By Elias Rodriguez
How many colors can water reflect? As a native New Yorker, I’ve spent many a day gazing into Manhattan’s East River and its companion Hudson River. The river view offers a change of perspective and a connection with the tug boats, ocean liners and commercial vessels passing by. This summer my family and I had the pleasure of taking our first cruise and I had time to reflect on the river. We sailed from Manhattan’s West Side across the Sargasso Sea to the Royal Naval Dockyard in majestic Bermuda. Our ship was the Norwegian Breakaway, a state-of-the-art vessel inaugurated in 2013 with New York City as its homeport. You can read about the ship’s eco-friendly design and technology in my previous blogs.
One striking visage throughout our voyage was the changing color of the water beneath our balcony view. Water color is affected by light and by what is dissolved and suspended within it. The sky and other factors impact the colors we see. While docked in Manhattan, the river was a shadowy miasma of green~brown~black – a living testimony to the city’s liquid legacy of combined sewer overflows. If you don’t know what a floatable is then you can catch up by perusing our annual report.
Once under way, we glided under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on the strait that connects New York’s upper and lower bays and functions as a thoroughfare for ships to travel from the Hudson River into the Atlantic Ocean. Here the water gradually gathered a hopeful grey tint.
Somewhere along the New York Bight, the waters became liberated and danced into an authentic blue. As dusk approached, my water color observations became elusive, but upon the enchanting sunrise the water had transformed into a regal violet blue. Indeed, on day two, well into our heading for Bermuda, the ocean was resplendent in its mantle of aqua, ultramarine, midnight and navy. A wondrous diversity of shades performed a ballet of sways and swells. As my mind’s eye wandered across sailor and pirate stories, the ship’s bow formed a buoyant bouquet of folds and foam. 673 nautical miles later, the clear waters and pink sands of Bermuda offered a welcome respite from the chaotic cacophony of city life.
As a first-time mariner, my Norwegian cruise granted me a renewed appreciation for how the color of the water is a vivid reflection of our care for planet Earth. The North Atlantic’s deep blue speaks volumes about our responsibility for a priceless, but limited resource. Conversely, the waters around most of Manhattan possesses an opaque hue which serves as a pungent wake-up call that human waste does not escape into some nameless vacuum. The enduring murk embracing the pier relegates any obscurity one might harbor about the impacts of waste water and our failure to address it. The psalmist wrote, “Deep calls to deep,” and surely judgment on our stewardship of the water is pronounced in living colors.
About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.