Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reading News

Have I complained lately about being driven mad by this library system's 5-books-at-a-time 5-holds-at-a-time rule for new cardholders?? Yesterday I had to surrender Robert Michael Pyle's Wintergreen, which I'm probably not going to get to until next week, in order to check out a mystery I wanted. So today I brought back the mystery I finished last night and made them find Wintergreen, still in the back room, and checked it out again. But then I found Kerry Greenwood's Murder on the Ballarat Train on the shelf and somehow opened it to remind myself of a certain plot thread. And the next thing I knew I was sitting at a table there in the library re-reading it--couldn't check it out and go home to lie down on the couch, right, 'cause I already have 5 books out (and couldn't very well hand Wintergreen back to them again). Eventually I hunted for a corner with comfortable chairs, and read the entire thing. Don't tell the serious-reading police. I'm sorry, officer, I didn't mean to.

What? Oh, I asked the other day. November 11th is the date I'll have had my card three months and they'll decide I can be trusted.

Cryptic Fish Report

On the third day in a row that I went to Salmon Cascades to not see salmon, the ranger at the Sol Duc entrance station (Olympic National Park) said that the salmon haven't come yet, the river is too low. I had been thinking there seemed to be plenty of water there at the cascade. But visualizing the several times Highway 101 crosses the Sol Duc River between the Sol Duc Road and the coast at La Push (whither I go at the drop of an impulse), I can see that each time I've glanced up- or downstream as I roll over a bridge, there was not much water. Hmmm, not much water, I would think, every time. The ranger thought that after the ever-arriving and not yet arrived heavy rainstorm this weekend, perhaps the fish will come flowing up the river.

The second afternoon a helpful gentlemen pointed out two barely discernable salmon in the pool below the cascades. I saw them, I saw them. They swam around behind a rock, the gentleman left, and I couldn't spot them again. They were exactly the same color as the greenish-greyish rocks and river-bottom under a light-rainy sky.

On the third expedition I studied the same rock the two fish had disappeared behind the day before, and saw a salmon swim by the rock and head rather casually upstream; I didn't try to rush back upstream to be by the cascade in case he jumped, which I should have done, because another fish-watcher told me he had seen one leap, just one, and neither he nor I saw another fish.

When M. was camping up on the south fork of the Hoh River last week, there were two days of rain and afterwards the river was full of fish...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Best Science Images

Too beautiful not to point out. Best Science Images of 2007. Thanks to Our Descent Into Madness for this one.

8/10ths of a Mile In a Beautiful Forest

Yesterday afternoon, after I left the library, I went up to Sol Duc Falls. Short hike in a beautiful forest (1.6 mi. roundtrip from trailhead), with big reward at the end. I think the trees there are Douglas fir, even after all the years (35!) since I lived on Roundtop Mountain, when a forest feels this familiar I think I know where I am. (Though cones are hard to find on such a busy and wet forest floor, they looked right in a half-rotted sort of way.) Beautiful waterfall, even in relatively low water. I guess I'll have to go back throughout the winter and see it in many levels of flow. Trail goes on to Deer Lake, I think it is, 3 mi. further in.

This was after I went to Salmon Cascades to look for salmon. The newspaper article about the salmon-watching event on Saturday--"Watching the Salmon Come Home"--really made me eager to see them, and want not to wait until the weekend to have an encounter with a new kind of charismatic vertebrate (leaping fish). Which I didn't see a single one of. I watched for quite a while. Nobody leaping. Nobody appearing to be swimming around in the pool below the cascades. Of course, I had needed a passerby's help to spot the pink salmon at Railroad Bridge Park, so maybe my eyes don't know what to look for, but I think they should have been plainly visible. Maybe I'll have to go back regularly 'til I see some; but I'm not sure I'll join the crowd on Saturday, since M. is taking me walking with Mr. Goin the next day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

National Sea Ice Data Center's Bad News

Not that it's a surprise, but it's happening really fast. Discussion at NSIDC. At Scientific American. On NPR, the interviewer all but lost her professional cool when the senior NSIDC researcher said that the polar cap might be gone by 2030."You mean lose it COMPLETELY?", she asked. Yes.

Went Places

Went places, looked at things, then sat a long time "...watching the ships roll in, then I watch them roll away again..."

First drove up the Elwha River to the end of the road. Trail goes on from there to Olympic Hot Springs. Many cars parked at the trailhead, people setting forth and traipsing back down, I'm guessing mostly local people, out for a weekend hot soak in the rain. Trail book promises an overview of the Elwha Canyon from Observation Point, but actually all you could see was Lake Mills behind the dam. Well perhaps if a cloud weren't sitting and raining upcanyon there might have been a bit of view up to the mountains, but I actually don't think so.

Then went back down again to look for where the Lyre River serves as the outflow of Lake Crescent. The geographers say that Lake Crescent was part of the Elwha drainage, as its neighbor lake, Lake Sutherland, still is, until a gigantic landslide from Storm King Mountain blocked the way in fairly recent geologic time. The valley filled with water until it found a place to spill over and make its way directly to the Strait: the Lyre. Small and shallow opening for such a large lake, the story must have a lot more in it (and I forgot to take a picture). Then I hunted for the mouth of the Lyre, but it turns out that all the accesses to the Strait along that stretch of the coast are private resorts and campgrounds.

After four different attempts to reach salt water somewhere I could sit and read, I ended up in the day use parking at Salt Creek County Park, where in fact it is easy to watch ships steaming in and out of Puget Sound via the Strait. Read my book. Watched ships. The only one close enough and with writing on it big enough to read by binoculars was the Norwegian Pearl, an enormous cruise ship. She cruised past eastbound, then far away and tiny hung a left and docked at Ogden Point in Victoria. Her website said she would be in port in Victoria only six hours, then overnight would go down to Seattle and the end of the cruise. (Sailwx at the moment still shows her position off Cape Flattery early yesterday afternoon.)

PS. Regarding the tankers, no, Port Angeles is not an oil port. But it has a deepwater repair facility, is the pilot station for picking up/dropping off Puget Sound pilots, and sometimes is simply a place tankers anchor to wait for their berth to open up at the oil ports in Puget Sound.

Lake Mills & Glines Canyon Dam from Observation Point. No symbolism intended, the rainbow just happened to be there...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Waving the Binoculars Around

According to the ship locator on sailwx, the only ship in port is the Overseas Long Beach. It's a tanker. But I went down to the harbor, and drove out onto Ediz Hook, and scribbled down all the ships whose prow or stern I could read. There was also the Lindsay Foss, possibly a tug. Prince William Sound, a tanker, whose reported position hasn't been updated since the 18th. The Kodiak, but there's a lot of Kodiaks in the database, most not reporting a position. It's anchored near the S/R Long Beach and they look the same, so maybe it's this one, also a SeaRiver ship. (But the Long Beach's position hasn't been updated since 2006.) Alaskan Navigator is also here. And the W. C. Park Responder, an oil spill cleanup vessel.

OK, it's settled that isn't going to be a very reliable window into what's going on down there in the port. But way better than no idea at all, especially as it links to other databases and gives other clues.

Time to go out and pick what may be the very last harvest of blackberries...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A38, Blackney

Very nice day on the water. Much of the day the fog lifted up the hillsides so you could see the scenery. (Yesterday was very flat; you could see the water, and animals on the water, but usually could have no idea where we were unless you darted down below and looked at the electronic chart displaying a little marker and line of travel at the boat's position. Hooray for electronics.)

We found the A30s pod of orcas, waited for them just outside the ecological reserve. There was a little bit of hydrophone action: the A30s were briefly vocal and we got to hear them, while the Naiad bobbed around and the pod slowly came toward us. (I do love the sounds best, even when the sights are coming in through my eyes). There was more than a little showing off on the part of Blackney and Pointer, people with the skills to aim their cameras and push the buttons at the right moments got good pictures.

Then 18 of us were dropped off at OrcaLab for a visit and tea, Paul & Helena very welcoming and golly what a beautiful spot. On the return run, a brief visitation from some Dall's porpoises, which my new book calls 'exuberant cetaceans'; ooh truer words never written: they zipped, they bounced, they turned over and flashed their markings, they jumped, they vanished, justlikethat. Then we came back in via Weynton Passage, gazing through all those narrow waters and openings among the Plumper Islands, which as scenery goes might be my most favorite up here. Unutterably beautiful.

Blackney in Johnstone Strait

Weynton Passage

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reading News

I'm up here in Port McNeill, B.C., to gather with some of the orca-listeners who inhabit the Orca-Live website. This is my third trip to the annual OL 'reunion', virtual friends rendezvousing in real life, and with luck seeing the orcas in real life too. Saturday will include a visit to OrcaLab itself. Altogether I will be here four nights, day-tripping on the Naiad with my friends.

More details tomorrow, but here is today's fun fact, which has nothing to do with visiting the territory of the Northern Resident orcas: I got to just load up the car and drive onto the ferry this time, and while I forgot certain rather important accoutrements (such as the cord you put on your glasses so they can't fall off your nose and over the railing of the boat), I brought a vast, an inordinate, a stupendous number of books. :-)

3 marine mammal books
3 bird books
The Geology of Southern Vancouver Island
the marine atlas
the four library books presently listed in the sidebar
another mystery from the library
four just-in-case mystery paperbacks
altogether, a glorious sufficiency.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One Hundred Years

Work party to eliminate exotic weeds in the Elwha River canyon.
The Elwha, above Elwha Dam, below Glines Canyon Dam.

We were after this critter called 'herb-robert', also known as 'stinky bob'. Too bad they're considered noxious--a small soft green geranium plant with hairy stems and sweet pink flowers, and we slaughtered them. We were working across the road from the campground, between there and the river, on the theory that it would be good if all those people weren't carrying seeds upriver, where beyond a certain point herb-robert isn't found yet. Oooh there was just about unlimited amounts under the trees, mostly little tiny fresh plants that must have just germinated. I myself picked half a garbage bag full. Coulda been a lot harder. One of the people who was weeding--which you call 'doing restoration work'--had worked before in projects to try to eliminate Japanese knotweed from parks. Those you have to inject with herbicide, under carefully controlled conditions. Herb-robert just cheerfully uproots.

The trees. Unimaginably tall bigleaf maples. As tall as the conifers, which were really tall. After we'd put in our hours on the floor of the forest, we went upstream and looked at the Glines Canyon dam, and then down to the lower Elwha to look at the Elwha Dam. I learned a fair lot about the Elwha project. The Park now owns the dams. The contract for construction of the Port Angeles water purification plant, which has to precede removing the two dams, was awarded just last week, after certain amount of worrisome uncertainty because all the really big competent contractors are out competing for work in the preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Another contract involving various works to protect the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe at the mouth of the river will be awarded soon. Three years from now at minimum, they start removing the dams. (A continually postponed moment; local people barely believe it will manage to happen at last.) Greenhouses are growing tens of thousands of native plants to plant out in the naked lands. The surviving wild fish runs which come into the bottom five miles of the river below the lower dam will have to be temporarily relocated (how?) to the Dungeness until the stupendous silt loads have flushed out of the new river bed in the old reservoir beds, as the fish would suffocate.

Restoration of the whole river canyon (Elwha watershed map) to fully forested and fully restocked with wild anadromous fish runs: one hundred years at least. How much recovery will I get to see between now and when I'm as old as my mom? Hard to say. It's gonna be ugly for a long time, the naked stump-y lake beds. But if it works, if we succeed in giving the river back to the mountains...

Spillway at Glines Canyon Dam
Elwha Dam

Monday, September 10, 2007

River Center

The announcement board at the River Center in Sequim (formally, 'Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park')

Friday, September 07, 2007

Digitization Factory

On NGC4Lib, William Denton posted:
"I must add that I had a tour of the Internet Archive's book digitization factory at the University of Toronto a couple of weeks ago, and it was incredible, a crazy futuristic man-machine hybrid churning out 1300 books and five terabytes of data a week. Thirteen digitizing stations are in use 14 hours a day."

Made me smile. Here is a stream of books coming onto the web entirely outside the reach of commerce. Thankyou thankyou.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Puget Sound / Georgia Basin Ecosystem

Waycool way of looking at where 'Here' is. Puget Sound / Georgia Basin Ecosystem is an EPA site, so the little map is ours to use. An awful lot of people I know live 'Here' when you draw it this way.


C.F. sent this. She used to live near Muir Beach, on the northern California coast:
If there are tigers
on the beach
and I meet them,
I hope they remember
they are not in the jungle
and that the ocean
is our mother.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Follow the Tide Down

Went out Rialto Beach to the arch at the end of the beach, Hole-in-the-Wall. The information lady in the Quileute Visitor's Center on Highway 101 said that her family lives in La Push and goes clamming at Rialto; and that it is easy to walk the beach, and cross Ellen Creek, if you follow the tide down, and then come back as the tide is rising. She said her mother would have them start about an hour before low tide. It was dark and sometimes raining. Ellen Creek wasn't running at all across the long sandy stretch. Then you get to the rocks.

It was a 2' tide, barely low enough to get up on the rock platform, though the floor of the arch was above the waves.

The rain let up, so I stayed at that end of the beach and sat on a log for a long time. I'm not sure I've ever been on such a beautiful beach.

The Washington Coastal Atlas has a picture taken on a sunny day, at a much lower tide. Can't figure out how to make a direct link into the Atlas, so here is the pertinent part of image #0208131105_141.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Orca-Live has audio again this year. It's mostly on whenever I'm home, even if the whales aren't around. You just never know when they might start calling within reach of the network of hydrophones. I keep one eye on the community page for OrcaLab updates about which pods are where, and to exchange remarks now and again with the other listeners.

Sometimes there's boat noise, alas. Johnstone Strait is a major transportation passage. The link OL gives for the audio runs in Windows Media Player. If you have trouble with that one, you can also use this RealPlayer link. Dunno what Mac people do, but they're used to taking care of themselves...

Resting Group, off Malcolm Island, August 2006

Going up there in a couple of weeks. The ability to just roll onto the ferry and head up Vancouver Island is another part of why I'm here. It's simply no longer too hard to get to the ocean.

Sunset at Ediz Hook

Ediz Hook is a natural sandspit that protects the harbor here. Or was. When they dammed the Elwha River, the spit was starved of the masses of sediment which had formerly come down the river, and it began to erode away. It's now clad in a rock revetment, and the 'beach' side of the Hook is refreshed with cobbles and gravel as often as needed to keep it from being undermined.

No matter. It's still out there in the Strait. At sunset people drive out to listen to the waves washing against the outside of the spit, and watch the traffic in the harbor, and (as people do everywhere it's possible) wait for the sun to touch the horizon.

There were boats in the Strait. No marine mammals on view. When I lived in San Francisco I often went out to the ocean on cloudless days to watch the sun touch the horizon. As the sun slid down the sky yesterday I realized very clearly that—though I've never lived in this place before—in heading for the northwest corner, I was heading home. And have now arrived.