I’ve always enjoyed listening to sounds, whether it be easily
identified natural sounds or mysterious sounds that are hard to
When I was kid, I was given a tape recorder, which I used to
collect all sorts of natural and unnatural sounds. I would play
back the sounds and ask people if they could identify the source.
Even as an aging adult, I enjoy listening to the sound of a flowing
stream, breaking waves or falling rain. I also like to listen to
bird calls, and I keep telling myself that I need to learn how to
identify more of them — but that’s another story.
For this blog, I would like to return again to this idea of
natural sound and share some websites where you can listen to your
heart’s content and sometimes shape the sound itself. Since this is
a blog about water, I’ve tended to focus on rain, streams, oceans
and such things, but these links can be just a starting point.
Soundsnap is a website
that boasts of having 200,000 sounds in its catalog, including
6,000 sounds of
nature. Included are 249 sounds of rain, 117 sounds of the
sea, 1,065 sounds
of water and
298 sounds of ice. These sounds can be
downloaded for a fee, but it costs nothing to explore Sound Snap’s
At the other end of the spectrum is a single 11-hour YouTube
video featuring the sound and images of ocean waves. I have not
listened to more than a few minutes of this video at a time, so I
don’t know what happens if you turn on this video to go to sleep
and then leave it on all night. But the sound coming from the video
is certainly more pleasant than the nightly sounds that some people
learn to tolerate. The video, embedded on this page, was posted by
which has several videos of a similar vein.
If you would like to download a sound to save it or use it in a
video project, Sound Bible is a
royalty-free site with a large collection of sounds. I downloaded
the files below from collections called “Sea Sounds” and “Water
Robert Tiso, a master musician who plays classical music on
water glasses, has released several new videos of his music, which
is nothing less than mesmerizing.
I first encountered Robert six years ago and featured his “glass
Water Ways Nov. 9, 2009, after corresponding with him by email.
His biography is fairly well outlined in that blog post. I believe
he was in Italy at the time.
It is worth mentioning again that Robert performed in a DVD
documentary “Bach and
Friends” by filmaker Michael Lawrence. View the Robert Tiso
performance on the
At the beginning of last year, Tiso moved to the United States,
where he performed in Las Vegas as part of an eclectic production
called “Vegas Nocturne.” The production was featured at
Rose.Rabbit.Lie, a venue at the Cosmopolitan hotel and casino. He
has since returned to Toscana, Italy, but still performs all over
The first two of these videos can be found on this page. The
Water Adagio is from Bach’s violin concerto 2 in E Major. The first
phase of the piece was used in a movie by Pierpaolo Pasolini for
scenes in which Jesus Chris performed miracles, according to notes
on the YouTube page. In this performance, the tone oscillations are
created by tilting the table to make water move inside the
A whole series of videos by Robert Tiso can be found on his
Channel, including an intriguing duet with Felice
Pantone, who plays the mysterious musical saw. I remain as
intrigued by Robert’s music as when I first heard it.
Later, I learned that Benjamin Franklin loved the sound created
by crystalline glass. As an inventor, Franklin believed it was a
waste of time to fill and tune each water glass when they could be
made to play just as beautifully without water, provided they were
made to the proper size. Read about his amazing invention in
Water Ways from June 3, 2013.
Individuals with an interest in recreation and protecting the
environment are needed to help determine how millions of dollars in
state and federal grants are spent on projects related to habitat
restoration, farmland preservation, parks and outdoor
It is easy to overlook these various advisory committees that
evaluate projects proposed for grants each year. I often report on
the outcome of the grant decisions without describing the process
of evaluation, recommendation and listing by the Recreation and
Conservation Funding Board.
Volunteers play a vital role in understanding the proposals,
ranking them and making them better. They can also take part in
determining overall board policies used in the approval — such as a
current proposal to change policies related to farmland, trails and
changes to property-acquisition projects. See “Policies and
Rulemaking” on the website of the Recreation and Conservation
Office. For this round, comments are due by tomorrow.
Volunteers with special knowledge and abilities are always
needed, but average citizens also have a role to play in these
decisions. Information about duties and becoming a volunteer can be
found on RCO’s “Advisory
Committees” webpage. These volunteer positions are unpaid
except for travel expenses when money is available.
The RCO is looking to fill positions on nine advisory
committees, which will begin working on the next round of grants in
the spring and summer of next year. Applications are due by Oct. 30
for the following positions, which are four-year appointments.
The first group addresses grants in the Washington
Wildlife and Recreation Program:
Local Parks: One local government official and
two citizen volunteers are needed to focus on grants related to
acquiring, developing and renovating local parks.
Habitat Restoration: One citizen volunteer is
needed to focus on grants relating to buying and restoring
shorelines and state-owned land. The volunteer should be familiar
with the subject.
Trails: A volunteer is needed to address grants
to buy, develop and renovate non-motorized trails. An interest in
regional trails is important.
Water Access: One citizen and two local
government volunteers are needed to discuss grants related to
improving access for nonmotorized, water-related recreation.
Farmland Preservation: Two citizen volunteers
are needed to consider grants related to maintaining working farms.
Volunteers should be farmers who actively manage farms or
State Parks: One local government volunteer is
needed to help prioritize grants for buying and developing state
parks. A statewide perspective on parks and recreation is
State Land Development and Renovation: One
citizen volunteer and three local government volunteers are needed
to address grants for developing or renovating outdoor recreation
facilities on state land. A statewide perspective on parks and
recreation is important.
Other grant programs:
Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account: One citizen
and two local government volunteers are needed to deal with grants
to buy and improve shorelines for public use. The citizen volunteer
should be familiar with aquatic lands restoration or protection,
while the local government volunteers should be familiar with
recreation and public access interests.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: Two citizen
and three local government volunteers are needed to work with this
federal funding program, which provides grants to preserve and
develop parks, trails and wildlife lands. Congress failed to
reinstate this popular program before it expired under federal law,
but there is considerable political pressure to keep it going. The
committee will evaluate proposals in case Congress acts. The money
comes from oil and gas leases on federal lands.
If you have questions not answered on the website, you
can contact Lorinda Anderson by phone at (360) 902-3009 or TTY
(360) 902-1996 or by email.
Nudibranchs, soft-bodied mollusks often called “sea slugs,” are
among the most ornately decorated creatures in the sea. With about
3,000 species of nudibranchs coming in all shapes and colors, I
thought it might be fun to track down some of these animals.
Nudibranchs are found in all the world’s oceans, but you don’t
need to go beyond Puget Sound to find some of the most beautiful
ones. I’m grateful to Dan Hershman, a retired Seattle teacher,
part-time musician and underwater naturalist, who shared some of
his best photos of sea slugs from this region. Check out Dan’s
The word nudibranch (pronounced nude-eh-brank) comes from the
Latin word nudus, meaning naked, and brankhia, meaning gills. So
these are animals with naked gills, which often grow out of their
backs and sides. These creatures can be as small as a quarter-inch
or as long as a foot or more.
Nudibranchs are carnivores, eating things ranging from algae to
anemones, barnacles and even other nudibranchs. They can pick up
coloring for camouflage and even poisons from the prey they eat,
using the chemicals in defense against predators.
Hermaphrodites with reproductive organs of both sexes, these
animals don’t normally self-fertilize. But they are prepared to
mate with any mature individual of the same species. Eventually,
they will lay masses of spiral-shaped or coiled eggs.
Carl Safina — scientist, teacher, author and documentary
filmmaker — will speak Wednesday on a topic of interest to many
killer whale observers, “Intertwined Fates: The Orca-Salmon
Connection in the Pacific Northwest.”
Following his speech, Safina will join a panel of experts on
salmon and killer whales to discuss the connections between these
two iconic species and what it will take for the survival of the
species. The experts are Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale
Research, Jacques White of Long Live the Kings, Howard Schaller of
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lynne Barre of NOAA
Safina’s newest book, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and
Feel,” is winning acclaim for its description of animal culture and
even emotions in creatures such as elephants, wolves and killer
“We have long asked whether we are alone in the universe, but
clearly we are not alone on earth,” wrote Tim Flannery in his
review of “Beyond Words” in the
New York Review of Books. “The evolution of intelligence, of
empathy and complex societies, is surely more likely than we have
hitherto considered. And what is it, exactly, that sets our species
apart? We clearly are different, but in light of ‘Beyond Words’ we
need to reevaluate how, and why.”
“Safina comes to an unfamiliar but empirically based
conclusion,” Flannery continues. “Prior to the domestication of
plants and the invention of writing, the differences between human
societies and those of elephants, dogs, killer whales, and dolphins
was a matter of degree, not kind. Why, he asks, has it taken us so
long to understand this?”
Previously, in a PBS series “Saving the
Ocean,” Safina explored the effort to restore chinook salmon to
the Nisqually River. During a two-part segment, he interviewed
numerous biologists and talked to tribal leader Billy Frank before
Billy’s untimely death.
The newly formed Orca Salmon Alliance is a consortium of
environmental groups focused on supporting the recovery of orcas
and salmon. Proceeds from Wednesday’s event will support the
“We can’t recover the highly endangered population of orca
living off the Northwest coast without also restoring their primary
food source, the chinook salmon,” said Deborah Giles, Science
Advisor for OSA.
Sand sculptors from throughout the world continue to turn their
unique ideas into temporary masterpieces to be washed away with the
tide. Only memories and photographs remain of these intricate, but
fleeting, art objects.
Perhaps someone can tell me if this unusual art form is on the
increase or decline. Some sand-sculpture festivals keep going each
year; some have disappeared; and new ones have started up since I
started featuring this art form in 2009. Last year (Water Ways,
Aug. 25, 2014), I rounded up all the “Amusing Monday” pieces
about sand sculpture. I remain as impressed with the new work today
as I have ever been.
In June, Hampton Beach, N.H., was the site of the 15th annual
“Master Sand Sculpting Competition,” which is about as good as it
gets. The first two pictures on this page show opposite sides of a
sand sculpture created at the festival. The piece, which artist
Karen Fralich calls “Life,” took First Place at the festival this
Other top winners are featured in a very nice gallery
of photos on the Hampton Beach website. The artists discuss
their work in a series of videos by Newhampshiredotcom. Though the
sound quality leaves something to be desired, I did find it
interesting to hear these folks describe their very interesting
Coney Island held its 25th annual
Sand Sculpting Contest this past weekend. So far, few
worthwhile photo galleries have been posted, but reporter Kate
Cummings of Brooklyn TV News 12 had a report, which I posted in the
video player at the bottom of this page. Last year’s event was
featured nationally on
ABC’s Good Morning America.
Finally, coming in our state, Olympia’s annual Sand in the City festival
will be held this weekend. Sponsored by the Hands On Children’s
Museum, it should have some excellent sand sculptures, though the
event is not rated as a top-tier competition. Last year’s
sculptures can be seen on the museum’s website.
More than 466,000 animals — from seals to sea birds to salmon to
crabs — were found dead during the retrieval of “ghost nets” over
the past 12 years by the Northwest Straits Foundation, which
celebrated a major milestone today. In recognizing the end of a
significant program, I’d like to add a little personal history.
The celebration in Everett marks the completion of the intense
effort to retrieve nets lost from fishing boats in less than 105
feet of water — because the vast majority of the nets have been
removed. Future roundups may be planned if more nets are found or
reported by commercial fishers, who are now required to report lost
The removal program has pulled out more than 5,660 derelict
fishing nets and more than 3,800 crab and shrimp pots blamed for
killing all those marine mammals, birds, fish and other creatures,
according to statistics kept by the organization.
“Removing these nets restores marine habitat forever.” Joan
Drinkwin, interim director of the Northwest Straits Foundation,
said in a
news release. “Marine mammals like porpoises, diving birds, and
fish can now swim and dive in Puget Sound without the risk of being
entangled in these dangerous derelict nets.”
Northwest Straits Foundation stepped up and tackled the huge
ghost-net-removal project with the first grant from the Washington
Legislature in 2002. Through the years, other funding came from the
federal government, foundations, fishing groups, tribes,
corporations and private individuals. In a separate project, U.S.
Navy divers removed derelict nets from selected underwater
“Just about every agency and organization in Puget Sound that
works to protect and restore our marine waters has contributed to
this effort,” Drinkwin said. “We have many people to thank, so this
is a celebration not just of our work, but of collaboration and
pulling together to achieve great things.”
I’d like to add some personal notes, giving a bit of early
credit to Ray Frederick, who headed up the Kitsap Poggie Club in
2000, when Ray first called my attention to the ghost net
It was right after a
state initiative to ban non-Indian gillnets failed at the
ballot box, leaving many sport fishermen upset with what they
viewed as the indiscriminate killing of fish, including salmon
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Ray called me and said gillnet fishing will continue, but
something should be done about the ghost nets. I think that was the
first time I had ever heard the term. Here’s how I began the first
of many stories (Kitsap
Sun, June 30, 1999) I would write about this subject:
“In the murky, undersea twilight of Puget Sound, scuba divers
occasionally come face to face with the tangled remains of rotting
fish. Nearly invisible in the dim light, long-lost fishing nets
continue to ensnare fish, birds, seals, crabs and other creatures
that happen along.
“Divers call these hidden traps ‘ghost nets.’
“”It’s a little eerie, seeing fish like that,’ said Steve
Fisher, an underwater photographer from Bremerton. ‘You can see
that something has been eating on them, and the fish are a pretty
good size — bigger than you would normally see.’”
I reported that a few net-retrieval operations had been
conducted since 1986, but state officials were warning against any
ad hoc operations following the death of a volunteer scuba diver,
who became tangled in fishing gear and ran out of air.
Ray got involved in a campaign to seek state and federal funding
to eliminate ghost nets. He wrote to Gov. Gary Locke and select
legislators. I located
one of Ray’s letters, which expressed frustration about the
lack of action to remove the derelict gear he knew was killing sea
life in Puget Sound.
State Sen, Karen Fraser, D-Lacey, who had been pushing for
funding, was joined by then-Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge
Island, the late-Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, and other
legislators to push through funding to develop new guidelines to
safely remove derelict gear. The Northwest Straits Commission,
which wanted to remove ghost nets in and around the San Juan
Islands, was chosen to conduct the study, which led to “Derelict
Fishing Gear Removal Guidelines” (PDF 2.3 mb).
Now that most of the nets have been removed in water less than
105 feet deep, the effort must turn to removing nets in deeper
water, where they are likely to snare threatened and endangered
rockfish species in Puget Sound.
NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife have listed abandoned nets as threats to rockfish and
recommend action. The most promising method of removal is remotely
operated vehicles. A report by
Natural Resources Consultants (PDF 1.4 mb) spells out the
When it comes to restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem, human
beings really do matter — in some ways that are obvious and in some
ways that are fairly subtle.
The Puget Sound Leadership Council, which oversees the
restoration of Puget Sound, acknowledged this fact yesterday when
adopting a new set of ecosystem indicators to measure how Puget
Sound influences the health and well-being of humans.
It’s often said that people have damaged the Puget Sound
ecosystem through years of abuse. They say it will take years of
restoration — by people — to return things to a healthy condition.
But why do we care? Are we spending millions of dollars on
restoration just to benefit fish and wildlife, or are we doing it
The answer, which comes from studies of economics and human
behavior, appears to be that helping fish and wildlife — by putting
the ecosystem back together — also benefits humans in a variety of
When the Washington Legislature told the Puget Sound Partnership
to go forth and lead the way toward restoring Puget Sound to
health, our lawmakers understood that people would be the primary
beneficiaries. The first two goals assigned to the partnership, as
articulated by RCW
A healthy human population supported by a healthy Puget Sound
that is not threatened by changes in the ecosystem;
A quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning
Puget Sound ecosystem;
The other three goals are related to native species, habitats
and water supplies.
Sometimes goals related to human values conflict with goals to
restore ecological functions. For example, one cannot build a house
on undeveloped land without altering the ecosystem in some negative
ways. Sometimes human values are aligned with ecological values,
such when we reduce pollution to clean up streams and drinking
water. In any case, these new ecosystem indicators will help people
understand the tradeoffs and opportunities of various actions.
As I pointed out last month in
Water Ways, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council has completed a
plan and associated website
that highlights connections between human well-being and natural
resources in the Hood Canal region. Hood Canal became a pilot
project for the indicators approved yesterday for all of Puget
Sound. Some of the same folks — including social scientist Kelly
Biedenweg of the Puget Sound Institute — were involved in creating
nine new “vital signs” with indicators to track human-related
changes in the Puget Sound ecosystem.
Unlike the original human health and human well-being indicators
adopted in 2010, these new indicators have undergone an extensive
review by scientists and other experts to ensure their validity and
reliability. That is, these new indicators have real meaning in
connecting human beings to the ecological functions of Puget
In yesterday’s meeting, Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the
Leadership Council, said the human dimension is often ignored in
favor of empirical science.
“This is a hard thing to do,” she said about developing the new
indicators. “This is sort of a brave new world, and I think it is
true that we live in this world whether we call it out like this or
Council member Stephanie Solien said she would like to see more
discussions about human health and well-being issues — not because
they are more important than species and habitats, but because they
make connections to average people.
“People are self-interested,” she said. “They care about their
health, their family’s health, the health of their communities. The
more we can draw those connections to Puget Sound and healthy
watersheds, I think we will be more successful in our work around
ecosystems and saving species.”
Here are the four new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human health:
1. OUTDOOR ACTIVITY: Measured by 1) Percent of
swimming beaches meeting bacterial standards (one of the existing
indicators), 2) Average hours people spend having fun outdoors, 3)
Average hours people spend working outdoors.
2. AIR QUALITY: Indicators to be determined
from existing data.
3. LOCAL FOODS: Availability of wild foods,
such the ability to catch fish, collect shellfish, harvest plants
and hunt for game.
4. DRINKING WATER: Indicators to be determined
from information about water systems.
Here are the five new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human well-being:
5. ECONOMIC VITALITY: Measured by 1) Value of
natural resources produced by industry, including commercial
fishing, shellfish harvesting, timber production, agriculture,
mining and tourism; 2) Value produced by natural-resource
industries compared to gross domestic product of all other
industries in the region; 3) Number of jobs in natural-resource
6. CULTURAL WELL-BEING: Percent of residents
who feel they are able to maintain traditions associated with the
7. GOOD GOVERNANCE: Percentage of people who
feel they have 1) the opportunity to influence decisions about
Puget Sound, 2) the rights and freedom to make decisions about
managing natural resources, 3) trust in local and regional
governments to make the right decisions about Puget Sound, 4) been
well represented by government leaders, 5) access to information
about natural-resource issues.
8. SENSE OF PLACE: Percentage of people who
feel: 1) a positive connection to the region, 2) a sense of
stewardship for the watershed, 3) a sense of pride about being from
9. PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING INDEX: Percentage
of people who experience: 1) inspiration from being in nature, 2)
reduced stress, calm or relaxation from being in nature, 3) Overall
life satisfaction based on criteria in national studies.
Leadership Council member Jay Manning, former director of the
Washington Department of Ecology, said he supports the indicators.
His only concern is that some are beyond the control of the Puget
Sound Partnership, and some may have nothing to do with people’s
connection to Puget Sound.
Jay makes a good point, but the social scientists who developed
the indicators stressed that there will be no targets or goals
associated with human values. What will be interesting to watch is
whether people feel better or worse about the restoration effort as
time goes on, and how the leaders choose to respond to any changes
in public opinion.
Much of the information that will fit into the new indicators
will be the result of phone surveys yet to be conducted. Other
information will be teased out of ongoing research studies. The
partnership has received funding from the Environmental Protection
Agency to hire a consultant to continue work on the human-related
indicators until the numbers are finalized.
None of the new information about human health and well-being
will be included in the State of Puget Sound report to be issued
later this year, according to Kari Stiles, staff scientist for the
partnership. But some information could go into the Vital Signs wheel within
the next year.
I’m not a big fan of compilation videos that show a series of
accidents in which people get hurt and are obviously in pain. I
tend to wince and just want to know if the person involved is OK.
I’m sure I could laugh if only I was assured that the person didn’t
die or get laid up in a hospital — although this kind of video does
not normally convey this kind of information.
Getting wet is quite survivable, which is why I get a real kick
from videos showing mishaps involving boats. I keep returning to
the blooper videos by TV fisherman Bill Dance, who I blogged about
Water Ways two months ago.
America’s Funniest Home Videos put together a nice compilation
of minor incidents involving people on the water. The pacing is
just right, and the accompanying music, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”
by Frank Sinatra, couldn’t be better. This video is in the first
video player on this page.
I don’t know if a person is more or less likely to be hurt on a
large ship than a small boat when things go awry, but property
damage from a ship can be enormous. I can easily forgive myself for
laughing about terrible property damage as long as nobody gets
hurt. Don’t ask me why. Check out:
Shifting gears a little, have you ever wondered what it would be
like if Weird Al Yankovik were performing on the Titanic at the
time the historic ship went down? I find this video funny, despite
the human tragedy that occurred. I think it is because the story
itself has become nearly a cliché. The video is called “Weird Al
Yankovic On A Boat (And The Band Played On).”
Finally, there’s a commercial for Nitro boats featuring a
fisherman guy who finds himself choosing between his boat and his
new girlfriend. His answer to the question is simple, as you can
see in the video below.
It isn’t the rare man-bites-dog story, but a humorous
dog-sprays-man video has created a major buzz on the Internet since
it was posted last week on YouTube and Facebook. Watch as the
speedy dog chases his owner around the yard with a garden hose.
a website affiliated with the television show America’s Funniest
Home Videos, posted the video, and lots of people passed it on,
adding their own headlines. Among them were: “Revenge-seeking dog
drenches owner with hose” and “This dog demands that his owner stay
hydrated in the summer heat.”
It turns out that the video was shown on “America’s Funniest
Home Videos” back in 2007, when the announcer made this comment,
“Max is a little bitter that he is not a Dalmatian with a swanky
I understand the notion of a dog getting revenge, after
reviewing dozens of videos in which the dog’s owner sprays his pet
with a jet of water. The dogs seem to love it, and it becomes a
game between the human hose-bearer and the canine on the other
The video that went viral last week is not the only one showing
a dog using a hose to chase a man. In fact, one video, posted by
in 2010, seems to be less staged than the one that launched this
blog post. You can hear the camera operator laughing and asking at
the end, “Is this payback for all the time we sprayed her with a
And we must not mention dogs without offering at least one cat
video. That’s exactly the number of videos I could find showing
cats having fun playing in water. Chloe posted a video last year
Cat Playing With Water Hose” (video player below), along with
the following comments on her YouTube Channel Clover
“I recently discovered that my cat likes to play with the water
that comes out of my garden hose. He gets really wet after playing
with the water. He hates getting wet, but he doesn’t seem to care
if the hose wets him. I think he only likes to get wet on his