Fairhope Jubilee

Fairhope Jubilee

Summer, usually August
The Jubilee marks a natural phenomenon greeted by the citizens of Fairhope, Alabama, with a rush to the shores of Mobile Bay. Fairhope, on a bluff over the bay, has two miles of beach. At a certain time, when the bay is calm and there is an east wind and a certain feel to the air, bottom-dwelling fish and crustaceans are trapped between a low-oxygen water mass and the shore. They become sluggish because of the shortage of oxygen and can't swim, so townsfolk rush out with buckets, cooking pots, crab nets, long poles, and wash basins to harvest them. The harvest may include flounder, shrimp, blue crab, stingrays, eels, and smaller fish such as shiners, anchovies, and hogchokers.
It's impossible to predict when the phenomenon will occur except that it's always in the summer and usually in August. Sometimes there is more than one occurrence; sometimes it will happen five days in a row. This event depends on a number of very specific circumstances: an overcast day, a gentle wind from the east, a rising tide.
Here's what happens: a deep-water pocket of very salty water stagnates and collects plant matter. This food supply and the warm temperatures cause a population explosion of microorganisms that consume great quantities of oxygen. A gentle east wind comes along and moves the upper-layer water offshore. Then the rising tide pushes the oxygen-poor bottom water toward the shore, and the bottom sea creatures are pushed in front of it. They act as though they're in a stupor because they're trying to get oxygen; they move slowly and don't try to swim. Eels will leave the water and burrow tail-first into the moist sand, leaving their heads in the air with mouths open.
Supposedly the event got its name because the first person seeing the marine migration called out, "Jubilee!"
CONTACTS:
City of Fairhope
P.O. Drawer 429
Fairhope, AL 36533
251-928-2136; fax: 251-928-6776
www.cofairhope.com