Richmond Jetty -- July 15, 2006
Purpose: (1) To observe if an object comparable in size to Conner could pass through the rocks under conditions that existed on the morning of April 13, 2003. (2) To observe where the object would land if it did pass through the rocks. (3) To observe the way objects are deposited by the tide under such conditions similar to those of April 13, 2003.
Water level and wind conditions on April 13, 2003
Conner was found at 4:45 p.m. on April 13, 2003. The previous high tide peaked at 10:06 a.m. The first chart shows the NOAA 9414863 Richmond station verified 6-minute water levels for that high tide (5.88 feet above MLLW), juxtaposed with the wind conditions for the UC Richmond station and the Point Isabel station, two wind sensors close to the Conner recovery site. The second chart is the water levels with the wind data for that same station. Click on charts to enlarge. The data for the 9414863 Richmond station gives the highest wind reading when the high tide peaked at 17 mph, with gusts to 21 mph. UC Richmond data gives the wind speed at 14 mph with maximum gusts up to 23 mph. For Point Isabel, the winds were 17 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. (NOTE: 1 knot = 1.15 mph)
This is the water level and wind charts for July 15, 2006. The 9414863 Richmond station did not have its meteorological sensors in operation at that time. UC Richmond data gives the wind speed at 10-12 mph, with maximum gusts up to 18 mph. Point Isabel shows stronger winds preceding the high tide, up to about 17 mph, and stronger gusts also, about 23 mph, with even stronger winds and gusts just after the tide peaked. That is verified in the video clips, that the winds were gustier after the tide peaked. NOAA predicted the water levels to reach 5.92 with this high tide, and the Preliminary data came in at 5.92. However, verified water levels shows the water level reached slightly higher, peaking at 5.94. Since the difference between 5.92 and 5.94 is less than a quarter of an inch, I will continue to use the pictures edited at the predicted water levels.
This ended up being a good day for our demonstration. The water levels were higher than on April 13, 2003, and according to the Point Isabel station, the winds were comparable.
Previous High Tides
Some point out that Conner may have washed ashore in an earlier high tide, even perhaps the one during the storm on April 12. This chart shows the water levels produced by those high tides, and the wind conditions (maximum). I do not think it is reasonable to go back any further in time than April 12, not only because of the very long time Conner would have been exposed on shore, but also because all high tides from March 24 through April 11 produced water levels lower than the 5.77 of April 12.
|DATE||TIME||WATER LEVEL||NOAA Richmond||UC Richmond||Point Isabel|
|April 12||8:24 a.m.||5.77 feet||26 mph, G 32||20 mph, G 32||18 mph, G 27|
|April 12||10:42 p.m.||5.58 feet||13 mph, G 24||not available|
|April 13||10:06 a.m.||5.88 feet||17 mph, G 21||14 mph, G 23||17 mph, G 25|
|April 13||4:45 p.m.||Conner found|
Objects used for the Experiment
For the experiment, I purchased 5 dolls and stuffed toys. Conner measured 19 1/2 inches. I couldn't find any dolls/toys at Goodwill exactly 19 1/2 inches, so I chose some less than that in length. These are pictures of Kermit (the largest, 17 inches) and doll (the smallest, 14 inches), showing their measurements. Doll was a cloth doll and thus had very flexible arms and legs. I also used a stuffed bear, a stuffed monkey, and a plastic doll. Click to enlarge.
Getting through the Rocks
For this part of the experiment, I simply threw the objects into the water just beyond the exposed rocks. It didn't matter which direction they came from, as the purpose of the experiment was only to determine if they would get through the rocks. On the first attempt, I tied string to them, expecting that maybe they might float away or get lodged between the rocks beyond my reach. That quickly proved unnecessary, so I removed the string.
If you do not have RealPlayer on your computer, click here for a free clone. For those with slow connections, I have divided the longer videos into parts. To download the videos, right click the link, select Save Target As, and then proceed as directed.
Warning: Even though these are dolls and stuffed animals, they simulate what might have happened to Conner, so the clips may be upsetting to some.
1. Bear's journey through the rocks
Not an easy journey at this water level.
Time: 3:48 - 3:53 p.m.
PWL: 5.58 - 5.64 feet above MLLW
5.58 feet above MLLW is the water level produced by the April 12 10:42 p.m. high tide. It's the lowest water level of all the high tides on April 12-13.
2. All 5 make it in
Only doll has landed in the grassy section where Conner was found. She was left there, to see how much further back onto the grass she would be pushed by the waves.
Time: 3:56 p.m. - 4:03 p.m.
PWL: 5.66 - 5.72 feet above MLLW
This still is taken from the video to show doll's initial location at the front edge of the grass, after being washed ashore.
3. Kermit's journey through the rocks
I threw Kermit and the plastic doll back in. Kermit again washed in between the rocks, but landed east of the Conner site. Plastic doll got caught in a current and moved eastward instead of washing in between the rocks.
Time: 4:04 - 4:08 p.m.
PWL: 5.72 - 5.76 feet above MLLW
4. Monkey gets caught between two rocks
Since monkey landed west of the Conner site, I threw him back in. This time he lodged between two rocks, where he stayed for the duration of the experiment.
Time: 4:09 - 4:11 p.m.
PWL: 5.76 - 5.77 feet above MLLW
5.77 feet is the water level produced by the high tide on the morning of April 12, during the storm.
5. 3 are in, one is stuck, and one is heading east
Shows position of bear and Kermit, who landed east of the Conner site; monkey who is still lodged between rocks; rag doll who is in the forefront of the Conner site; and plastic doll who is heading eastward.
Time: 4:11 - 4:13 p.m.
PWL: 5.77 - 5.79 feet above MLLW
6. Kermit makes it to the right place
I threw Kermit and bear back in. Once Kermit made it through the rocks, he did land just in front of the Conner site. Bear stayed to the east.
Time: 4:14 - 4:16 p.m.
PWL: 5.79 - 5.81 feet above MLLW
This still is from the video, and shows the position of doll and Kermit.
How Objects are deposited in a High Tide
How are objects deposited in a high tide? This is how Rick Distaso described it to the Jury in his opening statement and closing arguments to explain why Conner was beyond, or ahead of, the debris line (see People's 96E-G and Defense WW1-4):
Doctor Cheng is going to tell you the way things wash up with the tide, as the tide's receding heavy items are deposited first. They come over with the waves. As the tides recede, the heavy items settle first, and then the lighter items settle last. As the tide recedes, you can see that's what happened. Here's Conner's body. Obviously heavier than these areas of sea grass, and what not, debris, trash. And he's right ahead of it. (Opening Statement)
In fact, when you go back and look at the pictures, you can see the line of debris where the heavier objects settled first and, you know, the lesser heavy objects, as the tide was receding. (Closing Arguments)
The NOAA disagrees with Mr. Distaso. In its Glossary of Coastal Terminology, it provides these definitions:
Debris line: A line near the limit of storm wave UPRUSH marking the landward limit of debris deposits.
Limit of uprush: The landward limit of UPRUSH at any given tide stage.
Uprush: The rush of water up the FORESHORE following the breaking of a wave, also called SWASH or RUNUP.
The debris line is what is formed as the waves push the debris ahead, not what is deposited as the tide recedes. The NOAA specifically says, it is the "landward limit of debris deposits."
The video clips provide an even better understanding, as they show the wave action giving lift and buoyancy to items already washed up, moving them further back. I provide all of the clips even when no movement is produced by the waves so as to give a complete record. You can choose which ones to view by the descriptions.
7. Kermit is moved by the wave action
Doll landed in the forefront of the Conner site first, and had already moved onto the grass. Kermit gets moved closer to doll by the waves.
Time: 4:17 - 4:19 p.m.
PWL: 5.81 - 5.82 feet above MLLW
This still is taken from the video. The balloons are attached to my camera case, which is positioned approximately where Conner was found.
8. Plastic doll moves eastward
Time: 4:19 - 4:21 p.m.
PWL: 5.82 - 5.84 feet above MLLW
9. Bear, doll and Kermit
None of the three are moved by the wave action in this segment. Bear is stuck on something, and the waves are not reaching far enough to move doll and Kermit any further back.
Time: 4:21 - 4:23 p.m.
PWL: 5.84 - 5.85 feet above MLLW
10. Monkey and bear
Monkey is still lodged between the rocks. Bear was caught up on something so I freed him and threw him back in. He came through the rocks but went eastward.
Time: 4:24 - 4:29 p.m.
PWL: 5.85 - 5.88 feet above MLLW
The high tide on the morning of April 13, 2003 produced a water level of 5.88 feet above MLLW.
11. Kermit, doll, and bear
Kermit and doll are unmoved by the wave action, and bear is still in the same location.
Time: 4:29 - 4:32 p.m.
PWL: 5.88 - 5.89 feet above MLLW
12. Focus on Debris
I had collected debris as I walked onto the jetty, and had put some in front of the rocks early in the experiment, but it washed to the west. I put some more right in front of the grassy area where doll and Kermit were. This segment shows a wave or two washing the debris back to where the doll is.
Time: 4:34 - 4:37 p.m.
PWL: 5.89 - 5.90 feet above MLLW
This still is from the video and shows the debris in line with the doll.
13. Bear makes another journey through the rocks
I threw bear back in, and he again made it through the rocks, but landed on the eastern portion of the grassy section where Conner was found. This clip also shows how much of the rocks are still exposed at this water level, making for a precarious journey through them.
Time: 4:37 - 4:44 p.m.
PWL: 5.90 - 5.91 feet above MLLW
14. Doll and Kermit
The waves brush up against doll and Kermit, giving them gentle nudges, but don't push them any further back.
Time: 4:46 - 4:46 p.m.
PWL: 5.91 - 5.92 feet above MLLW
NOTE: 5.92 is the predicted peak water level for this high tide. The verified water level is 5.94. The April 13 high tide water level was 5.88.
15. Doll pushed further back, Kermit stays put
In this clip, almost at the end, doll and the debris are given a strong push back, whereas Kermit doesn't move as much.
Time: 4:46 - 4:48 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 feet above MLLW
This still is from the video, and shows the new position of doll, Kermit, and the debris.
16. Doll and Kermit stay put
No movement for either one in this clip.
Time: 4:48 - 4:50 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 feet above MLLW
17. Still no movement
Likewise, this clip shows no movement for either doll or Kermit. Doll and Kermit are shown in relation to the path.
Time: 4:50 - 4:54 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 feet above MLLW
18. The overall picture at this water level
This clip should dispel the notion that Conner could have washed in from the west, the east, or the north -- there simply are no waterways from those directions at this water level to bring him to his resting place.
Time: 4:55 - 4:58 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 feet above MLLW
19. Puddles of water
This clip shows the standing water in the grass closer to the path. I have observed this standing water each time I have visited the jetty. I refer to this as seepage water. I have not tested how high the water level has to be for these puddles to appear. That's a project for a future field trip.
Time: 5:00 - 5:01 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 feet above MLLW
20. Kermit and doll stay put
In this clip, neither Kermit nor doll is moved by the wave action.
Time: 5:04 - 5:05 p.m.
PWL: 5.92 - 5.91 feet above MLLW
We have reached the point when the tide is starting to recede, and the water level is dropping.
21. Kermit and doll stay put
No movement in this clip for either Kermit or doll.
Time: 5:05 - 5:07
PWL: 5.91 feet above MLLW
22. Kermit is nudged back a bit
This clip shows the position of bear and some wave action to the west of the grassy section where Kermit and doll are. Also shows the size of the waves breaking against the rocks. Several waves nudge Kermit and he does move a bit further back.
Time: 5:07 - 5:09 p.m.
PWL: 5.91 - 5.90 feet above MLLW
This still from the video shows the positions of Kermit and the doll after Kermit moved.
23. Kermit and doll stay put
Again the waves fail to move either Kermit or doll.
Time: 5:09 - 5:11
PWL: 5.90 - 5.89 feet above MLLW
24. Kermit and doll nudged a little
In this clip, the waves do nudge both doll and Kermit, but do not move them.
Time: 5:11 - 5:13 p.m.
PWL: 5.89 feet above MLLW
25. Monkey still stuck, Kermit gets nudged some more
This clip begins with monkey still lodged between the rocks, and shows the wave action against that section of rocks. A different angle for viewing Kermit and doll shows the way the waves lift Kermit and give him buoyancy. Shows the debris line that has formed to the west of Kermit. Shows Kermit and doll in relationship to the path.
Time: 5:13 - 5:15 p.m.
PWL: 5.89 - 5.88 feet above MLLW
26. Doll and Kermit are moved several inches
Both doll and Kermit are moved by successive waves. Also shows how the debris is moved along with them.
Time: 5:15 - 5:16 p.m.
PWL: 5.88 feet above MLLW
Still from video clip shows positions of doll and Kermit after they are moved, and the debris.
27. Doll and Kermit are moved another several inches
A large wave at the end of the clip moves both doll and Kermit another several inches, along with the debris. This is the last movement that we will see from the waves -- Kermit and doll are in their final resting places.
Time: 5:16 - 5:17 p.m.
PWL: 5.88 feet above MLLW
Still from the video clip shows the final resting place of the doll, Kermit, and the debris.
28. Doll and Kermit remain in place
The waves do not reach Kermit, the doll, and the debris.
Time: 5:17 - 5:19 p.m.
PWL: 5.87 feet above MLLW
Time: 5:19 - 5:20 p.m.
PWL: 5.87 - 5.86 feet above MLLW
29. The debris line
Clip starts by showing the strength of the waves hitting against the rocks, bear's location, as well as that of Kermit and doll. Monkey is still lodged between the rocks. This clip shows the debris line very clearly.
Time: 5:22 - 5:24 p.m.
PWL: 5.85 - 5.84 feet above MLLW
30. Wave action
This clip shows the strength of the waves and also the white spray that was along the beach area, which looked like a lot of smoke rising from the water. Also shows the water on the path behind the Conner site. The waves are no longer reaching doll and Kermit.
Time: 5:24 - 5:29 p.m.
PWL: 5.84 - 5.81 feet above MLLW
31. More wave action
Time: 5:30 - 5:32 p.m.
PWL: 5.81 - 5.79 feet above MLLW
32. More wave action
This clip shows a noticeably lower water level, as the tide recedes.
Time: 5:33 - 5:34 p.m.
PWL: 5.79 - 5.78 feet above MLLW
33. As the tide recedes
Time: 5:34 - 5:37 p.m.
PWL: 5.78 - 5.77 feet above MLLW
34. The plastic doll and some flotsam
This clip shows some flotsam on the plastic doll. The doll is thrown against the rocks, and works her way into some rocks, and I couldn't retrieve her. The wave action was too strong to venture that far out onto the rocks.
Time: 5:44 - 5:48 p.m.
PWL: 5.71 - 5.68 feet above MLLW
35. Final clip
It is very obvious that no further movement of Kermit and doll can take place at this water level. We are back down to under the 5.77 foot high tide on the morning of April 12. This clip shows the water puddles that remain as the tide recedes.
Time: 5:51 - 5:53 p.m.
PWL: 5.65 - 5.63 feet above MLLW
Making some Measurements
After the tide receded enough to allow me to get to the rocks, I measured the 24 foot distance that the State said marked Conner's location. I measured from two different rocks, because the rocks do not form a straight line. Kermit was short at least 4 feet from the 24 foot mark.
Time: 6:28 - 6:39 p.m.
PWL: 5.21 - 5.04 feet above MLLW
The clips show the puddles of water still remaining as the tide recedes, and the relationship of the 24 foot mark (from both rocks) to the path. You will also see the little tidal pools near where Conner was found.
These stills from the video show the relationship of Kermit and the doll to the 24-foot mark from the nose-rock (marked with a red x). The log I used to measure is 4 foot long.
These stills from the video show that Kermit is less than 20 feet from the rectangle rock (marked with a triple red X), and shows the doll and Kermit in relationship to the 24-foot mark.
This field trip accomplished its objectives:
1. We have evidence on film that objects relative in size to Conner can make it through the rocks at water levels comparable to the high tides previous to Conner being found on April 13, 2003. The evidence also shows that it is not an easy journey through the rocks in winds comparable to those of April 13, with much bobbing up and down, being thrown against the rocks, and being caught for periods of time between the rocks.
2. This evidence shows that objects making it through the rocks can end up in the general area where Conner was found. However, under conditions comparable to April 13, 2003, the objects did not wash to a distance of 24 feet from the rock breakwater, coming short more than 4 feet.
3. This evidence shows how objects are deposited by the tide. They are pushed ahead of the waves, not left behind as the tide recedes. The evidence shows unequivocally that heavier items are not pushed ahead of lighter items; they either push together, or the lighter objects are pushed further ahead.
4. This evidence further shows that little pools of water form and remain in the grassy section where Conner was found beyond the wave action, and beyond, or ahead of, the debris line and the objects. Conner was found in one of these tidal pools.
The State freely admitted that Conner was in a tidal pool beyond, or ahead of, the debris line. Mr. Distaso gave a bogus explanation of why that occurred. The evidence contained in these video clips prove that Conner did not wash ashore because if he had, he would NOT have been beyond, or ahead of, the debris line.