Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Looking Like This

Properly home from my journey, and back at work. I need to be in three places at once, now that the work day is over. I wanted almost desperately to go to the outer coast, and there is nearly enough daylight now to make it possible to drive out there and back on a work day; nearly; and I wanted to go straight to the couch and read for about 8 hours; and a supermarket expedition was Required. So I went to the market, and have persuaded myself that there is too much surf to see the gray whales anyway...

First Beach Web Cam, March 31, 2010 (Click for larger image.) now I will gather up the current book, the next book, and the fall-back nonfiction, and go out on Ediz Hook for a while. It's intermittently gorgeous out, in between clouds and even sprinkles.

The gray whale news is not excellent. Migration is in full spate, and the cow-calf pairs are beginning to move, but there appear to be very few of them. (1)(2a)(2b see charts at bottom)(3).

PS It snowed a lot on top.

Hurrican Ridge Web Cam, March 31, 2010 (Click for larger image.)
(Click for larger image.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Crossing Alligator Alley

I'm with family, near-about as far as I can get from home and still be in this country. Drove from east coast to west coast of Florida today (roughly; not likely to actually see the Gulf any more than I saw the Atlantic; this family doesn't do beaches). Lots of birds in the middle part of the Everglades crossing, but I didn't have a cheat sheet to tell me what I might see as the car whipped along the highway in the rain. An ibis for sure, but other white ones in two different sizes. A sort of cormorant — anhinga? Black vultures. Others.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rainbow in Changeable Weather

Afternoon, March 21, 2010, one day after Spring Equinox, looking NNW towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Rainbow (Click for larger image.)

Another Windy Day at First Beach, Whales or No

I went to the outer coast Saturday afternoon. I'd missed the perfect blue sky weather of the day before (tech woes finally surmounted: both desktop PC and notebook were sick simultaneously for several days, while I spent HOURS and DAYS on the phone with DP slowly trying diagnostics of one sort and another), and by the time I got out there to First Beach the wind was blowing like crazy and I knew I'd not be able to see whale blows. I stayed in the car on the point, reading and sometimes watching for quite a long time. They are passing by, they are surely passing by, plentiful sightings in Puget Sound (though no word from further north yet).

It's spring break for my job at the college, and tomorrow I leave for a one-week family visit. This might not be my year for seeing much in the way of gray whales.

If I have learned to feel their presence when I see blows, from just the sight of the air they breathe, then shall I teach myself to feel their presence when I know they are there, even though I couldn't tell a blow from the whitecaps and blowing spray. Not try to persuade myself that each more-vertical splash of spray could be a whale, but just know, "Out there, somewhere."


Another Windy Day At First Beach, March 20, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reading News

Spent the past few days reading The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver, wondering at my ignorance of history, which is surely one of the lacunae she means to point out. At one point put extra quarters in the dryers at the laundromat so I could keep reading instead of folding clothes.

Also spent the past few days trying to fix my desktop PC, age 8 years and may be at the end...

Also spent the past few days dreading/strategizing visit to four generations of family next week. I am a solitary person (and hate travel). Don't quite believe I even have four generations of family, mother sister niece greatniece. Aiiii.

Frost Melting, March 18, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Current Ridge Cam

There's a cloud deck between here and up there. Yup.

OMG. Hurricane Ridge Web Cam, 3:41 PM, March 15, 2010. (Click for larger image.)

Thank you, Olympic National Park.

Elk, and Weather, and Bad Planning

The elk were out in the field at Beaver Prairie Sunday morning.

Lake Crescent, morning after spring storm, March 14, 2010 (Click for larger image.)
Faraway Elk, March 14, 2010 (Click for large image showing context.)

I had gone to do my regular beached-birds survey for COASST, but was not early enough to catch enough low tide for both segments; only walked the Rialto Jetty part, scrambling up and down the beach face and peering into the drift. No beached birds. A little marine debris. The riprap at the near end of the extended jetty has shifted around a bit, spread out (because the new sand pumped in just there by the dredger changed the profile?) All the big wood is moved around again, including the really giant log near the trail from the parking lot. I heard a high-surf warning on the radio a few days ago, but assumed vaguely it couldn't mean much so late in the winter. Well.

James Island from Rialto Jetty, March 14, 2010. (Click for larger image.)

Then sat on a log and watched the tide come in, and in; then drove around to La Push to look for whales at First Beach. Weather was far too windy and rough to see whale blows, and though I looked anyway I didn't try very hard; mostly sat in the car reading or scanning with binoculars, hopping out in the blowing raindrops now and then to take pictures. I'll have to go back next weekend when the weather and tides are more cooperative, to survey the Ellen Creek beach, and look for whales again.

First Beach view of the ocean, full of white caps and little breakers that look like whale blows (Click for larger image.)
For the Readers Who Like to Listen to the Surf (Click for larger image.)

These images are all dark. The day was like that.

Where Are You Going And What Will You Catch?

Sunday morning I stopped at the Fairmount store for gas and road food. There were two small trucks pulling two small boats there, fishermen on the same sort of shopping errand. I asked one of them, "Where are you going and what will you catch?" "King salmon, out of Port Angeles," he said.

...and I thought about Eugene Field all the rest of the day. "Where are you going, and what do you wish?"/ The old moon asked the three/ "We have come to fish for the herring fish/ That live in this Beautiful Sea;/ Nets of silver and gold have we!"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Plenitude of Ship Action

Saturday afternoon, Ediz Hook, after the rain. Alaskan Explorer, Akili, and Seabulk Arctic were anchored in the harbor. The second pilot boat has returned from wherever it had disappeared to. There were a few harlequin ducks, and a grebe, on the harbor side; but as expected most of the ducks seem to have left for their breeding ranges.

Alaskan Explorer; Port Angeles; Olympic Mountains (Click for larger image.)
Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, docked at the Pilot Station (Click for larger image.)

I was watching the Yang Ming Line freighter, YM Orchid, come in off the ocean, and turned around to see if a pilot boat had gotten under way to meet her, and there was Akili suddenly on the move, leaving the harbor. She moved out into the Strait, Juan de Fuca followed her out to pick up her pilot once she was out of the harbor and outbound, and she headed towards the ocean. Pilot boat then went over to Orchid to put a pilot aboard who would bring her into the container port at Tacoma. Akili westbound and Orchid eastbound crossed paths.

YM Orchid and Akili (Click for larger image.)

As Coho (ferry from Victoria) began to approach the US shore, I could almost get all three and the pilot boat in the same picture. Welcome home, Coho.

M/V Coho approaching, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back to Today: Raining Again

Next time it stops, I'm going down to the harbor to look for ducks and ships and things.

The End of the Story

Early in the week, Eric Muller from Ballard Diving and Salvage sent me a press release and a photograph of the raising of the barge Nehalem from the mouth of the Quillayute River. Olympic Peninsula Environmental News has the story, and here—my goodness, wow, yes— here is Nehalem, back in the world and looking quite chipper considering it was sunk for 13 days: "the crane assisting in putting the dredge barge back on the mother ship Eland, early Sunday morning."

March 7, very early. Thank you, Ballard Diving and Salvage. (Click for larger image.)

Since I did not have the sense to tag the story from the beginning, let me pull it back together here:
February 23 the barge sank;
February 26 and 27, retrieval efforts viewed on the webcam;
March 2, eyewitness images, Nehalem still not rescued;
March 6, eyewitness images, preparing to finish the job.

Sunny Morning Here

Sunny morning. View NNE. Neighborhood, Strait, Blue Sky (Click for larger image.)
Sunny morning. View SSE. Mount Angeles, Unicorn Peak, Hurricane Ridge. (Click for larger image.)

Yo, Park, I can see you up there. Clean the ice off the camera on Hurricane Ridge, plz. Thx.

Heard the ferry horn, he was five minutes late getting under way. (Yes, T., I have reformed and all ships are 'she' except our doughty ferry.)(It occurs to me suddenly that Little Toot was also a boy, no?) All this blue sky here (and up on the mountain so far as I can see) is a bit baffling. It's gray on the Lake Crescent cam.

Webcam at Lake Crescent (Click for larger image.)

Though it seemed to have rained a lot, a lot the past few days, and the precipitation and snow-water equivalent graph up on the Ridge responded:

Waterhole SnoTel (Click for larger image.)

there was almost no effect on the river, still running below average (which is in fact normal for an El Nino year spring...)

The Elwha River gauge at Macdonald Bridge (Click for larger image.)

Housekeeping required before I get to go anywhere or do anything today. Eeeee-too-bad.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Saturday, March 06, 2010

And, What Happened to the Barge?

If you lost the thread about the barge, it's because I lost the thread. It had totally disappeared off the web-cam—except for a whole lot of orange floating stuff—long about Wednesday evening. I thought they got it, though I'd been watching the cam and hadn't seen it happen;

but indeed it was not rescued: it sank completely.

Saturday, La Push. When I went to look for the gray whales, there was no place to park on the point; partly all the other people with all their other purposes, but also a lot of big Coast Guard and government trucks, and Ballard Diving and Salvage's hummer. They were watching out to sea, waiting; after a couple of hours a great honking tug and salvage barge came chugging in off the ocean after milling around for a while with a couple of Coast Guard cutters, apparently waiting for the tide.

The tug Patricia S. pulling a Quigg Bros. barge, coming in off the ocean (Click for larger image.)
Tug and barge entering the channel (sorry for the glare, shooting into the sun) (Click for larger image.)

They spent forever getting organized, unsecuring the equipment, getting ready. Then Patricia S. fastened herself firmly to the Quigg barge and they chugged over to Eland (the dredger mother ship) and used the crane to lift off lots of equipment.

Patricia S. and the Quigg Bros. barge (Click for larger image.)
View showing tug, barge, dredger mother ship, and Quileute Harbor (Click for larger image.)
Tug, barge & dredger snugged up together, lifting equpment from dredge to barge (Click for larger image.)

The Coasties on the shore said the retrieval attempt would be 'tonight', so I left around 4:45. By the time I got home, the webcam had shut down for the day as usual at 5:30, showing the tug still lashed tight to barge right at the spot where poor Nehalem sank.

This morning it looks like they must have succeeded, the webcam seems not to show the orange warning floats any more; though with the change in the weather the cam might be showing us another planet altogether. Wait. OMG. Action on the cam. Patricia S. just appeared. Not going to try to keep updating...

And, Are The Gray Whales Passing First Beach?

Saturday, La Push. People everywhere, doing everything. Surfers. Twi-hards (Twilight fans) arriving in clumps, picking their way down to the water to take pictures of each other, running squealing from the now-incoming tide. A para-sailor. Marine-salvage watchers (of which more anon). Whale watchers, me and another vanload, collectively failing to spot... wait... YES!!!

We were first watching across the cove of First Beach, without success.

Where they were, was way out toward the horizon, beyond the buoy. It helps so much to have people looking with you, seeing with you. Once we could see them, there they were. Soon we were calling out to each other, "Blow!!" "Two, I saw two!" M., who had been saying that seeing a blow would not be the same as seeing a whale, was soon just as excited and satisfied as the rest of us. A Twi-hard mom wanted to know what we were carrying on about. Whales, we said. You're kidding, she said, and soon was watching whales with us while her daughters were down on the sand.

No-o-o, that big sploosh in the picture below is a wave on a rock, not a whale. Whale blows on the horizon are way more subtle than that. Don't show up in photographs.

Out there. (Click for larger image.)

A Day Full of Answers

On Second Beach, Saturday. Can you walk out to Crying Lady Rock when the tide is low? Not when the low is around a zero (0.8 feet yesterday). Will have to try again with the big daytime minus tides of summer.

But the waves come ashore in their flat-sandy-beach way, a half-inch tall and gentle to the max. It feels like you could walk outward forever.

The logjam wasn't so scary and humiliating this time; without a companion hovering over me solicitously, I just merrily crawled and slid my way across.

There were eagles. You could hear them calling, see them sitting around on skylines.

The Small Arch in Quateata, north end of Second Beach. Note the eagle... (Click for larger image.)

Oooh, look, Washington Coastal Geology between the Hoh and Quillayute Rivers is online. Thank you, Washington DNR.

Friday, March 05, 2010

It Was Blue Out

Yesterday afternoon I went out onto Ediz Hook. As I came around a corner and headed downhill towards the harbor, seeing all that sweep of blue water made me smile as if I were newly arrived again. There was no ship action: one of the Polar tankers out in the harbor with a small boat by it, no big ships coming or going on the Strait. Only one pilot boat at the dock: if the other is still gone the next time I go out there I'll ask someone about it. Not too many ducks still around, a few bufflehead.

Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you look at the large size image, you can see downtown Victoria silhouetted against Mt. Douglas. Click for larger image.)
Strait of Juan de Fuca. Just blue, that's all. (Click for larger image.)

Today was even more blue, unbelievably beautiful; but I was absorbed in housekeeping, planning to go to Second Beach tomorrow morning for the low tide if I could stay on track and take care of things, so I barely even looked out.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gray Whale Update from "Journey North"

The Journey North report for March 3rd pulls together reports to date. It's a worrisome year. Very low counts of mother/calf pairs in the lagoons.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Nehalem Still Not Rescued

On Monday morning the West-Quillayute web cam appeared to show the sunken barge about to be winched up onto her mother ship, the Eland. But by noon something had plainly gone wrong, Eland backed out of camera range and Nehalem in the drink again. This was the real reason I abandoned my post at the tribal library as soon as J. arrived to cover, and hurried west.

The same gray windy conditions obtained as in the previous post— well, yeah, it was the same place, just looking west instead of SSW along the beach. I hung out a long time in the weather, taking pictures and sometimes adjourning to the other side of the point to look at the surf on First Beach. Lots of watchers came and went.

The dredging operation's mother ship, Eland (Click for larger image.)

It was high tide. A little runabout boat, Bar Fly, left the mother ship and Did Things With Cables and Anchors over by Nehalem.

Nehalem and Bar Fly (Click for larger image.)

The tide came in more, and things looked worse.

Not Looking At All Good (Click for larger image.)

There were a couple of guys sittin' in a pickup watching. They fish together on the older man's 40-footer (but only in calmer weather than yesterday)(and when there's not a sad little barge sunk in the channel). The younger one lived there on the Rez. He told me that salvage divers had filled Nehalem with inflated balloons, that's what got her afloat and upright (like a sick horse that had been laying in a field and then suddenly got up and was going to live, was how he described it), and they attempted to winch her on board Eland. But there was still too much water in her, apparently, they just ran out of power.

His son had been working on the dredging operation so he knows stuff. He said they weren't done, had about 24 more hours of dredging/pumping to go when they messed up. The story he tells is full of guys thinking one thing and bosses saying another. Long series of bad decisions all bosses's fault. Not clear to me which boss. The captain, the owner, the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers who let the contract???

When I left, Coast Guard guys and salvage diver guys were standing around on shore where I was parked, waving their arms. I left thinking poor Nehalem was toast, the coasties wanting it Out Of The Channel and were going to have it pulled willynilly to the shore.

But in fact, nothing whatsoever happened today that you could see on the cam. Nehalem nearly vanished under the waves when the tide was high, but by 5:30 PM (when they freeze the webcam), the tide was halfway out again and she was looking Definitely Still There.

West--Quillayute River Cam, 5:29PM, pretty much the same as yesterday (Click for larger image.)

PS. I did a lot of web searching without learning much. A nice picture of Eland, with Nehalem aboard, in happier days.

PPS. A lot of logging trucks on the highway, one carrying HUGE logs, where could they possibly be harvesting trees that large?

PPS. Eagles, and a sea lion.

March First, No Whales

Gray Whales Count on Coal Oil Point in Goleta, California, has counted 93 northbound whales so far this season. The American Cetacean Society northbound count at Point Vicente on the Paolos Verkes Peninsula (CA) is 136 as of yesterday. At La Push they started seeing whales a couple of weeks ago. These would all be the solo males (mothers and babies are still in the lagoons). Based on Orcanetwork reports (sighting map at bottom of page), the (mostly young male) gray whales that are resident in and around Puget Sound in the summers have begin to return.

So I went out to the Outer Coast after working a few hours at the tribe. At First Beach it was grey and windy; the waves were big. No hope of seeing whale blows under those conditions. And anyway they are only there when they're there.

... (Click for larger image.)