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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Say it again

Raising the plane from the Columbia River The Thursday Challenge is "communication," and I only hope I can describe the layers of it going on here. I took the photo last Saturday, and the objective is to raise the light plane from the river bottom, where it settled on Friday night after it crashed. What you see is the deck of a Coast Guard ship in the foreground, the plane being lifted out of the water in the center, and a barge with a crane on it behind the plane. About fifty people had gathered in the rain to watch the plane come up or were here in an official capacity. We can't see them in this photo, but there were two TV cameras to my right, and people all over the place with still cameras, cell phones and camera phones, and of course, they are all talking to each other, too. Lee was carrying on a long conversation with someone he hadn't seen in awhile. I don't know what everyone else was doing with their cell phones, but I was texting Laurel to let her know the plane was coming up, and I was also getting e-mail and a bunch of blog and news alerts I'd activated the other day through Google (crazy, huh?).

Just behind where I'm standing on the dock is a truck that travelled two hours from Portland. The company's name is Northwest Underwater Construction, LLC, and they'd brought a diver used to working with heavy objects under water, along with their communications technicians. You'll probably have to click on the photo to enlarge it. The bound red and green cables running into the picture from the foreground and coiling at the edge of the deck are the diver's communication to the truck, including his air line, camera feed, light, and voice communication. Inside the truck are the air tanks, some dial-type monitors for the diver, and a video monitor receiving a picture from under water. They communicated from the truck to the ships with walkie-talkies, and you can see one guy using his hand-held on the right of the photo. Those of us near the truck could hear them talking. I remember the diver saying the plane was on its back and they'd have to flip it before they brought it up, an operation that took some coordinating. There was also a guy in the truck with a clipboard recording notes on a chart.

The guy in the white hard-hat just in front of the crane is giving hand signals to the crane operator, and has been doing that since the lines first went down to secure the plane. Men on both decks are, of course talking about how best to make everything work. On the periphery, there's a Sheriff's boat and probably a small Coast Guard boat hovering near with radios.

There's some interesting non-human visual communication, too. The black and yellow stripes are saying, "This is the edge of the ship - you know what will happen if you get too close!" And the men's hard-hats and bright vests are telling the onlookers, "This is a danger area. Keep out." The buoys in the river tell ships where the shipping lane ends.

By the way, the man in the dark blue clothing and white hat in the center is the pilot who crashed. His mother and brother are on one of the high lookout points of the ship, and another relative is standing in the diver's truck to keep tabs on the action. Throughout the salvage, the pilot is talking to everyone and gesturing to his family.

Just because we need a little more communication here, when the plane was lifted out of the water, my zoom lens revealed that two headsets for the plane were dangling out of the door, attached together and to the plane by wires. They were dripping wet, and were probably the only communication devices that were not busy today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swift current on the Columbia River

Columbia River flow at the 6th Street Viewing Platform, Astoria, Oregon It's fun to watch the water flow around the 6th Street Viewing Platform. The river is cold and notorious for drownings. If you fall out of a boat, you need to be rescued quickly. That's one reason the Coast Guard is well-placed in Astoria! The water birds love these currents, and I was having fun watching the ducks dive for the newly-hatched salmon that are in the river this time of year. The pointed structure in the background is the 4-mile-plus bridge that stretches from Oregon to Washington. See the tall poles standing in the middle of the photo? This view would have been impossible had the condo developers finished their project before the economy fell apart. I can't believe it's allowed, and I wonder how much of the beauty and romance of our river front will be gone or so drastically changed in the next few years. This free public viewing platform, at least, will lose one of the most remarkable views - toward the bridge and the mouth of the river. I've only been in Astoria since 2001, and I feel I've already documented considerable change. I will keep on looking, and keep on taking photos.

With this link you can see other participants in Watery Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ruby Tuesday: Red, white, and gray

I love bright foregrounds against a dark sky. I took this photo in our Safeway parking lot the other morning. The dumpster is usually not parked here where a path leads from the lot to the River Walk, but this morning someone had left it here, and the bright red was perfect, caught in a brief beam of sunlight. It's surprising how fast the clouds move, changing the atmosphere and changing it again. Beyond the parking lot is the new Comfort Suites Columbia River, where you can be kept awake all night listening to sea lions barking. I haven't needed to stay there and it looks nice. I'd probably like hearing sea lions all night.

Ruby Tuesday gave me an excuse to use this cool dumpster photo. Maybe tomorrow I'll post the boats!

Monday, April 27, 2009

River-front trolley stop in Spring

I took this photo a few days ago on one of our rare sunny days so far this year. The flowering trees were just coming into bloom. This is one of the trolley stops along the River Walk at 14th Street. By the way, my store is on the river at 15th Street, so it's just out of the picture on the left. The city has a refurbished old-time trolley that runs most of the length of the waterfront (here's a photo I took of the trolley in March 2008). It's mainly a tourist thing. The drivers volunteer and the cost to ride is one dollar, no matter how far you ride or how long you stay on the car. It runs all summer and on nice days and weekends during spring and fall. Its schedule is a little erratic, or so it seems to me. When we have a lot of tourists in town from an incoming river boat or cruise ship, the trolley will be running for sure. The drivers talk about history and local color as they show you the sights along the river. The street to the right is Marine Drive, the only non-alphabetical street in the main part of town. It curves and runs along the river and carries most of the westbound traffic through town, as Commercial Street (parallel) is one way going west. I'll have more on that interesting phenomenon soon!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Astoria Panorama - Pier 11 on the River Walk

Astoria's waterfront curves along the Columbia River. The red building is Pier 11. It now houses two restaurants and a couple of shops. The streets in Astoria are named alphabetically (starting with A at the water and L near the top of the hill) running parallel to the river and numbered from west to east going perpendicular to it. Thus, Pier 11 is at the end of 11th Street. The downtown area is approximately 7th Street to 15th Steet and Astor to Exchange, although many other businesses exist outside of this grid. Since the town is on a curve and many of the streets are straight, Astor is a short street, Bond stops where downtown starts, and Commercial is what would typically be known as Main Street, with most of the older downtown business buildings located there. I think the City Fathers must have been quite proud of themselves for managing to find such a fitting name for their business street starting with an appropriate letter for that location! The River Walk runs the length of town and much farther than downtown. You can see it on the right with its trolley tracks. Some of it is boardwalk as you see here, and some is paved. There is a lot of bike traffic here, too, skateboarders, runners, wakers, people with their dogs, baby strollers, and more. It's really pleasant in nice weather, but people use it even on our rare snow days. The old pilings in the water are typical. They practically line the waterfront. So many of them held up canneries at one time. The bump on the horizon is Tongue Point, forming a peninsula in the river. If the photo were wider, we'd see the expanse of the Columbia upriver to the left of Tongue Point.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Everyone survived the crash - you won't belive where the plane floated to on the river's current

Both people survived the April 24 plane crash
in the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon
Photo by Sheryl Todd

After my first two photos on this blog, I had intended to post a placid picture of the Astoria waterfront, or to show what downtown Astoria looks like. But yesterday afternoon there was an event that takes precedence. I was working in my office on the river, when Laurel called, stumbling over her words. "Right outside your place, we saw a plane crash. I'm not kidding, it's for real. Get out there - take your camera." She and her friend had been looking out the window of her place halfway up the Astoria hill, when she saw a light plane crash into the river about two blocks from where she figured I would be - in the office. I grabbed my camera and trotted the block down to the Maritime Museum - the other block's distance was aquatic. From the bank, I started taking photos. As it turned out, I was the first on scene with a camera, and the only one to capture photos of the people on the plane. It's worth blowing up the photo. You can see them standing hip-deep in water before they were pulled onto the rescue boat. I stayed around and took pictures of the plane as it floated to shore and the Coastguard tried to figure out what to do with it. The people had been taken to the hospital, and reports back at the waterfront were that they were both OK. As it turned out, the occupants of the plane were former Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard Miller and her son, pilot Bill Henningsgaard, a retired Microsoft executive from Seattle. You can read the article in the Daily Astorian online. (After today, you may need to use the search box on the left, and since the paper's site sometimes requires a subscription, you may need to look it up on Google.) I didn't even realize that I had the survivors in my photo! The wind was blowing my hair into my face, the sun was in my eyes, and the focus wasn't set so I could see what I was shooting. I knew the Astorian was looking for pix of the people, but I didn't know I had them, so I stayed for quite awhile with the small crowd in the cold wind. The the pilot boat took off, carrying the survivors to the ambulance a couple blocks away at the pilot boat dock; the pilots had seen the plane coming down and dashed into the river to help. We see pilot boats jetting into the river every day, and they're good at getting places fast. The plane's pilot apparently knew he had a problem with the engine, and was looking for a comparatively safe place to put it down. The plane crash-landed just a few hundred yards upriver from the Maritime Museum where two Coast Guard ships were in dock, and only a few hundred yards (or less) from shore. They were picked up virtually at the crash site, and once the boat had sped away, the plane drifted nose-down in in the river with only the tail and three, then two, windows and a fraction of the wing out of water, coming to rest - unbelievably - just exactly amidships of a Coast Guard ship equipped with a crane for hauling buoys and other objects out of the Columbia River's deadly currents. The crew on the ship roped the plane, and with the help of a Sheriff's boat and a small Coast Guard boat, hauled the plane around to the bow of the ship. I'm not sure what they planned to to with it there, but soon they dragged it back to the side of the bar tender (the bigger ship) and held it there. In awhile, they announced that they were going to haul the plane onboard, and because there was a fuel leak, they called for all lights to be turned off, and they set about moving the piles of gigantic chains with the onboard crane. At this point, all we could see of the tied-up plane was a tip of the tail, rising like a shark's fin just beyond the river-side of the bar tender. At that point the small crowd anticipated getting to watch the unusual spectacle of a plane being hefted out of the water and onto the ship (and what a ringside seat we had, too!), but there was clearly a delay, because the Coast Guard men and women began to appear with snacks and drinks in hand and started waiting it out on the deck and in the cabins. Slowly the crowd dispersed, and I haven't seen the plane again. We went back later in the evening after the Crab and Seafood Festival. The bright lights were on, but the ship's deck was empty. Steve had suggested earlier there would probably be another ship to take the plane to Tongue Point, just up the river, where they have facilities to lift and work with extremely heavy objects.

Water rescues are indeed one of the major faces of this town, although they usually take place out of site of most of us. And Astoria has always had a military component from the moment the location was discovered by Lewis and Clark. Today many Coast Guard personnel are stationed here and comprise a part of Astoria's working waterfront along with fishing, shipping, oil cleanup, marine exploration, cable-laying, ship docking, marine and riverine biology, and other aspects I'll learn more about as I progress with this blog. I simply hadn't expected to get into these facets of the town with a dramatic example so early in the blog! By the way, the hills on the other side of the river are the state of Washington.

I've now put the story in pictures on my personal blog along with a description of the photos. Or, you can check out even more photos in my Picasa web album. Here's a link to the first picture. You can click through for the story if you'd like.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Surrounded by rivers and forest; connected by bridges

Astoria, Oregon, as seen from Warrenton, Oregon The distant hill is the city of Astoria as it was this morning (Skywatch Friday), still somewhat shrouded under a layer of melting fog. The city consists of a forested peninsula with most of the city's residences not far from wooded land, and the downtown built over the Columbia River's marshy banks on pilings. It's hard to remember that, because the city looks normal, but in places you can still see the evidence. Astoria is reached from eastward by the highway from Longview, an hour's drive up river, and from three other directions by bridges. The Astoria-Megler bridge on the left - the one with the two points - spans 4.1 miles of the Columbia River to the state of Washington. On the right (you may want to click on the photo to enlarge it) a drawbridge and causeway, together called the Youngs Bay Bridge, connect Astoria with its neighboring town of Warrenton. Ten miles in this direction lies the Pacific Ocean. Out of the picture on the right, a shorter bridge called the Old Youngs Bay Bridge connects the city with the meadows, farms, and pasture lands to the south. For reasons I'm not sure of, "Youngs" has no apostrophe in the name. To get an overview, and to see all this water, click on the map link to the right. It's pretty cool.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcome to Astoria

Welcome to Astoria The quaint and historic town of Astoria, Oregon, was (according to the Welcome sign) founded in 1811. The location is beautiful, and there is much here to charm the inhabitant or the visitor. I've been calling it home since 2001. After starting and maintaining a number of different types of blogs, I've finally decided to take the plunge. I love checking into City Daily Photo sites all over the world, and I'd like to contribute, to add something more to the web, to show people this beautiful corner of the planet, and - to be honest - to learn how to limit my photos to one per day on at least one of my blogs! A new kind of journey begins - welcome to Astoria! This will be fun. I'd love to hear your comments and - as Eric says - I'm open for requests. ~ Sheryl

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