In the News in San Francisco

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                                                                                                                          - Thomas Jefferson


2 Old Ships Discovered at Construction Site



When engineers working near Candlestick Park last March drilled deep into the ground for soil samples, they pulled up chunks of wood and figured it was an old pier.

They had no idea it was a century-old ship, let alone two.

But that became clear this week when the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission uncovered what maritime experts believe are a pair of scow schooners, 90-foot-long workhorse vessels that plied the bay shallows in the late 1800s to deliver hay, salt, bricks, pork, coal, lumber and other cargo. Buried under more than 14 feet of sand and fill dirt, the 45-foot-long hull sections came to light at the mouth of an enormous trench that will house a new overflow sewage pipe for the Visitacion Valley neighborhood.

"These were the flatbed trucks of San Francisco Bay from the late 19th and early 20th century," said Jim Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C. "They're largely forgotten now, but these scow schooners moved the goods that built the city and the Bay Area economy."

A single survivor

Of the 400 or so flat-bottomed scow schooners built around the bay after the Gold Rush, only the 120-year-old Alma survives as part of the collection at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. Many scow schooners were abandoned after they were made obsolete by bridges, trains and trucks.

That is the most likely fate of the two ships discovered underneath a piece of unused industrial land wedged between Highway 101 and a large business park. Before it was piled with fill dirt and paved over for development, the site held a small lagoon and spit that appeared and receded with the bay tides. Archaeologists theorize the bayfront spot became a popular ship graveyard around the turn of the century. Hundreds of vessels were run ashore, stripped of rope, sails and valuable metals, broken apart, burned and left to sink, Delgado said.

Still, the discovery surprised the water utility's project team, which expected to find Native American artifacts on the site, not ships.

Digging by hand

Last Friday, as excavators clawed at the bottom of the trench, archaeologist Nick Longo noticed an abrupt change in soil color - red fill dirt giving way to shells and dark beach sand. Then a wooden beam and a hunk of metal emerged.

"It's not every day that you find a ship like this," Longo said. "It's the kind of thing you hope to come across in this kind of work."

The heavy digging machines halted and workers switched to hand shoveling the briny black dirt away from the ship's bones. A few days later they found a second hull, positioned at roughly the same angle, just 27 feet away. Both are about 25 feet wide and held together by iron spikes; at least one appears to be made of red fir and is partially charred. The soil and condition of the schooners led Scott Baxter to believe the square-nosed ships were discarded prior to the earthquake and fire of 1906.

Baxter, who is consulting the construction company on the site's historic artifacts, said the boats' frames will be photographed, measured and drawn. The team will collect the few relics - including shoes, bottles and bits of ceramic - and take samples of the wooden beams.

While the relatively intact Alma was rescued from a mudflat near San Jose in 1959 and restored, however, these vessels' remains won't be salvaged. The cost of removing and preserving a 100-foot-long ship would run into the millions of dollars.

"It would have to be a Viking ship to save it," Baxter said.



Read full story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 11 February 2011



San Francisco is  Least Wasteful City!  


San Franciscans sure are good at reusing Ziploc bags and tin foil, but could do a lot better when it comes to turning off the water when we brush our teeth.

Those are some of the findings of the second annual Nalgene   Least Wasteful Cities Study, ranking us the least wasteful city in the country for the second year in a row. Other cities that fared well were Seattle , New York , Portland and Boston , while Houston was at the bottom of the trash heap.

San Franciscans are tops when it comes to recycling, taking public transportation, using rain barrels, never driving our cars for trips that are less than a mile from home, participating in sustainability programs and, yes, reusing bags and foil.

But we lag far behind other cities in turning off the water while we're brushing our teeth and throwing out fewer than two bags of garbage weekly. The study found that 43 percent of San Franciscans are "extremely concerned" about the environment and 45 percent are "fairly concerned."

Asked to assign grades for environmentalism, San Franciscans gave themselves and City Hall a B. They gave their friends, their companies and their country a C.


San Francisco 's high rankings:

  • 1st Recycling glass/metal/plastics on a regular basis
  • 1st Taking public transportation
  • 1st Using rain barrels
  • 1st Never driving their car for trips that are less than one mile from home
  • 1st Using reclosable bags and tinfoil  
  • 1st Participating in their city’s sustainability/environmental programs
  • 2nd Using reusable containers in place of disposable food storage items such as plastic  
  • 2nd Limiting showers to five minutes
  • 2nd Reusing wrapping paper and ribbons
  • 2nd Hanging their clothes out to dry when possible
  • 2nd Borrowing books from the library (or buying used) rather than buying them new
  • 2nd Buying bulk food to avoid extra packaging
  • 3rd Using reusable bottles in place of single-serve bottles of water/soda/other beverages
  • 3rd Composting fruits and vegetable scraps
  • 3rd Saving leftover food/meals to eat again



Read full story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 16 April 2010



Nesting Seabirds Should Be Left Alone

The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is asking visitors to avoid the Bay Area's coastal cliffs and offshore rocks, where breeding season has started for thousands of seabirds and disturbances could disrupt their nests and threaten their eggs.

Cormorants and Common Murres are laying eggs there and preparing to rear their chicks; Western Gulls, Tufted Puffins and Pigeon Guillemots will soon follow, said Mary Jane Schramm of the sanctuary.

Many seabirds spend most of their lives at sea, but they come ashore when spring arrives to nest in dense breeding colonies that can number in the thousands, Schramm said.

Boaters, fishermen, wildlife enthusiasts and pilots of small aircraft should avoid coming close as disturbances can cause them to abandon their eggs or neglect their chicks, she said.

Some of the major nesting colonies of seabirds in the Bay Area are Bodega Head, Tomales Point, Point Reyes and Point Bonita in Marin County ; Land's End and Seal Rocks in San Francisco , and San Pedro Rock and Devil's Slide in San Mateo County .


                        Read full story from the San Francisco Chronicle, 15 April 2010


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