I have to confess, back in the 90’s I was a fan of the X-Files. Yes, it was a campy twist of science fiction intermingled with a soap opera style drama of the famed Mulder and Scully figuring out how to cope with one another, but it offered a fun escape from reality. I mean really, is there some kind of secret government agency breeding Africanized honey bees to spread some kind of extra-terrestrial virus across the planet to create a new population of mindless zombies out of the human race?
Fast forward to today and let’s fly over the eastern shores of North Carolina. The eastern shore is a complex blend of varying environments. We have saltwater marshes, pine savannahs, turkey oak groves, and even black water cypress swamps. Out of all of this variety, North Carolina has one very unique element that could be somewhat mysterious in its origins, I am speaking of Pocosins.
Pocosins are found along the Atlantic coastal plain of the southeastern United States. The word itself, based from the Eastern Alonquian people, means “swamp-on-a-hill.” They are characterized by low-lying shallow basins that typically do not have any outfall. The water within these basins are dark, often even black, due to the thousands of years of organic matter that has built up over time. This is largely in part to the tannins being released from the highly acidic concentration of peat in the soils below. If you canoe or even swim in this water, you will likely stain your boat and even your swimsuits if submerged for prolonged periods of time.
What does this all have to do with the X-Files you may ask? Truly unique to the Pocosins within North Carolina are the shape. They are oval, almost perfectly oval, something that is not typically seen in geologic formations/occurrences. Using google earth, search for Bladen County, NC. Once there, look at the development patterns focused around the town of White Lake, NC. You will see over a dozen of these landforms; some having been cleared and turned into farmland because of the high fertility and slightly acidic soil which is perfect for a number of crops including blueberries.
Looking at the arrangement and uniform orientation of the Pocosins in this area, you will see that the long axis of the oval is pointing from NW to SE almost exactly parallel to each other. Several theories exist to account for this, one of the most exotic is that of extraterrestrial influence in the form of a series of meteor showers that happened to hit in approximately the same location over several cycles.
Scientists have worked to better understand the origins, but have all but ruled out the meteor theory because of the lack of the other typical traits of an impact crater, asymmetrical form, defined central cratering, displaced material downstream from impact. Maybe it wasn’t meteors but something else from out beyond, cue scary science fiction music.
Our new projects at Singletary Lake and Jones Lake State Parks involve two of the larger Pocosins, that were preserved as state parks to protect the shallow lakes. Regardless of the real cause or the more enjoyable causes one can imagine, I know I will continue to sit back and enjoy them for what they are, uniquely special places that provide a momentary bit of tranquility to an otherwise crazy world.