The morning of our tour, with only five participants, we easily fit into one of the Navy’s vans. Bill Kalina, the base environmental manager, drove us to many sites, explaining the history & function of various areas, as well as innovative ecological practices initiated here & then adopted at bases around the world.
Our initial briefing by the CO, Commander Nick Vande Griend, was at the WWII headquarters building. The 2700 acre island was purchased by the Navy in 1939 in preparation for the conflict which could be seen on the horizon. The building was solidly built & very useful today. When sailors manned the base full time, the building contained a 2 lane bowling alley (which is still there-but not currently operational), a galley and pub, game rooms, laundry facilities and offices. There is even some mural artwork, painted during 1942, showing the activities of the Navy & Marine Corps personnel. We really enjoyed the knowledge and humor of the CO, who said this was probably the last tour of his career, since his next step is retirement, hopefully locally.
They can fully load an aircraft carrier in 10 hours. They store ordnance from .22 shells to Tomahawk missiles. They load directly onto warships or on to transports which will replenish ships at sea. Mr. Kalina took us to the areas which had been planned as a sea plane facility, as well as an area where submarine nets, intended to protect against enemy submarines, were constructed.
Throughout the tour we witnessed many successful environmental programs. Indian Island has a growing bald eagle population, with 10 nests The largest nest weighs approximately 2 tons. Neighboring Marrowstone Island has but 2. The Indian Island shoreline serves as a control example when evaluating human impact on other surrounding areas. The Navy works extensively with the area Tribes to preserve their traditional fishing & shell fish harvests, including seeding millions of baby clams as a mitigation annual project. We saw tribal clam cooking settlements (i.e. shell midden sites) dating back several hundred years.
We drove past bunker after bunker, Bill explained that they are designed so in the event of an accidental explosion, the blast would be directed almost completely straight up, and not set off an adjacent bunker. Bunkers are covered with 18 inches of dirt & grass.
Of the 2700 acres, 2100 acres are just forest. Animals to see there include eagles, osprey, deer, bear, cougar, raccoons, occasional elk, and coyotes.
Thanks to Bill & Commander Vande Griend for an extremely interesting & informative tour.