Chesapeake Bay Skipjack

6/29/15: Beautiful Swimmers Revisited-A Documentary Inspired by William W. Warner’s 1976 Exploration of Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay.

For four decades, William W. Warner's Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, Beautiful Swimmers, has delighted readers everywhere. Now, in a riveting new film, award-winning writer Tom Horton picks up where Warner left off with the story of Callinectes sapidus, the Atlantic blue crab.

The documentary film Beautiful Swimmers is an initiative of the Bay Journal, a publication of Chesapeake Media Service, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The Bay Journal has been delivering exceptional coverage of environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay region since 1991. Tom Horton and David Harp are regular contributors.

About the Production

How have the culture, science and management of the Chesapeake Bay's iconic blue crab changed since William W. Warner's book, Beautiful Swimmers, appeared 40 years ago?

Tom Horton's film update of this pioneering chronicle of Chesapeake crabbing, with the endorsement of Warner's family, investigates the whys and wherefores of the changes in the Bay, the crab fishery and the industry in general, as it weaves a colorful tale that entertains, educates and enlightens.

Horton returns to many places Warner visited, including Smith, Tangier and Deal Islands, Crisfield and the Eastern Bay. He discovers that two watermen featured in Warner's book still catch crabs the way they caught them when Warner visited them in the mid 1970's.

While much of the culture of the watermen has not changed in four decades, there have been many developments in the science and management of crabs and the crab industry. Interviews with Chesapeake scientists and managers illuminate major advances in our understanding of crabs and the challenges facing the Bay.

The blue crab is more deeply embedded in the ecology and culture of the entire Chesapeake system than almost any other creature. It inhabits every niche from the deep channels of the Bay to the marshes, the ocean, and the limits of tide in fresh water miles up the rivers. Any long-term changes in crab populations would have major consequences for the whole ecosystem.

"Warner’s book has never been out of circulation. Nothing published since, including James Michener’s blockbuster, Chesapeake, has surpassed it. Today’s Chesapeake is not the same bay in which William Warner conducted his inquiries of crabs and crabbing during the 1960s and ’70s. Yet much remains. In remoter parts of the estuary, it is still possible to revisit Warner’s storied haunts, even to go crabbing with characters he introduced in Beautiful Swimmers."

— Tom Horton

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