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Gill kayaker witnesses eruption in Conn. River

  • Mysterious mass erupted from the Connecticut River. contributed photo



Recorder Staff
Thursday, July 12, 2018

GILL — A Gill woman’s afternoon kayak ride in the Connecticut River recently was interrupted by what she described as an explosion in the water.

Alison Perry was kayaking upriver in Barton Cove, by Hillside Avenue in Turners Falls on June 26, when a fountain of water about three feet high and two feet wide erupted in front of her kayak, “spewing” a black tar-like substance.

“It just exploded right in front of me. Within 10 feet. It was so close. … If I had paddled one more, it would have thrown me up in the air,” Perry said. “One more paddle and God knows what would have happened.”

The fountain went on “long enough that I could think different thoughts about it,” Perry said. She guessed that it lasted about 40 seconds.

“All I kept thinking was, ‘My God, I can’t believe how close I am to this. Right in front of me. This is so bizarre.’”

The water and the tar-like substance did not have a specific smell and were not hot, Perry said.

After the fountain ended, it was followed by a plume of white foam that lasted “a split second,” Perry said. The tar-like substance stuck together in a floating island about 5 to 6 feet long and 2 feet wide, she said, which after a few minutes broke into smaller chunks that floated apart.

When she poked the chunk with her paddle, Perry said, it was clay-like in its consistency — hard enough to keep its shape, but not as hard as a rock.

“It was only a couple minutes later that I took pictures of it,” Perry said. “And by then they were drifting away from me. … I wish I had stayed and taken more pictures, but I just wanted to get out of there.”

Perry wasn’t sure what could produce such a phenomenon. A friend who knows a geologist told her that there is a fault line that runs from the French King Bridge in Northfield under the Connecticut River.

“That is really strange and I have never heard of anything like it,” said Richard Little, a professor emeritus of geology at Greenfield Community College. “It is probably something organic, buried and decomposing beneath the river bed.”