Olympic Peninsula Driving Guide.

The signs of summer are all around.

The roar of the lawn mower, the stench of burning charcoal and the seasonal spike in gasoline prices tell us vacation time will soon be here.

All of which means an influx of the dreaded tourist traffic.

Some are scurrying back to the rat race. Others are headed west in search of solitude in God’s country.

Unfortunately, God let people in it.

Many of these people are tourists who drive almost as bad as the locals.

At times like these, you need an Olympic Peninsula driving guide.

The Olympic Peninsula is a peninsula.

Surrounded on three sides by treacherous bodies of water.

You can approach from the south on roads that are more like paved elk trails that wind around in circles like a hound dog chasing a squirrel, or tempt fate and cross the water on a ferry and a bridge that can involve many hours of waiting in line.

It doesn’t matter.

Tourists come here from all over the country to clog up our roads.

Some are in a tremendous hurry with a powerful urge to pass the car in front of them, so they can get behind another car that has 25 more cars ahead of it.

Other tourists are in no hurry at all. They drive 15 mph under the speed limit, while testing their brakes.

All tourists fast and slow fear the king of the road, the log truck.

“They think they own the road!” I heard a tourist sob.

Do the math. A log truck weighs 90,000 pounds. You don’t. Pull over and let them by.

Sometimes the greatest challenge drivers face are the roads themselves.

The speed limits can go from 60 mph to 40 mph to 55 mph in just a few miles.

Fortunately, our State Patrol is usually on hand at one of their many usual and accustomed speed traps to help remind us of the speed limit.

Once you’ve figured out the speed limit, you’re ready for the next challenge — road construction.

Much of the road construction on the Olympic Peninsula is road destruction.

Between Sequim and Port Angeles, they are ripping up the road to replace the culverts on two creeks so salmon can theoretically migrate upstream, if they ever decide to come back.

Continuing west, we come to the most dangerous corner on the Olympic Peninsula, the Morse Creek hill.

It’s actually a long curve where 250 collisions have occurred between 2007 and 2019.

They’re putting a concrete median around the curve this spring, so that should make it safer.

Now if we could only fix the drivers.

West of Port Angeles, we come to a fork in the road where state Highway 112 takes off west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Or used to, until last winter’s mudslides closed this vital link to Cape Flattery.

So, go left at the junction down U.S. Highway 101, where you will soon come to another dangerous trouble spot, the Elwha River Bridge.

It’s on a nasty corner with a history of horrendous wrecks.

To add to the drama, the foundation is being eroded since the removal of the Elwha Dams.

Remember to always check to see if there is still an Elwha River bridge before you try and cross it.

As we shall see later, this simple precaution could possibly save you from a watery grave — but more next week.

West of the Elwha, we come to beautiful Lake Crescent, where the road around the lake was just rebuilt.

Enjoy, because the farther west you get, the worse the road gets.

To be continued 

Requiem for a River.

Spring is a time of hope on the river.

The salmon eggs that survived the winter floods are getting ready to hatch when the weather gets warmer. The steelhead eggs are freshly laid in their beds, secure in the knowledge the floods of winter are over.

The river has settled down for the summer, when another run of steelhead will emerge from the gravel.

This is the time for the return of the spring chinook. These were known as “the first salmon.”

The first salmon ceremony was a celebration of the salmon practiced by Native people throughout the range of the salmon. Until the salmon were gone.

A few years back, we held a First Salmon Ceremony on the Hoh River. Or tried to.

There were no salmon.

The state would not allow us to catch even a hatchery salmon. The celebration was renamed the No Salmon Ceremony.

It was more like a requiem — a requiem for a river — where friends came to remember a dead friend.

Someone had sense enough to record the testimony of some first-hand eyewitnesses to the death of the Hoh River, the last best river in America.

Daryle “Jake” Jacobsen started fishing the Hoh when he was a young man up until the time of his passing on Easter Sunday of 2019.

He began guiding on the Hoh in 1973, catching 50-pound chinook and 20-pound steelhead for generations of anglers.

Then, Jake watched the river die.

He said the fish were like a pie. The more people you have, the smaller the piece everyone gets. The fishing pressure increased incrementally as the state shut down fishing elsewhere in Washington and directed everyone to fish for steelhead on the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula.

Jake said everyone is going to have to give up something to save the river.

Something such as the late season that fishes the steelhead all the way into April.

He said you can’t just plant the river like a garden and expect it to grow back in a year. He did not want a hatchery on the Hoh. Because it would draw too many crowds. Jake could see the effects that 50 years of planting hatchery fish on the Hoh River had on the natives.

Jake could look at the so-called natives we caught lately and point out their narrow backs and skinny tails that marked the dilution of the fishery into feral mongrels of hatchery and wild stocks.

Jake proposed hatch boxes full of fertilized native salmon and steelhead eggs placed in creeks running into the Hoh River.

It’s been done before.

In the 1960s, Missy Barlow of Oil City on the Lower Hoh had a 4-H group plant hatch boxes in creeks running into the river. They raised shoals of fish.

In 1981 and 1990, Jake proposed a one-week-per-month closure of the Hoh River to Tribal and sport fishing to allow fish to get upstream.

This was historically practiced in the Native American fisheries.

These measures were ignored.

For reasons known only to the co-managers of the Hoh River, placing remote hatch boxes in creeks is not allowed. Periodic, in-season fishing closures are not even being considered. Instead, we are building log jams to bring the fish back. A practice that has not worked anywhere.

Jake said that he didn’t expect to see the salmon restored on the Hoh River in his lifetime.

Will the Hoh River be restored in anyone’s life time? Doubtful.

We have to change the way we manage fish populations.

Like Jake said, the way we are currently co-managing the Hoh River, there is no management at all.

The Orca Task Force.

Last week we examined the tragic results of capturing the orca for captivity in theme parks and aquariums, where an estimated 164 captive orca died from pneumonia and septicemia.

This number represents more than twice the number of Southern Resident Orca currently surviving in the wild.

In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “Protecting and restoring the complex ecosystem these beautiful animals rely on will take a lot of work. There are no do-overs with the orcas.”

That year, the Orca Task Force was formed to save them from being starved, poisoned and rammed by ships. Four recommendations included increasing the abundance of Chinook salmon, decreasing disturbance and other risks posed by vessel traffic and noise, reducing exposure to toxic pollutants for orca and their prey, and ensuring adequate funding and accountability measures are in place to support effective recovery efforts.

Let’s see how many of the Orca Task Force recommendations have been implemented so far.

Coincidentally, the biggest salmon restoration experiment in the world, the Elwha Dam removal, received another set-back just last week.

The myriad co-managers announced that the fishing moratorium on the Elwha would be extended for another year due to the failure of salmon to reach the upper river.

That was the whole point in removing the dams in the first place — to get the fish up into the miles of pristine habitat the dams blocked since 1913. That was the year the first fish hatchery was built on the Elwha.

The famed 100-pound salmon of the Elwha are extinct.

The river has been planted with hatchery fish for over 100 years.

The so-called wild fish in the Elwha are either hatchery fish that haven’t had their adipose fin clipped or the feral progeny of hatchery fish that spawned in the river.

The co-managers of the Elwha decided to plant log jams instead of fish and let the upper Elwha restore itself. Ditto the Dungeness River, where a hatchery has been in operation since 1905, rearing up to 12 million salmon per year.

Until the co-managers decided we would rather have the extinct native salmon on paper than hatchery fish in the river. We’ll take restoring chinook off the Orca Task Force table.

Forget about decreasing noise and other risks to orca due to shipping.

Every year about 11,000 deep draft vessels transit the Strait of Juan de Fuca, burning bunker oil, making noise and ramming any whale unlucky enough to be sleeping on the surface.

The number of ships will only increase with faster, larger vessels, according to the Port of Seattle’s expansion plans on Elliott Bay for dredging and building new facilities for more and bigger ships.

So, we’ll take decreasing vessel and traffic noise off the Orca Task Force table.

Reducing marine toxins that affect the orca and their prey is another non-starter.

We annually pump an estimated 97,000 pounds of drugs, hormones and personal care product residues in the sewage that flows through the 106 publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants in Puget Sound.

In addition, cleaning the remains of our extinct industries has been a fuse that’s worse than the bomb, spewing acidic plumes of precipitate metals, destroying entire ecosystems in the process.

As for funding and accountability for the orca, money is not a problem.

Measuring the accountability from the millions of dollars we’ve spent on failed salmon restoration efforts is.

We’ll take accountability off the Orca Task Force Table.

Only one goal of the Orca Task Force has been achieved: adequate funding.

Before the orca spiral further down the drain of extinction, maybe we should appoint another task force.

Killing the Killer Whales.

Last week, we reviewed the industrial slaughter that pushed our large whales to the brink of extinction.

As whales became harder to find, their renderings were replaced by petroleum distillates. We shifted gears from industrial whaling to whaling for family entertainment.

The orca became the target species. The orca, also known as Killer Whales, are actually a member of the dolphin family. Orca were revered by the Native Americans as the reincarnated spirits of their loved ones and chiefs who had passed on.

Initially, only a few orca were killed by scientists, who harpooned them and cut them open to learn what they ate. Later, these intelligent, friendly, family-oriented creatures became the raw material to feed an insatiable appetite of the public for the ancient spectacle of captured wild animals in cages performing tricks for our enjoyment.

In 1965, two orca were entangled in a fishing net on Vancouver Island. One survived. A male named Namu was moved to a pen on the Seattle waterfront. Namu swam in the raw sewage of Elliott Bay for a year before dying from a bacterial infection.

Namu was so popular that, in 1970, a super pod of between 90 and 100 orca — representing what could have been the entire Southern Resident orca population — were rounded up with the aid of explosives, speedboats and airplanes, and trapped in a 3-acre net pen at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. Orca families were separated. Seven orca calves were forced into slings and loaded onto trucks to begin their lives in captivity in sea parks.

Some of the seven orca that were eventually sold to various sea parks only lived a few months.

All of these captured orca are now dead, except one.

Lolita was sold for about $20,000 to the Miami Seaquarium, where she’s lived in an 80- by 60-foot concrete pool that’s bisected by a work island ever since 1970.

Her partner, Hugo, another captured orca, died in 1980 after repeatedly ramming his head against the side of the tank.

As a result of these captures, people realized the orca were worth money.

The state of Washington began selling $1,000 permits to capture them. Eventually, between 275 and 307 orca were caught in British Columbia and Washington — 55 were sold to aquariums. While there are no firm estimates on how many orca died in the capture operations, four humans have been killed by captive orcas. These creatures have never attacked humans in the wild.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 banned capturing orca.

Still, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) granted SeaWorld permission to capture orca under an economic hardship exemption.

In 1976, Washington state sued SeaWorld for violating its permits due to the violence of hunting, herding, capture and transportation of the orca.

At some point, even the scientists admitted that capturing the orca was a likely factor in depressing their population and altering their familial structures in a manner that would severely affect their reproduction and survival. The scientists continued their research.

Biologists have long been known to subject animals to horrific cruelty in their search for knowledge.

They used a different kind of harpoon, this time to stick the orcas with satellite-linked transmitters to track them, which caused fungal infections that led to the deaths of two orca in 2016.

One of the orca was found dead in the water with chunks of a tracking dart still in its fin. Another tagging victim was found washed up on a beach.

All of which added biologists to the long list of environmental threats to the survival of the orca.

Next week: We review efforts of the Orca Task Force to save the orca.

A Short history of Whaling

It’s fun to look back at this day in history to measure the changes brought to the Olympic Peninsula.

These changes can be discovered in newspaper articles written by James Swan in the latter half of the 1800s.

It was on this day in 1859 Swan was invited to go on a cruise on a schooner with two old sea captains who were trading with the Native Americans along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Swan would go on to become an ethnologist, documenting the fast-disappearing cultures of the indigenous people of the Olympic Peninsula and the Queen Charlotte Islands, now Haida Gwaii.

Swan traveled safely and made friends among these warlike nations with three basic rules that hold true today. He ate the foods his hosts provided. He never carried a gun, and he never told a lie, even as a joke.

Initially, Swan was obsessed with the idea of turning kelp into parchment paper.

It was an industry for which he could obtain no financing. For which we can thank our lucky stars, since the kelp forests are the nursery of our fisheries. We should really let them be.

Swan switched to real estate promotion, guessing the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad would be in Port Townsend. He guessed wrong. Tacoma got that prize.

Swan was from Boston, the headquarters for much of the American whaling fleet that sailed the world, rendering whales for oil, spermaceti and baleen. Swan had been a chandler, provisioning and outfitting ships engaged in trading and whaling.

Naturally, Swan thought the Strait of Juan de Fuca would be a good location for a whaling station.

At the time, the Strait of Juan de Fuca was lousy with whales of the largest kind.

The abundance of whales was seen as evidence by Spanish and English explorers that the Strait was connected with a larger body of water such as Hudson Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

This fueled the search for the Northwest Passage, an imaginary shortcut across North America.

Swan was never able to establish a whaling station in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Canadians did.

In 1905, they built four whaling stations on Vancouver Island. While there were few right and grey whales left after being slaughtered by the American fleet, the humpback whales were ripe for the picking — for a while.

The whaling station in Nanaimo had to shut down after killing the entire local population of 95 humpback whales.

The last right whale was killed in an accidental collision with a whaling vessel in 1951.

The ship towed the whale to the station for rendering anyway.

Whaling continued in British Columbia until 1967 after killing an estimated 25,000 whales.

Not to be outdone, the Americans built a whaling station in Grays Harbor in 1910, rendering an average of 300 sperm, humpback and fin whales per year.

It was said you could smell the operation 20 miles out to sea.

A hundred years later, we are trying to save the whales.

We are all familiar with the plight of the remaining Southern Resident Puget Sound Orca.

The visceral image of a female orca swimming along the surface of the Salish Sea, keeping her dead offspring afloat back in 2018 created an overwhelming groundswell of support among environmentalists, politicians and the general public to save this iconic species.

An Orca Task Force was set up to identify threats to the orca and what can be done to save them.

In next week’s column, we will form another task force to examine the accomplishments of the Orca Task Force.

A Fouled Future.

Thank you for reading this.

After reading about my ill-fated clam dig at Discovery Bay, where the clams and oysters were all dead, people sent stories about mysterious die-offs of sea life in Discovery Bay with documents and pictures of sick or dying crab, fish, birds and sea mammals that paint a picture of an environmental disaster paved with good intentions.

Finding dead oysters and clams on a beach covered with a mysterious algae, where even the barnacles died, we wandered to a sign that proudly proclaimed, “From a Poisonous Past to a Flourishing Future.”

The sign depicts the complex web of life of the Snow Creek estuary. Everything from clams to eagles to salmon restored courtesy of the salmon restoration industry. Underneath the big sign, a smaller sign warns of toxic shellfish. How could that be in an area they just spent somewhere north of $10 million restoring? We walked out to the estuary to find out. Bad idea.

The water was a strange color. The air smelled like chemicals.

The estuary was covered with anaerobic black muck, with a white scum of sulphur-loving bacteria covering a garish orange iron precipitate just beneath the surface. All part of a chemical reaction of toxic wood waste with fresh and salt water leaching sulphuric acid and metals into the water.

With the air, land and water polluted, it was not a healthy place to be. A sign warned the estuary was dangerous, but it didn’t say why. I was afraid my boots would melt.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that, in 2016, a year after the restoration effort, an oyster farm 2 miles away that had been operating for 25 years suffered a catastrophic failure. Strange plumes of metallic-colored water were seen drifting through the bay. Independent analysis determined the plumes were full of aluminum, barium, copper, zinc and iron. The oysters were deformed, brittle and stained yellow, orange and black.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that, in 2016, an estimated 3.5 million fish, mostly herring, perch and young Coho salmon, suddenly died in Discovery Bay. The survivors swam slowly near the surface where they were picked up by birds. Hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, was blamed for the die-off, but such an event had never previously been heard of in Discovery Bay. The fish were never tested for toxicity.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that same July between 500 and 600 dead rhinoceros auklets were found on or around Protection Island off the mouth of Discovery Bay. The auklets are a small stocky sea bird similar to a puffin. They feed on fish. Their breeding colony on the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge suffered a 50 percent loss of fledglings. Individual birds were observed sitting on the beach, vomiting.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that the Coho run up Snow Creek, at the head of the bay, crashed from a high of 4,500 fish in 2014 to less than 500 fish in 2018.

Maybe it’s another coincidence that red rock crab crawl out of the water to die, while shoals of dead juvenile Dungeness crab wash up on the beach.

And all I wanted was some clams and oysters, but I was 100 years too late.

These days, if you fail to fill in your clam hole or take an oyster in the shell off the beach, you’ll get a $100 fine. If you kill every oyster and clam on the beach, you get a million-dollar grant.

Despite or because of this restoration effort, we’ve gone from a poisonous past to a fouled future. I hope someone is studying the problem.

A Poisonous Past

What started as a simple quest to dig a bucket of clams was not as simple as it seemed. There were no clams.

Usually, when the tide is out in Discovery Bay, the clams are squirting like mini lawn sprinklers, but no, they were all dead. The oysters were dead. Their shells had mysterious holes in them. A carpet of dead oyster shells with a sickly rust-colored coating covered the beach.

It looked like ground zero the day after the end of the world.

How could Discovery Bay, which in 1900 the federal government declared a shellfish preserve for native oysters to be used to propagate other areas, be turned into a dead zone a little over century later? It was easy.

In 1914, a railroad connected Port Townsend to Port Crescent. The route, which cut across tidelands at the head of Discovery Bay, operated until 1980, carrying raw materials such as sulphur used in the production of pulp at the Rayonier mill in Port Angeles.

Notorious for accidents involving land-slides and derailments, the railroad had a switching yard at the head of the bay where it stored materials spilled from the box cars. Railroad beds are notorious toxic waste sites, even if you don’t dump sulphur on them.

But this was small potatoes compared to what happened to Discovery Bay after the end of WWII.

The United States had subjected Japan to a devastating fire-bombing campaign.

At the end of the war, the bombs had to be shipped home, but all of the West Coast ports were clogged with shipping.

As a result, the U.S. Navy anchored 16 Victory Ships, aka floating magazines with 3,500 tons of 500-pound incendiary bombs on board.

The crews were stuck on the ships for almost two years while they discharged oils, sewage, garbage and chemicals into the bay.

While it is not known for sure if any bombs were dumped in Discovery Bay, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the presence of benzyl alcohol, chromium, phenol, methylphenol, zinc, benzo anthracene, benzoic acid and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons along with aluminum, iron, magnesium and copper in sediments at the bottom of the bay is consistent with the chemical footprint of dumped munitions in other military sites.

In December 1945, the clams of Discovery Bay were temporarily condemned as unfit for human consumption.

The post-war boom provided other never-ending sources of pollution to Discovery Bay.

The log dump and booming ground at the head of the bay covered portions of the bottom with the bark, limbs and whole logs that smothered anything living underneath.

A saw mill and veneer plant were built in the 1950s that used the tidelands as a place to put an estimated 50,000 cubic feet of sawdust piled 50 feet tall, and it sank 6 or 8 feet below the surface of the estuary.

While the complex chemical reactions of wood waste in water are not fully appreciated, they go something like this: The rapid deterioration of sawdust leaches chemicals into the water, while the bacteria utilize all of the oxygen, creating anaerobic black muck. The process becomes more dangerous with the mixture of low-pH fresh water and high-pH salt water that occurs twice a day with the movement of the tides — causing metals to precipitate out of the water and settle into the septic layer of muck.

If this black muck is exposed to air, it dissolves the metals back into a solution where it can be readily absorbed by clams, oysters, fish and eventually all sea life.

Is this what happened to the shellfish in Discovery Bay?

Tune in next week …

A History of Pandemics.

 IN LAST WEEK’S episode, we were discovering Discovery Bay, a favorite scenic waterway known for its beauty ever since Captain Vancouver anchored up in 1792.

At the time, Britain claimed the vast area we call the Pacific Northwest along with Spain, Russia and America.

The Russians went broke, Spain lost too many wars and the Americans bluffed the English, who retreated north of the 49th parallel in 1846.

With the creation of Washington Territory in 1853, people couldn’t wait to get out of Oregon, a territory said to be run by preachers and teetotalers who had prohibited liquor in 1844. Washington had a government-sponsored land rush.

With the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862, a man could claim 160 acres and his wife could, too.

That’s where the treaties came in.

Isaac Stevens was charged with extinguishing the Native American title to the land so it could be opened up for homesteading.

Stevens was Washington’s Territorial Governor, a transcontinental railroad surveyor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs all rolled into one.

Stevens used intimidation and martial law to force the Tribes to sign his treaties.

Some said he wanted to start an Indian war because then, as now, war was good for business.

The Tribes signed the treaty because they didn’t understand them and they were nervous from getting their villages shelled and burned at random by various unidentified warships transiting the Straits, and their population had been severely reduced by disease.

Vancouver had noticed abandoned villages and Native individuals with “evidence of the pox.”

That would have been small pox. Which, along with a host of other European diseases, decimated the Native Americans even before the majority of Europeans arrived.

In 1855, Captain Abernathy found a schooner adrift off Diamond Point with 32 deserting British Sailors who had died of small pox.

In 1859, the Bark, “What Cheer” sailed north from San Francisco.

Sailors were dying of smallpox. Their clothing and bedding were thrown overboard and picked up by villagers, spreading smallpox from Ozette to Port Townsend.

So many people died that they put the bodies on the beaches, where they’d be washed away with the tide.

At the S’Klallam village formerly located at Discovery Bay, only two people, a man and a woman who seemed to be immune to the disease, cooked and cared for more than 100 men, women and children.

In 1893, the Diamond Point Quarantine Station was built to prevent the spread of disease from incoming ships.

No alien could enter the country without a health examination.

If disease was detected on a ship, it was fumigated and quarantined for two weeks.

If the crew was sick, they were put in the hospital until they recovered or died.

These days, smallpox, polio and tetanus been eradicated.

Other diseases are controlled with vaccines, but simultaneous COVID-19 and opioid pandemics have overloaded our health care system to the point where people are dying from previously preventable medical conditions that we cured years ago.

In spite of this, Clallam County has managed to administer an aggressive campaign of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Ironically, it’s largely due to the efforts of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, people who suffered European diseases and a genocidal policy of ethnic cleansing we used to call, “How the west was won.”

The S’Klallam stepped up and organized an effective COVID vaccination campaign, and they are building a treatment facility for opioid addiction.

Critics suggest the S’Klallam are only trying to keep the white man alive so they will spend money at their casino — but who cares?

The life they save could be your own.

Next week: Railroad’s coming!

Discovering Discovery Bay.

IT WAS GOING to be one of those days. With the razor clam season shut down, the blackmouth salmon season shut down and the steelhead fishing restricted to where you could only keep imaginary hatchery steelhead, seafood harvesting on the Olympic Peninsula has been limited.

Then the first daylight low tide exposed the clam beds and oysters just like the old days when the old-timers said, “When the tide is out, the table is set.”

Nothing compares to the succulent steamers, meaty butter clams, monster horse clams and oysters there for the picking. Unless it’s the jumbo Dungeness crab, prawns, scallops, halibut and cod lurking offshore beneath the massive balls of bait fish, being chased by schools of salmon, that are stalked by seals and sea lions, which are all prey to the Orca. It was a web of life that made Discovery Bay the most fertile body of water in the Pacific Northwest. Until now.

Discovery Bay was carved by a lobe of the continental ice sheet that covered the area with about 3,500 feet of ice and melted roughly 16,000 years ago. Geologists consider the bay famous for having more tsunami deposits than anywhere else in Washington. There are 10 layers of these deposits that average about 300 years apart, hidden beneath the surface of the salt marsh. These represent Cascadia Subduction Events as recently as 1700.

Native Americans were probably living at Discovery Bay since the melting at the last Ice Age — if the nearby Manis Mastodon site in Sequim, where a spear point was stuck in a mastodon rib about 13,000 years ago, is any indication. That’s about how long people have been digging clams here.

The Englishman Robert Duffin was the first European to visit Discovery Bay in July 1788. He had been sent by Captain John Meares to examine the Strait of Juan de Fuca to see if it connected to Hudson Bay, claim land for Britain and establish trade with the Natives. Duffin traded halibut with the S’Klallam at what is now Port Townsend. Things did not go so well at Discovery Bay which Duffin didn’t have time to name before his long boat crew was wounded and the boat was pierced, “in a thousand places with arrows.”

English claim to the North West was based on Sir Francis Drakes’s voyage of 1579 and the discoveries of Captain Cook in 1778. Spain had based their title to the territory on Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific Ocean in 1510 when he claimed all of the land it touched. The Spanish had come north to preclude the Russian advances to the south and confront the invasion of British explorers looking for furs to trade in China and a chance to claim the ₤20,000 the British Parliament would award to anyone who could find the fabled Northwest Passage.

By 1789 the English Captains, James Colnett, Thomas Hudson, William Douglas and John Meares had been arrested and their vessels seized at Nootka by the Spanish for violating Spain’s Territory. Meares had been trading along the Northwest Coast for sea-otter pelts flying Portuguese flags and using a fake Portuguese papers that would allow him to sell furs in Portuguese Macao to avoid the licensing requirements of the British East India Company and the South Sea Company in Canton all in an effort to save on the expense of Chinese port charges.

These arrests resulted in what was known as the Nootka Crisis in which the British Prime Minister William Pitt and the press were ready to go to war over freedom of navigation on the high seas. Spain had suffered repeated military defeats and rebellion at home and could not afford another war with England. The Nootka Convention of 1790 established a joint occupation between Spain and England where sovereignty would be determined by occupation.

The Spanish began their attempts to secure their territory by exploring the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 1790 the Spanish Ensign Manuel Quimper landed in Neah Bay where he took formal possession in the name of the king of Spain calling it, Boca de Nunez Gaona. Quimper was the first Spaniard to see Discovery Bay naming it Puerta de Bodega y Quadra after his commandant at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.

By 1793 the Spanish viceroy, Revilla Gigedo, wrote a report about the Northwest coast that said once the sea otter were gone there would be few reasons to colonize the area. There was no gold. It was too forested for farming. There were no major rivers to the interior so there was no reason to keep other countries away.

In 1792, Captain George Vancouver sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca looking for the fabled Northwest Passage. He anchored in Discovery Bay, naming it after his ship Discovery. The S’Klallam traded with Vancouver while he made his astronomical observations and the crew made spruce beer. Vancouver described Discovery Bay as, “Almost as enchantingly beautiful as the most elegantly furnished pleasure grounds of Europe.”

S’Klallam tradition relates that about 1800, what they thought was a British Man of War anchored in front of their village at the head of Discovery Bay. Two S’Klallam men were invited to go aboard the ship, where one was dressed in European clothes and shot. The other escaped. The villagers scattered into the forest. That night 11 sailors from the ship went to shore to spend the night in one of the longhouses, where they were found clubbed to death the next morning. The bodies were taken aboard and the ship sailed away.

By the early 1800’s the Spanish had retreated south. The Russians were retreating north leaving the British and Americans competing for title to the Pacific Northwest. Confrontation was avoided. After the War of 1812 Britain did not want another war. With the Treaty of 1818, Britain and the United States agreed to a joint occupation of what became known as the Oregon country.

In the 1840’s American emigrants were arriving in Oregon in increasing numbers by wagon train from across the continent. The American President Polk’s militant expansionism had encouraged revolt in California and declared war with Mexico in 1846. Britain had its own problems with a famine in Ireland and a war in India. England did not want another war with the U.S. at the time so they agreed to a complete withdrawal from what is now western Washington retreating north of the 49 parallel.

In 1850, the English Captain Hinderwell started the first logging operation for her Majesty’s Navy on the shores of Discovery Bay, with a crew of 100 S’Klallam, who spent four months falling, trimming, skidding and loading 18 spars on his ship Albion. Then an American Customs Inspector appeared on the scene. He seized the Albion, towed it to Steilacoom, where the locals raided the ship’s liquor stores.  

The first thing the Bostons, a name given by the Native Americans because that’s where the first Yankee trading ships came from, noticed about Discovery Bay was the timber growing down to the water’s edge.  Trees could be felled and floated to a mill with a minimum of effort. In 1853, Captain Talbot and Cyrus Walker anchored their schooner, Junius Pringle, in Discovery Bay and went ashore where they measured a fallen Douglas fir 280 feet long and 14 feet in diameter. They got an idea to build a sawmill.

The California Gold Rush had created a huge demand for lumber. In 1858, the first saw mill was built on Discovery Bay. A clipper ship, The War Hawk, sailed lumber from Discovery Bay to San Francisco in a record four days before she sank in Discovery Bay. This began a legacy of environmental degradation we will continue next week.

A Short History of Hurricanes.


IT WAS A dark and stormy night.

The wind roared through the timber like a freight train. I thought it would rip the roof off the shack, but it didn’t.

Eventually the morning came. The crows woke up and flew around in crazy circles like they were glad to be alive, and so was I.

People don’t think of the Olympic Peninsula as hurricane country, but it is.

There was the Hanukkah eve storm in December 2006, when hurricane-force winds of 70 to 100 mph hit Washington, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, killing 14 people.

Although, most of the deaths occurred after the storm due to asphyxiation caused by people using gasoline generators and charcoal barbecues indoors.

Then there was the 1979 big blow that took out the Hood Canal Bridge.

The bridge withstood a south wind of 80 mph that gusted to 115 mph until a severe list developed, allowing water into the flotation devices that kept the floating bridge afloat.

Replacing the bridge took three years and cost $140 million, and headaches for anyone traveling to or from the Olympic Peninsula.

Who could forget the Columbus Day Storm of 1962? This big blow began life as Typhoon Freda out near Wake Island in the Central Pacific.

She grew to become the most powerful extra tropical cyclone to hit the Washington coast in the 20th century. Wind speeds were recorded in excess of 145 mph at Cape Blanco, Ore., until the anemometer, an instrument used to measure wind speed, was destroyed. A 160-mph wind gust was observed in the Willapa Hills of Southwest Washington.

I remember that storm. It blew down the fire lookout that was located on top of Mt. Pleasant.

All of which pales in comparison to the worst weather disaster to hit the Olympic Peninsula in historic times, the “Big Blow” of Jan. 21, 1921.

The storm came ashore at about 9 a.m. near the mouth of the Columbia River. The North Head lighthouse recorded gusts estimated at 150 mph before the anemometer was blown away.

The storm headed north, where an estimated 2.5 million trees, or almost half of the trees on the southwest side of the Olympics, were blown over in a path of destruction said to be eight times larger than the damage caused by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Sixteen homes were destroyed in La Push. The lighthouse keeper’s bull was blown off Tatoosh Island. A herd of 200 elk was killed near Forks, along with hundreds of farm animals. Only one person was killed. He was scalded to death at a mill in Aberdeen when a smokestack fell on top of him.

The scariest description of the ’21 Blow occurs in Elizabeth Huelsdonk Fletcher’s book, “The Iron Man of the Hoh,” where she relates her father, John Huelsdonk, was upriver tending his trapline when the storm hit just before dark.

The Iron Man said he would stand under a tree until he felt the roots move, then find another tree to stand under.

With the ground-shaking impact of big timber hitting the ground and the roar of the wind, it must have been a terrifying night to endure.

Huelsdonk provided for his family by varmint hunting and trapping in winter in the mountains, so he must have been well acquainted with surviving big winds in big timber.

It’s not a question of if the next big wind will hit the Peninsula.

It’s only a matter of time.

When it does, please remember — don’t fire up your barbecue or generator indoors.