asakiyume: (holy carp)
When I was telling my father about the fish elevator and all those shad, he told me that he'd learned from a friend that mountain laurel, which blooms around now, is known as "the shad tree"--because when it blooms, that's when the shad run.

He just called to tell me I'd misunderstood: It's not that mountain laurel are called shad tree, but that there's another tree, that blooms at the same time as mountain laurel, called shad tree. Actually, several trees in the genus Amelanchier go by that name, including this, Amelanchier bartramaiana, the mountain shadbush (also known as oblong serviceberry--ahh, names):



(Source)



(Here's a photo from Flickr of mountain laurel--not a shad tree or shadbush--by Flickr user Robert Ferraro--you can click through to see it larger.)
Kalmia latifolia - Mountain Laurel

He also told me that there was a law in Boston in the 18th century that you couldn't feed apprentices shad more than twice a week... which gives you a sense of its plentifulness at that time (and its low regard). (I searched law+apprentices+shad and found confirmation in a Google books excerpt from The Literary Era: A Repository of Literary and Miscellaneous Information (published 1901), which says,
From a recently published report of the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, it would appear that similar troubles were not unknown in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. The low prices of fish tempted many master mechanics to keep their apprentices on a lenten diet. Shad were particularly common and particularly cheap--so common and so cheap, in fact, that they were considered fit only for Indians, helots, and apprentices. The apprentices revolted ... The youngsters ... triumphed so far that the law relating to indentures was changed so that the boys "were not to be fed on fish more than twice a week." (p. 298)
asakiyume: (holy carp)






Behold the powerful falls at the Holyoke dam. Holyoke Gas and Electric generates power here.



This dam is a barrier to fish that need to get upstream to spawn. There have been various means of solving this problem, but at present it's a literal elevator, a huge mechanism powered by giant turbines and with great chains that lift boxes of water, packed with fish, up above the falls. Yesterday Wakanomori and I went to see it--a marvelous experience!

It has very cute signposts:
Enter Fishway

In the informational room, there's a diagram that shows how the elevator works. You can see the giant turbines:

How the elevator works

And a tally of how many fish have been lifted: yesterday was a record for American shad. (In the colonial days, they used to say that when the shad were running, you could walk across the Connecticut river on their backs.)

Fish elevator totals

photos and videos of fish, people watching fish, people fishing, and massive machinery )


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