Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


The Bug Station

Doesn’t this shot look like a hand colored antique photo from the 1800’s? Ah, the miracle of digital filters. This one, naturally, is called “antique.” Then I pulled up more saturation to give that older-than-the-hills manipulated look. Long before Kodachrome, hand-colored black and white was the way “color” photos were created.

Or I could have generalized and said, “Ah, technology,” because that’s what keeps changing, these days so rapidly. Not so eons ago. There is recent evidence that mankind could have been on this continent for over 20,000 years, instead of the 13,800 years for Clovis Man, yet the scientists studying these facts and theories talk in hundreds, even thousands of years, speculating that Europeans could have boated along the ice shelf present 20,000 years ago to arrive on our shores never to go to sea again! (Or at least I can hear them saying, “I’m glad that’s over with!” Who knows what was on the minds of people that long ago?)

Yet hundreds of years would pass before any tools or techniques of survival changed at all. Today our handy-dandy gadgets are lucky to hang on the cusp of tomorrow for more than a month or so before New and Better pops up.

This scene is looking north at the main building and separate labs of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, or the “Labs” as they’re called on the island (or “the bug station” by the old timers.) P1000120 In the early 70’s I worked here as a diving safety officer and marine technician, using my freshly minted degree in Marine/Oceanographic Technology for the second time. I moved here from a job as aquarist with Oregon State University’s Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

I could ‘blah, blah’ about the Labs until you click the back button, but for now, I’ll leave you with two factoids: The photo of Mt. Baker in the post below was taken from a public viewing/parking platform on Warbass Way directly to the south of the original Friday Harbor Labs building, but in those days it was called the Puget Sound Biological Station. And on August 23, 1921 President Warren G. Harding signed a bill turning over the 484 acre Point Caution military preserve northwest across the harbor (sometimes referred to as a ‘lighthouse preserve’) over to the University of Washington for a marine research facility. Technology being what it is and does, in 2004 the 484 acre total was reduced to 476 acres with a digital correction and resurvey of the west property line.

Those 476 acres are considerably more land than the Labs need to function, but that excess creates a sanctuary that lends a special aura seeming almost magical to both students and casual visitors felt as soon as one drives onto the property through old growth forests. The Labs put on an annual open house that gives island residents and tourists an opportunity to see what transpires there, and to get a personal taste of that magical kingdom. There are trails venturing back into that void of unused land that, on a summer day, buzz with bees while being wafted by fragrant breezes rich with warm-woodsy and tangy-sea aromas. It’s best to check in at the office for permission to walk the trails, for in this post 911 days there are signs warning of surveillance cameras and asking visitors to check in. It will be worth getting past the gate-keepers, for there is magic on this sanctuary of science and nature.


One response

  1. k7kfm1

    The modern light fixture in the middle of the picture spoils the illusion of a “colored” black and white picture. I didn’t know that the labs owned the land at south beach!

    January 31, 2013 at 10:56 pm

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