Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Found One

Tsunami debris? Tsunami debris. Here. Now.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the flotsam guy, was here in Port Angeles earlier in the month. He and James Ingraham gave a presentation at the college about the science of flotsam, their computer model, and the likelihoods— including that the earliest arriving tsunami debris, driven by wind as well as the known movements of water in the North Pacific Gyre, could show up at the 8-month point, like now, rather than at the two-year point as NOAA's water-driven models predict. They showed a lot of debris collected east of Neah Bay, including a big float that they were persuaded is surely from the tsunami coast. December 15 story from Peninsula Daily News).

December 16 followup story reported that similar buoys had been found up on Vancouver Island, and at La Push on Rialto Beach (eeeep, that's my beach, said I), and December 18 a story passing on a news story from Japan that "it looks like those used in oyster cultivation in the Miyagi area, The Mainichi Daily News said... Miyagi prefecture is in northeastern Japan and includes the hard-hit city of Sendai."

So on Sunday the 18th, KF and AM and I were ambling along at Rialto Beach. We crossed Ellen Creek, and there far back in the drift was, yes, a buoy, looking just like the one found at Neah Bay that they had on the stage at the presentation. But English markings.

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I emailed Dr. Ebbesmeyer. English markings, said I, so I assume not tsunami debris. Oh yes, he said, the same as the others and tentatively identified by Japanese officials. Eeeep, said I. Who manufactured it, what do the markings tell us, [doesn't seem very confirmed to me, I really meant], said I. Still doing research, said he.

But really it seems most likely. Why else are these things suddenly up and down the west coast here, exactly as predicted by the computer models for high-floating objects, unless truly they were carried away from the tsunami coast in the spring and now they are here? As will eventually be boats and houses and all the rest of what is now still out in the ocean... Dr. Ebbesmeyer says people in Japan hide mementos in their house walls, and we will need to be cautiously and even reverently attentive to the debris as it arrives, to preserve what traces we find for their families' sake. Oh my.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Days, Four Places, Three (Then Four) Old Friends

On Monday we did at least three things. First thing, we heading up to Hurricane Ridge. It was overcast in town, and layers of cloud and fog as we drove up,

Dungeness Spit from the Road Up. Not All That Clear, But I Stubbornly Showed It To Them Anyway (Click for larger image.)

...and on top, OMG, there was glory. The Bailey Range was on full display, with Mount Olympus behind.

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We walked a tiny bit here, a tiny bit there, without ever in fact leaving the plowed-out parking lot area. Carloads of people arrived to snowbunny, donned masses of gear, and snowshoed off. A snowshoeing class for small children spent forever getting started, the ranger patiently refastening the tiny plastic shoeshoes over and over, calling the kids (who were more interestied in sliding around and falling down) to gather round and pay attention over and over.

Part 2. On the way back into town we picked up sandwiches and went down to the harbor to watch IVS Kwaito load. KF took so many photos and little movies that the workmen got paranoid. She explained she was assembling a presentation for her two-year-old grandson, who Loves Trucks.

December 19, 2011. (Click for larger image.)

Hey, I'm not a two-year-old boy, and I too love the kind of Trucks And Things that work the harbor. While KF was zeroed in on Kwaito, suddenly behind the waiting log trucks one of the big yacht lifts appeared, rolling away from Platypus Marine and out onto a pair of tracks; and lowered the boat into the water. Oh. Aha. That's how it's done.

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Part 3. There was not so much daylight left, but we headed off to walk in the woods a little, along Barnes Creek on the trail to Marymere Falls. It's not the rainforest, but we weren't getting to the rainforest on this visit. And there are some fairly big dudes in there.

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And on Tuesday, sea voyage to another country: the three of us went to Victoria to visit with WC. One of the rewards of being sort of Old is there can be Really Old Friends. We had a good time. Went inside the Empress, and the Parliament Building; spent a whole lot of time photographing ducks and swans at Esquimalt Lagoon, had a nice lunch in Metchosin and then back to the Lagoon. Then back onto the ferry, sea voyage home again.

The Empress Rules Victoria's Inner Harbor. As seen from the ferry... (Click for larger image.)
Me and WC and AM on the lawn of the Parliament Building (Click for larger image.)

Later The Same Day

It's still Sunday afternoon. We're in La Push, overlooking First Beach. The tide has turned, and steelhead are coming up the river. Steller's sea lions are working the river mouth, diving around, barking. (We know it's steelhead because one of the other watchers on the point is a fisherman.)

The sun came out, transforming the world.

Looking Towards Quileute Needles. First Beach, December 18, 2011 (Click for larger image.)
Toothiness: a sea lion pops up (Click for larger image.)
In the Sun, Suddenly Two Eagles Stand Out, La Push harbor, 12/18/11 (Click for larger image.)
The Quileute school in La Push (Click for larger image.)
Long Soft View Across First Beach. This Time of Year the Gray Whales Are Far Out To Sea, and Southbound, So We Are Not Seeing Them, But They'd Have Hidden Anyway If They Were There... (Click for larger image.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The One Beach

Off we went to the outer coast. The promised sunshine eluded us for some hours. On Rialto Beach we had wild water, the usual entrancement of visitors by the huge drift logs, a buoy up in the drift with English markings (apparently therefore NOT tsunami debris),

...eagles, oystercatchers, a little tidepooling—anemones, ochre stars,ribbed limpets and a seaweed called spongy cushion that first we looked in the book under tunicates and then under sponges before we found it—and, as Robinson Jeffers said of another place, "unbridled and unbelieveable beauty."

I still feel fine, you know. Well capable of hustling my visitors two miles along the sand to the most beautiful beach in the world, and back again.

(These images a mix of KF's and mine. You can tell mine 'cause my camera makes a grey world blue. (Click for larger image.)
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Then we whipped around the corner to La Push, to the point overlooking First Beach, where I'd see whales in April if I saw any which-last-year-I-did-not,-not-once (see next post).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ships for the Watcher

A tanker at Terminal 1, a log ship at Terminal 3 ('the T-pier')— action on offer for this week's visitors. The window of the office I work in at NOAA when I'm doing data entry for their Electronic Library looks along the harbor, across the ferry terminal loading lanes towards where the working ships hang out. There's Alaskan Explorer, and behind her IVS Kwaito.

Window with a view. Explorer and Kwaito, and no cars yet for the ferry. (Click for larger image.)

So when I leave the NOAA office it's sunset, but I whip around to the docks. They're loading.

Ships, Friday evening (Click for larger image.)
Kwaito and Explorer tail to tail. (Click for larger image.)

Saturday noonish I go to check on the action, and find that it's lunch hour for the log truck drivers. About a dozen trucks sitting ready, and Nothing Moving. Alaskan Explorer has left, Terminal 1 is empty. The man in the guard shack and I agree we think that Kwaito must be bound for China, because the logs are peeled. Then I hustle off to the airport to pick up AD and KF.

Vair vair quiet at the T-Pier, December 17 noon. (Click for larger image.)

Lunch Hour for the Log Truck Drivers, December 17

It's one of those days when I stubbornly see sun breaks in the forecast. About to round up KF and AD, and haul us out to the Outer Coast.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dams and Ships and Things

Ooooh, look. They found something entertaining to do at Elwha Dam that is outside the riverbed and not causing silt during this 'fish window'. Since the middle of last month they have taken out the old powerhouse buildings. (I had other things on my mind and missed it entirely.) And now: thank you, Peninsula Daily News, for a film of the old powerhouse tower at Elwha Dam coming down this morning. It looks like they've put a telescope there at the viewpoint, too. Yum. It's still pretty boring on the upper dam webcam, because nothing visible is happening. I can't wait until they start lowering the dam face again, presumably in January when the 'fish window' closes.

That Was Then. From the webcam's slideshow, Nov. 16 is when they started on the powerhouse buildings. (Click for larger image.)
This Is Now. Today the tower came down, boom. (Click for larger image.)

Thanks to the local paper also for harbor columnist David Sellars. On Sunday he gave an update on the log trade. Three log ships are due to load this month, 'despite a softening demand for logs within the Asian market during the past few months' as Mr. Sellars describes. The first of the three, IVS Kwaito, just came in off the Strait this morning. There will be photos.

And lastly, my friend IJ found this story about the reintroduction of fishers to an area in the Sierra Nevada in California. The story mentions that they have been reintroduced also near Crater Lake (Oregon) and here in Olympic National Park. Ours certainly didn't need to be encouraged to leave their cages. I don't think I've seen stories about them for a couple of years. I hope the reintroduction took.

What Else Is Going On

A short version, from an email to a friend. Most of you already know, and I might not write about it here again: "I have carcinoid tumors, much metastasized. It is a slow-growing neuroendocrine cancer, and usually—as with me— found by accident and after it has spread beyond removal. We are still gathering information, further scanning scheduled in Seattle for 2nd week of January. Treatment of choice already begun, injections of a hormonal drug which if it works will slow growth still further, and suppress symptoms (which in fact I have not yet got).

"If it doesn't work, yeah well, other things to try and the clock ticking louder; no way to know how it will go for me, where I will be on the survival curve (whose median is definitely scary); and isn't that really life. Not knowing.

"I was shocked and frightened clear out of my wits for about six weeks; better now. Am going to my tiny part-time job at the college library, doing volunteer time working on the 'electronic library documents' database for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and generally behaving as if for now I can stay here and be embedded in the life I chose in Port Angeles four years and a bit ago.

"Which as I get sicker will not work. But I am not going to uproot myself until I do get sicker. Whenever that is.

"Sorry for all the detail. Talking about it helps me not drift off into denial. Thanks for asking."

Frosty Ocean

On Monday tagged along for the monthly beached-bird survey at Hobuck Beach. Four of us from Port Angeles, including my bird mentors MSB and JL, and SP who lives out there at Neah Bay. (map) It was cold, cold cold; heavy frost here in town and all along the highway. Lots of birds visible from the highway as we drove along the Strait, ducks and cormorants. Half a dozen or so bald eagles scattered along, including one in a tree by the harbor at Neah Bay who didn't seem to have moved at all when we came back five or so hours later. A pair of swans near the Wa'atch bridge.

Hobuck Beach, December 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

The wrack and everything else still frosty when we came down onto the beach. The first (dead) birds we found were frozen, and the beach itself frozen hard under our knees as we worked to identify them.

The first bird—and several of the others—was a common murre, a tidy little intact juvenile high up in the drift. We also had a couple of rhinoceros auklets, a Pacific loon, a Brandt's cormorant; maybe 12 bird (corpses) total to identify and report to COASST. We divided into two teams and hopscotched each other along the beach, me and SP and MSB doing the even-numbered birds, whose ID photos ended up in my camera... (example)

Working birds, Hobuck Beach, December 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Shorebirds, wrack, lots of sand dollars. I picked up several limpet shells, whitecap and keyhole. Am way into limpets these days.

Stopped for a snack at the turnaround. There was a loon showing off in the mouth of the Wa'atch River, we stalked him with JL's camera; the sun was warm, we were all very mellow.

Lots of sponge in the wrack, and lots of sanddollars (Click for larger image.)

Kept right on finding (dead) birds on the return leg. We picked up a whole lot of trash as we returned, and left one big heavy trashbag with a surfer whose vehicle was parked right behind the beach, so we didn't have to carry it all the way back to the car. It was very satisfying to pick up trash all the way, and not just the 1/4 mile that we were filling out the Marine Debris tracking form...

On the way home, two pairs of swans, and a field full of elk by the highway just west of the Ozette turnoff.

Elk along Highway 112. We were talking cameras when they appeared, as in what shall I buy if I want to reach out for elk who may otherwise be faraway fuzzy specks... (Click for larger image.)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Garnet Sand

Went to the ocean on Saturday. My houseguest of the moment, my old friend LB, stayed in the car or wandered about and did just what she pleased; so I did too; please myself, I mean. It was dark-cloudy, then brighter, with subtle light effects my poor little camera is not up to. Golden. The light in the picture below should be golden on the water. Ambled north solo along the beach as far as where Ellen Creek flows into the ocean. Then ambled back. Stopped and read for a while. That's the best, really. I be there, I get lost in a story, I wake out of the story and I am still there.

Rialto Beach, December 3, 2011, at a brighter moment (Click for larger image.)

When it works it is deeply soothing, I smile all the way home. (This is different from ecstasy moments, which are rare and I can't remember the last time I had any, a couple of years at least. Don't need 'em either, as long as I get to entirely stop for a while in the sound of the waves.)

Rialto Beach at Ellen Creek, December 3, 2011 (soundscape for Cee)
Rialto Beach, more or less from where I sat reading (soundscape for Cee)

The place along the beach where the garnet sand sometimes appears put on its subtle show. A gull posed. And on our way west, the elk were out on Beaver Prairie.

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Elk on Beaver Prairie. Resolved: No more waiting. I must shop for a new camera, no matter what else is going on: one which will reach out to the elk, ... (Click for larger image.)

PS I did want to mention as I have before that whenever I am there at Ellen Creek, I think of it as the Raymond Carver point—"Where water comes together with other water"— though he made that phrase for the place where Morse Creek flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca; and that I always look at the modest creek flow and think of Ivan Doig's story in This House of Sky of getting swept into the ocean, right there, by a winter storm tide. (Hope the link works. You're welcome.)