on expedition

December 19th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Jack, my 7 year-old nephew, recently asked us to help him clarify a challenging concept: “What is is like where you are?” His teacher had asked each student to inquire with a family member or friend who lives in a distant place about what winter is like where they are. Jack had to report back to his class with the data.

We received the question as we were suffering from cabin fever waiting out the very last rains of the monsoon, and so we sprang into action:

I recently wrote here that one of my hopes is to crew a research or expedition vessel. F asked me, “You have a boat. Why not make IT into a research or expedition vessel?” The science challenge from Jack solidified it. Word came back from the schoolyard that our reportage was well received. We nailed it.

We have (some) gear, we have adventure, and we have the means to document it. Suddenly every device has a potential magnification or recording capability. Does this fit with that? Can I waterproof it for submersion?

As I write, F is enjoying a solo meal of octopus. I can’t eat them, because even dead, they look like this:

If I had better bandwidth right now, I would post the video of how, even in death, the creature still has rippling colors running up and down its skin. For now, just look at that picture and shake your head around.

For a few days we had a tiny grasshopper on board, who was hanging around one spot by the window. Out came the microscope to inspect its mouthparts. In spanish, “mouthparts” are armadura bucal, lit. mouth armor.

I have some new devices! #photomicroscopy

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I see it!

Even the documentation we already have is full of citizen science blurbs, and although he is an octopus eater, F has also become an ardent observer of “around the boat”, a place full of birds, fish, and sounds.

This reminds me that to wait any more or procrastinate is to just delay feeling great. Cheesy, I know, but I am saying it anyway. Now just isn’t the time to wait. Its time to hit the “extrude” button on that Ron Popeil Pasta Maker.

manifesto of the day

April 1st, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

Its been a long two years of recoiling, recovery, and preparation. I feel more panic than tranquility most days. Then, while prepping a fajita dinner, a vision appears and my life plan boils down to the following: Mark Twain is my spirit animal, and this is the source code:

golden fields of grain

December 12th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I live very close to the mouth of the mighty Altamaha River, where 14,000 square miles of central Georgia surface water tumbles into the sea. Un-dammed and free flowing throughout its entire course, the Altamaha is a biodiversity hotspot, and has been the focus of intense conservation efforts for decades. Today, thanks to collaborative effort between GA DNR, private property owners, and The Nature Conservancy, the Altamaha boasts a 42-mile continuous corridor of protected lands, and serves as a best practice for other critical habitats on the coast.

On its north shore lies the small town of Darien, chock-full of history, shrimp and home to a expertly-curated marine hardware store (just a few of my favorite things).

At the hardware store in Darien, GA

At the hardware store in Darien, GA

I cross up to Darien on old Route 17. This route passes through a vast area of impoundments that once comprised the massive rice plantation owned by Pierce Butler. It is a space that contains multitudes. Here, it is possible to gather threads of some of the most pivotal/defining/challenging narratives of the antebellum Lowcountry. Fanny Kemble, Roswell King, The Weeping Time, the Bank of Darien and Gone With The Wind are imbedded in the very landscape.

Rice impoundments at the mouth of the Altamaha River

Rice impoundments at the mouth of the Altamaha River

These impoundments are a living vestige of forced labor performed by slaves from West Africa’s Rice Coast (Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia), who would give rise to the Gullah-Geechee people. The earthworks speak volumes about the scale and scope of forced labor in a way that lands differently in me than visiting a historic tabby ruin.

Rice was grown in diked fields at the mouths of most Lowcountry mainland rivers, with production reaching its peak between 1850 and 1860. In Georgia alone, about 23,000 acres of land were felled of cypress and worked into an orderly grid of canals and impoundments.

Today what remains of Butler’s rice operation are a few historic structures and the extensive dyke system, which is laterally compressed to the view of the casual motorist, but extensively accessed by local populations of waterfowl, sportsmen, and natural resource managers. Some of the other rice plantations have been converted into other uses like residential subdivisions (See FLORIDA) and crawfish farms (See WOODBINE), but many remain fallow yet functioning, with a diversity of marsh grasses now mixed in with the most persistent wild rice.

On the Satilla near Woodbine, GA

On the Satilla near Woodbine, GA

The stirring juxtaposition of intrinsic good – biodiversity, ingenuity, and productivity – nested within unbearable suffering – enslavement, abuse, and separation – is something that I rarely see in the interpretation of plantation-era sites. Interpretation, like people, is often segregated. These earthworks present an impossibly complex narrative deftly, even marking the passage of time and imparting a sense of urgency looking into the future.

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