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Carmel Magazine: Risky Business, Working Around Harm's Way

Their stories are as colorful as a Monterey Bay sunset. The men and women who routinely perform their precarious work with exacting precision have unimaginable job experience. We depend on their expert skills for seemingly small or unpredictably grand tasks. They, in turn, generously put themselves in harm's way for our benefit.


These rugged individuals seldom work within the confines of four walls. They fight wild fires, rescue stranded sailors and scale 80-foot trees.


The inherent risks of their jobs are met with a matter-of-fact manner. Training, preparation and experience seem to breed self-confidence. they express a humble courage and enthusiastic passion for their work.



Peggy Stap

Marine Life Researcher


Things were going along pretty well for Peggy Stap. She owned a successful wholesale plant nursery in Michigan. then a family vacation in Maui turned everything around. The enormity and grace of the humpback whales that populated the warm waters on the Hawaiian Islands made such an impression that she instantly decided to redirect her life. Now she spends her days observing whales instead of seedlings.


Working with the Hawaiian Whale Research Foundation, Stap tracks the behavior of males competing for female humpback whales. Photographing their mysterious behavior, she swims along them with only a snorkel and video camera. The peduncle muscle, forward of the whale's fluke, is the strongest of any in the animal kingdom. One kick can propel 40 tons of body mass out of the water. "The adults are incredibly aware of their bodies." Stap says. "I just stay calm and keep taking pictures."


Killer whales, or Orcas, bring Stap to the Monterey Bay each spring and fall when they hunt migrating gray whales. Stap founded the Marine Life Studies and received a federal grant permit from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency to study non-endangered species, like Orcas, in and around the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. "I don't do anything dangerous." She says.


Photography by Kelli Uldall