In Brigantine, one man's mysterious Sandy debris is another man's rock sculpture
A microwave-sized boulder that appeared in the shallows of the lagoon behind Mark Supple’s Brigantine home was not his first concern after Hurricane Sandy.
The boulder stayed in the shallows — shifting some during high tides — for eight weeks. This week, Supple and a neighbor got around to pulling it from the water. They thought it might look nice on the porch.
“We rolled it over, close to the house, and we picked it up onto the bottom step coming down to the water,” he said. “Just the way we put it on the step, we didn’t see anything. We came upstairs, and when we looked down at it, (we saw) a huge face carved into it.”
The face, which had stared down into the sand for those eight weeks, has sunken eyes, a slightly eroded nose and tightly sealed lips.
“These waters haven’t been churned like that in, who knows? Maybe forever,” Supple said earlier this week. “I don’t know how long this thing could sit at the bottom of the ocean, where it came from or how long it’s been there. I sent pictures to my brother and my best friend, and they seriously thought I might have something here.”
Supple said he had trouble sleeping that night. He pointed out markings along the underside and an X carved into the base of the head.
“Somewhere in this world is a stone body without a head, and I got the head,” he said.
Alas, it turned out the stone head has it roots in South Jersey, not in some far-off land.
“I created that head,” said Bob Lang, owner of Lang’s Garden Market in Linwood.
Lang has been making heads such as the one that washed up on Supple’s property for eight years. He took a look at a picture of the boulder and could immediately tell, from the style, and the style of the rock, that it was one of his creations.
Lang said he travels to Lee Vining, Calif., to pick out the lightweight lava rocks and carves the heads with diamond-tipped power tools. Then he sands and files them. He’s made 40 of them, and they sell quickly, he said. One of his large heads, weighing two tons, sits in front of Steve and Cookie’s by the Bay restaurant in Margate.
He said is not sure when, or to whom, he sold the head that found its way to Supple’s property, but he said it would have cost $300 to $500. The story of its rediscovery made him happy.
“That is great, just the way it happened. That is a classic,” he said. “That’s funny as hell.”
Supple was less enthused to find out that it was from Linwood rather than Easter Island.
“Wow. OK. That’s a little disappointing,” he said. “I really thought it was something ancient. I was really hoping for something better than that. But I guess it is what it is.”
Before Lang’s admission, Vineland archaeologist Alan Mounier studied pictures of the head and wrote in an email that it was difficult to judge its origin without seeing it in person.
Mounier noted that it looks to be in the Pacific style (Tiki or Moai), which became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s.
“It may have been carved almost anywhere, perhaps locally, perhaps in Asia,” he said. “The stone appears to be full of voids, resembling lava or some other volcanic material. I doubt that it has any overarching historical significance. I cannot offer an opinion as to value.”
Supple said he plans to continue to research the head.
“Not that I doubt that (Lang) made it,” he said. “I just don’t want to give it away and find out a week later that there was some breakthrough on it.”
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