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12 February, 2009

Piling Up the Work

So yeah, I mentioned the pilings, which I love to hate. A few years ago, the gov decided that removing pilings would be a priority for her, since they leach creosote into Puget Sound, the Straight of Juan de Fuca, the Pacific, the Columbia, and the rivers and lakes that make this such a water wunderland.
Removing pilings with docks on top and boats tied up ain't so popular, so the government's preferred prey are the wasted wharves, decaying docks, punky piers, and derelict dolphins. Historic preservation law being what it is (which is, anything 50 years old or more is "historic"), I get to review these to learn whether they are significant, and if so, what the state intends to do about it. So I swoop around in GIS space, investigate archives, and surf the infonet.
But it ain't all desk jockeying. People being what they are (which is large bipeds fond of seafood and navigable channels, as long as they are not too far from fresh water), piers tend to pop up in the same places where the First People landed canoes. So I consult the tide auguries and take to the mudflats to look to see whether the piles were driven though ancient sites. This being work, I don't dig clams, or even grab crabs (like at the Dungeness Wharf above.) Mostly, I find junk that people toss off docks and boats, but now and then there is the thrill of fire-cracked rock.
Then, there are the trips out to watch other people work, in case artifacts turn up stuck to the pilings. Also to look around again in case there's something on the shore. Or maybe it's just the fun of watching giant cranes on barges. Grrr.
If anyone tells you it's just to avoid the office, the spend time on the placid Puget, they're mean and don't understand the rigors of nautical archaeology, which include frigid wet wind, diesel stench, and hostile birds. Not just the gulls, which can poop twice their own weight every day, but also the cormorants, those reptilian devils whose penchant for perching on pilings and gulping young salmon all day is maybe a more urgent reason than creosote to get rid of pilings. If you don't believe me, ask any fisheries biologist familiar with the emperiled Columbia salmon runs and the concomitant cormorant population explosion.

Not all of the birds are vicious, at least not to humans. Like this osprey, feasting on something. (OK, maybe also a salmon, but ospreys lack the dinosauric creepiness of cormorants.) Lots of eagles, too. A few months ago I watched one dive into a flock of floaters (gulls) and fly away with one in it's talons. Cool show, and not taking any food off the tribal table.

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