National Geographic : 1977 Jan
C ONFRONTING A CREATURE with a five foot reach and four times as many arms as he has, Frank Wolff wasn't inclined to argue-he surrendered his fish to the octopus. The encounter took place in the San Juan Islands on the northern approaches to Washington State's immense Puget Sound. Frank, Jim Whittaker, who was one of the first American conquerors of Mount Everest, and I had taken off for a day's scuba diving among the islands. Dropping anchor in a remote cove, we went over board and set out to explore a submarine-canyon wall. At 70 feet Frank speared a choice three-pound lingcod. Then he caught a hint of familiar movement in a nearby crevice of the wall. Thinking to tempt the oc cupant out for a closer look, he dangled the fish on his spear shaft at the mouth of the crevice. Instantly a mottled brown arm shot from the crev ice, stripped the cod from the spear, and vanished back into the wall with the prize. Frank eyed the bare shaft for a long moment and turned to us with a shrug: So much for our seafood dinner. Fortunately, Frank found a replacement-a large black rockfish-and we returned to the surface. Over preparations for lunch I asked Frank, a veteran diver in Puget Sound, how big the octopus was. "Probably ten feet tip to tip," he answered. "I figure that one arm at about five feet." He shook his head. "It was a good-size octopus, but I've seen bigger. So will you, if you stay around a while." Scenic Grandeur Born of Violence I stayed two months and never saw a bigger octo pus, but I encountered other giants in and around Puget Sound, among them the world's largest timber company, the world's largest manufacturer of air liners, and what some say is the world's largest edible clam-a Bunyanesque tidbit that weighs 16 pounds or more and goes by the local name of gooeyduck. Puget Sound itself is a giant product of earth's convulsions. Clenched in the volcanic fist of the Cas cade and Olympic ranges, the huge basin was created by the motion of crustal plates, then scraped and honed by glaciers that buried their handiwork be neath a mile of ice some 14,000 years ago. Even today Puget Sound echoes to occasional re minders of its violent origin. In the northern Cascades the supposedly dormant volcano Mount Baker peri odically looses clouds of steam over its summit and stains its icy slopes with immense mud slides. Violence begot beauty on a monumental scale. Pu get Sound proper extends over some 700 breathtaking square miles (map, next page), encircled by 1,400 miles of wooded coastline, (Continued on page 76) SEA GATE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST Puget Sound By WILLIAM GRAVES ASSISIANI 1:EDIOR Photographs by DAVID ALAN HARVEY Salmon to smile about! Bob Hall hefts a ten-pound coho at the Lummi Indians' fish ranch near Bellingham, Washington. The tribe's pioneer venture releases young fish to mature at sea, then traps them when they return to spawn. About 40 commercial aquiculture ventures flourish in the Puget Sound region-citadel of industry and vast outdoor playground.