MPT Presents Hours of Chesapeake Bay Stories

The Cobb family settled on a deserted Virginia barrier island in the 1830s. They survived tragedy and setbacks through sheer grit, determination and perseverance, ultimately turning an empty sandbar into a vibrant working community. 

Saturday, April 22, viewers can follow their story in the film Island Empire, which airs on Maryland Public Television. The first of the Barrier Island Center’s documentary films produced in partnership with filmmaker James Spione, Our Island Home was released in 2010. In this poignant documentary, three former inhabitants of the long-lost settlement of Broadwater recall their unique way of life on Hog Island, a remote barrier island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Featuring rare archival photographs of the evocative landscapes and sturdy families who once inhabited this austere and beautiful area, Our Island Home provides a moving, eye-opening account of a little-known chapter in America’s coastal history. The film also includes bonus footage about the history and ecology of the Virginia Barrier Islands.

Island Empire is just one of more than 30 documentary programs highlighting the beauty, importance, and fragility of the nation’s largest estuary, airing on MPT during its 19th annual Chesapeake Bay Week.

From April 16 to 22, MPT will offer more than 22 hours of content focusing on the Chesapeake Bay’s history, heritage, and resources as well as efforts to protect its diverse ecosystem. This year’s lineup includes 11 programs that viewers will see on MPT for the first time. 

Cornerstone MPT productions premiering this year are Water’s Edge: Black Watermen of the Chesapeake on Monday, April 17 at 8 p.m.; Discovering the Dove on Tuesday, April 18 at 8 p.m.; Kent County’s Storied Landscape: Place – Past and Present on Tuesday, April 18 at 8:30 p.m.; and Eatin’ Blue Catfish: Chesapeake Style on Thursday, April 20 at 8 p.m.

MPT’s annual Chesapeake Bay Week is a unique programming initiative and part of the statewide public TV network’s ongoing commitment to celebrating the bay and examining critical issues faced by communities throughout the Chesapeake region.

Chesapeake Bay Week content will be available to view on MPT-HD and through the station’s livestream at mpt.org/livestream, MPT’s online video player, and the PBS App

Water’s Edge: Black Watermen of the Chesapeake – Monday, April 17 at 8 p.m.

Explore stories of bravery and resilience in an industry packed with African American pioneers. Meet trailblazers including a steamboat captain who revolutionized recreation for Black Marylanders in the early 20th century, a pair of renowned sailmakers from Chestertown, and present-day innovators shifting their businesses to meet a changing market. Watch a preview of this MPT-produced film HERE.

MPT videographer Bryan Contreras captures construction of the new Maryland Dove.

Discovering the Dove – Tuesday, April 18 at 8 p.m. 

Join a team of shipbuilders as they attempt to recreate a 17th century shipping vessel through clues in passenger diaries, period artwork, and sunken ships. Watch as the new Maryland Dove takes shape in St. Michaels and accompany the crew for her maiden voyage across the Chesapeake Bay to Historic St. Mary’s City during this MPT-produced documentary.

Kent County’s Storied Landscape: Place – Past and Present – Tuesday, April 18 at 8:30 p.m.

Walk the coastline where Native Americans lived, uncover evidence of a centuries-old oyster roast, find out what a new map of the region has revealed, and join the search for African American heritage in this exploration of Kent County’s unique cultural landscape. Watch a preview of this MPT-produced film HERE.

Pop’s Old Place – Tuesday, April 18 at 9 p.m.

Welcome to Pop’s Old Place on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where farmer Darlene Goehringer and her family have worked the land for more than a century. Today, Darlene looks to the future as she tries to balance sustainable farming methods with her need to sustain an income. This program was produced by Dave Harp for Bay Journal Media. Watch a preview HERE.

Search for the Cooper: A River Hidden in Plain View – Wednesday, April 19 at 7 p.m.

Four teenagers kayak, hike, muck, and bushwhack for six days along the neglected Cooper River in Camden County, NJ. Their challenge is to find the source of the river, 17 miles upstream from its mouth on the Delaware River, but they discover there is much more to Camden County than they anticipated. This program was directed by Dave Harp and produced by Sandy Cannon-Brown of VideoTakes, Inc. Watch a preview HERE.

Upstream, Downriver – Wednesday, April 19 at 8 p.m.

Follow the rivers that flow through the hearts of our cities and towns to communities where activists are fighting for clean water equity across the United States. Interwoven with their inspiring stories is historical context that reveals systemic disregard for many communities. This program was produced by Maggie Burnette Stogner of Blue Bear Films. Watch a preview HERE.

Headwaters Down – Wednesday, April 19 at 8:30 p.m.

Once the most polluted waterway in America, the James River in Virginia is a monument to innate resilience and incredible progress. Headwaters Down is a living documentation of the beauty, history, and awesome power of this underappreciated river. The program was created by Justin Black, Will Gemma, and Dietrich Teschner of Headwaters Down LLC. Watch a preview HERE.

Bayou City – Wednesday, April 19 at 10:15 p.m.

Growth and development throughout Houston, Texas, has degraded the city’s bayous, and many of the ecosystem services and wildlife habitat that they once provided are now gone. Dedicated and passionate individuals within Houston’s conservation community are working to change how the city sees its bayous. This short film was produced by Olivia Haun of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Eatin’ Blue Catfish: Chesapeake Style – Thursday, April 20 at 8 p.m.

Local chefs are now touting the blue catfish, a tasty but unwelcome guest that threatens to upset the biological balance of the Chesapeake Bay. Visit the kitchens of Maryland-area chefs as they test delicious ways to prepare and serve the savory predator during this MPT-produced film.  

Wetlands of Wonder: The Hidden World of Vernal Pools – Saturday, April 22 at 9 a.m.

Hidden in the woodlands of the Delmarva Peninsula and Virginia are small, seasonal pools formed thousands of years ago. Their unique ecosystem is the ideal habitat for certain small creatures, many of which are rare or endangered. Follow researchers as they explore these fragile freshwater wetlands and the extraordinary life forms that rely on them. This program was produced by Michael Oates of 302 Stories, Inc. Watch a preview HERE.

Island Empire – Saturday, April 22 at 4 p.m.

Follow the story of the Cobb family, who settled on a deserted Virginia barrier island in the 1830s. Through sheer grit, determination, and perseverance, through tragedy and setbacks, the Cobbs turned an empty sandbar into a vibrant, working community. This program was produced by James Spione of Morninglight Films, Inc.