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The sunken and watery treasures around the Northwest: Today So Far

caption: Jeff Hummel (left) and Matt McCauley (right) posing with the remains of a dredged plane.
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Jeff Hummel (left) and Matt McCauley (right) posing with the remains of a dredged plane.
Courtesy of Matt McCauley
  • There are treasures sunken below the surface of Northwest waters. These two old friends have a mission to find them.
  • Oregon and Washington are aiming to become a "hydrogen hub."
  • Washington's AG has fined another gun store for selling banned high-capacity magazines.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for December 23, 2022.

Jeff Hummel and Matt McCauley met in high school on Mercer Island back in the late 1970s. There was one thing that created a bond between them that has lasted decades — mystery.

Specifically, mysteries that lay beneath the surface of the waters we look at, swim in, and sail through every day. It started when Hummel's father told him tales of an airplane that crashed into Lake Washington years ago. His father saw it happen while working for Boeing in Renton. Since McCauley had scuba certification, they hatched a plan to search for that plane. They found it. That led to another plan, to raise and retrieve the plane. They collected old air hoses from gas stations, pumped air down into the plane, and floated it. Then, they borrowed a telephone pole truck to move it ... to McCauley's driveway. Their cunning plans were short on where to put this thing if they ever actually got it.

But this story about two friends isn't about that crashed plane. It's not about the other planes they eventually raised from the bottom of Lake Washington. It's not about how the Navy got a little mad about these two locals finding and retrieving its sunken wrecks and eventually sued them. This story is about the Pacific — the Pacific Ocean and the S.S. Pacific that sunk off the shores of Washington before it was ever a state. The resting place of that tragedy has remained a mystery for nearly 150 years ... until now. Soundside has that story here.

Our Northwest waters hold more treasures than we realize, and I'm not just talking about sunken planes and ships. OK nerds, get ready to be excited. I'm getting hyped over hydrogen.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the story: Oregon and Washington have submitted a joint bid to the feds to get funds for hydrogen production projects. It could make our region a "hydrogen hub." I know it sounds weird, but potential hydrogen hubs are all the rage these days. The Department of Energy has $7 billion in hydrogen hub grants to give out and nearly every state in the nation has submitted proposals, asking for the money. In fact, together, all the requests from across the USA add up to about $60 billion. So in the end, some folks are going to be turned away, and the best prospects are going to move forward.

Why is this a big deal? Hydrogen can be produced from water, and the Northwest has a decent share of water sources. But beyond that, alternative forms of energy are going to be growth industries in the years ahead. You hear a lot about solar or wind. Hydrogen is another energy source that many feel is going to play a big role in the future energy mix. There are a lot of gas guzzlers that could potentially be converted to hydrogen fuel. Consider the trucks moving all the goods you buy at the store or purchase online. Another example, which Northwest News Network's Tom Banse points out, is airplane fuel. Universal Hydrogen is one company testing hydrogen fuel in a commuter plane called Lightning McClean, which is taking to the skies over Moses Lake right now.

Now consider all the things we rely on, which in turn, rely on fossil fuels. Hydrogen fuel tech is not yet up to the speed of our society, but it does offer some hope beyond petroleum. And that is exciting, even if you aren't a nerd. Read Tom's full story here.

Another gun store was found violating Washington's ban on high-capacity magazines. We sort of knew this was coming. Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced earlier this month that his office ran an investigation to see if any stores were attempting to get around the state's new ban. We already knew about a gun store in Federal Way that was selling the magazines, but the AG's office said it was working on fines for another yet-to-be named store. Now we know.

WSG Guns in Lakewood is the second shop. The story here is similar to the Federal Way store. It basically worked like this: The banned magazines were not on display, but if you asked about them in sort of a hush-hush tone, employees would sell them to you, but ring you up for some other item. This way, there was no record of the sale. But the AG's office knew about the sales because it sent investigators out to conduct a series of sting operations at 25 shops around the state. It found two shops violating the ban. Read more here.


caption: Michael Mason, who goes by "Chef Mason" selling cheesecake and talking community at the Proctor Farmers Market in Tacoma
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Michael Mason, who goes by "Chef Mason" selling cheesecake and talking community at the Proctor Farmers Market in Tacoma
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

How do you create community out of a bunch of buildings? KUOW"s Joshua McNichols tackles this question in the latest edition of The Ripple Effect, a series focused on our region's housing woes and solutions. Shown here, Michael Mason, who goes by "Chef Mason" selling cheesecake and talking about community at the Proctor Farmers Market in Tacoma. (Joshua McNichols / KUOW)

DID YOU KNOW?: Happy Festivus everybody!

Yep. It is indeed Festivus today ... or any day you want to celebrate it, really. The lack of traditional structure is sort of the appeal. Though, Dec. 23 is the day that is celebrated on the classic Seinfeld episode "The Strike," and therefore it has become the date fans have embraced ever since. Myself included.

I have told the story of Festivus here before, but the reality is that there are multiple stories of Festivus. There is the Frank Costanza version from Seinfeld, and there is the version that Dan O'Keefe celebrated growing up, in real life. O'Keefe's father (Daniel), invented the holiday for his family. Technically, it didn't always happen around Christmas, just whenever his father decided it was time to celebrate Festivus. O'Keefe has said that one year his family celebrated Festivus twice, and other years there were no Festivuses ... Festivi?

There are other similarities and differences between O'Keefe's childhood holiday and the TV version. The airing of grievances (when you gather your family around a table and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year) was an actual Festivus tradition the O'Keefes practiced. The Festivus pole was invented for the Seinfeld episode, however. Instead of a pole, O'Keefe says his father placed a clock in a bag and hung it on a wall. It wasn't always the same clock, and it wasn't always the same bag, but it was always hung on the same wall. No one ever knew why. There was a short poem associated with the clock, but O'Keefe says he's keeping that just for his family and not sharing it.

Of course, Festivus has now evolved into a holiday for those who shun the commercialism of the season, embrace the wacky, and find joy in the bizarre. So for all you TSF readers out there, happy holidays, and a Festivus for the rest of us!


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A huge winter storm brings icy temperatures and snow to a majority of Americans

Tens of millions of Americans endured bone-chilling temperatures, blizzard conditions, power outages and canceled holiday gatherings Friday from a winter storm that forecasters said was nearly unprecedented in its scope, exposing 60% of the population to some sort of winter weather advisory or warning.


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