Friday, July 30, 2010

Alissa Frame Post 1

I'll get to my initial impression of Boston Harbor in a moment, but first: I was dumbfounded by the similarities between the Deer Island sewage treatment facility and- bear with me here- myself. You wouldn't know it if you looked at me, but for 8 months, I interacted regularly with human waste via pitchfork. As a backcountry caretaker for the AMC, part of my job was to maintain the privy (read: stir the poop). The privy is necessary because of dramatically increased use over the past few decades. One person pooping wherever he wants in the woods is no big deal; neither is two people, or a few dozen people, or even a few hundred people. But with the thousands now visiting the White Mountains every year, the woods (and streams, rivers and lakes) would be full of it, if not for the privies. Enter me, digestor/outfall tunnel/pellet factory extraordinaire. I stirred the collector (a combination of digestion chamber and outfall tunnel, complete with a liquid separator). When the liquids had sufficiently separated, I churned the remaining solids into a new bin, and after some time into another, where bacteria further and further broke down the organic material (a multi-step digestor). I transferred the product of this final bin to a drying rack (pellet factory) where, finally, the poop completed it's transformation into sanitary fertilizer under power of the sun. So I was excited- and, unlike many in the class, not at all disgusted- to learn that the solids from Deer Island wind up as fertilizer. I know everyone's probably going to look at me a little differently now, but this was two years ago, and I promise I've showered since then.

But I digress. The Harbor. My first impression was, well, that there's a bar next to it. A lot of bars, actually, and a lot of people. Prof. Berman emphasized the biodiversity of the harbor; it's amazing that such biodiversity can exist so close to such a highly impacted, densely populated built landscape. The biodiversity is probably linked to the diversity of habitats- the intertidal zone we talked about in class and could see a small part of on the islands (with seaweed shining in the sun), different rocky and sandy shorelines, and the deepening ocean floor with it's purportedly varying surfaces. Each habitat must have different but perhaps overlapping sets of inhabitants that support (read: are eaten by) each other and other populations on land (like us) and in the air (like the gulls we saw). Some of the islands were grassy, others forested, and most had manmade structures.

I couldn't tell the tide, but according to high tide was a few minutes before 3pm. So while we were out on the boat, the tide was relatively high and still coming in. I'm guessing the 9-foot tide has a lot to do with the striking level of erosion on many of the smaller islands.

I was surprised at how disoriented I was, though I had drawn the map and labeled all of the islands. I recognized Deer Island by the treatment facility and Hull by the overdevelopment, but couldn't figure out what any of the other islands were.

I was interested to learn that water moves like air- the high velocity of water through Hull Gut is much like the increased wind speed through mountain passes.

Alissa Frame

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