by JOHN MAXWELL
For the Sequim Gazette
“I left Seattle by Puget Sound Steamer at 10:30 P.M. September 16, and arrived at Dungeness at 8:00 A.M. Sept. 17. I phoned to Mr. Brooks, keeper of the light on Dungeness Spit, and he came over (2 miles) in his power boat.”
Thus, G.W. Field began his September 1918 report to the Chief of the Biological Survey in Washington, D.C., about his inspection trip to the U.S. Government wild bird reservations on the Olympic Peninsula.
He had to address several problems on this trip:
1. “Mr. Brooks, the light keeper, told me that some days hundreds of birds were found dead at the base of the tower. A few days previous to my visit (Sept. 17, 1918) a very large number, ‘perhaps 300-400 mostly small yellow birds were killed.’”
Apparently the birds were confused by the rotating light and circled the tower all night until they fell exhausted and died. Field said that by the time he arrived, scavengers and children had cleaned up almost all the dead birds. Yet at the same time, the keeper on Ediz Hook reported no birds killed there. Field theorized it was because there were two lights on Ediz Hook, and that possibly the hook lay just outside the migratory flight path.
2. Finding a new warden.
“I learned that Lloyd Duncan, our warden, had died about a month ago. Mr. Brooks says that _____ Gelant, would be the best man for warden during the open season at Dungeness to replace the late Lloyd Duncan. Mr. Brooks will get all the necessary facts preliminary to his appointment and will forward direct to the Bureau. He said he could secure all the data required so that the man could be on the job Oct. 1.”
According to James C. Isom’s book about the New Dungeness Lighthouse, Edward A. Brooks was head keeper from October 1902 to August 1925. In that time he obviously came to know local people very well.
3. Hunt clubs on the south side of Dungeness Bay were baiting waterfowl out of the refuge and into range of their guns by spreading 10-20 tons of food grain — wheat, oats and rice — on the adjoining fields.
The hunt clubs held shooting parties for both business and political reasons. They could easily limit out in one day. Any dead birds not picked up by the hunters or their families were simply left on the ground as waste. Leftover grain eventually sprouted, causing problems for the farmers who owned the fields.
Not only did Field not like the baiting, but he believed the clubs were breaking the law.
There was a war on — World War I — and food grains were strictly rationed, along with meat and sugar. Field urged his boss in D.C. to report this to the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover. Field added in his report, “It is also a favorable time for the Survey to emphasize the advantage of increasing the natural food and feeding places for wild ducks and geese, by eliminating carp from natural duck and geese ponds, and by planting suitable natural plant foods. Thus gradually preparing the way for modification or elimination of the pernicious system of “baiting” now practiced by the majority of ducking clubs in most sections of the country.”
Field’s journey continued: “From Dungeness Reservation I went by auto to Sequim and took train 12:10 P. M. Sept. 17, for Port Angeles, (Edy Hook Reservation) and the starting point of mail stage for Mora, Washington, (Quillayute Bird Reservation). Arrived Port Angeles, (35 miles) 1:30 P. M.”
There the county game warden and chief forest ranger both informed him that no birds were on Edy Hook, which is merely “a long, narrow sand spit, with fishermen’s shacks, and drifted logs and debris.”
The U.S. Marines were using Edy Hook for target practice.
“I was unable at that time to get transportation except at considerable expense, and as there appeared no pressing necessity for a visit, I decided to push on to the Quillayute Reservation at first chance, which was the mail stage at 7:00 A.M. next morning.”
On his return he encountered the assistant Ediz Hook light keeper who had come across with mail, and who confirmed all previous information: “No shooting, except target practice by the marines. Previous to this there had been no gunning. No bird colonies; few, if any birds breeding, no flyway for tempting duck or wild fowl shooters; no necessity for a wardan, (sic) no birds killed at the lighthouse at night as is the case at Dungeness, 14 miles away.”
Field ends his report: “In view of these facts I did not think the visit (to the Hook) warranted the expense and I cancelled boat arrangements and arranged to go up the Elwha river with Mr. J.W. Pike to view the winter range of the Olympic elk.”
Marines shooting at Ediz Hook? Remember, there was a war going on. Port Angeles Harbor was busy with the government spruce project to cut and ship spruce and fir lumber for building airplanes.
Field made his way back home to Seattle, arriving just ahead of the Spanish influenza pandemic as it scythed its way around the globe. By mid-October, Seattle, Tacoma and the North Olympic Peninsula were all under strict quarantine.
John Maxwell is a historian for the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.
Learn about geology of the Dungeness Spit
Dave Parks, a geologist with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, will lead a “Rock Walk” to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on July 18. The program is offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Parks will discuss the geologic history and coastal evolution of Dungeness Spit and examine the stratigraphy of the coastal bluffs west of the base of the spit. Parks also will discuss recent research on the rates of coastal bluff erosion in the Dungeness drift cell.
The “Rock Walk” will start at the Upper Overlook at the top of the trail leading down to the Dungeness Spit. Participants should wear sturdy walking shoes and weather-appropriate clothing. Parks is a licensed engineering geologist and hydrogeologist located in Port Angeles.
The “Rock Walk” is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.dungeness100.com or call the refuge office at 457-8451 or send an e-mail to: email@example.com.