Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Taking time to remember Billy Frank Jr.

May 13th, 2014 by cdunagan

UPDATE, July 24, 2014
The latest issue of “Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission News” (PDF 1.1 mb) is dedicated to the late Billy Frank, who served as chairman of the commission for nearly 40 years. The issue includes numerous tributes from those who worked with Billy through the years. Print copies are available by emailing Tony Meyer or Emmet O’Connell at NWIFC.

UPDATE, June 11, 2014
Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, wrote a tribute to Billy Frank that is worth reading. Jeromy mentions three admirable attributes of Billy Frank and gives examples of each. They are words to live by.

  • Stand up for what you believe in … even when no one else will.
  • Treat people with respect even if you’re on opposite sides.
  • It’s the big and small things that make your community a better place.

Read Jeromy’s entire column, written for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Newspaper.
—–

The affection and admiration expressed for Billy Frank Jr. has been somewhat overwhelming in recent days. I thought it would be nice to pull together some of the tributes — including the memorial service — that talk about this man who was an irrepressible voice for salmon recovery, environmental restoration and Native American rights.

Billy, 83, a member of the Nisqually Tribe and chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, died last Monday, May 5, at his home. As I said in Water Ways last Tuesday, I believe Billy will remain an unforgetable force.

An estimated 6,000 people attended his memorial service Sunday at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Skookum Creek Event Center, located at Little Creek Casino Resort near Shelton.

The service was recorded by Squaxin Streams and posted on the Livestream website, which is the video player on this page.

Billy Frank’s own words, “Nobody can replace my life,” speak of the changes from one generation to the next. Billy knew as well as anyone that we can’t go back, but he asked people to help determine a better environmental future. Secretary of State Legacy Project.

 

 

Tributes, statements, news

William D. Ruckelshaus, former chairman of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council, of which Billy was a member. Published in Crosscut, May 8.

Martha Kongsgaard, current chairwoman of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. Published on the partnership’s website, May 6.

Gov. Jay Inslee, statement from the Governor’s Office

President Barack Obama, statement from the White House

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, VIDEO, speech on Senate floor, May 12.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, VIDEO, speech on Senate floor, May 12.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, VIDEO, speech on House floor, May 9.

Former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton. Statement, Van Ness, Feldman.

Kitsap Sun editorial cartoon by Milt Priggee

Kitsap Sun editorial cartoon by Milt Priggee

John Dodge, reporter for The Olympian. Published in the Olympian, May 8.

E3 Washington, Education, Environment, Economy. Website, May 7.

Indian Country Today Media Network

Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribal Council, and Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Council, in Kitsap Sun, May 5.


Amusing Monday: Evolution of the ‘water babies’

May 12th, 2014 by cdunagan

Can we ever really get enough videos of “water babies”?

It’s a silly question, as if we could ever satiate our Internet appetite for video clips of cats, dogs and teenage monologues.

But you have to admit there is something magical about babies swimming around under water like jellyfish, their arms and legs moving in a rhythmical fashion. Nobody taught them to do this.

Before I tell you how “water babies” evolved into Spider Man, I’d like to remind you of the human connection between mothers and babies. The first video shows how moms have somehow calmed their fears and learned to release their infants into a watery void. As for the babies, it seems their adjustment is minimal. (Oh, yes, there’s a dad in there, too.)

The second video covers the same subject from a different perspective. We learn about the “diving refliex” that gives human babies special powers to make a fully equipped diver look incredibly clumsy.

So this blog entry is the third time I’ve talked about swimming babies since 2010, when I recalled the Evian water babies and their synchronized swimming and other impossible feats, all produced on a green screen to sell a bottle of water. See “Amusing Monday” for Aug. 8, 2010. I also listed several videos of “dancing babies.”

In 2012, I stayed on the point of real-life swimming babies, including not only humans but also sea lions, beavers, hippos, otters, kangaroos, turtles and elephants. See “Amusing Monday” for Jan. 20, 2012.

Emma Bazilian of Ad Week magazine recalls how Evian began using babies to sell bottled water in 1998, when the first “water babies” commercial appeared. (“At least there was actual water involved,” she notes.)

Emma goes on the say: “Evian has a long history of incorporating creepy CGI babies in its ads, and an equally long history of viewers gobbling it up like it’s some variety of highly addictive crack cocaine.”

So we find ourselves watching “Roller Babies” commercials and then last year’s “Baby & Me,” which transports people back to their earliest days of life by staring at their reflection in a window. More interesting, I think, was when Evian took us behind the scenes for “The Making of Baby & Me.”

So what should come next in this evolution from swimming babies to time travel? The answer arrived last month, when the Amazing Spider Man began seeing his childhood image in front of a window. You can check out what happened in the third video player on this page.

“And that’s it,” as Emma Bazilian says. “No explanation of what this has to do with Evian, apart from the brand’s ‘Live Young’ tagline at the end. We don’t even get to see Spider-Baby’s cute little face.”

Maybe we’ll never know what baby Spidy looks like, but if you put “baby swimming” into a Google search and hit the “video” tab, you’ll get a chance to view 66 million videos of what I presume are mostly babies and water.


Unprecedented sighting of newborn minke whale

May 8th, 2014 by cdunagan

UPDATE, MAY 12, 2014

In talking to Jon Stern of the Northeast Pacific Minke Whale project, I learned that the pictured minke calf does not appear to be a newborn after all. The young animal probably was born in January, the normal birthing time for minkes, and it is likely to be weened and learning from its mother how to hunt for food.

As far as I can tell, the other information below is accurate.

“The larger whale is a whale we’ve seen since 2005,” Jon told me. “We named the whale ‘Joan’ for Joni Mitchell.”

The first time the research team spotted this whale, it was swimming in circles, Jon explained. Jon started singing Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” (“And the seasons they go round and round …”). And the name “Joan” stuck.

The female has been seen with other calves, which are normally about 9 feet long when born and about 14 feet when weened at four or five months.

Seeing the whale with another young calf is a good sign that new individuals are being added to the Puget Sound population, which may now total more than 20 animals, Jon said.

Minke whales are faster than other whales and still the most mysterious whales seen in Puget Sound, he confirmed, adding, “The coolest whales are the minke whales.”
—–

A once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a newborn minke whale, accompanied by its mother, was reported last weekend near San Juan Island.

Shane Aggergaard of Island Adventures Whale Watching had this to say about it:

Photo: Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures

A newborn minke whale swims with its mother near Heins Bank in the San Juan Islands on Saturday. (Click to enlarge.)
Photo courtesy of Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures Whale Watching

“I’ve been working these waters for over three decades now, and I talked to Ron Bates of Five Star Whale Watching and other researchers and skippers who have been here just as long or longer, and we’ve never seen anything like this. We do see minkes a lot, especially this time of year, and we’ve seen juveniles traveling with their mothers, but never a newborn.”

Shane made his comments in a news release issued by Michael Harris of Pacific Whale Watch Association, who noted that minkes are common residents of Puget Sound — but the sighting a newborn in local waters may be unprecedented.

“We’ve been keeping tabs on whales for almost 40 years and we’ve never seen a minke this young out there,” Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research was quoted as saying. “It’s an extremely interesting sighting. Let’s hope it means that the population is growing.”

Island Adventures Captain and Naturalist Brooke McKinley captured the photos on this page and others from the boat Island Adventurer 4. She has shared the pictures with whale researchers in our region. The mom and calf were spotted Saturday afternoon near Hein Bank, about five miles southwest of San Juan Island.

A newborn minke whale swims with its mother near San Juan Island Saturday. Photo courtesy of Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures Whale Watching

Photo: Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures

Michael added his own perspective:

“Thanks to people like Ken Balcomb we know more about our resident killer whales here than any marine mammal population in the world. And yet we know very little about a species that also makes its home out here, the minke.

“It’s probably our most mysterious whale, and now we’ve just been given a rare glimpse of a newborn. The scientists we gave these photos to are kids in a candy store. This is a very special occurrence, and having these amazing images to review may provide a lot of clues to researchers.

“The more we learn about these minke whales, the better equipped we are to protect every creature out there.”

Here’s a description of the minke provided by Harris:

“The minke is a member of the rorqual family of whales (whales with baleen, a dorsal fin, and throat pleats) and spends very little time at the surface. It’s one of the fastest whales in the ocean, capable of speeds up to about 25 miles per hour. its blows are rarely visible and it disappears quickly after exhaling, making it difficult to spot – and to study.

“The minke is one of the smallest of baleen whales, with adults reaching a maximum of just about 33 feet and 10 tons. However, a good look at the minke underwater shows it to be one of the most beautiful of all cetacea, with a slender and streamlined body, dark on top and light-colored at the bottom, with two areas of lighter gray on each side, some with a light-colored chevron mark on their back and a white band on each flipper.

“They are often solitary animals, particularly in the Salish Sea, feeding primarily on krill and small schooling fish like herring.”

Minke whales are among the marine mammals I featured in the ongoing series “Taking the pulse of Puget Sound,” where I reported that at least a half-dozen minkes are believed to inhabit Puget Sound. The number is now believed to be more than 20. For management purposes the local minkes are grouped with a California/Oregon/Washington stock numbering between 500 and 1,000 animals. Nobody knows if the population is growing or declining.

Photo: Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures

Photo: Brooke McKinley, Island Adventures


To many, Billy Frank will remain an unforgetable force

May 6th, 2014 by cdunagan

To reporters in Western Washington, Billy Frank Jr. was the essential interview when it came to reporting on fish and shellfish issues.

Billy Frank Jr. greets Interior Secretary Sally Jewell 10 days ago in Suquamish. Kitsap Sun photo by Rachel Anne Seymour

Billy Frank Jr. greets Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Suquamish.
Kitsap Sun photo by Rachel Anne Seymour

Always gracious and enthusiastic, Billy would take my calls at just about any time of day, sometimes between conferences in Washington, D.C. He was willing to talk about anything, from environmental problems to court rulings. You name it.

Usually, he was not the best person to discuss the rigorous details I might need for a story. He left that to others. But one could always count on Billy to passionately expound upon the needs of salmon and how a particular policy or legal agreement would further the cause.

At 83 years old, Billy had watched the rapid rise of modern development and the sad decline of salmon populations throughout Puget Sound. He was at the center of the battle to restore tribal treaty rights and claim a place at the table where decisions are made regarding natural resource policies.

It didn’t matter to Billy if you were a concerned citizen, a U.S. senator or the president himself. He would greet people with a hug and thank them for their efforts. During his off-the-cuff speeches, he would urge everyone to keep working together, no matter what conflicts needed to be overcome.

Billy, chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, was in Kitsap County — Suquamish to be specific — 10 days ago to meet with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Kitsap Sun reporter Rachel Seymour heard him address the issue of salmon hatcheries. See Kitsap Sun, April 24 (subscription).

“Our hatcheries are under attack,” he said, saying that Puget Sound had become “poison” to the salmon. “The hatcheries are there because the habitats are gone. Big business says it costs too much to have clean water.”

That was classic Billy Frank, shooting straight into the heart of the matter.

I knew Billy on a professional level, but he had this rare trait for making everyone feel like a friend. Of all the stories I wrote, Billy was particularly pleased that I kept following the culvert lawsuit years after it seemed forgotten by most people — even the judge. In that case, the court ruled that Washington state has a duty under the treaties to fix highway culverts that impede the passage of salmon.

Billy appeared comfortable in most settings. He would plead and demand, calling on people to do the right thing, his speech peppered with occasional profanity. He was easily excited at reports of progress, but always disappointed at the extremely slow pace of ecosystem recovery.

His vision was to restore salmon populations to some semblance of their glory when people could still make a living from the bounty of nature. Without thinking, I always believed that Billy would be around to see his vision fulfilled, no matter how long it took.

Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, recalled hearing Billy speak last Thursday at the Salish Sea tribal dinner.

“Billy assured us that he would be here for at least another decade — he had so much work to do,” Martha wrote in a thoughtful tribute to Billy. “He mentioned that his father lived to be 104 and his mother 96 and that he hoped to split the difference. He was on fire, naming names, calling us all to the cause, to come together. He was as powerful as any in the room had ever heard him.”

As was his habit, Billy got up Monday and got dressed after his shower. He sat down on his bed and didn’t get back up. His son Willie found him a short time later.

It will be up to others to continue the fight to protect and restore salmon to Puget Sound. We can be sure that there will never be another Billy Frank. But those who knew him or heard him speak can still be empowered by the indomitable passion that made him such an unforgettable force.

Read Martha Kongsgaard’s full tribute to Billy Frank.

Kitsap Sun/Associated Press story, “Tribal rights pioneer Billy Frank Jr. dies,” includes statements from Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, and Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.


Amusing Monday: It gets crazy at the car wash

May 5th, 2014 by cdunagan

Anticipation. Surprise. Uncertainty. Reservation. Fear. Relief. Joy.

Those were the emotions that one little boy went through during his first trip through an automatic car wash — and then he was ready to go again. Check out the first video on this page.

I vaguely remember the trepidation I felt while going through a car wash for the first time as a child. I have no idea how old I was, but it clearly left an impression. After the first time or two, it seems to me that most kids start looking forward to these trips through the swirling water, whirling brushes and blower fans.

I’m assuming, when I say this, that the parents know how to behave safely in a car wash. After all, what can go wrong? If you really want to know, check out the second video on this page, a montage of numerous car-wash videos taken from YouTube.

Another theme you’ll see in car-wash videos revolves around sexy women spraying water and flipping around soapy sponges while leaning over all kinds of cars. Many of these videos are built around a humorous punch line, as you will see by clicking on a video called “Funny Car Wash Commercial” — an ad for Mrs. Mac’s Famous Beef Pies.

A few car-wash jokes:

  • “My niece, Lucy, was thrilled to hear that a new car wash was opening up in her neighborhood. ‘How convenient,’ she said. ‘I will be able to walk to it.’”
    — Readers Digest
  • “You can’t tell me the ecology isn’t fouled up. I washed my car yesterday and it didn’t rain.”
    Frank and Ernest, Bob Thaves
  • A flock of birds is flying over a city. One bird looks down and says, “There’s a nice clean car pulling out of that car wash. Anyone need to go?”
    Speed Bump, Dave Coverly
  • For the next joke, you’ll need to click over to see the cartoon called “The first car wash,” another one by Dave Coverly.

Ready for a music video? Here’s one by Christina Aguilera with Missy Elliott, which is a 2004 remake of the 1976 one-hit wonder by Rose Royce. Aguilera’s updated version was featured in the DreamWorks animated movie “Shark Tale.”

Thanks go to my wife Sue this week for asking, “Have you ever done an ‘Amusing Monday’ on car washes?”


Erich Hoyt will talk about orcas and more

May 3rd, 2014 by cdunagan

Erich Hoyt, who has been enjoying adventures with killer whales and other sea creatures since the early 1970s, will share his understanding of the underwater world during a series of presentations from British Columbia to Northern California.

Erich Hoyt

Erich Hoyt

The tour begins today on Saturna Island in British Columbia. For the full schedule, visit The Whale Trail website.

Erich has a rare talent. He is both an engaging writer as well as an experienced scientific researcher. His first book, “Orca: A Whale Called Killer,” is essential reading for orca supporters. His understanding of the oceans has led him into the field of conservation, seeking greater protections for marine habitats throughout the world.

As Erich prepared for his upcoming tour, sponsored by The Whale Trail, I had the privilege to visit with him for more than an hour via Skype from his home in Bridport, England.

We discussed how people’s attitudes in the U.S. and Canada have changed since 1973. That was when Erich’s curiosity was sparked by encounters with Northern Resident orca pods in British Columbia, where he had moved from the U.S. with his family.

Those were the days when little was known about killer whales. Orcas were still being captured in the Northwest and sent to aquariums throughout the world. Since then, we have learned how those first captures had a serious effect on the close-knit orca communities. Continuing threats today include pollution and a lack of chinook salmon, the primary prey of orcas.

In 1999, Erich helped start a research program in Russian to bring the same kind of scientific scrutiny and conservation concerns to killer whales on the opposite side of the ocean. That program, involving Russian scientists, revealed the presence of two types of orcas, those that eat marine mammals and those that eat fish — similar to what we call “transients” and “residents” in the Northwest.

Orca communities identified so far in Russia range in size from 50 to 600 animals. As we’ve seen in the Northwest, cultures — such as vocal dialects and feeding habits — are handed down from mother to offspring.

An awareness of orcas, as seen in the U.S. and Canada, has not reached Russia or many places in the world, Hoyt says. Russia still allows killer whales to be captured, and last year seven orcas were taken from the Sea of Okhotsk. Earlier captures in Russia were especially disheartening to the researchers who had come to know the individual animals taken from their families.

During his presentation, Erich will show a brief video of some of the Russian capture efforts.

In countries such as Russia, China and Japan, new marine aquariums are being built all the time, with orcas and beluga whales as the star attractions. That’s in stark contrast to the situation in the U.S., where a growing awareness of wild orcas along with the film “Blackfish” has helped change people’s attitudes about keeping large marine mammals in captivity.

Erich told me that he would like to see more people around the world come to know individual orcas by name, as we do here in the Northwest.

“Look at how far things have come, from when we didn’t know anything about them to when we start to see them as our friends,” he said.

About a week ago, I reported that NOAA Fisheries had undertaken a yearlong review to determine if the “critical habitat” for Southern Resident killer whales should be extended down the Washington and Oregon coasts. See Kitsap Sun, April 24 (subscription). A special consideration for protecting the whales from undue noise was part of the petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Hoyt agreed that sound should be given special consideration by the federal government.

“Rob Williams (a Canadian researcher) talks about acoustic refuges,” Erich noted. “It is a challenging issue, because whales and dolphins can hear so well… We will need much larger marine protected areas if we really want to protect them…”

A general increase in noise levels in the ocean can lead to habituation by marine mammals, he noted. As they grow accustomed to louder sounds, the animals may adjust — but how will that affect their ability to communicate and find prey? What are the prospects for their long-term survival under more noisy conditions?

And then there is the special issue of mid-frequency sonar, which can cause temporary or even permanent hearing loss for some species. Navies that use sonar must be extra careful to avoid impacts, he said.

Erich and I also talked about L-112, the young female orca that washed up dead near Long Beach about the time the Royal Canadian Navy was conducting exercises far to the north. Investigators were unable to determine what caused the “blunt-force” injury to the animal. But they ruled out explosives being used by the Navy, because the currents were in the wrong direction and the distance was too great.

“This brings to mind the crash of the Malaysian jetliner,” Erich said. “You know something unusual happened, but it defies almost any explanation you bring up. Scientists tend to come up with explanations that are the simplest … but they should be careful not to rule anything out.”

Killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb has suggested that L-112’s mother may have carried her dead daughter to the area where she was found. Hoyt said he has personally observed a female white-sided dolphin carrying her dead offspring for more than two hours in Northern Japan.

“It was really touching. We didn’t know at first if the baby was dead. We were not very close. But eventually the mother just let go of the baby.”

Erich expects mixed audiences at his upcoming appearances — from people who know more about certain issues than he does to people who are dragged to the event by a friend.

One message will be that people can watch whales from shore without causing them any disturbance. That’s the mission of The Whale Trail, the organization sponsoring Erich’s trip to locations where killer whales may be seen from shore.

I told Erich about my first adventures with killer whales during the fall of 1997, when 19 orcas visited Dyes Inlet. See “The Dyes Inlet Whales 10 Years Later.” One of my messages at that time was to encourage people to watch from vantage points in Tracyton, Chico and Silverdale.

“Land-based whale watching is really close to my heart,” Erich told me. “It’s the kind of thing that’s important for the community … and a fantastic way to get to know wildlife.”

Hoyt’s appearances in Washington state include this Wednesday in Port Townsend, Thursday in Port Angeles and May 18 in Seattle. Visit The Whale Trail website for the full schedule.

Also, check out Erich Hoyt’s webpage for information about his ongoing activities.


Amusing Monday: Frogs really can be funny

April 28th, 2014 by cdunagan

I almost forgot about Crazy Frog, who I featured a few years ago in an Amusing Monday entry. Crazy Frog was a cartoon frog. His first video showed him riding an invisible motorcycle. His “ah-ding-ding-ding-da-da-ding-ding-ding” became a popular ring tone for awhile until it drove everybody else crazy.

It’s OK to revisit a crazy cartoon frog by clicking on the link above. But this blog entry is about funny real-life frogs or facsimiles thereof, starting with a video in which a frog tries to catch his meal from a smart phone. Was the frog frustrated toward the end when he went after something larger?

See for yourself in the first video player.

The second video player shows a frog known as a desert rain frog, which comes from an exclusive desert area in Namibia and South Africa with just enough moisture to keep the species alive. The video shown here went viral after it described the little amphibian as the “world’s cutest frog.”

We all know that frogs can croak, but did you know that they scream. Here’s a video called “33 Screaming Frogs.”

On the serious side, PBS Nature produced a video about frogs and their risk of extinction. It was called “The Thin Green Line.”

Finally, to make sure you never run out of different ways of seeing frogs, I located a photo bucket said to contain nearly 20,000 images. It’s called simply “Frogs” by SimbleSimble. I scanned through the first 400 or so to verify that there probably are that many pictures and drawings of frogs.

The images below are from a different photo bucket called Funny Frog.

funny frog photo: Photoshop animated gif - Frog photoshopanimatedgif.gif

funny frog photo: funny frog with dentures 2z56oox.gif


Amusing Monday: Old Spice ads break with reality

April 21st, 2014 by cdunagan

Old Spice, maker of aftershave, deodorant and so much more, has gone wild with its television commercials the past few years.


I started out, as usual, to produce this “Amusing Monday” by looking for videos with a water-related theme. I located the first video on this page, which depicts a guy who cannot escape a fresh shower no matter where he goes.

After that, I started looking at other Old Spice ads. The company has produced so many weird videos it is hard to know where to begin and end. Should we talk about the Old Spice “prank ads”? Click here on “The Flattering Man” and then hang on.

These prank ads, as Greg Kumparak of Tech Crunch calls them, have been placed all over the Internet as part of the Old Spice campaign. He includes links to eight others in a story he posted in January.

Some people loved the ad that Old Spice calls “Momsong,” but others were seriously weirded out or offended. It’s a bit more than a mother’s lament that her son is coming of age with the help of Old Spice: “Now he smells like a man and they treat him like one.” At the end of the video, the screen includes links to two related videos.

I’m more annoyed than amused by a shouting Terry Crews, who was featured in a series of Old Spice commercials a couple years ago and was called back this year to hock an Old Spice shaver. See this YouTube video. In the commercial, he is both the person shaving and the hair about to be shaved.

I could go on like this all day, but someone named Chris John has compiled 21 Old Spice commercials in a single nine-minute video on YouTube. Check out the second video player on this page.

Hunter Whitworth of Paste magazine analyzes the Old Spice campaign, which is engineered by the advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy of Portland, Ore.:

“As fewer and fewer people watch live television—and as the audience that does is spread over an increasing number of channels—commercials are engineered with an eye towards their life on the Internet; they are designed to go viral as much as they are designed to sell you something.”

In his analysis, Whitworth makes an essential point: Unlike so many funny commercials being created today, these Old Spice ads actually place the product in the spotlight. As I once learned in an advertising class, you can’t forget to mention what it is you are selling.

There are many more Old Spice oddities to check out. The timeline on the Old Spice Facebook page is one way to get a wide-angle view. You can also visit the Wieden+Kennedy website and its Old Spice page. Of course, Old Spice has a YouTube channel, in which one video after another can be watched.

Finally, if you would like to see how far Old Spice has come — or fallen, depending on your viewpoint — check out the last video player on this page.


Bremerton leading in national ‘water challenge’

April 18th, 2014 by cdunagan

Bremerton continues to lead cities its size in the National Mayor’s Challenge, a program sponsored by the Wyland Foundation to encourage people to conserve water and energy, reduce waste, and do other conservation-minded things.

The challenge runs through April, so there is still time to join with other Bremerton residents or else boost the results for any city you wish to support. The pledge is basically a list of 17 conservation questions, and you just check a box for commitments you are willing to make — either with new practices or with ongoing good habits. To start, you name your city.

Bremerton was the winner last year among cities with populations from 30,000 to 100,000. As they did last year, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and her staff have done a good job in spreading the word about the contest, which includes prizes. I’ve seen posters in local stores and restaurants.

As the mayor said in a news release:

“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource. I encourage all Bremerton residents to pledge to learn more about their water and energy use at home. This challenge, which runs through April, is an exciting opportunity to learn about water wise habits as we engage in a friendly competition with other cities across the nation to create a more sustainable environment.”

Following Bremerton in its population category are Folsom, Calif., and then Greeley, Colo.

Since I wrote a story about this for the Kitsap Sun (subscription) on April 11, Seattle has moved up from seventh to fourth place among the largest cities (600,000 and over). No other Washington cities have made it into the top 10 for any population group.

In Kitsap County, Port Orchard is ranked 44; Poulsbo is ranked 162; and Bainbridge Island is out of the running at this point.

Other Washington cities in the top 100:

Gig Harbor, 46
Tacoma, 58
Vancouver, 59
Lacey, 64
Redmond, 74

Several other cities are close to 100. If anyone sees his or her city moving into the top 100, please let me know.


K pod makes rare spring visit to South Sound

April 14th, 2014 by cdunagan

K pod, one of the three pods of orcas that frequent Puget Sound, came south through the San Juan Islands yesterday and were spotted in South Puget Sound late this afternoon.

It’s quite unusual to see K pod coming into Puget Sound this early in the year, noted killer whale researcher Brad Hanson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

K pod contains 19 orcas and is often seen with other pods, but not this time. If history is any indication, they will soon be heading back out to the ocean. They are more likely to begin hanging out in the San Juan Islands in late May or early June.

Susan Berta of Orca Network told me that whale researcher Ken Balcomb had been out with the whales Sunday and was able to account for all the animals (no deaths), but there were no new babies either.

Brad said his crew collected two fecal samples, but they may not be representative of ocean feeding, since the whales have been around for more than a day. Research has been focusing on what Southern Resident orcas eat when they are in the ocean.

The whales may have been spotted first this morning by a crew on one of the Seattle ferries. The report to Orca Network was a single killer whale a mile north of Alki Point, about mid-channel, at 7:30 a.m.

The K pod reports came amidst other reports of transient killer whales heading north from Point No Point about 9:30 a.m., passing Whidbey Island an hour later and off Everett in the early afternoon, according to reports on Orca Network. Another group of transients was reported on the other side of Whidbey in Admiralty Inlet and later seen heading west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Because of the multiple transient reports, Brad said he was caught by surprise this morning when he went out and found all of K pod swimming south in Colvos Passage off South Kitsap.

Normally, resident orcas first pass Vashon Island on the east side and come north through Colvos Passage.

“We kept getting all these weird reports,” said Susan, who was kept busy posting updates to Orca Network’s Facebook page. “We heard about one lone orca off Alki, then another group, and I said, ‘I wonder if that is K pod all strung out down there.’ We were not expecting that.”

Susan said it is rare, but not unprecedented, for residents to come into Puget Sound in early spring. In March 2006, K and L pods arrived together and went all the way south to Olympia.


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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