... that look like this:

Sponsored
Nancy Wilson of Heart with the Seattle Symphony, October 30
The legendary guitar virtuoso takes the stage at Benaroya Hall for one night only - get your tickets here!

octofeature.jpg

But sometimes, especially when they're living in the oxygen-starved Hood Canal, they look a lot more pathetic:

Over the past two weeks, low-oxygen waters rising from the depths of Hood Canal have driven deep-water fish to the surface. On at least two occasions, deadly waters were pushed all the way up, killing hundreds of fish and thousands of Hood Canal’s famous spot prawns.

For several days, marine animals of all kinds struggled to breathe in 6 to 9 feet of water along the shore, according to scuba divers who surveyed the scene near Hoodsport. Diver Janna Nichols was saddened to watch a pale octopus shrivel up and die in front of her.

If Hood Canal were a city and its residents were people, they'd be crawling around, gasping for air, and expiring on the sidewalk.

Why? All kinds of reasons, from nitrogen-rich sewage to the normal push of dense water from the Pacific Ocean in the fall. But one perverse relationship between plankton, wind, and the roots of alder trees (which are around as an unintended byproduct of clear-cuts) is especially pernicious:

Nitrogen is a nutrient that comes from many natural and man-made sources. For example, nitrogen from the roots of alder trees has been identified as a significant source of nitrogen in Hood Canal. Alder trees dominate many areas that were logged since the 1940s. Still, much of the nitrogen from alders stays in the soil until winter rains wash it into the canal.

On the other hand, nitrogen released at the surface of Hood Canal during the summer months feeds plankton, which grow in the presence of sunlight. By fall, much of the plankton have died and sunk to the bottom, where they decay and suck up available oxygen.

Those deep, low-oxygen waters can be brought up when winds out of the south blow the surface waters away. Those same low-oxygen waters also can be pushed upward by a layer of dense water that usually moves in from the Pacific Ocean in the fall and winter.

Support The Stranger

People thought alder tress—fast-growing, animal-sheltering, nitrogen-giving—alder trees would make a nice way to rehabilitate clear-cuts. But unintended consequences always follow.

The Jains have it right—every step, every passion, every action is a little vector of violence.

Sponsored
Winter Starts Now is coming to the Seattle area November 2 - 24!
Warren Miller’s 72nd film travels from California to Colorado, to Maine, and up the coast of Alaska. Get tickets at warrenmiller.com.