Illustrated Bites of Island News

Reporting and photographs by Jim Cerny

Web page revitalized Election of State representatives Weather report Casso Islands for conservation Comparing Mumbai and New Castle Late fall color Quick index to back issues

Town Web page revitalized

The Town of New Castle's official Web page is now redesigned and revitalized, to be the primary means for town communication.

Banner on New Castle town Web page.

The link is:

The town Web page is the place to go for contact information, schedules, minutes, and the previously printed "Island Items" newsletter. We will also provide a copy of "Island Items" here in Saltines see the November 2008 issue, in PDF format, which is 14 pages when printed.

Chet Lang, Web site developer.
The site is designed to provide a home to all town departments, with links to non-governmental groups and projects associated with the town. From this point the goal is to put more content online, such as town ordinances. Note that you can subscribe to newsletters and alerts.

Chet Lang is the Web developer, who grew up in New Castle, left to work in Boston and elsewhere, and is now back in town. Chet's experience includes real estate and project management in engineering. Timing was everything as the selectmen were looking for someone to take on the redesign when Chet came forward with a proposal that was accepted.

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Election of State Representatives

David Borden and Will Smith were elected as the State representatives for New Castle and Rye, likely the first time both representatives are from New Castle. In 1994 when Rye and New Castle formed District 24 instead of District 18, both representatives (Herbert Drake and Eugene Ritzo) were from Rye.

David Borden.

Will Smith.
The election had unexpected drama as The Portsmouth Herald newspaper incorrectly reported incumbent Otto Grote as winning re-election. This unfolded just as Rye Reflections was publishing the November issue. We had the data from the town clerks and in adding up the numbers we suddenly realized that the report in that morning's Herald was wrong, that incumbent Otto Grote had actually lost to new-comer Will Smith. We called the Herald and they were aware of their mistake and printed a correction the next day, leaving it ambiguous, however, as to where the error originated which was not with the town clerks. But it did lead to a recount which only extended making the result official.

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Weather report

On November 25th we had a vigorous southeast storm, the kind that this month is known for. It remained all rain, over 1.25 inches, with winds gusting over 30 miles per hour onshore and up to 61 miles per hour offshore at White Island at the Isles of Shoals. Such a storm is a reminder of why Herman Melville invoked November, in the first paragraph of Moby Dick, as "a damp, drizzly November in my soul."

See the following storm pictures taken at 10:30 a.m., a little more than an hour after high tide.

Surf at New Castle Common, looking to Gerrish Island.

Surf at New Castle Beach, looking at Whaleback Lighthouse.

Surf at Portmouth Lighthouse, from Ocean Street.

There are several excellent online sites where you can get data for the area on weather and water conditions. The University of New Hampshire maintains a weather station on Morse Hall that updates every minute. There are two different recording projects at the Isles of Shoals, an AIRMAP station on the tower on Appledore and a NOAA buoy on the lighthouse on White Island (actually 40 feet above sea level). In addition there is an automated GoMOOS buoy in 200 feet of water off York that measures wave heights and that reports water temperature at the surface and depth.

Surf at Fort Stark, the morning after the storm.

The previous week we experienced a record-shattering cold spell from November 19-23, when the temperature remained at or below freezing. There are no long-term temperature records for New Castle itself, but nearby Durham has 115 years of records, extending back to 1893. The highs during that November 19-23 period were as follows, with the normal November highs given in parentheses and the normal highs for those days in January given in square brackets:
 19th 32.8 (48) [33]
 20th 30.9 (47) [33]
 21st 31.2 (47) [33]
 22nd 26.1 (46) [33]
 23rd 30.4 (46) [33]

In other words the highs were colder than the normal highs for those days in January, climatologically the coldest days of the year. The high of 26.1 on the 22nd was the coldest in the record for that date, breaking the mark of 27 set over 100 years ago in 1895.

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Casso Islands for conservation?

The New Castle Conservation Commission is proposing to buy part of a property that is now on the market on Locke Road. The property consists of a house and three islands, the islands sometimes called the Casso Islands after the family that has owned the property in recent decades, are also known as Mill (largest), Long Rock (mid-sized, location of Jumping Rock), and Birch Islands (smallest). The New Castle Conservation Commission proposes that the town buy the island portion of the property, using a mechanism established in 2004. The town voters approved a fund of $500,000 for purchase of "conservation easements or other open space land". Funds can be spent by vote of the selectmen, without further vote by the citizens, following a meeting schedule that is spelled out in NH RSA 41:14-a. The procedure is to have two public hearings, then for the selectmen to vote. An alternative is not to have the selectmen vote but to bring it forward as a warrant article at town meeting for all to vote on.

At a meeting of the selectmen on November 17 a presentation was made by proponents of the purchase, though no numbers were mentioned; instead the selectmen met on November 20 in executive session to discuss numbers. The islands are currently assessed for $23,000 (Birch) and $295,000 (Long Rock and Mill).

Casso Islands in Back Channel. Also known, from left to right as Birch, Long Rock, and Mill Islands. These islands were connected to make a mill dam in the 1600's and the remnants of the dam are clearly visible. (Google photo, USGS map)

The case for purchase is to take advantage of an opportunity that may never come along again, in a town where there is very little undeveloped land. The case against is to argue that such a purchase should be done privately given the several costs facing the town for a fire/safety building, an addition to the elementary school, and substantial increases in sewer rates from Portsmouth (the author articulated this view at the meeting).

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Comparing Mumbai and New Castle

When following the news it is good to maintain a healthy skepticism about many of the numbers that are reported, to think about the numbers for reasonableness, to try to visualize what they mean, an exercise in what is called numeracy.

With Mumbai (Bombay) in the news because of terrorist attacks, I did some background reading in Wikipedia and on the Web site for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). The population of Mumbai is striking for its size and density. The exact numbers depend on how Mumbai is defined and the year. Using the MCGM data, they report a population of 11.9 million in 2001, which is a density of 70,450 per square mile. In the 2000 Census, New Castle's population was 1,010. If we take New Castle's land area as 525 acres, that is .82 square mile, for a population density of 1,231. Or put another way, at the density of Mumbai the New Castle population would be 57,770!

You can take this kind of comparison in many directions. For example, the population of the entire six-state area of New England in 2000 was 13,922,000 not that much more than Mumbai!

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Late fall color

Rosa rugosa glowing in the late fall sun on River Road.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines

December, 2008