Breaking the Surface: People, Place, and Puget Sound

To be published by the University of Washington Press. In 2018, I was honored to receive a 4Culture Heritage Special Projects grant and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture CityArtists Project grant to work on this book.

Possessing the features of both a fjord and an estuary, Puget Sound is ecologically unique with its great depth, great diversity, and tremendous productivity. It is home for clams that live for 150 years, more than 250 species of fish, 14-foot-long sharks, and the largest octopus species on Earth. It has tideflats that have provided a bounty of food for thousands of years, underwater forests as complex as any terrestrial ecosystem, and deep canyons home to animals smaller than a grain of salt and as big as a school bus. But Puget Sound ecosystems have also suffered from human behavior including shoreline armoring, overfishing, toxin and pollutant runoff, habitat destruction, and climate change-induced chemical and temperature changes.

These impacts result from two centuries of post-settlement mindset, which held that Puget Sound and its surroundings were an abundant resource to be exploited. In the past couple of decades, however, we have entered an era of unprecedented understanding of the nature of this beautiful place. Numerous agencies and scientists are working to regulate fishing, control pollutants, and manage the land and water. Puget Sound may not be as healthy as when George Vancouver first “discovered” the waterway in 1792, but it is now viewed more as a prized ecosystem than a utilitarian one and in many ways exemplifies our modern connection to the natural world.

My goal is to illuminate relationships between people and environment, past and present, and natural landscapes and altered ones. How does this place we call Puget Sound impact those who live here? How do our actions affect Puget Sound and its inhabitants? Each chapter will weave personal observations, field time, discussions with experts, and examination of historical and recent documents to tell stories that help answer these questions. Breaking the Surface: People, Place, and Puget Sound will be my interpretation of a unique set of environmental and historical conditions and opportunities; it is just one of many stories that could be written.

Chapter 1 – Origin of Puget Sound
Chapter 2 – Peopling Puget Sound
Chapter 3 – The Maritime Highway
Chapter 4 – Defending the Sound
Chapter 5 – The Table is Set (Shellfish)
Chapter 6 – Old Fish and New Laws (Rockfish)
Chapter 7 – Seaweeds in the Sound (Kelp)
Chapter 8 – The Silver Wave (Herring)

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