SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

04 August 2010

to the few who will ever read this

I am a long time reader of Hemingway and others of that time, long ago when fiction was being created for a modern audience. Gertrude Stein is my hero.........

I just reread Big Two Hearted River and realized that Hemingway might have been born with a silver spoon, but he and I had quite similar life experiences.

So, I wrote the Ricky story to honor my childhood, my childhood friend, Ricky, and to purge my soul of thorns long prickling my side.

All you read happenend to me, just as the Nick Adam's stories happened in Hemingway's troubled youth. He and I lost our souls to trout, rivers, and troubled times. I plan to live out my life though. Having just ben in Ketchum, I feel a great sense of loss for his family, friends, and reading and writing public.

Maybe the best thing we can think is that it would have been nice if Hemingway had traded all his weapons for fly rods and spinning gear, he might not have gone out so violently?

If and when Tom Brokaw reads this, I hope Tom remembers when we met in Montana.........back when Tom had the golden opportunity to bring the world back to the best of times within the land and water scape of the last great place. That Kitteridge and  Welch place where writers know heart and soul of white, brown, and red meet on an even playing field............lodge poles erected and salmonflies fluttering in the same even breeze of eternity.

Ron Hirschi      Marrowstone Island, Washington. 2010. Just after a visit to Sacajawea's birthplace in the Salmon River Country of Idaho

Boys and Dogs,,,,,,,,,,,,,Fictionalized Version

Ricky hiked up his jeans. He walked out of the house, looking over his shoulder, as usual, to see if Doris was watching. She was busy clipping ads from the Sun and thinking about the night. Bingo in Bremerton might bring her closer to her dream.

All Ricky wanted was a candybar or some bubblegum. He stuffed the gunnysack into the bike basket. He checked to see if the wood bin was filled, then opened the garage door to look into the freezer compartment. Even though he was only ten, his responsibility for family meals included shooting ducks and deer and catching enough fish for Friday meals. The freezer compartments were completely filled with black bass, venison, and pintails. A couple of out of season geese and mallards completed the list of meals he felt were needed to keep the family until next year.

He slipped the kick stand up and hopped up on the soft, cool seat and headed over the graveyard hill to the store. Ricky's mom could be heard in the soft evening air, sighing and saying, "Where is that stupid kid?"

Bessy was standing behind the counter at the Post Office when Ricky placed the dime, two Jefferson nickels, and a couple of pennies on the copper sheathed surface upon which many postal transactions had taken place since the early 1850s. Dan Evan's grandfather had been the first postal person to work here and Ricky knew all that history because his Grandma Daisy once was courted by Governor Evan's dad. She was a fetching young redhead when she started business college in the Smith Tower in Seattle in 1918. Dan's dad was a student then at the University of Washington. He had his eye on young Daisy, daughter of a Liverpool banker who braved the new world only to be disenfranchised by his father who, in disgust, left his wayward son a comb for his only inheritance.

Ivy House, back in England, had been a showcase and filtering stopover for all who did the Queen's bidding at the time. Young Phil had gone to Port Townsend early in the 1890s and sent his brother an urgent letter that read in part, " Dear Henry, Young and beautiful Irish girls await. Gold. Tall trees. Riches. And Indian girls lavish pots of cockles alive."

Henry was on the next boat.

Daisy was born in 1902 in the up and coming mill town of Port Gamble and the family was well established as a friend of the Indians and somewhat a friend of the Opium delusioned upper class who ran the mill, store, and assorted bars, gambling halls, and even a playhouse or two.

Henry, a proud actor and black face comedian, sang and danced with the best fof them on weekends. He tallied lumber on the mill docks with the Jones boys who loaded the cut timbers onto barges and barks. The Indian boys were strong as hell, he often proclaimed in his neat ledger books.........but at night, beneath towering Douglas firs and broad sweeping branched maples, he and the Toms, Fultons, and Pursers.........people of brown skin and wisdom beyond belief..........he and the elders, he and the youth........He, Henry Cotter and the Indian leaders, would scheme of a day when the Popes, Talbots, and Kellers would leave them all alone to dig clams, enjoy children, and live a peaceful life on the shores of Port Gamble Bay.

The Bay...........tranquil then. Tranquil now?

This was the sort of past Ricky knew and loved. The memory handed to him through story. And when Bessy handed him sheets of stamps, Ricky slipped his coins onto the copper sheathed counter to purchase tiny pieces of history.

One day, Ricky was walking from the Post Office to the store to buy the latest copy of Field and Stream. He was excited to buy the issue because it promised a story about the recent earthquake along the famed Madison River in Montana. Apparently, a mountain slipped down at night, burying people and river, trout and bears. Ricky wanted to know more.

Eventually, the fishing magazines would publish a story about how the Madison was "Better than Ever" and Ricky dreamed nightly of girls handing out fishing flies to hardy boys willing to fish troubled waters.

It would be many years and many miles before Richy made the trek to the earthquake epicenter. When he finally reached the destination, he would be transformed in ways only Nick Adams might appreciate........Lunker Browns greeted him as did nice Yellowstone Cutthroat. His labrador applauded each and every trout, then dove into the brush, only to retrieve a skull or antler from a long dead elk or whitetail so foolish as to overwinter along the banks of a flood and quake prone river.

On his first trip to the Madsion, Ricky unwrapped his sandwich. The fresh fragrance of sweet onion drifted up and away from the waxed paper and much, too much of the avadado clung to the damp edges of the wrap. Ricky bit big and hard into the tomato and cream cheese encrusted lunch, then took a long swig of root beer to quench a thirst born of too long a drive from Missoula.

His three weight sat waiting up against a twisted tangle of barb wire and fence post, willow and sweet grass. A Canada goose flew up on the other side of the river and a mountain bluebird scolded, gently from a nearby grave marker. Elk wandered high above the distant peaks within the Bob Marshall Wilderness and a Prairie Falcom shot past as if to mark its territory prior to the evening caddis hatch.

ricky brreathed in all the memory of family and so called friends, strung his silk line, and tied on a lighter than usual tippet, attached to a stiff chuck of riverfound mono that served as a transitional shooter between silk and clear leader.

ricky preferred the term "l;eader" to tippet and taper just because he grew up far to the west where his first fish were rock cod and salmon, bull cod and lings, so tasty and so tough that he needed braided cuccyhunk to haul them up onto the dock planks near where his Grandpa cut old growth into timbers and where he learned to carve cedar into a herring rake to fetch bait for big kings and bright silver coho and humpies, just right to fill the freezer for his screaming mother, hell bent on making him her provider. Or, as she could only put it, "her so called social security".

When the eighteen inch rainbow slammed his fly that first trip to the Madison, Ricky knew he had died and gone to fish nirvana. It was much like when he caught his first truly big chinook on Grandpa Walt's dock. The twenty pound king flopped around as Ricky kunked it on its head with a two by four. Then, he paraded it around to old Russell Fulton, Harry, and young Russ before displaying the golden sided salmon up in the carriage room where Pop worked ten hours each day, turning big trees into dimensional lumber.

Pop looked into the eye of that big salmon and smiled. Ricky took it home, fileted it, then placed each side into wax paper for his Gramma Daisy. He never shoed it to his mom. She was off to the bingo parlor in Bremerton. His Dad was building another speedboat in the garage.

By supper time, Ricky walked the heavy chunks of fish up past his Uncle Chuck's place and around the corner from Ida and Walt's bungalo. He snuck some peas from Enos's patch and left the fish in a white bucket on the porch just outside his Grandma's screen door.

Ricky then walked the mile back to his house, turned and tossed a tiny rock against Morris Fant's window. Morris opened the slider and slipped onto the roof. Hopping down onto the wet grass, Morris greeted his friend and the two boys went on down to the beach, lit a fire and toasted three marshmallows they snuck from the pantry earlier that day.

Long before their fathers and other millworkers awoke from much needed sleep, Morris and Ricky snuck back into their beds in the new england shacks.  they slept until the mill whistle blew, then got up to do it all over again. 

02 August 2010


Being Fredless on Marrowstone Island has its advantages. The little Monkey makes me work at tasks not so glamorous as simply going to the beach to fish, swim, walk with Monsoon, or look for agates and Marrow Stone Tools. The latter have been showing up regularly now that I don't focus on Plastic Trastic so much.......but more on that cultural resource in another note. But just to say, Ted George of the S'Klallam Tribe and Book group, gave me a good path to follow when he suggested I use the tools I find to teach S'Klallam presence on Marrowstone Island........

I find tools of stone, created by S'Klallam artists and craftsmen for the past 2,400 years. 

I find tools of wood, fallen into the ocean, mainly during the past 150 years. Prior to that time, trees simply fell and when I was a boy with my childhood dog, Bart, there were still old growth trees falling into Hood Canal and the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Almost ALL those big old trees, their trunks, limbs, and branches.......almost all of them are now gone from our shores. 

Big Deal?


Trees along beaches here in the inland waters are like Grandparents to our children. They hug the shore, creating safe habitat for baby salmon, crab, oysters, mussels, and more.......They also buffer the high, sandy bluffs of the east side of Marrowstone --- or, once did ----from winter storms.

I've mapped the entire shoreline of Washington State and meticulously gps'd every inch of the shore of Hood Canal and the eastern Straits to chronicle how humans have modified our shores. When our small team mapped the coast in 1976-80, we found no big trees still standing in our local area and almost no old growth along the entire non-park shoreline of the entire state. None.

People have cleared entire shoreline reaches for mile upon mile. 

Here on Marrowstone, the east shore is so denuded, that the sandy bluffs simply fall into the ocean in chunks the size of city blocks. People still cut remaining tiny trees and shrubs so that garden flowers and weedy scotch broom are the only vegetation on the gentler slopes just above tide water.

So, playing as always, the role of boy with dog, I started to try to save the shoreline.

Monsoon likes to fetch sticks. No tennis balls for her. She chases the stick, digs into the sand around it, then asks me to toss again. 

I obligingly throw the stick on down the beach, but stop to pull logs into the holes she creates. The result?

You can see her above, digging around some of the hundreds of small logs I pull from the wave tossed shore. Little by little, we've started a nice little area of non-erosive shoreline here. Down on Marrowstone Point, we even created a pretty good protective log "soft armoring" around the old Coast Guard Light.

An old boy with a dog, some beaches and logs...........one stick at a time, we try for reasons not quite understood by the locals, to save homes that are ready to fall into the sea. Mainly, though, I just want to create good habitat for salmon babies, sandlance, seabirds, otters, eagles, and kids of the future who might walk this beach and wonder how the sand formed such a nice wide path at the foot of those high bluffs.

I doubt I can save some of the homes that are ready to fall. They will fall. Might be able to keep some people from losing life and property while having some fun with Monsoon.

Stay tuned for more photos. You would not believe where people place their homes. 

Marrow Stone Island, Washington State. Winter-Midsummer 2010    

The odds say, "This House will fall onto the beach this winter. Local Realtors
are actually selling adjacent property to unwitting buyers.........integrity? Come On down, buy
some "waterfront" property and literally live on the beach next summer!

Just have to say, I have been trying to protect this and the other homes along this shoreline. I even went so far as to offer free time to the landowners losing their land, future, and more to this foolish use of planet earth and mother mother ocean.........As Jerry Jeff sings, "You can trust the might ocean. You can trust the moon to move her. You can trust the sun to shine upon the land."........but, I disagree with Jerry Jeff Walker in his lines about "Trusting, or leaving the rest to the quiet faith of man...............Man, here on Marrow Stone Island seems to have jetted off island to some mall in Missoula, or simply gave up and moved his or her fence and home back from the precipice.

Bottom Line?

This home will fall into the Admiralty Inlet waters soon. When? Simply soon.............I tried to save Mary's home. I tried to get East Marrowstone residents to put more big wood along the beach. When will they ever learn? When will anyone ever learn...........

X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.