As everyone knows, Point Lookout is located on the eastern tip of a barrier beach island, surrounded by Reynolds Channel on the North, Jones Inlet on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the south and East Rockaway (Debs) Inlet on the west.
Also well known is the fact that the littoral drift of water-borne sand is from east to west. What is not so well known is that the sand in question must come from somewhere. There are benefit areas of our barrier beach and donor areas. Also not widely understood is that not only does sand travel in a westerly direction, but unless stabilized, the inlets migrate west as well, the eastern side of the inlet growing longer and the western side growing shorter.
In my photo gallery is a 1929 aerial shot of Point Lookout which shows an area roughly two and a half times the size of the present day Point extending to the east.When I was a boy in the late '30's, this eastern end of Point Lookout was being washed away at an alarming rate. It was so bad that the southern most house on the east side of Mineola Avenue was moved to Parkside Drive. Interestingly, the western most part of town. This house was owned for a time by the family of Dr. Hughes. A picture of mine of this house on the inlet (see pg. 38) shows a timber bulkhead in front of the house buttressed by sand bags. Sand was lost to the sea either through cracks in the timber staving or slid under the bulkhead. If enough sand was lost the anchors, or "deadmen" as they are called, would give way, causing the bulkhead to fall into the sea, dooming the house.
Due to the absence of a stone jetty extending seaward on the Jones Beach side of the inlet, Point Lookout was exposed to Northeasters and high intensity waves would come surging up the inlet onto this eastern shore. I have in my possession an 8 millimeter movie film taken by my father in 1940 showing the ferocity of seas pummeling that shoreline and the catastrophic erosion that took place.
Around 1940,the Town Of Hempstead began construction of a Great Rock Sea Wall extending from a spot just north of Lido Boulevard to the southeasterly end of Mineola Avenue. The problem was that as the sand eroded under the rock wall, the wall would become undermined and fall into the inlet. On many occasions, after an easterly gale, rock slides would occur. More rock would have to be brought in to fill the breach.
This went on for a few years as there was still no jetty on the Jones Beach side and the eastern side of Point Lookout was fully exposed to the ravaging sea just as if it were on the ocean front. In my opinion, had not the eastern shore of Point Lookout been stabilized, the place we know as Point Lookout would now be on the Jones Beach side, due to the westward migration of the inlet.
In 1944,my father had the opportunity to become a supplier of shucked surf clams to Snow Canning Co. of Pine Point, Maine. This was a new fishery with a market demand fueled by wartime food shortages.We had five company boats and a number of independent boats dredging clams for us. Some days we would shuck sixteen hundred bushels, all by hand. By this time, the seawall was on a precipice, sections falling during storms necessitating high maintenance to the wall.The clam shells for which there was no market provided the solution.
With the cooperation of the Town of Hempstead and New York State Department of Public Works, shells were dumped on the seaside of the seawall creating a sloping reef. Subjected to wave action the shells would leaf or overlap like interlocking fingers to form a solid reef, protecting the wall from being undermined. Not only did they form a protective reef in front of the wall, but because of their porous nature, absorbed the shock of crashing waves like a sponge.
I have a newspaper clipping from the Nassau Daily Review Star circa 1948, reporting a depth of water survey in front of the wall. To quote from the article:
"Soundings taken directly in front of the seawall varied from shallow to 45 feet.Town officials were highly complimentary to Mayor-Elect Robert L.Doxsee of Freeport, saying his cooperation in placing clam shells in front of the seawall had prevented considerable erosion."
The long-promised one mile long jetty extending seaward into the Atlantic Ocean from Jones Beach was finally completed in 1953, providing protection to the eastern side of Point Lookout from horrendous storm damage.
Over the years the rock wall has been maintained. Thanks to Tom Doheny and the Town of Hempstead Department of Conservation and Waterways we were able to obtain large amounts of very valuable stone and concrete material at almost no cost to further strengthen the rock wall.
In the beginning, however, it was the Great Rock Sea Wall and the lowly clam shell that held back the mighty Atlantic.R