Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 28 Issue 02

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Volume 28, No. 2
Pages 8 - 9


RIPPLE MARKS • Coastal Gold Rush: Southeast Alaska Sea Otters Swing from Boom to Bust to Boom

By Cheryl Lyn Dybas  
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A young warrior named Natsilane was destined to become chief of his tribe, folktales of the Tlingit and Haida peoples of Southeast Alaska say. Natsilane’s brothers were jealous of his stature, however, and plotted to depose him.

The brothers took Natsilane out to sea, ostensibly to fish, then threw him overboard and rowed away.

But the chief-to-be wasn’t alone in the deep blue sea.

He was rescued by a sea otter who carried him to an island. The otter took care of the boy, showing him the best hunting and fishing grounds.

Eventually, though, the sea otter had to return to its life in the water. It offered a last gift to Natsilane, a pouch of seeds, telling him to sow them across the island. Natsilane complied, and the seeds grew into tall trees. He then used wood from the trees to build a boat, returned to his village, and became chief.

To this day, according to legend, the lives of humans and sea otters are intertwined.


Dybas, C.L. 2015. Ripple marks—The story behind the story. Oceanography 28(2):8–9, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2015.49.

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