In my 24 years running a water taxi and nature tour boat in Prince William Sound, my favorite wildlife experiences were, without a doubt, with whales — especially humpbacks. We often saw orcas too, occasionally minkes, and rarely, grays and fin whales. But humpbacks were the stars because they were the most dependable. Continue reading
First published 2013 as a “Stakeholder Essay,” pp. 269-273, In: Integrating Science and Community Perspectives in Prince William Sound: a Case Study on Managing for Sustainable Use of Wildlands, Aaron Poe and Randy Gimblett, Eds., USDA, Forest Service, Chugach National Forest, Anchorage, AK
Is it possible to love a place so much that what you do there imperils the very values that brought you there in the first place? What if there are so many like-minded people using the same place, that together you do just that, even if unawares? These are questions I pondered for many years, as a working biologist, as a parent exploring the Sound by inflatable in the 1980s with my three young sons, and most recently, as a nature tour guide in Prince William Sound.
Man, where to start. An entire chapter of my memoirs will be devoted to this topic. And that chapter just may morph into more. Spirituality, or how I saw nature’s creator’s guiding hand throughout the business, has been a major factor from the beginning; from the inspiration to start in the first place, to working through many challenges that happened along the way, to many spontaneous encounters with wildlife, some in answer to prayer, to my being able to maintain a calm hand steering the boat through stormy seas. God’s guidance and protection was evident throughout, especially when I was actively aware of that presence.
After moving to Alaska in 1975 to begin my job as a seabird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), my summer field work included running Zodiac inflatable skiffs with a field partner to get around to various study sites along the coast from our shore camp or chartered live-aboard support boat. The first of these was along Kodiak Island’s east coast during my first three summers in Alaska (1976, ‘77, ‘78), then again at Kodiak during a study of puffin food habits in 1986, and finally on a beached-bird Exxon Valdez oil spill survey cruise, fall 1989. Before I began the water taxi business in 1987, and during the “break” in the business 1990-1992, I resumed work as a USFWS biologist on Exxon Valdez oil spill studies in Prince William Sound. Those included temporary stints during the month of March in 1991 and 1993 helping with winter seabird boat surveys, and then full time again from 1992-1994.
Oh yea, the Sound
God’s own holy ground,
full of wonders sublime
our eyes’ delight.
Oh yea, the Sound
Full of life wrought
by the Creator’s own hand.
Oh yea, the Sound
Yet so fragile.
Oh God, that man
may treat her right;
and not impair
Your hand’s delight.
First published in the online version of Alaska Magazine in 2013 at: http://www.alaskamagazine.com/10-articles/221-rough-lovin-sea-otters
Upon watching sea otters for any length of time, one easily gets the impression that they are the epitome of sociability. They float on their backs in amicable groups, often close to each other. Mother otters carry their babies, and even older young ones on their bellies. This is the scene encountered again and again by folks who spend much time on the water in Prince William Sound.
A few years ago, however, while aboard my boat in the southwestern Sound, two companions and I witnessed a far different side of sea otters. Continue reading
I recently retired as a nature tour guide and boat captain, after 24 years showing people from all over the world the wonders of Prince William Sound. Before that, I enjoyed an even longer career as an oceanographer and wildlife biologist, working on projects as diverse as plankton ecology and fur seal food habits. It may seem odd that someone with such fascinating work would end it early at age 51 to start an uncertain career, but that’s exactly what happened. Finally selling the tour business (Sound Eco Adventures) after the 2013 season was a big life change. Being “retired” still seems strange.
With this blog, I aim to share many of the stories and adventures from those amazing years on the Sound. Continue reading