Water Closet for 11-28-14

As the ground freezes and Thanksgiving and blasphemous Black Fridays approach, Closeteers’ minds drift back four centuries to November 1620 when the brave and foolish-for-sailing-so-late Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod.  [pullquote]”We, who stay in the north, look forward to more and the new white world ice gives us”[/pullquote]After 65 miserable days at sea, 102 souls long crowded in a 70 x 20 foot compartment of the small rocking Mayflower went ashore at what is now Provincetown harbor.  It was cold; within a couple days there was snow on the ground.  The English speakers were 3000 miles from home and alone.  It was four months before the Indians came out to greet them.  Their shyness was no wonder since they’d known English adventurers for half a century or more.  Some had shot them; others had captured and enslaved a few.

There were no English settlements within 400 miles.  The sand on the outer cape where they had landed just wouldn’t do.  They sailed their prefab shallop with scouting party off to look for a place and found Patuxet, the future Plymouth.  Patuxet had a brook with feeding springs flowing to a wide but shallow harbor.  In December they moved there where with many sick and dying, the relatively healthy began building shelters.  By February there were one or two deaths a day.  Spring found 50 left.  Fortunately that winter was relatively mild for a period called the Little Ice Age.  It was somewhat like the winter of 2011-2012 mentioned below.  Even our mild winters have plenty of cold rain, some snow, and ice.  Imagine being sick and going forth each day in 17th century damp woolens to work outside until dark with hand tools.  Actually the tools required lots of exercise which must have kept their wielders warm.  Fuel in the form of poor food was a problem.

Arctic Fox is obviously enjoying the snow.  This photo was taken last week near Hudson Bay in Manitoba.  How much longer will the tundra animals adapted to snow and year around permafrost below them have ice?  -   Pam Hartman photo

Arctic Fox is obviously enjoying the snow. This photo was taken last week near Hudson Bay in Manitoba. How much longer will the tundra animals adapted to snow and year around permafrost below them have ice? – Pam Hartman photo

Ice times here are easy now as we walk the few feet from warm buildings to warm cars in light dry clothing.  It is hard to imagine that first winter experienced by the ill prepared new comers.  The physical hardships are more easily imagined than the psychological.  Kin and friends were dying daily.  The Indians seen at a distance had not yet come forth and were much feared.  There had been a skirmish early on with musket balls and arrows, not words.  The Indians’ time of terrible death had occurred a couple years before, 1616 to 1619, when three quarters or more died of novel diseases brought by Old World fishermen and adventurers.  The lucky Pilgrims settled at Patuxet that had been abandoned by the few surviving Indians.  Like much of southern coastal New England the land was clear and ready for cultivation come spring.*

The above is but an introduction to the following two past Water Closet pieces about winters and ice.  What will the coming winter bring?  Not we hope the seven feet of ice in the form of snow already experienced in the Buffalo area east of the Great Lakes but rather a good healthy cold winter with tree decorating storms and good safe ice to skate on allowing us to explore our beaver impoundments, once red maple swamps.


WINTER WATER (WC January 13, 2012)

The following was our fanciful attempt to explain freezing in a Water Closet published six years ago in 2005 at the beginning of a real winter we Stream Teamers then enjoyed.  There has been no winter to speak of here yet (November 2011 – mid January 2012).


“Thanksgiving (2005) . . .  In the early morning water fell in novel form, at least quite different from that of the rain two days ago; still H-O-H, but fluffy, white and cold.

Imagine a great crowd (water molecules) intimately dancing in a city square.  Enter General Drillmaster Kold sweeping in on a northwest wind.  He doesn’t like the hugging, slide and cuddle, and orders, as some strict officers do, the participants to rigidly extend their arms, the only contact (bonds) allowed with fellows, hands to shoulders.  The mass expands with arm-length gaps between the now freezing dancers.  The crowd becomes less dense and this is why ice floats.  Most substances upon cooling become ever more dense, water is an exception to a point.  Ice is crystalline; we have but to look at fresh flakes to see this.  The molecules unseen are arranged somewhat like in “Bucky Balls”.  Chemists have nick-named spherical hollow molecules of carbon atoms after Buckminster Fuller.  You know his geodesic domes, so light yet so strong. But let us leave the world of molecules, we never really see, and return to this winter’s preview snow we started with.  We, who stay in the north, look forward to more and the new white world ice gives us.  The snow birds will leave; let them fly; they don’t know what they will be missing.  We’ll tell them upon return but they won’t listen.  For them water is only warm, blue and liquid. (Water Closet 12/2/2005)”


In the year 2011 just past we had a northeast storm in late October.  Heavy snow with strong winds took down countless trees and branches during the night.  By morning the snow was gone from trees and bushes and by early afternoon from the warm ground.  We haven’t seen any snow since except in the form of brief flurries.  Lingering, almost Indian summers have followed, largely without ice of any kind.  It is now mid-January 2012 and our water body surfaces are still largely liquid.  Last week we enjoyed two days when the temperature dropped to 10 degrees F by early morning.  It gave us a teasingly thin, at most one to two inches of ice on some quiet ponds and beaver impoundments, nothing we dared venture out on.

You are probably saying we’ve long had mild winters now and then, not to worry.  There is, however, a difference at least psychologically since we are now bombarded year ‘round with evidence of Global Warming.  Some scientists say when the “tipping point” is reached that significant, very noticeable warming, will come on fast.  Greenland and Antarctic ice will melt and great swaths of low land will be immersed.  The countries of the world worry greatly about this, but like our Congress, dither at international meetings from which no strong widespread action is forthcoming.  Many climatologists, probably very reluctant to admit it, think that even if drastic actions to reduce greenhouse gases are taken soon they will be too late.  These morbid thoughts cloud our minds as we Closeteers awake each morning hoping to see snow or find access ice on our swamps and ponds.  We fervently wish for long cold spells and that the warm dark clouds in our minds will dissipate at least for this, so far, non-winter.  Freezing would temporarily cure our melancholy, but alas not the threat of Global Warming.  It is something measured planet-wide, not locally. (Water Closet January 13, 2012)

Thanksgiving 2014 we anxiously await December and the winter of 2015.


* One of our favorite books in the Closet’s library is Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick published by Viking Penguin in 2006.  Philbrick tells us in a most readable way about the courage of men and women in a strange land trying to survive among diverse groups of Indians who had suffered terribly from the diseases and strange customs the newcomers from abroad brought among them.  Both the English and the natives were all too human in their dealings with each other and other groups. Machiavellian is the first word that comes to mind.  The dynamic and dangerous interactions of the 17th century between them took place right here around our Massachusetts Bay, once theirs.





Precipitation Data* for Month of: Aug Sept Oct Nov
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 3.37 3.77 4.40 4.55
 2014 Central Watershed Actual 2.20 2.58 8.09  3.8 as of 11/25**


Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

For Nov. 25, 2014  Normal . . . 52 CFS                       Current Rate  . . . Unavailable

*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Oct. 

**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Nov..

Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584