28-Feb-2006 -- As I had been in the Corpus Christi area for several days for the purpose of GIS and GPS in education, a confluence expedition seemed like the perfect way to end the trip. The day before, I served with several excellent colleagues to advise Del Mar College on their innovative educational program in the geographic information sciences. This program makes pathways for students to pursue careers in geotechnologies as they move from secondary school to Del Mar College to Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.
Today I had the privilege of teaching GIS and GPS workshops at two area high schools. The teachers and students with whom I worked gave me great hope that they will be able to use these geotechnologies to tackle 21st Century problems of biodiversity, urban sprawl, water quality, natural hazards, and other issues.
While still in Colorado, I contacted a GIScience professor I know, Dr. Loon, at Texas A&M University, in the wild hope that someone could take me in a boat into Aransas Bay to the confluence. Dr. Loon put me in touch with John Adams, a research specialist in the University's Division of Nearshore Research. We arranged a meeting at the Rockport public boat ramp on the last afternoon in February. I could scarcely believe my good fortune, but I wouldn't allow myself to get (too) excited about it...yet, just in case the weather turned sour or John was kept busy at the university.
I finished teaching at the last high school of the day at 3:45pm, and was soon traveling northeast along the Gulf of Mexico coast on US Highway 181 and Texas State Highway 35. I arrived at the fee station at the Rockport harbor at 4:20pm, where a cheerful woman waved me past, saying it was past time for fees. The road was built on a sand spit separating Aransas Bay from the estuary to the west. I parked and set the confluence as a waypoint, just over 5 km to the southeast.
John arrived less than 15 minutes later, towing a 21-foot boat with a quiet 4-stroke motor. He said the boat was a hand-me-down from the Texas Department of Game and Fish, best suited for quiet waters. As the wind was whipping the palms along the beach fairly well, John advised me to place anything I didn't want to get wet into a chest aboard the boat. We donned life jackets and raincoats, and set off at a slow pace due to the "no wake" rules in the estuary.
We voyaged past expensive homes built adjacent to the water and discussed hurricanes, coastal processes, and science. John told me about his Ph.D. dissertation plans and his research position that takes him onto the water several times per week. He uses GPS on the job and was therefore aware of the significance of our destination. Once clear of the estuary, we were less than 5 km from the confluence, and John motored the boat along at 30 km/hour into Aransas Bay. We crossed the Intracoastal Waterway. The waves seemed big to me, coming from landlocked Colorado, but they were nothing to John. Unexpectedly, we didn't get wet, and 15 minutes later, we were at the confluence!
John cut the motor, and we enjoyed about 10 minutes at the site, feeling quite "centered." The rocking waves made it difficult for me to snap pictures of the horizon, but it was a beautiful spot and a beautiful day, temperature at 70 F (21 C). We had drifted in those 10 minutes to over 300 meters from the confluence, so John motored us exactly to 28 North latitude. I was unable to get a photograph of this moment, but we sufficiently documented the site and fulfilled all requirements.
The confluence lies in Aransas Bay, which is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the barrier island that we could clearly see to the east. This region is famous for tourism, fishing, and oil and gas exploration and transport. I had been to 28 North twice before in Texas, and to 97 West in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. This was my first oceanic confluence since voyaging onto the English Channel to 51 North 1 East with Gordon Spence in 2004.
After another exhilarating voyage, we arrived back in the estuary right before sunset, at 6:20pm. This had to be one of the most beautiful confluence treks I had experienced. The gold sun was reflecting off the waters, off the marsh grasses, and off the brown and white pelicans. We chatted with someone who had just been practicing for an upcoming fishing contest. I tried to give John some money in return for his kindness to me, someone he didn't know before today. However, he assured me that he had fun and would take no payment. We parted ways and wished each other well. Another instance of the Degree Confluence Project bringing people together to share and appreciate our planet!