Death and Life on the Gowanus

Gowanus CanalThe northern, terminal end of the Gowanus Canal. Where we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. Dolphin memorialOn Friday, a dolphin ended up in the canal, causing a media frenzy, including, evidently, a helicopter overhead, and the usual circus of social-media-alerted gawkers. (I was blessed to have missed it all.) The animal died in advance of plans to intervene Saturday morning. In retrospect, that seems rather predictable: it’s unlikely the animal was healthy to begin with, and the toxic sludge of the canal may or may not have been whatever the opposite of gilding the lily is. (One small consolation is that the animal was not around long enough to be given some stupid-ass cutesy-wootsie name.)

A Superfund site, erstwhile industrial gutter, the Canal is thick with heavy metals, petroleum variations, and much else. A young minke died here in 2007.

Yet there is still life on and around the canal, struggling on against our violations of the planet.

The other night at twilight, I saw at least thirty ducks on the portion of the canal above, the water still unfrozen (perhaps due to old antifreeze in the water). It was dark, but they looked to be all Mallards. In another section of the canal earlier this year, I saw three Black-crowned Night Herons hunting for the fish that come in on the tide. And overhead, there are always Ring-billed Gulls.

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3 Responses to “Death and Life on the Gowanus”


  1. 1 Marie January 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I was there, gawking, I suppose, and while watching photographed a Cooper’s hawk in wonderful flight. It then perched on an upturned tire beside the canal.

  2. 2 Elizabeth January 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I’ve seen double-crested cormorants and a belted kingfisher there.

    • 3 mthew January 27, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      Yes! Thanks for reminding me. Had a good Belted Kingfisher interaction there by the Union St. Bridge not so long ago: I kept screaming “Don’t eat that fish.”


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