Date: June 26th, 2019 Location
Philadelphia Naval Business Center, 5150 - 5198 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19112, United States
Lat: 39* 53’ 13.368” N || Long: 75* 10’ 39.822” W
Link to approximate location on map:
The Navy Yard in Philadelphia is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy (in 1794) and the terminus of the Schuylkill River as it feeds the Delaware River. The site served as a naval base until 1996, and is now “a thriving, 1,200-acre business community where 150 companies occupy over 7.5 million square feet of office, industrial/manufacturing, and research and development space” (“History”). Its transition from a military complex to an industrial one was a massive undertaking of hazardous material removal and management on land, though much less has been documented about its relationship to the Schuylkill. Waterway-based reports of the area tend to focus instead on the Delaware River, which while not our focus here, has its own memories of colonial and industrial trauma that are still expressed through its relationships with humans and other residents. Visiting the Navy Yard now is a strange juxtaposition of highly-guarded naval research facilities, the presence of several retired naval battleships, and the trendy campus of URBN (the parent company of brands such as Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, etc.), a company who has a complicated (at best) political and material relationship with capitalist colonization.
Input 1Dock infrastructure shown with trash floating amonst the hydrophone which was lowered in the water
Input 2Trash floating in the inlet where the contact microphone was placed inside a plastic tupperware container
Input 3Lav microphones were positioned in different support beams along the dock, though mostly not visible, you can see the wires extending down into the concrete supports.
Lav microphones were positioned in different support beams along the dock, though mostly not visible, you can see the wires extending down into the concrete supports.
We arrived to the Navy Yard, and with the help of a friend employed at a company there, found a space on the water with dock access that was seemingly open to the public (security passed several times but didn’t seem to mind our presence). Behind us, on land, were buildings in which product and catalog photo shoots were likely taking place. In front of us, the converging waters of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. Several ships sat in the harbor, many reported to have come there to be disassembled. Along our position on the dock floated an assortment of trash. We dipped the hydrophone into the water and heard intermittent blasts of noise--a later conversation with a person familiar with the Navy Yard led us to believe that the noise may have been work being done on or in the nearby ship. We placed our contact microphone on pieces of plastic trash, settling on what seemed like an employee’s abandoned or forgotten lunch container. Finally, our lav mics hung into the hollow beams of the dock, catching the air blowing over the opening and, of course, the frequent air traffic from Philadelphia International Airport, only a few minutes away by car.