Fire Island from the air

By: shortfinals

Oct 25 2011

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, New York, United States

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Aperture:f/9
Focal Length:55mm
ISO:200
Shutter:1/320 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

It was a beautiful day. The Mesaba (Delta Connection) Canadair Regional Jet 900 had lifted off smoothly from Logan Airport (BOS). Flight 2542 was headed to JFK to connect with KLM/Delta 8444 to Manchester, U.K. (MAN). I’d managed to get the seat I wanted on the Boeing 757, but was not able to get the starboard window seat I wanted on the Mesaba flight. Ah well, I thought, at least I shall have some shoreline views to console me – and I did.

We had been cleared to descend, and were drifting slowly southwards, running parallel to the shore, preparatory to making that 90º turn to starboard to line up with the active runway at JFK. Suddenly, I saw it – the famous ‘Pencil’, the iconic water tower at the entrance to Robert Moses State Park! I just managed to grab my trusty Nikon, slip the anti-vibration mode to ‘on’, and snap off the shot you see above. The ‘Pencil’ is the nickname given to this water tower, because of its shape, which mimics that of an old-fashioned pencil, even down to the ‘eraser’ section at the base. It is a landmark (and seamark, for that matter) which can be seen for miles in this flat landscape; it is floodlit at night, too.

The westernmost section of Fire Island, to the west of the Fire Island Lighthouse Visitor Center, and lying half in the Town of Islip, half in the Town of Babylon, constitutes the Robert Moses State Park.  Robert Moses (1888 – 1981), the highly controversial urban planner for whom the Park is named, can be said to have destroyed more than he built. Indeed, it was more by good fortune than anything else that he was prevented from destroying Battery Park in New York. The Park itself was opened in 1908, and quickly became popular for its miles of fine, sandy beaches and booming surf. The fishing, both on the Atlantic side and in Fire Island Inlet is excellent, particularly during the season for Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) – the State saltwater fish of New York.

However, it wasn’t until the Robert Moses Causeway, through Captree State Park, was extended across Fire Island Inlet in 1964 that the State Park became heavily used in the summer season. You can see the Causeway entering the large ‘rotary’ around the ‘Pencil’ water tower to the bottom left of the photograph. Parking fees for vehicles are around $10, and the parking lot is starting to fill up nicely, even although this is a Wednesday! Off-road vehicles are allowed in the winter months, but only on certain portions of the beach, as some of the central sand dunes are environmentally sensitive. For those who don’t care to sunbathe or fish, there is a very enjoyable ‘pitch and putt’ golf course, near to the Atlantic Ocean.

You may be able to make out the tracery of a large radio tower to the left of the causeway, along with the boat docks and barracks of the United States Coast Guard Station Fire Island (part of the Long Island Sound Sector). This is commanded by a Chief Warrant Officer, USCG, and is staffed by 33 enlisted personnel. Security patrols are undertaken in local waters using five small boats.

All in all, the Robert Moses State Park is a very attractive piece of maritime real estate – and a lovely way to relax on a summer’s day! Five minutes later, we were on the ground at John F Kennedy International Airport, and I was looking forward to my evening flight across that blue Atlantic I had just seen.

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