Monday, August 8, 2011


My Spectacle Island Visit

I went out to Spectacle Island last week. I intended to be on the island for low tide but then realized that low tide occurred at 6:03 am and 6:23 pm, which wasn’t going to work with the ferry schedule. So instead I caught the first ferry out and arrived at South Beach around 10:00. It was a sunny day and the temperature was around 85 degrees so I didn’t mind going in the water in search of treasures.

As we approached the South Beach area there was a picnic table that was covered with all the finds of previous visitors. But for the moment I ignored the table and headed straight for the water knowing that the tide would be coming in. My plan was to first spend time just collecting samples. Then there was a ranger lead walk that talk about some of the history of the island. I thought this might give me some insight about my samples. The walk was followed by a trip to the visitor’s center and finally I would use the new information to decide which samples were potentially the most interesting and photograph them before returning my collection to South Beach.

The ranger took us up the north drumlin where the view was amazing. On the way back down we saw a wild turkey. The ranger said they couldn’t figure out how the turkey got there. There are deer and raccoons on the island, but she said they are able to swim to the island. The turkey on the other hand can “flutter” short distance but they’re not really capable of flight, so it’s a mystery.

I learned that from 1857 -1910 the Ward’s candle making plant and horse-rendering operation converted 2000 dead horses a year into hides, glue, hair, and oil. Thirty men were employed on the island and 13 families lived there. But by 1910 the automobile was becoming increasingly popular in the Boston area, reducing the need for horses. As a result the operation was closed.

Then from 1912-1935, Coleman’s, a grease reclamation plant ,processed Boston’s garbage. When the plant closed in 1935 the island continued to be used as a garbage dump until 1959. One gentleman on the walk remarked that he clearly remembers garbage coming out to the islands after 1959 and the ranger explained that the city of Boston had stopped sending garbage out to the island in a systemic way in 1959, but there was some occasional dumping on the island after that date.

In the visitor’s center I looked at the displays and reviewed the collection of items that were left on the information desk. These were more of the treasures from South Beach.

Now it was time to get to work on the samples I had collected. I thought about the samples I had seen in the water, on the sand, and on the picnic table. While there were plenty of things that could just be considered random pieces of trash, there also seem to be things that fit into neat categories. The number of individual items in this category seems too high for their appearance to just be random. Some of the categories I recognized right away were dishware, sea glass, construction/ demolition materials and shoe heals and soles. This in my mind indicates that for some of these categories, the pieces probably all came to the island in either a single or multiple batches.

The first item I was interested in was a small piece that I found in the water of what appeared to be a broken dish. It had a blue design on it and a distinctive border. After a minute I realized that I had seen a slightly larger piece with this same border on the picnic table. When I compared the 2, I had a match. The 2 pieces could have been from the same piece or from 2 different pieces from the same set. I thought about it a little more and realized that I had also seen this pattern on one of the pieces on the information desk back at the visitor’s center. When I went back to look at it, the pattern did indeed match but this piece was probably a serving bowl whereas the other 2 pieces were most likely plates. But they were clearly from the same set. When I turned the serving bowl over it said Buffalo China.

I searched the Internet and found Buffalo China was the name of the company that manufactured it. They have been making dishware since the early 1900’s and were bought by Oneida in 1983. Over the years they have sold their dishware mostly to commercial entities such as restaurants, hotels and the military. For a period of time they also made pottery and commemorative plates. I went searching further and found the dishes for sale on eBay. The name of the pattern is Blue Willow.

The Willow pattern can be found in a variety of colors but blue is the most common. The Blue Willow pattern has been used by several companies and came to this country from England where its use dates back to the late 1700s. The facts get a little less certain at this point. It is believed that the design was originally from China and then brought to England. It appears that in England more than one person/company started using the pattern. With this last fact came the realization that the 2 pieces I found may not have been Buffalo China. It could have been from another company that used the Blue Willow pattern. Only the bowl from the Visitor’s Center was actually marked Buffalo China.

In my blog post above is a picture of the small piece I found in the water next to the piece from the picnic table, followed by a picture of the serving bowl from the visitor’s center and finally an image of the dish for sale on ebay.

The next item in my collection appeared to be a teacup; there were no markings on it. The pattern had a blue border with tulips and seems like the kind of thing that could have been in use anywhere from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Another item in my collection appeared to be a teacup. On the bottom it was marked “Ideal CARR China Co”. CARR China also sold its wares to commercial entities such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, clubs and the military. The company began sometime between 1916 and 1923 in West Virginia and was closed in 1952. Although the pottery industry in the US had been declining due to competition from Japan and other low wage earning countries, it’s rumored that Wheeler Bachman, the then owner of the plant, closed the business in a fit of rage when he learned that the plant employees were meeting to discuss the possibility of organizing a union.

Interestingly the Carr China Co. also sold a Blue Willow pattern. In addition to their generic dishes, in my research I found a number of pieces that were personalize by putting the name or logo of the business on them such as the Triangle Diner, Henry Ford Hospital, White Tower restaurant and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the blog above is a picture of the piece I found. It does not show the design of the Ideal pattern, so I went looking on the Internet. I found a picture of a plate and sugar bowl with the Ideal pattern but couldn’t find a teacup.

My final piece of dishware appears to be part of a white teacup with a green strip. There was no company name on this but while looking into the Buffalo China I saw some very similar patterns to this, but no exact match. It reminded me of the kind of dishes one would have seen in a coffee shop back in the 1960s. But then when looking into Carr China I found a plate on ebay that looks like it could be part of the same set.

So what I have so far is 4 pieces of, dishware, two of which came from companies that sold dishware commercially, one piece that looks like something that could have been used commercially, and one piece that I’m unsure about. My first thought was maybe a restaurant or some other entity had just thrown them out after buying a new set of dishes and they some how worked their way from the landfill to the water. But then I realized if a restaurant was getting new dishes and throwing out the old, they would have had disposed of many pieces all with the same pattern. What I saw on the beach was many pieces all with different patterns. I suppose it’s possible that enough dishes had collected over the years in the landfill that there are now a variety of patterns and only a few pieces from each pattern escape. I guess it’s also possible that the dishes didn’t all come to the island as a batch as I had thought (BE WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR THEORY) but rather each week a few pieces of dishware in the various Boston restaurants got broken by a clumsy waiter. Unlike some kinds of trash, the dishware isn’t too likely to degrade so I think it’s possible that the percent of dishes in comparison to other trash increases over the years and that it will continue to be around for many years. Although the pieces on the beach will probably continue to be broken into smaller and smaller pieces with the tides going in and out.

Moving away from the dishes to another category of trash, I selected a piece from what I’m calling the random trash collection. Although I found this plastic cigar holder in the water, the paper label was in good shape and easy to read, so I don’t think it had been there very long. The label read “Backwoods, Sweet Aromatic, All Natural Tobacco ” The bar code was 716 10 30151. I thought it possible that someone on one of the many boats that were on the water that day smoked a cigar and dropped the tube off the side of the boat deliberately.

My final artifact came from the sea glass collection. I learned from my reading of the Sea glass Journal (yes, there is such a thing, that “Sea glass found on the island may not be as conditioned as shards found on an ocean coastline since the currents and surf within Boston Harbor may not be as active. But this offers an unusual opportunity for the sea glass collector. Lots of the glass, while having smooth edges, will have retained a lot of its original shape and surface texture which leads to easier identification of their origins.”

The piece of glass I examined appeared to be the bottom of a clear bottle. On it was written the word Sheaffer’s.The Sheaffer Company was founded in 1912 and produced fountain pens. The company continues to operate today selling fine quality writing instruments. I suspect this bottle was probably from a bottle of ink that they sold. According to the Sheaffer website, Sheaffer pens were used to sign the Japanese peace treaty and the United Nations Charter. Could this piece of glass have been at these major historical events? Probably not, but it’s fun to think about it.

My trip to Spectacle Island made for a great day. Seeing all the trash reminds me that just because we throw something away doesn’t means it ceases to exist. It will need to go somewhere, so we need to keep in mind the 3-Rs, Reduce, Re-use, recycle. If any of you gets the chance I’d highly recommend visiting the island.


My Final Thoughts

This class has been a wonderful experience for me. All of the field trips were great but I think my favorite was exploring the biodiversity at the docks. I was amazed at how many creatures could be found in each handful we pulled off the docks. Until then I never realized how many different types of barnacles there were or knew that skeleton shrimp even existed. I also was amazed at how good the fish and chips were at the Barking Crab after our day on the docks.

Other highlights for me were the grove snails on Lovell’s Island and I really enjoyed my adventure on Spectacle Island. I must admit when Bruce had us read the Tragedy of the Commons I couldn’t understand what the connection was to our class at first, but once we talked about the over fishing of striped bass it all became clear.

The whole experience was enhanced by the great weather, my great classmates and a great teacher. I want to thank Bruce for both for his passion for sharing his knowledge with us and the work he has done over the years with Save the Harbor, Save the Bay to protect this great resource. I suspect we’ll all pay more attention every time we see a sign over a storm drain that says, “No Dumping – This drains to the Boston Harbor”.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spectacle Island: Alternative Final & Field Study

What a beautiful day for a boat ride...

(from left to right: Lauren M., Prof. Berman, Janelle B.)

The Voyage
Monday morning, Lauren and myself set out for Spectacle Island. By 9:11 am the ferry had left the dock and we were on our way. We shortly arrived at the island only to find a welcoming surprise, our very own Professor Berman! Docked ashore and preparing a grill on his house boat, The Veranda, Professor Berman was a delight to see. He welcomed us aboard and we had the pleasure sharing a few words. Before long we were off to comb the beach, later to return and join Professor Berman, his lovely wife Patty, and his summer youth group for lunch.

While along the beach there were several interesting finds, 5 of which I have gone in detail about below. However, aside from the five artifacts mentioned below, here were my highlights of our trip:

1. Finding shoe soles (I know I gave away one of the artifacts I'm sorry I thought it was really random and interesting!)
2. Lauren spotting a turkey on the island! I had no idea there were turkeys on Spectacle Island or any of the harbor islands for that matter!
3. Professor Berman telling Lauren and myself to beware of the rangers on the island~they're big flirts. More specifically, one ranger in particular, who prior to the professor mentioning his name, had already persistently inquired whether he could be of any assistance to Lauren and myself....too funny.
4. The ranger inside the visitor's area telling us that he was sick of the birds flying around in the building, because it was hot and he could not turn on the fans until they left. This was spoken out of experience, because the week prior, they had turned on the fans and while the fans were still running a bird flew into the room and was hit by one of the fans, hurtling it to the wall where it left a mark....and died. There is a small black seemingly feather-like material hanging off one of the ledges below the "mark" and me and Lauren both agreed it is probably the bird! Considering that the body of the dead bird was never retrieved (says the ranger).
5. The ranger had a bunch of more interesting and rare artifacts on his desk counter top and one of them was half of the bottom (or top) of dentures! It even had silver fillings! I was really grossed out until the ranger mentioned that they were probably cleaner now after having been washed along the shore than they ever were before. I was so surprised they had found dentures.... gross but an awesome find for sure.
6. A wooden wheel from a chariot. I believe Clinton may have already posted this wheel that I am speaking of, but it was really cool to see this. I didn't want to post it as an artifact for two reasons, 1) Lauren spotted the wheel & 2) We found it next to the large table of artifacts people found on the shore and put there for display, so I felt guilty using it, but it was really cool.
7. I found this one artifact not too far above the shoreline that Lauren and I debated whether it was actually a colony of tunicate of some sort, or the inside of a plunger. I swear it was shaped just like a plunger. It was not whole, but I also found another portion of it, same shape, a little farther down the shore. Up close you could see little circles, either bubbles or actual circles and they had tiny black specks in the center. The entire material was bumpy to the touch, a little slimy, and dark gray. I could not decide whether it was a piece of less durable, broken down rubber, or just a plant/organism.
8. Having Hebrew National hotdogs --which I did not even know existed, they are full beef, kosher, and delicious-- with Professor Berman, his wife Patty, and his summer youth group. Everything was delicious and Lauren & I were really glad to get to see Professor Berman one last time, as well as see his boat that he spoke so much about--which, for those of you curious, it's a beautiful boat.

The Artifacts:

1. Coca-Cola Bottle
This is a worn out fragment of a Coca-Cola bottle. The bottles are typically a clear glass with a greenish hint to them, but after being knocked around a bit the glass must have gotten scratched, giving it the white appearance it shows now. Coca-Cola is an american soda company that began in 1886. This bottle in particular, tell us that it was during or after 1916 when the contour shape of the Coca-Cola bottles originated. The bottle shape is recognized worldwide today, and the fact that it was given trademark status by the U.S. Patent Office back in the 1900s was a rare and special occurrence. These bottles must have been quite abundant during the time they were just breaking out into the market. Also, during the prohibition act, having a new refreshing soda was beneficial, I would guess that there were a great deal of these bottles around. Since they soon became a common beverage, it would not be surprising to find workers, sailors and tourists drinking one. As a result, when Spectacle island was used as a dump for the city of Boston, later around the 1940s, many of these fragments of glass would be disposed of and remain on the island. Bottles such as this tell us that they people from those days enjoyed the taste of a fresh, cool, Cola-Cola just as much as we do today! Delicious as always.

This is the bottleneck of a liquor bottle that I found along the beach. The glass was all scratched and nicked from what I would assume was being tossed around in the water and against the shoreline. I think it was used by men during the 1920s while the prohibition act was still in place. During those days they had what one would call "Speakeasies," which were functions that carried and served alcohol during prohibition. They got the name because the bartenders would as those ordering alcohol to "speak easy" so not to draw attention to the illegal transaction. These alcoholic beverages were transported in by boat bootleggers looking to make some quick cash. This particular bottle could have come from a bar that sold the illegal liquor, and disposed of the criminal evidence, the bottles, illegally by dumping them into the ocean, where they believed no one would trace them. However, depending where they dumped the bottles, over time, the water washed them back ashore. One such place is Spectacle Island. This bottle tells us that both the person who drank the alcohol as well as the person who sold and smuggled it in, were all rebels with a weakness--cash, or booze (depending on the person we're talking about). In a similar aspect, this bottle tells us in general that these people were going through a hard time if they had to drink secretly and then dispose of the trash improperly to protect themselves.

This is a very popular and important piece of furniture that resides in most lavatories, the toilet. There are several ways for this to have ended up on the island--through trash dumped into the landfill way back in the 1950s or from the various uses on the island itself. I'm going to go with the version I like best: Employee toilet. Every workplace has one, because let's face it--everyone has to go at some point! Also, I know this is a toilet because of the curve at the bottom of it, which you unfortunately cannot see from this picture, as well as from the heavy, porcelain stone. Carrying on, this was the toilet in the lavatory of the horse rendering plant back in 1857. It was very much used by the workers there, which is why years later, when the plant was taken down and the plant destroyed, the toilet cracked and broke into pieces, which then were then projected into the air, and landed in various spots along the island, including the shoreline. More important than what this toilet tells us about the people who used it, it assures us that there were people around to use it. I suppose if there is anything else it could tell us, it would be better spoken from any remaining germs on the toilet that may reveal what the people were eating at that time.

These are all different fragments of broken tea cups. I realize they may be a little hard to distinguish from plates, but if you notice, the pieces are all slightly curved and some even have the portion from the tea cup handle still attached. One of these tea cups said "CH..." on the bottom, which from other tea cups I saw on the beach I can safely say would completely read "CHINA," pointing out the manufacturer of the household luxury. There were several of these same pattern fragments all over the shore, I just picked up a few so I would not have too many of the same artifact, but since there were several of them I am fairly certain that these were all disposed of in sets. As a result, I believe that theses tea cup sets were luxury settings used in the resorts that were on the island in the late 1800s/early 1900s, prior to their closing, for special guests. The sets could have either been thrown out after the resorts were abandoned, or they could have been defected, cracked, broken, etc. and for that reason they were trashed rather than packed away. The tea cups tell us that the people who used them had money and enough time to allow themselves at least a brief vacation.

Here are two different shoe soles I found on the beach. One was just the black, rubber sole of the shoe, while the other was more literally the shoe itself. There was something written on the inside of the black rubber sole, but I unfortunately was unable to read it. The edges of the letters were quite worn in, which I suppose makes sense considering it stepped on for what I would guess was at least a few years. I believe this shoe was work by a drunkard in the late 18/ early 1900s, while Spectacle Island was still the home of two resorts, both which which were taken down after exploited for gambling and brothels. I think these shoes may have initially been the shoes of a gambler, who drank too much, went for a dip in the water and lost his shoes. The water eventually washed the shoes back up and after being beaten by erosion against the rocky shore, the shoe soles were separated from the shoes themselves and left on the shore. I believe the fact that the shoes were on the beach tells us that the owner of the shoes was either clumsy, irresponsible, or probably both. The soles are seemingly worn in, but it is hard to tell whether that is from wear and tear or the beating of the ocean. One thing these shoe soles say for sure about their owner is that for at least one short period of time, he or she had sore feet!

This is a metal cleat that I found on the beach, I believe it is made out of iron because of the orange rust. I am not 100% sure whether it was previously attached to a very large boat or a dock, but I would guess the dock, only because it also had a large, steel wire (as depicted in the picture) attached to it that was ripped at the end. I believe the wire was also attached to a dock as a back-up attachment, incase the screws holding the cleat to the dock ever became loose. The cleats are used to tie up a boat to a dock. If it was attached to a dock.... Then I believe sailors of all kinds used this cleat to tie up their boat. It could have been used by commercial and recreational fishermen alike as well as sailors, jet-skiers, and house boaters. Judging by how must rust is on this cleat and the fact that it is clearly no longer attached to it's base, I would say that this was used a long time ago. I think it would take a long period of wear and tear for the screws to come undone on the dock as well as for the end of that steel wire to break. My best guess, is that this was a cleat from a dock within the past decade that became old and unsupportive which was abandoned for safety precautions. Years later, the dock is just barely held together until a large storm hits that break it down. The wood, rotting and broken down no longer attaches to the cleat or the steel wire and breaks away. The cleat then sinks to the ocean bottom, but remember this was attached to a dock, which means it was in fairly shallow water and close to shore. Thus, after a few harsh New England storms, the water washes up the old cleat, where it remains on the beach, waiting for visitors such as myself to re-discover it. I think if this cleat says anything about those who used it, it says that it was well loved ~in other words it was used until it was beat to the point where the dock was unstable.

Where does Boston trash go?

I live in Saugus, MA which is a small suburb approximately 20 min. north of Boston. So I will be discussing where trash in the "greater Boston area" goes. My trash is taken off the curb and brought by trash trucks to several waste removal plants. The one closest to my house is Refuse Energy Systems Company, otherwise known as RESCO. The trash is brought to the plant in a truck which is weighed upon entry. From there the trash is dumped into a pile that is separated into different groups and then brought by crane into incinerators. The incinerators burn the trash and metal detectors are used to distinguish any left over scrap metal which can be recycled. Afterwards, the ashes are dumped into a landfill down the road that RESCO owns. The energy generated by the plant is sold to companies nearby such as General Electric (GE) as well as used to run the plant.

Currently, Saugus is having health standard issues with RESCO and trying to sue them for their lack of maintaining regulations and as a result putting the health of others at risk. It seems as though we have renewed a contract with a company called Wheelabrator, which burns trash 24/7 in their incinerators, which heat up 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and have the capacity to hold 6,000 tons of garbage. This company also uses the process of waste removal to generate energy ~46.000 kilowatts to be specific, which are used to run the plant, as well as sold to the company New England Power Co. to supply energy to 41,000 homes.

Safety Glass Photo

This thing just never uploaded on my artifact photo page so here it is separate...

Lunch At Home With Bruce (and staff) on Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island Artifacts Collection and Identification Part 1: Photos

Lauren Miller

Spectacle Island Artifact Collection and Identification Part 2: Identfications

Artifact 1: Clay Door knob- This is definitely a door knob because the shape and indentations in the other side were exactly the same a modern day doorknob. After the 1850s clay door knobs were patented in the United States. I think it was used anytime after that up until the dump on Spectacle was closed. These door knobs held up well and perhaps the mechanism failed and the door knob was thrown away. A door could have also made its way over after a house demolition, and the wood disintegrated in the ocean and what was left was the clay knob.

Artifact 2: This looks to me like a fastener probably on a toilet or some other installation piece. It looks to be made of limestone and its likely been broken off during a demolition as well. The piece behind it is a germicide top. It says quality made germicide and the bottom side had a small place that was likely inserted into a bottle. Germicide was used and still is used today to kill bacteria, it is used to clean wounds and sterilize.

Artifact 3: Safety Glass- (**photo at the end of previous post) Glass technology was such that to make glass stronger and shatterproof people put chicken wire inside the panes to fortify the final product. These products were used in industrial buildings and most likely came to the island after a building was demolished or after a pane broke and needed to be replaced. Someone who used this needed a protective layer of glass while getting sunlight. Possibly in a police station or in an industrial factory where broken windows might be a problem. They also serve as a defense against break ins so maybe in store windows or entrances.

Artifact 4: Clay Roof Tile- This clay panel seems to be part of a roofing tile system. These tiles would be placed edge to edge along a roof and were used. These tiles are rarely seen in architecture today but were used after many fires ravaged houses in Boston and became part of the building code from from the 16th to the and of the 18th century in the city. These were desired in urban locations because they wouldn't catch fire. Clay tiles went in and out of fashion and probably this one ended up on Spectacle after a homeowner was modernizing the look of their house. This tile probably came down when a building was demolished. The person who used it was probably a home owner that was renovating or after a house fire and a house needed to be rebuilt. This tile is an old version of the kind we use today usually made of copper.

Artifact 5: Shoe Soles- In these pictures you can observe the holes where shoe nails were hammered up into the shoe base to make the heel of the shoe. They are a separate part of the shoe made of a material that seems to be more impervious to the elements as the softer probably delicious leather that the shoes were constructed from. I noticed a lot of different sizes of the heels indicating that there were many sizes of shoes represented. Shoes wear out also people grow out of them, they also go out of style. This is often why people throw them away. They remind me of the soles of the shoes my father would wear to work every day. He would wear the same three pairs until they were worn through. This is probably what happened with many of these heel remnants. These shoes were probably used before 1960 when shoe construction technology was a little more basic and heels were nailed onto the shoe base.

Artifact 6: Glass Mustard Bottle Base- The shard that I collected had the words Guldens mustard raised in the glass. Guldens is an American brand that has been producing mustard since 1862. Condiment containers are used by households across the country and in restaurant. After they are emptied they serve no alternative purpose and are thrown away, judging by the amount of restaurant china ware they could possibly be from restaurant trash. The ranger told us that dates are often written on the bottles and I did note one that I found with a date around 1930s. I am wondering if this Guldens shard came around the same time period as the ware on it is similar to the one with that date on it. The trash incinerator on the island was closed after 1935 where trash was just put on the island to sit there until 1959. The person who used this mustard probably liked hamburgers and hotdogs and were probably using it in a restaurant where they were dining, it was likely a casual style restaurant where they put mustard bottles on the dining tables.'s

In addition to these objects I also found many shards of china, I focused mainly on looking at the markings that I found on a few bits that were probably the base of the china pieces. Of the information from these markings I could find was that the pottery makers supplied restaurants and hotels and other mass produced items.

When I throw my trash away a capitol waste truck comes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to clear away any bags of trash left outside our door. I tried to research where the trucks eventually take the trash but there was no information online I also couldn't get through to them on the phone although I wasn't trying to contact them on a work day. It's pretty interesting that there is nothing on their website explaining the process just the pick up... Makes it easy to forget what impact we have on the environment and landfills.

Lauren Miller

Spectacle Island

Item 1- The first item i found was a brick most likely used by a construction crew when building or destroying a building made out of brick. It got to Spectacle Island either by boat or in the water. There are plenty of buildings made out of brick still today in Boston and it is not hard to believe that this is just trash that has made its way out there. We do not know exactly where our trash will end up when we dispose of it in the wrong ways and this is a clear example of it.

Item 2- The second item I found I believe to be the handle of an old jug. The jug was used to carry liquids around probably around the turn of the 20th century. These jugs were much more popular then because plastics had not been invented yet. This jug could have been used by a family or a restaurant in Boston. The jug has probably been brought to Spectacle very slowly via the water.
Item 3- Another piece that I found on the southern beach of Spectacle Island is what I believe to be a portion of an old pot. This looks to me like a pot you would put soil and some sort of plant inside to grow. It was most likely used by citizens of Boston. Just like the jug handle, I believe it found its way to the island via water.
Item 4- This is an old comb. This comb could have been used by anybody from anywhere. Because it is so lightweight it could have drifted from places much farther away than Boston. It could have been just dropped in the ocean from a passenger on a boat or disposed of improperly by someone on land. It shows that people think that one comb will not do any harm, but that mentality leads to polluted water and beaches all over the world.
Item 5- This is an old lobster buoy that washed up on the shore of Spectacle Island. I believe it was used by a lobster fisherman. They connect these buoys to the lobster trap that sinks to the bottom of the ocean so they can easily locate where the traps are. It most likely was cut off by a boat or even another lobster fisherman. It then floated its way to Spectacle Island and now resides on the southern shore of the island.
Item 6- Last item I found on the beach was the handle part of what appears to be a mug. This mug was probably from a household or restaurant/ hotel here in Boston. It was very smooth in texture showing that it had spent a lot of time in the water on its journey to Spectacle. It shows that we should be more careful of how we dispose of our trash. It is very easy to take out the trash everyday and have someone else pick it up. We do not even think about what happens to it after that. We cannot continue to pollute our oceans and beaches because we improperly dispose of trash due to laziness.

Last day

As I remember the last day of our course together I can truly say that it was one unlike any other I had participated in the past. Going on a whale watch was definitely something that I had ever expected to do in a college class. It turned out to be one of the more enriching experiences I have had in my memories of Boston. Although I have lived here an outstanding portion of my life, I had yet to go on a whale watch tour. My expectations were set fairly low by others who had gone on whale watches and were not able to see any whales. I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the amount of whales that we saw and the actions that they exhibited while we were out on Stellwagen Bank.

The Minke and Humpback whales seemed to be performing for us as they breached and swam alongside the cruise ship. The final paper helped broaden my notions of whaling across the world and provided me with a new understanding of how whale populations can come to be thriving and sustainable.

The past few weeks have been entertaining and informative. It was a pleasure to get to know all of you and I hope that we meet again in the future. Best of luck to everyone

Farewell and thanks for the fish.

These are my findings and impressions from my trip to spectacle island.; I present them as my farewell.

  1. A Sea Comb: it's plastic, so it's obviously 20th century. I'm going to go with the 50's or 60's for that Rebel Without a Cause brilliantine look, carried in the back-pocket of some punk.
 2. A Sea Porcelain Spark-plug: Perhaps from the motorcycle of the begreezed punk with the comb. Or perhaps it came from an all-American gas guzzler sedan. I could not find out as of now when they stopped making spark-plugs entirely from porcelain (they still use porcelain for parts of the spark plug), but I am assuming it is the first part of the 20th century.
 3. A porcelain electricity fixture: I'm not sure exactly what it is; whether it's a socket or a connector etc. But I am assuming it is contemporaneous with the spark plug, since it too is completely devoid of plastic. 
 4. The Sole of a Shoe : here too I couldn't quite pin-point the date. The sole has nails in it; the question is then until which time soles were attached to shoes this way. My guess here will be the late 19th or early 20th century
 5. A China Animal Figurine: at least, I am convinced that's what this used to be. I'd like to imagine it as part of a set belonging to one of the children of the management of the Ward rendering factor. It's a really sweet image, and it works particularly well with the four legged horses being rendered into Foot Oil...

6. A Sea Jug: this looks to be quite old, and quite fancy. Perhaps it was used to carry wine or beer in those naughty mid-19th century hotels they had there. It has that boozy feeling to it.

It's been a pleasure!
Sadly, I didn't enjoy all the experiences with the rest of you. And judging by what I experienced when I was present, every trip that I missed was truly a miss. But even so, there was so much going on, and so much of it was interesting, entertaining, educating. And very challenging, actually. In its sleeveless way this class demanded of me to do new things and see new things, to experience before I form a judgment; and also, an opportunity to be less squeamish than I usually am. Of course, talking about the class in the abstract is silly. First I want to thank each and every on of you for being part of the makeup of my experience of this class, and for allowing me to be part of the makeup of yours. Above all though this class is the brainchild and extension of Prof. Berman, and so I wanted to thank you, Prof. Berman, personally, for introducing me to this alley of the world and this neighborhood of knowledge. 
Good Bye!

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm just sitting here watching the whales go round and round.

So, I finally found myself on a boat, going whale watching. We departed at noon and started towards the open sea. First the now-familiar islands go by; once again I'm transfixed by the receding city, getting smaller and smaller until we are finally out to sea. In truth the land almost never disappear; to the right of us I can see the shoreline for a long while. Still, the city has disappeared completely and a feeling of bigness sets in. This engulfing bigness sets the scene for the humpbacks. This is an exclusively humpback day, and they are being very generous to us.

For a while  it's like water striptease, slowly unfolding. First we see bursts of blow, and then some tails. Every sighting elicits a collective gasp. Eventually we find ourselves in the midst of the humpbacks. I can see more and more of them, and the feeling is that they are all around us. We are close enough to see the tails rise as the whales dive, close enough to see the different color patterns on different whales. Finally, some whales get close enough so that I can get an impression of their shape and size, watching their giant backs curve until they tip their tale and disappear. We idle and let the whales show themselves. When several of them come towards us in groups of two, three, and once even six whales, from all directions, the ocean becomes not smaller but more defined by the movement of these giant creatures.

Now we are on our way back, having just left behind us. As the city rushes back towards us, it occurs to me how privileged I am to have seen what i just saw.  Endangered as they are, in this spot of Massachusetts bay it seemed like humpbacks fill the world. And just for a short while I feel like a visitor in a non human world. I'm in the neighborhood of these awesome creatures (and now I know where they live...)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Findings from Spectacle Island

Findings From Spectacle Island

1.) Porcelain. Due to the curved nature of this porcelain, I'm deducing that it was once a piece of a toilet from the ward rendering factory that operated on Spectacle Island. Mahum Ward's dock was a factory that used materials from dead horses to produce fertilizers, glue, hides, and leather softener. In 1903, the CIty of Boston comstructed a garbage processing plant and compressed garbage to extract grease and make fertilizer. This is likely one of the scrap pieces of porcelain that has likely been on this beach for at least a century. I can picture them throwing a toilet into a garbage area, and not being consciousness enough to gather all of the scrap pieces.

2.) Asbestos. Pieces of asbestos such as this one are seldom found on Spectacle Island. These pieces of asbestos are not native to the island but have washed ashore from an off island source. I am not certain this is asbestos but one of the island ranger's named Kim told me that pieces of asbestos are reddish beige and tend to sometimes be triangularly shaped. She said that it was more than likely that this was asbestos. If it is not asbestos, it is brick or clay from 1992 when "The Big Dig" was under construction. Pieces of clay and sediment excavated from the project were brought to Spectacle.

3.) Bottle Neck. This artifact was most likely once a liquor bottle. It could have got to the island from blue collar workers being saucy and drinking on their break. During the prohibition era there were seldom "raids" at the workplace. Where this factory was on an island, I would venture to guess that Spectacle Island was a relatively safe place to have a relaxing bottle of tub gin.

4.) Hardened Grease or Cyanoacrylate. At first glance I originally thought that this was simply a piece of broken glass but the air bubbles trapped inside tell a different story. Judging by it's light weight it is more than likely that this sample is a compound of hardened glue or grease. This could have been a scrap from a molding that workers didn't feel it was necessary to capture. It may of even been a bit of hardened glue that was scraped off of the floor and never made it to a secure garbage location. This specimen had a smoother texture compared to similar looking glass findings, and when I tried to scratch the surface of it, it was not peeling with ease but it had a very rubbery texture like a rubber ball. It also had a coating of sand stuck to it.

5.) Cup. This teacup could have found it's way to Spectacle Island any number of ways. It's edges are smooth so this is evidence that it also has been on the island for a number of decades. At first I believed that this was simply garbage dropped off circa 1942 but then I gave it a second thought and realized that this was among other similar looking cup pieces. It was no coincidence. This must have been a part of the same set. This set could have been used on an observation platform where a supervisor would overlook the grease pressing operation. Although this or something like this can be picked up at a Wal-Mart today relatively inexpensively, this was no doubt a luxary item reserved for those of an upper class.

6.) Plate. This plate could have been used by offshore civilians and wound up on the island simply as a result of the land fill. Or, this could have been used by the upscale bed and breakfast Inns located on Spectacle island. This was most likely used by citizens who were in an upper class and could afford such luxurious accommodations. In 1738, Spectacle made a legitimate effort to attract tourists as a destination for fun. Two summer themed Inns were open to wealthy guests until the late 1850s. This was before businessman Nahum Ward realized he could make a lot of money building a horse rendering factory on this land.

What Happens to My Trash?
After my trash is out out onto my sidewalk it is picked up by JC Waste Removal. Once it is loaded onto the garbage truck, the waste is carted off to Covanta Energy located in Haverhill Massachusetts. Covanta incinerates the waste using two, 825 ton-per-day waterwall furnaces with grates and ash handling system in order to have the most efficient and nature safe burning system available. Covanta burns 1,650 tons of waste per day. This may sound like a lot but people throw away a lot of unusable materials. These unusable materials sit on the lot of Covanta Energy's 147 acre campus until the can be properly sorted and incinerated. Covanta is aware of common negative associations with "dumps" so on it's website they mention that they dispose of waste responsibly using 5 random, yet re-assuring words. The words they chose are
  • Protection
  • Compliance
  • Conservation
  • Qualification
  • Commitment.
The workers at Covanta are "Certified" and that combined with the aforementioned 5 "principals" we are assured that as citizens of Lynnfield, we do not have to worry about our trash being washed away to an Island 3 miles off the shore of Boston.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Artifacts of Spectacle Island

1st Item- Plate of china
I believe the first item I found was a plate from a china set. It could be a dinner plate or tea cup plate. By the aging and engravings the item was probably used during the turn of the century. I think that it was either used by a family or restaraunt in Boston, or possibly on a ship. It probably was in a landfill on Boston and moved to Spectacle when they were creating the island. The china tells me that the person who used it was probably of the more wealthier section of society, or a trading vessel carrieng items. When you throw away your trash it usually goes to a landfill and could sit for possible generations, however due to population growth and migration the landfills are sometimes removed or relocated.

2nd Item- Iron Bolt
The second item I found was a iron bolt. It was probably used in the construction of something, it is possible that it could have been used on a ship due its length. Bolts like these sometimes were used to bore through a mast on a ship. Because of the weight, rust, and shape of the bolt; I would say 19th century. A bolt like this that was created in the modern machine era would have precision cuts and length, however this bolt seems to be hand forged. Trash like this could sit at the bottom the ocean for years and possibly be pushed up to shore during a storm driven tidal surge.

3rd Item- Jug Handle
This item is a handle to a ceramic jug. This item was probably used to carry some type of liquid during 1800's. The ceramic industry was much more prevelant in the 1800's and early 1900's because plastic had not been invented yet. Modern landfills are filled with plastics, but in the past landfills were filled with ceramics,metals, and glass. This jug was probably used in a restaraunt or bar to hold wine or liquor. And if the restaraunt was close to the waterfront possibly port wine.

4th Item- Wheel or Sewing Wheel
This item was one of the more difficult to identify because it was not in one piece. From examing th internet and other sources I have narrowed down the options to either a small cart wheel or a sewing wheel. The item was in poor in codition and their were rusted nails and bands that fixed the contraption together. If it were a sewing wheel the oldest it could be would be 1920's because the invention of the sewing machine eliminated the use of the wheel and foot power. It was probably broken before it got to Spectacle Island. The wheel could have been used in a textile mill that were popular in New England during the 19th and 20th centuries, or could have a been a personal sewing machine used in a house.

5th Item- Brick
This item is the most universally applicable on the list, and because of the modern use of brick it is harder to identify age. However by examining the brick and noticing the grooves had been worn down by sand and tide, the item was probably older than 50 years. The brick was most likely used to build a house or building, and when that building was knocked down and the brick was damaged and could not be reused was probably taken to a landfill. Recycling brick was very popular in industrial era due to a lack of available resources. Items like this get to Spectacle Island probably after the Big Dig when construction was exacavating and removing old structures.

6th Item- Fishing Bobber
This item was the most modern of my exploration. It is essentially a float used as an indicator for a fish bight. This item due to it bright colors was probably no more than 5 years old. It was used by a fisherman to keep his bait at a certain distance from the bottom and indicate a bight. The fisherman probably got a cut off and lost the bobber and ended up on the beach. This trash and alot of waste that ends up in the ocean and rivers moves with the tides and currents and could end up thousands of miles from its original class.