The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

corroborate virtually

with 4 comments

It’s National Lobster Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in some detail in yesterday’s post, a humble narrator travelled clear across the western face of Long Island from Astoria to Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood to attend a lecture by my high school biology teacher, an effort which was offered by the NYC H2O outfit. The lecture was occurring at Plumb Beach, which is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and a Federal Park. The layout of the place includes a highway facing parking lot, which leads to a sandy beach and sand dunes, behind which are found a muddy type tidal marshland. I rode the R from Astoria to the 57th street stop in Manhattan, where I transferred to a Q express which carried me to the Sheepshead Bay Road stop, whereupon I walked down Emmons Avenue to Plumb Beach.

Whew, that accounts for like an hour and a half of my day, can you imagine how horrible it is to be me all the time?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My high school marine biology teacher was (and is) named Alan Ascher, and I remember him fondly. He didn’t remember me, which is sort of what I expected as I was an unextraordinary sciences student. I have fun memories of Mr. Ascher’s class, which revolved around an end of semester field trip to Jamaica Bay, onboard a boat, and the usage of a NYC Department of Education oriented permit to do some limited dredging of the bottom of Jamaica Bay in pursuance of biological specimens for study (critters).

First time I saw a live spider crab, or tube worm, was because this guy pulled them up out of the deep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One specifically remembers maybe three or four of my teachers from high school. Two of them are for malign reasons. One of the malign duo was especially hated for her complete dereliction of duty as a teacher, another was for pursuing a certain vendetta against me. The latter was dealt with, decisively, later in life when I was no longer a powerless child. Another, a chemistry teacher named Bob Nissin, is remembered because he made the case to me that since I was inherently lacking mathematically I would be unable to pursue a course in the higher sciences – advice which was immensely helpful to a confused about his path and quite adolescent narrator.

Mr. Ascher, pictured above, is the guy who made me wonder – and more than wonder – all there is that might be found beneath the surface of the waters of New York Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour Mr. Ascher conducted felt familiar, as I had been on a similar outing during high school with him. We started in the parking lot, and went down towards the beach. It was low tide, as a note.

Mr. Ascher, then as now, talked about the shoreline grasses and their role in holding together the dunes surrounding the sandy littoral zone sloping down into the water. He mentioned the creation of the park back in the 70’s and the fact that this used to be an island called Hogshead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few mortal remains of the animal we had come to observe were scattered here and there on Plumb Beach, the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab – Limulus polyphemus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher described the role played by the quite artificial jetties installed at intervals along the Plumb Beach, and how they aid in the constant battle against shoreline erosion which is fought by the engineers of the National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other governmental entities who oversee such matters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The group threaded its way over the dunes, with Mr. Ascher pointing out various vegetable species encountered, including the Beach Plumb (for which Plumb Beach is so named), Rosehips, and the substantial abundance of Poison Ivy. On the other side of the dunes, we encountered the previously mentioned tidal marsh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This sort of scene, depicting a tidal stream swirling around the muddy shoreline of Jamaica Bay, is so incredibly familiar to me that it looks like home. Not much has changed since high school back here, except that there’s a lot less garbage and specifically a lack of medical waste.

Plumb Beach was always a great place to find thousands of hypodermics and used bandages embedded in the tidal zone. Along with other goodies, medical waste in great abundance would wash up here, back in the 1980’s – I tell ya. Trash was everywhere on the waterfront in this section back then, so I guess some things do seem to have gotten better, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were multiple examples of this sort of collection on the flat, shellfish and mussels abandoned by the tide, waiting for the water to return and flood the spot. Mr. Ascher reminded everyone to not venture too far in the direction of the muddy section, which has the characteristic of quick sand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abandoned boat, deposited here by some storm, has been turned into a gallery for graffiti.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The salt marsh itself was covered in Spartina and other grasses, and perforated by crab holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher… I just can’t call him Alan… discussed the various things we were looking at and provided insights into the hidden world of aquatic creatures which were sequestering in the muddy flats during the intertidal.

There were also a bunch of weird looking Russian muscle guys running around in the bushes on the other side of the water from our group, characters whom I did not like the look of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the penultimate installment of “what I did last Friday,” presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ll encounter Horseshoe Crab pornography.

That’s your trigger warning, right there, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

4 Responses

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  1. Lobster Day! At last promoting protein instead of those bakery carbohydrates.

    georgetheatheist . . . finger-lickin' good

    June 15, 2017 at 11:37 am

  2. Wonderful plumbing of beach and genus horseshoe! Bless those good teachers who provide us w. unforgettable memories of field trips

    maplesugarkat

    June 15, 2017 at 11:38 am

  3. The Russian guys were obviously spies.

    Fiesta Cranberry

    June 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm


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