Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Your horse naturally won

Ten or so years ago I had the privilege of using a cesium proton magnetometer on a historic site in Saratoga Springs, NY. The EPA required an archaeology survey of the Superfund Priority Site, a former "city gas" production facility across from "Red Spring #1" on Excelsior Ave. in and under an active Niagara-Mohawk work/office yard. The company I worked for was sub-contracted be another company looking at contamination of the Groton, CT Navy sub properties, currently in the news "to be closed". A large water control feature ran under the "gas light" production facility emptying storm water into the nearby lake. The idea, despite the large current natural gas line under the facility, was to try to document the extent of the remains there without disturbing the active facility. The cesium proton magnetometer had a harness which held a small flip top computer running MS software, a car "starter switch" to take the readings (came also with software to sort out the up one line down another sequencing, could also be used in "timer" mode taking readings as one walked across various landscapes) and was the size of a small beverage can on the end of a short light aluminum rod, very efficient. Just before I was exposed to this (103 one summer day) it, I saw what I think may have been the same equipment being used by Australian archaeologists in Southeast Asia tracking down the origin of the "celadon" ceramic story, partly deduced from underwater archeology research. They found whole acres I think of kilns buried beneath about 2 meters I think of alluvium, which they found with the magnetometer, as firing earths creates magnetic anomalies. We used it to find the former "gasholder" base (it's twin still stood and eventually was placed on the US "National Register of Historic Places") and the various maps and photos were "ground truthed" from the survey, and shown to be still extant, in ruins, one brick "ring" the concrete block office building was cracking over (nearby fault line also, divides the Taconic from the Adirondack regions) as the site settled. It has almost all the stages of gas/electric production on site, too. However, I can't recall who made it. It came in a white "photon torpedo" looking case (aka "Star Trek") via parcel post, and was repaired once while we used it quite quickly. Any Aussie's know the thing's name? I should have said that "city gas" comes from coal. Coal is "cooked" and the gas stored in large chambers which ran inside large brick cylinders, an iron vessel floating up and down on water on wheels and interior tracks as the pressure was created and relieved, into the "city gas" system, mostly for lighting. A by-product is "coal tar" which can be pretty nasty stuff in water sources, though it was the catalytic conversion of coal tar which produced aspirin and aniline dyes in Germany creating a boom in their economy before World War I. A brick "gasholder" in Troy, NY is the symbol of the "Society For Industrial Archeology" of which I am a member. George Myers, Jr. Many shovel tests later..

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