Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shhh, It'll Be Our Little Secret

Well a plane came and went last night, and it took away the physicists and engineers, the coral reef researchers, Edwin, Liz and Duck Champion Michelle and gave us a bunch of photographers instead. The physicists and engineer (there was actually only one) were here on behalf of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. I never thought I would be drinking with people like that, but I did (and I am happy to report that people like that do drink). They have a station out here that sniffs for chemicals that are released into the atmosphere when a nuclear weapon is detonated or tested that they were working on. The reef folks were working for NOAA, and were pretty fun. One of the guys was part Russian and could actually read the obscene Russian phrase on the front of my Falcon hoodie. He thought it was pretty badass. Right now, it is good to hang out with young people, especially if these young people are not dudes.

Liz, unbeknownst to all of us, had been sneaking out every night under cover of darkness to eat raw albatross. No one had any idea until she came to breakfast with feathers hanging out of her mouth. Her eyes were wild and she smelled of fish oil. She whispered in my ear, "You have to get the salt glands. I cant get enough of them. Dont tell anyone." She was clearly drunk on albatross blood. Later that day someone discovered the 8-foot high pile of carcasses behind her house. She has now been banished from the island.*

Above is a picture of a bicycle. You may have heard of them. They are very popular in places like San Francisco, Arcata and Portland. As in any subculture, people who are really into bicycles tend to be self-righteous and snobby about it. I cannot tell you the number of times I have received shit from various colleagues for not riding one. This has contributed to my well-known (and mostly deserved) reputation as being extremely lazy. People I have done field work with know this is only partially true. The irony that I have to point out is that most people who have accused me of this have never hiked, climbed, rowed, fallen, sweated, bled or been maced (long story) for their profession in their lives. But I thought I would address the ominous topic of bicycles here, to set my policy straight.

In principle, I am 100% pro-bicycle. It is sustainable, fun, easy, almost carbon-neutral transportation. This is a Good Thing. However, bicycles are extremely trendy (*cough*.....fixed gear.....*cough*), which inherently makes me fearful. People who ride bicycles a lot (particularly in urban/suburban areas) dress, walk and talk like they ride bicycles a lot. Have you ever witnessed the "Fixies" congealing onto San Francisco's Dolores Park on a Sunday afternoon? Sights like that are one of the reasons I fled to Midway. Many of my good friends who are really into bikes don't have cars, and alternate between giving me shit for not biking everywhere and asking me for rides in my car. But in essence, I am fully in support of the whole Bikes>Cars mindset, despite my laziness (lets be honest here).

There are very few cars on Midway. Not counting big fuel trucks/firetrucks, there are easily less than ten. I have not been in one since Ive been here, and I usually go a few days between seeing them. People get around with golf carts (both electric/gasoline powered), Gators, Mules (mechanical ones), and bicycles. Hearing seabirds in the background everywhere you go is far superior to hearing traffic. I have made a point of it to not use anything four-wheeled unless there is gear or marine debris to haul around. The albatross chicks like using them for shade on hot days (see above). I use my bike as much as possible.....which feels like a strange thing to say.......but if it feels Right, then why not?

On the bird front, there isnt much new to report. I havent seen any new Midway birds in a couple weeks (Glaucous Gull was the last), but maybe the photographer group thats here right now can help turn something up. Ok, have a good Tuesday, and, as always, say hi to Halsey for me.

* For those of you reading who dont know me very well or lean on the gullible side of things, I enjoy completely fabricating things and mixing it up with Truth (see previous blog regarding Russian Invasion). It makes reading more challenging. Liz, in reality, is Ambassador Of The Albatross, Gift To All Goonies.

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