Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesus Came for the Insane, the Unfulfilled, the Searching

We all know that in the tales about Jesus that he hung out with the unsavory types. We know he called common unremarkable people and down right bad guys to be his disciples. We are all pretty sure however that he would really rather be with us in our carpeted air conditioned church buildings as we pass the offering plate and baptize the annual new convert in warm clean clear water in a Sunday post sermon show. But that's wrong. That is the accumulated crust of two thousand years of bull shit absorbing the truth about what this is all about.

Poetry & Song always seem to open a passage to parts of us we didn't know were there. We have personal wildernesses with valleys brim full of the truth. Sometimes a poem is a pathway to those places. This is one for me.

If your heart yearns for a more it doesn’t know,
if you’ve suffered blow after blow
and can barely dare to lift your head,
if you’ve ever wished you’d rather been -
if you’ve bled, or tried to bind a wound
if you’ve cried then tied a knot to choke
the flow of hope before it can open up
a way to disappoint again
and leave you broken
then this is for you.
If you’ve longed, if you’ve wronged,
if you choke on the words to your favourite song,
if you need a Doctor,
or you’re beyond
medical help
then come.
If you’re cracked, if you’re splintered,
if your Winter is just too long,
if this Winter is just too long,
(but the thought of Spring is terrifying,)
then come.
Because Jesus came
for the broken brother and sister,
the ache, the pain and the blister,
the wrong decision,
the open wound
the blurred vision
the won’t-ever-hope-again.
Jesus came
for the insane, the unfulfilled, the searching
the street child, the tramp and the urchin,
the poor little rich girl snorting coke and
cursing, and the man who sold it to her.
Jesus came for those nursing a need,
nursing a drink
out of control,
on the blink,
on the brink,
falling overboard, and about to -
sobbing at the kitchen sink.
Jesus came for those the world drives mad,
for the bad, yes the bad,
Jesus came for the bad,
so if that’s never been you,
then fine, just go, because
Jesus didn’t come for the well, the swell,
“the hell – I’ve got everything I need”
the nothing’s-lacking, the non-cracking up.
He’s not interested in courting the sorted
he came to fill the cup of the thirsty,
the worst, the broken, the burst open,
Jesus came for the sick.
the packed-up, the cracked-up,
the smashed, hopes dashed, and the picked-on,
the meek, the weak, the stuttering,
those who blush when they speak
and the walked-out-on.
Jesus came for the left behind,
for the cheats and the cheated,
the ones who crossed the line
and the ones who still don’t know where to begin.
Jesus came for the people who know how it feels
when you say “sin”
for the broken to open,
to break for those who choke,
for the people who don’t have everything we need,
for the ones who know we need hope.

© Jude Simpson 2007

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Humpback Whales Bubble Net Feeding Juneau, Alaska

"The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water." When you look at the photographs you lose perspective of how large the creatures really are. The diagram above gives you the size of the animals in these photographs. So when you see a fin, a tail ,hump, or blow spout refer back to the drawing to see how those compare to the whole animal.

We left junior on the MS Amsterdam as we took a Holland American excursion out to look for the humpback whale. He had a good view and several salmon were jumping in the water so he was well entertained.

We took a jet powered catamaran out to Akue Bay.
We passed one of the Alaskan Marine Highway's ferries on our way out. These ferries crisscross SE Alaska providing access to its otherwise isolated towns and cities.

The shores in this region drop off into steep and deep canyons carved by glaciers long ago. So Whales can come very close inshore. These sport fishermen seem oblivious to the humpback feeding close to them.

In fact as we watched we couldn't help but wonder if they both might be after the same fish.

Our objective was to find humpbacks bubble net feeding in the bay.
"The humpback has the most diverse feeding repertoire of all baleen whales. Its most inventive technique is known as bubble net feeding: a group of whales swims in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey. The shrinking ring of bubbles encircles the school and confines it in an ever-smaller cylinder. This ring can begin at up to 30 metres (98 ft) in diameter and involve the cooperation of a dozen animals. Using a crittercam attached to a whale's back it was discovered that some whales blow the bubbles, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd prey into the net by vocalizing. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the 'net', mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp. Plated grooves in the whale's mouth allow the creature to easily drain all the water that was initially taken in. Solitary humpbacks have also been observed employing this technique"

"The humpback is an energetic hunter, taking krill and small schooling fish, such as herring(Clupea harengus), salmon (Salmo salar), capelin (Mallotus villosus) and sand lance (Ammodytes americanus) as well asmackerel (Scomber scombrus), pollock (Pollachius virens) andhaddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in the North Atlantic. Krill and copepods have been recorded from Australian and Antarctic waters. Humpbacks hunt by direct attack or by stunning prey by hitting the water with pectoral fins or flukes."

We were aboard a vessel from the Allen Marine Tours, Juneau that was arranged through Holland America.

We were very lucky on this excursion. We were able to observe at least three different pods of humpbacks bubble net feeding several times each.

We watched this one pod bubble net three times virtually in some guys front yard. (enlarge the photo and see the home on the shore)

That humpback whales use bubble net feeding was a relatively recent discovery. "In 1979, a high school teacher in Juneau, named Charles Jurasz, was the first to observe and write about humpback whales using a cooperative feeding technique with complex bubble blowing. He called the technique 'bubble net feeding." The aerial photo above shows the technique.

This guy was courting.

The next series of photos are of a single pod of 16 whales bubble feeding.

Where there are whales feeding there will be birds looking for a meal of there own.

It was a very very good day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cruising Tracy Arm Alaska

Alaska is one of those places where no matter where you look you find something interesting. With a reasonable camera and a good eye taking good photographs is not hard to do in Alaska.

The Amsterdam is a mid-size cruise ship. The half dozen or so craft in the arm with us were much smaller.

Getting into Tracy Arm required threading a narrow channel at the beginning of the valley that passed through the terminal glacial moraine left by the Sawyer Glacier where it reached its greatest extent of growth. You had to "cross over the bar"
to get in.

"Tracy Arm is a fjord in Alaska near Juneau. It is named after a Civil War general named Benjamin Franklin Tracy. It is located about 45 miles (72 km) south ofJuneau and 70 miles (110 km) north of Petersburg, Alaska, off of Holkham Bay and adjacent toStephens Passage within the Tongass National Forest. Tracy Arm is the heart of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, designated by the United States Congress in 1980."

Famed naturalist John Muir compared the glacial-carved sheer granite cliffs in the area to those of Yosemite, saying that this region was even more spectacular than the more well known Yosemite valley."

In July of this year Okie Book Woman and I took a little Cruise aboard Holland America's MS Amsterdam. We were on board for two weeks. On July 11 we took a cruise through the gap in the terminal moraine into the water filled valley left by a glacier into Tracy Arm. This cruise through the Tracy Arm was part of the Amsterdam's tour of Alaska. All of the pictures were taken from the top deck of the ship.

"Glacial calving in Tracy Arm can often be quite spectacular, as huge chunks of ice break off and plunge into the frigid waters below. The fjord is truly one of the most dramatic locations in Alaska, or in all of the world, for that matter. The sheer, glacier-carved walls are often shrouded in mist. (Check out commercial videos here)

Many of these chunks of ice are larger than several buses combined, so the effect can be simply jaw-dropping.

During the summer, the fjords have considerable floating ice ranging from the size of a three-story building to hand-size pieces. During the most recent glaciated period, both fjords were filled with active glaciers.

We observed and took photos of humpback whales, seals, eagles, and of course the magnificent ice carved cliffs and valleys that came into the fjord. Birds and birds and birds abound in the arm. All of these predators share a reason they are here, the fish. In addition the seals come into the arm to pup their young. Orca, killer whales, which prey on seals don't like the ice flows. They are dangerous to them, and they stay away. So the pups are born and spend their first days of life in safety on the ice flows.

"The most common access is by boat using Stephen's Passage and entering Holkham Bay and Tracy and Endicott Arms. Float planes from Juneau and Petersburg are also used as a means of access. Large tour vessels and smaller commercial cruise boats frequently use Tracy Arm as a tour destination or as a stop along their normal tour routes."

There were several eagles observed while in the arm. This one was guarding his nest.

This small ship and ice berg are about the same size. Imagine what it would have been like when this berg calved off the glacier, a few days or weeks ago.

One of my companions said these were white-winged scoters. I'll take his word on it.

"The Sawyer Glaciers at the end of Tracy Arm may not be the most famous glaciers in Alaska, but many visitors find them to be the most dramatic. Framed by mountains on either side, the glaciers are often bathed in a light mist that amplifies the blue hue of the ice."

As the tide goes out the ice flows ground on the different bars and moraines and show formations like this.

For the most part the humpbacks were hunting as single animals here and avoided coming close in to the ship.

Almost like a face in the sea, the humpback whale's "blow hole" is distinctly shaped like a nose.

I will be posting more pictures and videos of these cruise excursions over the next few weeks.