Archive for April 9th, 2010

SEA LION… and some other details

Wow. Things have really picked up around here.

Each class portion builds on the material from the one before it, so I feel like I am becoming an expert in a variety of fields very quickly. This also means that the workload is starting to pull my brain in various directions as I try absorb each piece and appreciate the overall meaning of it.

We had a guest lecturer of particular interest to me named Anna Kagley visit our classroom yesterday to talk about the tracking of salmon populations throughout the shoreline. NOAA is expanding her study to the bays of San Juan Island, so there will soon be high frequency receivers strategically placed throughout the inner waters here. On a personal level, I was eager to distract her from this lecture (although that was also informative) to talk about a recent brain-trust type of seminar which labeled possible impacts of hydropower turbines around the world and at variable distribution levels. Oh how I would love to be even a fly on the wall at one of those meetings. Even if I were squished by the end, I think I would be satisfied to be a part of such meaningful and applied science. My imagination seems to thrive on the possibilities of what could happen, although my core also strives for practicality. This seems to be a perfect combination to draw me towards topics such as hydropower and establishing MPA’s on the west coast of San Juan Island. The scientist in me is slowly being satisfied and intensely awakened after being dormant in my realtor’s assistant body for so long. However, I must add that I am more technically savvy and better at solving problems than my college self. My heart is content to be on this current path. Anna said they are working with the County a lot, here is their website: Click on the “OpenHydro Technology” link to the right.

Typically, when there is a large piece of writing due (as was this morning), my body begins to yearn for the outdoors. Luckily, we are living in a biological preserve with great running trails. Just before dinner, I decided to take advantage of our surroundings and go for a jog. Once I realized that I forgot my camera, I knew it would be a memorable experience. First of all, the trail is sloped towards the middle and is therefore never really dry in this climate. A jog on this trail looks more like a dance with the Lost Boys (Peter Pan) than a form of exercise, which I must say, is where the 10 year old in me excels. I explored a little further than normal and discovered a cove along the beach that is quite protected from other visitors. There are huge mushrooms sprouting just inland of the coast, and even a bright purple seastar rigidly stuffed between rocks of the estuary-type environment. Clearly, if a girl from MN decided to take a nap on these rocks and forgot about the tides, you could be in for a rude awakening. Here is a typical outdoor photo from a different hike:

The jog was not complete without almost twisting an ankle, getting my foot completely sucked into a mud puddle, and scaring the snot out of an oblivious deer. Today, the sun is shining and it is bright enough to make cloud figures from the sky. Apparently it is supposed to snow for our sailing excursion tomorrow. Figures.

So, we were finishing lunch today (mac & cheese and tomato soup) when Jason found us with a gleam in his eye. He had just gotten a call about a floating (dead) stranded sea lion just off the coast of Lopez Island, and asked if we wanted to help retrieve it. Yea!!  All four of us ran back to the house and threw on some warm clothes and rain gear, then headed out on “The Buzzard” across the Straight. Although they call it island hopping, we were not exactly hopping, or even skimming/fluttering – more like skuttering. Laughter filled the salty air as we set off on our adventure with the sun in the sky and the sea in our veins. The bumps and bruises didn’t matter because we were on the water again.

We arrived at the north end of Lopez Island and found a huge male Stellar sea lion with no indication of trauma, just death. It was quite a production for one instructor and four students to maneuver this guy against the will of gravity, the waves, and the wind but we were rewarded with eventual success. During the muscle-aching portion of our endeavor it began to snow/hail for about 8 minutes. My boots were already full of brisk salty sea so by that time I hardly noticed except to see the humor in it. The photo is of Jason and I trying to get the rope around the shoulders to haul it in the boat. Getting the Rope The sea lion filled the boat – making it look like merely a dingy with it’s massive flippers, torso, and head (length is 3.5 meters). I had never been so close to such a huge (and not moving) marine creature before and was able to let the scientist and the ten year old go free at the same time. The front four teeth are ground down to almost nothing, and the bottom ones that match them are about the same. They should really consider renaming the canine teeth, because the size on the ones in this guy’s mouth could out-bite pretty much any canine I know.

The ride home was cold, bumpy, and overall a drenching experience. The weather picked up and tried to mangle us to pieces, but the shower at our house has never been as appreciated as it was tonight.

The sea lion will be examined by real scientists tomorrow, and I am trying to finagle my way into the experience. Once again, I would love to be a fly on that wall.

Make the most of your day!


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