It is now early summer 2014 as I write this piece. Just last fall I had begun seriously looking at bicycles that would work better than my trusty old Specialized Crossroads on the many dirt trails around Anchorage. I had been looking forward to a new mountain bike ever since, and here I was on my very cool new Specialized Hardrock “Hardtail 29er” on my favorite paved trail, Anchorage’s Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. I rode my usual out and back nine-mile route from Point Woronzoff to the hill that rises from the flats up to the Kincaid Park chalet. No problems, and I felt great about finally having a bike I had waited so long for. Continue reading
Genesis 1:21 (NIV)
So God created the great creatures of the sea . . . And God saw that it was good.
I see whales as gifts from their Creator from a couple different perspectives. First is the fact that they exist — they are alive on earth. Similar, but on a deeper level, is the capacity of some people to appreciate them for the magnificent creatures that they are. Just seeing whales in the wild can inspire peoples’ feelings of happiness, excitement, thankfulness, and even awe. An up-close encounter with a creature half again as long as the 30-foot boat one is watching from is an unforgettable experience, likely to turn many people into instant whale fans and conservationists. Continue reading
In my 24 years running a water taxi and nature tour boat in Prince William Sound, my favorite wildlife experiences were, without a doubt, with whales — especially humpbacks. We often saw orcas too, occasionally minkes, and rarely, grays and fin whales. But humpbacks were the stars because they were the most dependable. Continue reading
Below is the early working version of an invited “Stakeholder Essay” in a collection of studies that summarize the affects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on Prince William Sound’s communities and resources. Several years in the making, the collection was recently published as a 355-page hardcover book, Sustaining Wildlands: Integrating Science and Community in Prince William Sound, Aaron Poe and Randy Gimblett (Eds.). 2017, The University of Arizona Press
Is it possible to love a place so much that what you do there imperils the very values that brought you there in the first place? What if there are so many like-minded people using the same place, that together you do just that, even if unawares? These are questions I pondered for many years, as a working biologist, as a parent exploring the Sound by inflatable in the 1980s with my three young sons, and most recently, as a nature tour guide in Prince William Sound.
After moving to Alaska in 1975 to begin my job as a seabird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), my summer field work included running Zodiac inflatable skiffs with a field partner to get around to various study sites along the coast from our shore camp or chartered live-aboard support boat. The first of these was along Kodiak Island’s east coast during my first three summers in Alaska (1976, ‘77, ‘78), then again at Kodiak during a study of puffin food habits in 1986, and finally on a beached-bird Exxon Valdez oil spill survey cruise, fall 1989. Before I began the water taxi business in 1987, and during the “break” in the business 1990-1992, I resumed work as a USFWS biologist on Exxon Valdez oil spill studies in Prince William Sound. Those included temporary stints during the month of March in 1991 and 1993 helping with winter seabird boat surveys, and then full time again from 1992-1994.
Oh yea, the Sound
God’s own holy ground,
full of wonders sublime
our eyes’ delight.
Oh yea, the Sound
Full of life wrought
by the Creator’s own hand.
Oh yea, the Sound
Yet so fragile.
Oh God, that man
may treat her right;
and not impair
Your hand’s delight.
First published in the online version of Alaska Magazine in 2013 at: http://www.alaskamagazine.com/10-articles/221-rough-lovin-sea-otters
Upon watching sea otters for any length of time, one easily gets the impression that they are the epitome of sociability. They float on their backs in amicable groups, often close to each other. Mother otters carry their babies, and even older young ones on their bellies. This is the scene encountered again and again by folks who spend much time on the water in Prince William Sound.
A few years ago, however, while aboard my boat in the southwestern Sound, two companions and I witnessed a far different side of sea otters. Continue reading