Sunday, April 27, 2014

4/26/14 Trolley stop # 12 - Savannah's River Street

Trolley Stop #12 - River Street

     For the vast majority of visitors and citizens of Savannah, this view from River Street is the only water level view of the Savannah River they get.  If you are arriving from South Carolina, you will go across the Tallmadge Bridge pictured below.  Either way, you don't get the opportunity to appreciate that this is the largest single shipping terminal on the east coast of North America and the fourth largest port by volume in the United States.

     Given that shipping is Savannah's largest single industry, to miss this area is to miss a big part of the city.  Coming to our rescue is Rusty Batey, USGC Captain and owner of Zulu Marine Services.

Rusty Batey

     Some years back, Rusty and his father had a custom boat built that they were going to use to search for shipwrecks.  When BP had their big spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they approached the Batey's about buying their boat.  The Batey's refused, but offered to go to work along with their boat in the clean-up effort.  Since then, they have been involved in hurricane cleanup and most recently are considering getting involved in underwater surveying.

     We put in at Houlihan's Boat Landing at dawn.  Houlihans is about an eight mile drive upriver from Savannah.

     When the large ships come in to the port, they are laden with "containers."  A "container" is the box that you see on the back of semis on the highway.  Companies fill these big boxes with goods that are sold to people in other parts of the world.  The boxes are carried by train or by truck to a port and loaded on a big ship.  After traversing the ocean(s), the ships arrive here ready to be unloaded.

     The unloading is accomplished using "cranes" - big lifts that roll along the edge of the pier to where a ship is docked, then reach over the ship to lift off the containers.  There are other "cranes" used in ship repairs and outfitted with hooks to lift off cargo that will not fit inside containers.

     The cranes stand at the ready, awaiting a ship to pull up that needs to be unloaded. Behind them sits containers of goods waiting to be loaded back on the ships and exported from here to other countries.

     It is difficult to get a perspective on the size of these things.  Below is a picture of the base of a crane, and behind it are the containers that you usually see on the back of semi trucks.  On big cables in the middle is a sort of clamping device that grabs onto each container to lift it on or off the ships.

      Of course the stuff can't just sit here at the port - it has to be moved to the location that purchased it.  And United States manufacturers who have sold things overseas need a way to get the containers to the port.   A wide entryway allows trucks to arrive and depart, and a whole rail-road system that is not pictured here today handles additional traffic.

     But Savannah doesn't sit right out on the Atlantic Ocean.  It lies about ten miles  up the Savannah River.  When these huge ships come in they need to be guided up the river and eased into the proper position along the docks.  This is the role of the tug-boats.  These are large powerful boats in their own right, but when we see them they are usually dwarfed by the huge container ships.

     And of course, with any vessel, there are hazards to working around the water.

     Alongside the huge docks that handle the import/export cargoes, several of Georgia's largest industries have plants set up beside the river.  Clay is a huge export item from Georgia; I am told it makes up over 40% of Georgia's exports by volume.  This clay is used to put the gloss on paper for magazines and photos.

     The Dixie Crystal company has a sweet spot right on the river for one of their sugar plants.

    Paper mills are a huge contributor to the economy.  Here trees come in and reams of paper go out.

     And of course there are large quantities of chemicals and petroleum that must be shipped in and out.  I liked the artwork on the huge tanks below.

     Here is an interesting boat - all wrapped up and with a building to hide in.  Note how low to the water the profile is, but it is definitely not a submarine.  The Navy has been working on those stealth ships - maybe it is one of those.

    And on that note, just downriver is old Fort Jackson. This fort saw action in the War of 1812, and lies between Savannah and the Atlantic.

    There are two more trolley stops dealing with River Street, so we will cover other aspects of this area over the next three days.  One of the staples of River Street is Old Savannah Tours employee Lisa Wilmore, who has been selling tickets for the trolley on River Street for eight years now.    

Lisa Wilmore

     Lisa was born in Asheville NC and raised in Savannah, while her 29 year old daughter was born in Savannah and raised in Asheville.  She says her favorite part of the job is interacting with people, and that she does.  I sat and observed her interacting with folks for better than an hour.  She has a motherly instinct and gentle nature that people respond to.  The birds respond too - she practically has them trained to feed out of her hand.

     And today's parting shot was taken back up where we put in on the river. 

      I have never seen an "honor system" life jacket arrangement like this before.  Seems to be working - there are plenty of jackets there.

 Have a great Sunday everybody!!

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