07 June 2009

Visiting Addison

So if you remember last year, it was utterly pouring when we went to visit Papa and Freddie. This year it wasn't pouring, but it definitely was grey. The rain held off while we wandered around in the cemetery...

I think the saddest thing was the little toys that my cousins had left on Papa's grave were gone. I know little plastic dogs clog up lawnmowers, so someone probably thought it was time for them to go. It's just sad, because it showed that somebody besides Mum and me came up to visit. A stranger wandering by wouldn't know that Papa liked cocker spaniels or that he had grandchildren who gave him their McDonald's toys-- the toys gave a sense of individuality and character to the grave. Now they're gone.

I should get Papa a giant wooden raccoon, like this guy has. Because no grave is complete without a giant wooden raccoon.

Then we went up the hill to visit the babies.

I wish I knew more about them, like what they died from.

Mum and I looked everywhere, but we couldn't find their parents. I think we do this every year, we just forget that we do it. Do you think the babies feel lonely without their parents around?

At least their big brother is beside them.

And up the hill...

... we found the twins Henry and Henrietta and their big brother Hamilton. Man, how come people don't name their kids names like this any more?!?!

And of course, no trip to visit Papa would be complete without visiting the llamas.

28 May 2009

Burnt Island Trip Part 6: Going Back to Shore and Some Ghost Stories

So once we had cleaned up our messes and packed up The Stuff we hung out on the dock for a while, waiting for the Novelty to come and pick us up. Becca looks very happy with her fishie (did I mention some of the boys kissed it? Bleeeeccchh!).

And we petted some moon jellies. We also saw some lion's mane jellies but they were too far away to pet (which is good-- they sting!). I'm glad they didn't blob their way over to me when I were in the water (though the Teletubby suit would have probably protected me)!

Here comes the Novelty!

Hop on, everyone!

Bye-bye dock!

We had to go around the back of the island before heading into the harbor because of the "red, right, return" rule, which means navigational buoys, etc., must be on your right (unless you happen to be in a boat that goes backwards, like a rowboat, and in that case they are on your left).

There's the Resourceful with the adults (and all The Stuff) in it!

Katie, looking pensive.

So this is a terrible-quality picture of a sardine boat that is in the harbor. Elaine had told us that during the turn of the century the keepers had to keep a record of just how many vessels came into the harbor, and in just one entry, for just one night, a keeper recorded that there were more than three hundred and fifty boats that came in to the harbor! Whoa! Today the harbor isn't as busy-- due to other forms of transportation like cars and trucks and planes-- but there are still a good number of working boats out there.

This is part of the DMR. I was just wondering if there was Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton anywhere around-- and hey look, there's one! (Quite possibly the most random thing I've seen all day...)

A whale skull and rib. Cool.

A pretty view of the harbor.

Here is one very happy but very tired Miss Newell, on the bus, going home!

So before we all piled onto the bus, Elaine told us some ghost stories of Burnt Island-- she didn't want to tell us while we were actually there, which was very smart!

The first story was about James A. McCobb who served as keeper from 1868 to 1880. He kept detailed records of his work, and this was one of his entries:

March 22, 1877 – “Wife died this morning about two o’clock of congestion of the lungs and cankers in the throat, stomach, and bowels. She had been in feeble health all winter but able to be about the house attending to her work until about two weeks before her death when a cold brought on congestion and then canker which caused her death as above stated. … Her age was fifty three years and four months.”

So sometimes at 2 o'clock at night, some people have reported seeing a woman's figure in a white nightie wandering about on the island. Freaky!

(What is the time on that clock on the mantel???)

Okay, the next story is really creepy, and gave all of us goosebumps. Elaine had been contacted by a fellow named Reg (sorry I didn't catch his last name) who once worked at the Burnt Island Light and had a story to tell her. The keeper after Joseph Muire was a man named Benjamin Stockbridge, and lived in the keeper's house with his wife. Ben had some health issues (including a bum leg) and had some difficulty doing all of the work he needed to do as a keeper. The Coast Guard decided took pity on him and said he could keep his job, but they would send him an assistant: Reg, who was 19 years old at the time. Reg said that Ben was a cantankerous fellow, and would "grade" Reg on everything he did-- from trimming the wick to cleaning the glass panes. Reg didn't like being criticized all the time, but he was making pretty good money-- at $7.50 a day he really couldn't complain!

So Ben's health declined fairly rapidly, and finally it was time for him to leave the island and go to the mainland so he could be nearer to the doctor. Reg took Ben to the hospital and helped his wife move into a nearby apartment. Reg came back to the island and took over as full time keeper.

Well, one night (at about 2:00) Reg was woken up by his bedroom door slamming open and a voice hollering, "Wake up! Wake up! You have a smoke-out!" Reg looked out his window to the lighthouse and sure enough, the light was out. He ran through the house, up the covered walkway, up the spiral staircase, and re-lit the light. Then he came down and sat at the kitchen table, lit a kerosene lantern, lit a cigarette, and his hands started to shake.

Who had woken him up?

The next day Reg went into town to get a few things, and he came across a fisherman he knew, and Reg asked how Ben was doing. The fisherman replied, "Oh, didn't you know? Ben died last night at 2:00."

~~~ goosebumps ~~~

Reg was a little freaked out, but he was willing to go back to his job. He went and got his gun and brought it back to the island. He was willing to do whatever he needed to, because he was making $7.50 a day and that's good money. At that time the blinking of the light was achieved by a device that spun the bull's-eye lens around. This mechanism was similar to a cuckoo clock in that weights would run the motion of the mechanical movement. This mechanism needed to be cranked every six hours, so Reg would wind it at 5:00 and 11:00, both during the day and in the evening. Well, this night he was waiting for 11 PM so he could go to bed and sleep until he had to get up and wind it again. If you remember, the kitchen table is not far from the covered walkway which leads to the tower (the table is to the left of the stove; the covered walkway is behind the door on the right of the stove):

Well, at that time there was a door in that door frame which led up the covered walkway. Reg was sitting there, thinking about how $7.50 a day was a lot of money, and how he was very lucky to have this job. Suddenly he thought he heard a noise. At first he was not sure what it was-- the wind? the waves?-- but soon it got a little louder. It sounded like someone shuffling along-- someone with a bum leg. Someone who sounded an awful lot like how Ben used to walk.

Reg very slowly got up and threaded a piece of string through the finger-latch on the door, and sat there with his gun at the ready. The footsteps got closer and closer. Reg stood very still. When the footsteps sounded like they were just about to come through the door, Reg tugged on the string and the door flung open, and Reg shot-- BANG! BANG! BANG!-- but nothing was there.

~~~ goosebumps again ~~~

Reg stayed awake all night, and when it was morning he rowed over to the Coast Guard station and told them that he didn't care how much money he was being paid, he wasn't going to spend another night on that island.

Elaine said that many years later Reg came back to the Island to visit, and to stay the night in the keeper's house. They were both pretty nervous that Ben would come back once again, so they went over to his grave and placed some flowers, and talked to him for a while. That night Ben did not return, but Reg said that he had a very hard time sleeping...

So I will leave you not with the willies, but with a few more beautiful pictures of Burnt Island Light.

I also leave you with this poem, which is one of my very favorites:

maggie and milly and molly and may

by E. E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

25 May 2009

Burnt Island Trip Part 5: A GPS Treasure Hunt and Survival

So like the compass treasure hunt from yesterday, we were to use little GPS gizmos to find a treasure. We went all around the island using our little yellow digital gizmos and learning that common sense is more important than technology: if there is a tree or cliff or (god forbid) a lighthouse in your way, then you go around it! The arrow will adjust itself-- pretty neat!

Here were some of the things we saw on our treasure hunt:

Spanish moss...

The beach...

The slip...

The lighthouse (which was tooooooooooooting pretty loudly by that time, because it was drizzling and the fog was coming in)...

A stone wall (some of these date back to the 1700's-- they were put there to keep the sheep contained)...

And our favorite stop: Butt Rock! Look, the baggie even calls it that!

Next, we had a little mutiny, and the adults decided that all of the kids were garbage and stuffed them into trashbags, and as soon as we get back to shore we're going to stuff them into the nearest dumpster. And then we're going to have a party!

Just kidding! This was a part of a lesson on survival. You can use trash bags as emergency shelters, which keeps the most important parts of your body nice and warm. Just make sure you have a good-sized hole for your nose and mouth so you don't suffocate.

I wish I had gotten a video of the kids scuttling around the room in these, hermit-crab-style.

And then... well... then adults were asked to volunteer to take part in a survival situation. I very hesitantly raised my hand, but Elaine laughed and said, "I hope you don't mind getting wet, Miss Newell, because you are going to go for a little swim!"

These are survival suits, for people who need to go into the water (say, if your ship sinks). The suits are waterproof (at least, they are supposed to be, as I found out!) and the only part of you that is uncovered is a little bit of your face. Getting them on was just like getting into footie pajamas, but they were made out of this very heavy neoprene material... imagine getting into a thick suit made out of the same stuff mousepads are made of!

The funny thing is that all ships that go more than 3 miles offshore need to have one of these suits for everybody on board, and you need to get into your suit in less than a minute in case your boat is sinking. It took us a lot more than a minute to get into them--and we needed lots of help!

We had to blow into these tubes to inflate the pillows on our back, which was weird. You can see Mibee blowing into her straw.

Look, it's an Elmo convention! Or a bunch of red astronauts!

The biggest problem was that my gloves were inside out, and my arms were too short to push the fingers out from the inside-- so it looks like I am doing something very bad with my finger! (That's Mr. Stevens saying "don't raise your hand up!")

And into the 47-degree water we went!

I can't put my legs down!

In an emergency you want to huddle together like this:

Or if you want to go somewhere, like to a bell buoy, you'd clasp yourselves together like this to make a caterpillar, then move your arms like rowboat oars.

We weren't that coordinated.

I promise you I am not trying to be rude!

My suit started to leak very badly so I needed to get out of the water. I wasn't cold, since the suit keeps you nice and toasty! I was just very tired from trying to swim in that heavy suit.

Mr. Stevens, Katie and Mibee jumped in to see what it would feel like to jump in with those suits. It's a weird feeling, like the suit tightens all around you (like when you wear a rubber glove and stick it into a sink full of water).

Mibee was very uncoordinated getting up the ladder, and I am laughing at her because she ended up crawling across the dock like a baby.

(My thanks to JH who took all of these fantastic pictures!)

Next up: Going Home.