Illustrated Bites of Island News

Jim Cerny, reporting and photography

July 4th events Safety Building progress UNH Marine Facility Library art exhibit Fort Stark third season Fort Stark third season Piscataqua ship spotting Cool summer continues Lighthouse season Gardens by the sea Quick index to back issues

July 4th events

A view of the Fourth of July fireworks in Portsmouth, weather-delayed to the evening of July 5, looking from Goat Island.

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. Local lighthouse historian Jeremy D'Entremont introduced Chris Benedetto, who read from a paper he published in New England Ancestors. There was a crowd of about 35 people in attendance and we were invited to tour Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse afterwards.

Chris Benedetto, recounting the story of the 1809 gunpowder explosion at Fort Constitution.

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Safety Building progress

Work is underway on the new safety building. The old building was demolished, foundation work is done, and framing is beginning the first week in August. Things are just about on schedule despite hitting unanticipated ledge in two places and despite some adverse weather. Dave McGuckin, who was on the original building committee named in September 2008, is acting as a liaison between the contractor and the town.

Ricci Construction sign.

The water main to the new building was replaced with a new six-inch line; this shows the connection of the six-inch line to the eight-inch line in the street.

Forms and foundation work, with the location for the elevator shaft surrounded in yellow tape.

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UNH Marine Facility

On the afternoon of July 28, the UNH Marine Program invited residents to an open house to see the buildings, the pier, and the vessels. Many faculty and staff were on hand to talk about the research activities. We reported on an earlier stage of the construction in September, 2008.

Professor of Zoology Win Watson had a hermaphrodite lobster in a tank. The lobster shows a mix of male and female characteristics, divided bilaterally along its long axis. Watson said it is the first one he'd seen, though normally nobody looks for these and the differences are subtle enough that an untrained observer would miss them.

This yellow platform is called "AquaManna" and is an automated fish feeding buoy used by the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center. Normally it is moored near the Isles of Shoals.

This yellow, solar-powered buoy is used to measure carbon dioxide in the water column, normally in the vicinity of the Isles of Shoals.

This map is an example of the capabilities of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, using multibeam sonar to get the data. This map shows the area near Star Island at the Isles of Shoals at a scale of 1:5000 with 6X vertical exaggeration (the map was not flat when photographed and some distortion is evident if you look at the grid lines).

The mast of the research vessel "R/V Gulf Challenger" which is used in support of a variety of marine research activities.

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Library art exhibit

Local artist Tania Amazeen-Jones is the current artist with work on display at the New Castle Library.

Tania Amazeen-Jones paintings.

Tania Amazeen-Jones paintings.

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Fort Stark third season

The Fort Stark volunteers, who call themselves the Fort Stark Brigade, continue to work at the fort as weather permits. Carol White leads a sub-group who are staffing the Visitor Center (red brick building) on Saturdays through the month of August a sign is placed at the end of Wild Rose Lane when someone is there. Response has been remarkable, with 75-100 people on a weekend. An updated two-page visitor brochure is available, in PDF format.

All of this activity may serve as a model for other communities to support parks in their area with volunteer efforts, particularly in the context of the Parks Department's review of the parks.

Work going up in smoke the Fire Department conducted a controlled burn of the accumulated brush piled in front of the white HECP (Harbor Entrance Command Post) structure.

Flag flying above the Fort Stark grounds.

Alex Kennedy (left) and Peter Rice lower the flag.

Dave McGuckin puts his stone masonry skills to work, building sections of wall near the parking lot.

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Piscataqua ship spotting

In contrast with the activity in June, we did not see many bulk carriers in transit during July, though some were anchored offshore.

The bulker "Marcela Lady" as seen from Goat Island, with sailboat in foreground, guided by the "Eugenia Moran" tugboat, and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the background. It is making the turn in the river where Henderson's Point used to project, before it was dynamited in 1905.

The bulk carrier Marcela Lady (IMO 9254812) is a chemical/oil tanker owned by Genesis Tankers and managed by Byzantine Maritime. It was built in 2004 in Croatia, is registered in Monrovia, Liberia, and can carry 46,683 DWT.

Becalmed sailboats on a Tuesday evening near the 2KR buoy at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor.

The Piscataqua Sailing Association sponsors a Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF). In the foreground is Nice Twice, an Island 36 design. Behind that is Alida, a Baltic 35 design. And behind that is Valkyrie, a Sabre 36 design.

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Cool summer continues

July continued the cool pattern set in June, though with more sunshine. Several days had record or near-record cool high temperatures. You can see how some were coping at the beaches!

So, how cool and wet was it, how does it stack up to the historical record? We use the current and historical weather records from Durham, NH, as the nearest and best long-term record (going back to 1893), a better indicator of Seacoast conditions than Boston, Concord, or Portland. An excellent source of current observations and observations over the last couple of years is the instrumentation mounted on the roof of Morse Hall on the Durham Campus.

All too typical gray clouds over New Castle.

For Durham there were 19 days with measurable precipitation, totaling 6.86 inches, compared to a normal of 3.32 inches. (Concord was 7.59 inches versus 3.37 inches normal and Portland was 8.60 inches versus 3.32 inches normal.)

Everyone knows it was cool, but most of the cooling was in daytime high temperatures, not overnight lows. The monthly average temperature was 67.5, very cool but not a record (1962 is the record at 65.3). The average daily high was 76.4, the third coolest in the record (1902 was 75.9 and 1914 was 76.3). The overnight lows averaged 58.6 but not nearly a record (1962 is the record at 51.3). The standout cold July was in 1962, with exceptional overnight cooling two nights went to 39 and eight nights were in the 40's.

Coming back to the daily highs this year, the frequencies were 50-59=1, 60-69=5, 70-79=14, 80-89=11, with 86.3 as the highest temperature.

While it is impossible to prove cause and effect in a complex hydrodynamic system like the earth's atmosphere and oceans, there is plausible speculation that this summer's cool weather across the northeastern United States could be related to reduced solar output, manifest as unusually low sunspot counts even for this minimum point in the solar cycle. For more information see In addition to reporting on sunspots, it reports on "space weather," which is the status of the solar wind as the flow of particles from the sun stream out to the Earth and get deflected by the Earth's magnetic field. At the moment of this writing the speed is 555.8 kilometers/second with a density of 2.7 protons/cubic centimeter!

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Lighthouse season

This is the season when lighthouse tours are available, organized by the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. Think of it as your opportunity to become a pharologist! There are both open house tours, for which no reservation is needed, and cruises, for which tickets are needed.

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse next to Fort Constitution, showing the upper portion the lighthouse is scheduled to be painted this fall.

The Fresnel lens in the beacon room at the top of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. It is a fourth-order size lens and is surrounded by a green plastic cylinder to provide the special color. Most Fresnel lenses have been replaced by modern LED units.

Looking out one of the porthole windows in the watch room of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, just below the beacon room and gallery. The view is of the red-roofed former Coast Guard station, Fort Constitution, and across the Piscataqua River to Kittery, Maine.

Looking down the spiral staircase in the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, showing some of the 44 steps and one of the windows.

Whaleback Lighthouse, showing the upper portion. This is in Maine, but is commonly viewed from the New Castle or Rye shore. On June 30, 2009, a ceremony was held to mark the formal transfer of Whaleback to the American Lighhouse Foundation, with the local chapter, Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, to coordinate work.

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Gardens by the sea

On Saturday, July 25, the Piscataqua Garden Club presented a tour, called "Gardens by the Sea," of eight garden in Kittery Point, Maine. Several New Castle gardeners are active in the Club, including Etoile Holzaepfel, Beth Hume, and Caroyln Rini.

Tiger lilys.

White oriental lily.

Yellow nasturtiums.

Frog on lily pad in a koi pond.

Reclining Buddha.

Decorative pink ball in a birdbath.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines

August, 2009