It’s hard to ignore a large red balloon–especially if it’s used to….map? Using sophisticated materials such as string, a helium balloon, a shower hook, and a camera in a plastic bottle, the Conservancy along with Public Laboratory conducted a balloon mapping event this past Saturday with help from volunteers.




Using aerial imagery, we hope to assess impermeable/permeable areas and tree canopy cover, in addition to pinpoint potential locations for future greening events. GLAM (Gowanus Low Altitude Mapping) provide us visuals to plumes we could not see from the ground, as emanated from the Whole Foods construction site in October (more here), and from this weekend’s near the 3rd St. bridge. Eymund has written an article based on the weekend’s insights on the PLOTS website. It’s unclear why there is sewage flowing on clear, rain-free days such as Saturday’s, and the Conservancy is still waiting on a response from DEP.

Eymund Diegel led the expedition, starting off with a primer on how to properly and safely inflate a large red balloon, in addition to prepping the camera. A helium tank serves most useful when propped on a table:

The camera was set to automatically take pictures every 10 seconds–here’s Eymund testing out the camera. The rig involves a cut out plastic juice bottle with foam inserts and hair ties to secure the camera.

After a test-run at the Salt Lot, we set off on Gowanus Dredgers‘ canoes with the balloon and reels. It required some masterful teamwork and careful footing:


Mapping locations included the 1st, 4th, and 8th St. basins, the perimeter of the Salt Lot and Whole Foods site, and all in between. We additionally stopped by Liberty Industrial Gases to thank them for the helium:

There was no shortage of fun and sunshine, and the photos came out beautifully! Here is one of the Salt Lot, featuring the rain garden at the edge of the canal. More photos can be seen here.


Ending the post with an epically awesome photo of our volunteers on canoes, courtesy of Shan Jayakumar. Over and out!