Illustrated Bites of Island News

Jim Cerny, reporting and photography

Calling 911 … Historical Society … Spitsbergen beckons … Safety Building progress … Fort Stark action … Piscataqua ship spotting … Fall flowers … Fall sunset … Quick index to back issues

Displayed on Atkinson Street.

Calling 911 …

What happens when you call 911 in New Castle? Let's consider calls that involve the Fire Department, saving the Police response for a separate discussion. The call first goes to a dispatch center in Concord, which routes it to dispatch in Rockingham, which determines who should respond and sends out a tone to those beepers. Fortunately fire calls in New Castle itself are rare — most such calls are for mutual aid in other communities. More common, however, are EMT calls for medical assistance. Such calls are routed both to the New Castle Fire Department's EMT members as first responders and to the AMR ambulance service.

Members of the New Castle Fire Department, with EMT members in blue. From left to right: John Roberts, Bart Driscoll, Joe Thagard (back), Terri Golter (front), Jim Rini (back), Teddy Golter (front), Ruth Moulton, and Assistant Chief Mark Wooley.

When thinking of emergencies, you should consider how responders will get access to your home. If nobody is home or responding, they are faced with a choice of either deciding it was a false alarm or breaking in. Even the least-damaging break-in is likely to be messy. A proven alternative is a rapid-entry key system controlled by the fire department. You install a small safe near the door, containing access keys, codes, and contact information, which is accessed by a highly secure master key used only by the fire department. These are often called Knox-boxes after one of the better known makers, but other companies such as GE make such systems as well. For more details on use, ordering, and installation, contact the New Castle Fire Department.

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Historical Society …

The New Castle Historical Society is looking very bright after getting painted this summer.

The Historical Society's Museum building, gleaming in the sun.

The next speaker is Willy Bemis, Director of the Shoals Marine Lab, speaking October 20, at 7:00 p.m., on the "History and Future of the Shoals Marine Lab."

Willy Bemis with a picture of Celia Thaxter's cottage on Appledore.

A group from the Historical Society went on a tour of the Shipyard conducted by Public Affairs Specialist Gary Hildreth, similar to the tour described by Cecilia Azzi earlier in the summer. The Shipyard is endlessly fascinating, and Hildreth is a wonderful guide; groups interested in a tour should contact the Shipyard Public Affairs Office.

Close-up view of the old Naval prison on the Shipyard.

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Spitsbergen beckons …

Alexander Kennedy.
After a summer break Alexander Kennedy began the new Supper Club season with a talk to an audience of about 20 people on the topic of Spitsbergen, Norway, titled "From Roald Amundsen to International Seed Depository." (To be added to the Supper Club mailing list, contact Bill Drew.)

Alex described in words and pictures the cold fascination of Spitsbergen, which is 60% glaciated, lighted by the midnight sun from April 20 through August 26, and then plunged into the polar night from October 26 through February 15. While Spitsbergen is the farthest north inhabited place, it is in the news.

Besides providing a front row seat to the effects of glacial warming, it features in the story of the explorer Roald Amundsen and in discussions of the new seed depository. The day before Alex's talk there was an article in the New York Times about who deserves credit for first reaching the North Pole — and Roald Amundsen is a contender! Because of the cold and relative inaccessibility, Spitsbergen was chosen for an international seed depository, nicknamed the "Doomsday Vault," that holds 20 million seeds. The seed depository is a fascinating story and what sounds straight-forward in concept is actually quite complex in operational practice.

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Safety Building progress …

Work is underway on the new safety building, and, according to the town's building committee liaison, Dave McGuckin, it is on time and on budget, expected to be ready by the beginning of November.

Cupola and exterior details are coming into place.

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Fort Stark action …

There was much activity at Fort Stark in September, from maintenance, to visitors, to special events. Volunteers kept the Visitor Center (red brick machine shop building) open on most weekends, with sometimes 70 or more people stopping in.

Boy Scouts camping on September 26. The Boy Scouts explored the "gunpowder trail," tracing history from Fort Constitution into Portsmouth.

Coastal clean-up taking place on September 20, sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association of New Hampshire.

Joan Hammond preparing materials in the Visitor Center, transcribing from display panels.

Dave McGuckin and Peter Rice blocking access to the white structure known as the HECP (Harbor Entrance Control Post).

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Piscataqua ship spotting …

There are three Los Angeles class nuclear submarines at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for maintenance. The USS Helena arrived in September, to join the USS Dallas and USS Oklahoma City.

USS Helena docked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

USS Dallas docked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. This submarine is famous for being named in the book/movIe "The Hunt for Red October," though it is not filmed in the movie.

With the end of the boating season approaching, the visiting yachts at the Wentworth Marina seem to be smaller. The "Blue Moon" is only some 70-something feet in length!

Yacht "Blue Moon" at the Wentworth Marina.

The bulk carrier Ocean Leader (IMO 8314809) is flagged in Limmasol, Cyprus, formerly named Manila Prima, Consensus Sun, Wilrider, and Marilis T. It was built in 1984 at Hitachi at Innoshima and can carry 28,097 DWT. In this case it was carrying salt.

The bulk carrier Ocean Leader anchored outside Portsmouth Harbor, waiting on the tide.

Detail of the lifeboat on the "Ocean Leader," while moored in Portsmouth and unloading salt at Granite State Minerals.

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Fall flowers …

For most wildflower identification in this area I recommend Marilyn Dwelley's wonderful guide, Summer & Fall Wildflowers of New England, supplemented with more detailed guides if needed. Dwelley's guide is based on her drawings, rather than on photographs, and again and again I find it works to identify the most common species that you are likely to encounter.

Goldenrod are certainly a symbol of the season. In Celia Thaxter's words:
Already the cricket is busy
  With hints of soberer days,
And the goldenrod lights slowly
  Its torch for the autumn blaze.
This is the fourth stanza in the poem "Already," published in The Poems of Celia Thaxter.

There are a great many species of goldenrod, undistinguished in our casual glances, and it is an interesting challenge to learn to identify at least a few. Arieh Tal, in his Quick Guide to the Common Goldenrods of New Englands, lists 15 species and says: "Most people would agree that the goldenrods are famous for being difficult to identify. However, it's not impossible to do, and the encouraging fact is that the number of 'distinct' species (not including hybrids) found in our regions is relatively small."

In my own experience I think I can reliably identify three common goldenrod species. Most often in New Castle we see Canada Goldenrod (Solidago candadensis) which has toothed leaves and the florets arranged on one side of the stem (what botanists call "secund"). Along the shore, often in rocky locations, we see Seaside Goldenrod ((Solidago sempervirens) which is a robust plant, with thicker stems and thicker secund florets than Canada, with smooth-edged leaves that are slightly waxy (to reduce moisture loss in their harsh environment). More common inland than in New Castle is Lance-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia, aka Euthamia graminifolia), which has thin, narrow leaves and florets arranged in an upright flat-topped cluster (what botanists call a "corymb").

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) on Star Island.

Seaside goldenrod at Fort Stark (Solidago sempervirens). Note bumblebee at work.

I tentatively identify a fourth species as Downy Goldenrod (Solidago puberula)). It is not secund, which narrows the possibilities to a few. The upright growth of the florets and the shape of the leaves seem deciding. This was one of just a few plants growing on top of the HECP building at Fort Stark, a very harsh environment!

Downy goldenrod (Solidago puberula).

Of course there are a number of cultivated flowers that we can count on seeing at their best at this time of year.

Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum telephium). Bees love Sedum as you can see, with a bumblebee and two honeybees at work.

Orange Canna. Often called a lily, but not in that family..

Besides the cultivated flowers and the more common wildflowers, sometimes we find something more unusual, such as this Field Sow-Thistle growing in a field on Wild Rose Lane.

Field Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis). Note how the leaf lobes clasp the stem.

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Fall sunset …

Sunset on the Piscataqua, looking from the dock at the Portsmouth Yacht Club on Piscataqua Street toward downtown Portsmouth.

Quick index to back issues of Saltines …

October, 2009