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A Capsule of the Unknown Island

A Capsule of the Unknown Island

By Christina Ludwig

The waves crash on the smooth sand as birds soar from the South End of Wrightsville Beach to escape to this tranquil island.

To the people of Wilmington, Masonboro Island is either known as an undiscovered land, a party haven on the Fourth of July, or a unique campground. Dr. Bill Bolduc, a Communication Studies professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is in the process of a year-long video project of Masonboro with the help of local geologists. This documentary will showcase the four seasons of Masonboro as it goes through various changes, both physically and geographically. “I was just intrigued by the idea that right in the middle of this vacation spot is an undeveloped island,” said Bolduc. “I thought it was neat that it stayed fairly pristine despite being surrounded by this population and human activity.” 

As one of the many barrier islands in the Wrightsville Beach area, Masonboro goes through shifts in location throughout the year as the tides change. The only way to access this 9-mile island is by boat, which is the reason it stays fairly undisturbed. After 6 years of thinking about this project, Dr. Bolduc has put it into action and is collaborating with Philip Gerard, Creative Writing professor at UNCW and author of “Down the Cape Fear,” to produce this showcase of local nature.

Before the cameras and drones even started recording, Bolduc and Gerard set out to understand the island so they could fully capture every aspect of it. They teamed up with Roger Shew, a Geology professor at UNCW, and took a tour of the island and learned every layer of its sediment foundation. “The most surprising thing to me was the giant pieces of wood sticking out of the ground were actually rooted trees,” said Bolduc. “The sand is constantly changing so trees get buried underground.”

From still winter days to overflowing amounts of boats docked in the summer, this ever-changing island always has opportunities to film new content. However, Dr. Bolduc is facing some obstacles along the way. “The challenge that we face is doing a production like this with limited funds and limited access,” said Bolduc. “I have to call ahead to the Center for Marine Science and reserve a boat, and then once we get there cover the whole island by walking.” The department drone has been a useful tool to film aerial shots, and JVC cameras have been used to capture shots on the ground. Borrowing equipment has been a consistent help for Dr. Bolduc during this independent research project.

This production is not the first type of documentary that Dr. Bolduc has done. He has taught an entire summer course on documentaries as well as filmed promotional videos for study abroad sessions in Belize and Wales for the university. This is, however, the first long-term creative project he has done solely about the coastal environment. He feels it is a great way to show the people of Wilmington what role this island plays in our area. “You’d be amazed by the amount of people that say ‘I’ve never been there’ when I say that I am doing a documentary about it, which is crazy to me because it is right off shore,” said Bolduc.

Although there is no set release date for this documentary, Dr. Bolduc is planning on sending it out to the local UNC-TV cable channel, Cucalorus Film Festival, and other various environmental film festivals. The working title is “The Seasons of Masonboro Island.” His goal is to have it used as an educational video for all ages in the local school districts and as a teaching tool for UNCW’s Watson College of Education. These various outreaches exemplify how a COM Studies major is truly limitless with his or her work.