CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 18 Made in America: Part III - Page 110

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M out of the brief harvesting windows ahead. Spring Known as the Tongass, Southeast Alaska is the territory of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples who have lived among its countless islands and es- tuaries for thousands of years. One of the last wild salmon strongholds, this coastal rainforest flourishes with seasonal abundance. When frost and snow recedes life explodes in a flurry that awakens hibernating bears, calls hump- back whales back from Hawaii, and sets the table for all.   In May the snow still blankets the top half of the mountains, and the Barnacle crew is out on the water searching for early season kelp beds. Sunshine shim- mers in the glassy seas ahead of the FV Dial West. The boat's 30-foot alumi- num hull chugs along slowly at 6.7 knots to the steady hum of the diesel en- gine. The kelp beds of Peril Strait await, 15 hours south. We pass the time studying the shore and competing to see how many brown bears we can spot. The bears are hungry and gorging on fresh spring greens above the high tide line. “That’s a rock.” — “It’s definitely a bear, look! Behind the point ... there it moved!” Okay. It’s a bear.   It’s been a cold spring, and we’ve heard that the kelp is still small, perhaps completely below the water’s surface and un-harvestable. Despite these re- ports we remind ourselves this trip is as much to learn as it is to come back with kelp. We are some of the first in Alaska to take a keen interest in bull kelp’s abundance, and we are working with biologists to map out the re- source’s extent in space and time.   Bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, grows like an annual plant, dying back and seeding a new generation each year. It grows incredibly fast — during the height of the growing season a single kelp can grow up to 10 inches a day. Kelp is also highly adept at concentrating and safekeeping the ocean's diverse nu- trients. Kelp's high mineral content makes for a savory flavor only found in foods from the ocean. Kelp has been a staple food of coastal people for mil- lennia, and it’s densely nutritious giving the body a little bit of everything the ocean has in it.   Low tide temporarily peels back the ocean to reveal a landscape caught be- tween two worlds. Colorful contours sweep along the shoreline where bands of habitat change from dark blue mussels, to golden brown seaweeds, to white barnacle covered rocks above. Low tide is when we have our best chance of finding early season kelp as it grows up from the seafloor at depths of 10 to 60 feet. We awaken at 3 a.m., as the sun is rising, to catch the morning low tide © Hundred-to-One LLC 2018. All rights reserved.