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Al Hanners Is ‘Watcher of the Year’ for 2002

January 2002

Whatcom Watch Award

Al Hanners Is ‘Watcher of the Year’ for 2002

by Whatcom Watch Staff

The Whatcom Watch staff would like to express their appreciation to Al Hanners for his willingness over the years to share his writing talents with us. Al says, “We’re all packages of chemicals conditioned by our experiences. It’s because of my life experiences that I write for Whatcom Watch. In other words, I write for Whatcom Watch because of who I am.”

Al’s exemplary life began in a small town in Wisconsin where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse that had a coal stove and pit toilets outside. An early event to form Al’s young scientific mind was the Scopes Trial of 1925, also called the “monkey trial.”

His extended family were conservative religious people and the trial evoked a great deal of agitated talk. But, Al thought it was an open and shut case, so why all the excitement? When his older brother came home from college, Al asked him, “Do you believe humans came from monkeys?”

“No,” was his brother’s reply. “I believe in evolution from a single cell.” Al had never considered that explanation and the conversation ended there. But that was the start of a lifetime of interest in the latest information about evolution and science.

His scientific interests carried him through the University of Wisconsin for a degree in geology. From there, he spent the days of World War II in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, then took a job as a petroleum geologist in Venezuela. After that stint, he worked as a geologist on the 29th floor of the Chrysler Building across from the Grand Central Station in New York City. That led him to positions in Trinidad, Calgary, and Toronto.

Retirement in Bellingham opened the floodgates to self-expression for Al. His goal was to be a naturalist and he soon became conservation chair-person for the North Cascades Audubon Society. His first booklet to be published was “Northwest Beginning Birding.” From there, he moved into writing for Whatcom Watch and many great articles followed.

We asked Al’s son, Rick, to write a memory about his father, which follows:

“A few years ago my father, sister and brother, along with two others, came to Montana for an 85-mile canoe trip down the Missouri River. Near the end of the trip we came across a rattlesnake that was swimming across the river at a point where it ran very slow and very wide. We all had read about the possibility of running across snakes in the river, and the advice was to steer clear of them, but my father had to get in close for the perfect camera shot. Reminded me of Crocodile Dundee.”

Whatcom Watch published that photograph with Al’s article, “Canoeing the Upper Missouri: A Wild and Scenic River” in March 2000, page 8. Here it is once again.

Thank you, Al, for your years of excellent stories.

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