Mar 14, 2007

HOOD CANAL, Washington – Big breath. Spsssss-hrrurrrr. Then – bam – into the 46-degree water. Cold sears my cheekbones and forehead, tries to worm under my cuffs. I descend the anchor line with Don Coleman, one of Pacific Adventure's owners.

Northwest diving is like a game arcade: stimulus, everywhere, at once. Equalize pressure in the sinuses, deflate the vest (BCD), pump air into the drysuit, don't shiver and – before the battleship sinks entirely – check out that copper rockfish!

Sea stars splay along the bottom. Some have that classic configuration, ready to top a Christmas tree. Others, of the sunflower variety, drape two dozen spaghetti-soft limbs over the rocks. Greedy eaters, they devour urchins, bivalves and even dead fish, capturing prey with over 15,000 sucker feet.

Sponge, kelp and invertebrates patchwork the reef: a maroon, mottled effect. The look's so good, the decorator crabs had to have it. They dress in algae and tiny seaweeds –  swapping these live accessories from shell to shell as they grow.

White and orange plumose anemones flutter like small mushroom clouds. My wake bounces a sea cucumber off its perch, plump body writhing in Matrix slo-mo. Don shepherds it home.

Want to read more? Of course. Buy the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Thursday, March 22.

(Yes, you could catch it online here, but you'd miss the wide-screen drama of Scott Boyd's bloody gorgeous photos. And for anyone in the greater Seattle area, that would be wrong, WRONG, I say. Diehards can also order copies for the next ten weeks from 206.464.2001).


  1. Awesome story, Amanda! So good, in fact, I'll even overlook your use of the term sea star ... c'mon, you and I both know that it's supposed to be starfish!

    Any dangerous encounters with sixgills while on your dive? If so, don't hold on me ... I want to see another story!

    Your photographer has some way cool pics on his website.

    the crew at STARFISH and waffles

  2. Nah, gonna have to chase sixgills elsewhere, once I've bought gear and beat my (seemingly endless) cold.

    (A diver friend suggested I'd segued directly into allergies. NO! THIS WILL NOT DO! My immune system must buck up immediately. Succumbing to a tree attack is NOT acceptable).

    The photog – not mine (they hate that pronoun, rightly) – is a mighty shooter. And diver. He and wife Janet rock the Hood Canal – and about anywhere else they touch.

    And, well, yes, I caved to prevailing SEA STAR pressures, I admit. But without waffles in the mix as incentive, who could be blamed?

  3. You're still suffering from your cold? Hmmm ... I'm no medical doctor but perhaps you need more lard-soaked McDonald's fries in your diet to fortify that immune system.

    Words like SEA STAR are ruining the English language. What's next? Are we going to start referring to our waffles as checkered battercakes? Where does this end, Amanda, oh please tell where does this end?? (Aaaauuggghh!!!)

    Off-topic/wrong forum: I'm struggling mightily with the Snoopy museum story. Work is sucking all of the creativity out of me this quarter. (Ok, I'm done complaining now).

  4. Don't let work drag you down, DB. Take a few hours, devise a defiant StarSnoop cocktail and crank out some copy.

    So much of professional journalism is just DOING it, while others falter.

    Before I sound like Kipling's "If" poem, as featured in the Guiness beer advert, I'll kindly shut up now...