Popular Science Monthly/Volume 60/January 1902/The Minnesota Seaside Station
|THE MINNESOTA SEASIDE STATION.|
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA.
WHEN, in 1900, a tract of land on the Straits of Fuca was offered for the uses of a marine station to be operated in connection with the University of Minnesota, the transfer was made and the construction of a laboratory-camp begun. Previous and full information concerning the site had been received. It had been personally examined by a member of the University staff and had been highly commended. Being at the entrance of the Straits it was easily accessible to the Sound and to the open sea, while its littoral fauna and flora were known to be uncommonly interesting and rich both in species and individuals. One difficulty existed: there was no road from Port Renfrew to the laboratory site—a distance of about three miles. Consequently the whole matter was laid before the British Columbian Parliament then in session at Victoria, and through the assistance of the honorable members from the districts of Esquimalt and San Juan, with the approval of H. M. Commissioner of Works, a grant was obtained for a suitable road, work upon which was in progress during the summer of 1901.
In the initial movements incident to the establishment of the Station many Victorians were both interested and effective. From Sir Henri Joly de Lotbiniere, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, to the humblest citizen there was received only the most uniform and delightful courtesy. To acknowledge so many kindnesses is indeed a pleasure, and to the members of the Government and of the Natural History Society of Victoria, and to all others who were of assistance sincere appreciation and thanks are due.
The usefulness of a marine station on the Pacific as an adjunct to the laboratories of a university located far inland naturally needs no proclamation. During more than two decades, experience gained by American students at such points as Beaufort, Woods Holl, Cold Spring Harbor, Pacific Grove and elsewhere has demonstrated that the broadest and best foundations for a knowledge of morphology can not be laid without the assistance of instruction and research at the shore. More and more must the recognition of this fact become general, and with each succeeding year the number of serious students at the ocean-side and facilities for their work must increase and improve. That there should be stations upon both the eastern and the western coasts is imperative, and each will come to have its peculiar excellences and will develop its special lines of work. The eastern station has the advantages of accessibility while the western enjoys those of remoteness. At the laboratory on the eastern shore one may perhaps look for more conveniences and refinements; at that on the western coast one may expect more novelty and a greater openness and freedom of opportunity. To the student in the far west nothing can be more helpful than contact with the east; for the student in the east nothing is more to be desired than a sojourn in the west. Apparently, then, stations upon the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are alike desirable, and each with its own field of usefulness may be the complement of the other. Not only does the truth of this appear from the point of view of sound and broad instruction, but quite as impressively in connection with research. The living organisms of the two great oceans are by no means identical. To the student who turns his face from the Atlantic to the Pacific feeling that the New England or New Jersey shore has become somewhat trite and habitual, there is a fresh inspiration and enthusiasm to be derived from the coast of California or Vancouver.
One very distinct advantage enjoyed by a west coast station is the surpassing interest of the journey by which it is reached from a mid-continental or eastern point. While the tourist from Chicago to New York or Boston finds the journey swift and luxurious, he is passing through a relatively monotonous and uninteresting country. It is quite otherwise with the traveler from Minneapolis to Port Renfrew. In estimating the advantages of the Minnesota Seaside Station as an outpost of natural science and nature-study, there must certainly be taken into account not only its own immediate environment, but the route by which it is most conveniently reached from an eastern city. The journey over the Canadian Pacific, made in special cars and with the privilege of stopping at will, cannot be paralleled elsewhere on the continent. From the forest of central Minnesota the train speeds on through illimitable wheat-fields billowing and shimmering from horizon to horizon. It climbs from the valley of the Eel river out upon the vast and lonely plains of Assiniboia and swings westward, hour after hour, over the silent ranges furrowed everywhere by unnumbered feet of the departed herd. It rises to the foothills beyond Calgary and sights the white wall of the Rocky mountains a hundred miles away. It plunges through the Gap at Canmore, ascends the valley of the Bow between colossal peaks, crosses the continental divide at Laggan, drops down the canyon beside a foaming torrent to the mountain-girt valley of the Columbia, rises again mile after mile into the icy air of Rogers Pass amid the glaciers of the Selkirk summits and finds its way with the rushing waters of the
Illicillewaet down to the Columbia again at Revelstoke. It hurries through echoing valleys, beside enchanting lakes, across ridges and chasms into the desert along the Thompson. It enters the historic valley of the Fraser and underneath frowning cliffs creeps down the reverberant gorge to the wonderful amphitheaters of Yale and Hope and finally reaches Vancouver and the sea. Then come the steamer voyages through the Straits of Georgia to Victoria and through the Straits of Fuca to Port Renfrew, and at last the invigorating walk through the forest or sturdy pull along the shore. To the lover of nature as well as to the serious student of ecology or plant distribution there is perhaps nowhere in the world a more inspiring and instructive journey of two thousand miles than this. It gives an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the forests, the prairies, the plains, the foot-hills, the mountains, the glaciers, the deserts and the sea.
At such points as Lake Louise, where the mountain scenery is indescribably grand, there is an unequaled field for the study of talus vegetation, the influence of the snow-line and the avalanche upon plant distribution and the characteristic population of mountain-park and meadow. Here one comes close to the wild life of the peaks, and far above the lake one may see the goats grazing upon their inaccessible crags or one may sometimes hear the roar of a grizzly rising distinct
above the clamor of the torrents. At Glacier the effect of ice-currents upon the growth and distribution of plants is most interestingly displayed. A series of photographs beginning just in front of the ice-mass and extending some hundreds of yards down the valley of the Illicillewaet shows at a glance how revegetation has proceeded, as the glacier has slowly and regularly retreated.
The exact situation of the Minnesota Seaside Station is in a little cove at the entrance of the Straits of Fuca, nearly opposite Cape Flattery, just outside the picturesque harbor of Port Renfrew and about sixty miles north of the city of Victoria. The west shore of Vancouver island is described in the old books of travel as a 'stern and rock-bound coast,' and it is indeed a perilous one for navigation. During much of the year there is mist and fog to conceal the reefs and ledges and it has been the scene of many a tragedy of the sea since the old days of Drake and Ferrelo and the quest for the Northwest Passage. If the fog hangs low one may perhaps hear in the offing the sullen note of an Oriental liner as she feels her way into the Straits of Fuca, or if the skies are
clear one may look across the water to the blue shores of Washington, indented by Neah and Clallam bays and prolonged westward into the ocean to the rock upon which stands Cape Flattery light. To the left rise the far-shining peaks of the Olympic mountains and, with a binocular,
glaciers can be seen upon their untrodden summits. When the Straits are flashing with the breeze, the picture of ocean, shore, forest and mountain is one of the most beautiful in the world, rivaling the bay of Naples or the Adriatic and almost equaling the matchless Peruvian coast and the sea-front of Ecuador.
The log buildings of the Station stand in a small clearing and have en outlook upon the Straits and upon the Pacific. With the forest behind and the ocean in front their situation is as perfect scenically as it is for the purposes of science. Miles of tide-pools, reefs and kelp-covered rocks are easily accessible along the water front, while landward the hills rise to a height of nearly 3,000 feet. Four miles back are the mouths of the San Juan and Gordon rivers, both of which flow into Renfrew port and may be utilized as canoe routes towards the lakes and mountains of the interior. Over the whole country side spreads the primeval and well-nigh impenetrable forest of Vancouver with its gnarled yews, enormous cedars and towering spruces. On each side of
At present the buildings of the Station number two and comprise a small house, 25 by 12 feet, on the shore, with a larger building, 60 by 25 feet, in the rear and on the higher ground. A third building is to be erected during the winter. Last summer, when a party of thirty-three went west from Minneapolis, it was apparent that the buildings would be inconveniently crowded, but by devoting half of the large living room to laboratory purposes it was possible to accommodate all who desired to work. The small house was used principally for microscopic work and for preservation of anatomical material. It received the name of the 'Formalose Club' from some ingenious members of the party. The large house is two stories in height and arranged for general camp purposes. Below, a transverse hallway divides the kitchen and storeroom from the
dining and living room. The latter with its large fireplace at the end and its festoons of flags and bunting in the University colors proved to be attractive and cheerful. Above, two large bunk rooms, one for men and one for women, afford the comforts of balsam beds to the weary, after the day's work is done.
Station equipment did not present a very serious problem during the first season. Most of the party preferred to devote their energies to the collection of material. However, some twelve or fifteen microscopes were in use, and both the small library and the store of chemicals and glassware were daily drawn upon.In view of the many novel varieties and curious habits of the seaweeds they were the principal objects of study during the season of 1901.
Not only did they prove of unusual taxonomic interest—some entirely new species being collected—but also well worthy of careful ecological research. Their zonal distribution, formation groups and choice of special substrata were noted, together with their behavior at different stages of the tide. Often very sharp lines of demarcation between different algal societies were exhibited. In Figure 8 an excellent example is reproduced. At the rear, near the center, is seen the characteristic fringe of salal (Gaultheria shallon) in front of which Enteromorpha colonies are established upon the flat sandstone. In the foreground appears a sharp zone of wrack (Fucus evanescens). In this view there is also shown some of the unusually vigorous epiphytic moss-vegetation so
abundantly represented on Vancouver island. Another very distinct instance of zonal distribution is shown in Figure 9, the photograph having been taken at low tide. In the foreground the slender leaves of a marine angiosperm (Phyllospadix scouleri) are seen, spread over which are fronds of Egregia, one of the most notable of the west coast kelps. The sides of the dome-shaped rock are draped with kelp, principally Egregia and Alaria, while the top is covered with a fairly uniform and copious growth of the alga which has passed under the name of Halosaccion hydrophora, but concerning which it is possible that an error has been made by American phycologists.
Under other topographic conditions the zonal distribution is not so evident, and in Figure 10 is shown an arrangement of algae and animals upon a much creviced slate. Barnacles of two distinct types and mussels, mingled with a growth of Endocladia muricata, appear in this
view, but the general grouping is less clearly concentric. Nevertheless the Endocladia zone is pretty well defined as a mid-tide algal society and sometimes shows sharp demarcation when favorably situated for a pure growth.
Among the high-tide algae—those occupying the upper zones—Pelvetia is an interesting form. It occurs at the same levels adopted by Fucus, of which it is taxonomically an ally, and often produces considerable beds, though not everywhere abundant like the Fucus. In Figure 11 a group of Pelvetia is Fig. 16. A Frond of Desmarestia ligulata herbacea taken from the Wash after a Storm. shown and its habit can easily be I recognized.
Of the low-tide algae there is not only a characteristic segregation relative to depth of water, but a careful selection of habits more or less exposed to the influence of the surf and surge. Quite a characteristic group of surf-plants including such kelps as Postelsia palmaeformis and one species of Alaria display themselves where the surf is strongest and seem to require the foaming water of the breakers for their best development. Below these in more sheltered places one finds Hedophyllum, Alaria and Egregia. Below Postelsia, but exposed to strong surge, grow the Lessonias, while Pterygophora seeks the bottom of the surge and Fig. 17. Plant of the Rhodomela floccosa taken from the Wash and Photographed in a Glass-bottomed Tank. Nereocystis anchors itself in still deeper water outside the line of breakers. In this outer zone, too, Macrocystis and Dictyoneuron seem to find their best opportunities for growth, while Costaria comes somewhat nearer shore. The latter is, however, commonly brought up with the Nereocystis holdfasts, when they are detached from the bottom. Figure 13 shows the exposure of surgeplants at low tide. On the right is Lessonia littoralis. In front is Laminaria bongardiana and on the left is Phyliospadix scouleri. The Lessonia, in particular, is beautifully adapted by its massive trunk and slender leaves to maintain its foothold in the surge and with Postelsia in the surf and Nereocystis in the deeper water shows in magnificent fashion the working out of the same structural type under slightly different adaptational conditions.
In the sheltered pot-holes where the motion of the water en masse not possible and where the total movement is comparatively less violent, one finds an altogether different flora and fauna from that in evidence on exposed reefs. Figure 14, showing the edge of a tide-pool and penetrating below the surface of the clear liquid that fills it, presents a view of two genera of Corallinaceae—Amphiroa on the right and towards the center, and Corallina on the left. Below, suffering from slight refraction, may be identified the frond of Codium mucronatum californicum.
The latter alga, a somewhat characteristic inhabitant of the tide-pools, is shown exposed to the air in Figure 15. Its size may be judged by the leaves of Phyllospadix above and the Chiton clinging to the rock.
Some of the seaweeds of Port Renfrew were difficult to gather except from the wash. Here certain large forms such as Dictyoneuron, Desmarestia, Callymenia and others were particularly abundant. Figure 16 shows such a plant of Desmarestia ligulata herbacca, while Figure 17 is from a photograph made in a tank with glass bottom and shows a plant of Rhodomela floccosa.
The portraits of algae given will suffice to indicate the wealth of material awaiting study and research at the Minnesota Seaside Station. The interior country with its forest and mountains is scarcely less interesting than the shore. The botanist from the East is particularly impressed with the magnificent size of the trees, the luxuriance of the Lomaria formation of the forest-floor and the wealth of epiphytic and parasitic vegetation. The boughs of the trees are festooned with mosses
and hepatics and their bark covered with lichens, ferns and small flowering plants. Figure 19 shows a typical colony of Polypodium scouleri upon coniferous bark and illustrates the prevalent epiphytism of ferns and mosses throughout the district. Figure 20 gives a view of mistletoe hexenbesen covered with moss and due to the action of the dwarf mistletoe, Razoumofskya pusilla. Numerous other parasitic plants are to be found in the forest, notably Boschniakia strobilacea, a member of the broom-rape family and omnipresent upon the roots of the salal bush.
From the above it will be seen that the natural surroundings of the Minnesota Seaside Station are highly favorable for varied and productive research. The beginning that has been made has received encouragement from Canadian and American botanists, and it is possible that the modest camp on the Straits of Fuca may develop into a genuine marine laboratory with full equipment and a field of usefulness peculiarly its own. In any event it will doubtless serve as an objective point for more than one biological pilgrimage from the central-western states. During the season of 1901, when possibly the largest scientific party ever
conducted to so distant a point was enabled to spend a pleasant and profitable six weeks in the mountains and on the shore, representatives from several universities, colleges, normal schools and high schools were in attendance, one coming all the way from Tokyo. So successful an experiment as that of the summer just past will certainly justify the organization of other parties in years to come.
The illustrations in this paper are all from photographs by C. J. Hibbard, Esq., photographer of the Department of Botany in the University of Minnesota, with the exception of Figure 6, which is from a lantern slide by Flemming Bros., of Victoria, B. C.