Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the water's edge...

It's not often the temperature in New Orleans is considered mild, or even more rarely, falls on the lower end of the national average. I hope those of you not used to the heat in the Northeast are holding up ok. Sounds like you'll get a little break today.

On the other hand, things are not so great down here either. Crude oil has moved up the Rigolets into Lake Pontchartrain. Fishing has been halted in the eastern part of the lake.

If you've ever been to southern Louisiana, you've noticed the water. The people of this state have a very intimate, if occasionally uneasy, relationship with water. And it's not just the Gulf of Mexico or the Mississippi River I'm speaking of. Forty percent of the total wetlands in the lower 48 states are in Louisiana. Even along the 'dryer' western coast, swamps extend 30 miles inland. Total state-wide wetland area is put at something like 3.3 million acres, one half million of which lie in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. The lake itself covers over 600 square miles.

New Orleans was originally built and to a large degree has endured because of it's location on the water. On one side, the Mississippi, on the other, Lake Pontchartrain [really an estuary]. It's a natural portage spot. To this day, New Orleans is the second largest port in the world in terms of tonnage. Products arriving and leaving through the port affect 62 percent of the population of the U.S. As of several years ago, the number of people with jobs directly connected to the operation of the Port of New Orleans was put at 380,000.

Fishing for money and/or food has a long tradition in the area. My own family owns a 'fish camp' where we often retreat on long weekends and holidays. By and large, we're city folks, but we own fishing boats. Both my husband's and my families have been involved in the shrimping business in the past. One family is still involved.

Before the Deepwater Horizon debacle began, commercial fishing in Louisiana was a 2.6 billion dollar industry. Even in this day of cheap imports and stiff competition, Louisiana still supply's 25 per cent of the seafood produced in the continental U.S. That's an awful lot of fish....and an awful lot of money for a very poor state.

Of course, the state's oil industry is worth a whole lot more than that to the state's economy, but economics aren't really the point of this post, even as important as that is. The point is the water.

In 1929, Blind Uncle Gaspar recorded a very beautiful song, "Sur Le Borde de L'Eau [On The Water's Edge]. It was old even then. It's also very sad. A song about the loss of a lover, a lost ring.

It's not exactly what I had in mind to finish off the post, but ya see, I couldn't find a song about the loss of a sea, a river....a lake.

It will have to do. The lyrics may not be exactly right, but the feeling-tone is dead on.

[the picture is of some of the lake shore camps, built on stilts out into the water, which used to line the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, the last remaining few were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ]


  1. la belle chanson qu'il chante

  2. Like the true British stereo type I can't speak a word of French beyond ordering a sandwich & a drink. Still (as you say) a beautiful song though.


  3. I can't even begin to imagine the enormous effect Katrina and Deepwater have had on your beautiful state. Here's hoping that things will get back to normal and maybe even better for you all. New Orleans is still at the top of my 'Places I Must Visit One Day' list. Best wishes, Mark (Melbourne, Australia)