This year’s Windemere Sand Sculpture Contest, held a couple
weeks ago in Port Angeles, featured the theme “Wonderful World of
I especially liked a piece called “Evolution of Sport” (right),
which features a man throwing a discus while a boy maneuvers a game
controller. The sculpture, by Sue McGrew of Tacoma, took second
place in the contest and tied for the “Sculptor’s Choice”
By the way, I just noticed that
today’s News Tribune in Tacoma included a story about McGrew
and her travels around the country pursuing this unique art
First place in the Port Angeles contest went to Sandis Kondrats
of Latvia, who shaped a sand sculpture he called “Ice Hockey:
Energy on Ice” (bottom of page).
The list of winners is available from a
story July 24 in the Peninsula Daily News, which also produced
a nice video
showing the artists at work and featuring brief interviews with
some of them.
I want to thank Kristy Martin for providing these photos, some
of which are posted on her thoughtful and amusing blog, “Port Angeles Daily
The ninth annual sand sculpture contest in Port Angeles has
become part of a new qualifying process for the World
Championship of Sand Sculpting to be held in Federal Way Aug.
18 to Sept. 5. Five contests in North America and four in Europe
have been chosen as
qualifying contests for the World Championship. Organizers hope
to eventually have about 15 qualifying contests around the
I have a few random observations and tidbits of news to share
since I last wrote about the Southern Resident killer whales, who
recently arrived in the San Juan Islands — a little behind schedule
but showing off a newborn calf. See the July 7 story in the
Kitsap Sun and related entry in
The Southern Residents have settled down somewhat in their
summer waters in and around the San Juans. One can follow their
travels by joining Orca Network’s
Sightings List or by checking the website for reports by
I was interested in a comment made a week ago by Ken Balcomb of
for Whale Research following his observations of the new calf
and his mother, along with the mom’s brother, who were all joined
later by the calf’s grandmother. Here’s Ken’s comment:
“It would be fascinating to eavesdrop on the whale
communications at this time, especially those of matriarchs J2 and
K13. There is a mixing of incomplete subgroups and matrilines this
year, and much less of a pattern to their distributional movements.
But they all appear to be in good body condition. We are getting
good documentation of the condition of the new calf frequently for
“Orcas in Our Midst”
Howard Garrett of Orca Network has updated his 33-page book
“Orcas in Our Midst.” Volume 3 is dedicated to J-1, known as
Ruffles, by far the oldest male among the Salish Sea killer whales
when he went missing last fall.
Howie explains the natural history of killer whales in the
Pacific Northwest and their evolution from land-dwelling creatures,
as he delves into the cultural aspects of killer whale society. A
special focus in this edition are the differences between resident
and transient killer whales.
Howie and I recently discussed our mutual curiosity about killer
whale culture and what researchers are discovering. As he
“We’re seeing a new global awareness, an understanding that
there is not just one orca. There are many, many forms around the
world. How did that come about? How do they get their own identity,
and how do they maintain that?”
At just 33 pages, one might consider this a basic book about
killer whales — and it is — but Garrett has a knack for taking side
trips that give you a sense of the complexity of this topic while
hinting at the questions yet to be answered. To order the book, go
Network’s Web Shop.
Who’s the daddy?
You may have read one of the recent news stories about how
Southern Resident killer whales occasionally mate within their own
pods, unlike Northern Residents of Upper British Columbia, which
almost always breed outside their own pods.
We’ve always known the moms, because their offspring stay with
them for life. But the dads are another matter.
It was previously believed, for example, that males in J pod
would mate with females in K and L pods, but not those in J pod.
The latest findings conflict with that view and bring up many
Because of the small population size of the Southern Residents,
the new study raises concerns about inbreeding and the extent of
the genetic bottleneck. At least, the researchers found, Southern
Residents do not mate with close relatives, as might be the case
with a few bottlenose dolphin groups.
Michael Ford, who led the study for the National Marine
Fisheries Service, told reporter Craig Welch of the
Seattle Times that since the whales occasionally breed outside
their pods, the population does take advantage of the larger gene
“In terms of how bad it is … that depends on how long the
population size stays small. Brief bottlenecks don’t necessarily
have to have a long-term impact. But as a general rule, we should
be concerned about small population sizes because genetic diversity
is the raw material for adaptation and evolution.”
Of the 12 identified paternities, five involve mating between
J-1 and a female in J pod. J-1, who disappeared last fall, was the
oldest male around. The evidence suggests that older males are more
successful reproductively, and J-1 may have been the most
successful of all. The researchers could not conclude whether the
apparent success of older males is the result of dominance over
younger males, a selection by their female partners or a
combination of factors.
With J-1 out of the picture, it will be interesting to see
whether the frequency of intrapod mating declines.
I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I might re-run an
“Amusing Monday” entry you may have seen before. I couldn’t
remember the first entries I submitted for Amusing Monday, so I
went back and looked.
I actually offered what I hoped were several funny entries
before July 14, 2008, but this was the date I officially launched
the weekly feature. The item below was the first “Amusing Monday”
entry ever posted.
Conditions have remained pretty much the same the last couple of
days, although the intrusion of dense higher-oxygen water from the
ocean is beginning to create a thicker layer at the bottom of Hood
Canal. The middle layer of low-oxygen water remains fairly thick,
but the upper layer with higher oxygen concentrations is still
providing fish some relief. South winds remain a threat, as I’ve
explained for the last few weeks.
One can observe the three layers in the upper graph. The lower
graph shows changes over the past week or so. Notice how oxygen
concentrations are rising in the deep layer. Continue reading →
The EPA is “seeking public input on how the agency can better
protect and improve the health of our waters…” according to a
news release. “The feedback received on the online forum will
help shape the discussion at EPA’s upcoming conference in April,
‘Coming Together for Clean Water,’ where we will engage
approximately 100 executive and local level water leads on the
agency’s clean water agenda.”
Three topics are mentioned: “The Watershed Approach,” “Managing
Pollutants from Nutrients,” and “Stormwater Pollution.”
It is interesting to see how people in various parts of the
country are responding to these topics and how local issues play
into the national overview. Some folks seem fairly alarmed and are
demanding that the EPA take firm actions. Others have responded by
spelling out technical solutions or offering case studies about how
the EPA has failed in the past.
Water-quality inspectors for the Kitsap County Health District
have gained a statewide reputation for the methodical way they
track down bacterial pollution in Kitsap County.
Monthly testing of nearly 60 local streams gives them an early
warning about pollution problems as they begin to develop.
Working with property owners who care about the environment and
voluntarily open their homes for dye testing is a major part of the
success. These friendly water-quality detectives avoid using the
heavy hand of government unless there is an obvious problem that a
property owner refuses to correct.
Yesterday, the health district released its annual
Water Quality Monitoring Report, which includes a description
of every watershed and major stream in the county. The report also
compiles the data to show us which streams are the cleanest and
As you can see from a story I wrote for
today’s Kitsap Sun, these health inspectors have encountered a
water-quality situation in the Lofall area of North Kitsap that has
puzzled them for more than a year. It will take their ingenuity and
persistence to figure it out.
I spent a little time yesterday with Newton Morgan of the health
district to try to gain an understanding of the problem. He showed
me where Lofall Creek comes down through a pipe and spills into
Hood Canal adjacent to the old ferry dock.
This is where more bacteria are concentrated than in any natural
waterway in the county. It is somewhat of an anomaly, because Hood
Canal streams are generally far cleaner than those draining to the
east side of the Kitsap Peninsula.
It doesn’t take long for me to understand why Lofall remains a
pollution mystery. The pipe that drains to Hood Canal is at least
100 feet long and is buried under people’s yards where the steep
hillside is somewhat terraced.
Farther uphill, a drainage system takes stormwater off paved
streets and dumps it into a series of catch basins that drain to
other buried pipes.
Standing on one street, Newton points downhill while explaining
that one pipe apparently goes directly under someone’s house before
tying into another pipe that cannot be seen.
Leslie Banigan, another water quality expert with the health
district, describes the maze of underground pipes as buried
Complicating the situation even more are the high groundwater
levels in some areas of Lofall.
When a septic system fails — which generally means the bacteria
are not being trapped in the soil — the polluted water can find its
way into this underground drainage system rather than rising to the
surface where the odor of sewage reveals the problem.
Health inspectors have located some failing septic systems and
even a couple of direct discharges of sewage to the beach. But they
are still looking for one or more septic systems that must be
getting worse, because the stream is getting dirtier, despite the
Because of their experience over the past 15 years, these
inspectors exhibit a confidence about their ability to find the
sources of pollution. They know they must remain persistent and
continue to work on the problem. If dye testing doesn’t work, they
have other ideas up their sleeves.
After watching this program all these years, I can’t help but
wonder why every stream in the state isn’t being monitored monthly
to establish cleanup priorities. And, while health officials are
focused on bacterial pollution, similar testing could be extended
to other pollutants that can harm salmon and other sealife.
Cost? Yes, there’s a cost. Residents of unincorporated Kitsap
County pay about $67 a year on their property tax statements for
the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management Program, which
is managed by Kitsap Public Works. That fee covers not only
water-quality testing but also maintenance of public storm drains,
upgrade of regional stormwater infrastructure, regulatory oversight
of stormwater permits, education of livestock owners and commercial
business operators, and more.
On the wall of her home, Diane Fox of Bremerton displays this
photo of the Bremerton waterfront in 1942, following the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor the previous Dec. 7. Family friend George
Wraith took the shot, which shows searchlights from the Navy
shipyard scanning Bremerton’s skies for signs of enemy
In memory of Pearl Harbor, Kitsap Sun reporters Ed Friedrich and
Derek Sheppard, intern Tara Garcia-Mathewson and other staffers
produced an impressive package of stories,
pictures and videos — including interviews with 12 local
survivors of the attack and an interactive map showing where their
ships were located.
The review will look at the stolen e-mails for evidence of data
manipulation or suppression, review CRU’s overall data-handling
policies, and investigate compliance with disclosure laws. Review
is designed to determine whether activities were at odds with
acceptable scientific practices.
The university has asked that the review be completed by spring,
UPDATE, DEC. 1
Phil Jones has stepped aside as director of the Climatic
Research Unit pending completion of an independent review of
allegations involving e-mail hacked from the server of the
University of East Anglia in England. Details of the investigation
will be announced within days. See
news release from East Anglia.
Meanwhile, climatologists and those familiar with recent studies
continue to warn us that, if anything, early climate models were
too conservative in their predictions of climate change. The longer
we wait to take action, the harder it will be to slow the rate of
warming. Plants and animals (including humans) will have a harder
time adapting to new conditions. Some populations, possibly entire
species, may have no place to go as they attempt to adapt or face
I tend to take such warnings seriously, although I am not
oblivious to the many skeptics on this topic. In fact, in my search
for understanding, I’ve read more than my share of blogs written by
folks who either don’t believe the planet is warming or else don’t
believe man has anything to do with it.
This morning, I participated in a national telephone conference
with three climate experts: Richard Somerville, coordinating lead
author of the last report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC); Eric Steig, professor of earth and space sciences at
the University of Washington; and Michael Mann, professor of
meteorology at Penn State University.
They answered a variety of questions — ranging from new climate
data to the implications of more than 1,500 “stolen” e-mails that
have revealed the hidden, personal side of a few
climatologists. Continue reading →
The winning watercolor, which depicts “Planting in the Riparian
Zone,” is now on exhibit at Sea Side Gallery in La Conner.
The contest, sponsored by People for Puget Sound, recognizes
artwork that focuses on a Puget Sound theme, especially stewardship
to save the sound. Jacobsen was among 26 artists submitting their
Second place was awarded to La Conner artist Ken Hansen for his
sculpture, “Returning Sockeye.” Third place went to Peter Naylor of
Sedro Woolley for his photograph “Candystriped Shrimp on Crimson
Anemone.” An outstanding mention certificate was awarded to
Coupeville artist Shirley Ashenbrenner for her mixed media piece
Sea Side Gallery is at 112 Morris St., Suite A, in La Conner.
The work will be on exhibit through June 15. Phone: (360) 466-5141.
A portion of sale proceeds will benefit People For Puget Sound.