Illustrated Bites of Island News

Jim Cerny, reporting and photography

Celebrating the Fourth Fire Department moves State park plans New librarian The Energy Committee Jack Wysong speaks Fort Stark third season Piscataqua ship spotting Clouds, drizzle, rain Town Web page Flowers everywhere Quick index to back issues

Celebrating the Fourth

Fort Bennington flag, displayed on Walbach Street. (file photo from 2007)

Fort Constitution in the early 1800s, with imagined explosion.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of an explosion at Fort Constitution in 1809 during an Independence Day celebration. Some 350 pounds of powder and shells exploded next to a building filled with people, killing ten civilians and soldiers and wounding more. This was in the era when Colonel Walbach was the commanding officer (for whom Walbach Tower was later named). Walbach is quoted as saying:

I have faced death in its most dreadful form I have witnessed the desolations of war, and have mingled in all the hazards and havoc of battles, but never did I feel a pang so terrible and intolerable as this. (described in Brewster's Rambles, 2nd series, as Ramble CXV)

This is in contrast to the famous gun powder raids in December, 1774, the first overt acts of the American Revolution, when Fort Constitution was known as Fort William and Mary, and there were no deaths or injuries.

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Fire Department moves

The New Castle Fire Department crew posed in front of the existing building one last time before demolition began a week later on June 29th. The goal is to complete the new building by some time in November, before freezing weather is established. Meanwhile the fire engines are relocated to the Coast Guard Station and office functions are in part of the Common Building.

A group photo of the New Castle Fire Department. Front row, from left to right: Ian Sherman, Jim Rini, Terri Golter, Teddy Golter, Ruth Moulton, Douglas Voss, and Bart Driscoll. Back row, from left to right: Mark Wooley, Peter Rice, obscured, Reggie Whitehouse, obscured, Bill Cronin, Brian McDevitt, Dennis Dinsmore, Joe Lipp, John Roberts (mostly obscured), Justin Frechette, Mark Syracusa (mostly obscured), and Chief Dave Blanding.Click here for a larger image.

The building empty and ready for demolition.

Demolition underway.

Demolition all done except for removal of concrete floor.

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State park plans

(NEWS ITEM: A day after Rye Reflections had been published the State withdrew the draft plan "based on substantial public feedback." Click here for a text of the statement.)

In early June the NH State Division of Parks and Recreation released the draft of a strategic plan for development that has generated much concern and uncertainty. One problem was a long lag between release of the plan and when most people became aware of it via news reporting, after the scheduled public hearings had gone by.

Most news reports have stopped at the initial classification of parks into three categories (A, B, C) based on how well they meet four stated core criteria, with the assumption that category C parks are candidates for sale. This oversimplifies the process since for each park there is also a series of recommended management options, letters A through F. For example, here in New Castle, Fort Constitution and Fort Stark are in category B, with recommended management option A (reduce costs of operation). White Island, by comparison, is in category C, with recommended management option B (increase/improve services). Assumptions that there are plans to sell parks seem unwarranted for now, given that there is no mention of that in the legislation that launched this effort (RSA 216-A:3-c), nor in the six (A-F) management options.

Ted Austin, the Parks and Recreation Director, wrote the following to Rye Reflections in late June:

"I emphasize the word DRAFT because the reaction has been absurd to a presumptuous media headline of 'up for grabs' and has resulted in everyone assuming that parks are to be recklessly sold or closed. As you will see in the plan, those words do not appear anywhere, nor is that the intention."

The report does include language that mentions the possibility of selling, where on p. 23 it states for Category C sites that "disposal through the state's surplus land process" is one of the strategies that will be considered. Austin went on to add that there is:

"the need to think globally (about the current decrepit and under funded state and future potential) of the entire park system and then begin to act locally (generate creative solutions to parks that are not currently getting the attention they deserve)."

Here in New Castle we already have an excellent track record of acting locally with the volunteers working at Fort Stark (see update below).

The bottom line is that if you are interested, you need to read the full report, with special emphasis on pages 25-39, and follow the instructions to provide written feedback by July 27. Reading may raise more questions than it answers, of course, such as disagreement with the classification of particular parks as A, B, or C in meeting the core criteria questions either about the core criteria or how they are applied. What we don't know is how the feedback will be evaluated, coming from individuals, groups, and town officials. One of my favorite sayings is: "the devil is in the details"!

See additional comments on these parks and the process in the Rye Crisp section of this issue and Representative David Borden's comments in the Concord Reflections section of this issue.

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New librarian

Christine Collins.
Christine Collins has been selected as the new librarian, replacing Gene Fox. Christine does not plan any immediate changes, but hopes it may be possible to extend hours in the fall.

As a reminder, the Library Trustees are: Patricia Hickey (chair), Joan Lockhart, Brad Greeley, Paula Carroll (alternate), and Christine Collins (alternate).  And the schedule of library hours is: Sunday and Monday closed; Tuesday 1-7 p.m.; Wednesday 1-5 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday, 1-5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.

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The Energy Committee

Sandra Bisset, chair of the New Castle Energy Committee issued this summary of accomplishments as of June:

The New Castle Energy Chapter (NCEC) has had a busy month and we have accomplished the following:

(1) The Energy Chapter to the New Castle Master Plan was endorsed by the New Castle Selectmen and the Planning Board. The NCEC along with the support of the Planning Board plans to schedule a public hearing in the fall to adopt the Energy Chapter into the New Castle Master Plan.

(2) The municipal energy inventory of the buildings in New Castle was completed and Julie Labranche of the Rockingham Planning Commission (RPC) drafted the report. The NCEC reviewed the report on June 24th and comments are to be completed by June 30th.

The NCEC has been very pleased to participate in the grant with the NH Charitable Foundation and the RPC , which has been successfully completed on June 30th.

The NCEC is embarking upon our next project, to have a street lighting assessment of New Castle conducted by PSNH.

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Jack Wysong speaks

Jack Wysong spoke at the New Castle Historical Society in June, on the subject of the World War II fortifications along the New Hampshire coast. Wysong is the author of a book on the subject, The World, Portsmouth & the 22nd Coast Artillery: The War Years 1938-1948 (ISBN: 1-57510-030-4). Guns were emplaced in a series of Seacoast forts: Fort Foster in Kittery Point; Forts Constitution and Fort Stark in New Castle; Battery Seaman at Odiorne Point; with support at Camp Langdon (now the New Castle Common). Wysong explained the role of the still existing towers along the coastline as stations to control the shooting of the large artillery guns in the bunker fortifications, guns that could shoot as far as 25 miles.

Jack Wysong.

Book cover.

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Fort Stark third season

The Fort Stark work volunteers the "Brigade" is entering its third year of work, continuing brush cutting and the development of a visitor center from the old Ordnance Machine Shop. An updated two-page visitor brochure is available, in PDF format.

Dave McGuckin operating a tractor on loan from David Borden, to haul larger limbs.

Mike McConnell hauls brush.

Sam Page removes broken glass.

World War II view of the HECP (Harbor Entrance Command Post).

Current view of the HECP (Harbor Entrance Command Post). Splotchy paint is a result of painting out graffiti.

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Piscataqua ship spotting

We saw an unusual amount of ship traffic in June, though whether there really was more traffic in June is impossible to say without an official public record of river traffic. And, interestingly, three of the ships spotted this month have a history to remind us that avoidable accidents happen at sea, often with deadly consequences.

The list of vessels, presented below with a picture then a description, is: Aquasition (yacht), Greeneville (nuclear submarine), Barkald (bulker), Torm Mary (tanker), New Englander (tanker), Nor'easter (tanker), John M. Kingsbury (research), New Laurel (bulker) and Ferdinand A. Hassler (research). Use of Google reveals a surprising amount of information about many of these vessels.

The "Aquasition" yacht as seen at the Wentworth Marina this summer.

A sign of summer in recent years is the appearance of large yachts at the Wentworth Marina. The Aquasition is 147 feet long and details about its crew and the luxurious fittings are described online. It will spend much of the first part of the summer home ported here, then be on charter in the second part of the summer. At the published Marina docking rates, and assuming 100 amp electrical service, it would cost $785/day or $23,350/month to stay in port. It is remarkable to reflect that HMS Beagle, on which Charles Darwin spent five years sailing around the world, was 90 feet long by comparison!

The "USS Greeneville" leaving the Seacoast about 6:30 a.m. on June 4, passing between Whaleback Lighthouse and the green marker at Stillmans Rocks. (Michael Donovan photo)

The Greeneville is a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine that arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in December, 2007, for an overhaul, remaining until its early June departure.

Its history includes three major accidents: surfacing under the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru in 2001, running aground in Saipan in 2001, and a collision during refueling with the USS Ogden off Oman in 2002. Such incidents seem to be in its past, but the Ehime Maru remains well known with nine Japanese fatalities and is the subject of a detailed NTSB report.

The bulk carrier "Barkald" unloading coal at the Schiller Station.

The Barkald (IMHO 9233404) is a bulk carrier, in this case off-loading coal at PSNH's Schiller Station in Newington. It was built in 2002, 623 feet long and 49,463 DWT, flagged in the Marshall Islands (Majuro), and owned by T. Klaveness of Oslo, Norway.

On September 20, 2006, the Barkald was involved in a fatal collision with a 92-foot sailboat named Essence with a crew of three. The Coast Guard investigation confirmed that this occurred in Long Island Sound on a clear night (4 a.m.) while they were on nearly reciprocal courses, the Barkald outbound to Nova Scotia and the Essence inbound to Greenwich. The mate of the Essence saw the bulk carrier when it was 10 miles away and both vessels were equipped with radar. The Coat Guard determined that, "The primary cause of the collision was the failure of the mate of the Essence to properly identify the aspect of the light of the Barkald and take proper action." In other words, at the last minute the mate turned the wrong way. The Essence sank and one of the three crew drowned.

The oil/chemical tanker "Torm Mary".

In mid-June the double-hulled oil/chemical tanker Torm Mary (IMO 9246798) grounded in the river near the Irving terminal between the Memorial and Sarah Long Bridges. The ship was built in 2002, flagged in Copenhagen, Denmark, and part of a large fleet operated by Torm A/S (there are at least 69 ships in the fleet with "Torm" as the first part of the name!).

More details of the grounding have not been made public, but it turns out the Torm Mary was involved in a grounding incident in New York Harbor in 2004 and was struck by a barge near Ports Arthur, Texas, in 2004, according to Coast Guard reports.

The Irving oil tanker "New England" passing through the Memorial Bridge.

The Irving oil tanker "Nor'easter" approaching the Shipyard.

The Irving Oil Company operates a fleet of five oil tankers, two of which were seen in port in June, the New England (IMO 9298727) and the Nor'easter (IMO 9298727). These sister ships were built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in 2005 and are home ported in Majuro, Marshall Islands. Irving leases the ships, which are actually owned by Iver Ship B.V. and managed by Vroon Ship Management B.V.

The "John M. Kingsbury" approaching the Memorial Bridge.

Cornell's Shoals Marine Lab operates the research vessel John M. Kingsbury and it can be seen making frequent trips between the Isles of Shoals and its mooring near Nobles Island in Portsmouth. The vessel is available to charter. It is named for the founder of the Shoals Marine Lab, who is still active at Cornell.

The stern of "New Laurel" loading scrap metal at the State pier.

Scrap dropping into the "New Laurel".

The Sarah Long Bridge raised to allow passage.

The "New Laurel" (IMO 9171541) was picking up scrap metal from the State pier, located between the Memorial and Sarah Long Bridges. Built in 1999 by Hyundai Heavy Industries, it is part of a large fleet owned by STX Pan Ocean in Seoul, South Korea, home ported in Je Ju, South Korea. It is rated 31,024 dead weight tons (DWT).

Finally, the Ferdinand R. Hassler the NOAA SWATH vessel for ocean mapping, that will stationed at the UNH pier, adjacent to Fort Constitution in New Castle, is still under construction in Mississippi, now expected some time in 2010 instead of 2009. See this description of the pier facility in September 2008 issue of Saltines.

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Clouds, drizzle, and rain

The month of June was extraordinarily cloudy, with frequent drizzle and rain as low pressure systems stalled out and kept us in an easterly flow off the ocean. Cloudiness was the big story, with about twice the normal rainfall for the Seacoast several media outlets (e.g., Portsmouth Herald and NHPR radio) ran stories that made the rainfall sound more extreme, perhaps based on Concord data, but not representative of the Seacoast.

The nearest station for which we have good long-term data is Durham, NH, where the normal June precipitation is 4.02 inches, with over 6 inches actually falling this June. The precipitation has been heavier near the coast and a volunteer station in Kittery Point reports 7.3 inches for June. Temperatures have tended to run considerably below normal for daytime highs and slightly above normal for overnight lows. Again looking at Durham, we find the following distribution of daytime highs, recognizing that closer to the actual coast most days have been even cooler: 50-59 = 1, 60-69 = 13, 70-79 = 14, 80-89 = 2, 90+ = 0. For an excellent discussion of cloudiness and how it is measured, see this report by the Boston Globe on the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Massachusetts.

Rubber duckies appeared on some of the wet days on Cranfield Street.

A impressive, but short-lived rainbow appeared just before 6 a.m. on the morning of June 26, as yet another shower approached.

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Flowers everywhere

The Pontine Theatre's annual June New Castle garden tour took place with seven gardens despite the rain and drizzle, but it kept me from taking out my camera. As I result I've included several June flowers from adjacent towns!

Wisteria racemes, close-up, near the New Castle Fire Station.

An unusual peony, seen on the South Church's pocket garden tour in Portsmouth (in the garden of State Senator Martha Fuller Clark).

A peony laden with water drops as the morning sun first reaches it, seen on the South Church's pocket garden tour in Portsmouth (in the garden of the Rundlet-May House).

A yellow iris outside the Rye Public Library.

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New Castle Town Web page

Banner on New Castle town Web page.

The Town of New Castle's official Web page is redesigned and revitalized as the primary means for town communication. The link is:

The town Web page is the place to go for contact information, schedules, minutes, and the "Island Items" newsletter. We also provide a copy of the current "Island Items" here in Saltines see the May 2009 issue, in PDF format, which is 9 pages when printed.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines

July, 2009