Polar Vortex

symmesThe secret, besides bundling up, is walking away from the wind, although I suppose we all have to go home at some point. 5F/-16C according to the Watchtower LED above Brooklyn Bridge Park, a reading which takes no account of the ice-spikes hammered into the sinuses by the wind chill. But I remember much, much worse from Iowa, and the blessed Sun was shining bright earlier today. Meanwhile, Northern Mockingbird and House Sparrows doing what they have to do. The Ring-Billed Gulls, Mallards, Gadwell, Black Ducks, and Buffleheads bobbing in the icy water warmed me up, because if they can do that, then I can take a walk, or, given my layers, a waddle.

I love the circularity of this hole in the pool on Pier One. The bubbler, keeping oxygen in the pool after Sandy ravaged the Park’s whole watering system, is maintaining it against the freeze. Convenient: accessible fresh water is the most important thing for wildlife in this kind of weather.

In a Tweet, I called this a Symmes Hole. Named after John Cleave Symmes, Jr. (1779-1829), a veteran of the War of 1812 who dined out on his Hollow Earth lectures from 1818 on. Poe, Verne, many others were inspired by his fantasies, which placed the entrance to the inner world at the Poles, leading to all sorts of adventures. There’s a memorial to him in Hamiliton, Ohio, with a sculptural hollowed out Earth, raised by his son Americus.

Bonus American History: Symmes’s namesake uncle John Cleave Symmes was a signer of the Constitution and father-in-law of William Henry Harrison. Harrison himself served as U.S. President for a record 32 days before dying of pneumonia. Otherwise, the first President Harrison (his grandson Benjamin was the second) is noted for delivering the longest inaugural address in our history, about 2 hours, in terrible weather. Without a hat. (Mothers across the land say, “I told you so.”)

To stay warm, may I suggest you sip some hot cider, party like a Whig, and sing Harrison’s campaign song: “For Tippecanoe and Tyler too./ For Tippecanoe and Tyler too./ And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van, Van,/ Van is a used up man./ And with them we’ll beat little Van.”

UPDATE: The next day, January 8, and the circle has drawn in:symmes2It’s a tight fit.

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2 Responses to “Polar Vortex”


  1. 1 Kathleen January 7, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Love all the history tidbits, glad the Park realized how important it is to keep water running.
    Thanks for all your Owl posts, saw on the news tonight that Snowy’s have been sighted in the Sunshine State. Not sure if that is good for those gorgeous creatures.


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