Mr Al B Tross – The Mendocino Coast ONLY Albatross – he lived at Point Arena

This blog is a story of serendipity. A while back I was talking to a lady visitor. She was admiring the detail on our layout (a common comment I might add). She said, “I love the seagulls on the Virgin Creek Trestle diorama. But, you know, you should have an albatross too – there used to be one in Point Arena.” Now I am an old time auditor trained to nod in a way that people think I believe them so I tucked her comment in the old noggin. This week this photo appeared on the radar:

Albatross Sign at Point Arena

Albatross Sign at Point Arena

The only info that came with the pic was the caption, “Albatross sign at Point Arena.” Now the words, “Laysan Albatross” are not words that I would normally associate with Point Arena. Could the lady be right? So I started scratching the surface. I quickly got this “hit” in an Audubon website:

For 19 consecutive winters, a particular Laysan Albatross has hung out in the cove at Point Arena in Mendocino County. Locals have named him Al the Albatross, and occasionally Al B. Tross, and the bird has been known to be pretty social. He’s even been known to get close to the occasional cold water surfer. Anyway, quite a legend has grown around this bird — books have been written, websites dedicated, and all the other things that have ensured the bird’s place in the lore. Word is that Al is likely not a breeding bird, as he’s usually at Point Arena when most of the breeding birds are at Midway Island or one of the islands off Mexico where all the breeding takes place. Laysan Albatrosses usually don’t go anywhere near land unless they are planning to breed, so Al’s annual visits give bird enthusiasts a rare opportunity to view one of these spectacular birds without going to sea. Anyway, posts to the Mendobirds list serve today seem to conclude that Al has ended his Winter 11/12 visit. He was last seen on March 20.

This was part of an article written by Garrison Foster in 2012.

Next I hit upon a blog about the Point Arena Pier “owned” by Ken Jones. This appeared in the April 2015 blog:

The “Cove Coffee” shop at the Point Arena pier held a modest crowd, with people sipping hot brew and peering at their newspapers shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday. Then the front door was flung open.

“The albatross is back!” a young, bearded man announced. “Just saw him come in and land.”

The customers all nodded and smiled. They were relieved, because the bird had vanished for almost a week. It was easy to understand why someone might get excited about seeing a bird with a 6- to 7-foot wingspan sail into the home cove. I jumped from my table and went to take a look.

This illustrious visitor is a legendary bird locals had named Mr. Al B. Tross, a wandering Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) who has wintered at this harbor in southern Mendocino County for fourteen consecutive seasons. Though the phenomenon of “”agrants” — individual birds who depart or are blown away from customary migratory routes — is well-known in the birding world, this albatross is something special. He’s not simply dropping by. It seems he has adopted Point Arena as his winter home.

This was a clip from the San Francisco Chronicle of February 1, 2007 written by Paul McHugh,

In another Audobon site post I picked up a bit more info:

Al” (or Alice?) is the Laysan Albatross that inhabits Point Arena Cove during the winter months. Typically Al arrives in the area late November or early December, stays for two to three months and then leaves in February or March. Al has done this regularly since the winter of 1994, when first recorded by Todd Easterla & Jim Booker.

“Al has not been seen since 2013.

Typically albatrosses come to land only to nest, and then in colonies on islands such as the Hawaiian chain for the Laysan Albatross, so Al’s behavior is very unusual. The bird is probably not a breeder because it shows up at Point Arena at the beginning of the Laysan Albatross breeding season and leaves at the season end. As Ron LeValley, biologist and specialist in marine birds says: “Al is somehow mixed up.”

Ron guesses the bird goes to the Gulf of Alaska for the summer where most Laysan Albatrosses go. The adult life expectancy of Laysan Albatrosses is unknown but is probably multiple decades. The Laysan Albatross wingspan is approximately 6.5 feet.

I thought – there must be pics of Al. There are – buckets of them. Here’s a gallery I have put together:

Now I have also been told there’s a great white that “lives” at Usal ……..

Snoopy’s Christmas vs. The Red Baron

I’ve been reviewing/listening to old “records” and vids of the holiday season that I grew up with and enjoyed. Among these, of course, were vids of Snoopy. With all the chaos in the world I thought this one was appropriate:

The Royal Guardsmen made this record. They were 5 guys from Ocala, Florida. They recorded a quartet of songs inspired by Snoopy the Beagle in the “Peanuts” comic strip between 1967 and 1968.

Before Bandsaws there were Circular Saws

The ability of the Union Lumber Company mill here in Fort Bragg  to cut very large logs was due to the introduction of a Band-saw in place of a circular saw. The circular saws were very  wasteful because of their thickness. You can see a circular saw in operation at Sturgeon’s Mill at Green Hill road in Sebastopol, CA.

The sign for Sturgeon's Mill is painted on an old sawblade used in the mill's operations

The sign for Sturgeon’s Mill is painted on an old sawblade used in the mill’s operations

Some of the blades were very large to handle the huge tree trunks:

Sawblade that is taller than a man

Sawblades that are taller than a man

The circular sawbades’ replacement was a band saw blade. This pic shows one similar to those used in the Union Lumber Company.

Giant Bandsaw being manhandled

Giant Bandsaw being manhandled

Now suppose you were building an Egyptian monument (pyramid?) 5,000 years ago. Is this how they cut those blocks of granite? A giant circular saw with a copper blade

Eygyptian Circular Saw with a Copper blade to cut granite blocks

Egyptian Circular Saw with a Copper blade to cut granite blocks

The Finns in Fort Bragg and Finnish Folk Songs and Poetry

Soon after I came to Fort Bragg in 2000 I became fast friends with Hank Simonson.

Hank was born in 1917. Hank’s father had emigrated from Finland and come to Fort Bragg to join Hank’s uncle falling trees.  His father and uncle emigrated to escape from the Russian pogrom. Hake, Hank’s real name in Finnish, was born nine months after his mother arrived. Hank’s family, like many immigrant families, spoke their native language at home and he did not hear and learn English until he went to school. Hank’s father played the violin and his brother was accomplished on several instruments. The Finns were a large community in Fort Bragg and had their own Sulo band – here’s a picture of the band:

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

The Band had ceased to exist many years before I knew Hank. My one and only experience of Finnish Poetry and Folk Songs came when Hank and his beloved wife Flo and I attended what may well have been the last evening of Finnish Folk Song and Poetry ever held in Fort Bragg. Per Wiki, “The folk music of Finland is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics of the Kalevala metre. Karelian heritage has traditionally been perceived as the purest expression of Finnic myths and beliefs, thought to be spared from Germanic and Slavic influences. ”  I was very polite and said I liked it but in all truth I didn’t understand a word of it!

Now you know how I got “into” Finnish Folk Music and Poetry.

Whilst most of our train Club members think I am a right pillock I do have an appreciation of classical music. Recently I have been listening to a VERY talented Finnish violinist named Pekka Kuusisto.  Whilst looking up his music up on YouTube I found  this vid which is both hilarious and enables you to learn Finnish.

1906 Earthquake -Surface Evidence

An intriguing question was posed to me today by a visitor who was EXTREMELY surprised to learn that Fort Bragg along with every other town along the Mendocino Coast was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake. The question was, “Was there any evidence of the earthquake that a person could see absent the damage to structures?”

I told the man about the Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes National Park – he hadn’t heard of it. I also told him that I had one, maybe two pics of the fault rupture on the surface. I told him I would post the pics here if I had them. Well. I do have them and here they are:

A split on the north end of East Street from the earthquake. East St. is now the Embarcadero. San Francisco, California: 1906.

A split on the north end of East Street from the earthquake. East St. is now the Embarcadero. San Francisco, California: 1906.

1906 earthquake rupture at ground level

1906 earthquake rupture at ground level

Also in my file were two clips about the 1906 earthquake that were contained in out of state newspapers:

Cincinnati Post April 19th 1906

Cincinnati Post April 19th 1906

Portland Evening Telegram of April 19th 1906

Portland Evening Telegram of April 19th 1906

The headlines pretty well tell the story.

Sanborn Map of Caspar

Let’s hear from Wiki first:

” The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The maps were originally created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Since they contain detailed information about properties and individual buildings in approximately 12,000 U.S. cities and towns, Sanborn maps are invaluable for documenting changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades. Sanborn held a monopoly over fire insurance maps for the majority of the 20th century, but the business declined as US insurance companies stopped using maps for underwriting in the 1960s. The last Sanborn fire maps were published on microfilm in 1977, but old Sanborn maps remain useful for historical research into urban geography. 

The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would be covered by multiple volumes of maps. Between editions of published volumes, map updates were sent out as correction slips. Sanborn employees, called “pasters” or “correctors”, would visit subscribers’ offices to paste the slips on top of the old maps.The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.

The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding; the location of windows and doors; street names; street and sidewalk widths; property boundaries; fire walls; natural features (rivers, canals, etc.); railroad corridors; building use (sometimes even particular room uses); house and block number; as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials; the strength of the local fire department; indications of sprinkler systems; locations of fire hydrants; location of water and gas mains; and even the names of most public buildings, churches and businesses.Unique information includes the location of the homes of prominent individuals, brothels, and more ephemeral buildings including outhouses and stables.”

There were two Sanborn Maps of Caspar. This one was published in January 1891 [cut and paste to see it]:

This one was published in November 1898:

There was another Sanborn Map of Caspar published in November 1909 but, alas, it is not in the Library of Congress yet.

Using the +/- up/down and side to side keys you can zoom in on the totally amazing detail encapsulated in the map.

This Topo map shows Caspar today [click on map to enlarge].

Topo Map of Caspar

Topo Map of Caspar

Anyone who can correct my info PLEASE contact me.


The Orient Express in Chocolate – A First Class Ticket to Decadence

I am a chocoholic. I am a train addict. Getting the two into one blog is tricky. I did it before with this post. This being the season of the family giving me chocolate and everything else that’s good (but not good for me – Type 2 Diabetes) I felt I should see if I could find a “thingy” combining chocolate and trains.

Whilst it is not “au courant” – it happened is 2017 – it does fit the bill. Godiva to mark the launch of the film Murder on the Orient Express, luxury Belgian chocolatier Godiva created a 10-foot replica of the Orient Express which was displayed in St. Pancras Station in London.

If somebody wants to give me one I’ll VERY happily eat it. Imagine, 3,000 bars of chocolate!!!!!!