The prospect of discovering buried treasure has long appealed to the Rhode Island imagination. Reports of pirate booty stashed on some of Rhody’s islands have entertained the locals for centuries, causing sporadic searches for stunted oaks and storm-wrecked shores somewhere near the mysterious spot marked X. British pirate Joseph Bradish is believed to have buried chests of silver and gold on Block Island that, as far as anyone knows, have never be claimed. Captain Kidd is thought to have scattered bits of treasure on Patience Island and possibly Hog Island and Jamestown (at Beavertail) as well.
Today’s Rhode Island treasure hunters range from historians armed with metal detectors looking for old musket balls and coins in family farms to beachcombers picking up sea glass, driftwood, shells and stones along the coast to leisurely adventurers hunting for hidden geocaches and letterboxes.
Wakefield glass artist Eben Horton, borrowing from a West Coast friend’s idea, will add to the local treasure lore this Saturday on Block Island. The Block Island Glass Float Project is based on a similar activity in Lincoln City, Ore., which began after an artist started thinking about the blown glass floats that often wound up on the beaches there. The orbs, colored in various shades of blue and green, were used by Japanese fishing crews to float their nets and could be as small as 2 inches or as large as 2 feet. Now that most fishing vessels use buoyant plastic, the blown glass floats are rare, until an Oregon artist decided to make an annual event of placing 2,000 handmade colored glass spheres on a wide swath of public beach.
For the Rhode Island version, 200 glass floats, each about the size of a grapefruit, will be hidden on the Block, all of them dated, numbered and stamped with the shape of the island. The orbs will be divided evenly between the beaches and the greenway trails. They will be hidden above the high tide mark but never in the dunes or up the bluffs, and no floats will be placed between Surf Beach and Scotch Beach, or along the inside of Great Salt Pond. The floats will be located within one foot of either side of two Greenway trails – in the Enchanted Forest and along Clay Head Trail. They are finders keepers, although organizers request that finders keep only one, and leave the rest for others. All of the floats except 12 (in honor of 2012) will be made of clear glass. One is made entirely out of gold leaf. If you find one, you are asked to register it by logging on to www.blockislandinfo.com and clicking on the Glass Float Project link. The running count will allow visitors to continue to explore the sites, if all of the floats aren’t found on Saturday.
What is your favorite “found treasure” in Rhode Island?
[Blogger's note: Apologies for the late post. Forgot last week to mention that I would be off on Memorial Day, cycling Ocean Drive in Newport, where the kites, fishing poles, sails and bug-shaped zip cars were out in full force.]