Searching for Sea Lice

Searching for Sea Lice

Wild Salmon Smolts

Wild Salmon Smolts

Monday, June 13, 2011

Team Vosso

In a land far away (from Seattle), an amazing team of fish-loving fellows is working hard to bring back the greatest Atlantic salmon of them all: the Vosso. There are a few girls, too, several of them named Kristin.

Some of them put on dry suits and snorkel the rivers of Western Norway to gather data on spawning stock abundance. They track the migration route of young salmon to the ocean and monitor the timing of smoltification (the process a young fish goes through to transition from fresh to salt water). Some of them capture plankton from the shore and from the decks of ships tossed by the waves in a search for the elusive free-swimming sea louse.

They publish papers on best practices for salmonid restoration, including creation of new gravel beds and the best time to plant eggs and release salmon fry for run enhancement. They study spawning behavior and the effect of water quality, hydroelectric water regulation and sea lice on stock survival.

Locals living along the migration route of the Vosso salmon are also part of the team. Using knowledge and skills earned from their experience as fishermen before the Vosso salmon run collapsed, they use fishing nets to monitor salmon returns in the summer and fall. They offer their boats and their time for smolt tows and plankton sampling.

The passion and dedication of this group is infectious! It has been a privilege to return as part of the team this spring.

(Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page to see a photo gallery)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

7 Mountain Tour

Today I learned the word for mud in Norwegian: gjørme!

A few other words that I heard people using to describe the situation we found ourselves in: galskap (insanity) and gjørmebade (mud bath).

I hiked for almost 12 hours, covered 35 kilometers and climbed 7 mountains ranging from 350 to 640 meters above sea level. Part of the reason it rains so much in Bergen is that, no matter which way the clouds are blown by the wind, they are pushed up a mountain. Today I became a real Bergenser by standing on top of all of them in one day. Along with 5000 other Norwegians, hence the mud.

Insanity? Probably yes. But I’d say it’s a good kind of insanity. As we slipped and sloshed down the face of Mount Ulriken, one Norwegian lady commented to another, “I think the fact that we are doing this reveals something about us…”


On the way down from each of the mountains we passed through neighborhoods where friendly Bergen residents left their hoses running for 7-fjell tur participants to refill water bottles. Many also capitalized on the captive, hungry audience by setting up stands to sell cake and coffee and waffles. I had a delicious waffle with strawberry jam and rømme (a cream not quite as sour as sour cream in the US).

As described in the previous blog post, there has been a lot of rain this May in Bergen. Today we were lucky and for the first portion of the hike the rain held off, the sun shone, and the views were spectacular. Around 5pm the wind began to howl and the rain let loose.

When I began to get tired and think about quitting, I noticed the 8-year-olds keeping pace or passing me, and the gray-haired couples plodding along, and realized that there was no choice. A true Bergenser I would be!

Now the sweetness of sleep, despite the anticipation of soreness. No bicycling to work for me tomorrow…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rainy May, and the fate of the Bergen Umbrella

The weather really hasn’t been that bad while I’ve been in Bergen. Although it has rained a bit here and there, most of my bike rides to and from the city have actually been precipitation free! (I admit this was due to good timing.) And the temperature hasn’t gone below 50 degrees very many times...

I’d be quite content with the momentary sunbreaks (of which there have been many, and oh what a beautiful city!), except that everyone keeps raving about the weeks of amazing weather that ended the day I arrived. Starting around Easter it was sunny and 70. Snow quickly melted from hiking trails, people sunbathed and thought summer had come. Oh well, at least I’m used to the rain!

The weather forecast for the 17th of May – Norway’s Constitution Day – was once again for rain showers. People dressed in their bunads and fine clothing anyway and flooded (ha!) the city center for the parade. Gray skies menaced, but rain held off as the parade made its way along the waterfront. Then suddenly, as the fateful drops began to fall, they popped up one after the other... The crowded streets became a sea of umbrellas.

I wonder what percentage of the umbrellas produced in the world are sold in Bergen?

During the year I lived in Norway I was amazed by the quantity and intensity of the rainfall. It rains 80 inches per year on average in Bergen, compared to only 40 inches per year in Seattle and 60 in Juneau. I admired the children in rubber boots and onesie rainsuits and the fashionable practicality of women in long sleek raincoats.

After winds and often horizontal rains, I started to notice abandoned umbrellas scattered about the city, carcasses in a surreal sunny calm after the storm. During most of these encounters I was camera-less, but I was able to capture a few images. Until now I’ve never had a chance to share them with the world. I now present them to you, and hope the 17th of May umbrellas meet a better fate…


I’ll write soon about fisheries fieldwork in the fjords and visits with friends and Øye and Sandvik relatives.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hiking and biking in Northern Germany

When we lived together in Norway they must have gotten the impression that I like outdoor sports, ‘cause for the week that I was going to be in Germany, Johannes and Harmut planned an overnight backpacking trip and a 3-day cycling tour to the North Sea…

… We slept very well.

If I could characterize the week in 3 words, in addition to hiking and cycling I’d have to say napping. I napped on top of both the Brocken and the Ottofelsen in the Harz National Park. I napped on the train, I napped at lunch breaks, I napped waiting for bridges to close so we could continue cycling, and all three of us fell into a deep slumber by the shore of the North Sea. I’ve never really figured out how to cat-nap before, but this week I’ve fallen into dreams instantly. It helped that it was sunny pretty much the whole time.

If I had a few more words to describe the week, I’d say butterkuchen and beer. We compared butterkuchen (butter cake) and other pastries from village to village. Johannes and Hartmut made sure I sampled a decent selection of German pilsners and hefeweizens. Beers taste so good after a long day of hiking or cycling, and... maybe that’s the secret to good naps, too?

Give me a few more words and I’d also say yellow fields of rapeseed lit by the sun, wind turbines, canals, thatched roof houses, centuries-old cathedrals, city gates and brick and cobblestone streets. The sound of frogs and cuckoo birds. And sheep. Lots of sheep.

People bicycle a lot in Germany – people of all ages – and the bicycle infrastructure is inspiring. There are bicycle signs at most intersections in addition to signs directing cars, and always a bike path along the road or through the countryside. In the city there are both pedestrian and bicycle walk signals and a special section of the sidewalk designated for bikes. Seattle is doing its best, and I appreciate the efforts, but I definitely have some bicycle culture envy.

Thank you to Johannes for masterminding this action-packed week, and to his friends and relatives for hosting us along the way. We stayed with cousin Sarah in Berlin where we explored art-houses and saw the remains of the Berlin wall. His grandmother fed us amazing homemade rhubarb-kuchen when we stayed with her in Braunsweig the night before our hiking trip. There were many great conversations with Johannes’ flatmates in Bremen, Shiva and Stephan, who also cooked delicious food for us and made sure we had a glass of wine. Cousin Sandra in Nordenheim made moussaka and laughed with us until we could resist our sleeping bags no longer.

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Farming on the banks of an inland bay

Last week found me in Bowdoinham, Maine, a little town on the Cathance River. Sarah and Pete are gearing up for this season of vegetable farming, with a greenhouse brimming with starts. I came to volunteer for the week of repotting, transplanting and prepping beds.

I’ve known Sarah since we were 3 years old. We grew up on the same street in a small town in Southeast Alaska, both from fishing families of Scandinavian heritage. We’ve been side-kicks and partners in crime, and her adventures have inspired many of my own. Small Wonder Organics is her latest adventure, motivated by her deep commitment to living lighting on the earth and the belief that all people should have access to healthy, organic food.

Sarah and Pete met at a natural foods coop in Honolulu, HI. After they got married, their shared interest in growing their own food led them to an apprenticeship on an organic farm in British Columbia followed by a search for a place to settle and give the farming life a try. They chose well when they decided where they should begin their organic farm. Much of Maine’s soil is rocky and nutrient-poor, but their land borders Merrymeeting Bay, where 2 major rivers - the Androscoggin and Kennebec – and four smaller rivers converge, depositing nutrient-rich silt into a shallow ‘freshwater tidal bay’.

The ‘bay’ lies 17 miles inland, but the tide still manages to push all the way up through the lower Kennebec River estuary. The tide backs up the flow of the 6 rivers, resulting in an average tide of 5 ft. in Merrymeeting Bay. The narrow opening between the bay and the lower Kennebec, a 100 ft. deep boiling swirling 250-yard cut called ‘The Chops’, allows only a small amount of salt water to enter, preserving the freshwater characteristics of the bay. This allows local farmers to draw water directly from the bay to water their crops, although in some cases the pumps only work at high tide!

Sarah and Pete are not the only young farmers who have been attracted to Bowdoinham. At least 4 other young families are farming plots of land in the immediate area. In this rural agricultural region there is a vibrant community of passionate colleagues and friends committed to a way of life and way of production. They gather socially, share resources and ideas, and provide each other with friendly competition.

It was a cold spring, so Sarah and Pete had only just begun to transplant starts into the ground from the greenhouse while I was visiting. Sunday morning, as I was preparing to leave Maine, you could feel the excitement in the air and see a spring in Pete’s step, because the weather was warm and sunny the time had finally come to harrow the fields. As Sarah put it, the race was about to start… Good luck you guys!

- - -

The past two days I’ve been in New York city visiting my college roommate Vicki and her fiancee, John, as well as several other friends and relatives. Yesterday Nina and Vicki took me on a walking tour through Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. And this evening I fly to Europe!

- - -

And I leave you with a joke submission from Bonnie Loshbaugh!

Sven & Ole had been doing some construction work and ended up with a big pile of stuff to take to the dump. Sven pulled over to the side and said, “Ole, get back there and make sure things don’t fly out.” Obediently, Ole climbed in the back and lay down spread eagled, holding on to as much as he could, and they continued to the dump. One the way, they passed under a bridge, where two Swedes were walking by. They looked down at the truck, and one said to the other, “Look at that! Someone’s throwing out a perfectly good Norwegian!”

Wah wah…. Norway here I come! (Although as I found out, Norwegian jokes like this don’t actually exist in Norway…)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How I finally met the man who saved my life!

I’ve just had one of the biggest weeks of my life. I turned 30, submitted my masters thesis, moved out of my house and traded an amazing Phinney Ridge view for the vagabond life. And to top it all off, on Saturday I finally met the man who saved my life!

It’s fitting to start my travels in Boston – to come ‘home’ to a place from my past. I visited friends in Cambridge and met my undergraduate thesis advisor, Ted Macdonald, for coffee. I wanted to say thank you Ted, once again for your guidance 9 years ago, and for writing those recommendations that got me the Fulbright and accepted to grad school. I hope I’ve done you proud!

My godmother, Brita, picked me up and whisked me away to Newton, MA, which was my home away from home during college. I’ve spent the Easter weekend with Brita, Gary and Tali eating amazing food (including matzo brei, roast lamb and apple pie), hiking in the Blue Hills, and catching up on the details of our lives.

Saturday I took a side-trip to Vermont to visit a Norway Fulbright friend on his farm. Matthew Hoffman spent most of his 20s learning how to be a farmer, and then decided to go back to school for his Ph.D. He studies common property regimes, community development and land use. What he does is called natural resource sociology. After he finished his masters he took a few years off to remodel the farmhouse on his family’s land, and while he worked on his Ph.D. he built an exquisite barn using timber he’d cleared from the property. He took me on a walk through the pastures, forest and his grove of sugar maples, following the tracks of a wild turkey until they disappeared into flight.

My hope for Matthew is that he can find an amazing and satisfying teaching job close enough to home that he can stay on his farm and fill the barn with animals once more!

- - -

Once, during my year in Norway, Matthew and I were sitting at a bar with several other Fulbrighters, and the conversation turned to bears. Most people have a bear story, and we all love telling them. Having grown up in Southeast Alaska, I’ve got a few. There’s the one about the morning I woke up to the sound of the bear dragging my kayak down the beach, and the endless problems of bears rifling through garbage cans. But I told my favorite: the one about the time Tom Bodett saved my mother and me (in utero) from a bear attack! She was running outside of Petersburg, the town where I grew up, when a black bear began loping directly toward her across the muskeg. She stopped and screamed, but luckily a pick-up truck rounded the bend. Tom, a local carpenter, was at the wheel. He saw the scene unfolding and hit the gas, arriving just in time to drive between the bear and my mom, deflecting the charge. Breathless, she clambered into the cab…

“Have you ever heard of Tom Bodett?” I asked the crowd? “You know, the voice of Motel 6? ‘I’ll leave the light on for ya.’ I think he also appears regularly on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell me! Yup, he saved my life!”

Matthew looked at me funny. “Tom Bodett?”

“Yeah… have you heard of him?”

“Uh, Tom Bodett is my next door neighbor in Vermont. He’s looking after my farm for me right now…”


You see, Tom had moved away from Petersburg in 1982. He'd spent some time in Homer, AK where he'd gotten his first big break in the radio scene, and eventually he'd moved East to pursue that career. I had never met him, and didn't think I ever would!

Matthew and I wrote a letter to Tom Bodett, in which I was finally able to express my gratitude. “Thank you, Tom,” I wrote, “for saving my life. Without you, I wouldn’t be in Norway studying wild salmon restoration!”

But still I had never been able to thank him in person. On Saturday Matthew and I stopped to knock on Tom’s door. I expected him to be off somewhere recording a radio show, but we caught him at home. He was delighted to meet me. He says he tells the story often! And now, 30 years later, the story goes on!

- - -

This trip is about integrating pieces of my life, about celebration and reflection, and about re-connection. And just pure and simple vacation, too!

After Boston I’m heading to Maine to spend a week with Sarah and Pete helping out on their farm ( Then I’ll dip into big city life in New York before flying to Europe. I’ll be returning to Bergen, Norway for 1 month where I’ll live with my third cousin, Marta Kristin, and do some work for my employer and friend from my Fulbright year, Bjorn Barlaup. I’ll also visit friends in Germany and Spain before heading home to Seattle at the end of June.

I figure this old blog about my Fulbright year in Norway can be expanded to include the present adventures of this Norwegian-American girl! Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Report from Eirik on the 2008 summer of research fishing:

Laksesesongen i år vart prega av mykje oppdrettslaks. 2/3 av laksen var oppdrett. Til saman fekk eg 86 oppdrett og 43 villaks.Dei fleste av laksane fekk eg på Skolmen, men ein del vart og teke i kilenota. Helge Furnes fekk vel cirka 30 laksar. Dette var lite villaks som kom tilbake, sjølv om talet er det høgaste eg har fått nokon gong. På grunn av at innsatsen var stor vart talet høgare enn før, men eg trur nok likevel at det kom att meir laks i år enn i fjor då eg berre fekk 18 villaks. i 2006 trur eg eg fekk ca 40, året før vel 20, så hadde eg vel 40 i 2004 og 41 i 2003. 2003 var det året eg sat på gilja sist.

We caught mostly escaped farmed salmon this year - 2/3 of the salmon were farmed. In total I caught 86 farmed and 43 wild salmon. Most of the salmon were caught at Skolmen, but a few of them were caught in the kilenot. Helge Furnes also caught around 30 salmon. This is a very low return of wild salmon, even thought the numbers are the highest I have ever caught. The reason for the higher numbers is that the effort was higher this year than before, but I think even so that more salmon returned this year than last year when I only caught 18 wild salmon. In 2006 I think I caught about 40, and the year before about 20. In 2004 it was 40, and 41 in 2003, the last time that I fished from the gilje.

In Other News:

A documentary about the Vosso salmon restoration project came out in November, 2008 on NRK, the Norwegian public television station, which featured Helge Furnes and Eirik and includes amazing footage of Bolstad fjord and the farm where Helge lives.

The report on the Vosso salmon restoration project, "Nå eller aldri for Vossolaksen" (Now or Never for the Vosso Salmon) was also published in November, 2008, including a chapter that I wrote about the cultural importance of the Vosso salmon. It can be accessed here: