carolina we know today was formed in part by volcanoes, collisions of continents, and the sea floor of ancient oceans. Some rock formations in this state are known to date back almost 1.5 billion years.

In this episode, Exploring North Carolina will, with the help of a Museum geologist, examine the geologic processes that helped create the mountains, Piedmont and coastal plain of North Carolina and the precious stones thereon.

Episode 412: Cradle of Forestry

Silviculture, the science of forestry, was first taught in the United States near Asheville, NC. The Biltmore Forest School, which opened its doors in 1897, was the first school of forestry in the United States. In the first quarter of the 20th century, some of the giants of American forestry began their careers and taught at the Tar Heel school, making the state known as the “cradle of forestry."

Today, forestry is one of the biggest industries in North Carolina (worth over $4 billion annually), surpassing textiles. In this episode, experts from the USDA Forest Service, School of Forestry at NCSU and the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources (DENR) share forestry's important story as the series looks at the ways we can best manage local forests for our state's economy and critical ecosystems.