Floating Peat Islands: The Land of Trembling Earth

Although fiction, this excerpt from an 1895 adventure novel is a perfect illustration of why the Okefenokee is named “The Land of Trembling Earth”:

Methane gas under decomposed organic peat causes peat blowups, forming mud peat batteries where herbs and grasses grow. Okefenokee means trembling earth, because of these peat islands. Photographed on Grand Prairie; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia, USA. October 24, 2020 ©www.williamwisephoto.com

An excerpt from the 1895, In the Okefenokee: A Story of War Time and the Great Georgia Swamp:

“While they were accomplishing this task, Charley made his first acquaintance with the great curiosity of the Okefenokee, which may be seen along the shores of almost all the islands within or bordering the prairies. Stepping off from the island shore, the little boy walked forward upon a seeming continuation of the land, – a mass of floating vegetable forms, intermingled with moss drift and slime, forming a compact floor capable of sustaining his weight, whiclı, although it did not at once break through beneath him, could be seen to sink and rise at every step for twenty feet around. “Why, this ground moves!” cried Charley, astonished. “You’d better look out!” cried Joe. “It won’t hold you up much longer. It’s not ground at all; it’s floating moss and stuff. The speaker paused suddenly, as Charley now broke through, and stood in mud and water nearly up to his waist. “The deserters call that moss and stuff ‘floating batteries,’” continued Joe. “I don’t know where they got such a funny name. Father knew about these places, and he said the Indians called them ‘trembling earth.’ That’s what the name of the swamp means, ‘Okefenokee,’ or ‘ trembling earth.’”

  • Pendleton, Louis. In the Okefenokee: A Story of War Time and the Great Georgia Swamp. United States, Roberts Brothers, 1895.

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