When I was about 12, my parents, my brother and I were camping on Cape Hatteras in North Carolina when a hurricane approached. Heavy rain quickly flooded the campground and rose on both sides of the road we took on our escape to the north. Occasionally the water engulfed the road and the land on both sides, creating the uncomfortable sense that we were driving IN the ocean.
I learned to respect hurricanes. My dad and mom often told stories of the huge 1938 and 1955 storms that had inundated parts of our home state, Connecticut. When my brother moved to Gulf Coast of Mississippi, I saw the damage that had been done years earlier by Hurricane Camille.
With Hurricane Irene due here in Maine in several hours, we have battened down our coastal home and are about to stow the deck furniture at The Naturalist's Notebook, which sits just a few hundred yards up the road from Seal Harbor beach. We won't get swallowed up by the Atlantic storm swell, but the beach and the coastal road near here may not fare so well. The campgrounds in Acadia National Park are being shut down, so we're absorbing a family of five into our house temporarily. Should be a memorable couple of days. The highest winds we've experienced at our house have been about 60 mph—and I hope that that record is still standing 48 hours from now. I'd be eager to hear what you fellow East Coasters are going through.
Our Thursday night event at the College of the Atlantic was a grand success. Dr. Lilian Pintea, the vice president of conservation science for the Jane Goodall Institute, delivered an engrossing talk on the state of chimpanzees and how the institute is using new technology to help study and protect them and their rapidly vanishing habitat in Tanzania, Uganda and Congo. I might try to post a video of part of his talk if I can figure out how. Below are a few photos from the event and the Jane Goodall celebration that preceded it at the Notebook.
Sweet 16 Update: Meet the Final Four
Even as the Hurricane Irene has forced the cancellation of other major sports events, our Sweet 16 Honey-Tasting Tournament has continued. Visitors to the Notebook continue to dip their ice-cream sticks into jars of competing honeys and then vote for the one they like better. We have narrowed the field from 16 honeys to a Final Four and are about to start the semifinals. Here's the skinny:
Semifinal One: Italian Sunflower vs. Maryland Bamboo (actually that pesky invasive species Japanese knotweed)
Outlook: On paper, the Italian Sunflower has the edge—more exotic locale, creamier texture, more popular plant—but on the tip of an ice-cream stick, who knows? Just as the University of Maryland Terrapins use the phrase "Fear the Turtle" in supporting their basketball team, fans of the Maryland honey declare, "Fear the Knotweed."
Semifinal Two: Maine Wild Raspberry vs. Oregon Wild Red Huckleberry
Outlook: A clash of the titans! Maine Wild Raspberry, the defending Sweet 16 champion, reached the semis by crushing unheralded but highly tasty Massachusetts Breakwind, 30-11. Oregon Wild Red Huckleberry, a tournament newcomer, shocked longtime Sweet 16 watchers by annihilating New York Basswood—one of the alltime greats—42-18 in the quarterfinals after crushing California Avocado 40-17 in the opening round.
Maine Wild Raspberry is one win away from becoming the first two-time champion. But Oregon Wild Huckleberry comes from a region that has produced some of the Sweet 16's best honeys (who can forget 2009 champ Washington Fireweed?), and it has so far shown an elegant, refined style that suggests greatness. Stay tuned...or stop in.