Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 2 - Harbor Cruise

Today, as a class we took a Harbor Cruise of the Boston Harbor Islands. This gave us our first look at the bay and the different wonders that we will be looking at through this class.
We started out at Long Wharf North, meeting outside the Mariott Long Wharf, where we took our first look at the actual ocean water. We looked over the side of the dock into the "dirty" water, where we learned that Boston Harbor has a semidiurnal tide (meaning two high and two low tides per day) as well as a nine foot high tide. As we looked at the water, Professor Bruce Berman asked what living thing we saw most of. Now, in the water, there was nothing but kelp (or so it seemed). But in actuality, the living thing that we saw most of was humans. We are everywhere. And it is us humans that have shaped the Massachusetts Bay to what it is today.
We then began our Harbor Cruise, seeing the Finger Wharfs/Piers, such as Commercial Wharf, Fan Pier, Long Wharf, etc. These Finger Wharfs are little juts into the harbor that look like fingers (peninsulas). We soon learned that this is the "City of Neighborhoods." All these neighborhoods are so close to each other, and yet everyone seems to think that they are more separated that they actually are and far away! East Boston is just across the harbor from South Boston, and yet to Bostonians that seems like miles and miles away.
As we went down the Boston Inner Harbor, we discussed why Boston's harbor was so appreciated. It was (and still is) appreciated because it is a deep, protected harbor. The Atlantic Ocean's right next door, but there's that little bit of space between the two areas and that comforts a lot of seamen.
The bay itself was sculpted out by huge glaciers centuries ago, that left the islands and other large rocks behind ("drumlins"). There were originally more islands than the 34 (or so) that presently exist, but the rising water level has covered them and reduced some into just small tops of rocks that now just peek through the ocean surface. Also, three islands were absorbed and combined and used to make Logan International Airport. (A very interesting fact I didn't know until today!)
As we continued next to Fort Independence, we saw Deer Island, the wastewater treatment plant that is 10 stories tall, where sewage is broken down so much that it becomes potable. Since Deer Island is part of Winthrop, the town gets to paint the plant whatever color it wants, so right now it is a cement grey color. Who knows what it will be next year at this time. While we headed in the direction of Deer Island we passed Spectacle Island (named as such for looking like a pair of spectacles) and went around the Head of Long Island. Also, we saw the Brewster Islands (outer Brewster Island, Middle Brewster Island, Great Brewster Island, etc…) off in the distance, past Lovells Island (home to Boston's only nude beach). These island haven't been really touched by man, so they are home to many intriguing species, such as the largest bird in New England (the Ibis I believe). Before we got to Lovells Island, we passed a Day marker in the called Nixes Mate. The story behind Nixes Mate is that it is supposedly where pirates have been hung in the past and there was a famous pirate by the name of Nix who was hung there and made the marker sink into the ground, so now only a little shows above the surface. We then passed Lovells Island (where we're going on Monday) as well as Gallops Island. Now Gallops Island was opened for a short period of time, before asbestos was found on the island. So now the island is closed. We finally stopped at Georges Island, where Fort Warren is, as well assome popular beaches.
While here, we learned that Quincy Bay has some of the fasted moving water because the water goes against the wind in that bay. We then departed from Georges Island and went through Hull Gut, passing Peddocks Island. Peddocks Island is long island and will probably split into three separate islands soon due to erosion and the rising water levels. After going through Hull Gut we passed through Hingham Bay, where we passed Nut Island. Nut Island used to be the second sewage treatment facility for Boston, but the pipe connecting it to Deer Island was cut off, so Nut Island is no longer a sewage plant island. Nut Island is connected to Houghs Neck, which is where public subsidized housing is. Problem with this housing is that there is really no public transportation and there are few to no resources there as well. So it makes it difficult for people in need to live there. We went through Weymouth Fore River to the Quincy Fore River Shipyard, where we went under a moving bridge (which is raised mainly for natural gas tankards). We also went by the SS Salem, a decommissioned World War II naval cruiser. We soon turned around and headed back the way we came to Georges Island and then back to Long Wharf. Along the way we saw many cormorants (not sure if they were Great or not). Cormorants are one of the only birds that have feathers that will get wet. Also, wherever cormorants are, there are likely to be lots of fish (specifically herring and striped bass).
Overall, I thought this was a informative expedition and good introduction to the bay. I had a lot of fun, as I typically do on the water, and I learned a lot about the bay that I didn't' know before! I can't wait to see what the next adventure is!

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