Low Tide at Alki Beach

Last week produced some of the lowest tides of the year and I spent two days exploring at Alki Beach in West Seattle. The first day I investigated the rocky area and some eelgrass beds on the south end of the beach and the second day I spent on the north end of the beach looking around under rocks and over sandy areas. One thing was common in both areas, Opalescent Nudibranchs. On the north end of the beach I found a couple dozen under various rocks, some of them with their stringy mass of eggs. Their eggs are very similar to the Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch, but sea slug eggs can be very different. Some are flattened against the rocks, laid out in white threads which make a complicated matrix. Others are like very wide yellow ribbons loosely piled against the rocks. The one thing they have in common,…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Twin Lakes to Bird Cove

Churchill, Manitoba is a flat landscape, most of the topography long ago scraped away by glaciers. However, we were on our way to see Churchill’s highest point as part of my learning vacation with the  Churchill Northern Studies Centre. We took a long drive on a bumpy road which slowly became more of a track with branches steadily encroaching enough to eventually knock the antenna off of the top of our van. We disturbed the wildlife and unseen by myself, snowshoe hares scattered in front of the van. We arrived at the top of the hill, a mound in the middle of a flat expanse of land. Surrounding the hill was a marshy area of permafrost, historically part of Hudson Bay. From our slight vantage point, I could just make out the current shoreline of the bay on the distant horizon. The hilltop was different from…

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2017 Review of Books

Somehow I managed to read 74 books during the year, so far, not counting picture books. They range from natural history to poetry, graphic novels and much in between. Below is a selection of some of the most notable books I read this year. You can see the complete list on my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge page

Natural History

Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World – Kathleen Jamie

This was one of the first books I read this year and it instantly became a favorite. Jamie’s collection of essays range in length, but most of them are set in her native Scotland. She investigates a wide variety of subjects but perhaps my favorite was the essay in which she visits a natural history museum in Norway and watches as workers clean the bones of an old whale. Later in the year…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Cape Merry

Sitting on the opposite side of the mouth of the Churchill River from the Prince of Wales Fort is Cape Merry. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group stopped here twice and we were able to get out and explore the rocky landscape, while staying close together in case of polar bears. The short boardwalk leads up to a stone battery which overlooks Prince of Wales Fort and the water between the two landmarks were full of beluga whales. Standing at the stone wall and looking through the lower levels in the wall, I could see regular white mounds continually breaching out of the water. As I noticed earlier, at a quick glance they could be mistaken for whitecaps on the rough river, but a longer look easily revealed them to be the small, white whales. They were often accompanied, side-by-side, with smaller whales of varying shades…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Sloop Cove & Prince of Wales Fort

To get to Sloop Cove in Churchill, Manitoba, you have to cross the Churchill River on a zodiac. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group all squeezed into the boat and skimmed across the surface of the river for the short ride to the beach landing near the cove. We were met by our Parks Canada guide and bear spotter who would lead our tour from Sloop Cove to the Prince of Wales Fort two miles up to the mouth of the Churchill River. The weather was decent enough and we walked up to the top of a rocky hill where we were shown names etched into the stone. This wasn’t modern graffiti though, the names were carved in the 1700’s by employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and now kept clear of lichen by Parks Canada. Among the names are…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Rocket Range and Ramsay Trail

In the middle of August I took a solo adventure trip to Churchill, Manitoba. It was my first time away from my five year old daughter and I was quite excited to return north after being in the Finnish Lapland earlier in the summer. I had discovered the Churchill Northern Studies Centre earlier in the year, and found they offered learning vacations. In addition to being a full research station, they held several themed learning vacations throughout the year. Choosing was extremely difficult as they all sounded fascinating, but I ended up opting for the Wild Planet vacation because if offered a little bit of everything with plenty of walking involved. 

To say Churchill is remote is an understatement. It’s in the subarctic and the only way to arrive is by train or air and after a monster flood which wiped out some of the railroad track,…

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