Posts Tagged 'inner harbor'

Black History Month: A Dive Into Pier 4′s Rich History

Every February, our nation joins to celebrate our rich African-American culture and to reflect on important historical events and individuals.

As part of our annual Cultural Series, we will be celebrating the wealth of history that exists in our local community! In anticipation of our Black History Month celebration this Friday, we’d like to share an interesting story that involves icon Harriet Tubman and our very own Pier 4.

Maryland native Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist and suffragist, is one of the lauded figures of American history.  From 1850 to 1860, she led hundreds to freedom, ultimately gaining her the nickname “Moses.”

Baltimore Inner Harbor 1850

A view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1850.
Photo via Maryland Historical Society.

On October 21, 1856, Harriet Tubman helped a young woman named Tilly flee enslavement in Baltimore. Unable to safely bring Tilly to Philadelphia via a northeasterly route, Tubman cleverly devised a scheme to take Tilly on a southern steamboat route, eventually ending in Delaware.

The steamer Tubman intended to use was named Kent and was docked at Dugan’s Wharf (present-day Pier 4 – currently housing a portion of our facility).

Inner Harbor Map 1856

This map of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1856 shows where the Kent would dock. Image via Dr. Kate Larson.

The Kent made weekly trips to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and several Chesapeake Bay tributaries.Tubman and Tilly were able to safely make it onto the Kent and travel to Seaford, Delaware.

Eventually, the pair arrived in Wilmington, Delaware, where they met with an Underground Railroad agent who helped Tilly reach Philadelphia and her freedom.

Special thanks to Dr. Kate Larson and the Maryland Office of Tourism for gathering and sharing these facts with us. For more information on Harriet Tubman and her Maryland roots, click here.

The National Aquarium is proud to be a part of such a historically-rich community. We hope to see you at our upcoming Cultural Series celebration

The Annual Resurgence of Urban Jellies!

national aquarium animal expert update

In late summer and early fall, Baltimore visitors and downtown workers are often startled when they glance down into the harbor and see large pulsing Atlantic sea nettles!

national aquarium atlantic sea nettle

Photo via Flickr user KTSeery.

The Atlantic sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) is a jellyfish species native to the western Atlantic and the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. If we ever had a Maryland State jellyfish, it would be the notorious Atlantic sea nettle. While it’s true that most jellyfish species do make their homes in the ocean and are unable to tolerate fresher, “brackish” waters, this sturdy species can actually thrive in it!

Their umbrella-like bell is about the size and shape of grapefruit half. Long stinging tentacles trail from the margin of the bell and are used to capture food which includes plankton, other jellies and small fish. These jellies pulse up and down the water column, day and night, in search of food. During moving tides and windless days, large numbers of nettles may gather near the water’s surface.

national aquarium atlantic sea nettle

This jelly was spotted in the harbor water right outside of the Aquarium!

Jelly species survive the cold winter in a sedentary, polyp stage attached to hard surfaces like oyster shells, rocks and pier pilings. These polyps resemble tiny sea anemones and capture microscopic plankton with stinging tentacles. In late spring and early summer, when water temperatures start to rise, each polyp will start to produce and release tiny free-swimming sea nettles.

Feeding on the Bay’s abundant supply of plankton these nettles grow and reproduce rapidly. A single sea nettle may release up to 45,000 eggs daily. By July and August, sea nettle populations continue to expand and push north into the upper Bay. By the end of summer and early fall, the lack of rain allows the waters of the Inner Harbor to become saltier. This is usually when Atlantic sea nettles start arriving in decent numbers into the Inner Harbor.

jellyfish in the inner harbor

Photo via The Baltimore Sun.

The abundance of good food in these deep harbor waters usually results in some fairly massive nettles! And, just as our downtown sea nettle show starts to attract attention, it will soon come to an abrupt end. As the water temperatures begin to drop, the nettles die off and/or start shrinking rapidly. Though the jellies quickly disappear, it’s exciting to know that millions of tiny Atlantic sea nettle polyps are scattered throughout the Bay waiting for the warming waters of spring to start the annual cycle all over again!

national aquarium expert jack cover

A Blue View: The Pollution We Cannot See

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 13, 2013: The Pollution We Cannot See – Toxins in the Water

A Blue View podcast

Listen to John and Blue Water Baltimore’s, Halle Van der Gaag,
discuss how wastewater is polluting the Bay. 

When it comes to cleaning up the Baltimore Harbor, most of us think about trash cleanups. While keeping garbage out of our waterways is critically important, there’s another source of pollution infecting the Bay—bacteria from wastewater. Recently, Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, sat with Aquarium CEO John Racanelli to talk about these toxins in our waters, and what needs to be done about them:

John: Tell me about what’s going on right now in our harbor in terms of bacteria and bacteria counts.

Halle: Well, unfortunately there’s way too much bacteria in the Baltimore harbors and our streams that feed the harbor. Though Baltimore has a separate sewer system, unfortunately we see huge amounts of wastewater entering our streams, not just from broken wastewater pipes but unfortunately through the storm drain system, where it’s not supposed to be coming from.

John: And that, I would guess, leads to higher bacterial counts, because these things kind of compound.

Halle: Absolutely. It’s unfortunate, but we have an aging system, on both the storm water and the wastewater side. So pipes are breaking. Raw sewage entering our streams contributes to bacteria, and everyone knows raw sewage in our waterways is not a good thing.

John: Absolutely. Where is this wastewater coming from?

Halle: It’s coming from our homes, our businesses, the places where we work. If you think about it, all our businesses are connected to the wastewater system, and it’s intended to go to the wastewater treatment site, but all along the way, there are opportunities for cracks and breaks and leaks, and that’s where we see the problems occur.

John: So it’s not really about the trash in this case, it’s about the waste stream.

Halle: And if you think about a fishable, swimmable harbor, it’s probably not the trash that’s going to keep you out of there, it’s going to be the bacteria.

John: What are the consequences of this dirty water in terms of how it affects humans and others?

Halle: We tend not to think about the harbor as a place where people recreate, but actually folks are out there in kayaks, paddleboats, on sailboats, and boating. Unfortunately, there are real significant public health risks if exposed. Skin infections, gastrointestinal issues, and even things like our pets getting sick when they run through the streams like the Jones Falls and the Gwynns Falls. So there are significant opportunities for folks to get sick and we are hearing more and more about those types of infections happening here in Baltimore.

John: I guess this must have an economic impact on our community too, eventually.

Halle: Absolutely. Who wants to sit at a restaurant along the Inner Harbor where there’s been a fish kill and where it’s very smelly and dirty? We’ve heard from restaurants last year during the June sewage overflow of how damaging it was to their bottom line.

John: So what’s being done out there right now to combat this overall issue of wastewater pollution?

Halle: Baltimore City is spending millions of dollars through something called the Consent Decree to actually upgrade and fix wastewater pipes and the streams. We hope in the next couple of years, we’ll see significant construction happening, and that should lead to a reduction in wastewater debris in the harbor.

John: Well then let me ask, what is the message we need to get out to really bring action on this critical issue?

Halle: So I think sometimes people can be frustrated about paying into fees to upgrade these systems, but in this case, there’s really nothing citizens can do. This is about city government doing what it needs to do to repair critical wastewater infrastructure, and it’s nobody’s fault the pipes are a hundred years old. We have pipes from the 1800s that are still functional. And so we just need to get behind the city and support these upgrades.

John: Okay, well thank you, Halle, very much for coming to talk about this important issue.

About Blue Water Baltimore
Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor. From organizing trash cleanups and planting trees to monitoring streams and advocating for stronger clean water laws, Blue Water Baltimore is hard at work in communities around the state. Learn more at bluewaterbaltimore.org.

The Health Harbor Report Card
The recently released Healthy Harbor Report Card 2012 contains Blue Water Baltimore’s annual assessment for the Baltimore Harbor. This year the Harbor received an overall grade of C-. The Harbor’s grade, which is based upon 2012 monitoring data collected by the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, was higher than expected. Still, the Harbor met ecological health thresholds only 40 percent of the time, which is just barely a C-.

To view the complete Healthy Harbor Report Card, click here.

To see the Baltimore Harbor’s bacteria monitoring results for yourself, click here.

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Rock the Boat and Support the Chesapeake Bay TONIGHT!

Join our staff and volunteers on the USS Constellation tonight from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM for our 8th annual “Rock the Boat” fundraiser, supporting our Chesapeake Bay Initiative (CBI)!

the USS Constellation

With a $10 donation, guests are welcome on board to enjoy free tours, live music from local band Wolve, and great, sustainable food from local restaurants. Beer, wine, and soda will be available for purchase. Guests will also receive a glow in the dark mug with their donation. All proceeds support preservation and restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Tonight’s donations will help our CBI team purchase much-needed field equipment for upcoming habitat restoration projects! This event will be a great kick-off for our team who will be doing a week long tree planting  at Indian Head next week. Every year, our staff and volunteers plant a variety of Chesapeake Bay native wetland grasses, trees, and shrubs along the water’s edge to help stabilize the area, reduce the potential for erosion, and protect existing land while providing habitat for many animal species.

These funds will also help support a second habitat restoration project in March, stay tuned for details on how you can get involved!

This is a family-friendly event and all are welcome! No RSVP required; just make your $10 donation at the entrance to the ship. Come out and rock the boat for conservation!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Save the Bay!

Oysters play a critical role in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. As natural water filters, oysters strain out plankton and other food suspended in water. They also provide a critical habitat and growing surface for a large number of other species, including fish like striped blennies, anked gobies, and skillet fish, as well as mud crabs, blue crabs, grass shrimp, and eels.

We were incredibly honored to host the “Mermaid’s Kiss Oyster Fest” benefiting the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) last night at our Baltimore venue.

During last night’s event, ORP announced its largest restoration effort on the East Coast ever. This new project will streamline large-scale efforts to improve the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay through oyster planting and water quality improvement.

Chef Karen Nicolas preparing her delicious tasting dish at last night’s Oyster Fest!

There are many ways you can help support oyster recovery: 

  • Become an oyster gardener
  • Buy local: enjoy Chesapeake Bay farmed or harvested oysters
  • Patronize restaurants that are participating in the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance—making sure used oyster shells go back to support restoration efforts
  • Celebrate Maryland seafood by dining out at any of the restaurants participating in the From the Bay, For the Bay event the week of October 6–13, 2012. Participating restaurants will be serving fresh, locally caught Maryland seafood and will donate a dollar for every Maryland seafood dinner sold to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works to replenish the population of our native Chesapeake Bay oyster.
  • Join our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) and REI staff in our bi-annual field days at the Ft. McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. In the Fall and Spring, our team, along with an amazing group of volunteers, helps to  restore habitat,  remove debris, do trail maintenance  and plant native flowers! Since we first took ownership of this stewardship in 1999, our teams have removed more than 600,000 pieces of debris!

Thanks again to everyone who came out last night in support of our local habitats! We are one step closer to a thriving Bay!


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