The following is a re-post of my post last Thursday at Write on the Water, where it received a resounding lack of comments. Perhaps the subject matter may have been a bit questionable. Judge for yourself… I felt it would be of interest.
While the calendar claims that it’s only the beginning of March, there’s no denying it’s been an unusually warm winter here in the northeast. Buds are swelling on the trees, the crocuses have been blooming for weeks, even hyacinths have been clawing their way through the dirt, reaching upward like green zombie fingers towards the sunlight, all well ahead of schedule. And this leaves me wondering: will Floater’s Week come early this year?
What is Floater’s Week? It’s a local event on the waters surrounding New York City. NYC and its neighboring communities hold the title as the nation’s largest metropolitan area, with roughly nineteen million people living in a region bordered by the Atlantic and laced with harbors, bays, vast rivers and hidden creeks. It’s a city of bridges and tunnels, over two thousand, in fact. Lots of people, lots of water, and lots of access to that water.
With those statistics, it’s a given that over time, a certain percentage of deceased bodies might eventually find their ways into said waters. Drowning victims, boating accidents, bridge jumpers, and unfortunate fatalities of criminal activity. As air in the lungs is replaced with water, a body will sink to the bottom, and so long as that water is cold, decomposition is slowed and the corpse will stay put, more or less. But once the days grow longer and water temperatures rise, bacterial activity and decomposition speed up, producing gases that make them buoyant, bringing these bloated bodies bobbing back to the surface in a synchronized resurrection.
So there you have it. Floater’s Week. Annually, that perfect mix of conditions usually arrives sometime around mid-April, though, like fishing, it varies based upon a number of factors including position of the body in question and whether or not they may have been additionally ‘weighted’, so to speak, as well as depth, current, hours of sunlight and so on. And yes, in case anyone is wondering, I have encountered a floater or three in my time on the Hudson. Around here, we see it as a sign of spring.
(And here’s a nice, upbeat song by Justin Townes Earle, titled ‘Harlem River Blues’, about taking a permanent swim in the Harlem River.)