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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

20 April 2014

❖ Geography Lesson ❖

1923 multi-page brochure
to promote SJ County.

April 2014, S. P. H. S. ©

Day No. 4, before casting off from Waldron Island, WA.
100 Days in the San Juans 
Burn, June. 
Long House Printcrafters & Publishers.1946.
Text published by the Seattle Times, 1946.

"The actual number of islands in the San Juan Archipelago varies with the person who does the counting. McLellan gives 786 at the lowest tides, 457 at high tide, with 175 of them large enough to have names.*
These 175 islands make up 206 square miles of land. Orcas is the largest island with 60 sq miles of 36,432 acres, San Juan next with 35,448 acres, then Lopez, Cypress, Lummi, Guemes, Shaw, Blakely, Waldron, and on down to Pointer Island with a quarter acre that sticks up above high tide and Shag Rock with only a few sq ft. So far, the smallest island to which we have been invited is Towhead, 2.15 acres in size.

      There are many curious things about the islands, one of the most curious that two of them are called James. One is called Bare and another Barren. One is called Flower and another Posey.
      Now and then you will be digging a well and will strike a geyser that spurts out and never stops spurting. Once I heard an eminent engineer say that there is an artesian flow of fresh water boiling up in the salt water channel between Guemes and Fidalgo Islands. When he was asked to put in the Anacortes water system, this artesian flow was suggested as a possible supply.
      He said that on calm days fishermen and boatmen who know of it can dip their buckets down at the right place in the channel and bring up fresh water.
      Of animals we have deer on Orcas, muskrat on Stuart, a pest of rabbits on San Juan, and a very menace of huge rats on Waldron. One hears of an occasional mink and there are birds here that occur nowhere else. This summer we will probably learn of hundreds of others.

The water around the islands make up in animal life what the land lacks, however. I don't mean water fowl––there will be a column on them later on ––but life within the sea. These are said to be the richest waters in the world, plants and animals in almost limitless variety from microscopic forms to killer whales that come spouting and sighing every summer.
      When we visit McConnell Island where Prof. Tommy Thompson lives in the summertime, we'll learn why Puget Sound is so rich in life. He is director of the famed oceanographic laboratories at the University and at Friday Harbor. All his faculty and students have made exciting studies of our waters.
      The San Juans are bottled up here in a rather tight place. The channels between are sometimes very deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow. The great wide, deep Strait of Juan de Fuca can let in a mighty ocean of water to sweep in on the flood and rush out again on the terrific ebb tides. These channels have to receive all that water somehow, push it through, suck it through, whirl it through. There are boiling, leaping tide rips where two big channel tides come together. There are whirlpools in narrow passages when more water than can possibly get through comes roaring along.

      Sometimes the tidal rivers go flashing past at eight knots an hour. When that happens, you might just as well turn around and go with it, if you are rowing––which is why we can't make definite dates for this summer. We have an 18-ft metal boat with only a small sail.
      (And if there is no wind, we'll be rowing and not against those tides. If we meant to go north and the tide starts south before we get there, why we'll go south forsooth. As one experiment we plan to drift with the tides for a day or so to see where and how far we'll go.)
      The islands are in a dry belt. We have less rainfall than occurs on the mainland. We are warmer in winter, cooler in summer. But the temperature of the water around the islands changes so little the year round it takes a thermometer to measure it. It's blizzardly all the time!
      On hot days you can get might cold in the shade or you can burn up in the open sun. Semi-shade is man's natural habitat in the summertime.
      The prevailing wind is from the southeast and in winter it can blow down big trees without half trying. In summer, though, there isn't much wind as rain––an ideal holiday climate.
      See you tomorrow, June."
* San Juan County, the smallest of 39 Counties in Washington State, now claims 176 named islands and reefs. Official statistics can be viewed here

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