Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Week 3 - The Elephant in the Harbor

Welcome back!

Ready to head out kayaking with Kat and Brianna
     Last week was full to the brim with action and new activities for me. We started the week off with a staff day to go kayaking in the Fort Point Channel to pick up trash and other waste in the water. Because some of our staff didn't know how to kayak, it was a fun learning experience going around and teaching people some paddling skills they would need on the water. For example, paddling on your right turns the boat left! This is because the acceleration on the right side of the kayak becomes greater than the acceleration on the left side of the kayak, which results in the right side of the kayak traveling a greater distance than the left, pointing the bow left. Being with coworkers who work at other sites was also a lot of fun: I got to catch up with people I knew already, and I met a few faces I hadn't seen outside of orientation.

Captain Charlie showing the kids a real lobster
     Tuesday was a really interesting day for our kids at Courageous Sailing camp, because instead of our usual programming we had the opportunity to board the Belle (courtesy of Captain Charlie, who owns the Belle) and go fishing for the day. The first thing we did was  go to Charlie's lobster trap, in which there was an actual lobster the kids could see and touch. There were also some crabs in the trap, including the biggest spider crab we have seen all summer! After that excitement we headed out into the Harbor proper to do some fishing. After teaching the kids how baiting with a worm works (it's kinda disgusting, but some of the kids were fascinated with the worms and played with them for a bit), Charlie drove us around to some of his favorite fishing spots. Most of our catches were black sea basses and chogees, but one of the Courageous counselors caught a skate as well.

     One of the things I talked to the kids about between bouts of fishing was the history of some of the islands that we went by. One of the most interesting island stories I know (and one everyone should know if they live in the Boston area) is the history of Spectacle Island. Spectacle Island used to be a trash dump for Boston and Quincy, and as the trash piled up and the wind blew some of the trash off the island, the water got dirtier and dirtier. Combined with the sewage pumped into the harbor by Boston and 40 surrounding communities, the harbor was an absolute mess. Story has it that there was so much trash in the water that you could walk across the harbor without getting your feet wet. If you fell into the harbor, you would need a tetnis shot (that one, sadly, is true). Reportedly, when a worker drove a bulldozer through the trash trying to knock down some of the larger piles, it started sinking into the trash. Rescue teams saved the worker, but the bulldozer was left to rust, lost to the trash heaps forever.

     The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority was established in 1985, and a court-order cleanup of Boston Harbor began. The two most impactful changes made to the harbor were where trash is dumped and where sewage waste is pumped. Sewage, instead of being pumped straight into the harbor, is now sent to two different places. Liquid waste goes to a processing plant on Deer Island, which cleans the water to the point that it is reportedly drinkable (if you want to try that, be my guest). Solid waste goes to a processing plant in Quincy, shaped into pellets, and sent down to Florida to (among other things) grow oranges. As for the trash, Spectacle Island was lit on fire for 10 years, after which excess dirt from the Big Dig was used to resurface the island. Now, after 300 trees were planted, and the island is protected as a national park, Spectacle Island has become a beautiful park open to the public, with water clean enough to swim in.

Song of the week: Season 2 Episode 3 by Glass Animals

Until next time,
     ~Colin McRae

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