Thursday, December 16, 2010

Its been quite a while since my last past, but I want to use this story, passed along by another of Gary Griggs' students, as my inspiration to get rolling again. Some time ago I wrote a short post about the frame of an old boat exposed by erosion on the coast of SW Washington. As a fan of history AND coastal dynamics I find the combination of the two irresistible. But, in reality, Washington's post-"discovery" history can hardly be called history when held up to the timescales that most of the world lives amongst. This has been glaringly apparent to us on travels to Paris, Mayan or Aztecan Central America, Ankor Wat in Cambodia, or even the Tidewater region of Virginia. And that is exactly what makes this story so cool. In this case the exposed artifacts are 2000 years old, from the Middle East.

Coupled with the recent release of a new theory on a possible route out of Africa for early Homo sapiens this particular story brings home that the study of coastal dynamics - including sea-level history and sedimentation, can not only help us plan for our future, but also can reveal our past.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Ode to the Fisher Price Baby Jungle Gym

It is turning out to be an invaluable scientific tool. I am now at home full-time, caring for McHenry while Christine returns to work. Productivity has definitely tumbled, but I am starting to notice it picking up again. AND I get an extra hour or more of writing out of the day thanks to the Fisher Price Jungle Gym thing. He digs it, and therefore I dig it, despite the fact that it needs batteries (usually an automatic deal-killer in most baby toys).

My main focus at the moment is writing what I will hope will be my first published paper. I've also simultaneously decided that I can no longer go another day only reading nerd books, so I've started doing a bit of night time normal person reading again. At the moment: Log of the Sea of Cortez. This is my second reading, having first picked it up about 10 years ago. Last night I read the following apropos passage:

"It has seemed sometimes that the little men in scientific work assumed the awe-fullness of a priesthood to hide their deficiencies, as the witch-doctor does with his stilts and high masks, as the priesthoods of all cults have, with secret or unfamiliar languages and symbols. It is usually found that only the little stuffy men object to what is called "popularization", by which they mean writing with a clarity understandable to one not familiar with the tricks and codes of the cult. We have not known a single great scientist who could not discourse freely and interestingly with a child."

I feel myself sometimes slipping off of the precipice into the abyss of the particular language of my disciplines, and Mr. S. delivers here a timely reminder.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Face to Face with a tsunami...

but it wasn't that big (though it was my first tsunami that I've actually observed). Yesterday I roped Christine and my mom, with mchenry in tow, into heading down to the beach where I had the idea that I could collect a bunch of video of the chilean tsunami impacting the local beaches - and then speed it up (so one could actually see something). Sadly, the battery in my video camera died after only 14 minutes. But I've taken what I did collect and compressed it into about a minute of video. And, in the end, I am really not sure that you can make anything out, though the tsunami WAS evident on the beach as we stood there and watched. The harbor entrance in particular would turn into a river each time the trough of the wave impacted the shore (we watched for perhaps an hour, in which time maybe two wavelengths hit). As usual, I was curious to see the tsunami signature in the P.A. tidal gauge - and there it is. Surprisingly, the amplitude of the wave was about 25, same as was recorded in San Francisco, though the period of the wave appears to be different in the two locations...
and while the tsunami hitting our coast was more of a novelty, I think it is important to recognize that this one, like so many before (and the earthquake that generated it), took lives. My heart goes out to those that are still suffering as a result...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I may be starting to enjoy posters...

A few posts back I took the opportunity to poke some fun at one of the three legs of the scientists communication "stool". The poster is a much used tool - sort of like the first step in communicating progress or results of a study. Yesterday I presented my second poster at a conference in Washington...but I wasn't there. My co-author, a student from Peninsula College (also a boat-driver for the US Coast Guard) stood at the poster and reported that people were interested in the work. Always good to hear. Though to be honest he thought the interest was more in the method (putting RFID tags into rocks) than in the sedimentological ramifications of our research. Oh well - I totally get it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elwha Dam Removal - Getting Closer

This article appeared five days ago in the Seattle P.I. I've been tracking this story since moving to the peninsula in 1997, and I feel I've gone old and crusty with it, even though I am a relatively newbie to the scene. I can't even imagine how those that have really put their careers into this must feel at this point. I sort of think that it must be some profound sense of exhaustion, with almost equal parts suspicion (can it really happen, after all of this time?) and elation. I imagine that when the first chunk comes out they might all just get together and have a big weeping session somewhere.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A tale of two lighthouses

It somehow gives me comfort whenever i find tangible connections between Santa Cruz and Port Angeles. Santa Cruz is an incredibly nice place, and continues to grow on me, but I really do miss the Olympic Peninsula. Today we went for a Sunday drive (a relatively new diversion that is a function of both having a new baby, and having grandma in tow. Kind of limits the options) along the coast north of Santa Cruz. We stopped at the Pigeon Point lighthouse, where I happened upon and bought a book by local historian Frank Perry about Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz. Now that I am a westsider, I spend a considerable amount of time starting up at the light house while surfing along the bluffs of steamer lane. The lighthouse that currently occupies the point is not the original, but it does mark the area where the original lighthouse once stood (Well, almost. Where the original lighthouse once stood is now over water. cliff erosion is a killer that way). When the Santa Cruz lighthouse was built in 1868, every effort was made to save money in its construction - including recycling the design from another, recently built lighthouse. And the design picked? You guessed - the lighthouse on Ediz Hook, built in 1865.

Both lighthouse are now gone. The one in Santa Cruz was dismantled by some local contractors, I think in the 60's, and parts were used in their various projects. The Ediz Hook lighthouse was moved - to 3rd and Albert in Port Angeles. According to Frank Perry, they were the only two of their design in Santa Cruz, and one in Port Angeles.

So the photos - the first photo is the one in Santa Cruz, the bottom two the Ediz Hook lighthouse back in the day, and its current manifestation as a residence...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where coastal geology and maritime history meet...

In beautiful Grayland, WA in fact...

I find myself enthralled by stories like this one precisely because they offer so much of interest. They tell a story of coastal accretion and retreat that extends well beyond most of our lifetimes AND most of our records. In this case, it is a reminder that a section of coast that is deemed relentlessly and chronically erosive wasn't always so. It took some serious and prolonged accretion to bury this boat. Where did all of that material come from and, most importantly, why did the pattern of accretion change over time?

This story, though, is also one of shipwreck, which is always a topic to engage any self-respecting coast nerd. As of right now, the actual identity of this boat is still to be determined, but some 80+ years ago the loss of this ship, no doubt, factored heavily into the lives of some people. Stories were woven and lost, but may now be re-told...