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Volume xviii, Issue 13 ~ Apri 1 to April 7, 2010

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Icebergs Ahead

Wonder where all that winter snow went?

by Diana Beechener

Maryland’s Chesapeake Onboard Network (CON) — a boating safety organization — has hired 41 iceberg watchers to keep their eyes on Bay waters starting April 1. Reports of bergs traveling down Bay tributaries have been floating through Maryland water communities since early March.

After two February snowstorms dumped more than 60-inches of snow on Chesapeake Country, plows and heavy equipment stacked snow into mountainous piles throughout the region.

New problems came with the thaw. As the snow melted, it compacted and, according to authorities at CON, formed icebergs that slid into Bay tributaries.

These icebergs are already being blamed for three sunken boats in the Northeast Bay and a school of rockfish confused into swimming in circles. CON reports that the fish were most likely concussed when an iceberg calved into the water.

To prevent further environmental disasters, the state has granted CON $2.4 million to refit 41 Bay buoys with iceberg watching platforms. The refitted platforms feature a deck, one chair and a pair of binoculars.

All watchers graduated from a three-week training course after learning to distinguish chunks of ice from other common Bay debris such as chip bags, beer cans and jet skiers.

The cost of construction and training, however, did not cover CON’s communication devices budget. Radios are on backorder until early June. For now, watchers must yell a hardy watch out! on spotting icebergs.

To warn fish, the watchers have consulted with marine biologists on a Warning System for Marine Life. According to CON, all watchers have an oar on their platforms. After a verbal warning to nearby boaters, watchers must use the oar to slap the surface of the water while yelling run fishies run! The combination of sounds, experts say (and all fishers know), should suffice to warn off fish.

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