Sunday, April 04, 2010

The afternoon bike ride: Flora, fauna, and a tragedy 

I worked most of the day, both work-work and a huge pile of chores. I did manage to squeeze in a mellow bike ride, this time taking the hybrid on the Delaware & Raritan Canal tow path. I brought my camera, took a few pictures, and happened upon a tragedy.

The flowering trees of Moore Street, which intersects the street where I live about 50 yards from my house.

Moore Street, early April

A great reason to blow a dam. Indeed, as good as such reasons get, y'ask me.

A great reason to blow a dam

Lake Carnegie from below the dam. Andrew Carnegie built that lake so the men of Princeton would have a place to row. Houses on the lake go for about $800,000 more than houses a block away, so he created a lot of value for the town, besides.

Lake Carnegie from below the dam

Spotted this snapper crossing the path from the lake to the canal. I took this picture at quite some distance with the long lens, but I assure you that sucker is at least two feet long from snout to tail tip.


Now for the tragedy. My route took me north from Harrison Street to Rocky Hill (for those of you who know the area). When I approached Harrison on the return there were cops and firemen everywhere.

Tragedy on the D&R Canal

The gathering runners and walkers and bikers passed along news of a terrible accident. Apparently a group of three had rented a canoe at the Alexander Road portage and forthwith capsized it. No problem, I have capsized many a canoe, often on purpose. If you can swim it is great fun. All three canoers went down but sadly only two came up. The third never surfaced, and was presumed (by the onlookers) to have drowned. There was no word on whether the poor soul had known how to swim, but she did not float so apparently she was not wearing a life preserver. The question is whether she suffered some low probability injury or just sank like a rock.

Candidly, it never occurred to me that the heavily silted D&R was still that deep.


By Blogger John Cunningham, at Sun Apr 04, 09:49:00 PM:

I kayak a lot, and I am an asst. organizer for a local kayak group. we have an absolute rule, anyone on the water has to have a PFD on, with all straps tightened. I am astounded when I see people in kayaks and canoes with no PFDs on.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 04, 10:22:00 PM:

Well, I don't wear one in a canoe on a lake, for example, and would never have thought of wearing one on the D&R canal. Crossing Nassau Street is more dangerous, I would think. But then, I've been canoeing my whole life and can swim more than a mile if I have to. The canal is so narrow and placid -we're not shooting rapids, here -- that it is really hard to imagine what happened.  

By Blogger steve, at Sun Apr 04, 10:52:00 PM:

I've canoed on the canal more times than I can remember. I've capsized too. The whole canal is only about 50 feet wide.

Just yesterday I was biking along the canal with my wife and I was telling her how safe it was to canoe there. I am shocked. I cannot understand how that happened either.

I will continue canoeing but I will be sure to where the life jacket they give me at the rental.  

By Blogger John Cunningham, at Mon Apr 05, 12:28:00 AM:

The thing is, you can whack your head on a seat or a thwart on a flipping canoe, or get a leg trapped. next thing you know, you are underwater and panicking...
even a canoe on a lake can lead to bad consequences.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Apr 05, 12:42:00 AM:

That water is still very very cold. More serious to capsize even with PFDs. The snapper is undoubtedly female, and gravid.  

By Blogger joated, at Mon Apr 05, 08:27:00 AM:

Certainly a tragedy, but, in my experience, anyone renting a canoe or row boat is required by the rental facility to also get and wear a PDF.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Apr 05, 08:55:00 AM:

The rumor was that they had them, but were not wearing them. @GT, good point about the water temperature. But still, the canal is only about three or four canoe lengths wide. Even if the water were, say, 45 degrees, I would think that an ordinary swimmer could get to the edge in 10 seconds or so.  

By Blogger Mike, at Mon Apr 05, 01:07:00 PM:

Pretty horrible.

A lot of people renting canoes there (and Griggstown) are foreign grad students - with little English. Add some poor swimming ability and this tragedy is plausible.

Would be nice if the rental table printed a warning off google translate instead of focusing on unenforceable waivers.  

By Blogger Kinuachdrach, at Mon Apr 05, 08:13:00 PM:

"A lot of people renting canoes there (and Griggstown) are foreign grad students - with little English."

Foreign graduate students at a US university who can't read simple English? Why import graduate students who don't do English? After all, the US has an entire educational establishment selflessly dedicated to filling every conceivable US demand for students who don't do English, or much of anything else.

Seriously, even if these hypothetical non-English-speaking graduate students exist, they still know the word for "drown" in their mother tongue.  

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