08-Mar-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer for the US Geological Survey, successfully visited 30 North, 90 West, following the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers in New Orleans, Louisiana USA. The Association of American Geographers has contributed to the advancement of geography since its founding in Philadelphia in 1904, encouraging the application of geographic research in education, government, and business. What better way to end an excellent dialogue with approximately 4,000 geography colleagues from around the world than a visit to the nearest confluence to the conference site? Besides, this was not just any confluence, but a ten degree and a 30 degree confluence as well. In addition, the confluence is at the edge of UTM Zones 14 and 15. What more could a geographer ask for?
Accompanying me to the confluence was Sophia Linn, program coordinator of the Colorado Geographic Alliance , a professional organization of over 6,000 primary, secondary, and university-level geography instructors. As Ms. Linn and I promote GPS and geography education in our work, we made excellent traveling companions in our confluence quest.
At 10am local time, we traveled to the neighborhood of the confluence. I must admit, the going was not rough: Indeed, from the conference site at the downtown New Orleans Hyatt Hotel, we took a taxi! After driving east on Interstate Highway 10 and across the ship canal at Almonaster Avenue, we passed under a massive freeway interchange, bridge, and barriers to help minimize the impact of hurricanes on the low-lying area. The entire region lies on deltaic deposits of the Mississippi River, and all rocks have to be trucked or shipped in from elsewhere. We turned south on Elaine Street at a junkyard, where hulks of cars sat rusting in the swampland and mist that soon enveloped us.
After leaving the taxi at approximately 10:30am local time, we hiked west along several roads through the wooded swamp. We passed ship and railroad loading structures and a few wonderful herons among the trees. We spotted a large bunch of circus balloons tied to a rock, which would have been the perfect marker for a confluence, but it was approximately 200 meters too far east. Shortly thereafter, a New Orleans policeman drove up. After explaining our field-based geography project, he laughed and told us to "be safe." The terrain we were hiking through did look, after all, like the perfect place to dump a body. I wish I had not thought of that, as it did give me the creeps during the rest of the hike. It was Saturday morning and the Port of New Orleans in this area was fairly quiet. The weather was exactly what I was hoping for our visit to the Louisiana coast--65 degrees F, humid, foggy, mysterious, and 65 degrees F.
We arrived at the confluence site shortly before 11am. The confluence lies in a wooded swamp, south of the railroad tracks and south of two piles of scrap wood. The photograph of the swamp indicates why we declined to wade south through the last 12 meters to face whatever critters might be waiting for us. After taking photographs and a digital movie, we departed, arriving back at the taxi at approximately 1130am.
During most of my confluence visits, some sort of unexpected adventure lies in wait, and thus far, everything had gone smoothly. Little did I know that on the way back, the taxi driver Vahid would become lost several times, and we would not arrive at the French Quarter for quite awhile. Although we attempted to keep our geographic advice to a minimum because Vahid had just recently moved to the area from Bosnia, we were thankful to arrive at the banks of the Mississippi River safely.