Kudos to the women in the video below! These ladies are led by Susan Baur, aka “the turtle lady.” Her love of swimming in the Cape’s ponds has inspired her to be an advocate for our ponds. To that end, she has written and illustrated several books, and enlisted the help of these ladies to clean up the trash in our precious ponds. Susan informs us the Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage (OLAUG) are willing to travel to your favorite pond to help with cleanup efforts! Thank you to Monte Ladner, the videographer, for his generosity in telling their story. You can watch the video located just below Susan’s story.

An OLAUG Adventure by Susan Baur

On August 9th of this year the Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage gathered to clean up Deep Pond in the Hatchville area of Falmouth. Although the water was a comfortable 78 degrees, the air was only 70 and it was starting to rain. Our clean-up plan had barely gotten underway when it started falling apart: we had almost double the usual number of swimmers. A woman new to the Cape arrived with her husband. Each was carrying a  brand new mask and snorkel. Janice introduced herself and told us what a strong swimmer Bob was. Bob told no one that he had never used a snorkel before. We now had five swimmers. Should I divide them into two teams? Or let the beginners tag along and learn?

After stashing our clothes in trash bags to keep them dry, we got a hybrid canoe ready which apparently paddles like a rowboat—not well or easily. It was raining hard now and our boat person was drenched by the time she climbed in with a wet cardboard box meant as our trash can.

As we were about to embark, a sixth swimmer suddenly appeared from across the pond—a man who announced that he had a rope with a hook on it and intended to pull the tires we’d seen out of the pond. With six swimmers, I reluctantly assigned the two most experienced garbage collectors to go right with a mesh bag. One of them lived on the pond and knew every underwater feature. The others would go left with me and the canoe. “Don’t stir up the bottom,” I cautioned. “It makes it hard for me to see the snapping turtles—or the trash— and it’s not good for the pond.” From past experience, I knew no one would pay any attention.

A half hour later with a pair of painted turtles flitting along beside us, we finally came upon the first tire. I pretty much commanded Janice to tread water over it to mark its place and the same for Bob when I found the second one.  By this time the guy with the rope had swum home but when he saw me waving, he plunged back in. He and Bob wrestled three tires out of the pond.

“Time to return,” I shouted spotting the muddy trail left by a large snapper as it headed into deep water. In spite of some mumbling, back we went in slow motion.  The other team arrived back at the beach at the same time.

As we oohed and head over the fine collection of cans, balls, shoes, bottles and plastic we’d collected, I realized Bob was missing.

“Where’s Bob!?” I asked in alarm.  “No problem!” Janice reassured us quickly. “He decided to walk back.”

There was a moment of silence as the woman who lived on the pond and I pictured the layout of roads and realized there was no way Bob could walk back around the pond. The roads on either side didn’t connect. In bathing trunks, mask and snorkel, Bob had set out in the pouring rain to walk along a road that would lead him nowhere near where we stood. Every part of our plan was unraveling.

With Janice following me, we drove away from the pond, down Boxberry Hill road and turned onto Hatchville Road where Bob was now some 40 minutes into his trek. The rain fell harder as we slowed and scanned the road’s shoulder for a nearly naked man. Nothing. A half mile  beyond where he had emerged from the pond and several miles beyond where he should be now, we turned around and started back. Suddenly the leaves of a maple tree parted and out came Bob. He explained through chattering teeth that his mask had leaked and he couldn’t fix it. As he got in his car, I could hear Janice call across his shivering body “Let’s do this again!”

There is something about ponds that defy plans. They are separate worlds and no matter how much we want them to look a certain way, stop changing, or act like dry land, they pay no attention to our wishes. They’re like wild animals that way. In fact of all the natural features you can visit on the Cape itself, the underwater world shows the fewest signs of human activity. Beneath the surface, many ponds look the way they did thousands of years ago.

It is increasingly rare to be able to see much less immerse yourself in the natural world in its natural state. In spite of our disorganized plans, the Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage work hard to keep ponds across the Cape free of litter so that you can have the experience of losing yourself in the timeless green-glass world of Cape Cod ponds.

Got a Pond Story you want to share? Email Kristin Andres at kandres@apcc.org

Pond Stories are a collection of writings from Cape Codders and visitors who love the 1000 local ponds that dot the Cape. We hope this collection of stories, that are as much endearing as they are environmentally aware, will awaken your inner environmentalist to think deeper about our human impacts to these unique bodies of water. Check out these valuable resources to learn more about the current challenges Cape Cod ponds are facing and how you can be a better pond steward in your town.