Mornings of Creation

Windfall Harbor, Admiralty Island

Rainforests are prime ecosystems for generating moody weather.  The Tongass National Forest in the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska is a perfect example. At 16.7 million acres (6.76 million hectares), it is the largest national forest in the U.S. The Tongass is part of the Pacific temperate rainforest region, which stretches from northern California to Prince William Sound in Alaska, and is considered the most expansive on the planet.

Storms from the Pacific Ocean dump prodigious amounts of moisture on the mountainous terrain.  Rain and snowmelt are a constant source of water which is the lifeblood for a landscape rich in flora and fauna.  Consisting of Douglas fir, western red cedar, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock, these trees and surrounding vegetation contain more biomass per area than tropical forests, and are an important sink for carbon storage.

All five species of salmon and other fish thrive in the streams and rivers which support robust populations of brown and black bears, eagles, otters, sea lions, and other wildlife. This photo of Windfall Harbor on Admiralty Island was taken in the early morning and shows the characteristic rainforest mist rising from the landscape to join the clouds. This moisture will return as rain completing the hydrologic cycle.

The atmospherics lend a mysterious, primeval mood to this wilderness area. It reminds me of a journal entry that Henry David Thoreau, arguably America’s first environmentalist, wrote in 1853. In this photo, one can imagine that sometime during the night the world has been recreated, and is fresh and new. “Mornings of creation” he called them.

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