Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Into Louisiana

Louisiana...... mmm...... I'm sure I should know a thing or two about Louisiana but at the moment thing one is the Mississippi and thing two is New Orleans! However, I have a feeling I am about to find out a lot more, starting here with Mark's first full day in the state which is named after a king of France.... After 11 days to cross Texas, the largest state of the contiguous USA states, day 1 in Louisiana has taken him almost one third of the way across the state. The screen shot from Google Maps above is quite deceptive if you are hoping to get an impression of the lie of the land in Louisiana.

Basically, there is no high ground! The light shading of the SW of the state where Mark is at present is an area of high albedo (high reflectivity from light coloured fields). The darker areas follow the swampy, forested creeks.

East central Louisiana is, of course, dominated by the Mississippi and the view below shows 'Ol' Man River' on the right with an expanse of back swamps to the left.
What is interesting (and we can explore it when Mark gets nearer) is the fact that cultivation takes place right up to the edge of the Mississippi whereas there is none in the backswamp area. There is an explanation but it can wait!

In the south west of the state, where Mark began yesterday's stage, land use is more mixed and not dissimilar to what we saw in the east of Texas - even down to to paper mills such as those we saw yesterday....
This one is at De Ridder ...oops City of De Ridder as Wikipedia (with typical American hyperbole) states.

The coastal plain of Louisiana is crossed by numerous rivers such as the Calcasieu (below) displaying features similar to those seen yesterday along the Neches and Sabine rivers. Approximately 200 miles (320 km) long, it drains a largely rural area of forests and bayou (abandoned stream) country, meandering southward to the Gulf of Mexico. .... and despite what the tracker says, it is highly unlikely that Mark crossed at this spot!

Now, after all the talk in the last few days of ox bow lakes, I have tried a little experiment this evening. If it has worked, you should be able to see a short video file I made some time back for use in class showing how a meander can be cut off , develop into an oxbow and finally silt up. It took me a VERY long time to make but don't blink or you'll miss it! The river here is the Cuckmere in Sussex but the processes are the same all over the world.

Despite what the tracker appears to say, I think Mark is more likely to have crossed the Calcasieu at the bridge......

East of the Calcasieu crossing , there was a noticeable change in land use with fewer trees and much more cultivated land with some most attractive ploughing patterns. According to some farm statistics which I found for Louisiana, the most important cultivated crops in the state are cotton, sugar cane, rice and soybeans. It is impossible to tell what might be cultivated here but it certainly looks good from the air.....

Last 'port of call' yesterday was the town of Mamou, in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun country. It bills itself as 'The Cajun music capital of the World'. The Cajun link above gives a good historical explanation of Cajun culture - did you know that the Cajuns came to Louisiana as French speaking refugees from Nova Scotia in the mid 18th century?

What is striking about this landscape south east of Mamou is the sheer density of population - quite unusual in a rural area but an indicator of its productivity.

Added 24.02.08... In view of the latest news on the Artemis web site, it is probably best to draw a veil over the remainder of Tuesday's route. The geography pales into insignificance....

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