Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bad Garbage

Today’s find, a snow shovel, drifting by Dorothea Dix Park, the dark plastic shovel barely visible in the waves. I placed it to the rear of my boat.

Each year we find and remove four to five bags of garbage from the river. Our goal in particular is to remove plastic, to keep it from joining the Atlantic gyre. Most of the garbage we find is cups and water bottles, which tend to float on top. Plastic bags drift at all levels of the current, and are rarely visible unless you go right by them. If missed, they can be hard to find again.

We’ve found some interesting things, a guitar, a bag, a few notes in bottles, once a dollar bill in a bottle. Once a knapsack, an old military pack. One name was on the bag, the another upon some knee pads. In the bag were a water bottle, an energy bar, a shirt and sweater, two multitools and an iPod. We found the owner's Myspace on line, using the names on the bag, and sent a message there. This man rarely signed in though, so we’d nearly begun to think of the tools as ours when we finally heard from him. We wound up delivering the bag to a friend of his father, and learned how the bag came to be in the Penobscot. His bag had been thrown in the river in an argument over a girl.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last Shipment from Cianbro

 UPDATE:  Cianbro has since begun shipping modules to Newfoundland; see those shipments at Reporting Dead Sea Mammals.   And the Patience did return, though it alternates between Belfast and Bangor
A sad day. Jun 4 was the last shipment from the Cianbro facility in Brewer to the Oil Refinery in Port Arthur Texas. Since March 26, 2009 we’ve been watching the modules ship out, watching the empty barge and tugboats head back up the river and being reminded of when the Penobscot was heavily used for transportation.
The shipment was scheduled to leave Brewer at 2. We left our house at 1:30. Two kayaks heading north at 3 knots, 30 minutes before the barge headed south at 6 knots would give us an intersection at the Sou. (See, algebra is useful!) A good plan, there would be no cliff behind us to swing back waves.
“It’s not two hours before high,” Mark complained, “We’re ten feet down.” (He was right, when we checked later it was closer to three plus hours before high.) “They’ve never left this early.” Usually they left two hours before high, so as to hit the narrows between Verona Island and Prospect at slack tide.
“But that’s what the paper said.” I argued.
Ahead on the highlands clouds of dust blew across the sky.
“Smoke?” I asked
“Pollen.” Mark stopped to record this event, pollen blowing like fog across the water. Across the water was a yellow sheen, and in the back eddies, a collection of yellow.

As we headed up beyond Reed’s Brook Island the parade came into sight, and a small motor boat came up behind us, throwing up more of a wake than the barge would. It looked to be a photographer and a pilot, and they parked mid river, the better to get shots. Meanwhile we continued our trudge to the Sou.

There we sat and waited. Kristina A led the parade, with a heavy chain pulling the barge behind, the large Cianbro sign mounted on a center module. Fornier and Fort Point made up the rear, Fournier roped to barge and Fort Point riding free. Both the rear tugs had several construction workers on board. I suspect they were going only as far as Stockton Springs.

Going up the river seemed dull compared to watching the parade, so we paddled downstream, hampered at first by the wake (which should have been helping us) then as they pulled further and further ahead, only by the incoming current, stream and mostly our exhaustion.
It was a long trip back to the landing, where the tide was still quite low.
The Patience, a replica steamboat has not reappeared in Bangor, I think last year’s awful weather spelled the end for that craft. The cruise ships were cutting back trips from Bangor because of difficulties flying into the city. And that was the last shipment of modules. It will be a much duller river.

The first barge leaves:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Buzzards by the Water

We first saw the buzzards about a week ago, three large dark birds by the shore. At first we thought they were immature eagles (a common sighting), but the bodies were too small. The necks were too short for cormorants. But the giveaway was the head and beak, a reddish head, and a yellow beak with a white tip. Turkey Vultures, commonly known as buzzards.

We were unsure what this portended, was this a new nest? Mark read that buzzards often hang around dead bodies, but we hadn't seen anything. A few days later the birds were still there.

"They must nest somewhere," I thought, eager for the chance to get a picture.

This morning, right by that same location, that supposition was proved wrong, for there at the base of the tree was a deer skeleton. I'd seen this deer before, bob, bob, bobbing (already dead) along about three weeks ago in the same location. Since then, I'd walked down there with Mark specifically to search for the deer, and paddled that stretch many times without seeing anything.  But here it was back again, far worse for the wear. I guess there's always more to see!