For 13 years, a mother duck has been hatching her eggs in a
school courtyard, then waddling through the school hallways to get
beyond the building and into a nearby pond, as you can see in the
first video, featured on Good Morning America.
“It’s so unusual, but everyone gets so invested in this duck,
because how cool is it that she comes back each and every year,”
local resident Elizabeth Krause told reporter Abby Welsh of the
Livingston Daily in Livingston County, Mich., where Village
Elementary School is located.
It seems to me that the most remarkable thing about this story
is the duck’s choice of a nesting site. Each year, the duck flies
into the courtyard and lays her eggs amidst a large group of active
school children. It seems the duck has learned that her nest is
relatively safe from outside predators, so she returns again and
“Everyone knows about the duck because even maintenance (staff)
will go, ‘Can we cut the grass in the courtyard yet, or is the duck
there?’” said principal William Cain. “I told them, ‘No, you have
to wait until the duck is out of there.’”
I thought this duck journey was a one-of-a-kind event until I
realized that I had been looking at videos from two different
schools. Both videos were shot this past spring. The second school,
Glover Elementary in Milton, Mass., involves the students, who
quietly form a parade route to watch the ducks go by. Reporter Mina
Corpuz tells the story for the
The second video on this page is a clever three-minute version,
accompanied by music, at Glover Elementary School, showing the
ducks all along the parade route. The video was produced by Bill
Driscoll, nephew of the school nurse. Shorter, more newsy video
stories were offered by Inside Edition as
I never realized that so many cute duck stories existed until I
began reviewing dozens of videos for this Amusing Monday feature.
One story that was especially well done was by Steve Harman of CBS
Evening News called “Duck pals: A girl and her duck” (third video
on this page). There is an unrelated story by Inside Edition about a boy and his
If you enjoy cute duck stories, you can’t miss this incredible
story called “The cat and the ducklings” (video below).
A European green crab, one of the most dreaded invasive species
in the world, has finally arrived in Puget Sound.
A single adult green crab was caught in a trap deployed on San
Juan Island by a team of volunteers involved in a regionwide effort
to locate the invasive crabs before they become an established
Until now, green crabs have never been found in Puget Sound,
although they have managed to establish breeding populations along
the West Coast — including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in
Washington and the western side of Vancouver Island in British
Here’s what I wrote: “Puget Sound has so far avoided an
invasion of European green crabs — at least none have been found —
but the threat could be just around the corner….
“Green crabs are but one of the invasive species threatening
Washington state, but they are getting special attention because of
fears they could seriously affect the economy and ecosystem of
Puget Sound. Besides devouring young native crabs and shellfish,
they compete for food with a variety of species, including fish and
In Canada, one breeding population has been identified in Sooke
Inlet near the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island. That’s about
40 miles away from Westcott Bay, where Puget Sound’s first green
crab was found on Tuesday.
It is likely that the crab traveled to San Juan Island in its
early free-swimming larval form by drifting with the currents, said
Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist for Washington Sea Grant who manages
the Crab Team of volunteers. This crab likely settled down in
suitable habitat and located enough food to grow into an adult.
Based on the crab’s size, it probably arrived last year, Jeff told
Finding a green crab in Puget Sound is alarming, Jeff said, but
it is a good sign that the first crab was found by the volunteer
monitors. That suggests that the trapping program is working. If
this first crab turns out to be a single individual without a mate,
then the threat would die out, at least for now.
The concern is that if one crab can survive in Puget Sound, then
others may also be lurking around, increasing the chance of
male-female pairing. The next step is to conduct a more extensive
trapping effort in the area where the first green crab was found,
then branch out to other suitable habitats in the San Juan Islands,
Jeff said. The expanded effort is planned for the week of Sept. 11
and will include a search for molts — the shells left behind when
crabs outgrow their exoskeletons and enter a new stage of
Researchers and others who work with invasive species quickly
recovered from their initial surprise at finding a green crab in
Puget Sound, then got down to business in planning how to survey
for crabs and manage their potential impacts.
Allen Pleus, coordinator of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program
at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told me several
weeks ago that if green crabs show up in Puget Sound, one idea
would be to conduct an extensive trapping program to eradicate or
at least reduce their population. First, however, the extent of the
infestation must be identified. I expect that more extensive
trapping will be planned next spring and summer to look for
offspring from any successful mating in the San Juan Islands.
This video shows a green crab found in Willapa Bay on the
Typically, green crabs are found in marshy areas, which are
habitats extensively used by our native hairy shore crab. But Jeff
tells me that some populations of green crabs seem to be expanding
their habitat into more exposed rocky areas.
With roughly 400 suitable sites for the crabs in Puget Sound,
invasive species experts are calling for everyone who visits a
beach to look for green crabs and their molts. One can learn to
identify green crabs from the
Washington Sea Grant website. The volunteer trapping program is
funded by the Environmental Protection Agency with a grant to Fish
A public discussion about green crabs and how people can help
protect Puget Sound from an invasion is scheduled for Sept. 13 at
Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. See Crab
Team Public Presentation.
The Harper Estuary restoration project is finally coming
together, with one contractor being hired for culvert removal,
others bidding for the excavation work and engineers completing the
designs for a new bridge.
Since June, the first phase of the project has been divided into
two parts. The first actual construction will involve the
replacement of a 24-inch culvert that carries Harper Creek under
Southworth Drive. The new structure will be a three-sided,
open-bottom culvert that spans 16 feet across the stream.
Bids were opened, and a contractor has been preliminarily
selected, said Doris Small, project coordinator for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. A meeting has been scheduled for
Tuesday to iron out the final details and award the contract, she
The work must be completed by Oct. 15, so things will progress
rapidly, she said. An announcement will be made soon regarding a
temporary detour on Southworth Drive.
The remainder of the first phase involves the excavation of dirt
and other debris used to fill in the estuary years ago. The project
has been reduced slightly in size from the original design,
reducing water contact in certain spots, Doris told me. Also, an
analysis of the soils to be removed concluded that some of the fill
material is contaminated at such a low level that it can be used as
fill elsewhere or sent to a composting facility.
Bids will be taken on the excavation project until Sept. 13, and
the work must be done before the middle of February.
The design of a new 120-foot-long bridge on Olympiad Drive is
between 60 and 90 percent complete. Applications have been
submitted for several grants to complete the project, primarily
construction of the new bridge. The bridge will replace a 36-inch
culvert where the road crosses the estuary. The design includes
access for people to walk down to the water, and it can be used to
launch small hand-carried boats.
As I described in
Water Ways in June, the existing makeshift boat launch must be
removed to allow the restored estuary to function properly. I am
told, however, that county officials are still looking for a nearby
site to build a new boat launch with access for trailered
If grants are approved to cover the cost, the bridge could be
under construction next summer, Doris said. The total estimated
cost of the entire restoration is now $7 million, with $4.1 million
approved from a mitigation fund related to contamination from the
Asarco smelter in Tacoma.
An organization called Sea Shepherd Global
announced yesterday that it will take up the cause of battling
Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean of Antarctica later
The announcement comes just days after court approval of a legal
settlement, a deal that will forever block Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society from confronting Japanese whalers on the high
Sea Shepherd Global, based in The Netherlands, apparently is out
of reach of the U.S. courts, which sanctioned the original Sea
Shepherd group for its sometimes violent actions against the
whalers. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the U.S. group, is led
by its founder, Capt. Paul Watson, who had stepped down for a
Sea Shepherd Global has mobilized its forces for what it calls
the “11th direct-action whale defense campaign.” The group has
built a new ship it claims can keep up with and surpass the
Japanese harpoon ships. Anyone who has watched “Whales
Wars,” the reality television series, probably knows that Sea
Shepherd’s ships have suffered from a lack of speed and were often
left in wake of the whaling vessels.
Sea Shepherd, with its fierce opposition to killing marine
mammals, has always claimed to be on the right side of
international law when it comes to whaling. Now its members are
inspired by a 2014 ruling in the International Court of Justice,
which found that whaling — at least as practiced by Japanese
whalers — is not a scientific endeavor. The Japanese government has
lost its only justification for whaling until it develops new
scientific protocols acceptable to the International Whaling
Commission. Review a discussion of these issues in Water Ways,
March 31, 2014, with an update on
Dec. 14, 2015.
Sea Shepherd Global also justifies its plans with a
contempt-of-court citation filed by the Australian Federal Court
against the Japanese whalers for killing protected whales within
the Australia Whale Sanctuary. Japan, however, does not recognize
the sanctuary nor the Australian jurisdiction.
“If we cannot stop whaling in an established whale sanctuary, in
breach of both Australian Federal and international laws, then what
hope do we have for the protection of the world’s oceans?” asked
Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia in a
news release. “We must make a stand and defend whales with
everything we’ve got.”
After the International Court of Justice ruling, the Japanese
took a year off from whaling before submitting a new whaling plan,
which was questioned by a scientific committee at the International
Whaling Commission. Without waiting for approval, the whalers
returned to the Southern Ocean last December. A limited Sea
Shepherd fleet followed, but the whalers killed 333 minke whales —
a quota approved by the Japanese government but nobody else.
Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) has been
engaged in a legal battle with the Japanese-sponsored Institute of
Cetacean Research in the U.S. courts. Initially, a U.S. district
judge dismissed the Japanese claims. On appeal, however, the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals called Sea Shepherd a “pirate”
organization, ordered the group to stay away from the Japanese
ships and eventually found Sea Shepherd in contempt of court for a
peripheral involvement in the anti-whaling effort. Initial appeals
Water Ways, Feb. 26, 2013.
SSCS agreed to pay $2.55 million to settle a damage claim from
Japan in light of the contempt ruling. The group had been hoping
that Japan’s lawsuit in the U.S. courts would open the door for a
countersuit, in which the illegality of Japanese whaling would
spelled out and confirmed.
All legal claims and counterclaims were dropped in the
settlement agreement (PDF 410 kb) between SSCS and the
Institute of Cetacean Research. The agreement, approved last week
by U.S. District Judge James Robart, says SSCS cannot approach
Japanese whaling ships closer than 500 yards. SSCS cannot provide
financial support to anyone else who would approach the Japanese
ships in an aggressive way, including “any entity that is part of
the worldwide ‘Sea Shepherd’ movement and/or uses or has used some
version of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ name.”
The agreement mentions a “settlement consideration to be paid to
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,” although the amount has not
The Institute of Cetacean Research immediately issued a news release
about the settlement. Paul Watson offered a three-pronged post on
page. One part was his own message, saying Sea Shepherd would
remain opposed to whaling but would comply with the settlement
Another part was a statement from Capt. Alex Cornelissen,
director of Sea Shepherd Global:
“The ruling in the US courts affects ONLY the US entity. All the
other Sea Shepherd entities in the Global movement are not bound by
the US legal system, the mere assumption that it does clearly
demonstrates a lack of understanding of Sea Shepherd Global’s
structure. Sea Shepherd Global and all other entities around the
world, other than the USA, will continue to oppose the illegal
Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.”
“Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, told
the BBC the U.S. ruling would ‘absolutely not’ affect its own
operations. He said if the ICC (sic, ICR?) were to pursue Sea
Shepherd in Australia ‘they would be entering into a court system
they’re in contempt of, and we would welcome that.’”
statement yesterday, Sea Shepherd Global said it was
disappointed that the international community has not taken more
steps to protect whales in the Southern Ocean. Still, Sea Shepherd
Global will be there with a new fast ship, the Ocean Warrior, built
with the financial support of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the
British People’s Postcode Lottery and the Svenska
“For the first time, we will have the speed to catch and outrun
the Japanese harpoon ships, knowing speed can be the deciding
factor when saving the lives of whales in the Southern Ocean,” said
The Ocean Warrior will undergo final preparations in Australia
at the end of the year, about the time that Japanese whaling ships
arrive for their anticipated harvest of marine mammals. And so the
whale wars will go on but without any involvement from Paul Watson
and his U.S. contingent.
By the way, Paul, who had been living in exile in France, has
returned to the U.S., according to a
news release from Sea Shepherd that recounts Paul’s history of
fleeing from prosecutors in Japan and Costa Rica. Paul, 65, and his
wife, Yanina Rusinovich, a Russian-born opera singer, are now
living in Woodstock, Vermont, and expecting a baby in October.
It begins with secret formulas for bubble solution, takes off
with personal creativity and becomes an entertaining show with
smoke, lights and music. They call it bubble art.
The first video shows Melody Yang, who has been performing
bubble art since the age of 3 as the youngest member of the
performing Yang family. Her father, Fan Yang, studied the science
of bubbles and found new ways to blow bubbles to create works of
art. He started the troupe called the Gazillion Bubble Show, which
performs in New York City. Check out other
videos from the show.
For his continually expanding and multiplying bubbles, Fan
claims to have broken the Guinness Book of World Records 16 times.
I found him as the current record holder of the longest bubble
wall, nearly 167 feet long. See
Guinness World Records website.
Melody has now followed in the footsteps of her parents, uncle
and brother. She has performed on television in Italy, Greece,
France and the U.S., including an appearance on the Queen Latifah
I have some bleak news to share about our Southern Resident
killer whales, which normally frequent Puget Sound at this time of
J-14, a 42-year-old female named Samish, has gone missing and is
presumed dead, while J-28, a 23-year-old orca mom named Polaris,
may be living out her final days.
“Things are shaping up to be pretty bad,” said Ken Balcomb of
the Center for Whale
Research, who keeps tabs on the orca population. “J-28 is
looking super-gaunt, and I would say she is within days of her
The saddest part of my conversation with Ken this morning was to
hear him say that Polaris’ 7-month-old calf would become an orphan
and probably will not survive without his mother. That’s the
typical outcome for an orphan of that age, Ken said, although there
is a chance that the young male will be adopted by his
The calf, J-54, is still nursing, but he is close to weaning,
Ken noted. He is the newest calf born into the three Southern
Resident pods and is part of the “baby boom” of nine orcas born
between December 2014 and December 2015. So far, only one of those
calves, J-55, has died.
After my conversation with Ken, the Center for Whale Research
posted a news release about the death of Samish. Orca observers on
the water have known that she was missing for some time now.
As of today, J pod was on its way out through the Strait of Juan
de Fuca, no doubt searching for food. The chinook salmon run has
been very low this summer.
“Historically, at this time of year, we would see nice little
bunches (of orcas) swimming back and forth in front of the house,”
said Ken, who lives on the west side of San Juan Island. But this
year, the whales have broken up into small family groups and are
traveling around in seemingly random patterns, presumably in search
of whatever salmon they can find.
“Even the fishermen aren’t getting much this year,” Ken
To gauge a killer whale’s condition, researchers consider the
overall shape of its body. Without adequate fish — primarily
chinook salmon — an orca grows thinner as the body fat declines. As
conditions grow worse, a depression develops behind the blow hole.
This sunken condition — which Polaris has developed — is called
“peanut head.” So far, none of the other animals have been observed
in such a dire condition.
I’ve often been told by medical experts that when a killer whale
loses weight it can be a sign of a major problem, such as a disease
that makes them incapable of hunting to their normal ability. But a
shortage of food can exacerbate the condition.
“We have been telling the government for years that salmon
recovery is essential for whale recovery,” Ken said.
He blames the salmon decline on longtime mismanagement of wild
salmon stocks — including damage to habitat, over-fishing and
excess hatchery stocks in both Canada and the U.S. One of the
quickest ways to increase the chinook population for these whales
is to take out the Snake River dams, he said.
Rebuilding salmon runs on the Elwha River will help, Ken said,
but the number of fish is small compared to the potential of the
Snake River, which flows into the Columbia and produces salmon that
can be caught in the ocean.
“I’m trying to get the marine mammal people to talk to the
salmon people,” Ken said. “Fish have been a political problem for a
long time, and we are not solving the salmon issue.”
Money spent on law enforcement to make sure whale watchers don’t
get too close to the orcas would be better spent on education —
specifically on educating lawmakers about the needs of salmon and
killer whales, he quipped.
As of July 1 — the date of the annual orca census — the
population of the three Southern Resident pods stood at 83. That’s
the number that will be reported to the federal government. Since
then, Samish has gone missing, so the ongoing count falls to 82,
pending the status of Polaris and her son.
Samish was considered part of the J-2 (“Granny”) family group.
Her living offspring are Hy’shqa (J-37), Suttles (J-40) and
Se-Yi’-Chn (J-45). Samish was the grandmother to Hy-Shqa’s
4-year-old son T’ilem I’nges.
Polaris is the first offspring of Princess Angeline (J-17), who
is still living. Her first offspring, a female named Star (J-46),
is now 7 years old. J-54 is her second offspring.
Wait! Don’t touch that! It’s not a toy. It’s a living thing.
Researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus were scanning
the seafloor off the coast of California using an unmanned
submarine when they spotted a purple thing that caused them to
laugh with amusement.
“It looks so fake,” one researcher said. “It looks like some
little kid dropped their toy.” (Watch and listen in the first video
player on this page.)
They maneuvered the remotely operated vehicle Hercules closer
and continued to laugh at the creature with eyes that looked glued
on. Later, as the video went viral, this purple cephalopod — a
class that includes squid, octopus and cuttlefish — became known to
many people as the “googly eyed squid.” Since Aug. 12, more than
2.5 million viewers have clicked on the video.
This species, Rossia pacifica, is known to Puget Sound divers as
the stubby squid or sometimes the bobtail squid, but it is not a
true squid. See The Cephalopod Page
by James Wood to understand the relationship among family
This particular stubby squid was seen in early August on the
seafloor about 2,950 feet deep off the California Coast. They can
be found from throughout the North Pacific south to Southern
California. They are found at many depths from coastal waters to
The second video shows a bobtail squid spotted from the EV
Nautilus in August of 2014, and the third shows a flapjack octopus
from August of 2015.
Roland Anderson of Seattle Aquarium described early surveys in
Puget Sound, where stubby squids were found in muddy sand at 11
sites between Seattle and Tacoma, including Elliott and
Commencement bays. Check out
“Field Aspects of the Sepiolid Squid.” (PDF 3.3 mb)
In a piece on “The Cephalopod
Page,” Anderson writes, “One surprising thing recently learned
about stubby squid is that they are found in polluted urban bays
with highly polluted bottom sediments, such as the inner harbors of
Seattle and Tacoma.
“There may be several reasons they can survive there. Deposition
from rivers maybe capping polluted sediments. Their short life
spans (just two years from eggs) may not allow them to absorb a
significant amount of pollutants from the sediments. Another
survival factor may be the stubby squid’s ability to produce
copious quantities of mucus, which may protect it from the
sediments like a thick Jello jacket.”
Reporter Stefan Sirucek of
National Geographic News interviewed Michael Vecchione, a
cephalopod expert at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural
“It’s not an uncommon species,” he said. “They get all the way
from scuba-diving depths down into the deep sea. If that is all one
species, then it’s pretty broadly distributed.”
Vecchione said large eyes are fairly common among deep-see
“They are funny-looking eyes, but I’ve seen other species of
this genus that had eyes that looked very similar,” he said.
“People were actually asking whether those eyes were photo-shopped
in to make it look more like a cartoon or something. No, those are
the real eyes. That’s what they look like.”
In low light, the big eyes help them hunt for crustaceans and
avoid predators. In either case, the strategy is to remain still so
other animals don’t notice it there, which can make it look like a
“My guess is it was probably frozen because of this big machine
that was brightly lit up in front of it,” Vecchione said in the
interview. “So it was trying not to be seen, basically.”
After more than a decade of losing court battles, the U.S. Navy
still refuses to fully embrace the idea that whales and other sea
creatures should be protected during Navy training exercises, says
Joel Reynolds, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
But the blame cannot be placed entirely on the Navy, Joel says
in a blog entry he wrote for the
“In fact, much of the blame lies with the government regulatory
agency whose mandate it is to protect our oceans,” he writes. “It
lies with the failure of the National Marine Fisheries Service to
do its job.”
Joel has been at the forefront of the legal effort to get the
Navy to change its ways — and the effort has been successful to a
large degree. At least we now have a much greater understanding
about the effects of sonar on whales and other marine animals.
Legal challenges forced the Navy to acknowledge that it didn’t
really know what damage its activities were doing to the oceans.
The result was to develop studies, which turned out to provide some
Joel’s latest frustration comes this week in the wake of new
authorizations by NMFS to sanction Navy activities found to be
unacceptable by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Joel’s life story and that of Ken Balcomb, who I call the dean
of killer whales in Puget Sound, are described in intriguing detail
in the book “War of the Whales” by Joshua Horwitz. The book
documents their personal and legal battles to hold the Navy
accountable for its impacts on whales.
The Navy would never have found itself on the losing side of
these sonar lawsuits if the National Marine Fisheries Service
(sometimes called NOAA Fisheries) had been doing its
congressionally mandated job of protecting marine mammals, Joel
says. For the agency, that would mean approving “take” permits only
when the Navy has done its best to reduce the risk of injury during
training exercises — which everyone agrees are important.
“Rather than exercising the oversight required by law, the
Service has chosen in effect to join the Navy’s team, acquiescing
in the omission of common-sense safeguards recommended even by its
own scientific experts,” Joel writes in his latest blog post.
After reading his post, I asked Joel by phone yesterday what it
would take to get the National Marine Fisheries Service on the
“I don’t have an easy answer for that,” Joel told me, noting
that he recently held a related discussion with Sylvia
Earle, renowned oceanographer and formerly chief scientist for
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“She is very familiar with the problems of NMFS,” Joel said.
“She said NMFS is an agency responsible for killing fish.”
That said, the agency has a lot of dedicated researchers and
experts who know what needs to be done, especially at the regional
level. But they are hamstrung by federal politics and by budget
“The Pentagon is essentially able to dictate every part of
government,” Joel said. “The financial implications are very real,
because the military is so powerful. If NMFS gives them trouble,
they call their contacts on Capitol Hill, and pressure is brought
The Navy has spent decades operating at its own discretion
throughout the world’s oceans. The notion that another federal
agency or some upstart environmental groups should limit its
activities just doesn’t sit well among established Navy
The problem is so entrenched in government that any resolution
“is going to take some focused attention under the next
administration,” according to Joel.
If Hillary Clinton is elected, Joel said he might look to John
Podesta to untangle the mess. Podesta served as chief of staff
under President Bill Clinton and was instrumental in opening up
long-held but arguably unnecessary government secrets. He currently
serves as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“John Podesta understands these things,” Joel told me. “If we
can’t get him (to do something), we can’t get anyone. I think it
would take a reorganization. The way NMFS is set up, they are in
the business of authorizing ‘take’ instead of issuing permits based
on the protections that are needed.”
Joel wasn’t clear how a regulatory agency might be organized to
hold its own against the Navy, but the idea should be on the table,
he said. Until then, the NRDC and other environmental groups will
continue to battle in the courts, where judges are able to use some
Meanwhile, NOAA has developed an “Ocean Noise Strategy
Roadmap,” which promises to find ways to control harmful
man-made noise. The roadmap is based, in part, on scientific
studies about the hearing capabilities of marine mammals. Review my
Water Ways post on the “draft guidance”
Water Ways, March 26, 2016.
These steps have been encouraging — at least until this week
when NMFS issued
letters of authorization for the Navy to keep operating under
its 2012 plan, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had
declared a failure to meet requirements for the “least practicable
adverse impact.” (Read
The agency chose to move ahead because the court had not yet
issued its mandate — a formal direction to a lower court — by the
time the letters of authorization were issued.
“The Navy has a robust and practicable monitoring and mitigation
program that we believe is very effective in reducing the
likelihood of injury,” according to an
explanation from NMFS.
Check out Ramona Young-Grindle’s story about this latest finding
Courthouse News, which includes these further comments from
“We are astonished to see an LOA issued in the wake of the court
of appeals’ decision that the LFA (low frequency active sonar)
permit is illegal. NMFS is entrusted under federal law to enforce
the Marine Mammal Protection Act for the benefit of marine mammals
— not for the convenience of the Navy. This capitulation to the
Navy’s request to continue ‘business as usual’ under a permit
determined by a federal court to be illegal is outrageous.”
Through the years, I’ve written a lot about the Skokomish River,
which begins in the Olympic Mountains and flows into the south end
of Hood Canal. The wide, productive estuary might be described as
the elbow of this long, narrow waterway that bends up toward
I’ve heard it said that Puget Sound cannot be restored to health
without a healthy Hood Canal, and Hood Canal cannot be restored to
health without a healthy Skokomish River. Whether that is true
remains to be seen, but I have no doubt that the Skokomish River
watershed is coming out of a dark period of abuse with hope of
becoming one of the most productive streams in the region.
Much of the credit for the transformation goes to a group of men
and women from a variety of agencies, occupations and ways of life
who came together with an understanding of the historic value of
the Skokomish River and a vision for what the river could become
again. This was the Skokomish Watershed Action Team, or SWAT, which
celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.
To be sure, it was basically loads of money that began to
transform the abused Skokomish River watershed to a much more
productive system. But the people in charge of the federal, state,
local and private dollars were able to see the Skokomish as a
worthy cause, thanks to the groundwork laid by the SWAT.
Disappointments have been few, as one project after another brings
this long lost river back to life.
Yes, I have written a lot about the Skokomish River, its history
and its future. That’s why I was glad to see the 10-year update to
the Skokomish Watershed
Action Plan (download, PDF 113 mb). The document contains an
extensive account of the projects completed and the milestones
passed through the years. Whether you are intimately involved in
the watershed or just want to know what the heck I’m talking about,
take a look at the report released this week.
Since 2005, nearly 50 restoration projects were completed — from
removal of old logging roads high in the mountains to the
re-establishment of tidal channels in the lower estuary. Salmon are
being reintroduced to the North Fork of the Skokomish River,
including the dammed-up Lake Cushman, thanks to a legal settlement
between Tacoma and the Skokomish Tribe.
About 12 miles upstream in the South Fork of the Skokomish, a
series of 30 logjams were installed and almost immediately began to
restore the channel to a more natural habitat for fish and other
aquatic creatures. This area was part of a four-mile stretch that
was heavily logged in the 1950s for a reservoir that never
Once the logjams were in place, the area began to store massive
loads of sediment, which always created problems as they washed
downstream into the lower river. The river’s characteristic problem
of spreading out and slowing down was reversed, as width-to-depth
ratios decreased and the average depth in the middle of the river
increased by two feet. The number of pools deeper than five feet
doubled from three to six, and the piles of wood grew larger by
capturing logs floating downstream.
The new report also lays out plans for the watershed in the
coming years, including projects identified in a major study by the
Army Corps of Engineers. A Corps proposal to fund $20 million in
restoration projects is now before Congress, as I described in
Water Ways in April and June. Other projects have been proposed
for separate funding, as outlined in the new report.
I have trouble balancing on a log that is lying flat on the
ground, so standing on a floating log seems like an impossible
feat. I guess that’s why I’m impressed with the old-fashioned sport
of log rolling, an activity that is catching on across the
I have always been amused by log rolling, but I realize that
this is very serious activity, comparable to Olympic sports for
many people. The first video on this page shows the skill of
professionals, while the last one offers a bit of silliness in the
world of commercial television.
Log rolling was once a sport of lumberjacks, since walking on
floating logs was part of the job for many. But now the activity
seems to be attracting all ages of boys and girls, who enjoy the
challenge of balancing as well as getting soaked in the process — a
nice hot-weather sport. Some folks really are pushing to get log
rolling approved for an upcoming summer Olympics.
One of the sport’s many supporters is Pat Foster, director of
Camp Corey on Keuka Lake near
Rochester, NY. For three years, the summer camp has been offering
classes in log rolling using a special training log created by
Rolling, a family-owned business in Golden Valley, Minn. In the
second video on this page, Jennifer Johnson, a reporter for WUHF-TV
in Rochester interviews Foster then goes for a spin on the log
“Tug of War was in the Olympics until 1920,” Caple writes.
“There are movements to get squash, ballroom dance and chess in the
Olympics, as well as log-rolling. Yes, log-rolling. While I would
much rather see baseball back in the Olympics, I definitely would
choose log-rolling over ballroom dance or chess.”
For information about the sport, Caple calls on Abby Hoeschler,
a champion log-roller and instructor who plays a leading role in
the family business.
“It’s such an intense sport; it’s a sparring sport,” Hoeschler
said. “You’re on this log in the water with an opponent, and you
can’t touch them. There’s a center line you can’t cross. It’s sort
of like boxing with your feet.
“You’re doing maneuvers to dislodge your opponent. As a female,
there aren’t many opportunities where you can compete in sports
that are intense like that. You step on the log, and if you make
one wrong move, you’ve lost.”
Jeff Ozimek, outdoor program manager for Bainbridge Island Metro
Park and Recreation District, got involved in log rolling while he
attended college at the University of Montana in Missoula.
The competition, loosely associated with the College of
Forestry, involved all the lumberjack sports — from pole-climbing
to crosscut sawing to axe-throwing. Jeff says these logging-type
sports help people to celebrate the history of the Northwest. Check
out the video of the 2015 Montana log
rolling competition, also called Birling.
When I told Jeff about how kids could learn to do log rolling by
using the training fins on the Key Log, he was impressed, recalling
how difficult it is to stay on a log the first few times. He said
he would look into the Key Log and would like to know if local
residents would be interesting in classes or activities around log
rolling. Email him with your interest and ideas, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was reading about all the logging-related events at Crosby
Days this past weekend and wanted to know if anyone had ever
considered holding a log-rolling competition. (See Tristan
Baurick’s story in the
“Actually, my husband was talking about that this year, but we
didn’t have time to get it going,” said Jessica Dukes, secretary of
the Crosby Community Club and an organizer of Crosby Days. “It is
something we want to consider for next year.”
Competitions in log rolling are held throughout the country by
Log Rolling Association, but the only event I could find in
Washington state was this past weekend in Morton. I think an event
that brings in skilled log-rollers would be popular, all the more
so if kids could get involved.
Although adults should have an advantage in log rolling because
of their weight, it appears that many kids can hold their own
against their parents, especially in the beginning when both are