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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 306

Sept 22, 2015

Trickle, Gurgle and Swoosh

S U P E R M O O N ! !

Full Harvest Moon Memphis

Saturday Sept 26 2:30-8pm

Is it a plane? Is it a comet? Is it Dave Cornthwaite? No, it’s SUPERMOON!

If any of y'all are in Memphis Saturday afternoon/evening Sept 26th and looking to Howl at the Moon and "Get Wolfie" with a bunch of "LUNA-tics," see below for more info. Contact: John Ruskey Meet time: 2:30pm on Mud Island. Return: 8pm. (PS: Sunday is the official "Supermoon" but Saturday will almost be as good, and the moon will be rising over the shadow of the earth -- projected above the Pyramid in Memphis!).


Sat, Sept 26th 10am - 12noon

Colton Cockrum's Memphis River Warriors will be doing a Mississippi River Cleanup Sat Morning Sept 26th. If you're interested in helping make the river even more beautiful, contact Colton at:

Says Colton: “Our clean-up of McKellar Lake will take place Sept 26th from 10 a.m. to Noon. The location of our clean-up will be at the corner of Jack Carley Causeway and West Trigg Ave in Presidents Island. This will be a huge clean-up for us as we have about 150 people signed up for it thus far. With the waters being so high, for so long, we’ll have plenty of trash to conquer at our first fall clean-up.

Colton Cockrum, Ed.D.

Director of QEP, Academic Coaching & Support Services

University of Memphis


Researchers trace Mississippi River, listening and recording every trickle, gurgle and swoosh

Last week we reported on 120,000 gallons of clarified slurry oil disappeared into the Mississippi River near Columbus, KY. Maybe we need Monica Haller and Sebastian Muellauer to help locate the location of mysterious underwater presence?

From the New Orleans Advocate by Mary Rickard:

Ben Schenck, Panorama Jazz Band’s leader, is accustomed to listening to a multitude of simultaneous sounds but was surprised by the underwater cacophony heard through headphones at the Audubon Park “fly.”

“Most dramatic was when a bunch of boats went by and I heard different engine noises and a wave, as well as fish checking out the ORB (Open Research Buoy),” Schenck said. “We were hoping for mermaids,” he playfully added.

Listening experiences on the banks of the Mississippi River, featuring trickling, swooshing, gurgling and sometimes bleeping, are elements of a participatory artistic and scientific research project led by two former Studio in the Woods artists-in-residence.

Monica Haller’s 2014 “Ebb and Flow” residency had focused on creating a temporary field station to learn about Louisiana’s transitory, eroding landmasses. Her colleague, Sebastian Muellauer, whose specialization is industrial design, built the ORB, a community-driven and open-source water vessel designed to monitor and research endangered water ecosystems.

“That they are both catalogers and collectors became the common ground for this exciting new project,” said Ama Rogan, Studio in the Woods managing director.

Having already collected data from bayous, Muellauer and Haller wanted to create a systematic sound archive encompassing the length of the Mississippi from Haller’s current home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to her ancestral home in Plaquemines Parish.

Starting at the headwaters in Lake Itasca State Park, Minnesota, they drove along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which passes through 10 states.

“On one stop after another, we experienced incredible hospitality, meeting up with very cool people who are doing important and fun work that we have the pleasure to enjoy, listen to and learn from,” Haller said.

Outside Guttenberg, Iowa, they met Wes Modes, who invited them aboard his Shantyboat, a kind of floating cabin built like those historically used by itinerant workers, miners, dockworkers and farmers. Sleeping on the bow, they listened to river sounds while towing the ORB behind, recording through the hydrophone. Occasionally, they docked, allowing random curiosity-seekers to try out the headphones.

“When they were listening to the river — whether it was fish feeding in the churning waters below a dam, the quiet busyness of a Mississippi backwater, or the sounds of riverboat paddling downstream — people quickly gathered around to hear the river they knew in a completely different way,” Modes said.

A hundred miles south, the pair embarked the Twilight Riverboat, paddling from LeClaire to Dubuque, Iowa. Capt. Kevin Steir explained to them how dam construction has formed new islands and affected the river’s ecology.

Near Ferguson, Missouri, they met “Big Muddy” Mike Clark, an educational canoe outfitter, who swims daily in the river, always hearing “extraordinary” sounds 10 feet below the surface.

“What they are doing is capturing that sound and recording it,” he said.

Canoeing at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Clark took them to the place where the Lewis and Clarke began their expedition and to Chain of Rocks, where the ORB recorded silty turbulence rushing over a natural waterfall.

“It was a symphony of deep, dark percussive sounds,” Clark said.

After exploring Cahokia Mounds, archeological site of a pre-Columbian Native American city, they visited Trail of Tears State Park, where 13 Cherokee Indian groups were forced to cross the river during the winter of 1838-39.

Paddling nine miles from the mouth of the St. Francis River to Helena, Arkansas, with guide John “The River Gator” Ruskey, blues musician and founder of the Quapaw Canoe Company, the researchers recorded unprecedented sounds. The Lower Mississippi’s ecosystem has more than 230 fish and crustaceans, and some are noisy. The drum fish makes a staccato beat like a bongo drum, Ruskey said.

Their ingenious study of the “sonic environment” of the river opens up a whole new frontier, he added.

Near Arkansas City, Choctaw Island, an 8,300-acre habitat for deer, turkey, rabbits, and waterfowl was like a wilderness in the middle of the Mississippi River.

“Who would have known it was so wild?” Haller said.

Arriving in the New Orleans area, they set up several listening stations where residents could sit, lie and hear the water. They completed their audio research in Plaquemines Parish, where Haller hopes to someday build a permanent field station to help people more fully understand the fragility of Louisiana’s coastal environment.

“The sound recordings bring the physical body to the water body,” she said.

To learn more about technical aspects of the ORB visit or endangered waters research, see

Saturday, September 26, 2015, 2:30pm to 10pm

Chickasaw Bluffs Full Harvest Moon

17 miles on the Mississippi from Shelby Forest to Mud Island


Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015

Meet Place: BIG RAMP at Mud Island River Park

Meet Time: 2:30pm, shuttle leaves at 3pm

End Time: 8-10pm (depends on wind, towboats & etc)

Quapaw Provides: canoe, paddles, lifejackets and all necessary river gear, first aid kits, VHF Marine Radio, running lights, and all necessary emergency gear. Enamel plates & silverware for potluck supper.

Bring with You: Snacks, 2 water bottles, something to share for Potluck Supper. Shoes you don’t mind getting wet & muddy. sweater or fleece, long pants (or fleece). Mosquito repellant. Headlamp or Flashlight. Cell Phone in Ziplock.

Full Harvest Moon Description

This will be a special night to celebrate to the Full Harvest Moon, in the time of the Autumnal Equinox. Put in at Meeman Shelby Forest and paddle into the rich undulating colors of sunset as the river swirls between islands and floodplain forests. Make a supper landing, maybe build a fire, and enjoy the rising of the moon over the Mississippi River. Set off again in the canoe paddling now by the mysterious undulating light of the Full Moon past the mouth of the Loosahatchie River, the Wolf River, and then down along Mud Island and into the Memphis Harbor at the foot of Beale Street. The sandbars are as bright as snowfields in the full moon and the river glistens like shiny steel.

What makes this Moon a Supermoon?

This year’s Harvest Moon qualifies as a supermoon because the moon turns full about one hour after reaching lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth for the month. August, September and October will all be Supermoons in 2015.

Autumnal Equinox

Equinox literally means “Equal night” -- and equal day. In the Northern Hemisphere we will be leaving the throes of the long hot summer days as the earth rotates on its axis and will now be cooling off with longer nights and shorter days. This will be a spiritually charged night in conjunction with a Full Harvest Moon. Sunday, September 27th is the night before the actual Full Harvest Moon, but it will be 99% full! The moon will rise just before sunset and will be at its brightest as we paddle the flowing waters of the Mississippi coming into Memphis, the Pyramid, the “M” Bridge and all of downtown Memphis reflecting melismatically in the curvy language of river boils, eddies & ripples.

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation