Photo: Turtle

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(c) 2015 J.S.Reinitz

Here’s another shot from my short trip kayaking around small islands few weeks ago. I was able to get close to this turtle perched on a partially submerged branch and snap off a few shots before he got bored of me and slid into the water.

Video: Hashima Island

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HASHIMA, Japan, 2002 documentary version from Thomas Nordanstad on Vimeo.

We found this interesting video on Hashima Island off the coast of Nagasaki. The island was built up starting the 1880s to provide housing for a coal mining operation. It shut down in the 1970s after petroleum began replacing coal for energy and remained off limits to the public until 2009 when the ruins were opened to tourists.

The narrator in the video (Japanese language with English subtitles) tells of growing up as a child on Hashima, which was also called Gunkanjima (Battleship Island).

Death on Channel Islands

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Missing Man Found Dead on Santa Cruz Island
Date: December 18, 2012

CHANNEL ISLANDS, Calif. — A 23-year-old man, Christopher Anthony Mondiek from Dublin, Ohio, was found dead Dec. 18 on the beach at Yellowbanks Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island within Channel Islands National Park, according to the National Park Service.

Search and rescue crews made the discovery shortly after 8 a.m. Investigators believe his death was caused by a fall from one of the cliffs, Park Service officials said.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 the National Park Service was notified by park concessioner Island Packers, that Mondiek had not returned from an overnight trip to Santa Cruz Island. Park staff began searching on Sunday, but was not able to locate Mondiek.

On Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, the National Park Service requested assistance with the search from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. A helicopter was sent to the island, but was soon turned back due to stormy conditions.

Search and rescue crews responded back to the island Tuesday morning ultimately making the discovery of Mondiek’s body on the beach below a steep cliff.

Mondiek’s body was brought back via boat to the Ventura Harbor. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office will handle the investigation as Coroner detectives determine the exact circumstances of the death. Park Service official said the initial information suggests the death may have been accidental.

Swamp hike

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The murky depths of a swamp can hold a lot of secrets — ditched stolen cars, lost treasure, enemies. The thick muck, opaque water, diseased insects and noxious odor of decay and rot swirl together in a concoction that keeps all but the most brave or most mad at bay.

So it was with high expectations that we set out to explore a local swamp a few months ago. Not that were were particularly brave — or even mad for that matter. The long-dry summer had taken its toll on the marsh, dried it to the bone and sucked out most of the hazards. It wasn’t a big swamp to begin with, just a section of soggy ground, a pond and a half-submerged forest wedged between a bluff, a bike trail and a highway. Not a destination, barely a waypoint.

With the drought, the north rim was now a thick a field of purple flowers, and most of what had been under water now resembled a desert. Dusty cracks waffled the ground, which had a spongy spring when stepped upon. There was still moisture buried underneath. You could find it if you dug deep enough.

We found a pair of hubcaps early on, and as we moved on, we located a plastic baseball, then a golf ball, then another golf ball. A small mound of debris farther on caught our eye, and we approached, finding three or four cut milk jugs tethered metal 5-pound plate, the kind one loads onto a barbell. My best guess was it had been a fish trap, fish bait or fish habitat — something fishy.

A shallow spot on the dried mud flat still held water, maybe a few inches deep and five feet across. As we neared, the water came alive, rippling as if blown by a gust of wind. It was actually frogs and guppies, which once fanned out over the marsh and now packed densely into what little water remained. Noticing our presence, they began hopping to the far end of the puddle.

Moving past the frog pond and heading deeper into the swamp, we came to what were once islands, now completely approachable by foot. They were little tufts of earth topped with grass and bushes and popping out of the deserted plain. As we looped back on our way out, we cut through the field of flowers that spread across what had been the shoreline. Not far inside, we discovered an animal skull, perhaps once belonging to an opossum. The bone was bleached white, and the jaw was intact. The kids studied it, figuring out where the eyes and other features had been.

At the end of the hike, we climbed out of the swamp’s dusty remains, not finding any great secrets but getting a rare glimpse of what’s at the bottom.


Fort Jefferson video (reprint)

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(Note: First posted 7.26.12)

Above: A recent installment of Waterways features preservation efforts at Fort Jefferson.

For vacation one summer, when we lived in the south, we took a trip down through Florida, checking out the freshwater snorkeling spots inland, beaches on the Atlantic side and a few old forts.
We swung through old Saint Augustine on a whim and stumbled across the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos.
Perhaps my favorite was Fort Matanzas , a tiny outpost on a small barrier island that guarded Saint Augustine’s back door. The fort is a 30-foot-tall tower containing a gun deck, soldiers’ and officers’ quarters topped by an observation deck. Under the gun deck is a reservoir that collected fresh rain water.
Today, visitors take a short boat ride to the island and tour the fort.
Regretfully, one of the forts we didn’t get a chance to see was Fort Jackson on Dry Tortugas , which is way out past the tip of Florida’s Keys and only reachable by boat or seaplane.
According to the National Park Service, Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. Construction began in 1846 and continued until 1889, when the government pulled the plug before it was finished. Technology had advanced to the point that Fort Jefferson was obsolete, and it was shuttered without ever firing a shot.
But the effort wasn’t a waste, because the fort lives on today as a national park. In recent years, park staff, masons, conservation specialists and the 482nd Civil Engineers Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base have been undertaking projects to preserve. Above is a 25-minute (give or take) YouTube video about the restoration.The above National Park Service links have neat info about the forts,especially the Matanzas site, which includes an interactive map. A Wikipedia list of other forts in Florida is here. (7.26.12)