Saturday, August 17, 2013

Humpback Salmon Put on a Show in City Creek

For many women the sight of a baby brings out nurturing instincts like the word doughnut brings out the secretions from my salivary glands.  Baby animals, except perhaps, venomous cobras, have a similar effect.  But I wonder how many women have similar reactions to migrating salmon -- that is besides Karen.

The situation in southeast Alaska this summer borders on drought -- if you can have a drought in a rainforest.  That equates to minimal quantities of water in streams whose channels are often swollen from bank to bank when salmon arrive.  And they have arrived en masse this summer -- perhaps in record numbers for pink, also known as humpback salmon. 

Streams which normally have small handfuls of pinks are crowded with migrants swimming “shoulder to shoulder” as they struggle to get upstream in waterways barely carrying enough water to float them -- sometimes less. 

One such stream is the romantically named watercourse in Petersburg’s back yard -- City Creek.  On a bicycle ride a week ago I spotted schools of pinks trying to get over rock outcrops which seemed more suited to rock climbing than salmon spawning.  I mentioned it to Karen and in less time than it takes for me to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she was off with her camera. 

Seeing such bright eyed fish valiantly fighting again and again to get over impassible barriers only to be swept back downstream again and again brought Karen’s nurturing instincts to the forefront.  Marveling at their tenacity yet mourning at the seeming futility of their quest has been hard on Karen -- so much so that she has both of us doing the unthinkable -- praying for rain.

City Creek adds a tiny offering of fresh water into Frederick Sound just a couple of miles from downtown Petersburg.

Like commuters in a New York subway station, Pink salmon vie for space in the intertidal pools.

And then like those commuters dashing to get through the subway doors, the salmon scramble to be the first one into the next pool upstream.

Further upstream conditions for migrating salmon deteriorate as only thin sheets of water slide over bed rock.

Still a female humpback salmon struggles to navigate through water so shallow she would need to grow legs to make it.

 Unable to make it to the next pool upstream. a male is swept back downstream.

Again and again.  Note the large hump on the back of this male, thus giving pink salmon their "alter ego," humpback salmon.

Hour after hour, the salmon keep trying to get over the rocks until Karen is exhausted.  Their courage captured her heart.

    Their courage and those eyes brought Karen's nurturing instincts to the forefront.


B. Bracken said...

What a difference a day makes! After the heavy rains overnight, there are salmon spawning in areas which were only dry beds yesterday. The stream is nearly bank full of both water and salmon. Your prayers worked, and just in time.

Shannon Cornelius said...

Love this!!

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