There is really no consensus on what to call the inlet created by Hurricane Sandy across from Bellport Bay and west of Smith Point. Over at our Facebook Group, Save the Great South Bay, we have debated this and voted on this repeatedly. We have had various marine scientists and coastal geologists weigh in on this, and even some marketing and PR people. What’s in a name? Plenty.
From the beginning, Post-Sandy, The Army Corps of Engineers and those politicians who argued for it’s closure have called it ‘the breach.’ In their sense, a ‘breach’ is something that necessarily must be closed, a gap, a lack. Think ‘breach of conduct,’ ‘breach of ettiquette,’ or ‘a breach in our defense line.’
The Random House defines it thus:
1. an infraction or violation, as of a law, trust, faith, or promise.
2. a gap made in a wall, fortification, line of soldiers, etc.; rift; fissure.
3. the act or a result of breaking; break or rupture.
4. a severance of friendly relations.
5. the leap of a whale above the surface of the water.
6. Archaic. the breaking of waves.
7. Obs. a wound.
8. to make a breach or opening in.
9. to break or act contrary to.
10. (of a whale) to leap out of the water and land with a loud splash.
[before 1000; Middle English breche, Old English bræc breaking; see break]
syn: breach, infraction, violation all denote an act of breaking or disregarding a legal or moral code. breach is most often used of a legal offense, but it may refer to the breaking of any code of conduct: breach of contract; breach of etiquette. infraction most often refers to the breaking of clearly formulated rules or laws: an infraction of regulations. violation often suggests a willful, forceful refusal to obey: done in violation of instructions.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
As we began to learn about the breach, how barrier beaches in fact behave and evolve, and began to see how it was actually a lifeline for an otherwise dying bay, saw that it was flushing Bellport Bay especially, and bringing back the bay we knew, we began to use the term ‘breach’ ironically. “Life’s a Breach!” reads one bumper sticker. Against all the hysteria leveled at it, people posted ‘The Breach ate my baby!,’ or ‘The Breach cheats at golf,’ or ‘The Breach stole my woman!” We will be having a Breach Party this Saturday in fact, keeping with the spirit of this.
There are those from the Bellport area, such as our own Michael Busch, local video / digital nature chronicler The Old Inlet, who refers to it as The Old Inlet. The reason for this, I believe, is that for Bellport, it was The Old as in the Former New Inlet. Here’s a map from 1794:
It appears to say “Southaven New Inlet”
Here’ s another from 1820:
It’s hard to make out, but in this map the body of water just beyond The New Inlet appears to be labeled Southaven.
From the 1700’s through until 1826, when two ships wrecked within in it, There was a New Inlet, as identified on maps of the time, which made Bellport a port to begin with. Various merchant ships would sail into The Great South Bay through this New Inlet into Bellport and Patchogue, and would leave laden with timber and other goods. That is, until those ship wrecks. Then The New Inlet became The Old Inlet. There was even a restaurant in Bellport called The Old Inlet until recently. Where Michael spent many summers, around The Pattersquash Gun Club, at its dock, people knew the area at The Old Inlet, where once (approximately) there was an inlet. Calling it then The Old Inlet, as if after 175 years it reopened, carries history and pedigree. It has come back. It deserves to be here, it is our past and heritage come back to us:
Lastly, there are those who favor “The New Inlet,” largely the scientists in our midst, who will say that this is not really a reopening of The Old Inlet, since it is not opening in the same place as formerly. It must therefore be called The New Inlet, to be accurate. This naming has the benefit, beyond strict accuracy, of having positive associations — it’s “new.” As something ‘new,’ it implies that it is part of the continuing and vital evolution of Fire Island, which it is.
In the end, we will call it what we will, according to our lights — “The Breach,” “The Old Inlet,” “The New Inlet.” In any case, the future of our bay will be determined in part by what it’s fate is. Will it continue to nourish the bay and replenish Fire Island as a barrier beach for decades to come, or will we succumb to the fear that this is a ‘breach’ in our security, as though restoring a line in the sand would suffice to protect us in a world that is becoming increasingly flood prone. We don’t all know what to name it yet really, because we don’t know yet what its fate is. What would you call it and why?
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