Friday, December 15, 2017

Harbor Forecasts

As I write this, the screenshot below reflects current conditions in New Bedford Harbor, as reported on the very useful web site U.S. Harbors, which provides similar information -- and much more -- for coastal communities throughout the United States. For each port, the site assembles real-time data with general ten-day forecasts and hourly, detailed 48-hour forecasts.
In our New Bedford Fortnight course, we will learn a lot about the geographies of the historic whaling trade, including the biogeography of whales, the migration patterns of those who pursued them, and the influence of the whale trade on the economic geography, urban landscape and demography of New Bedford.

We will also learn about some aspects of the physical geography of New Bedford through the lens of the whaleboat hobby and sport that is increasingly popular in the city. In fact, much of what I know about the city has been learned in modern replicas of the historic Azorean and Yankee whaleboats, as I am an active member of both of the city's clubs - the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society and Whaling City Rowing. I also learn from occasional involvement with the Buzzard's Bay Rowing Club in nearby Fairhaven, whose members row on the same waters. All three clubs interact frequently with the city's Whaling Museum, of which I am also a member.

Members of all three clubs consult weather and tide charts to plan routine rowing events and special events including races and excursions. Rowing within the dynamic harbor environment requires planning routes according to wind and tide, as well as seasonal variation in the traffic of commercial ships and pleasure craft. Rowing captains consider the experience of crews and expected wind speeed when determining the safety of a planned row; individual rowers will consult the forecast when planning what to wear, especially during the colder months.
Our summer course will include some whaleboat demonstrations, but there will be no snow on the oars, as in this photo of pre-dawn rowing on December 14, 2018. Photo credit: Cyn Spence. I am the rower in the striped shirt.
Lagniappe

My main blog -- Environmental Geography -- includes three relevant articles from the early days of my harbor learning in 2012. The first -- Harbor Learning -- describes the use of weather forecasts in a bit more detail. Rowing and Rocket Science explains how some of us use geotechnologies during the rowing itself, and the convergence of many technologies that we have come to take for granted in smartphones. More broadly, Seaside Changes points to some reporting that was then being done on the changing geographies of New Bedford and many similar cities in New England -- changes that are the inspiration for this special summer course.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Avenida

Acushnet is the name of a rural town just to the east and north of New Bedford. It is also the name of an avenue, often known simply as "The Avenue." That would be "A Avenida" in Portuguese, the most prominent of several languages one can hear in this vibrant neighborhood -- perhaps the most diverse locale in one of the most diverse cities in the most diverse country on the planet. In other words, a must-visit place for geographers.

So on August 29, 2017, I decided to take a bit of a stroll, to explore a half-mile or so of a street that I had mainly viewed from my car windows. (NOT that there is anything wrong with that -- geographers can learn a lot from a "windshield survey," which is our professional name for "driving around.")

Here is some of what I found.

Calling Acushnet Avenue "The Ave" is not just something my local friends say. It is a recognized place, and people are proud of it.
The role of the arts -- especially public art such as this mural -- in social and economic development will be a central theme of the course.
The outward-facing parts of homes and businesses comprise what geographers call the vernacular landscape, and at times they can provide insight into what people consider most important about their own identities.
To prepare for a special occasion, one does not go to the mall.
I have not yet been to this café, but it is now on my list -- the Sunflower Cafe. In the Germanic languages, the flower is named for the sun. In the Romance languages, it is named for turning with the sun.
Some of the most successful businesses in Central America are fried-chicken restaurants, some of which have expanded to migrant communities in the United States. I have not yet figured out whether the connection in this case is one of ownership or one of symbolic reference.
Although its Lusophone connections are best known, Central American and other parts of the world are well represented in New Bedford's neighborhoods. 
In many ways, communities are defined in very local institutions such as hairdressers and barbershops.
This city of migrants is full of symbolism that exhibits pride in places of origin and places of destination alike, as on this sign marking the approach to Madeira Field.
A friend who grew up in another part of the city ALWAYS brings something from this case if she is coming to dinner at our house.

This one is a bit of a trick -- it is not on Acushnet Avenue, nor is it in New Bedford. This is White Factory, on the Acushnet River in Acushnet, less than a mile from the eponymous Avenue. 
Students in the New Bedford Fortnight class will have opportunities to find much more in this and other neighborhoods throughout the 24 square miles of the Whaling City.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Learning from Old Maps

Image: Knowol, which sells prints of this map
and hosts many other fascinating maps and images
Click to enlarge
During the New Bedford Fortnight class, we will spend most of our time in direct experience of the present-day city, its cultural landscape, communities, and institutions. It is a city with a rich history, however, and we will be studying that from a geographic perspective.

Among my favorite tools for this kind of work are very detailed Sanborn fire insurance maps, which we will be looking at in some detail, both at the New Bedford Public Library and through the digital version to which BSU's Maxwell Library subscribes. 

I learned of the 1871 map shown above from a friend who has spent his whole life (so far) in the city and who will be part of this course. The map is stylistically similar to the Sanborn maps, but it is at a smaller scale that will be useful for our initial look at historic changes in the city and in adjacent areas of Fairhaven. The bridge connecting the two, for example, does not follow its current trajectory, nor does a broad boulevard separate downtown New Bedford from its working waterfront.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Welcome to New Bedford Fortnight

More on this word at Google
GEOG 400: New Bedford Fortnight
Two Weeks in Whaling CIty
Summer 2017  #NBfortnightA Bridgewater State University Geography Course
Open to all -- matriculated and non-degree students alike
BSU students enrolled in Commonwealth Honors are welcome to propose an Honors Contract for this course, but must arrange for it before the course begins.


The sixth-largest city in Massachusetts is an ideal place to explore human and physical geography. Astride the land and the sea, New Bedford is connected by its fishing fleet to the North Atlantic and by its immigrant communities to much of the wider world. It is also increasingly important as a regional center for the visual and performing arts, and it is becoming a place where local, regional, and international artists draw audiences from throughout the region.

New Bedford is the site of a significant experiment in urban revitalization, in which the U.S. Park Service works closely with local institutions for two decades to connect creative economies to social, economic, and environmental challenges. This intensive course will meet in various locations throughout New Bedford each afternoon, drawing on the expertise of local institutions and community leaders as well as geographic field techniques to uncover the complexity of a city that is fostering change.

James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D. -- Professor of Geography
Dr. Hayes-Bohanan has taught at BSU since 1997. He specializes in environmental geography, the geography of Latin America, and the geography of coffee. He has enjoyed leading students on field-based learning experiences throughout New England, as well as Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba, and Cape Verde. He is a member of the New England & St. Lawrence ValleyGeographical Society and the New Bedford-based Whaling City Rowing, WhalingMuseum, Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, Azorean Maritime Heritage Society, New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association, and Buttonwood Park Zoo. His family resides in both Bridgewater and the town of Fairhaven.
Course will run two consecutive weeks, M-F, 12:30-4:30 each afternoon, with on Thursday evening program required. Dates and details will be posted on this blog as plans are finalized.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Crime Reporting and New Media

The Groundwork blog recently reported on a decision by New Bedford Guide -- a popular local Facebook page -- to stop using local crime stories as click-bait. A lively discussion of this decision has already ensued.

Crime, the perceptions of crime, and the relationships between both and economic development will be important topics in our New Bedford Fortnight course.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Look Around the Working Waterfront

While visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum with my family today, I visited the observation deck for the first time. We have been museum members for a couple years and have lost count of our visits, so we are not sure why we had not stepped out onto this deck before.

I was inspired to record a brief panoramic video, of admittedly poor audio quality. It conveys a bit of New Bedford's grey-day persona, as I scan from the area upstream of the harbor along the Acushnet River, along the waterfront and ultimately toward the hurricane barrier.

I cut off my own first words, which were "New Bedford Fortnight.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nautical Town

A banker once told me that a loan for a house in New Bedford would be difficult because it is not near the water. Being a geographer, I showed her a map. We did not end up with that house anyway, but continued to enjoy visits to Whaling City.

Recently a friend shared this much earlier (1876) map of New Bedford, which shows that not only is it near the water, but that water is the whole point of New Bedford. It is a kind of lithograph that was common at the time, often used to promote cities by presenting idealized versions of them (see Cities on Stone by John Reps for many great examples).
Click map to enlarge
So these maps may be imperfect records, but they do reveal a lot about nineteenth-century urban places. This one reveals the importance of both manufacturing and nautical trade at the time -- during the overlap between the age of sail and the age of steam. Note that a rather sophisticated draw bridge was already in place (as it is 140 years later), signaling the importance of both rail and sea in the development of the city.

During our New Bedford Fortnight class, we will have the chance to explore this and many other printed maps of the city and its surroundings; today's geography is very much shaped by geographies of the past!

Back to the banker...
A year later, the same banker facilitated a loan for a house in Fairhaven, without checking for its water proximity. Perhaps she knew about views like this one, which I took after a morning row in the harbor shared by these nautical municipalities.
Fairhaven waterfront, December 2016
Foreground: Pope's Island Marina in New Bedford'