Friday, August 7, 2009

Kinsman Pond Mystery??


(Photo From: http://peakbagger-paul.com/south_kinsman/south_kinsman3.htm)

What happened at Kinsman Pond sometime during the 1970's may or may not surprise you. Either way, the details surrounding the incident remain a mystery. Here's the story and my subsequent research:

A few winters ago while hiking with a friend in New Hampshire's White Mountains, we decided to summit both North and South Kinsman Mountains. After summiting South Kinsman and heading back to the North, we made the decision to bushwhack off of the col between the two peaks and down to Kinsman Pond. Along the way, my friend told me a tale involving Kinsman Pond and years later I grew intrigued. At the beginning of the summer I decided to try to research what happened. "Well What Happened?" you may be asking. Ok, I'll tell you...

On the easterly shore of Kinsman Pond is the Kinsman Pond Shelter. It offers a place of refuge and slumber for AT Hikers and weekend warriors. There used to be a latrine here, and one year the Appalachian Mountain Club began to undertake it's task of emptying the latrine of its contaminants. A helicopter was called in and the large containers which housed the human waste was being airlifted out of the location. Until... something broke mid flight... and the containers fell into and spilled into Kinsmand Pond. Thats right folks... all of you people who have either retrieved your drinking/cooking water from this pond or have swam in it... you guessed it.. you swam in a contaminated body of water.

So I began to wonder if the story was true or folk-lore and I began a summer long investigation into the incident. Here's how it turned out. I rehashed the story with the friend who originally told it to me. This person is a pretty reliable source of information having hiked all of New Hampshire's peaks multiple times. I'm certain they would want to remain anonymous so I'm going to leave it at that. But I will say that this person knows more about these mountains then most having lived here their entire life. I then turned to Steve Smith; editor of the AMC's White Mountain Guide, area historian and author of various other white mountain books detailing its infinite history. Steve is one of if not THE source for White Mountain info... and Steve also told me that the story is true...

So I called the AMC on the hunt for any kind of documentation for the case. In calling the AMC's Joy Street headquarters in Boston, I was bounced around from one person to the next. I spoke with 3 different people before finally being led to the AMC's Historical Archives. "I'll dig around and see if I can find anything. I'll call you at the end of the week." I received no call. Two weeks went by before I called her again... she had no information for me.. and when I told her Steve Smith said it had happened, she agreed that he was a reliable source. "But I'll keep looking for documentation and call you Monday." Monday came and went... never a call. I've called her twice since.. leaving messages to which I have received no reply...

So then I went to the Department of Environmental Science (DES)... I was tossed around to 2 different people there and they both had nothing. ON of those individuals has worked for the Department for over 30 years and recalls nothing of such an incident. An online search of water samples only indicates an overabundance of Sulfur and Magnesium in the water. Then I called the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development... nothing there. Then I went to the White Mountain National Forest, I was tossed around there before I was given the number to their historian. I told her of the story and she sounded more interested in snickering at me over the phone then actually helping me locate any information. She told me she'd look through their archives for documentation and that she'd call around and get back to me by the first of the following week. It's been a month since that phone call and I've called her twice and left two messages..

So I took a trip to the UNH Dimond Library to look into their collection of old AMC White Mountain Guides. My original source of this story told me that the 1969 AMC Guide stated something about using the water from Kinsman Pond as a place for reliable drinking water, then the 1973 edition stating that it no longer is potable. I had to find out for myself. So, to the collection I went and I sifted through copies of the AMC Guide Book dating all the way back into the 1930's, 19 years after the trail to Kinsman Pond was built by trail crews. All of the editions of the AMC Guide book stated the same thing. (See photo below) "The Pond Water Is Not Used For Drinking." This leads me to believe that the pond water was never actually used for drinking to begin with and that water was always found from a spring North of the Shelter.

So I returned an e-mail to Steve Smith to tell him of my findings and he still confidently asserts the helicopter incident did indeed take place. However, being that the world was a different place in the 1970's in regards to our environment, it is plausible to believe that documentation of the incident was ever created. My last hope is to sift through the Micro-fiche records at UNH of area Newspapers, a process that could take me the rest of my two years at the University. And I don;t care to know that badly.

So... two very reliable sources indicate that the incident took place however there is no actual evidence of the contamination. I however do find reason to believe that the AMC and The WMNF have decided to ignore my requests for information by not returning my calls in a way to continue the silence about what happened at Kinsman Pond. Mystery or Cover Up? I'll let you decide the next time you go for a high mountain swim or hope to filter out a drink.

(If anyone has any information about the events questioned in this post.. please post below. If you know of where I can find documentation, I'd appreciate your assistance.)

Happy Trails
SJ