Life on Tatoosh Island topic of Wednesday talk

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PORT TOWNSEND — Imagine life in 1958 without computers or cellphones and picture living in isolation on a tiny island facing horrific storms, dangerous waters and rugged terrain.

To venture off or onto the island, one must climb into a boat basket and be hoisted up or down a 90-foot cliff by a huge boom.

To hear more details and see photographs of this primitive lifestyle, listen to Joanne Pickering at noon Wednesday at the Northwest Maritime Center at 431 Water St., as she tells of four years of hazard and hardship while living on Tatoosh Island from 1958 to 1962.

The lecture, which will continue until 1:30 p.m., is part of an ongoing educational series, free to the public, called Wooden Boat Wednesdays.

Pickering and her husband, Earl, moved to Tatoosh Island, a treeless sentinel at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Neah Bay, after he landed his first job, which was with the U.S. Weather Bureau.

The Pickerings lived on the island for four years.

“At that time, the weather info from Tatoosh was extremely important to the forecast center in Seattle,” Joanne Pickering said.

“Gathering weather data back then was so primitive compared to today’s technology, with radars and satellites, but it was extremely valuable for ships.”

In the early 1800s, the Strait of Juan de Fuca had begun to grow as a major shipping artery.

Tatoosh Island quickly became known as a ship graveyard.

When storms raged in the Strait, Tatoosh Island was hazardous to ships because of the plethora of rocks radiating out from its shores and the strong tide that pulled ships off course.

This hazard necessitated the construction of the Tatoosh Lighthouse and fog bell that were completed in 1857.

In 1883, a weather station was established on the island, and data were transmitted to the forecast center in Seattle.

Joanne Pickering will provide photographs of the island, which show the abundant wildlife and beauty of the rugged place.

She will provide information about the Makah tribe, who used Tatoosh as a summer fishing and whaling camp for many centuries, and present a brief history of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Weather Service’s activities on the island.

To make reservations, email or call 360-385-3628, ext. 101.

Last modified: October 07. 2012 6:02PM
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