Friday, December 31, 2010

Skipper's Year End Report for 2010

This (virtual) last afternoon of 2010 saw the Boston & Maine local freight pulling out of South Acton Junction and about to cross over Fort Pond Brook on its way eastward.  The first boxcar, behind the diesel locomotive, contains the 6,453 pieces of trash recovered from various waterways over the course of the past year and it will be spotted on a siding at a trash/recycling facility in nearby Concord Junction. Isn't it amazing how fast that snow melted with today's mild temperatures?!

My Trashpaddling 2010 spreadsheet provides the following data:

Sudbury River - 39 patrols netted 3,553 pieces of trash for an average of 91 pieces per patrol.

Assabet River - 27 patrols netted 1,867 pieces of trash for an average of 69 pieces per patrol.

Concord River - 11 patrols netted 525 pieces of trash for an average of 48 pieces per patrol.

Charles River - 4 patrols netted 316 pieces of trash for an average of 79 pieces per patrol.

Ipswich River - 1 patrol netted 42 pieces of trash for an average of 42 pieces per patrol.

Blackstone Watershed - 2 patrols netted 94 pieces of trash for an average of 47 pieces per patrol.

Terrestrial patrols on Nashua River Rail Trail - 8 patrols netted 56 pieces or 7 pieces per patrol.

2010 Trash Composition:

Miscellaneous rubbish made up 48%

Recyclable (but not redeemable) containers made up 34%

Recyclable and redeemable containers made up 18%.

Vessel # 1 Status: Fair

Vessel # 2 Status: Fair

Main Engine Status: Fair but total rebuild may soon be required.

My thanks to all the folks who've supported my trashpaddling efforts and I hope 2011 is a great year for all!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Norumbega Ponderings

For about a week now, I have been pondering Jean Allefonsce's (Alfonse) description of his sailing to Norumbega in 1542.  The Internet is filled with theories on the location of Norumbega ranging from the Hudson River all the way to the Penobscot River, including numerous other rivers and bays in between.
What I found intriguing was the description attributed to Jean Allefonsce who was Roberval's pilot or navigator.  At some point in Roberval's 1542 voyage to the St. Lawrence River, he either sent or allowed Allefonsce to undertake a separate voyage of discovery, and this was when he visited Norumbega.  Because Allefonsce was regarded as a competent navigator, I believe his mention of specific distances must be given serious consideration.  The first distance that caught my attention was the "said river is more than forty leagues broad at its mouth".  That is more than 120 miles wide and there aren't any rivers that I know of that come close to having that width at their mouths, except for the St. Lawrence and they already knew about that river.  Next, he stated the river "extends this width inward thirty or forty leagues".  Again, there are no rivers that size that I can find.  All last week I mulled over these dimensions and kept looking at maps with no success until yesterday morning I awoke with the thought of where this great river might be located.  Opening my atlas and finding my new candidate, I measured the width at the mouth and found it to be pretty close to 40 leagues.  Next I checked that it held its width for thirty to forty leagues and found, once again, it is fairly close.  Thinking that I may be on to something, I searched the Internet for a more complete account of his description and found his having reported sailing 140 leagues southwest from Cape Breton to Cape Sable, and then another 25 leagues to the river.  He reported that Cape Sable was "at 45 degrees of the height of the artic pole" and later says that the river, only 25 leagues beyond, is "at 42 degrees of the height of the artic pole".  Perhaps this was an error in transcription?  Another dimension provided is that said river "is salt for more than 40 leagues inward".  My new candidate seems to conform well to all of his listed criteria.  However, it is not a river by our present definition.  It is a bay, specifically the Bay of Fundy.  I can understand how he may have thought of it as a great river.  At any rate, he said that "15 leagues within this river is a city which is called Norombergue".  If Norumbega was on the west side it may have been near the mouth of the St. Croix River or, if on the east side, perhaps near Digby.  This map by Abraham Ortelius from 1570 shows a location that looks very much like the Bay of Fundy.  Actually, I don't see how it could be anything but the Bay of Fundy, since such a large body of water couldn't be simply omitted from a map.
Another good map is by Cornelius Wytfliet from 1597.  This one can be viewed full-screen and is zoomable.
I'm sure the mystery will continue into the future.  Now, I can get back to my Skipper's Annual Report since it is not looking good for any more 2010 trash patrols.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Norumbega Waters

While I did drive to the south today in search of warmer climes, apparently, I didn't drive far enough.  However, I can't complain too much for the Charles River did provide open water to launch into and, believe it or not, the launch site was fairly busy with 5 kayaks hitting the water within a few minutes of each other.  Last Sunday's rain and wind storm raised the water level substantially and this helped to dislodge much of the ice.
We headed upriver from the Norumbega Duck Feeding area (where signs forbid feeding ducks).  I say we because, today, I again joined forces with J.R. Killigrew for one more 2010 trash patrol.
Proceeding upriver, folks were seen cross-country skiing on the river's west bank.  They were gliding along snow that came from the river through this pipeline...
I had never thought of the Charles River as being a source for snow-making.

Much of today's trash required some persuasion to give up its icy grip.  Here J.R. can be seen doing a little persuading with his hatchet...
 A freshly recovered and empty Mountain Dew bottle was his reward...
The turnaround point for today was the golf cart bridge leading to the back nine at the Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course...
J.R. would later put together this video of today's patrol...

Back at Norumbega, our joint haul numbered 66 pieces of trash and brought YTD total to 6453.  There were 40 recyclable containers of which 4 were redeemable and 26 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as styrofoam buoys, coffee cups, tennis balls, cans of spray paint, etc.  One of the more egregious finds was a well sealed quart container of motor oil that was half full of oil.  The haul is pictured below...
That yellow buoy sure looks like a lobster buoy to me.  Perhaps it marked a string of crayfish pots.

So, were we really paddling Norumbega waters?  A quick search on the internet regarding Norumbega turned up the following from Wikipedia:  Norumbega was a legendary settlement in northeastern North America inextricably connected with attempts to demonstrate Viking incursions in New England.  Like Cathay, it was a semi-legendary name used to fill a gap in existing geographical knowledge.  Wikipedia's account continues and this is the part I find tantalizing: an early reference was that of the French navigator Jean Allefonsce (1542) who reported that he had coasted south from Newfoundland and he had discovered a great river.  "The river is more than 40 leagues wide at its entrance and retains its width some thirty or forty leagues.  It is full of islands, which stretch some ten or twelve leagues into the sea...Fifteen leagues within this river there is a town called Norumbega, with clever inhabitants, who trade in furs of all sorts; the town folk are dressed in furs, wearing sable....The people use many words which sound like Latin.  They worship the sun.  They are tall and handsome in form.  The land of Norumbega lie high and is well situated."
If a league is thought to be about 3 miles, he was describing a very large river and bay.  Perhaps the Saint Lawrence or Penobscot rivers fit his description better than the Charles?   The mystery remains unsolved.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cave Dispatch # 121610

Just as the Native Americans hunkered down in their lodges during the coldest, darkest, and longest nights, so too have I.  This recent blast of cold temperatures saw me tending my stove's fire and catching up on some reading in my cave's warmest corner.  The book I just finished reading was Cabal of the Westford Knight, Templars at the Newport Tower by David S. Brody and published by Martin and Lawrence Press, Groton, MA.  It's a suspense/thriller set right around these parts and involves an attempt at solving the origins of mysterious stone stuctures pre-dating Columbus.  The story had me completely captivated and I did not wish to see it end.

Meanwhile, the year-end loading of my virtual freightcar with recovered trash continues on a little-used rail spur near South Acton Junction... 
Soon, I'll be sliding that boxcar's door closed for the last time and, with a little luck, I'll get to see it being pulled from the siding by a diesel locomotive one early January day. 

Today I took 145 redeemable containers to the Town of Acton Transfer Station and donated them to the Acton Community Supper.  Only recently did I discover that this organization maintains a storage container at the Transfer Station where folks can donate redeemable aluminun cans and plastic bottles (glass bottles cannot be accepted).  In addition to the nickel deposit helping to provide hot meals for those in need, the processing of the containers provides meaningful employment for folks with handicaps.  Sounds like a win/win situation to me and from now on, all of my redeemables containers (both personal and from trashpaddling) will be donated to this organization. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lower Sudbury and Upper Concord Rivers

Yesterday's rain and wind storm left some unusually warm temperatures in its wake.  This was fortuitous for me as I would be transitioning from daytime work to a 'graveyard shift' tonight.  Therefore, the morning and early afternoon could be spent out on the river.  While it was plenty warm enough, the dark clouds still lingered resulting in less than ideal light for taking photographs.  This can be seen in the opening photo taken at the 'Old North Bridge' and following photo of the boathouse at the 'Old Manse'... 
The other thing the storm left in its wake was lots of flotsam (aka trash).  In the 2.5 miles of river I paddled today there were 153 pieces of trash recovered.  Most of this resulted from a rapid rise in water level and this, in turn, floated much of the litter that had been stuck in the brambles.  The 153 covered a wide variety such as: 90 recyclable containers (48 redeemable) and 63 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish including numerous styrofoam coffee cups, bait tubs, and food trays.  A few odd items were a single large 'eyeball', a single 'Croc' shoe, and possibly the largest fishing bobber I've ever seen.  The motley bunch, having brought my YTD total to 6387, gathered boatside...

Also out on the river today was Jeff in his Czech built Zastera racing kayak.  At least, I believe it was him I saw heading into the Assabet River near Egg Rock.  And at Great Meadows Landing, I encountered a terrestrial patrol in the form of an electric powered vehicle.  The vehicles pilot, Alan of Bedford, stopped briefly to chat, before resuming his patrol down the trail.  Great Meadows Landing was also my turnaround point for today's patrol.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lower Sudbury and Assabet Rivers

It's amazing how balmy 44 degrees can feel after a few days with the temperature below 30 degrees.  Of course, the ice resulting from our recent cold spell had to be dealt with first in order to launch my boat, and then a second time in order to ascend the Assabet River.  The opening photo shows the route I chopped out of the ice near the Leaning Hemlocks.
Earlier, while paddling down the Sudbury River, I came upon this blue heron that appears to be hitching a ride on the back of a Canada goose...
 There were other critters enjoying this sunny stretch of river such as this colorful mallard duck...
And this little musquash...
 Later, on my return trip, this belted kingfisher watched as I exited the Assabet River...
 The "Cold Moon" is building in the eastern sky...
This is the first of the 3 tough moons.  It will be followed by the "Wolf Moon" in January and the "Snow Moon" in February.  Interestingly, the Native American leader who once ruled a sizable chunk of Massachusetts, including the local village of Musketaquid, was named for the moon.  He was Nanapashemet and it is believed his territory extended from the Salem/Marblehead area west to either the Concord River or perhaps, even further, to the Connecticut River.  North and south boundaries are believed to have been the Merrimack River and Great Blue Hill  respectively.  He made the mistake of aiding a neighboring tribe to the northeast in their war with the Tarrantines, and by doing so brought the wrath of the Tarratines upon himself.  He built a fortress near present day Medford and sent his wife and children to one of his more inland villages, possibly Musketaquid.   Ultimately, in 1619, the Tarratines found Nanapashemet and he was killed leaving his wife, known only as "Squaw Sachem" or "The Queene of Mistick", to rule what was left of his domain.  The trail nearest to Egg Rock bears her name today, Squaw Sachem's Trail.  It was she who, along with her new husband and other local Native Americans, entered into the 1635 agreement with Rev. Peter Bulkley and Simon Willard allowing for the purchase of a 6-square mile tract of land.  The resulting settlement would be named in honor of the agreement, Concord.
Today's trash patrol looped around the site of Musketaquid and brought me up to Spencer Brook where I turned around.  Before doing so, I recovered the hunk of railroad related iron that I'd found last year.  I believe it is part of an old railcar coupling device once used on the Reformatory Branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad.  It weighs approximately 30 pounds and can be seen in the photo of my modest trash haul below....
In addition to the railroad relic, there were 8 recyclable containers and 8 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.  My YTD total stands at 6234.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Fairhaven Bay & Return

Today's time out on the water came as a bit of a surprise for when I awoke, skies were cloudy, temperatures were in the mid 20's, and a breeze looked to be building.  The weather forecast didn't hold much promise, so the morning was spent indoors with expectations of an afternoon doing the same.  Then a little after noon skies began to brighten and by 1pm the die was cast for an impromptu trash patrol on the Sudbury River.   These days, winter protocols are in effect and thus require the use of a wetsuit, mukluks, pogies, an Elmer Fudd hat, and a full set of dry clothes onboard, just in case.
By 2 pm I was heading upriver and stopping to call at a friend's lodge...
Apparently, he was sleeping-in.  On the other side of Route 2, I came upon some of his recent work and understood his need for a good day's sleep...
When Fairhaven Ridge came into view (opening photo), I saw this slender, long-tailed hawk soaking-up the afternoon sunshine...
At Fairhaven Bay another boat with 2 fishermen was seen and approaching Brooke Island a belted kingfisher took flight from a low-hanging branch.  The island made a good spot to go ashore and stretch my legs before beginning the trip back downriver. 
I was surprised by the number of blue herons I saw remaining in the area.  I counted at least 8 that have delayed their trip south.  Perhaps the new air travel security measures have them holding back.
Less surprising were the large numbers of mallards on the river today  Also 3 deer were seen near Clamshell Bank.
Trash today was on the light side.  Only 11 pieces.  Recyclable containers amounted to 6 with the rest being miscellaneous rubbish...

My YTD total stands at 6217. Speaking of counting things, I usually start my annual countdown to spring on December 11th when 100 days remain. However, with this year's early onset of wintry weather, I've decided to start today. There are 106 days until spring 2011 arrives and I'm counting every last one of them.  It's sort of like "winter, how I hate thee, let me count the ways".