Illustrated Bites of Island News

Jim Cerny, reporting and photography

Public occurrences Thomas Elison Oliver Looking for spring Happy Easter Piscataqua ship spotting Quick index to back issues

Public occurrences

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Thomas Elison Oliver

Thomas Elison Oliver.
Thomas Elison Oliver was a prominent merchant who once lived in New Castle, yet is scarcely remembered today. During his lifetime Oliver owned interests in many ships, stock in railroads and bridges, and at the time of his death in 1868, at age 89, his land included both Shapleigh and Goat Islands. His personal estate (cash, stocks, bonds, notes) was valued at $57,000, plus his real estate was valued at $18,900, a total of $75,900 which would be at least $1 million today. He left bequests to a great many people and his will and associated probate papers run to over 60 pages! Another part of his legacy are his log books and ledgers, which provide a window into the commercial activities of the time.

Of course the name Oliver Street survives today, as does the house he built around 1820 on Oliver Street. And he once owned what is now called the Langley-Boardman mansion on State Street in Portsmouth. The Oliver and Marvin families intermarried and one of the Marvins was named Thomas Elison Oliver Marvin.

Gravestone in the Marvin Cemetery. This is the detail of a large oblelisk stone which cost $800 when it was erected in 1869.

The Portsmouth Custom House records list Oliver's ownership in ships for fishing, freighting, and trading. A partial list of the ships and their size in tons (for comparison, clipper ships were typically 1,000 to 1,600 tons) starts in chronological order as: schooner Three Friends (65); schooner Rising Sun (58); schooner Phenix (57); schooner Flying Fish (22), brig Dove (121); schooner Prudence (33); schooner Clarissa (66); schooner Favorite (49); schooner Harriot (60); schooner Mary Jane (81); and so on to some 100 in total.

Ad for cargo for the schooner "Hope" in January 1824.

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Looking for spring

We are in an unprecedented wet cycle that began in 2005, as noted a year ago. Within three weeks we had two storms with extreme winds and rain, totaling over 13 inches in Durham. The March 13-15 storm was the juicier of the two, producing about 7 inches of rain in the Seacoast, as shown on the Doppler radar.

With yet another storm on March 29-30, raging as we go to press, we seem certain to have had over 18 inches of rain in the last 40 days, which amounts to 40% of the normal annual total of about 47 inches. Where have we heard about 40 days of rain before?

Doppler NEXRAD radar for the mid-March storm. out of Portland, Maine, showing estimated storm rainfall totals.

The shore erosion pattern in this storm in mid-March should be different from that in the end-of-February storm, as the wind was northeast rather than east and it came at a relatively low run of high tides.

Waves breaking half-way up on Whaleback Light at high tide on March 15, as seen from New Castle Beach. The green marker on the left is Stillmans Rocks.

There are three good online sources of weather data for the current active month in the Durham area: Morse Hall on the Durham Campus (UNH operated); Thompson Farm (NOAA); and Kingman Farm (NOAA). There is also a good NOAA station at Pease in Portsmouth, but it only shows current 24-hour data. Unfortunately for the serious weather observer, most NOAA data goes into a black hole. NOAA is still in the era of treating data as a "product" for which they charge, though they encourage a volunteer system of State Climatologists for limited release of data. Many government organizations that use taxpayer money to collect and organize data have made the successful transition to the Internet, making the data readily available online to anyone. NOAA is stuck in the pre-Internet model.

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Piscataqua ship spotting

The Barkald has been here before and was probably delivering coal to the Simplex Power Station, using a very sophisticated unloading system.

Barkald approaching the Memorial Bridge click on image for larger view.

Unloading system on the Barkald click on image for larger view.

The Jin Qiang (IMO 9154579) was delivering salt to Granite State Minerals. It was built by Oshima Shipbulding in 1998, has a DTW of 47324, is registered in Panama, and is owned and managed by Cosco Hong Kong Shipping.

Jin Qiang docked.

Jin Qiang unloading salt.

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Happy Easter

The Easter season is fascinating for the way a major Christian holiday is grafted onto the ancient celebrations of the return of the sun and fertility marked by the vernal equinox. In most years you can calculate the date of Easter by a simple astronomical formula: it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox! Let's see, the vernal equinox is March 20, followed by a full moon on Monday March 29, which means Easter must be the following Sunday, April 4 and it is! The complete calculation is much more complex because of the ecclesiastical definition of a month and a full moon.

Chocolate Easter bunnies in a flower pot.

Sunrise reflections on Wild Rose Lane.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines


April 2010