Monday, December 03, 2007

Camels in Narragansett Bay

Last summer, after moving to Rhode Island, I enjoyed sailing my Laser at various locations around Narragansett Bay. There were a number of regattas, and then on other days I just went sailing on my own exploring some of the bays and inlets, nooks and crannies of this fascinating area. Tillerwoman and I have also explored from the land side almost every legal access to the shoreline of Mount Hope Bay, the north-eastern arm of Narragansett Bay and the part closest to our home.

Not once did I see a camel.

I was therefore shocked to read that a 2005 survey of the bay discovered the remains of over 100 camels littering the Narragansett Bay shoreline. Whaaaat? How did that happen? Where did they come from?

The survey I mentioned was carried out by two Rhode Island mariners, Captain Alan Wentworth and Captain Ed Hughes. They found hundreds of tons of debris on the bay's shoreline, including the camels, and drafted a report documenting the types of trash and its locations.

The two captains took their survey report to anyone that would listen and as a result, ridding the bay of debris has become a priority to local, state and federal agencies and officials, and has also led to a major public, private and volunteer effort to clean up the bay.

Starting in August 2006 the first phase of this initiative has removed over 1,000 tons of debris from Narragansett Bay and its shoreline, but the program is far from complete and it will continue next year.

But what about those camels?

Well, apparently they don't look like this...

They look like this...

Well, I learn something new every day.

Apparently the good captains found over 100 of these heavy wooden objects, weighing over a ton each and soaked in cresol, on the shores of the bay. There was a suspicion that they might have been used by the US Navy as floats for anti-submarine nets but most of the camels only had nails where identification plaques had once been. So it was tough to find someone to take responsibility for their costly removal.

However, in 2006 the bay clean-up crew found a plate on one of the camels clearly identifying its naval origin and the US Navy quickly took responsibility for removing the camels.

So the story has a happy ending.

But to all of my readers please do your part to keep the bay clean. In future, please take care of your camels and make sure they don't escape when you're not looking. And if you have any camels you no longer need, please please please don't leave them in my bay.

Related links

What about those camels?
Locations of the camels and other debris

News of the status of the bay clean-up initiative
Clean The


Litoralis said...

Looks like the wood would be useful for building those raised beds that Tillerwoman wants...are you sure there isn't a camel on your beach?

EVK4 said...

And most importantly, don't market these "camels" to kids. I am sick and tired of seeing images of cartoon wooden boxes "float a camel, stop a sub, kids" at convenience stores. I might take this up before Congress.

Zen said...


Pat said...

The classical nautical camel, I believe, was a float that could be placed along either side of a vessel to provide flotation support. Perhaps in conjunction with lighting ship, such a camel could be used to float a ship or boat over a sandbar or shoal or enable a barge or boat to temporarily carry a heavier load than usual.

Anonymous said...

Warwick city park has a camel on the south western shore. Who do we contact to have this removed?

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