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06 April, 2008

The Life Aquatic

A big (2.5million acres worth) of my job is to deal with cultural resources on State Aquatic Lands. Some places, like this, are only submerged when the tide is up, and my work is possible with the aid of rubber boots if I time it right. One thing that made it easy to take this job is that the people I work with understand earth's rythms--tides and snowfall and all--and act accordingly. Like when they planned the big statewide cultural resource training, they looked at the tide charts first, because they wanted to take people to sites like this one. Which consists of the remains of a fish trap (see the two lines in the mud, converging on the channel?) Originally, the lines were palisades that let water pass through, but not fish, which would converge on a little gate, where people would scoop them up. So when people tell you the Northwest tribes were "hunter-gatherers," keep in mind that sometimes the gathering involved development of infrastructure and resolution of territorial claims.

Of course, I work for a bureaucracy, and I don't get to just run around in tidewater mudflats looking for fishtraps. Sometimes I get to run around mudflats looking at pilings. There is a big project to remove creosote pilings from Puget Sound, but it happens that some are old enough to be historic, and I need to find out which, and document them before they get pulled from the mud (creating the "giant sucking noise Ross Perot talked of). The pilings here, by the way, are basically a corral for logs,, where they would be dumped off a train, awaiting a water voyage to a mill. And it ain't all as easy and fun as it sounds; I will have to go deal with Pile-preservationists, who think that these creosoted voices of the past must be preserved.

And then there are the days when I spend little time on actual water. The first happened on April 2, which dawned cloudless and calm. I drove 3 hours through Seattle and on north, and boarded a state launch at Anacortes. A short run brought us to Secret Harbor (really), on one of the few San Juan Islands that has not been developed. Or not much, anyway. Looking back out of secret harbor, you are treated to a view of Mount Baker, if you are so lucky as to arrive on a clear day, which I was. The photo is lame, but maybe you can sorta see what I mean. Beatific day, by any account. We saw seals, eagles, herons, starfish, kelp, and tolerably few bipeds. Fortunately, the Department plans to restore the ecosystems around Secret Harbor in the wake of logging and some development. Even More Fortunately, they won't just jump into restoration without considering cultural resources, and I will be forced to do further archaeology there in the meantime. Even More More, in walking around with the eco-guys, we figured that the digging I'd like to do to see what the archaeology is will be useful to them in determining what it is they want to restore.

So while I do not live the Life Aquatic like Steve Zisou, I'm doing okay.

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