Thursday, August 6, 2009


Wednesday, August 5, 2009
crazy hot.

humid as all get out.
ebbing tide
Spectacle Island, Boston

Today we took a test. The end.

No...wait...there was more to the day than that.... AFTER the test...we met at Long Wharf and hopped on a ferry to go to Spectacle Island. The purpose of this trip was to observe, sort and document the remnants of the island's illustrious a dump. We set foot on the island and immediately took off towards the beach. We wandered down the waterfront, careful to take note of the different materials that made up the beach face. One thing I noticed was the abundance of rocks and glass and ceramics, and the apparent absence of shells. Oh sure, there were shells here and there, but nothing like any of the other islands we had visited. It seemed as though this island was like that of the Staten variety...a floating pile of rubbish. Beautiful rubbish.

As instructed, we broke into teams, (myself, Han and Alexandra) and we found a place to sort and catalogue the different types of materials found. We chose a place just below the last high tide swash all the way at the far end of the beach. We marked out a 6'x6' rough square and got to work. First we took note of what we saw on the superficial level. If you look closely (click photo for larger image) you can see that most, if not all, the pieces on the surface were large and pretty well sorted. By well sorted, I mean that they are all of a fairly uniform size. There is little variation between size and shape...colour we will look at a bit later. We then set out to begin picking out the different colour variants we could readily see. We started by finding all of the brown, green, white/clear, and ceramic pieces. We then moved on to brick and blue and any other possible mystery items we may come across. From what we could observe, there seemed to be an almost equal number of pieces of brown, green, white/clear, and ceramic...with brown and ceramic tipping the scales a bit. This may not be indicative of original distribution of glass types, but more the appeal of certain colours. We also picked up some brick pieces, and a few blue pieces as well. We had quite a difficult time finding blue glass. Again, not indicative of original distribution, as this is quite a popular color for collectors. Next we decided to dig a bit deeper...literally..and we dug a hole about 6-8 inches below the surface. What we discovered was right in line with the 'Brazil-nut theory' which has been presented to us on multiple occasions. What we saw was a steady decline in the size of the particles of glass and rock the deeper we went down. But not only did we notice a variance in size, the shape and surface texture of the glass in particular was different. What we observed was that the rocks and glass below were not as 'tumbled' as the surface rocks. That left those pieces more jagged and less frosted as their surface counterparts. We concluded that the relative protection they got from the larger rocks hastened the weathering process of the glass. Without the tides and waves rolling and crashing the glass around, it stayed in a relative state of stasis. Below is an example of a piece of green glass found on the surface versus a piece of green glass found about 8 inches deep.

As you can tell, the difference is quite apparent. The above ground glass (top photo) is quite frosted, and has an organic shape and feel to it. The glass that was deeper down in the rocks (second photo) is nearly translucent and jagged. We were satisfied with our finds at the top of the shore, but we thought it would be interesting to investigate a bit closer to the low tide mark. We found a space that was nearer to the water and did the same plotting of a 6'x6' (ish) square and we made our initial observations. Wow...a square full of rocks. I know. Stunning. The biggest difference we noticed between the upper part of the beach and the lower part was the lack of larger artifacts. The shoreline below the last high tide swash was lacking in really large stones, glass, ceramic or shells. This may be because when the tide ebbs, the larger rocks stay put and the smaller rocks and glass get moved. The brazil nut theory with a different application. We honestly did not find much down nearer to the water. What we did notice, was the lack of ability to 'dig deeper'...literally. The ground was so compacted and made up of such finely packed materials that it was difficult to get deeper than a centimeter or two. We attempted to gather as much that we could find, but it proved to be most difficult. The materials just were not present. The tidal force coupled with possible human interactions may have had something to do with the lack of glass at this level. What we did find was quite pretty, even in its limited numbers. All said and done, it was an interesting and informative visit. We witnessed the tidal effects on beaches and how they can influence the landscape. We also got to observe how time and weather can erode and transform a singular object. I felt rather humbled today. Thank you for that. p.s. big ups to my team!

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