Fall, again

In case you were wondering, I’m still alive. I’ve been working to finish several different projects – the kind that, unlike this blog, actually pay my bills. There will be updates on that soon, the first one probably in the next few days. In the meantime, here’s a photo I took yesterday.

Bald eagles

There’s at least one more post coming up on that gender bias study, but in the meantime, we clearly need some nice, soft, feminine photos here.

Most of the world’s population of bald eagles is found in Alaska and here in BC. In Vancouver, they’re sometimes seen flying high overhead or perched up high in a tree. Travel north from here, and they become almost as common as seagulls, gliding above beaches, swooping down on buildings and poles. The photos here were taken in Port Hardy and Prince Rupert.

“Bald” eagles are not actually bald – “balde” is an Old English word for “white,” referring to the characteristic white plumage on the eagle’s head, and the name stuck. They only acquire that look as they reach maturity, around 4-5 years of age. (Their natural lifespan is around 20 years.) Juvenile eagles look quite different, to the extent that they could be mistaken for a different species. Here’s one.

Eagles are often thought of as majestic, dignified, aloof. But come here to the B.C. coast, and see what happens when they find a dead fish on the beach. Several of them will be jousting for it, circling the site, swooping on the fish, tearing a piece of meat and flying off again in an eyeblink. It’s a fascinating spectacle, it’s tremendous fun to watch, and it’s not the slightest bit dignified.

Inside Passage

The Inside Passage is the water route between Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, to Prince Rupert, on the Canadian west coast just south of the southern tip of Alaska. It is called the “Inside” Passage because only a small part of it faces the open ocean; most of it is sheltered by a complicated network of islands and channels. This is the route taken by cruise ships to Alaska.

I’ve wanted to see it ever since I moved to Vancouver in 2000. Each year until now, however, I needed a “do-nothing” vacation instead, the sort where you wake up, have breakfast and coffee, go for a walk on the beach, read a book on the patio, have lunch, continue likewise for the rest of the day, and go to sleep early unless there’s live music downstairs. This year was the first time I felt like having a more active vacation where I would actually travel from place to place. So, Inside Passage it was.

I opted for a week-long itinerary driving to Port Hardy first (starting with a ferry to Nanaimo), taking the ferry to Prince Rupert, staying there for a couple of days, then returning the same way. Another option would have been to drive from Prince Rupert back to Vancouver, via Prince George and Williams Lake (the car travels with you on the ferry). I might still do it sometime, but since I’ve done a part of that route already and it was the Inside Passage that I was most interested in, I took the ferry both ways.

You should be warned that it’s a long day. The ferry leaves at 7:30 am and arrives at 10:30 pm, in both directions, and you should arrive at the terminal at 5:30 am for boarding (if you come after 6 am, you risk losing your reservation). That’s an 18-19 hour day minimum, if you add driving between the hotels and the ferry terminals.

The first couple of hours out of Port Hardy are… somewhat uneventful. Much like the ferry ride to Nanaimo, only longer. Then it starts getting more scenic. Then it keeps getting better, until you reach the Grenville Channel, which is one of the most scenic water routes anywhere in the world. If you’ve driven the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper, this is the water equivalent of it, with steep cliffs and snowcapped mountain peaks rising over a thousand feet on both sides.

Here are a few teaser photos. I will be posting more on Google+ as I go through the images (about 600 of them, but that includes duplicates and throwaways). In addition to the scenery, there will be eagles and grizzly bears.

Back from the summer school

The summer school in analysis was excellent. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and the engagement of the participants. This was also my first visit to the beautiful island of Catalina, and while we obviously weren’t there on vacation, we did have a free afternoon to explore it.

Also, my sabbatical leave officially begins today. I have spent a good deal of time in recent years establishing the harmonic analysis group at UBC, recruiting and supervising postdocs and graduate students, organizing conferences and institute programs, and serving the community in other ways (Putnam committee, expository writing and talks). This all has been satisfying, but it also took a toll on my own research program, and it is about time to rectify that. I look forward to being able to engage fully in research over the next year.

A panoramic view of Avalon, Catalina.