PDA

View Full Version : About swamps and living in them.



redpbass
05-01-2009, 11:16 PM
Ok, I need everything everyone knows about swamps. Sort of. I am already aware of the basic facts, like what sorts of trees and other plants and animals are generally found in them...what I need are the more in depth bits of information. Also, the setting of the story I need this for has zero modern technology, but rather is sort of a medieval/renaissance-era-with-magic kind of place. The climate is not unlike the middle of the east coast of the USA, and the area in question has a large system of rivers all pouring down into a few very large ones that empty into the ocean.

Such as...if one lives in a swamp (by which I mean an extremely watery, muddy sort of place with lots of trees and not so much dry land), what are the major concerns of day to day life that are different from those living in other more 'normal' places? I would assume keeping yourself dry and your stuff from rotting or getting moldy with all the moisture would be a top priority. Where does your food come from? What sort of crops could you grow in a swamp if you somehow removed the water from part of it? How good would the soil be?

If you've lived or spent time in a swamp of this sort, what was it like? The smell? How was the air? What are the dangers? What is it like at night? How common is quicksand/quagmires/deep mud? How much of a danger is it?

How about transportation? Roads? Boats? Bridges?

Construction? Houses?

Anything else I haven't mentioned?


I've searched long and hard across the internet, but all I can find is the basic information, like lists of birds or what technically qualifies an area as a swamp, or page after page of political essays and speeches about draining swamps or the economy. Thanks everyone!

Manix
05-01-2009, 11:28 PM
Ok, I need everything everyone knows about swamps. Sort of. I am already aware of the basic facts, like what sorts of trees and other plants and animals are generally found in them...what I need are the more in depth bits of information. Also, the setting of the story I need this for has zero modern technology, but rather is sort of a medieval/renaissance-era-with-magic kind of place. The climate is not unlike the middle of the east coast of the USA, and the area in question has a large system of rivers all pouring down into a few very large ones that empty into the ocean.

Such as...if one lives in a swamp (by which I mean an extremely watery, muddy sort of place with lots of trees and not so much dry land), what are the major concerns of day to day life that are different from those living in other more 'normal' places? I would assume keeping yourself dry and your stuff from rotting or getting moldy with all the moisture would be a top priority. Where does your food come from? What sort of crops could you grow in a swamp if you somehow removed the water from part of it? How good would the soil be? Water tends to stagnate in a swamp and things smell pretty rank because of that. There's also skunk cabbage, which loves a swampy environment, which stinks like a skunk (surprising, eh?) The soil is not so good for planting, due to the stagnation, but I guess rice and cranberries are grown in swamps, so you'd have to look into that.

If you've lived or spent time in a swamp of this sort, what was it like? The smell? How was the air? What are the dangers? What is it like at night? How common is quicksand/quagmires/deep mud? How much of a danger is it? Dangers in swamps are poisonous snakes (like in Louisiana and the Everglades), and mosquitos (malaria).

How about transportation? Roads? Boats? Bridges? Airboats are used commonly to skim across the top of the water as well as row boats, outboard motorboats and the like. Rafts and canoes are common too. Bridges are used quite a bit, consisting of wooden boardwalks over the top of the swampy areas between patches of dry land. Sometimes the soil can be quite sandy, if the swamp is near an ocean or large body of water, but sandy soil is notoriously poor for growing significant crops.
Construction? Houses?
Houses would need to be built on stilts, to avoid rising tides or water creeping in during the flooding seasons and would probably be thatched with large leaves or grasses.
Anything else I haven't mentioned?


I've searched long and hard across the internet, but all I can find is the basic information, like lists of birds or what technically qualifies an area as a swamp, or page after page of political essays and speeches about draining swamps or the economy. Thanks everyone!

Good luck with this. Sounds fun!

Kitty Pryde
05-01-2009, 11:38 PM
Trench Foot. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_foot) A friend of mine has a BS and Masters degree in biology, and a Wilderness EMT certification, and she STILL got trench foot while being helicoptered into alpine streams to collect tadpoles for research. Anyways, you can get it anytime your feet are wet and unsanitary for a long time. It is dramatically disgusting.

[QUOTE]Trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary and cold conditions.

Affected feet become numb and then turn red or blue. As the condition worsens, they may swell. Advanced immersion foot often involves blisters and open sores, which lead to fungal infections; this is sometimes called tropical ulcer (jungle rot).

If left untreated, immersion foot usually results in gangrene, which can require amputation. If immersion foot is treated properly, complete recovery is normal, though it is marked by severe short-term pain when feeling returns. Like other cold injuries, immersion foot leaves sufferers more susceptible to it in the future.QUOTE]

hammerklavier
05-01-2009, 11:47 PM
A number of swampy areas have been lived in primarily as a defence against potential enemies. Venice is a great example. First, the people would likely build tree houses, then platforms and such. As they became more advanced they would start constructing houses with foundations and canals (like Venice). Or they might just try to fill in the swamp, like they did with St. Petersburg. Or drain it or rechannel the river once they get the technology.

Boats would almost certainly be the prefered method of transportation, but bridges, swinging on ropes, stepping stones or just slogging through areas you knew to be safe would not be out of the question.

Biggest problem would almost certainly be bugs and the disease they bring, especially if the climate is like east coast USA. Unless you mean upper New England. They natives would probably build up some resistance to the diseases, once they reached adulthood, but invaders would have a problem during any lengthy campain or occupation. It is believed that malaria is what defeated the Huns when Atilla invaded Europe.

backslashbaby
05-02-2009, 12:08 AM
I would assume keeping yourself dry and your stuff from rotting or getting moldy with all the moisture would be a top priority. Yep.

Where does your food come from? Modern-day? The store ;) By boat or road if there is one. Boat to your car is common.

What sort of crops could you grow in a swamp if you somehow removed the water from part of it? How good would the soil be? Awesome nutrition in the soil. If it's still boggy, rice is very common. NC was big on rice plantations back in the day.

If you've lived or spent time in a swamp of this sort, what was it like? A different world, possibly. Are you familiar with the South in the summer at all? Where's your starting reference, Alabama? You'd be familiar with a lot of it already if you are more south than your mountains there. Mosquitoes, humidity, all sorts of little insects, briars... what else do you need?

The smell? Swamp, lol. Ummm, sulphur and rich mud. I'll try harder on that one.

How was the air? Heavy, humid, buggy. A windy day is wonderful.

What are the dangers? Could be alligators, but my personal swamp life was too far inland for those (on the NC coast, they're there). Snakes and more snakes (Cottonmouth, copperhead, coral if you're on the coast). Here inland, it's possible to have Eastern rattlesnakes in our woods, too.

Bobcats (but you never see them, just hear them. They eat any rabbit or cat in any cage they can - no keeping of pets anywhere but up at the house at night). Coyotes (in NC) - again, don't chain the dog out back or leave cats out at night).

Bears. Rabid possums or raccoons. You can't keep dogfood or garbage in a way that animals can smell it, and folks chain the lids on garbage cans. Our bears don't do anything but look for food, but we don't have many, so exact locale matters a lot in this.

What is it like at night? Very noisy. Frogs and cicadas and animals and the dogs barking at the animals :D If the bullfrog population is huge, it really is too loud!

How common is quicksand/quagmires/deep mud? Quite. Sometimes in running water, quicksand literally looks like shallow water with sand. That can go down who knows how far! The swamp muck is just known to be mucky, depends on the terrain, and you learn to know whether to try it or not.
How much of a danger is it? Unless you don't know the terrain signs, the muck is OK. The quicksand fools you. Horse riding is different, and you want to avoid the muck entirely. My neighbor nearly lost her horse to it the first time she rode my land.

How about transportation? Roads? Boats? Bridges? Really depends on where. Say it's what is called a bayou in LA (a swamp around here) with no drier land up to it? They take boats to church & stores. More often here, you'd have the house on drier land, with roads just fine up to it (most often through the woods). Then the backyard goes down to swamp.

Construction? Houses? Anything you'd like, depending on whether your land has dry parts.

Anything else I haven't mentioned? There is a ton of stuff about what plants to avoid, snake behavior that you need to know, etc. Nowadays, a lot of people just don't let their kids play past 30' from the house, bypassing a lot of what we had to know growing up :D

Izunya
05-02-2009, 02:05 AM
How about transportation? Roads? Boats? Bridges?

Boats, definitely. You want a boat that doesn't sit very deep in the water; that's why one of the posters above me mentioned airboats. Since you're working with medieval technology, you're probably looking at some sort of canoe. Or, to make full use of the local materials, one of these: http://www.davidwallphoto.com/images/%7B324C357D-CA03-444D-824B-72587D052135%7D.jpg
which I found by googling for reed boats.

I suspect it handles about the same as a canoe. And if you want more info on how canoes work, I can probably oblige.


Construction? Houses?

On stilts.


Anything else I haven't mentioned?

Just a couple of flavor-y things that might not come through when reading about the places or wildlife. The one swamp I was ever in had extremely black water, not at all like an ordinary lake; the guide said it was from decayed vegetation. Great blue herons have an even harsher squawk than crows. You hear them when they take off or if you're near a rookery. Ospreys are probably more of an open-water thing, but they cheep at you—loudly—when you come near their nest. They also sometimes do threatening aerobatics. Wood ducks make a really surprised "Oo! Oo!" noise, and from what little I've seen of them, they're even shyer than the herons. Your swamp is going to be a noisy place and since you don't really have long lines of sight, your natives might hear animals more than they see them.

I don't live in a swamp, but I do live in the Tennessee valley—cue people who don't like rain saying, "There's a difference?"—which is probably the sort of climate you're talking about. I see raccoons pretty regularly hereabouts. If it is unsecured and edible, they will eat it. If it can be pried open, it is unsecured. They have, shall we say, an alternative work ethic and would rather clean out your cupboards than grub for crawdads. (Although one time, when a raccoon got in through my mother's cat door, it did feel around in the dog's water bowl—grubbing up the water and leaving muddy footprints all over the kitchen—just in case.) If your characters want to store food for any length of time, they might pickle it. Pickled food isn't in danger of rotting from moisture the way dried food is, and raccoons can't unscrew jar tops—yet.

Izunya

AngelRoseDarke
05-02-2009, 02:10 AM
Most everything has been covered. In Louisiana skiffs are popular. It's a flat-bottomed wooden boat. There's no motor. You push it along with a pole.

pdr
05-02-2009, 02:15 AM
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/archaeology/iron_age/scottish_crannogs_01.shtml

which takes you to explore Scottish Crannogs, Iron Age homes built on artificial islands in lakes or lochs.
Should cover many of your basic questions.

AngelRoseDarke
05-02-2009, 02:17 AM
I don't live in a swamp, but I do live in the Tennessee valley—cue people who don't like rain saying, "There's a difference?"—which is probably the sort of climate you're talking about.
Izunya

I grew up near the Everglades, and moved to Tennessee several years ago. We started off down in the valley. It most certainly counts as swamp-like conditions in my book! I didn't last long down there. I wanted to be dry. I live up on the Cumberland Plateau now. The past couple of years have been wet up here too though. I often wonder if ya'll are under water! :)

backslashbaby
05-02-2009, 02:54 AM
:D

Oh, and skunks are always fun, and inevitably each dog will have a run-in with one once. If you've never smelled skunk, you must someday ;) Bathe the dog in tomato juice, fwiw.

I swear I would not have known that blue herons were supposed to be shy. When they know you in a lonely spot, they don't mind you there at all. I know I could walk say 12' up to mine, and he'd look me in the eye and let me talk to him, etc. If he flew away because I disturbed him, it'd only be about 12-15' from where he was to start with. They have favorite fishing spots that they come to each day.

Fenika
05-02-2009, 04:26 AM
Haven't read the replies, but-

Don't wear loose shoes. Srsly.

Also, the more you disturb the muck, the worst it smells.

Also, I've never seen a friend recover a lost shoe. I treaded more carefully and was always able to save mine. Still got chewed out by mom later, but whatever :)

Tsu Dho Nimh
05-02-2009, 09:46 PM
Look up the "fens" of England (no trees), the Bayous of Louisiana, the Seminole Indians, and the marsh-dwellers in Iraq (reedy swamps).

Should give you what you need. Water transport is faster and boats are less work than building and maintaining roads and bridges.

redpbass
05-03-2009, 07:11 AM
Thanks for the help, everyone. I'll put it to good use.

jodiodi
05-03-2009, 08:36 AM
I grew up within 10 miles of the Okefenokee Swamp (which means Land of Trembling Earth). It's full of quicksand, gators, water moccasins and God knows what else. There's a highway that goes through part of it (Called, appropriately, Swamp Road) and at night when you drive down it, you can see gator eyes shining beside the road. We've also had to stop on regular highways while gators cross the road and sometimes, they decide to just lay there. No one is going to get out and tell them to move.

Mosquitoes are horrendous and we have had serious problems with menningitis outbreaks in the past because of the mosquito vector. The trees have Spanish Moss, a grey tinsil looking substance that hangs in clumps from trees. It's nasty and often contains little biting bugs, ticks, chiggers and lice.

It's hot. Bloody hot. My husband grew up in the Philippines and when he went home with me for the first time in Summer, he told me, "My God, honey. This is ridiculously hot." Because the humidity is so high, you can't sweat and cool off. Sweat just drips from your body every month except MAYBE January, possibly February.

Stagnant water, earthy, rotting vegetation smells dominate your senses.

To live IN the swamp, and some people do, people use flat bottom bass boats to get around if they live too far from road access. There are signs posted on some trees in the swamp telling you which way to go to get to certain places.

Snakes--especially rattle snakes and water moccasins, are everywhere. They will bite you and you could die if you don't get to a doctor.

Palmetto bushes are all over the clumps. They look like palm fronds in a little bush low to the ground.

Palmetto bugs, on the other hand, are giant, mutant cockroaches that also live in the area. They fly and some of them bite.

The swamp also has fires from lightening strikes. It's strange to think of a swamp burning, but it happens.

Big old water rats swim around down there too. And possums.

I hope you found this info helpful. Feel free to pm if you want to know anything else. I still have family and friends down there.