Like any ocean freighting job, delivering freight to Southeast Alaska requires a thorough knowledge of the local weather and the peculiarities of the sea routes traveled. The northeast corner of the Pacific Ocean is no exception. With its narrow channels and abundance of fog, the convoluted coastline has long been a maritime graveyard.
As told to Will Grant
Neil McGourty, 34, a captain for Western Towboat, has been driving tugs between Seattle and Southeast Alaska for the past five years. As part of Western’s twice-a-week barge service, he delivers containerized cargo to Ketchikan, Juneau, and other coastal towns that rely on marine shipping routes for everything that can’t be flown in.
The blue-and-yellow tugs of Western Towboat are fixtures in the Seattle area. But harbor work on the West Coast is only a fraction of the company’s business. Its biggest job is freighting more than a billion pounds of goods each year to Alaska.
By Will Grant
The lifeline for Southeast Alaska begins in the Lower 48. Most of the coastal communities along the Last Frontier’s panhandle have exactly zero roads connecting them to the outside world. Which means that nearly everything (except fresh fish, native salmonberries, and a few other goods) must come by water, most of it packed in containers at a Seattle dock, stacked six-high on a barge, and towed north through the Inland Passage.
“That’s ho...Read More
For 71 years, the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard has been building and repairing ships to face some of the toughest seas in the world. Today, it’s a maritime holdout in a waterfront culture that’s quickly changing.
The sea has no back door. That’s what the shipwrights at Pacific Fishermen Shipyard say, and it means that when your ass is on the line in the Pacific Ocean, there’ll be no place to run and hide. The best that you can hope for in that situation is that you’ve done a damned-thorough job of looking after your boat, of being fully sure that every inch of her has received the attention it needs. Because hanging in the balance of due diligence when facing an angry ocean is nothing to be tri...Read More
The Divers Institute of Technology is one of the premier commercial dive schools in the country. For the past 49 years it’s been churning out graduates from its headquarters on Seattle’s Lake Union to tackle some of the most demanding work in the water.
By Will Grant
Diving in radioactive water presents a unique set of challenges. The trick is to avoid contact with any of the microscopic bits of irradiated material that could stunt a family tree. But every nuclear power plant in the world needs a lot of water—some as much as 1 billion gallons per day—to both generate steam and to absorb the heat produced by splitting atoms.
As the plants log the years and megawatts, their massive cooling tanks...
In the freshly snow-blanketed Pack Forest of Eatonville, Washington, we spent the day with the team at Conservation Canines exploring the facility they call “home base.” The dogs at Conservation Canines are not your typical pets, with their intense drive to play often misunderstood as stubbornness. The biologists at Conservation Canines harness this energy by using the dogs strong sense of smell and retrieval skills to non-invasively collect scat from endangered animals, sniff out toxins and find specimens easily overlooked by the human eye. Dogs that may have been once unfit as pets now rehabilitate ecosystems.
We sat down with Conservation Canines Lead Instructor and Director of Field Opera...Read More
Nils Pedersen is a bear biologist at the Wind River Bear Institute. Soledad, a 6-year-old Karelian Bear Dog, is always by his side. Together they work to resolve bear/human conflicts across North America, and are now pioneering the application of Wildlife Service Dogs for detecting polar and grizzly bear dens in the Arctic. Below, learn more about Soledad and how this ancient dog breed was chosen for bear-conflict work due to an innate hunting drive and unique ability to shepherd bears.
Soledad is a 6-year-old Karelian Bear Dog working as a Wildlife Service Dog for the Wind River Bear Institute. Born in Florence, MT, she was the only puppy born of her litter earning her the name "Soledad", me...Read More
Nicholas Coleman was born in Provo, Utah in 1978. Brought up in an artistic home, Coleman has been painting and drawing for as long as he can remember. Coleman has found much of his inspiration in his travels across North America, Canada, Europe and even into Africa. Hunting and fishing along the way his interest often include exploring hidden streams and valleys looking for signs of wildlife. He gained an appreciation for the subtle details hidden in plain sight. In his own words he wants to "preserve the heritage of the American West."
How did you start painting Nicholas?
I have fond memories of visiting my dad’s studio at a very early age and begging him to let me paint on his paintings...Read More
Eric Blinman has been an archaeologist for nearly 50 years. He has worked throughout the western United States but has focused on the greater Southwest since 1979. Working for the Museum of New Mexico’s contract archaeology program since 1988, he is the current director of the office, overseeing salvage archaeology projects that deal with all periods of New Mexico history, from ice age hunters to the building of the first atomic bomb.
His personal research interests are the cultural diversity of Southwestern peoples, climate change and its impacts on ancient economies and societies, ancient pottery and yucca textile technologies, archaeomagnetic dating, and most recently the development of l...Read More
With oceans that refuse to relinquish any of their might regardless of our technological advances, the modern sailor continues to face the same elements which all that have sailed upon her waters have ever seen. “We must always remember that the sea is no respector of ships or person. The sea is always ready, at the first sign of failure, to rush in and destroy the very craft it so readily supports upon the surface of the water.”1 Merchant mariners, both on deck and below in the engine room, know that once land falls below the horizon, they are left to their own skills and tools for prosperity and safety.
John Dunaway has spent the last 8.5 years in the U.S. Merchant Marine sailing across th...Read More
There is a rich history of maritime pursuits in the foggy inlets and jagged shorelines of Washington State. From the hand-carved canoes of the Pacific Northwest’s original settlers to the welded aluminum hulls of modern fishermen, the shipbuilders and sailors of this region are known for resiliency at sea. Nowadays, many of the boatyards along Washington's coast have become specialized in traditional wooden boat building and repairs, unlike many East Coast counterparts. Areas like Port Townsend are well-known for this unique skill set, drawing more wooden boats there for repairs, and creating jobs for talented shipwrights in the region. Many of these skilled shipwrights work at Haven Boatwo...Read More