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.

28 April 2011


marrowstone island april 27 2011

This may not be the most exciting whale photo you have seen.........but then,
it might be one of the most amazing in that I took this photo while standing on the beach
no more than 100 feet from this Gray Whale as it fed in the shallows
off East Beach County Park, Marrowstone Island........

This has been an incredible week for whale watching here, taking my mind
in new directions as I walk the beach and pick up trash that may be killing
these amazing creatures.........

First, there was a Humpback last Wednesday, cruising up the east shore in the early
morning.......then there was a Gray Whale and several Harbor Porpoises three days ago.

Then, this Gray Whale decided to root around in the sand flats where I often walk at
lower tides..........Can't wait to see what the whale created in the flat as it continually
rolled, and dug into the sand, tossing up shrimp and, no doubt, the many sandlance
that burrow here as if these fish thought they were clams?

I took several photos of its flippers and tail that was heavily scarred and had a chunk
torn away..........Cascadia Research is now checking those photos to try to identify
this individual.........Will keep you posted if any news on where this Gray Whale
might have traveled in recent months and years.

In the meantime, there are orcas in the vicinity, but I keep missing them!
Friends watched them kill a sea lion recently, down on Marrowstone Point and
I found a harbor seal washed ashore shortly after the whales had been
on the prowl..........The whales had apparently tossed it around too.......

See the Orca Network Website and Facebook images for
spectacular images of what was likely the Humpback we saw
last week here on Marrowstone.

The Humpbacks are returning from Hawaii
and returning in numbers as their population recovers from
whaling days not all that long ago........

It is so good to see these whales, to watch them spray their breath into 
the same air we breathe........ 

12 April 2011



Kids at Breidablik have taught me a great deal about staying with a project.
They've been collecting bottle caps now for two years,
waiting for just the right way to use them.

They are now collecting plastic bags
because we have settled on our Playful Project on their Playground Fence.

The "Queen Fish" on the right is made from fused plastic bags.
The Sawfish body part is from an actual Sawfish, Thanks to my Cousin Tom!
The stingray tail, far left is also from Tom's vast sealife collection.
The lumpy looking plastic is a fused RePorpoised art piece
in its early stages.....

See an earlier post for instructions and ingredients of some of our first
Reporpoised Fish made from beach plastics and other

Keep checking back to see our project as it continues to grow
as we discover new ways of RePorpoising.

Remember Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle..........?

I much prefer RePorpoise, Restore, and Remember the Ocean!

Thanks to all the Breidablik staff, parents, and students for
helping our area and the more distant ocean world
where Albatrosses Soar......
Every piece of plastic you RePorpoise
helps saves the seas!

04 April 2011


Nene with two chicks.
Kauai. November 2010.

Not all that long ago, Nene, the State Bird of Hawaii,
were thought to be in danger of extinction.
Thanks to captive breeding in England and on the mainland,
as well as to forward thinking biologists like Paul Banko,
The Nene is surviving, especially on Kauai.........


 Little by Little, the main Hawaiian Islands
are becoming carbon copies of the mainland.
IZ sang about this and anyone with a sense of place in the islands
knows full well that freeways and stop lights
along with Walmarts, Costcos, and Timeshare Condos
spell doom for native plants and animals as well as 
the island way of life........

Nene have survived on Kauai because of land use restrictions
and because of the lack of serious predation by mongoose and because
native vegetation still thrives in places where the geese need habitat for
raising their young.

Dogs, Cats, Mongoose.......all these are threats on other islands.

When these predators are kept away
 good quality NATIVE PLANT HABITAT is present, Nene thrive.

Ironically, Nene also inhabit golf courses and some urbanizing areas
where people actually feed them.........not to be widely publicized for sure,
but these little geese can live in our presence if we pay attention to basic needs.
But just like golf courses anywhere on earth, careful consideration needs to be
aimed at maintaining native plantings and healthy riparian vegetation (streamside,
pondside, and oceanside plants that include nene food sources such as
ohelo and pukiawe). 

I photographed the Nene above at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
But, I saw my first Nene down at what eventually became the
Poipu Bay Golf Course.........I see them now along the
bluffs and open dry lowlands
above Moloa'a Bay and Larsen's Beach
where Laysan Albatross also nest.........

If you visit Kauai, make sure you stop at the Kilauea Point NWR.
Take a look at the banding of the Nene.
Just like Monk Seals, these bands help researchers and
curious naturalists
learn more about these animals.

While on Kauai, chances are good you will see
Whales, Dolphins, Nene, Albatross (winter only), and
Monk Seals.........You might be surprised when and where
you encounter these birds and mammals, often at very crowded shores.
This is because habitat is present and, so far, human disturbances
have not reached levels beyond which that habitat value is lost to wild creatures.

No matter where you stand on earth, some creature is missing or much
reduced in numbers. Their presence or absence is what makes for the beauty
of all life.........Bringing back a single plant or animal, or protecting those
holding on in fragile ways........This is what we can do with and for our children.

Just last night, I watched a pair of Canada Geese working on their nesting area.
Not all that long ago, they were like the Nene, gone from much of our mainland.
Now, many of you will probably say Canada Geese are TOO abundant.
Wouldn't it be nice to say that about more animals!


This is Monk Seal T12, photographed last fall at the very northern end of
Aliomanu Bay, just as it bumps into a point of rocks.
I'd posted this photo and remember so well that morning.
The seal was bothered by a buoy, free floating along with much more trash.....

This morning, I got word of a sighting of T12 on Kauai down on
Waipouli Beach!!!!!

for many reasons.

Thanks to Brenda Becker and other scientists,
Monk Seals are tagged, identifying them so that we can all help with research.

Monk Seals are among the rarest mammals on the planet
and some believe they have no chance to survive...........


While the overall population of monk seals is declining
(at 4% per year in the NW Hawaiian Islands),
many more people are out there, cleaning beaches,
helping the survival rate increase, especially in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Entanglement in nets, fishing gear, and other debris is a killer,
so any time you remove plastics from a beach, anywhere leading to the Pacific,


In 2009 two pups were born on Kauai, 1 on Oahu, 4 on Molokai, and 1 on Maui.

I will give you an update soon and share other photos of T12 and other
Monk Seals you might also get to know and to help!

Thanks for any comments, especially if you see a Monk Seal
Begin or Continue a Pacific Ocean Beach Cleanup!

As for me.........I think I will make a seal from the plastic stash
collected over the weekend......Thanks to Ray Lowrie for bringing by
a bag full of plastic bags his newpaper comes in each morning.....and to
Central Market Staff for the great plastic film
they tear from pallets of frozen food.

There is a lot of quite beautiful plastic waiting to be repurposed and in so doing,
to save a seal.........or albatross.........or who knows, someone
sitting right next to you.........


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.