Showing posts from March, 2024

Visiting an alien planet... on Earth

  Visiting an alien planet... I don't know how else to describe the experience of exploring underwater. "Alien" can be defined as "coming from another world." To a terrestrial, air-breathing, homeothermic bipedal hominin , being underwater can only seem like being, well, on a different planet. There's a reason astronauts train in a pool to experience " neutral-buoyancy" diving to simulate the weightlessness of space travel. And creatures have been evolving in Earth's seas for a LONG time. Complex life appeared in the Earth's history about a half billion years ago. "The basic body plans of all modern animals were set during the Cambrian Period, 542 - 488 million years ago." Since then, species have come and gone (mostly gone), but if you visit a thriving reef environment, you won't even think about what has disappeared, because there is just so much still there! This week we (Caroline, Wes and Mignon) went on a dive trip in t

Orcas in captivity... a comparison with Russia dissident Aleksei Navalny

  Two mammal-eating "transient" killer whales photographed off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska.   Photo by Robert Pitman (NOAA). It is easy to become discouraged when you first hear of the impact of whaling on our cetacean neighbors. In 2014, researchers  estimated that, between 1900 and 1999, 2.9 million whales were killed by the whaling industry. This doesn't count the whales killed prior to 1900, before diesel engines and exploding harpoons. In terms of biomass, this may be the largest removal of wildlife in human history, surpassing the removal of American bison from the plains states. And this was a minimum estimate, as wounded animals not recovered were not included in this estimate. Casks of whale oil. Photo courtesy: New Bedford Whaling Museum/ NPS. These complex, intelligent mammals were rendered into a variety of products for industry and vanity. And the estimate demonstrates the number of whales that our oceans could hold. A