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.

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