Pyranha Speeder kayak. Photo by Robert Zaleski for Canoe & Kayak.
HarborLAB grew its kayak fleet over the weekend, thanks to the generous support of TF Cornerstone and the Hunters Point, LIC community! At a deep discount from our friends at the Manhattan Kayak Company, we’ve added three Jackson Kayak Rivieras, one Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145, and one Piranha Speeder. The boats were gently used, especially the Piranha, which is like new. Our volunteers will use them as guide boats for tours, runabouts for Newtown Creek monitoring, and to provide safety patrolling at our popular Gantry Plaza State Park community paddles. Now our ten signature green tandem Ocean Kayak Malibu II XL boats, proudly carrying the TF Cornerstone logo, can be fully devoted to public paddlers!
Our new hot pink Pyranha will also play a special role in HarborLAB’s environmental mission as the flagship (“flagyak?”) boat for our participation in the Hudson River Watertrail Association’s annual Paddle for a Cure to benefit the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. As the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences explains, breast cancer is often linked to environmental factors. In May, HarborLAB named and beautifully flagged one of its educational canoes in honor of a founder of the modern environmental movement, author and marine biologist Rachel Carson. Carson died of breast cancer shortly after the publication of her landmark book, “Silent Spring.” The Silent Spring Institute promotes research into environmental risk factors in often-preventable cancers, like breast cancer. Its affiliated social and biological scientists also research how environmental injustice might contribute to the development of “cancer clusters” in marginalized communities. HarborLAB looks forward to learning how we might augment the Silent Spring Institute’s work in New York City.
Many thanks to the volunteers who helped make our pod bigger! Bob Din, for helping us strengthen our relationship with TF Cornerstone; Roy Harp, for scoping out and selecting the boats; Emmanuel Steier, Joe Block, Patricia Erickson, Erik Baard, and Alessandro Byther for helping with the pickup; and Davis Janowski for helping with the pickup and deepening our relationship with Manhattan Kayak Company. We’re thrilled and grateful that American Canoe Association certified instructor, Julieta Gismondi-Grecco of Manhattan Kayak Company, has offered to provide safety training to our new volunteers!
The Bernie Entie flies its flag at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk steps.
HarborLAB now flies flags from its canoes bearing names that honor environmentalists who went before us and the species that share our estuary. We’re grateful to artist and graphic designer Caroline Walker for leading this effort and to Algonquin scholar Evan Pritchard for offering a traditional blessing of our boats and flags. Thanks also to HarborLAB Operations Manager for helping to make this all possible!
Newtown Creek Alliance Interim Chair Dorothy Morehead holds HarborLAB’s canoes for a blessing with burning sage given by Evan Pritchard of the Center for Algonquin Culture.
Paddlers holding our flag for The River Singer, which honors Pete Seeger. The art and writing were done for HarborLAB by Pete Seeger himself.
THE RIVER SINGER: Pete Seeger pioneered the great Hudson River revival by building the Clearwater, a sloop that sails that river up and down to sing up its restoration and carry educators and scientific equipment. When HarborLAB Founder Erik Baard was working with Pete Seeger on a project to promote estuary education, he declined to have a boat named for himself. Instead, he drew a fish exclaiming, “Keep my waters clean!” Friends at the NYC Friends of Clearwater confirmed that humility should carry forward after Pete’s passing. The charming drawing has become our flag for The River Singer. named for Pete’s description of himself.
The “oceanic egg” flag honoring Rachel Carson. By Tracy Coon, artist, and Caroline Walker, art director.
THE RACHEL CARSON: Rachel Carson sparked the modern American environmental movement with her breakthrough book, “Silent Spring.” Her work expanded our conception of environmentalism beyond conservation of wilderness to demanding corporate and governmental responsibility for pollution. She sounded the alarm about promiscuous DDT spraying that was weakening wild birds’ egg shells, causing population collapses. Many forget that she was a career marine biologist, working for the federal government. Erik Baard imagined an “oceanic egg” to represent Carson, capturing her marine biology and DDT work, and reminding viewers that today’s oceans are as fragile as eggs in comparison to pollution from plastics, fertilizer runoffs, and CO2 emissions that become carbonic acid in the sea around us. Tracy Coon made that abstract idea elegantly real.
Flag honoring environmental filmmaker Jenni Jenkins. By Caroline Walker and Erik Baard.
THE JENNI “APPLESEED” JENKINS: When we honor Jenni, we honor a wonderful light snuffed our too early and all of the students at her alma mater, City University of New York. Jenni loved Newtown Pippin apples (painted here by Erik Baard) and served as videographer for a fascinating day paddling on the Newtown Creek and East River with environmental leader and author Bill McKibben of 350.org and Middlebury College. On that outing were journalist and HarborLAB volunteer Davis Janowski and Erik Baard.
Please enjoy the beautiful film, “Plastic Bag,” co-written by Jenni and narrated by (believe it or not) Werner Herzog!
Flag honoring photographer and Newtown Creek Alliance board member Bernie Ente. By Caroline Walker, inspired by an Ente photograph.
THE BERNIE ENTE: In much the same way that Pete Seeger sang the public into awareness about the Hudson River’s urgent needs, photographer Bernie Ente documented life and struggle in the Newtown Creek. Birds, fish, flowers, and other beauties of nature eked out a living on the creek, without being seen or celebrated. Without care. We’re grateful to Bernie for helping us see the Newtown Creek as a place of life and hope. This flag by Caroline Walker was inspired by Bernie’s striking photo of a green heron and discarded balloons on the Newtown Creek. When we honor Bernie, we also honor the Newtown Creek Alliance and Working Harbor Committee.
Newtown Creek green heron by Bernie Ente.
The Muskrat Love flag by Caroline Walker.
THE MUSKRAT LOVE: Caroline Walker brought playfulness to our flags with “The Muskrat Love.” HarborLAB volunteers saw a muskrat swim past our boat launch. Erik Baard’s photo was the first documentation of the species in Newtown Creek. On a later outing Newtown Creek Alliance interim Chair Dorothy Morehead spotted paw prints that Erik recognized as muskrat tracks. If HarborLAB has an unofficial Newtown Creek mascot, this is it. Fittingly, Caroline’s flag matches what might be America’s most polluted waterway with what might be America’s worst love song!
Prof. Pritchard noted, however, that the muskrat plays an heroic role in Algonquin creation beliefs. The brave little mammal swam to the bottom of the water to scoop up soil to place on the turtle’s back. It grew to form North America, but our mythical friend didn’t survive the ordeal. Let’s hope the Newtown Creek muskrats have a brighter future.
THE MOO XOOL: This is the local Algonquin word for both the tulip tree and a dugout canoe carved from the tulip tree. Will you be the artist for it? We have ideas for a design but would love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “moo xool” if you’d like to work on our flag!
A winter solstice passage from the immortal correspondence between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman.
HarborLAB is amassing a small library of environmental science books to enrich students and volunteers. Our newest addition is Always, Rachel. This is the page revealed when we opened it for the first time. We’re happy to share this glimpse of the Winter Solstice fifty-one years ago. It was Rachel Carson’s penultimate Winter Solstice.
Rachel Carson is often credited with sparking the modern American environmental movement with her book, Silent Spring. Some forget that she was already an acclaimed nature writer with books and articles that grew out of her work as a federal marine biologist. One reader of The Sea Around Us, Dorothy Freeman, developed a powerful bond with Carson that would celebrate her rising recognition and endure through to her death from cancer in the spring of 1964. Both women destroyed many of their letters shortly before Carson’s death. The surviving correspondence is rich with insights into this leading 20th century communicator of environmental science. Freeman’s granddaughter rendered a great service to us all when she gathered them for this book, published in 1995.
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