Officials tout the success of this year’s expedition from the mountains to the sea
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Nearly three weeks ago, Tom Mullikin and Company concluded the 4th-annual month-long SOUTH CAROLINA SEVEN (SC7) Expedition: A joint effort between Mullikin’s Global Eco Adventures (GEA) and the S.C. National Heritage Corridor (National Park Service) on the Beaufort County. S.C. coastline. To proclaim this year’s expedition “successful,” even very successful, is wildly understating the facts.
The previous three SC7 Expeditions (always in July) were also successful, and as SC7’s chief logistics officer Michelle McCollum contends: “They’ve built on each previous year’s expedition and they’ve gotten better every year since the first one was launched in 2020.”
How so? Public participation, new events along a several-hundred mile trail that closely parallels South Carolina’s famed Palmetto Trail from the mountains to the sea, repair work and environmental clean-up days along the various interconnected trails, and media: An astonishing 16.5-million potential impressions (essentially the number of how many households were reached) through print media, television, and radio – approximately 1,000 articles published, though most being duplications of individual pieces written roughly every three days from June 28–July 30 – all of which have been verified by a third-party media monitoring platform. And all of which are independent of the literally tens-of-thousands of SC7 website visits and 11,000 digital reads of SC7’s online field guide.
“The beauty of South Carolina was being shown to the world through SC7 along with the state’s position of global leadership with resiliency,” said Dr. Mullikin, an acclaimed global expedition leader, SC7’s expedition leader, chair of the S.C. Floodwater Commission, and founder of GEA among other top leadership hats worn. “We have honestly been overwhelmed by the response and the ever-increasing level of interest.”
McCollum, who serves as president and CEO of the National Heritage Corridor, said: “During each of segment of the expedition, public participation and support was enormous. We clearly struck a chord with South Carolinians and visitors to the Palmetto State.”
During previous years, approximately 450 participants joined the core team of SC7 on the trail – primarily hiking, but also whitewater rafting, kayaking, even SCUBA diving along the way – which averages to about 15 new participants per day. This year however, 50-80 participants joined the team daily which – if all participating individuals were different each day – that number would soar to 2,400. Impossible to gauge for sure, but the numbers were indeed high, the energy palpable and the excitement contagious. Among those participating were numerous senior sponsor representatives, also Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, S.C. Senate President Thomas Alexander, numerous general officers, legislators, business leaders, and others who make the state (even the nation) run.
What else? According to Mullikin: “We not only engaged thousands of participants along the trail and helped them better understand the underlying environmental issues impacting our state, but this year we introduced them to the beauty of the Pee Dee region, the Lynches River, the tremendous historic nature of these regions, as well as Myrtle Beach and Conway and of course, Beaufort and Parris Island all of which were new destinations added to SC7 2023.”
A key working-venture of all SC7 Expeditions has been offshore smart-reef installations conducted by a team of SC7 divers and supporting aircraft and surface vessels including Coastal Carolina University’s research vessel, COASTAL EXPLORER.
“This year we added advanced technology on the artificial reef as we continued to build upon the smart reef system from North Carolina to Georgia,” said Mullikin. [See related film produced by PICK UP THE SIX PRODUCTIONS – youtube.com/watch]
The information gathered by the smart reef system will improve advanced modeling applications to help inform discussions about hurricanes and other tropical storm impacts (e.g. flooding and storm surge). The data also supports research related to waves and currents as well as a wide range of other natural resource management concerns.
The SC7 brand represents the seven designated wonders of South Carolina including Sassafras Mountain; the Jocassee Gorges; the Chattooga River; the Congaree National Forest; the Edisto River; the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Basin (universally referred to as the ACE Basin); and Bull Island-Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Of the many sponsors for SC7 2023, Duke Energy was the presenting sponsor. The named health and wellness sponsors were the Medical University of South Carolina and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. The S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism was SC7’s Ecotourism sponsor.
The seven designated wonders will again, as always, be part of SC7 2024, but next July’s event will be “even bigger and better,” according to SC7 officials. How big is yet to be determined. But the team is already in the preliminary planning stages and the dates have already been set: Monday, July 1–Tuesday July 30, 2024.
– Pictured are Michelle McCollum, pres. of the S.C. National Heritage Corridor; S.C. Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette; and SC7 leader Dr. Tom Mullikin, chair of the S.C. Floodwater Commission on the trail in mid-July.