There is something exotic about the cries of a gull echoing down city streets or the sudden flurry of white wings between towering office buildings. It’s as if something wild had wandered into the city, something unexpected and surprising, like a wind that smells of sea salt and distance or the fleeting shadow of a coyote cast by a street lamp.
I will miss being on the water early in the morning, even if only as a passenger onboard a ferry. I’ll miss watching the gulls flock after schools of baitfish and the cormorants fishing in line abreast and the river otter that sometimes scampers over the breakwater at low tide. I’ll miss walking through the village with the mist clinging to the trees and sunrise over the Cascades and the blinding path of the sun across the water. I’ll miss the tugs with their tows on a short hawser often times queued three deep in the shipping channel. And I’ll miss running down Puget Sound between mountains piled on either side by unimaginable forces over geologic time.
Rain streamed down the windows of the passenger ferry’s upper deck accompanied by Mahler’s 5th Symphony on the headphones. Across a short throw of water, the Kingston auto ferry was silhouetted against a dark squall. The lights on the ferry’s passenger deck seemed to puddle in the rain. Beyond, the squall descended like nightfall.
In 1999, the Makah tribe killed a gray whale. The killing ignited a firestorm of controversy that spread around the world.
The hunting of whales was a right guaranteed the Makah by the Treaty of Neah Bay signed in 1855. It is a right unique among the treaties between the United States and the sovereign aboriginal nations. It’s clear and unequivocal. In return for surrendering their sovereignty and tribal territory, the Makah were assured they could hunt whales off the coast of Cape Flattery forever. Given our historic disregard of aboriginal treaties, it may have been a bad bargain.
The beaks of Bald Eagles are shaped like carpet knives, a fearsome hook to rend and tear. They need such a formidable tool to feed their unrelenting hunger. Almost anything is food for an eagle—ducks and geese, snowshoe hares, kittiwakes, seal and sea otter pups, starved deer and dead whales, road-kills and gut piles, fish kills, the afterbirth of livestock, garbage from town dumps and fish offal from processing plants—all grist for the eagle’s gut.