Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ecology and the Olympics

We picked up my oldest son two days ago from his camp in Chestertown MD where for three weeks he studied the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. We decided to stay in the area for a couple days so he could show us some of the places and things he visited and studied. He makes an excellent teacher and tour guide, telling anyone who will listen (mostly me) about substrate and turbidity and mummichogs.

A mummichog

So we have had a strange combination of going out and about touring around and then watching the Olympics in our hotel room.

The first day we went to the Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge to check it out. We were literally the only people there. My son guided us down an unmarked gravel road and then to a hidden trail to get right out on the shore. All three boys stripped down to their underwear and my oldest demonstrated how astoundingly shallow the water is way WAY out there. They all walked so far out they were little specks. It made me a little nervous, but the water wasn't even up to their waist.

Soon enough they headed back in, and my middle son was complaining that something really painful and itchy was on his back. He turned around and his back was very very red. Oh no, an allergic reaction to something. He said something jumped on his back. I grabbed the field guide we brought with us and flipped through it to find the most likely culprit: a jellyfish. Hmmm, I had no idea there were jellyfish out there. Duh. Come to find out they are the common nemesis of anyone swimming in the Bay. There was no cell phone coverage, no way to search for treatment online, so we headed back to the car and drove to the drugstore we had seen on our drive out there. By the time we got to the drugstore, I had read online about how painful jellyfish stings are (like multiple bee stings) and some treatment options. I went in to talk to the pharmacist, who was very helpful. I spent $3.89 on a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some benzocaine ointment, which I applied to my son's back in the parking lot. It worked just great, his painful welts were gone by the next morning.

A jellyfish found in large numbers in the Chesapeake Bay right now.

He wasn't too keen on going back in the water after that.

The next day, after a delightful lunch at the Fish Whistle in Chestertown with my son's teacher and TA from his class, we headed to St. Michael's and the Maritime Museum there. My son was there on a field trip and he thought we would all enjoy it. He was right, it was a great museum. We signed up for an extra excursion through the museum, a two hour sail on the bay on an old skipjack piloted by a waterman who was very knowledgeable about the bay and had a lot of great stories to tell. We brought our purchases from the farmer's market: homemade foccacia bread, handmade cheese, peaches and enormous blackberries, plus a bottle of wine we purchased at a nearby restaurant, and had wonderful time just listening to Captain Farley talk.

This area is a place I think I could live. But then I see the signs along the road: snow evacuation route. Then I hear the river can get nine-inch-thick ice on it. Then I see what I think is a bird but is really an insect. Then I come to my senses.

It's back to the hotel to watch Olympics until my husband and I are almost asleep and have just enough energy to reach over and turn off the light. The boys protest, wrestle and giggle for a couple minutes, and fall sound asleep.

I forgot the cable to download pictures from my son's camera, so I will update the post with pictures later.

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