Archive for November, 2014


Sunday, November 16th, 2014


I’ve spent a lot of time around the Thames, but I never actually was in it.  Like many major cities, London was built close to the fall line, located relatively far inland, yet still experiencing significant tides. At low tide, the bed of the river is surprisingly accessible.


One sunny Sunday afternoon last September, Elizabeth and climbed down a stairway to look for Thames treasure. Lots of other people were taking advantage of the high sun and the low tide to build sand castles, walk along the beach, or just snooze.


The floor is mostly sand at  the outer edge, adjacent to the embankment walls.  Closer to the water, the floor is coarser, composed of natural and manmade pebbles. 


It was surprising how much much the riverbed varied across what would otherwise be a 15 minute stroll along the Thames Path on the South Bank.  Most of the natural pebbles were flint nodules, broken and smoothed, showing a variety of different colors. Some of them were sandstone and other conglomerates.  We found a lot of chalk, which comes with the flint, and Elizabeth even found a black pumice pebble. The Thames is an restless river that over the eons has brought a wide variety of river gravel from as fare away as Wales.


Natural items included oyster shells, crab claws, leaves, and twigs.  As we strolled downstream, we encountered areas with very different textures and colors.


The river bottom in some areas was characterized by ‘stones of manmade origin, mostly bricks, but we also found areas that had limestone building stones, usually broken, but with tool marks still clearly visible.

Star Works Glenboig Refractory Brick

One spot had a number of yellow refractory bricks from the Star Works in Glenboig (Scotland).


We found lots of manmade objects, mostly plastic pens, but also razors, sandals, insulators, wire, pottery, CO2 cartridges, plastic cutlery, plastic bracelets, can lids, lots of burnt wood, and lots of glass.


I don’t know that we found anything economically valuable, but it was a day that we treasure.


(NOTE: all of the photos in this blog entry, and the preceding entries from Amsterdam, were taken with the Cyber-shot Digital Camera RX100 III, a camera that fits in my jeans pocket.)

Dutch City Bikes

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014


I’m endlessly fascinated by the bikes of Amsterdam, in all their volume and variety, colorful, but practical urban transportation.


Heavy and sturdy upright bikes with old fashioned handle bars and no top tube, they usually have a light and  are often equipped with a plastic milk crate style front basket.


The Dutch love their fully sprung, big ass saddles, often a leather Brooks saddle.


For obvious reasons, most Amsterdamers put a plastic cover over their saddle when leaving their bike parked outside.


Some of the bikes are dressed up with decorations on the bars, a quick way to add some class to a vehicle that might be on its third or fourth coat of paint.


With the purpose-built bike lots overflowing, bikes are parked everywhere, including alleys and bridges.


Some of these bikes are clearly not going anywhere soon, and are almost certainly abandoned, victims of theft, vandalism, or neglect.


The authorities periodically tag these derelict looking bikes, giving notice that they will be hauled to the bike pound unless moved within a few weeks.


Normally hosting about 12,000 bikes at a time, the Amsterdam Bike Processing Center (Fietsdepot) waits 3 months for individuals to claim their lost bikes, and then humanely disposes of them.

Bikes parked on Amsterdam bridge

Hopefully, some of these orphans are adopted, to return to the streets of Amsterdam.