Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Triathlon With Kids

The kids were all fired up tonight to play another game of One Ol' Cat (the snow is only about eight inches deep now, so it's easier to retrieve fly balls). Then we repaired to the kitchen table for a game of Clue. Finally, we descended to the basement to play a round of Guitar Hero. I suck, but it's fun anyway.

Jack Boucher on Connie Mack Stadium

Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium

Jack Boucher took this picture of Connie Mack Stadium in downtown Philadelphia in September of 1973. The Phillies and the Eagles moved out to Veterans Stadium in 1971, and Connie Mack was torn down in 1976. The Phillies have a nice new ballpark (currently called Citizens Bank Park), and I don't think there are too many tears shed over Veterans Stadium. Except that that Phillies did win their World Series there in 1980.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, we used to drive in to the city, have dinner in Chinatown and go see the Phillies. My mom reminded me the other day that often some kids would offer to "watch our car" for a dollar. Connie Mack Stadium was not in a great neighborhood, which I guess was one reason the Phillies opted to move to the Vet.

There's a great history of Shibe Park (Connie Mack) with some nice pictures at Billy Mupp on Connie Mack Stadium. Wikipedia article at Wikipedia on Connie Mack.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bridge Collection at Lehigh University

Plan of a Bridge Over the Mississippi River, at St. Louis

Lehigh University's library has a collection of books they call Digital Bridges. The plan of John Roebling's St. Louis bridge is from a book called Long And Short Span Railway Bridges.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Old Cat

Even though there is still a foot of snow here in our yard, my kids insisted that we go out and play our "traditional" opening game of one ol' cat, or shorthanded baseball. My dad used to play with us when I was a kid. I always heard it as "one-a-cat," but have discovered recently that it's really "one old cat." We played modified rules tonight: balls that went off the road and into the snow were foul. The field was quite narrow since the snowbanks are still taking up all of the shoulder and a bit of the road itself. We had a special field hazard as well when one hit ball struck our dog, who was wandering around in the infield.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Working Pictures II

Carl Weese has a wonderful new blog to accompany his picture-a-day blog, Working Pictures. His WPII blog focuses on longer-form work and has a bit more writing. He's starting off with his large-format series on drive-in theaters.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nuclear Lake Before the AT

Update and note on commenting (22 December 2016): This is the most-commented post on this blog (I'm not surprised). If you'd like your comment to appear, please don't post anonymously. I'd like to be able to contact you if I have any questions about your sources or other information. Thanks.

See other updates at the bottom of this post.

In December of 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the plutonium facility near the shore of Nuclear Lake, west of Pawling, New York. I taught physics at the Trinity Pawling School in Pawling during the late 1970s until 1981. Several times I explored the UNC (United Nuclear Corporation) property, which was gated, but not closed to public access. I also went to a couple of meetings of the Nuclear Lake Management Site Clearance Subcommittee, which was trying to make sense of the available data surrounding the accident and the current state of the property.

Accident Diagram
This diagram appeared in Nuclear Lake: A Resource in Question, prepared by the Nuclear Lake Management Site Clearance Subcommittee, published in January 1982.

The lure of an abandoned nuclear research facility where an accident had occurred was too strong to resist. I explored the property several times and took these photographs in 1981.

Plutonium Facility, 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

This photograph shows the plutonium building from the west, looking toward the lake.

Nuclear Lake Window, 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

Unfortunately, I don't remember if this window was in the plutonium building, but I suspect so.

Concrete Slabs, Nuclear Lake 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

These slabs and other debris littered the woods in 1981.

The previous post shows the property in March, 2008. The buildings are gone, though large clearings remain where the buildings stood.


Update (15 September 2011):

  • Here's an interesting article from Yankee Magazine (1994) about another nuclear accident.  It also mentions the Pawling UNC accident.
  • And another from the LA Times (1986) that talks about the decision to open the Appalachian Trail through the Nuclear Lake site.

Update (9 December 2017):

In December 1972 there was a fire and two explosions at the Gulf United Nuclear Corporation fabrication plant near Pawling, New York, where Pu fuel was being manufactured for fast breeder reactors. An undetermined amount of Pu was dispersed off-site,[39] so the event can hardly be less than INES level 4. A NAMS magnitude-4.0 event would be produced by the release of the order of just 10 g of 239Pu and 240Pu to the atmosphere; given that the fire and explosions were serious enough for the plant to be closed down, it is likely that the release could have been one or two orders of magnitude above that weight of Pu. Furthermore, the incidence of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in Pawling is apparently 3 in a town of 5000,[40] when the expected value would be 1 – 2 per 100 000 population. The CML Wikipedia webpage states, “The only well-described risk factor for CML is exposure to ionizing radiation.” So the CML cluster at Pawling suggests that at least one serious release occurred from the plant.
  • has a lot of information about Fukushima, but there's a document archive that also has a folder about Nuclear Lake. I scanned my copy of the Nuclear Lake Report and gave them a copy, so you can read the whole thing there if you want. It's not very conclusive.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake view photo by Ed Bacher

Nuclear Lake, in a hollow beneath West Mountain in Pawling, New York, is a beautiful spot with a troubled past.

When I was teaching physics at the Trinity-Pawling school in Pawling, the Appalachian Trail south of Pawling was a long roadwalk. The National Park Service bought a large parcel of woodland with the intent to reroute the trail. The process took several years however, because the property had been operated by the UNC (United Nuclear Corporation) and was the site of one of the few private uranium and plutonium research facilities in the United States. But nuclear research alone was not the main concern. In 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the north side of the laboratory, spewing an unknown amount of plutonium dust through the woods. United Nuclear cleaned up the property at a cost of $3 million, but local residents and Appalachian Trail hikers were concerned about the potential health risks.

In 1980, the old buildings and retention tanks were still there on the shore of Nuclear Lake, abandoned and decaying. Nearly 30 years later, the AT has been rerouted, and it now passes the site of the old laboratory and hugs the west shore of the lake. The old UNC sign and the buildings are gone now, though several large clearings remain.

Nuclear Lake shoreline photo by Ed Bacher