27 April 2013

WORD CLOUDS OF OPENING PASSAGES

Textural language from my books.
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Opening passage from Deep Blue Home.

Opening passage from A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga.


Opening passage from The Fragile Edge.

26 April 2013

DEEP END DANCE

A short underwater dance film, written and performed by David Bolger, choreographer and artistic director of CoisCĂ©im Dance Theatre in Dublin, along with his 76-year-old mother, Madge Bolger.
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Deep End Dance from Conor Horgan on Vimeo.

The film was shot in the same swimming pool where Madge worked as a swimming instructor for many years and where she taught her son to swim.

"I used to hate going to lessons where you had to swim on top of the water," says David Bolger in the making-of video (seen here)"I always wanted to be under the water." 

Fave frame: Mum and son bust a Langmuir circulation.




23 April 2013

CROWS BUILD A NEST ON A CROW'S NEST

Crows do what nautical folklore always claimed.
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Via BBC and Arboath
A pair of crows has built their nest atop a yacht's mast at a marina in Wales, UK. The owner is happy they chose his boat, though he jokes he'll take it down when the young are fledged because he fears looking ridiculous at sea, reports the BBC.

As for the term "crow's nest," a US Navy page on the origins of naval terminology claims:



The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings' navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried on aboard to help the ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path because the crow invariably headed towards land. The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name "crow's nest" was given to this tub. While today's Navy still uses lookouts in addition to radars, etc., the crow's nest is a thing of the past.

22 April 2013

SUE AUSTIN AND HER UNDERWATER WHEELCHAIR JOURNEY

Sue Austin goes scuba diving in a wheelchair and talks about how an arts project can remake identity.
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Sue Austin says: "When I asked people their associations with the wheelchair, they used words like limitation, fear, pity, and restriction. I realized I'd internalized these responses and it had changed who I was on a core level." 



Sue's journey to reclaim her identity spoke to me on so many levels. Particularly after spending seven-plus months on crutches and at times in a wheelchair recently. In the feedback from strangers——usually unspoken——I could feel my core identity beginning to erode. So brava to Sue for finding a way for others to see her for the brave and adventurous woman she is. Oh, and happy Earth Day.

19 April 2013

JIMI HENDRIX AND THE SPRINGTIME TSUNAMI

Razorshells, dead man's fingers, brittlestars, otter shells, anemones, runner crabs——all ripped from the sea floor during epic Irish winds and tides. This short film is set to possibly the most underwatery song ever performed: Hendrix's 1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be). 
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Filmmaker George Karellas writes of the tsunamilike destruction along the springtime shores of County Meath, Ireland, on his YouTube page. His account is worth a read in its entirety. One of my favorite parts:
 
A pair of interesting little tidbits that came up in my researching some of the species I hadn't seen before; a group of starfish is known as a constellation, fittingly enough, and a dead starfish on the shore is called a wreck.



The Hendrix lyrics here.

18 April 2013

WHALE WASHING

Help get the saltwater off these poor creatures.
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Via arbroath

16 April 2013

LEOPARD SEAL BEARHUGS KAYAK—OR TRIES TO MATE WITH IT—DOESN'T EAT ANYONE

Paul Scriver managed to capture this interaction with a leopard seal off Pleneau Island, Antarctic Peninsula.
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Leopard Seal Kayak from Paul Scriver on Vimeo.

Scriver writes:
  
This guy (I have it on good authority that it was in fact a male) found us and started being quite inquisitive. He mostly swam around the kayaks and we would loose him when he was underwater, but then he started to become quite playful and did the exact thing shown in this video a few times before I calmed down enough to actually try to film him with my gopro.
Fave frame: the glance.



13 April 2013

TRUE FACTS ABOUT THE SEA PIG

Everything you need to know.
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From zeFrank1


11 April 2013

THE SHORT STRANGE DNA TRIP OF COMB JELLIES

The ethereal comb jellies, or ctenophores, have taken a far-out trip down Lineage Street and ended up somewhere nothing else has ever been.
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The ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. Photo by EricksonSmith at Flickr.
Researchers have for the first time decoded the mitochondrial genome of a comb jelly——specifically the wide-ranging (often invasive) species Mnemiopsis leidyiAnd it's the weirdest genome imaginable. From the paper in Mitochondrial DNA:
  
At just over 10 kb, the mt-genome of M. leidyi is the smallest animal mtDNA ever reported and is among the most derived.   

Mitochondrial DNA is passed down only from mothers and doesn't suffer mutations well. Those that appear are pruned out, leaving the mitochondrial tree shorter (derived). As lead author Walker Pett told me:
Ctenophores have taken this process to the extreme. Mnemiopsis has the smallest, fastest evolving, most highly modified mitochondrial genome of any animal. It has lost half of its genes, and the remaining genes are so different from those in ctenophores' closest relatives that some of them are almost unrecognizable.

The pattern isn't restricted to mitochondrial DNA, either. Pett continues:

Ctenophore DNA appears to be extremely fast evolving in general, which makes it difficult to place ctenophores on a phylogenetic tree. Surprisingly, it is still an open question whether the earliest animals were sponges or ctenophores, in part because the DNA of ctenophores has mutated so much that it is difficult to determine which animals are their closest relatives.
Other owners of odd mitochondrial DNA: Upper left, clockwise: box jelly (Tamoya ohboya) | Ned DeLoach via tessarazoa at Flickr; tunicates (Clavelina moluccensis) | Nhobgood at Wikimedia Commons; scyphozoan (Chrysaora colorata)  | Sanjay Acharya at Wikimedia Commons; chaetognath (Chatognath spadella) |  Zatelmar at Wikimedia Commons.
Pett says that other planktonic (often gelatinous) animals, like box jellies, Scyphozoans, tunicates, and chaetognaths also have some of the strangest modifications to their mitochondrial DNA. He wonders if they might share common boom-and-bust cycles in their population biology.

However the ctenophores got their weirdness, you can see from the video below it also begat extreme beauty.
  

Iridescent Ctenophores from Parafilms on Vimeo.

The paper:

08 April 2013

GENTOO JUNCTION

Two roads diverged in yellow snow, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by
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07 April 2013

FISH SURVIVES EPIC JOURNEY ACROSS PACIFIC FROM JAPAN TO WASHINGTON IN TSUNAMI WRECKAGE

Two years after Japan's 2011 tsunami, and 5,000 miles away, a striped beakfish (Oplegnathus fasciatuswashed ashore in Washington state in a boat believed to be wreckage from that disaster.
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The little survivor probably ate other stowaways aboard the boat. It now lives in an aquarium in Oregon.

Even more amazing, two other individuals of this species have been spotted in the Mediterranean——twice as fas away——in recent years, possibly arriving as stowaways aboard the sea chests of large ships. What are sea chests? According to an article on the University of Malta website:
  
[M]edium to large sized ships do not pump seawater directly from the sea but from a chamber know as a 'sea chest' which opens to the outside on the ship's hull below the waterline, and in large ships sea chests may hold several cubic metres of seawater. In effect sea chests act like seawater aquaria and provide a means of transport for marine species that does not involve passage through a pump. Although sea chests are protected by grids, these have large openings and are often damaged or dislodged in transit. There are therefore quite plausible ways in which fish of the size of the [striped beakfish] found in Malta could be transported from a source area thousands of kilometres away and be released into the wild in a good state of health.

Fave frame: The ultimate sea chest, with fresh food daily.
  

06 April 2013

SALTWATER LINKS

Currents worth following and eddies worth lingering in.
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Phytoplankton blooming in an eddy: Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

Horned ghost crabs change camouflage to match day and night, but only in their translucent juvenile phase. From the BBC.

Remote coral reefs fare better in a warming ocean than those near people. From ScienceNow, originally at Science.

Maps of Louisiana show 80 years of land lost to subsiding earth and rising seas. At ClimateWatch.

A NASA satellite recently spied a remnant piece of the mighty B-15 iceberg 13 years after it calved off Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf. From The Antarctic Sun.
Male Ascension frigatebird with chick: Drew Avery at Flickr

The late, great Roger Ebert wrote one of his last columns about climate change: "I have watched with a kind of petrified fascination in recent years as the world creeps closer to what looks to me like disastrous climate change." At the Chicago Sun-Times.

Follow the travels of Jospehine, Napoleon, and Nellie——three GPS-tagged Ascension frigatebirds——as they forage at sea during the breeding season. True to his namesake, Napoleon is roaming the farthest. From seaturtle.org


05 April 2013

POLAR BEARS ARE AWESOME PADDLERS, BUT ONLY MEH DIVERS

Which is why my old film buddy Bob Cranston lives to tell the tale of awe and horror filming polar bears underwater. From the IMAX 3D, To the Arctic
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Fave frame: Mum swimming with two cubs.