The trees weren’t ready. They still had almost all their leaves—the fall colors haven’t even peaked yet in Central Park!—and the weight of the snow accumulating in the foliage brought down branches and whole trees everywhere.
It’s the question every science graduate student dreads: “So, what’s your Ph.D. research about?” You take a deep breath and begin. People’s eyes glaze over…
The problem isn’t that your life’s work is uninteresting. It’s that the conventional way to explain it can be limiting: Words can only get so far. What if there were a better way to tell your story? Something like… interpretive dance!
The Upper East Side of Manhattan takes Halloween very seriously. Halloween is still some days away, but decaying bodies, chained skeletons, and giant black spiders have festooned the area for weeks. The block of 92nd Street between Madison and Park Avenues is particularly worth seeing… here are some photos from that block and a couple of adjacent ones.
In New York City, the leaves are only just starting to turn. But farther north along the Hudson the fall colors must be well advanced.
For a number of years I used to go by train with my folding kayak to see the fall colors in the stretch of the Hudson just south of Albany, near Catskill and the town of Hudson. In Ramshorn Creek, a little winding creek off the Hudson just south of Catskill, I saw, about this time in October one year, the best fall colors ever—a vivid profusion of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, reflected in the green-brown waters of the creek against a crystalline fall blue sky.
It doesn’t look like I’ll have time to go up there this year. So here are some photos from that memorable trip. Even though photos can’t do the real experience of such colors justice, they do give some idea…
Autumn is a time of melancholy, of dreams and mists. It’s also a time of intense beauty—and a reminder that everything in life is transient.
That’s particularly true when it comes to catching the leaves turning along the Hudson: Bare hints of color one day, blazing the next, and then fading—all in the space of a week or two.
For New York City kayakers with day jobs, the challenge is that the currents are right for a weekend trip up the Hudson only once every two weeks—which means there are only two October weekends to catch this ephemeral color.
The first weekend with a daytime flood current was October 15-16. Either weekend day would have worked, but since I’d just gotten back from an intense week of traveling, Sunday was the better fit. Plus, Saturday’s winds were pretty severe—predicted and ultimately proving to be over 20 knots. So we agreed to go Sunday.
By then, the winds had calmed somewhat. Vlad and I set off on a crystalline, perfect, early-autumn day.
Johna’s recent post about Keith Tantlinger, the inventor of the Twistlock, the device that has made modern container shipping possible, reminded me of the question that I always have when I see a loaded container ship in the harbor. How securely do all those containers, stacked so high on top of each other, remain stacked when the ship rolls and pitches in heavy weather? (Indeed, how stable is the ship itself when loaded so high, although that’s a different question.) Perhaps suggested by another of Johna’s posts, the image of falling dominoes comes to mind, or perhaps a house of cards…
Well, now there’s an answer.
The Twistlock locking corners that anchor each container to the container below, and to the container above, hold up surprisingly well. In this photo of the Rena, the container ship that grounded a week ago on Astrolabe Reef off the northern coast of New Zealand, entire stacks of containers so anchored lean at a 45-degree angle without collapsing…
But, inevitably, some containers are falling into the sea and washing up on local beaches. Here, “local residents come to look at a washed up container with its cargo of packets of partly-cooked hamburgers littering the beach…” (Usually, locals do more than just look…) Unfortunately, not just hamburgers, but large amounts of oil are now also washing up on the beach, and there is no end in sight.
The Atlantic has a series of 32 stunning photos of this, New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster. Take a look!
Sandy Hook, NJ, a long thin finger that reaches out across the Lower Bay toward New York City, is an irresistible destination for a kayak trip from the city. But once Sandy Hook is off the bow, where to land? The perfect landing site can be elusive. Landing is nowhere actually difficult on Sandy Hook—there is a broad sandy beach almost all the way around (although the ocean side can have significant surf). But in most places it’s a featureless beach, offering no shade in the summer nor shelter from the wind in the winter. Parts of the beach may be off-limits for one reason or another. And besides, we want to have lunch in a picturesque spot, rich both in local sights and sounds and views of the landscape.
There is such a spot on Sandy Hook. A mile and a half down the bay side, right on the beach, there is an overgrown hillock—almost a little island, no more than a few hundred feet across, that is cut off from the rest of Sandy Hook by a salt marsh that floods at high tide. That’s where we like to land on Sandy Hook.
Vladimir Brezina (RIP)
... kayaked the waters around New York for more than 15 years in his red Feathercraft folding kayak. He was originally from (the former) Czechoslovakia and lived in the U.K. and California before settling down in New York. He was a neuroscientist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He died in 2016.
Johna Till Johnson
... is a kayaker and technology researcher at Nemertes Research. She's an erstwhile engineer, particle physicist, and science fiction writer. She was born in California and has lived in Italy, Norway, Hawaii, and a few other places. She currently resides in New York City.