Nenahlmai Narrows. July 30, 2014.
02 August 2014 | posted at Port McNeill
Photo: Sea stars and mussels on the shore of Nenahlmai Narrows.
The outboard roared as Steve put it up to full throttle, but the dinghy remained in place -- no match for the 6 knot current of maximum ebb in the Nenahlmai Narrows. But then we knew that; we'd come here to see the current through this narrow slot too shallow for our sailboat.
He started to turn the boat when I saw the riot of orange at and just below the water's edge. "Starfish!" I shouted. He gunned the outboard again and drove us as close to the shore as he dared. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of sea stars lined the edge of the Narrows in a broad band of orange. Other orange splotches were scattered along the bottom farther out-- everywhere a rock provided the right depth for mussels and sea stars. It would have been impossible to count the stars even if the current hadn't been running; they were so piled on top of each other.
It was clear what was happening; water rushing in and out of Nenahlmai lagoon carried an abundance of food for the filter feeding mussels. The mussels in turn provided an abundance of food for the sea stars.
Just two months earlier we had seen the devastating effect of sea star wasting disease on Blakely Rock in Puget Sound; stars with missing legs, stars whose bodies looked like mush and the numbers of sea stars far fewer than we had seen there before. It was thrilling to see this pocket of healthy ochre sea stars. They represented hope for Puget Sound.