July and August will be very busy months for 'Made In Puget Sound®'. We have a series of events promoting and publicizing our nonprofit, all-volunteer organization. Every dollar from the sale of any book and artwork goes directly to the work of this organization. Autographed copies of my new book: Puget Sound Underwater will be on sale. This book is totally unique and one of a kind. Never before has anyone focused not only on the amazing underwater wildlife living in our cold local waters, but also on the health of our ecosystems.
Please come out and help support our educational programs and the work we are doing to protect and promote Puget Sound.
July 21 & 22, I will be at the Gig Harbor Arts Fest signing my new book: Puget Sound Underwater.
This book, like all of my work, is a unique window into the underwater world of north Puget Sound. Including Whidbey, Camano and Fidalgo Islands.
To learn a little more about me, my book and the 'Made In Puget Sound®' nonprofit organization, watch my short video.
Every dollar raised from the sale of my book and my artwork goes to this important, all-volunteer organization.
We educate people about the importance of one of the world's largest and most important estuaries.
Earlier this month I created and launched the 'Made In Puget Sound® Underwater Wildlife Photography and Videography' MeetUp.
This is a group designed to help anyone that is interested in underwater photo and video. We will meet every third Thursday of each month at the Seattle Film Institute at 7:00 PM. 3210 16th Ave W., Seattle WA 98119. PostFX Room, 2nd Floor. The parking is limited. Please respect QFC and do not use their parking lot.
Join up and bring a friend.
Made In Puget Sound® Explores Burrows Island
Since the first few months after becoming a certified scuba diver in Puget Sound, I've often wondered 'what's down there' nearly every time I pass a body of water. On various boat dives with the few remaining dive charters in this area, I've wanted to explore below the surface of the Sound in places the charters would not, or could not get to. I am now able to explore our waters and bring images back that most people would never see. As the first in my series of 'Explore Puget Sound' blogs, I've chosen the northern islands of Puget Sound first. Many are uninhabited islands and rarely visited by people.
Burrows Island is just south of Fidalgo Island, west of Anacortes. It is no longer inhabited by people, but is still home to an important and functioning Lighthouse. For years I've been curious about the plants and animals living just below the surface around this somewhat isolated island. This is a stunningly beautiful area with secluded coves and tiny sandy beaches. I chose the west end of the island because of its safe entry and exit point.
What bottom topography might I encounter while diving throughout the Bull Kelp and rocky shoals surrounding the island? To learn more about this area, and to discover much more excellent information visit the Burrows Island lighthouse website.
As I motored on to a small sandy beach adjacent to the lighthouse, I found the perfect protected cove for me to gear up and drop into the water. My dive, although late in the day, was just prior to slack tide. This allowed me to explore the entire area during minimal current, for upward of an hour.
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Although not a deep spot, it is filled with beautiful and colorful life. Ribbed, Split and Bull Kelp surround the area. The kelp cover the bottom. It feeds, hides and protects Northern Kelp Crab, and Purple, Red & Green Urchins, and a multitude of Sea Stars. A very large Widehand Hermit was not intimidated by my presence what so ever.
As I left the island, the sun was beginning to set behind the Olympic Mountains to the west. I passed Fidalgo Island, I was able to capture a spectacular shot of Fidalgo Head. It's ominous steep cliffs tower over Rosario Strait, the perfect end to an extraordinary journey.
Fidalgo Head on the southwest corner of Fidalgo Island
Friday – Silver Salmon Fishing and Bears Encounter
Our first task Friday morning was to retrieve and raise the five crab pots in hopes of capturing a few big ones for our final night’s 'Dungeness Crab Feast'. Much to our surprise, the first pot brought on board yielded 12 very large Dungeness Crabs. The second pot was filled with 11 massive crustaceans. In all we captured more than 50 crabs. A few small, a few medium, and many very large crustaceans. Although we kept only 15 very large, very delicious Dungeness Crabs, it was more than enough for an amazing dinner. They were very large, and very sweet, and very flavorful, but 8 of us could not even consume 8 full size crabs. The next morning after a perfectly prepared and delicious breakfast of fresh Dungeness Crab omelets, we gave a few crabs to some friends back in Juneau.
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By Friday afternoon we had arrived at East Point on Admiralty Island. Time to bait our hooks, drop our lines and enjoy the final afternoon of Silver Salmon fishing. Today though, after only a few minutes, we were reeling in 11 to 15 pound Silvers with ease. Soon we reached our limit. Unfortunately, after almost full 7 days of calm winds and gorgeous blue skies, the weather was finally beginning to sour. The wind was picking up. Rain drops were lightly bouncing off the boats windows. Clearly, we were nearing our point of origin - Juneau.
Before the final anchoring and overnighting in Funter Bay, we were hoping to see a few more bears seeking their salmon meals. This would be my favorite and most important experience of the trip. My very up close and very personal encounter with two young Brown Bears.
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As the Alaska Quest neared Pavlov Bay north of East Point, we viewed the waterfall about a half mile away. Salmon must are navigate up and over the falls to reach their spawning grounds. This is deadly dangerous place for salmon. Bears are keenly aware of the probability of the salmon jumping the falls and claiming a fresh salmon dinner of their own. Unfortunately, daylight was waning. The weather was turning south. Also, the crab we had caught needed to be prepared for dinner. The salmon needed to be prepared for travel back to Seattle. This was a very busy afternoon for Tom and Tish. If I wanted to see and photograph bears, I would have to head out on my own.
Tom offered to place me at a spot on the river popular for tourists from Juneau traveling by float plane, but I would be all alone on this adventure. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, fully aware of the inherit risks and potential dangers.
Tish provided me with a radio, bug spray and most importantly, bear spray. Tom placed me at the safest spot for viewing any bears that might arrive at the falls. A good distance though from the falls. After about 30 minutes, a female appeared near the falls. I decided I needed to be closer. Fortunately, bears are much more interested in the salmon than people, as long as cubs or aggressive behavior are not involved. I was in little danger.
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Soon after another bear appeared on the falls, then moved across to the other side and up into the forest. This went on for the next 45 minutes or so. I was very cognizant of keeping a safe distance, while trying to get good, clean shots of the bears. As I watched the falls down stream, about 50 feet away, awaiting another bear and paying little attention to what might be behind me, I heard a noise. Quickly from out of the trees, only 10 feet in behind me, appeared a two-year-old brown bear cub. He immediately stopped, probably as shocked to encounter me as I was to encounter him. Within a few seconds, a second cub appeared with the first. Clearly his brother or sister. At this point my heart was racing, my palms were sweating, my hands were shaking, but I was not panicking.
I fumbled a few seconds trying to pull out the bear spray. Then slowly and carefully removed the cap from the spray while keeping my eyes on both bears, now in front of me. With a calm and gentle voice, I spoke to the bears. “Bear, bear” I repeated the mantra a few times as they looked around for their mother. I slowly raised my camera and tried to capture a couple shots. Of course, I was shaking too much to capture anything, plus I was shooting with a 400mm lens and my subject was only 10 feet away. I believe the sound of my shutter startled them. They both quickly bolted up the 15-foot trail above me and headed into the woods. A few seconds later I spotted all three at the falls. Mama bear never heard or saw me.
After getting many shots of the family and a few others over the next hour, I then decided it was time to call and return to the Alaska Quest. Almost everyday I think about what might have happened had mama appeared. Our crab feast was amazing.
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All images here and anywhere on my website are for sale on Metal, Canvas, Acrylic or Matted print.
Drew Collins professional underwater photographer and environmentalist living and diving primarily in the beautiful Emerald green waters of Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington.