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Archive for March, 2019

Denton, Hobson and Windham, Montana

Posted by graywacke on March 27, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2437; A Landing A Day blog post number 872.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N47o 9.389’, W110o 5.490’) puts me smack dab in the middle of Montana:

Before continuing, I thought I’d pause a moment on the expression “smack dab.”  I put it in the search block of my blog and found that I have landed smack dab in the middle of:

  1. the lower 48 (Gypsum and Linsborg, KS)
  2. the Florida peninsula (Poinciana)
  3. Iowa (Kamrar)
  4. South Dakota (Fort Pierre)
  5. Utah (Ephraim)
  6. Texas (Rising Star)
  7. the heartland (Hyannis, NE)
  8. Montana (Lewistown)
  9. Kentucky (Liberty)
  10. Colorado (Fair Play)
  11. Mud Swamp (Valdosta, GA)
  12. South Dakota (Fort Pierre)
  13. Colorado (High Creek Fen)
  14. Illinois (Elkhart and Mount Pulaski)
  15. California (Upper San Joaquin Valley)
  16. Utah (Manti)
  17. Minnesota (Royalton and Little Falls)
  18. Colorado (Palmer Lake)

Of course, I did some research about the origin of the phrase but came up empty.  It’s an American phrase and first appeared in a publication in 1892.

Also – I’ve been told I tend to overuse some words and phrases.  Maybe so . . .

So – here’s my local landing map:

I landed in the watershed of the Sage Creek, on to the Judith River (4th hit); on to the Missouri (435th hit); rolling to the MM (945th hit).

Moving over to Google Earth (GE), I couldn’t get a decent look at my landing or any look at Sage Creek.  But I could persuade the Orange Dude to head up to a bridge over the Judith River:

The lighting was great the day the GoogleMobile traversed the bridge (a mostly-cloudy-yet-beautiful day in October of 2009).  Here’s the look downstream:

And up stream:

Of course, I checked out all of the towns shown on my landing map (plus a few more not shown).  I found no clear, obvious hooks, but did find a little something to write about for each of my titular towns. 

I’ll start with Denton.  Wiki mentions that one Don Koehler was born in Denton.  His name was Wiki-clickable:

Donald A. Koehler (1925 – 1981) is one of 17 known people in medical history to reach a height of 8 feet or more. At his tallest, he measured 8’ 2”.  He was generally recognized as the tallest living man in the world from at least 1969 until his death in 1981. His extreme height was a result of the medical condition acromegalic gigantism.

He was “only” 7’ 10” at his death, due to curvature of the spine.  He died of a heart condition at age 55.

Here he is with talk show host David Frost in 1973:

David Frost appearing with Don Koehler World´s Tallest Man on David Frost Presents the Guinness Book of World Records, October 1973

So what about Hobson?  In the Wiki section entitled “In Popular Culture:”

Several scenes of the 1974 movie, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges were filmed in Hobson, Montana. These scenes were shot in the St. John’s Lutheran Church, the adjacent wheat field and in the Black Bull Bar & Steakhouse.

The movie’s producer Robert Daley traveled extensively around the Big Sky Country in Montana for thousands of miles and eventually decided to shoot the film in the towns of Ulm, Hobson, Fort Benton, Augusta and Choteau and surrounding mountainous countryside.  St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hobson was used for the opening scene.

Time magazine called the film “one of the most ebullient and eccentric diversions around.” Thunderbolt has an 87% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The RT consensus is “This likable buddy/road picture deftly mixes action and comedy, and features excellent work from stars Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges and first-time director Michael Cimino.”  Jeff Bridges received the film’s only Oscar nomination – Jeff Bridges for Best Supporting Actor.  Thunderbolt has since become a cult film.

Here’s the opening scene, shot in Hobson:

Wiki lets us know that the church was shut down in 1971, before the filming of the movie.  It was dismantled with the intention of reassembling the building as a Lutheran Church 400 miles away.  The church’s various parts never made it to the intended destination; their final disposition (with the exception of wood for a floor in a cabin 100 miles away) is unknown.

Here’s a 2008 Street View shot of the Black Bull Bar and Steakhouse:

 

Backing up a little:

I’m not sure if it was still open in 2008, but it did close down at some point and was reopened as the Tall Boys Tavern in 2015.

Moving along to Windham.  There’s no Wiki entry, but I did find this about Windham, from MontanaPictures.net:

WINDHAM IS THE BEGINNING OF THE “BALE TRAIL”

We first discovered Windham, Montana when we made our first visit to the annual “What the Hay Contest.”  You see, Windham is the landmark you look for to alert you to turn south off Highway 87 onto State Road 541 to Utica, Montana.  Most years they post a colorful statue made of hay, like the one pictured below, to help catch you attention.

The ‘What the Hay’ contest takes place on the Montana Bale Trail every September. The Bale Trail, a 21-mile stretch of road from Windham to Utica to Hobson, Montana features over 50 hay-bale sculptures made by locals and folks from around the region.

Here’s a smattering of the hay bale exhibits:

 

I’ll close with this GE shot taken by David Cure-Hryciuk about 20 miles west of my landing:

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

© 2019 A Landing A Day

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San Gabriel Mountains, California

Posted by graywacke on March 19, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2436; A Landing A Day blog post number 871.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N34o 18.186’, W117o 44.261’) puts me generally in southern California:

Here’s my not-so-local landing map, showing of course that I landed in the San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Los Angeles:

And my streams-only map:

I practically landed in the East Fork of the San Gabriel River (first hit ever! – my 1231st river); on to the San Gabriel River (first hit ever! – my 1232nd river); on to the Pacific Ocean (472nd hit).

Let’s take a Google Earth (GE) look at the same area covered by my local landing map:

Here’s a GE shot looking up the valley of the E Fk of the San Gabriel:

Note my yellow landing pin perched precariously on a very steep hillside. 

And here we are looking over the shoulder of Mount San Antonio (the highest peak in the San Gabriel mountains; aka Mount Baldy; aka Old Baldy), with my landing in the background:

A road with Street View coverage runs along the East Fork; of course, I positioned the Orange Dude to take a look:

And here’s what he sees:

I had the OD head way downstream to where the San Gabriel is getting ready to exit the mountains:

The OD then headed down to the flatlands south of the mountains, where he perched on a bridge, looking upstream:

And then he went even further downstream:

The river has clearly lost its soul . . .

Here’s an oblique GE shot that shows the river from the Pacific Ocean, all the way up to my landing – which is visible in the mountains!

Here’s a closeup of the mouth of the river:

So.  I’m a geologist, and of course, there’s a geologic story to be told about the San Gabriel Mountains.  As always, I will do my best to be both clear and interesting.  We’ll see. 

I’ll start with this USGS map of the faults that surround the San Gabriel Mountains (my landing is just north of the “s” in “Mtns”):

You can probably guess that the raison d’etre for the mountains is all about faulting (and, of course, plate tectonics) – after all, the mountains themselves could be termed a “fault block,” which moves as a single entity.

The northern edge of the mountains is delineated by the San Andreas Fault, and the southern edge, by two faults that pretty much act as one.

I’ve addressed the San Andreas Fault several times on this blog, but most extensively in my Carrizo Plain (and San Andreas Fault) CA post.  From that post:

As a geologist, I’ve always been fascinated by the San Andreas Fault.  It’s a 450-mile long slash through western California (map by Geology.com; note that the Carrizo Plain is highlighted):

You can see by the black arrows that the fault moves laterally (a “transform” fault in plate tectonics speak).  The average movement along the fault is a whopping (and I’m serious!) 2.5 inches/year.  OK, it’s corny, but I have to do it.  How long will it be until San Jose is a suburb of Los Angeles?  Well, it’s about 320 miles between the two cities.  320 miles is 1,690,000 feet, which is 20,275,000 inches.  Divide that by 2.5, and get about 8 million years.  A blink of an eye (geologically speaking).

Getting back to the idea of a transform fault, here’s a Wiki picture (by Los688) showing typical transform faults (the red lines).  Note the relationship between transform faults and the spreading center (the black lines).

The above figures are the classic example of a transform fault, which connects displaced portions of tectonic spreading centers (where new crust is created, like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge spreading center).  Transform faults are common and can be found all over the world (mostly, like those associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, under water).

Google Earth (bless her heart) actually shows sea-floor topography.  Here’s a GE shot with a long transform fault across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge:

But the San Andreas is the mother of all transform faults.  And it rips across land!  What’s going on?

Big picture:  Prior to about 30 million years ago, a typical subduction zone was active along the entire California coast.  You all know what a subduction zone is, right?  It’s where oceanic crust (being driven by a spreading center) plunges below continental crust.  I featured subduction zone geology in my Mt. Shasta post (type Shasta in the search box to check it out).  Subduction is still going on off the northern California, Oregon and Washington coasts (causing all of the Cascade volcanoes).  Here’s a graphic I used for that post (by legacy.net):

It turns out that subduction stopped and was replaced by transform movement around 25 – 30 million years ago (more about this later).  It also turns out that I’ve spoken before of the now-defunct ancient subduction zone, in my fairly recent (January 2015) Carrizozo Malpais & Sierra Blanca NM post.  From that post, here’s a picture of the Sierra Blanca Mountain (from the NM Museum of Natural History & Science):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And also from that post, here’s what I lifted from the town of Ruidoso website about the above mountain (this sets the stage very nicely):

The White Mountain (Sierra Blanca) Wilderness Area is situated on the erosional remnants of an ancient volcano that probably once resembled Mount Ranier in Washington state.

This ancient volcano is approximately 25 to 40 million years old. During this time period, an oceanic tectonic plate was subducting under California creating a volcanic mountain chain that extended from Colorado, through New Mexico and west Texas, and into northern Mexico. This ancient volcanic mountain chain was very similar in composition and geologic setting to the current Cascade Mountain range in the Pacific northwest. Only further inland.

About 25 million years ago, the plate boundary changed. The plates began sliding past one another rather than one going under the other. The famous San Andreas Fault was born. This birth was the death of the subduction mechanism that created the volcanic chain in New Mexico. As a result, volcanism ceased around 25 million years ago and erosion has been the dominant geological force ever since.

The volcano has seen the upper half of its cone beveled by erosion over the last 25 million years. The lower half of the volcano is what is now present and exposed in the canyons of the Sierra Blanca Wilderness.

So, once again, beginning about 25-30 million years ago, subduction ceased along most of the California coast, replaced by lateral movement along the plate boundary.  My big question is why?

I spent an inordinate amount of internet time trying to get a gut-level answer to this question.  No luck.  The best I can do is a US Geological Survey website that purports to answer that exact question.  Here’s the graphic from the article (note that the Farallon plate subducted, but the Pacific Plate didn’t):

This shows that as soon as the Pacific Plate bumped into the North American Plate, the Farallon Plate was bifurcated, and became the Cocos Plate (to the south) and the Juan de Fuca Plate to the north.  The Pacific Plate never subducted (unlike the Farallon Plate), and a transform fault formed, such that the Pacific Plate began slipping to the north, rather than subducting.

Trouble is (even though the title of the article is “Evolution of the San Andreas Fault”), the author never clearly explains exactly why it is that the Pacific Plate didn’t subduct.  Oh, well.

Back to now.  And guess what!?!  I now know the answer (well, at least I have a clue), thanks to a California high school kid (and his science teacher) who produced a video on the geology of the San Gabriel Mountains! 

Wyatt Martin (the student and on-screen personality) and Loren Schneider (the teacher, model builder and video producer) are from Serrano High School in Phelan CA – just north of the mountains.

So, my unanswered question is:  Why did the Farallon Plate subduct under the North American Plate (for millions of yeas), but when the Pacific Plate followed on its heels, it did not subduct but rather started to slide laterally past the North American Plate, thereby forming the San Andreas Fault?

The answer became clear (at least clearer) based on an animation that Wyatt presented in the video.  Here’s a screen shot from the animation showing the Farallon Plate subducting under the NA Plate, and the Pacific Plate approaching the North American Plate:

While this is similar to what I presented above, this graphic much more clearly presents the spreading center (shown in red).  The Farallon Plate is heading straight under the North American Plate, but what’s going to happen as the Pacific Plate (and its associated spreading center) approaches?  Well, here’s another screen shot:

So when the spreading center hit the North American Plate, the relative eastward movement stopped; and the movement of the Pacific Plate began to exclusively move northward, away from the spreading center.  See the white line?  That’s the beginnings of the San Andreas Fault. 

So, I don’t really understand all of the details, but at least I have an inkling of what the heck was going on back in the day.  I’m not sure why the spreading center did not proceed unimpeded east under the North American Plate.  But at least I can imagine that a spreading center running into the North American Plate was plenty of reason for the birth of the San Andreas Fault. 

This is why I love geology . . .

So now I need to complete the story about the formation of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I’m going back to Wyatt’s animation, a continuation of the same animation.  This one shows the San Andreas much more extended along the coast – some number of million years have gone by:

And now, here’s another animation screen shot, showing conditions about 5 million years ago:

Notice that the southern portion of the San Andreas has “jumped” east (and was truncated away from the spreading center).  Intuitively, I can imagine that as the North American Plate overrode the spreading center, some pretty serious forces were at work (along with some pretty serious earthquakes) and the spreading center muscled its way east into the North American Plate.  

Here’s the same shot of the San Andreas shown earlier, but note that both the Fault and the coastline jog east in southern California:

During this tectonically chaotic time, chunks of the NA Plate broke off, and were rotated to a more east-west orientation, and uplifted.  One of those chunks ended up the being the San Gabriel Mountains.

So, here’s the full Wyatt Martin / Loren Schneider video:

 

Here are a couple of GE pics of the E Fk of the San Gabriel River.  First this, by Gareth Mann of the headwaters valley (my landing might be in the picture):

 

And this, quite a ways downstream, by Mike T:

I’ll close with this shot from somewhere near Mt. Baldy, by Sandi H:

 

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

© 2019 A Landing A Day

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Small Towns Along Route 59 Northeast of Victoria, Texas

Posted by graywacke on March 12, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2434; A Landing A Day blog post number 869.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N29o 14.043’, W96o 37.807’) puts me generally in SE Texas:

My local map shows a string of towns along Route 59, and although not shown, along a straight stretch of railroad as well:

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Sandy Creek:

As you can see, a drop of water from my landing ends up in Lake Texana, on its way to the Lavaca River (3rd hit); on to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Here’s where I put the Orange Dude to get a look at my landing:

And here’s what he saw:

Ain’t much to look at . .

We (the OD and I) went several miles south to where Sandy Creek enters Lake Texana:

And here ‘tis:

This post is about the role of railroads in founding new towns, and what happens when the railroad bypasses an existing town.

As I mentioned earlier, a railroad track runs alongside Route 59, in a very straight line.  I’ll repeat my local landing map so that you can see all of the towns:

I’ll start with Telferner (pop 700).  From Wiki:

The community was established in 1882, when the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway was completed in Texas (from Victoria to Rosenberg). In the early 1900s, the community was named Telferner, after Italian count Joseph Telferner, who was the president and one of the builders of the Railway. By 1904, Telferner was home to roughly 100 residents, with five stores, a gin, and a lumberyard.

The good Count intended to complete a rail line from New York City to Mexico City.  He started in Texas, but never got out of Texas . . .

So, sidings / rail yards were located every 10 miles are so, and naturally, towns grew up in these locations.  So, heading NE out of Telfener, we come to Inez (pop 2000).  From Wiki:

  • Inez was named after the Count’s daughter.
  • In the late 1600s, a French colony called Fort Saint Louis existed near Inez as part of the French claim to the area.

Fort Saint Louis was Wiki-clickable to a page entitled “French Colonization of Texas.”  Say what?

The French colonization of Texas began with the establishment of a fort in present-day southeastern Texas. It was established in 1685 near the present town of Inez by explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle. He intended to found the colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but inaccurate maps and navigational errors caused his ships to anchor 400 miles to the west, off the coast of Texas.

[I hate it when that happens.]

The colony faced numerous difficulties during its brief existence, including Native American raids and epidemics. From that base, La Salle led several expeditions to find the Mississippi River. These did not succeed, but La Salle did explore much of the Rio Grande and parts of east Texas.

As conditions deteriorated, La Salle realized the colony could survive only with help from the French settlements in Illinois Country to the north, along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. His expedition north ended along the Brazos River in early 1687, when La Salle and five of his men were murdered during a mutiny.

[Ouch.  A mutiny.  I wonder what La Salle did that drove his men to mutiny . . .]

Although a handful of men reached Illinois Country, help never made it to the fort. Most of the remaining members of the colony were killed during a Karankawa raid in late 1688, although four children survived after being adopted as captives.

Wow.  One of those stories that none of us know . . .

Moving NE from Inez, we hit El Toro (pop 150). Not much to say here, except that “El Toro” is Spanish for “the bull.”

Moving further NE, there’s Edna (pop 5500).  And guess what?  Edna was named for another of the Count’s daughters.  And they have a favorite son, John Willie “Shifty” Henry.  Shifty got his nickname in high school, due to his prowess on the football field.  But he’s a favorite son because of his prowess with a bass guitar. 

Besides bass, he played trumpet and was an accomplished composer.  He was an integral part of the 1940s and 1950s LA music scene.  For part of his career, he played with the Treniers.  Here they are – obviously Shifty is the dude with the bass – playing Ragg Mopp (not Rag Mop as shown on the video):

 

High energy mid-50s rock ‘n roll.  Interesting that the group instruments are piano, saxophone, bass and drums.  What the heck, here’s another (Get Out of My Car):

Shifty died in an accident in 1957, at age 37.

Continuing our northeasterly trek, we come to Ganado (gah-NAY-doe).  Not much to say, except that Ganado is Spanish for “herd.”  So, we have three town names associated with the Count and two with the cattle business.

I did stumble on one thing about the “Little School of the 400,” which began in Ganado.  It was a pre-school program for Mexican-American children who didn’t speak English.  Some educators were concerned that because of language barriers (and their race), these children were being by-passed by Texas public schools. 

The idea was to make sure that pre-schoolers knew 400 English words before they went to kindergarten.  The idea really caught on, and many Little Schools of the 400 were operated.  The program became a model for other pre-school programs, including Head Start.

If you’re curious (as I was) to see a list of the 400 words, click HERE and go to page 108.  This is from the Master’s Thesis for Eerasmo Vazquez Rios, a student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Next in line:  Louise.  Think it’s another Telfener daughter?  Nope.  Louise was Telfener’s sister-in-law (his wife’s brother was a major railroad investor; Louise married him). 

One more word about the railroad.  Although the name “Telfener” doesn’t sound particularly Italian, the Count was in fact Italian.  He arranged the housing and meals for the workers building the railroad.  Evidently, that ate lots of pasta and the rail line became known as the “Macaroni Line.”

And now, a quick couple of words about towns that were bypassed by the railroad, and therefore suffered precipitous declines.  First, as seen on my local landing map, Morales.  From the Handbook of Texas Online:

The community grew during the years of the Republic of Texas and early statehood and by 1860 had a post office, a general store, and a Masonic hall. During Reconstruction, Morales experienced a period of extreme lawlessness. It was the site of numerous killings, and travelers opted for routes that avoided the settlement.

Despite the town’s bloodthirsty reputation, by 1870 it had added a gin, a telegraph office—the first in Jackson County—and four saloons. A gristmill and a sawmill followed and were joined soon afterward by several churches and a school.

Morales was on its way to becoming a thriving municipality, but the railroad bypassed it, and it declined quickly. From 1925 to 1945 the population was fifty, and by 1949 it had fallen to twenty-five, where it remained in 1990. The population almost tripled by 2000, reaching seventy-two.

Our last stop is a ghosttown.  Not only does it not exist anymore, but its location is now under Lake Texana just south of my landing.  And yes, the name of the town was Texana.  From TexasEscapes.com:

One of Texas’ oldest ghost towns, the community was formed here in 1832. It had originally been named Santa Anna, after you-know-who, but in 1835 as war clouds formed, the community was renamed Texana.

Texana was thriving in the 1880s and was a hub for stage lines. It was a major port for steamships – and it was reported that as many as 20 ships arrived each week.

But the town was hit by a double-whammy in the mid 1880s when it was first bypassed by Count Telferner’s New York, Texas and Mexican Railroad in 1883, and shortly thereafter, lost an election to Edna for the Jackson County seat of government.

I’ll close with a couple of GE shots.  First this, by Z Harlo of Lake Texana:

And then this, by Rosanna Lopez, of a beautiful sunset over a not-so-beautiful truck stop on Route 59:

 

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

© 2019 A Landing A Day

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Little Creek, Delaware

Posted by graywacke on March 5, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2434; A Landing A Day blog post number 869.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N39o 10.852’, W75o 29.919’) puts me in E-Cen Delaware:

Oh my!  As my true regulars may know, this is my first landing in Delaware!  I don’t mean my first landing since I’ve been blogging (my last 869 landings); rather, this is my first Delaware landing ever!  So, I landed 2433 times and never hit Delaware.  Until now. 

Speaking of my true regulars, one of them lives in Delaware and is excitedly reading these words right now.  How about that, Bill Gilchrist?!?

By the way, after a mere 814 landings, I had landed in the other 47 states (that’s when I first landed in Rhode Island).  So I’ve been waiting for a Delaware landing for over 1600 landings!

Here’s the bottom of my state hit list (less than 10 hits):

Delaware:        1
Rhode Island:  2
New Jersey:     4
Mass:              5
Conn:              6

Strangely, Vermont has 10 landings and New Hampshire 11.  OK, OK.  So you’re curious about Texas, eh?  Well, I’ve landed there 183 times . . .

Here’s the alphabetically top portion of my state hit list, before today’s landing:

The third column (of course) is the number of hits.  Red means, “never landed there;” i.e., only Delaware.  Blue means “haven’t landed there since I changed how I come up with my random lat/longs;” i.e., my last 218 landings.

Note the column “First Landing.”  You can see that Michigan was the first state in which I landed; and that, for example, it wasn’t until my 371st landing that I hit Connecticut.

For the record, here’s what the same list looks like now:

All righty then.  It’s finally time for my local landing map:

Just for the heck of it, here’s a Google Earth (GE) shot of the vicinity of my landing:

So I landed right next to the state capital.  But am I featuring Dover?  Evidently not!  Instead, there’s this little town of Little Creek east of my landing.

I figured that the town was named after a creek and that I landed in the watershed of Little Creek.   That’s all true, sort of.  Here’s my streams-only map:

So, I landed in the watershed of Little River (obviously, first hit ever).  Wiki points out that Little River is also known as Little Creek (after which the town is named), and is all of 8 miles long.  Personally, I’d go with “creek” . . .

I have pretty good GE Street View coverage:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

I moved the OD to get a good look at Little River:

Er…maybe I should say Little Creek:

To be fair to Little River, I moved him down nearer the town of Little Creek (where the stream is tidal) where it looks more like a river:

The town of Little Creek has its own web site, where they point out that beginning in the late 1800s, Little Creek became a thriving center for the Delaware Bay oyster industry.  They also point out that:

Close-by Pickering Beach is a designated sanctuary for horseshoe crabs. The horseshoe crab is the official the state marine animal, a significant species of the Delaware Estuary.

Here’s a GE shot showing Pickering Beach:

And a GE photo of the beach by Michael Maciarello (unfortunately, with no horseshoe crabs):

But I know that horseshoe crabs are a very interesting critter, so I figured I’d make them my feature for this post.

Horseshoe crabs – essentially unchanged – have been around for about 450 million years.  They are far-and-away the most ancient complex animals.  OK, so a chambered nautilus shellfish and some sponges and jellyfish have been around longer, but horseshoe crabs are real critters!

One of their closest relatives is the trilobite.  Trilobites showed up about 521 million years ago, but had the misfortune of going extinct during the Permian Extinction, about 250 million years ago.  Of course, the horseshoe crab survived the Permian Extinction.

Here’s a shot of the trilobite fossil that my wife Jody gave me:

Horseshoe crabs (and trilobites) belong to the order Arachnid, which makes them cousins to spiders and scorpions…

Females lay eggs on protected beaches at high tide.  They bury numerous batches of eggs, totaling up to 10,000 eggs for a particular high tide.  A smaller male is attached to the lady; he busily fertilizes the eggs after she lays them.  The most prolific breeding grounds in the world – that’s right, in the entire world – are along Delaware Bay, at beaches such as the Pickering Beach mentioned above.

Here’s a picture from the Cape May NJ NPR station (WCAI) of Delaware Bay Horseshoe crabs spawning:

 

These funky critters have blue blood that has an amazing characteristic.  From Popular Mechanics:

Their distinctive blue blood is used to detect dangerous Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli in injectable drugs such as insulin, implantable medical devices such as knee replacements, and hospital instruments such as scalpels and IVs. Components of this crab blood have a unique and invaluable talent for finding infection, and that has driven up an insatiable demand. Every year the medical testing industry catches a half-million horseshoe crabs to collect their blood.

About a third of their blood is removed, and those that survive the ordeal (about 70%) are returned to the sea.  But research is lacking to find out the survival rate for those returned.

The relationship between the horseshoe crabs and various migrating shorebirds have been well studied.  Of particular interest is the Red Knot.

From SeaAroundYou.com, I found an article by Deborah Cramer. 

Red knots – sandpipers weighing little more than iPhones – may be in danger of extinction. Their fate depends on how many spawning horseshoe crabs gather each May on the beaches of Delaware Bay.

The birds arrive from Tierra del Fuego, where, in the southern hemisphere’s summer, they winter, feeding on small clams from beaches where the highest tides flow more than four miles across mud and sand.

They stop in Delaware Bay en route to their breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic, a journey of 9300 miles.

The arctic nesting season is short and harsh; there is little to eat on the barren wind-swept tundra. Whether the birds can survive their grueling journey, and arrive in the arctic strong and healthy enough to breed depends upon how well they can refuel along the way.

Horseshoe crab eggs – soft, easily and rapidly digestible, high in lipid – are essential. Red knots, cued to a mysterious call scientists have yet to understand, arrive in Delaware Bay at the last full or new moon in May, when America’s largest population of horseshoe crabs begins to spawn.

In the 1980s, there may have been as many as 20 million horseshoe crabs living in Delaware Bay, and 100,000 to 150,000 red knots wintering in Tierra del Fuego. When migrating birds arrived in Delaware Bay, the beaches were packed with eggs. In one of the world’s most intense feeding frenzies, the birds easily doubled their weight during the 10-14 day layover.

Since then, populations have plummeted. Millions of crabs have been killed as bait for whelk and eel fisheries, and bled for the essential pharmaceutical and medical reasons.   These crabs are returned to the water; some die.

Between 1990 and 2005, the number of horseshoe crabs plummeted by 88%. Egg densities have thinned by 98%, down from 226,000 per square meter to 3400 per square meter, leaving the birds without enough food. The number of red knots passing though Delaware Bay has decreased by 70%.

Regulators reduced the crab take, but by enough and soon enough? Horseshoe crabs mature in 11 – 17 years. The population appears to be stabilizing, but the number of breeding female crabs hasn’t yet increased, and neither has the egg density on Delaware Bay beaches. For now, the future of the red knot hangs in abeyance.

I’ll close with some GE shots; first, this by Morton Fox of some local Delaware Bay wetlands:

Also by Morton:

And then this, by Benjamin Dabson:

 

 

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

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