Author Archives: Marty Luster

June, 2011: African Elephants

Thank you Kim Smith for posting the BBC videos of African elephants. They brought to mind Barbara’s and my trip to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana in 2011. Of all the wildlife we were privileged to see and study, the elephants were the most endearing and fascinating. Their numbers were plentiful and we had ample opportunity to observe herd life, family structure and bonding within the herd and learn about the elephant habitat. These amazing animals must be among the most intelligent, compassionate and loving in all creation.

In the few short years since our visit, the number of African elephants in the wild has decreased dramatically,(about 6% in Zimbabwe) due largely to habitat destruction and ivory poaching.Despite that, legal hunting of elephants is permitted in many African countries. While it may be true that well managed hunting can serve to conserve habitat and strengthen the herds, some countries, and Zimbabwe in particular, have failed to demonstrate a commitment to that goal. Instead, the hefty fees collected from trophy hunters have been diverted from conservation efforts to unrelated purposes.

That’s why, in 2014,in an effort to discourage Americans from engaging in elephant trophy hunting in parts of Africa, President Obama banned the import into the U.S. of elephant body parts from animals killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
President Trump has now reversed that order, thereby creating incentives for the trophy hunting of these magnificent creatures and accelerating the decline of African elephants which have been on the Endangered Species list since 1979.

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All photos © Marty Luster 2011

President Trump, in a tweet, has reversed the order that allowed animal trophies from Zimbabwe to be brought into the US, pending further study. This is a temporary measure, but it allows time to have a public discussion about this issue.


From The Archives: December 7, 2010


Since I’m housebound for a while, this is a good opportunity to take another look at some of the thousands of photos I’ve shot for GMG (not all were posted) over the past 7 1/2 years.

This is the Pinky Schooner Ardelle in its 15th week of construction at the Harold Burnham boatyard in Essex.

A Not So Merry Tale

Jude Seminara has provided us with his perspective of the oft told James Merry – Dogtown tale.

The Matador of Gloucester

In the mid-morning of Sunday, September 18, 1892, three local men, Henry and Chester Norwood and Isaac Day discovered the bloody and battered body of 60 year old James Merry wedged between two boulders near the Dogtown Road. His abdomen had been ripped open. Nearby, Patrick Nugent’s Jersey bull was in an agitated condition, bellowing and stomping his hooves, his horns stained with blood. Mr. Day left immediately to summon the police, and Officer Ropper, accompanied by the Undertaker Lloyd and medical examiner Quimby came to investigate.

Tradition holds that Merry had, while a sailor, visited Spain and became interested in bull fighting. When he returned to Gloucester, he raised a bull from a calf and practiced wrestling it in Dogtown. The night before he was killed, the story goes, he was drinking up in town and was challenged to wrestle the bull. The bull won, goring Merry with its horns. While a romantic story, it is simply untrue.

James Merry was born in Edgecomb, Maine, one of three sons, in 1832 to Heram and Betsey Merry. He was in Gloucester sometime prior to 1850, at which time he was recorded as James Murray, fisherman in the census. According to the vital records of Gloucester, he married Catherine Witty in 1856. The Merrys had three children: James Howard, Frank, and Carrie. Carrie died of typhoid fever at the age of 14 in 1878. Merry’s brother David Murray was lost at sea in 1859 and is memorialized in the cenotaph at the Fisherman at the Wheel statue. His other brother Jonathan left Gloucester shortly after David’s death to returned to Maine.

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New Photo Adventure

When I was about eight years old I began to help my dad develop film in our basement darkroom. My job was to separate the paper backing from the film rolls before immersing them in the developer tank.It wasn’t long until I had my own camera and, with help, started processing my own film. Cameras have not been far from my reach ever since.

But things change. Although I had a home wet darkroom for many years, the digital photography sirens’ seductive call entranced me and I fell under its spell. In around 2003 I bought my first digital single lens reflex (Nikon D100)and have been shooting digital ever since.

Until now. There is something about film photography that still attracts me. Yes, you give up the instant gratification of viewing your images immediately, but you gain the ability to be patient while the film sits undeveloped in your camera. And since film can be expensive, I believe the photographer learns to be more discerning when deciding composition and camera settings. I also believe, despite the wonderful quality of digital cameras and editing programs, that an image caught on film is somehow more “real” than a bunch of dots arranged, not by the picture taker, but by a computer scientist who can’t know what meaning or feeling you hope your photo captures.

Anyway, I recently bought a wonderful compact 35mm rangefinder film camera. For those who are interested in such things, it is a Voigtlander Bessa r2m. It is fully mechanical and manual and can shoot without a battery, although they are needed to power the in camera meter, if you choose to use it.

This does not mean that I am giving up digital photography. First of all, with the volume of photos I take, I would go broke very quickly paying for film and processing.Secondly, digital photography often yields beautiful results. Its convenience cannot be ignored and the variety of digital gear that is available to the enthusiast is mind boggling. I see the two,digital and film,as being complementary; each for its own purpose and use.

So here are a few shots from the first roll of film shot with the R2M. These are not masterpieces, but simply a starting point for me to get reacquainted with an old friend.
(All shot on Kodak 400 T-max film.)

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Police Officers Remembered

Local historian Jude Seminara has authored this reminiscence of two fallen GPD officers. Thanks Jude for your scholarship and your time.
Officer John Blake

In both 1876 and 1918, the Gloucester Police Department lost officers in the line of duty. Officer John Blake died of a heart attack while making his way to a disturbance in East Gloucester in 1876 and Officer George Garland died of pneumonia after contracting the flu while stationed at a hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic. While researching unrelated Gloucester history, I came across news articles referencing both men and submitted them to the Officer Down Memorial Page, an online database of police officers from around the nation who died in the line of duty.

John Blake was born in Maine in 1816. He moved to Gloucester sometime before 1865 where he worked at Dennis’ Wharf as a master carpenter. He was also a police officer with his beat in East Gloucester. In the evening of August 24, 1876, about 8 o’clock, while walking his beat in East Gloucester Square, he was alerted to a disturbance in “Happy Valley,” somewhat of a “red light district” in East Gloucester in the vicinity of Bass Ave. “Happy Valley,” often reported in the papers of the time as the setting for drunkenness and disorder in that part of the city, was half a mile from his post. Officer Blake made his way on foot at a quick pace to the scene of the disturbance — a fight between two women. He remarked to two girls whom he encountered on his way that he wasn’t feeling well and presumably tried to make his way to his nearby home on Hammond St. through Sayward’s pasture where he collapsed and died in a grove of trees known as Sayward’s Oaks. The girls had set out for help and two East Gloucester residents, Fred Hillier and William Merchant, found Officer Blake’s body about an hour later. Doctor A.S. Garland determined that Officer Blake died of a heart attack. He was 60 years old, and a well respected member of the police force and of the community.

Officer George A. Garland of West Gloucester began his career with the Gloucester Police as a summer constable. In 1915, at age 33, he became a reserve officer and was made a full time patrolman in 1917. He was assigned to mounted duty in the Bass Rocks and Eastern Point area.

In 1918, with the First World War coming to a close, America was ravaged by the Spanish Influenza epidemic caused by a strain of the H1N1 virus. This flu was unusual however in that, unlike many diseases which disproportionately kill children and elderly and infirm people, it was particularly deadly to adults with healthy immune systems. Some scientists believe that the virus’ rapid onset caused a storm of an immune response which was fatal to individuals with strong immune systems. Because of the deadliness of this particular strain of virus, cities across the nation took precautions to minimize the spread. Gloucester had established an emergency hospital at the old armory on Duncan Street, near the present day police station, to supplement the Addison Gilbert Hospital. Officer Garland was assigned to the hospital detail in 1918. During his time at the hospital, he inevitably contracted the virus around the spring of 1919. While he recovered sufficiently to return to duty, due to his compromised state, he contracted pneumonia — commonly associated with this particular flu — from which he was unable to recover. On May 15, 1919, Officer Garland died of pneumonia. He was a widower, and he left behind his mother, two brothers, a sister, and four children.

The Gloucester Times of May 16, 1919 remembered Officer Garland as a quiet, kind, and friendly man who was well liked by his fellow officers and the citizens he served. He was laid to rest at Beechbrook Cemetery in West Gloucester.

Below are links to both officers’ memorial pages on the Officer Down Memorial Page. One can also find biographical vignettes in Mark Foote and Larry Ingersoll’s “Behind The Badge,” the definitive history of the Gloucester Police Department, as well as in historical Gloucester newspapers.

Are there any descendants of either Officer Blake or Officer Garland now in the Gloucester area? Let us know.

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