Who needs an underwater camera?

All I need is a large building with glass-walled rooms that are filled with reconstructed marine ecosystems.

Like the Seattle Aquarium!

This bull kelp is in a big dome that you can stand under. Check out that diver! He's over our heads. Those bags he's got are full of squid and herring because he's about to feed the fish

We saw them feed the octopus, who looked an awful lot like the one that Rudy caught on the Rosanna Marie when we were crabbing. And there are sea otters and seals.

I like how clearly you can the seal's....toes?

And these are coral polyps! There's a whole section of the aquarium devoted to Pacific coral reefs.

And this is a tufted puffin. And Sean. And me! You can watch the birds dive and catch fish under water. It's pretty amazing--they're fast and graceful and not at all as silly as they look on land.

Fishermen's Terminal 09.21

Seiners as far as the eye can see.

This is Fishermen's Terminal, in Seattle. These are the last fishing boats I'll see for a while, as I'm off to Atlanta soon.

Fish ladder 09.20

I stopped in Olympia this afternoon for a lovely lunch and a little jaunt around a park that has a salmon hatchery.

That concrete wall hides a ladder for the salmon to run up, with a series of pools, kind of like locks, that the salmon can rest in.

This is where they end up. See their little backs poking out of the water? They put ladders like this besides rivers to make the run easier, or next to dams so that the salmon can get up where human engineering would otherwise prevent it.



I love this image. It's bull kelp. This particular photo was taken as part of the Census of Marine Life, which is an umbrella over a whole lot of projects that are collectively documenting biodiversity in the ocean. I'm drooling over their image gallery.

I can't take pictures like this yet, but maybe one day I'll get an underwater camera. I've been warned that putting mine in a ziplock bag is not going to cut it.

When it's not modeling for photos, you can find bull kelp acting as crucial structural and nutritional support for complex offshore ecosystems, as media for herring roe fishing, and as the base for this special Alaskan salsa.


Brave New World

I landed in Seattle this morning. People are dressed like they live in a city, no one smells like fish, and it’s really sunny. I’m disoriented. 

At this very moment, I’m zooming down to Castlerock on Amtrak, which has wifi. Civilization has really come a long way while I’ve been fishing.

Slow trip to Ketchikan 09.04

For the last two days, we’ve been travelling a few miles a day, moving slowly through some pretty choppy waves and anchoring up at night to stay out of some bad weather, but we woke up this morning to flat water and even hints of sunshine. Looks too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I think we’ll be in Ketchikan in a few hours. Which I guess means I’m buying plane tickets and returning to reality in the next few days, with mixed feelings.

Goodbye, Craig. 09.02

On my way back to Ketchikan, finally! We left yesterday evening.

The ride has been fantastic so far. We’re going up and around Prince of Wales Island and then down Clarence Strait, which should be familiar territory because we went through there on the way north. Other than the one town we’ve passed—a town Ron described by comparing it to Deliverance—it’s all been tiny islands and calm water and sea otters and ducks and jumping salmon that we don’t have to catch. There’s one channel, with part of it dredged out to allow passage, that’s so narrow apparently they used to have competitions to see who could tow a log barge through without touching either side. Here’s a photo of it from the back deck:

Fishing for Halibut 08.31

We went halibut fishing with a long line this afternoon. Long lining is really different than seining. It’s kind of more like crabbing, actually. Here’s Dennis setting up the gear, tying hooks on along the length of the line:

Deer hunting? 08.30

Yes, I went deer hunting this morning. Luckily (?) we didn’t catch anything. So, I got to drive around beautiful Prince of Wales Island, explore a little black sand beach, and do a little target practice with a rifle.


Some of what I’ve learned about fisheries in Alaska

I know I’ve mentioned the department of fish and game regulations in past posts about seining because of how they dictate our fishing schedule, but I don’t think I’ve said anything about how the programs actually work. Read on if you’re interested…


One more seining picture

I took this one a couple of openings ago, and I really like the way the net in it looks.

Catch of the day

After doing some boat clean-up yesterday, putting the net away, etc. we are pretty much done with the fishing responsibilities. We'll spend a few days in Craig and then run the boat to Ketchikan, and from there I'll probably fly out to Seattle. Ron has a place up here, so while the weather's still good he wants to get it ready for winter. As a result, I got to see this today.

Last day fishing

We waded in jellies all day. Ugh. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when Ron pulled the purse string out the net, signifying that we were done for the season.

Damn jellies.


Some fish 08.21

Frustrations of a poor photographer 08.19

First, that I can’t represent the feeling of openness out here on the water in a picture. On my favorite days, the sky is covered in high white clouds, and they reflect off the glassy water so that everything is white is far as you can see. It’s beautiful, and I can’t photograph it.

Second, that I can’t take pictures while we’re delivering fish to the tender. The torrent of salmon that comes out of the pipe from our hold is something to see. It’s not just the salmon, it’s also the slimy, bloody water they’ve been held in, which is truly disgusting. But then, there are also the piles of different patterns and shades of silver scales, which are gorgeous and so varied.

Running salmon 08.18

We stopped in Hydaburg, a little native community, for a couple of hours this afternoon. While we were walking around, we crossed a bridge over a little creek that was absolutely packed with salmon running upstream. Mostly, they were struggling to get up this one particular rapid that looked impossible. Every once in a while, one of them would jump part of the way up it and then get knocked back down. Eventually some of them will make it, and they’ll spawn further up the creek. Some of them won’t though. What a crummy life. They come out of the stream, swim around for a year, and—if they don’t get eaten by an otter or a porpoise or caught by a net or a hook—fight their way back to where they came from so that, if they’re lucky, they can lay their eggs and then get eaten by a bear.

Getting better 08.17

This is my best pile yet.

Sore arms, sore back. We spent the two day opening grinding out set after set after set. It added up, and it was gratifying when we had the final count, but I’m glad for a couple of days off.

Seining 08.16

There are perks to starting work at 5 in the morning.

Here, our neighbors are closing a set.

And we're running our net out.

Repairs 08.13

This is Dennis patching a hole in the net. Guess who made it. A humpback whale! They swim through the nets like they’re not even there. Sometimes they leave holes the size of cars in them. This hole wasn’t bad enough to hold us up for long, but it required some repairs on our day off.



I love this place. I love it almost as much as Tenakee! There are public baths at the dock that are full of warm water from the springs.


Bubble net feeding

This picture blows. But, this was incredible. Right as we were leaving Tenakee Inlet, this group of humpbacks was working its way around a piece of Chatham Strait making bubble nets one after another after another. A few whales will get together and swim in a circle, making bubbles that create a kind of net. They get closer and closer together, enclosing whatever fish are in between them, and then they swim up through the center with their mouths open. You can’t see anything until they hit the surface. Where they’re coming up is a surprise unless you can find the gulls, who can see the bubbles from above, circling. And after, they repeat the process, getting into the right configuration in a way that you can make out just enough of to tell that its precisely coordinated.

More bad pictures after the jump.

The Josie J, 08.11

Well the last few days have been pretty eventful.

I have found myself working on a fishing boat!  A purse seiner, to be specific. Here’s a picture:

My favorite place in Southeast Alaska

I took these photos the first day I was in Tenakee. Don’t judge the place by the cell phone quality of the pictures.

This is Tenakee Ave. It’s the only street. It has an east side and a west side. It runs for probably two miles and then turns into a trail on either end. Speed limit signs keep the ATVs in check. Not that there’s anyone to write a ticket.


Field Trip

I got to go crabbing! It was so cool! We left here at 5 AM Tuesday, anchored Tuesday night at the mouth of Tenakee Inlet, and got back to town late Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t allowed to help with anything because I don’t have a crew license, so I got to stand around taking photos and asking questions.

I left out the grosser images, but I’ll warn you about the fishheads…


A few photos, 07.31

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, just like the day I got here! I went for a walk up to Indian River again, and while I don’t have any pictures of “downtown,” I snapped some from the harbor and further out.


A little bathhouse story 07.28

I tried to take a picture of the bathhouse but the second I took out my camera the lens fogged right up! I'll try again another day. Story after the jump...

Settling in 07.28

After two pretty chilly nights (jeez, Alaska), I’ve learned how to use the diesel stove, and I have shore power hooked up, so things here are snug, with heat and music. I’m not too sure what the blog will look like from here on out. For today, I’ll spare you guys my adventures in bilge cleaning and instead tell you what I learned about sea otters.

This is what a crabber here in town told me: Back when this was a Russian colony, sea otters were trapped for their fur, shrinking their population to something like 1000 individuals. So now, they’re a protected species, which means no more trapping. And, we've reintroduced otters into lots of areas where they used to live, including this one. Apparently, further north, orcas eat the sea otters, keeping their populations under control, but for some reason, the ones here don’t. Maybe they’ve forgotten how? Anyway, as a result the sea otter population here is totally unchecked, and apparently the otters decimate mollusk populations (maybe crabs, too?) especially on the west coast of the island. So people think of them as pests. But, after poking around on the internet a little bit, it seems some folks think that the mollusk populations are actually decimated by humans fishing too intensively. And balancing otter population's needs with our economic needs is a pretty complex question. So, more later...


the Flyer

It's still overcast, but this is a rainforest, so I guess that's to be expected. Anyway, I'm realizing if I wait for a sunny day I'll never get to post anything. Here she is.


I've jumped ship!

Tenakee Springs! We pulled into this tiny little town, population 100 max, three days ago, and I just fell in love. It's got a hot springs bathhouse. And there's one street, that's a 6 ft wide dirt road. And there's a store, a library, a bakery, and a post office. And there's no solid waste services so people burn their trash. And potable water comes from wells, the creek, or cold springs about a mile up the road. And it overlooks Tenakee Inlet, which is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. Sometimes the whales come, and there's seals, and bears, and deer, and about a million crows and ravens. And, within about 15 minutes of stepping off the boat I met a local who offered his fishing boat, currently unused in the harbor, as a place to crash. So, I've decided to stick around for a little bit.

I saw Dan and Kathy off yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day cleaning diesel out of the bilge of my new home, the Midnight Flyer.

I went hiking yesterday evening up through the rainforest to Indian River. There's a suspension bridge on it and supposedly sometimes you can watch the bears catching salmon in the stream. But no such luck yet! Still, the forest here is wonderful.

Now, I'm sitting at the bakery using the power and the wifi (I don't have electricity hooked up on the boat yet), and soon I'm off to the bathhouse. Then, back to the bilge! (Cleaning diesel up is actually kind of cool. You use these absorbent pads that only soak up diesel, so if you put them in clean water they come out dry. Crazy!)

I'll post pictures as soon as the sun comes back--Tenakee is much more photogenic on a clear day! And the Flyer will be too, I think.


What not to do 07.22

We’re leaving Glacier Bay National Park today. I’m sad to go. In the absolutely wrongheaded spirit of the “Eyes on Wildlife: Alaska Checklist” that we I picked up in a visitor’s center somewhere (and which can get me, or an excited 7 year old, a certificate of achievement for checking off enough stuff!), we saw:

·         Black bears
·         Brown bears
·         Seals
·         Sea lions
·         Wolves Wolf
·         Humpback whales
·         Orcas
·         Harbor porpoises
·         Dall’s porpoises
·         Grey whales
·         Sea otters
·         Lots of fish
·         Lots and lots of birds
·         And, oh! Glaciers and icebergs! (I know, they’re not wildlife, gimme a break.)

The only thing left is to decide whether or not I’m mailing in my checklist.

Fingers Bay 07.21

We’re anchored in this absolutely idyllic bay. Porpoises. Sunset. Fire. Ah.

Kayaking with Kathy 07.20

Life cycles, 07.19

Happy birthday, pop!

The rest of this post leans morbid. I’m saving the pictures for after the jump, because they’re a little gross. But, last summer a 41-foot humpback whale carcass washed up on one of the shores in the park. All summer, it fed bears, wolves, and a whole lot of other animals. And then, it disappeared. And then it reappeared. On a different shore across the bay. We went by to take a look yesterday.

A little bit about Glacier Bay

To warn you, this is an abbreviated account of everything I’ve learned about glaciers in the last week, so…

Our last two glaciers 07.18

This afternoon we went down Johns Hopkins inlet to see Lampugh Glacier and Johns Hopkins glacier. They might be the most impressive we’ve seen yet. Here’s Johns Hopkins:

We got about an eighth of a mile away from Lampugh, which is closer than we’ve been able to get to any of these in the boat.

We’ll catch a last glimpse of Reid Glacier on our way south, but then we’re out of tidewater glacier territory.  We’ve also gone as far north as we’ll go, so from now on our days will be getting shorter and possibly warmer.

Margerie Glacier 07.17

Feelin’ like a little tiny cherry in a giant slushy cocktail.

Ice ice and more ice 07.17

You’re supposed to learn things about yourself when you’re traveling, right? Well, I have discovered that I have a not so mild case of being-separated-from-my-kayak-by-grizzlies anxiety. So, I spent the afternoon exploring the face of Reid glacier one stretch of beach at a time, as such: get to shore, look for bears, drag kayak up, look for bears, look at glacier, walk up to glacier, look for bears, look to make sure tide hasn’t washed kayak out, look for bears, take photo, check for kayak, look for bears, walk back to kayak, paddle 100 yards down the shore, repeat.

Reid Inlet 07.16

Anchored about a mile away from the face of Reid Glacier.

Grizzlies on shore!

Less whales, more ice 07.16

Motored deeper into the park this afternoon.

As we go farther north, we’ll see more glaciers, more bergie bits, and, we’re expecting, less whales. They don’t seem to like the murky glacial water.

Tip tap 07.16

Anchored in a place called North Sandy Cove.

I’m sitting in the galley typing on my laptop, and there’s a black bear foraging about a quarter of a mile behind me, on the shore. How odd, to be sitting at the kitchen table, watching a bear. And, oh! Now the porpoises! And a bald eagle. This is getting ridiculous.

Sea otter 07.15

Equally unimpressed by us and the whales.

WHALES! 07.14

What a day!!