Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A formidable barrier

In order for Conner to have washed ashore, he had to cross a formidable barrier -- the southern breakwater. Rick Distaso foisted People's 100 on the Court, the jury, and the public in the hopes that seeing all this water on the Conner Recovery Site would convince all that Conner could easily wash ashore.

People's 100 is a fraud because it does not represent the Conner Recovery Site as it looked on April 13, 2003, the day the State alleged Conner washed ashore.  People's 100 was taken at a water level of 6.39 feet, and the HH tide on April 13, 2003 only reached 5.87 feet.  [NOTE:  NOAA's High/Low verified stats for April 13, 2003 give 5.87 ft as the HH; its 6-minute verified data gives 5.88 ft as the highest water level reached.  I don't know why the difference in their records, but it only amounts to one-tenth of an inch.]

Nor does it do anything to enlighten the Court, the jury, or the public about the south breakwater that Conner had to pass over to be found where he was.  The combination of that massive breakwater and Conner's placement relative to the debris line is formidable evidence that Conner did not wash ashore.

I was at the Conner Recovery Site on December 23, 2010, arriving at the south breakwater at 7:39 a.m., PWL 3.16 feet.  The site was very soggy from the previous day's exceptionally high tide of 7.61 feet.  This photo shows what the site looks like at that water level.  The grass in the northern 2/3 of the site is about 2 1/2 feet tall, and with the exception of an isolated blade here and there, it is completely covered, so the entire site is immersed in over 2 1/2 feet of water.  That line you see about half-way up on the right side, just below the landscape, is what is still visible of the south breakwater.  Click to enlarge.  

First, let's review some basic facts.  The NOAA Richmond (Station ID: 9414863) is the station to use when determining water levels at the Conner site.  Its datum shows the MHW (average of all high tides) is 5.45 feet (17.02 minus the MLLW of 11.57), and its MHHW (average of all higher-high tides) is 6.05 feet (17.02 minus 11.57).  This is the verified water data from the NOAA Richmond station for April 11-13, 2003.  You can see that the storm on the 12th did indeed create a storm surge, which is accounted for in the difference between the red line and the blue line on the chart, but the surged water levels didn't even reach the MHHW of 6.05, so they still were lower than average HH tides.    

Historic Tide Data

Station Date      Time Vrfy HL
DCP#:                        1
Units:                    Feet
Data%:  MLLW     Local   1.667  
Maximum:                  5.87  
Minimum:                 -0.20  
------- -------- ----- ------- 
9414863 20030411 02:18    3.03  L
9414863 20030411 07:36    4.84  H
9414863 20030411 14:36   -0.20  LL
9414863 20030411 22:12    4.96  HH
9414863 20030412 03:06    2.88  L
9414863 20030412 08:42    5.76  HH
9414863 20030412 15:36    0.38  LL
9414863 20030412 22:36    5.57  H
9414863 20030413 04:00    2.39  L
9414863 20030413 10:00    5.87  HH
9414863 20030413 16:24    0.12  LL
9414863 20030413 23:12    5.68  H

Now back to December 23, 2010.  The tide was low enough when I arrived that I could get some good photos of the south breakwater as the water level rose to the 5.87 ft HH on April 13, 2003.  On the 23rd the winds were very mild, which enables us to see the actual water level produced by the rising tide.  Strong winds will increase the wave action, which will put a bit more water on the site than a calm day, but which also would add considerable hazard to a delicate, decomposed baby trying to cross the breakwater.  

The south breakwater has three parts:  a lower rock bed that extends out about 20 feet to the south, followed by a short slope of larger rocks, and then an upper rock bed about 15-20' deep of rocks of varying sizes that sits on the mudflat.  This upper rock bed appears to be slightly mounded along its west-east center line, at least in some places.  These photos taken on December 13, 2005, with lower water levels show the extent and composition of the lower bed, which appears to have a row of larger rocks at its southern edge.

The focus always is the stretch of breakwater directly in front of the grass section where Conner was found, as he had to come over that section if he washed ashore.  

These first 6 photos were taken on the 23rd at 7:45 a.m., PWL 3.22 feet, Winds N 1.1-2.5 mph.  They pan from the south to the west.  Brooks Island is visible in the last 3.  If you compare them with the above photos, you will see that the lower rock bed is covered, with some of the larger rocks still protruding or barely under the surface.

The next three photos show close-ups of the upper rock bed.  The rock indicated in the first picture will give you an idea of the size of the rocks in this bed.  Photos taken at 7:46-7:48 a.m., PWL 3.23-3.25 feet, Wind N at 1.1-2.5 mph.

9:30-9:32, PWL 4.77-4.81 feet, Wind from the NW at 1.8 mph, gusts to 3.8.  The first photo shows the water line along the breakwater to the west, with a clear view of Brooks Island to the left.  The last photo shows that the water among the rocks doesn't extend all the way through the upper rock bed.

9:37 - 9:38 a.m., PWL 4.90-4.91 feet, the water is making it all the way through the upper rock bed.  Wind from NW at 1.3 mph, with gusts 3.1 mph.

9:46 a.m., 9:42 a.m., PWL 4.97 ft., Wind from the North at 2.0 mph, gusts 3.1 mph.  The two rocks in the previous photo are shown prominently in this photo.  The rock on the left measured 2'4".

9:46 a.m., PWL 5.07 feet, Wind from the NW at 1.8 mph, gusts 2.5.  The grass is saturated and matted down -- not just from the 7.61 HH tide the previous day, but from the series of very high tides.  The grass usually stands about 6 inches tall and is quite thick.  The chart showing the tides for the previous days follows.

 These HH tides were well above the MHHW of 6.05 feet.

9:53 a.m., PWL 5.24 feet, Winds from the NNE at 1.1 mph, with gusts 2.2.  The tape measure you see was used to measure the distance to the rock that sits on the grass, which was frequently featured in the photos from the October 6, 2010 field trip.  The distance is approximately 7 feet.  You can see in the first picture that the Bay water level is now pretty even with the mudflat.

9:54, PWL 5.26 ft., Wind from the NNE at 1.1 mph, gusts 2.2

9:57 a.m., PWL 5.32 ft., Wind from the NNE at 1.1 mph, gusts 2.2.

9:58 a.m., PWL 5.34 feet, Wind from the NNE at 1.1 mph, gusts 2.2.  

10:11 a.m., PWL 5.59 feet, Wind from the N at 1.1 mph, gusts 1.8 mph.  I was off doing other things and didn't catch the water level at 5.45, the MHW for the Richmond station.  5.59 feet is 1.68 inches above 5.45 feet. 

10:15 a.m., PWL 5.65 feet, Wind from the NW at 1.1 mph, gusts 1.6 mph.  

10:28 a.m., PWL 5.82 feet, Wind calm, gusts 3.4 mph.  The HH tide on April 12, 2003 produced a water level of 5.76 feet, almost 3/4 of an inch below this water level.  At the time of the HH tide on April 12, the NOAA reported winds of 26 mph, gusts 32; UC Berkeley Richmond field station reported 20 mph, gusts 32; and Point Isabel reported 18 mph, gusts 27.  UC Berkeley Richmond field station is the closest site to the mudflat.  Add those strong, gusty winds to this mix of rocks still showing, with many more just under the surface, and you don't have a decomposing baby in one piece, with the only damage being a tear across the abdomen.  This upper rock bed is about 15-20 feet deep.  The waves break against the rocks.  That's why it's called a breakwater.  I mention this because some have suggested that the stronger winds during the storm would have been a benefit to Conner.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The two white flags show the possible locations for Conner's body; the one to the left by manual measurements and the one on the right by laser measurements.

10:29 a.m., PWL 5.83 feet, Wind from the N at 1.1 mph, gusts 3.4.  I didn't luck out to get photographs at exactly 5.87 feet, the water level of the HH tide on the morning of April 13, 2003, that the State argued washed Conner ashore.  This water level, 5.83, is just 1/2 inch below 5.87.  On April 13, 2003, at the HH tide NOAA Richmond station reported winds of 17 mph, gusts 21; UC Berkeley Richmond field station reported 14 mph, gusts 23; and Point Isabel reported 17 mph, gusts 25.  Strong, gusty winds that break waves against these rocks.  

10:37 a.m., PWL 5.95 feet, Wind calm, gusts 1.1 mph.  5.95 feet is almost an inch above 5.87, the HH tide on April 13, 2003.

For Conner to wash ashore, he had to cross the formidable south breakwater.  That's a cold, hard fact.  People's 100 was foisted on the Court, the jury, and the public to convince all that it would be an easy thing for Conner to wash ashore.  The photos above prove that the rocks still exposed and the rocks lurking just beneath the surface combined with strong, gusty winds would make this a very treacherous journey.  Add this to the undeniable fact that Conner was where he should not have been -- north of the debris line -- and you have formidable evidence that Conner did not wash ashore.  The only other way he could get there was to be put there by human hands, and that fully exonerates Scott Peterson.