Tuesday 29 October 2013

Beautiful Boston.. and around!

Boston skyline from the harbour. 
So after last weeks antics I didn't think that Boston could get any better. It did!

So the nice man in my hotel who saw me looking entirely clueless on my first day, took pity on me and drew out a map of things he thought I would be interested in.

First things first - whale watching in Massachusetts Bay - in particular, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The boat left Boston Harbour and took just over an hour to reach the sanctuary, and we were lucky enough to see 5 humpback whales, which included one baby, which was less than one year old (they leave their parents at around 11 months). However, as I had chosen to go on a Saturday, it was extremely busy and I'm surprised the boat didn't tip over with the amount of people hanging over the side! It was amazing to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, but they got so close to the boats that it worried me - is this how whales get killed by boat propellors and fishing nets? The guide on the boat told us 'not to worry' that the boat was going to hit the whales, and that scientific research shows that they actually come closer to boats each year... Are they becoming habituated to people following them around on boats? We weren't the only boat there, as you can see from my pictures.

The lesser spotted tourist boat.. I mean, humpback!
Two humpback whales.

The Harvard campus.
Since I had the rest of the day free I decided to take a trip to Harvard. I took a walk around the beautiful campus, which was nice to see because of the 'fall' colours, and the Natural History Museum, which is also on the grounds. The campus was beautiful and Dr. Tlusty had told me that I needed to see the glass flower exhibit - a collection of over 3,000 model flowers created by glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolph. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades (1887-1936), and the collection represents 847 plant species.

The Salem Witch 'Museum'.
Since it's October, and the Americans (and Canadians!) go mental for Halloween, I thought it would only be appropriate to head to Salem for the day on Sunday. Strangely, aboard the 45 minute ferry I saw a familiar face, and ended up talking to a lady who works at Swansea University, in my building! Small world. 'Haunted Happenings' is a month long festival around Salem which, in a way, profits from it's famous 'Witch Trails', in 1692 when 20 people, 14 women and 6 men, were executed. Salem is older than Boston by 4 years, and is home to the Burying Point Cemetery, the second oldest burying ground in the United States. It has lots of cool history, but at this time of year the witch museum is the most popular. I was able to see Salem Maritime National Park, a National Historic Site, which is home to 'Friendship of Salem', a replica of an East India Trading Co. cargo vessel built in Salem in 1797. I ate lunch on Salem Common, where some of the 'Hocus Pocus' movie was filmed, and was also able to take a 'tram' tour of the city. On the ferry home I met a lovely family from Edinburgh!

Salem harbour by night.

Bunker Hill Monument. 
On Monday I explored Boston some more, finally finishing the Freedom Trail. It took me to Bunker Hill Monument, built to commemorate the first major battle of the American Revolution when American colonists faced British forces during the famous 'Battle of Bunker Hill' in 1775. I also stumbled across the Boston Navy Shipyard (formerly known as Charlestown Navy Yard). It closed in 1974, but is now a part of Boston National Historical Park. There is a museum and visitors centre, and you can see where they used to build and repair the boats in the dry docks. The USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young are also displayed, representing the types of vessels built there.

Behind the scenes at WH aquarium. 
On Tuesday I took a bus down to Woods Hole, a small town south of Cape Cod, as I was really interested in seeing the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). It is one of the leaders in marine research and they have an Ocean Science Exhibit Center, where you can learn about their research, including the discovery of the Titanic wreck with their submersibles. I really wanted to visit the Marine Biological Laboratory, another private, nonprofit institution, but the public areas were closed for the season. I did get to visit the The Woods Hole Science Aquarium which was established in 1885, making it the USA's oldest marine aquarium. It is owned by the government and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, in partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory. It was rather small, but the public were able to go behind the scenes and see how it is run. They also had a couple of seals.

The jetty at Martha's Vineyard. 
Because alot of places were closed due to the off-season, I had a few spare hours before my bus back to Boston and decided to take a ferry across to Martha's Vineyard. I actually had no idea what Martha's Vineyard was until I got on the ferry, but I figured that there were alot of people heading there so there must be alot to do! It's an island south of Cape Cod, mainly a summering haven, as the temperature is higher so people go there for their summer vacation, it has lots of nice beaches and the famous gingerbread houses in Edgartown.  It also has a bunch of nice shops, and it was nice for me to just walk around and take some pictures of the beautiful harbour.

Wednesday was my last day at the aquarium, so I met with Michael and Anita for last minute checks on some work we are finishing up together.. and I had one last walk around Boston before leaving for Virginia!
The Charles River Reservation.

Dr. Michael Tlusty, myself and Anita Kim. 
Dr. Tlusty had enough of me by the end of the week...

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