Assateague Island is on Maryland’s Eastern shore, on the Atlantic Ocean – just a few miles south of Ocean City, but what a difference. There is none of the hustle and bustle of the hotels and tourist industry, instead, just a peaceful nature preserve, with pristine white sand beaches, very family friendly – and above all, there is peace and quiet.Of course, I didn’t go alone… the whole family was there, and the kids had a great time in spite of the wind and cold water.

One of the unique features of Assateague Island (and believe me, this IS unique – is the population of wild horses. Yes, genuine horses in the wild. Of course, they are correctly termed as “feral” horses, animals that were once domesticated, but which have escaped and bred in the wild over the past few hundred years.

The official record has it that these horses are descendants of domestic animals that Eastern Maryland farmers permitted to graze on the island. They apparently avoided the mainland taxes on the horses, and saved the expense of fencing them in. After all, where would they go on an Island that is little more than a sand bank?

I like to think that perhaps they were survivors from a shipwreck that made it to shore? Or even more intriguing, perhaps they were the property of pirates and salvagers that made their home on that narrow barrier island. I prefer this explanation for the horses on the island rather than the prosaic one of avoiding taxes. The horses are very handsome beasts – they are skittish of course, and it’s best not to get too close, since they can bite and kick, causing serious injury.

I observed tourists feeding and trying to approach the animals in spite of the many warnings and threats of citations and fines. People just don’t appreciate how dangerous a 2000 lb beast can be. Still, the horses frequent the grassy verge by the roads and can be spotted all over. The herd on the Maryland side of the island is estimated at about 300 beasts. The Virginia end is also a National Seashore preserve, with approximately the same number of animals.

The whole place has a magical quality to it… the clean beaches, the wildness of the Atlantic in Spring, when the water is still very cold, the horses, the twisted trees and shrubs that are hardy enough to survive the rugged conditions, and of course, the calmness of the Bay side of the island, the warm sun – all make for a perfect day trip.

The facilities on the island are primitive, but sufficient. It’s best to pack lots of cold drinks and a substantial picnic lunch. And a couple of folding chairs to lounge in. It’s also very windy in the Spring, so a windcheater type jacket is a good idea. I tried to fly my big box kite, but the wind was so strong that the line almost sliced my fingers.

I had taken my Minolta with a Phoenix 28-105mm and a Tamron 70-300mm lens, and an Olympus OM-2n with a Kiron 28-210mm super zoom – the famous cult classic lens. I had also lugged along my Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 preset lens, but did not get an occasion to use it. I had taken the zooms and the long telephoto in case I could not get near enough to get good pictures of the wild horses, but the horses were right by the roadside.


Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si, Tamron 70-300mm lens, Fuji Superia 400 film, Circular polarizer 1/350 sec at f/13

Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses
Wild Horses

Photographed with a Olympus OM-2n, Kiron 28-210mm lens, Fuji Super HQ 200 film, Circular polarizer 1/125 sec at f/11


The Beach has to be seen to be believed. In late Spring, it’s still cold and windy, so there aren’t many people around. Lots of surf fishermen though, trying for Bluefin and Sea Bass. That changes around Memorial Day and then the beach is packed all through Summer until Fall. I prefer the peace and quiet of the off-season, so our next trip will probably be late September or early October.

Dunes
Dunes
Surf Fishing
South Beach
North Beach

Photographed with a Olympus OM-2n, Kiron 28-210mm lens, Fuji Super HQ 200 film, Circular polarizer 1/125 sec at f/11

North Beach
North Beach
Bay Side, near Verrazano Bridge
Bay side, near Verrazano bridge

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si, Tamron 70-300mm lens, Fuji Superia 400 film, Circular polarizer 1/350 sec at f/13



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

Advertisements