Saturday, March 31, 2012

Awfully Far Away At the Moment

Wandering the web, thinking about there even though I'm in Florida, nearabout as far away as I can be. With the help of Mike Sato's SalishSea News and Weather, and twitter, and the PDN and the dam webcams, I may be 3500 miles away, but my head is still immersed in stories of home.

The arrival of a derelict fishing boat off the Queen Charlotte Islands means NOAA has had to begin changing its tsunami debris models, though they apparently still never acknowlege that Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham have been saying the same thing for six months. Seattle Times has a wonderful story about the Puget Sound pilots who work out of the pilot station at Port Angeles harbor, and another great story about revegetation work in the lake bottoms exposed by the deconstructn of the dams on the Elwha. The dead killer whale L112 died of an explosion. This is going to be a huge ongoing story, and will affect how my friends at the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary can do their work.

It's been raining all week up home, and we are good for snow in the mountains (1) (2). Other places I care about doing not nearly so well for precip and water-storage in the mountains, but it's dang hard to blog via the iPad. Will stop here...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Different Coast on a Different Ocean

Visiting family in Florida on the other coast. This does not usually mean that I so much as glimpse the other ocean, except from the plane. Family never gets there, and anyway they are not outdoors people.

But I spent a couple of hours with an old friend I know since middle school (!). We stole a little extra time from sitting with my mom, and went Out in search of the Atlantic Ocean. Found it.

Also found surfers, beach umbrellas, kitesurfers, and blue water reaching to Africa.

Florida. View from the Pompano Beach Municipal Fishing Pier, March 28, 2012. (Click for larger image.)

Kite surfing! Who knew? People can fly.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Watching Whole Forests Sail Away

In the late afternoon on Saturday, all was quiet at the T-pier. Three men were working across the top of Port Alice's load, checking the firmness of the tie-downs.

Port Angeles Harbor, March 24, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

... (Click for larger image.)

The access gates were closed, the big log-loader machines asleep out in the parking area.

... (Click for larger image.)

The man in the security shack said she was scheduled to sail at 5PM, so I came back at 4PM, parked where I had an angle view of the bow, and waited. Other watchers came and went. Ships came and went, some quite large. Polar Discovery came in off the Strait, anchored in mid-harbor; her tug Garth Foss left her there, and the fueling barge Brian S. came across to bunker her. Waited some more (finished reading a Paul Levine mystery, started a Kerry Greenwood). A loud horn blasted me out of the car thinking I was missing the magic moment, but no, lines still tied her to the dock. The pilot boat made a run across the harbor, presumably to deliver the pilot. The tugs Valor and Response appeared, and aligned themselves with their noses to the starboard side of Alice.

Here comes Juan de Fuca to deliver the pilot (Click for larger image.)
Response and Valor. Polar Discovery in the background. (Click for larger image.)

Waited some more. We have tugs, we have a pilot, isn't it time?

Three crew members made their way to the bow. A forklift came along the pier, delivering some dockside guys to release the lines. The tugs were waiting. One by one the lines slurped up through the holes in the bow. It was 7:20PM, and I'd been waiting more than three hours.

But then. the tugs. TUGGED.

Response pulling Port Alice sideways. Coast Guard Station on Ediz Hook in the background (Click for larger image.)

Worth all that waiting to see it with my own eyes.

Away she ever so slowly went. Valor and Response kept her clear of the buoy near the pier, and helped her steer her way around Polar Discovery in the temporarily crowded harbor.

And off she sailed, heading for Taicang, north of Shanghai. I went home, hoping to spot her out on the Strait from my kitchen window as she sailed across the horizon of H Street; but the outbound shipping lane is far to the Canadian side of the Strait so she'd have been small by then and lost in the dusk, and anyway I was cooking dinner.

This is a working port in its very small way. Big tankers fuel up here, have maintenance done at Terminal 1, shelter from storms. And the log trucks come in from the west end, and the ships are filled with logs from the holds to the top of the stanchions. I've been watching the logships load, and whole forests sail away, and then tracking them on the shiptracker sites, for a couple of years now. Have hoped for a long time to catch this part of the process. Port Alice hadn't gotten far yet this morning; she was heading due west when she went off the tracker websites, though surely she'll veer north for the great circle passage through the Aleutians... Bye bye, Alice, bye bye.

Last glimpse of Port Alice, from (Click for larger image.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All I, Realllly, Want to Do-o-o-o

Monday morning sunrise. A temporary clearing to the east made it possible to confirm that yes indeed the sun rose where it always does on the equinoxes, amidst the henge of field lights over in Shane Park.

Sunrise, March 19, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

I went out to the Lower Elwha rez to check in at the tribal library for a little while, then headed... well, which way to go was the question. I wanted to go to the ocean, but really, all I wanted to do was go home and read my book. So west I went, yes, but all I did when I got to Rialto Beach was find a nice log to lean against, with a nice bank of soft pebbles under me, and read. No First Beach staring at the horizon—I let those stealthy grey whales appear or not without any witness from me. No detour up the Sol Duc River to see if the steelhead are jumping at Salmon Cascades (they probably are). No long vigorous walkies. No ANYTHING. Just Rialto again, and a book.

Rialto Again (And A Book), March 19, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

When it got rain-showery I tried to head home (since I couldn't read any more), but kept stopping instead of actually leaving the beach, sitting on this log and that. Once I was gone, I wouldn't be there anymore, and how could I do that.

Title of post is a Bob Dylan soundbyte from— oh my Lord— 1964, which was darn near 50 years ago...

Looking Around

The contractors have returned the Elwha River to its original channel at the site of the former (FORMER!) Elwha Dam. Peninsula Daily News (see also the Seattle Times stories) and the Park's dam-removal blog tell us that

Elwha Dam, from the Dam Cams (original channel to left side of image) (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in a hundred years, salmon can move upriver a few more miles, until they reach Glines Canyon dam. (Salmon, come home. Salmon, come home.) Glines Canyon dam is a lot lower after six months of work, and will be completely removed as much as a year ahead of schedule, but is plainly still there for now.

Glines Canyon Dam, from the Dam Cams (Click for larger image.)

Thankies to both newspapers cited above, which are doing great work to keep us informed about the restoration of the Elwha River. We are by the way being welcomed to hike down to the delta at the south end of ever-shrinking Lake Mills. But it's all so very ugly, and will be for a long time... Not sure I'll trudge down there... Well of course I will. Eventually. One of the articles I read asked us please not to step on the plants. A lot of the native veg from the restoration greenhouses is already out there on the former lake bottoms.

It's gone on raining, a lot, and the snowpack up in the Park is suddenly deep.

Data from the Waterhole Sno-Tel on Hurricane Ridge (Click for larger image.)

In fact, all of Washington looks good for water storage in the mountains.

River Basin Snow Water Content (Click for larger image.)

There's a log ship at the T-pier. Will try to score some photos this afternoon.

I spared y'all the sight of dead birds when I wrote the blog post about Friday's survey at Hobuck Beach. But I wanted to mention that we found four dead birds. The tufted puffin had been buried in the sand to where only his beak showed; JL spotted him. The wind was blowing so hard someone had to hold down the immature gull for the record photographs, because the wings still functioned as sails and kept flipping up. The common loon was a re-find, first recorded the month before (protocol says you don't need to re-measure, or take more than one photo, for a re-find.) And the white-winged scoter, oh my, the scoter was fresh and soft and intact, a whole different experience to handle. You could almost imagine setting him on his feet and expecting him to go back to paddling around, except he was entirely limp and dead. We found him (her?) on the way back, by then dragging our bags of marine debris and our tired selves, and with the car in sight; not wonderfully pleased to have to drop baggage, rummage out the tools, and do another bird.

For context, here are the overall Beached Bird Patterns, from the COASST web site.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

This Beach Gets Everything

Friday morning early we headed out to Hobuck Beach on the Makah Reservation for the monthly seabird survey for COASST. The weather in town was rainy. By the time we reached the high point of the drive, between Lake Crescent and Sappho (map), it was snowy and downright discouraging. But people were waiting for us and it has to be done every month regardless of conditions, plus I had faith in the forecast, which was for a hole in the weather. It's going to clear, I kept telling JL.

US 101, somewhere west of Lake Crescent, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

We stopped west of Sekiu to pick up NM, spotted ten or a dozen swans in the Wa'atch River behind Neah Bay, and rendezvoused with SP at the parking area by the beach. By then the wind continued stiff out of the southwest but it looked like this:

Hobuck Beach, March 16, 2012.

We bundled up for wind protection, and set forth. NM was a relative newbie, so we went in detail through the process of identifying each dead bird we found, no shortcuts though in fact JL knew what each was. NM did the measuring, for practice. You get intimate with them by the time you are done giving each late sentient being its proper respect and a place in the scientific record. "We just leave it?" NM asked each time. Well yes. We don't have collecting permits, and anyway the bird belongs where it lies. But her reluctance to just leave it was contagious. I'd look back as we walked away.

COASST Volunteers Identifying and Recording a (Dead) Tufted Puffin (Click for larger image.)

Yeah, Hobuck Beach so reliably holds and accumulates what washes ashore that it is used for training new volunteers: there are usually dead birds for them to practice identifying. (Found the title for this post on my notebook page from the December survey, a quote from someone.) And usually has lots of wrack (this day not so much), dead birds, kelp, sand dollars and limpets and other invertebrates washed up,

... (Click for larger image.)

and marine debris. We citizen scientists are on alert for six particular kinds of floating debris which might be early arriving traces of the tsunami in Japan a year ago. And we found two of the kinds. Four of the big styrofoam floats, and two of the small flying-saucer ones.

Floats found on Hobuck Beach, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Also lots of bottles with markings in other languages. Chinese. (Japanese?) [Later: IJ emailed persuasively that it is more likely to be Chinese as there are no hiragana characters, only kanji.] Something Cyrillic. Something Scandinavian [Later: AW says it is Danish].

Bottles from elsewhere, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Kitchen Table Portrait of Cyrillic Bottle, with Keyhole and Whitecap Limpets (Click for larger image.)

The others were inclined to at least consider that any bottle with kanji on it was fresh tsunami debris. But I remember finding a similar array two years ago in the spring when there had been a big swell out of the southwest. I think maybe even in the case of bottles which may be of Japanese origin (there were others not photographed) they are unlikely to be tsunami-related, just that conditions have fished them out of the garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre and sent them to our beaches; and anyway there will be no way to say with certainty one way or the other. But the floats? There's a lot of them, all up and down the coast. People who know their beaches know they haven't seen them before...

Hobuck Beach. By this point we have moved on to the marine-debris tally-sheet part of the survey protocol

We came home via 112, hoping for elk. Saw two different herds in the fields.

Elk (Click for larger image.)

One last video. Two of the big foam floats we saw were actually out of reach, on the far side of the Wa'atch River at the north end of our survey territory. One had come to rest, the other was energetically rolling inland, pushed by the wind.

Foam Float on the Far Side of the Wa'atch River, Being Pushed Ashore by the Wind, March 16, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maritime Mystery

Tuesday afternoon there was a log barge parked in the harbor, with its attendant tug. I saw it when I went down to put in some time on the Marine Sanctuary's electronic library database. Wednesday afternoon it was still there, and when WC left on the ferry there seemed to be a lot of loose logs afloat on the Strait just outside the harbor. What was Paul Bunyan doing sitting around in our harbor for days? Hiding from bad weather (there had been some, and more coming)? Why did she (he?) appear not even to be on speaking terms with his tug, Henry Brusco? Given the tidal currents that sweep back and forth in the Strait, could the loose logs be from Bunyan, and still be around a couple of days later? By now have the logs been rescued?

Paul Bunyan with Henry Brusco (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WhaleWatch Score

Here is how it will go for the next couple of months. I will drive out along Lake Crescent. There will be weather of some sort or other, and beauty of some sort or other.

Lake Crescent, March 10, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

This time I stopped at That Photo Stop to take a picture of That Madrone, though I don't usually.

That Madrone, Artfully Posing as a Bonsai (Click for larger image.)

At the Three Rivers store I will reluctantly bypass the righthand fork which leads to happy beach hours at Rialto Beach, and instead take the left-hand fork to La Push, to attempt to see the gray whale migration. Notice the word 'attempt'. It foreshadows. At La Push, I will park overlooking First Beach, and look. If conditions are windy or wet, I will sit in the car and look. On this day, it's obviously going to be impossible to spot whale blows or little bits of whale out there in the surf.

First Beach, March 10, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

(This is another of those don't-usually photos. Usually I show the beautiful horizon, mostly. It's all I see, wherever I am. Here, however, is the portable whale-watch blind. It doubles as lunchroom, reading room, and wind shelter:

Portable Whale-watch Station (Click for larger image.)

The weather will be variable. On this day, it almost cleared once or twice, then there were more rainshowers. The wind was steady.

... (Click for larger image.)

Boats may go in and out through the river mouth, depending. In this case, two Coast Guard Boats bounced on out into a rainshower and disappeared, then later came back in.

Coast Guard boats approaching the river mouth (Click for larger image.)
Coast Guard boats in the channel (Click for larger image.)

I may see eagles. (Had a very nice eagle sighting on Saturday.) Driving along the highway, every time I approach a place where I have seen elk in the past, I will call them. (Am I going to confess to going, "He-e-e-re, elky elky elky," as I come around a curve? Not hardly. But it worked for JK and me in the dark last week.)

Other watchers will report success, yesterday or this morning or last Thursday. But the whales go into stealth mode when I am nearby, and for the next two months, weekend after weekend, my score will be something on the order of

Migrating Whales 10,000
Sightings 0

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

First Beach Web Cam

Why am I here and not there? (Love me them web cams...)

First Beach Web Cam, 7:20 AM, March 6, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Other glimpses of the world out there, brought to us in our desk chairs by the magic of the Web: For PG, you're right about the snowpack in the Sangre de Cristos:

SNOTEL Map (River Basin Snow Water Content), March 5, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Yesterday there were orcas in Port Angeles harbor again, which of course I didn't see. Didn't go out to First Beach to try to see gray whales, either. (Well ok, I had something to do and I got it done despite feeling crummy. But...) Falling down on my annual job of not-seeing whales from First Beach, need more discipline. They're coming, they're coming (1)(2). I need to be out there on the point in La Push, not seeing them.

By golly look at that. It snowed last night at only 500-whatever-feet when it rained here in town and was going plinky plinky on the drainpipes.

Glines Canyon Dam Cam, 7:32 AM, March 6, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

They're going to have to move the Lake Mills Delta Cam soon, the lake is drawn down so far you can barely see water... Hey, National Park information person, please update the Dam Removal Blog. The last entry was so-o-o-o good. #kthxbai

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Elk By The Highway In The Dark

At 11 AM we were finished with our Portland doctor business, and 4.5 hours from home if we came straight up the Interstate and then back along Hood Canal. But this was desert-dweller JK's opportunity to get to the Actual Outside Ocean on this trip, and she's driving; so it's her choice. We guessed it might take 7.5 hours to get home by the longer loop if we came up 101 on the coast, and we might be doing the last 90 minutes or so in the dark. (Actually we're wrong, it's more like 9.5 hours and a LOT of dark. Sorry, JK.) We hop in the car, find the US 26 freeway exit, and head west through the Coast Range.

We reached the coast at Seaside, Oregon, and spent a half hour on Del Rey Beach, a state recreation area. It is very very very flat. Cars drive on it. The ocean does that wonderful trick of coming ashore in waves barely two inches high...

Del Rey Beach, Oregon, February 27, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

North and north and north. Up the coast, past Astoria, climb up onto the bridge over the Columbia River, north and north and north. Along the nearly endless Willapa Bay, along the Kalaloch part of the coast at dusk. We take a little trail, look out over the ocean, admit it would be too dark by the time we found our way down to the beach to find our way back.

North north north in the dark. I knew where we were, the highway familiar by this point; for JK it was just a black tunnel. Between the Hoh River and Forks, twice there were bunches of elk right next to the highway, their beige butts and dark heads readily identifiable in the headlights. Elk! Elk! We agreed this counted as a wildlife sighting, fleeting flashing in the night though it was... Then finally home.

Started slow on Tuesday, and spent time writing up notes, making phone calls to doctors, and so on. Finally it was time for fun in the rain. We went to Salt Creek County Park. The tide was cooperative.

The tidepools at Tongue Point, February 28, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Then we went to the other side of the park and up the trail towards Striped Peak. It was just as the trail books promise, the beautiful woods, the sound of waves, the water through the trees too gray/misty to photograph. It's been right there all this time, half an hour away, and I'd never been. Yum.

Striped Peak Trail, February 29, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Expedition to Portland

We left spring in Port Angeles. Winter came back and went away and came back day after day. We walked around the neighborhood, read the weather forecast (dire), postponed our slow trip down the coast. Set forth on Saturday morning after another neighborhood walk,

The Bulbs Are Up In The Front Yards, Port Angeles, February 25, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

heading down Hood Canal to Olympia. Long leisurely lunch with JK's friend, Mike, after touring his backyard rain forest. Down the highway again through heavy rainshowers to a fine motel in Vancouver, WA.

Pit stop on Hood Canal: Triton Cove State Park, February 25, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Mike had proposed Beacon Rock on the north side of the Columbia River for a Sunday morning expedition. We rolled on upriver in the morning, sweeping views and rain and snowshowers. Hiked up to the top of Beacon Rock. It was highly satisfactory, in every sense but the photographic (misty rainy snowy). Views, our daily dose of aerobic exercise, trains on both sides of the river—wooo-oo chuggachugga chugga chugga; ships on the Columbia, Bonneville Dam just upstream. Could not make out through the murk and rain where the locks were, though saw a ship heading in that direction. Wouldn't watching a big ship through the lock (1) (2) be a sight to see?

JK at Beacon Rock State Park, February 26, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Beacon Rock is 848 feet tall. A sign on top of the rock says, "If you were standing here during the largest of the ice age floods, you would see icebergs floating in a churning mass of mud and water a mere 150' below you." Works for me. Here and there along the trail/walkway, some old railings remain. Though surely they can't date from the construction of the trail in 1918...

Beacon Rock Trail (Click for larger image.)

Then onward to a "Pacific Northwest Carcinoid Support and Advocacy Group - Oregon & SW Washington Chapter" meeting. (What, you were thinking this was a recreational expedition?) Met a number of very-long-term survivors (you don't ever meet non-survivors), learned a lot about courses of treatment and people's stories, technical language, treatment names, doctors' names, etc. Then on into Portland in the dark to a bad motel.

In the morning, appointment at the OHSU Center for Health and Healing. Consultation with super-expert doctor guy in my kind of disease. An astonishing sight out the windows of the waiting area: an aerial tram connects the CHH on the South Waterfront with an unseen main campus of OHSU up the hill somewhere.

Aerial tram, (Click for larger image.)

More in next post.