USA – Oregon

Sea nettles

During my move to northern California a few months back, I stopped by the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon. It is one of my favorite public aquariums by far, although I haven’t made it to the Monterey Bay Aquarium yet, and I hear it’s quite nice. It was a January morning with very few visitors, so I had the aquarium mostly to myself.

A large display with Sea nettles captivated me. It was very meditative watching slow-moving jellyfish in a dimly-lit room. For these shots, I post-edited the images, desaturating the deep-blue color of illuminated water, emphasizing shapes and colors of the jellyfish.


The North Pacific Coastline


The sheer expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Thirty percent of the Earth’s surface. So properly christened Peaceful by Magellan.


The incredible coastline of the East Pacific, stretching from the northern tip of Western Alaska to the southern tip of Chile. Inviting and soothing at times and places, like a kitten. Crushing and spewing and hissing and boiling at its mightiest.


Dotted with coves and lagoons and bays. Heaven for kayakers and explorers.

Sea Birds of the Pacific Northwest


As I was driving along Highway 101 to my new temporary home town of Arcata, California, I stopped overnight in a charming fishing town of Newport, Oregon. Besides great CouchSuring hosts, another highlight of Newport was the Oregon Coast Aquarium, with their Passages of the Deep and the Sea Bird Aviary. Even though it was January, and the birds weren’t in their bright mating outfits, it was still very enjoyable to watch and photograph their frolics.


The very top photo is of the Common Murre or Common Guillemot in its winter plumage. According to Wikipedia, “It has a circumpolar distribution, occurring in low-Arctic and Boreal waters in the North-Atlantic and North Pacific. It spends most of its time at sea, only coming to land to breed on rocky cliff shores or islands”. The photo just above is of a Black Oystercatcher. Again, from Wikipedia: It is “found on the shoreline of western North America. It ranges from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the coast of the Baja California peninsula”.


The last photo is of the Tufted Puffin, albeit in its winter plumage, which would account for the lack of white ear “tufts” and the chalk-white face.

Lighthouses of the Pacific Northwest

OK, so it’s actually the Pacific Northeast, from the Pacific point of view, you know, but I’ll leave that for another discourse.


There is something about lighthouses and waterfalls that stand out as destinations for so many people. Personally, waterfalls have never been a draw for me. I would rather have a trail end at a tree – or a so much more useful tree stump – for lunches and resting, or even a non-discreet destination – than a waterfall. But then again, I haven’t tried climbing them in the winter, when they’re frozen.

On the other hand, lighthouses have a magnetic effect on me, and not just because pictures of them sell like pancakes. Or the Israeli pickles. No, it’s the sea rat in me. These messengers between tiny fishing and merchant boats on the high seas and quaint and quite harbors make me reminisce about my days on the water: on fishing vessels in the Bering Sea in the winter. On a rumbling bright-orange U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy north of St. Lawrence Island. The trips on my beloved Alaska Department of Fish and Game Research Vessel Pandalus in the Gulf of Alaska. The surreal night fishing trips on wooden dingies in Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. My very first research cruise on NOAA vessel Ferrell to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic. Hot days spent on skiffs on the Illinois River setting traps and surveying fish while trying to avoid flying Asian carp. Or, on a wooden chartered boat full of dedicated researchers scrubbing and measuring the intertidal life on the major islands of Prince William Sound – an unforgettable experience. Or, … but I better stop myself.

So, when I ended up on San Juan Island in Washington, I knew I had to visit the two lighthouses there. The Cattle Point Lighthouse, above, sits on a desolate bluff on the southeastern part of the island. No being very photogenic, I made a point to hike to it with a flashlight before sunrise, in hope of getting an interesting photo with the rising sun. With almost no clouds, the sunrise wasn’t particularly captivating, so I added my own mood to the photo digitally, if you will.


The Lime Kiln Lighthouse, above, the much more visited lighthouse on the west side of the island is more photogenic but too crowded for my tastes. The first time Chelsea and I were looking for it, we had only several minutes left before the sun set, as we managed to miss all the road signs pointing to it. In a rush to see it before the sun would completely disappear, we ran down a trail without paying attention to any of the signs, assuming that all the trails from the parking lot would lead to the main attraction in the area. Well, they would have, had we headed in the proximate general direction. At least, with the sun set, we also missed the last of the crowds for the day.


While visiting Coose Bay in Oregon, my CouchSurfing host took me to the nearby Umpqua River Lighthouse. With the fog rolling in from the Pacific, it created a fast-moving light-catching blanket around the head of the lighthouse. I was going to add a cacophony of frogs to the background, but now that I think about it, it was January in Oregon. There were most likely no frogs “cacophoning”.