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Often in danger, charting a path to Union's victory

During the Civil War, Coast Survey field staff scouted, mapped, cleared sunken ships from channels and placed navigation aids to help Union forces.Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has dug into its archives and found a trove of wartime cartography and accounts of topographers and hydrographers dispatched to the front lines to work as surveyors, boat pilots, and chart- and mapmakers for the Union cause.

Deployed in combat intelligence or combat engineering roles, Coast Survey field staff would scout, map, chart, pilot, clear sunken ships from channels and install navigation aids for Union forces, often while dodging bullets and artillery rounds.



Obscure names, notable deeds

When the war broke out, Charles Harrod Boyd’s survey team moved up to Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine, to get away from the fighting in South Carolina, where it had been working. While the Coast Survey schooner Arago, Boyd’s ship, was in Maine it captured two Confederate ships, Express and Alice Ball, that were trying to run a naval blockade in late summer 1861. The survey team moved back to South Carolina to work with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In May 1862, while doing survey work along the James River, Boyd captured six Confederate soldiers from the 24th South Carolina Regiment.



Inside Hurricane Irene

Dry air collapsed the eyewall, diminishing its feared winds, but the vast storm pounded the East Coast with flooding rain

Hurricane Irene as it looked at 8:32 a.m. on Aug. 28, just 28 minutes before making landfall in New York City, according to NASA. Its huge cloud cover blanketed all of New England and beyond.Computer modeling, satellite data, and high-tech instruments and sensors have taken the science of hurricane prediction to new heights, but Hurricane Irene — much anticipated as the storm of the century — confounded forecasters.
The storm proved to be much less violent than predicted. The reason: An unexpected infusion of dry air caused Irene’s wind-generating engine to sputter. Hurricanes are “full of surprises,” says Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the website Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com), who followed the storm’s development from start to finish. This one fooled Masters, as it did most other forecasters. It turned out to be more of a rain event than a wind-and-surge event.



Hurricane alarm too shrill?

On Aug. 29, the remnants of Irene moved into Quebec while Tropical Storm Jose and Tropical Depression 12 spun through the Atlantic.The alerts for Hurricane Irene were early, loud and clear. This could be that perfect storm forecasters had been dreading: a Category 4 hurricane perfectly aligned to rake the East Coast from the Carolinas to New England and wreak catastrophic damage on one of the country’s most populous regions.

“I am most concerned about the storm surge danger to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and the rest of the New England coast,” Jeffrey Masters, the Weather Underground’s director of meteorology, warned in a blog two days before Irene’s Aug. 27 landfall at Cape Lookout, N.C. “Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 to 15 feet of water to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded. I strongly recommend that all residents of the Mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk” and evacuate if emergency officials order it.



Florida feuding: Don’t drop the hook in my backyard

As cruisers prepare for their annual migration south, some snowbirds are finding unwelcome nesting spots in parts of Florida.A Miami Beach homeowner has been treating snowbirds like pesky starlings, blasting them with reggae music and training a searchlight on their boats at night to drive them off when they anchor behind his $5.3 million mansion. Seeking peace and quiet and a protected overnight anchorage, Jennifer Rider and Al Holden anchored their 34-foot Marine Trader, Close Knit, May 3 behind the estate on Sunset Lake while making their way to the Florida Keys.

“We had talked to a few people and they said it was a good little anchorage” — well-protected, on a small lake off the Intracoastal Waterway — “though we might have some trouble with a homeowner at one end,” says Rider, 53, of Kingston, Ontario.They didn’t know which end that was when they dropped the hook. “We didn’t go there looking for trouble,” she says. Trouble, however, found them.



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