Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Story of Strange Waters

In early April of 2010, I was laid off from work having finished a large project I was specifically brought on to do. There wasn't enough work to keep me around once the project wrapped up, and so the company and I split amicably.

Finding myself unemployed, I took a week off for myself to prepare of another exhausting job search. This time however I knew I needed a side project to keep me occupied during the day, and so I tried my hand at blogging. My first attempt lasted a week, and within the first few days of it my husband questioned the point of that first blog, and I had agreed with him it was pointless. However through our conversations online (long-distance at the moment due to finances) I would start to develop the idea behind a new blog, and so this site was born.

I quickly shuttered that initial blog and started fresh, registering the new blog under the name I Hate The Ocean (hence the URL). The name itself was an outlandish statement that came from these conversations in which we would link each other bizarre images and articles, mostly about animal life.

And so the blog started up and I planned for it to run until I found another job. And so in late August of 2010, I was brought back into the same company as before, but offered full-time employment and new responsibilities, heading up a new service we would be offering to our clients. This left me with the question of what to do with the blog. Should I abandon it, or continue it?

And so a new goal was established – to make a blog post everyday for an entire calendar year. And so the blog would get a facelift with that new goal, and would come to be known as Strange Waters.

And here we are, a little over a year since the first post. I do hope to continue posting on the blog, just not everyday. I hope to settle into a more regular schedule, posting one day a week around the same time every week. I do not plan on doing any more post-a-day blogs in the near future, just because they are so much work to maintain by one person.

And that's the story of Strange Waters. One year done and I've only run into one spammer. Not bad at all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thank You Everyone

One year. That's how long I've been doing this blog. One post, everyday, for an entire year. And I've completed it. I feel truly good about myself for having worked on something of this level.

I have been surprised by the number of people that have read this blog. Strange Waters has been viewed over 65,000 times, and all that without advertising the blog itself! Most of all I'm surprised at myself, for having stuck with this until the 365th post.

However, Strange Waters isn't done yet. I'll be on hiatus for a few weeks, with good reason. I feel I've earned a break from the blog and most importantly, there's something big coming down the line.

To those new to the blog, now is a good chance to catch up on the past year. You'll be surprised at what's been posted up here, and even further surprised at what exists out there in the world.

Again, thank you everyone for reading, and I hope you'll stick with me.

Sincerely, Bowser.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10, 2011 : Great White Shark

Great White Shark

The great white shark,
Carcharodon carcharias, also known as great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. The great white shark is very well known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached or exceeded 6 metres (20 ft) in length and 2,268 kilograms (5,000 lb) in weight. It reaches maturity at around 15 years of age and can have a life span of over 30 years. The great white shark is arguably the world's largest known extant macropredatory fish and is one of the primary predators of marine mammals. It is also known to prey upon a variety of other marine animals including fish, pinnipeds, and seabirds. It is the only known surviving species of its genus, Carcharodon.

The best selling novel Jaws and the subsequent blockbuster film by Steven Spielberg depicted the great white shark as a "ferocious man eater". In reality, humans are not the preferred prey of the great white shark. The IUCN treats the great white shark as vulnerable, while it is included in Appendix II of CITES.

Carolus Linnaeus gave the great white shark its first scientific name,
Squalus carcharias in 1758. Sir Andrew Smith gave it the generic name Carcharodon in 1833, and in 1873 the generic name was identified with Linnaeus' specific name and the current scientific name Carcharodon carcharias was finalised.

Carcharodon comes from the Greek words
karcharos, which means sharp or jagged, and odous, which means tooth.

Great white sharks live in almost all coastal and offshore waters which have water temperature between 12 and 24 °C (54 and 75 °F), with greater concentrations in the United States (Atlantic Northeast and California), South Africa, Japan, Australia (especially New South Wales and South Australia), New Zealand, Chile, and the Mediterranean. One of the densest known populations is found around Dyer Island, South Africa where much shark research is conducted.

It is an epipelagic fish, observed mostly in inland tributaries in the presence of rich game like fur seals, sea lions, cetaceans, other sharks, and large bony fish species. It is an open-ocean dweller and has been recorded at depths of around 1,220 m (4,000 ft). These findings challenge the traditional notion about the great white as being a coastal species.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 9, 2011 : Scaly-foot Gastropod

Scaly-foot Gastropod

Crysomallon squamiferum, common name the scaly-foot gastropod, is a species of deep sea hydrothermal vent snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Peltospiridae.

This species was discovered in 2001 on the bases of black smokers at the Kairei hydrothermal vent field, on the Central Indian Ridge, just north of the Rodrigues Triple Point and about 2,420 metres (7,940 ft) below the surface.

The snail's foot is armored with iron-mineral scales. It is protected by scale-shaped sclerites composed of the iron sulfides greigite and pyrite. No other animal is known to use iron sulfides in this way.

The snail's shell is unusual in that its structure is composed of three layers. The outer layer is made of the aforementioned iron sulfides, containing greigite Fe3S4 about 30 μm thick. This makes this gastropod the only metazoan, known so far, to employ this material in its skeleton. The middle layer is organic, and is also the thickest of the three (about 150 μm). It is comparable to the periostracum, a thin protein coating found on other snail shells. The innermost layer is made of aragonite, a calcium mineral that is found in the shells of mollusks and various corals.

Each layer contributes to the effectiveness of the snail's shell in different ways. The middle organic layer appears to absorb the mechanical strain and energy generated by a squeezing attack (as by the claws of a crab), making the shell much tougher. The organic layer also acts to dissipate heat.

The United States military is currently funding research on the armor of the snail in hopes of developing insights into new military armor designs.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011 : Shark Dart

Shark Dart

The Farallon Shark Dart, a U.S. Navy weapon from the 1970s. The most common version resembles a slim dagger, with a CO2 cartridge in the handle and a long hollow needle for a blade. The idea was to stab the shark, causing the CO2 to be released into its body. The idea was that this would not kill it but would affect its buoyancy, forcing it to break off the attack without leaving much blood in the water. The reality may have been more gruesome.

"I saw some footage on it, it was horrible," says a diver describing the effects here. "Their bellies would inflate and they said it would force the shark’s stomach out of their mouths."

As well as the dagger, there was also a lance-like shark dart on a pole, and even a projectile version – a spear gun which fired a Shark Dart projectile. This seems to have been the inspiration for the shark gun firing ‘compressed air bullets’ used by 007 in Live And Let Die.

According to Tom LaPuzza of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, California, the Shark Dart was carried by SEAL divers who protected NASA astronauts after spashdown – but it was never popular, a view I found confirmed by others.

“We never had a history of any of our divers encountering hostile sharks during operational or training missions,” Tom Hawkins of the Naval Special Warfare Foundation told me. “It [the Shark Dart] was just more equipment to carry, when the threat didn’t warrant the extra weight or bulk.”

Farallon gave up making their Shark Dart long ago, though they still supply Special Forces with hi-tech gadgets such as Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7, 2011 : Mako Shark

Mako Shark

The shortfin mako shark,
Isurus oxyrinchus ("sharp nose"), is a large mackerel shark. Along with the closely related longfin mako (Isurus paucus) it is commonly referred to as a "mako shark".

In 1809, Constantine Rafinesque first described shortfin mako and coined the name Isurus oxyrinchus (IsurusMāori language, meaning either the shark or a shark tooth. It may have originated in a dialectal variation as it is similar to the common words for shark in a number of Polynesian languages— means "the same tail", oxyrinchus means "pointy snout"). "Mako" comes from the
makō in the Kāi Tahu Māori dialect, mangō in other Māori dialects, "mago" in Samoan, ma'o in Tahitian, and mano in Hawaiian. The first written usage is in LeeKendall's & Grammar and vocabulary of the language of New Zealand (1820), which simply states "Máko; A certain fish". Richard Taylor's A leaf from the natural history of New Zealand (1848) is more elaborate: "Mako, the shark which has the tooth so highly prized by the Maoris".

The shortfin mako inhabits offshore temperate and tropical seas worldwide. The closely related longfin mako shark,
Isurus paucus, is found in the Gulf Stream or warmer offshore waters.

It is a pelagic species that can be found from the surface down to depths of 150 meters (492 ft), normally far from land though occasionally closer to shore, around islands or inlets. One of only four known endothermic sharks, it is seldom found in waters colder than 16 °C (60.8 °F).

In the western Atlantic it can be found from Argentina and the Gulf of Mexico to Browns Bank off of Nova Scotia. In Canadian waters these sharks are neither abundant nor rare. Swordfish are a good indication of shortfin makos as the former is a source of food and prefers similar environmental conditions.

Shortfin makos travel long distances to seek prey or mates. In December 1998, a female tagged off California was captured in the central Pacific by a Japanese research vessel, meaning this fish traveled over 1,725 miles (2,776 km). Another swam 1,322 miles (2,128 km) in 37 days, averaging 36 miles (58 km) a day.

The shortfin mako's speed has been recorded at 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) with bursts of up to 74 kilometers per hour (46 mph). They can leap approximate 9 meters (30 ft) high or higher in the air. Some scientists suggest that the biochemistry of shortfin mako can swim up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph). Scientists are in debate exactly how fast the shortfin mako shark can swim, as well as which particular species are actually the champion ocean swimmers. This high-leaping fish is sought as game worldwide. There are cases when an angry mako jumped into a boat after having been hooked.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6, 2011 : Opalescent Squid

Opalescent Squid

The Opalescent Inshore Squid (Loligo opalescens) is a small squid (mantle length (ML) up to 190 mm) in the family Loliginidae. It is a myopsid squid, which is the near shore group and that means that they have corneas over their eyes. The species lives in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico's Baja California peninsula to Alaska, USA, within 200 miles (320 kilometers) off shore.

Adult Loligo opalescens can reach a total size of 28 cm. Males are typically larger with a mantle length of 13-19 cm, while females are 12-18 cm in mantle length. The mantle of L. opalescens is not fused to the head and its body is 4 to 5 times longer than it is wide, with fins equal in both length and width. This squid has 8 arms with 2 longer tentacles ending in tentacular clubs equipped with suckers at their ends. The tentacular clubs are narrow with 4 rows of suckers and 2 large rows in the center of the tentacular club bordered by outer rows of smaller suckers. The 8 arms have only 2 rows of alternating suckers running down their length. In male L. opalescens, the left ventral arm is specialized or “hectocotylized” for spermatophore transfer during mating. The eyes of L. opalescens are covered with a non-perforated membrane known as a cornea which is a signature of myopsid squid. The color of L. opalescens can range from white to brown, with the animals able to change their color shades using chromatophores depending on mood and for camouflage. They are normally a bluish-white to mottled brown and gold, and they change to dark red or brown when excited, frightened or feeding.

L. opalescens is a cannibalistic predator that feeds on smaller prey species such as fish, crabs and shrimp, mollusks, and other juvenile squid. It uses its two longer tentacles with tentacular clubs on the end to snare and catch its prey.
L. opalescens itself is an important food source for many predators like larger fish, sharks, marine mammals, sea birds, and also humans. Its predators include the Common Seal, California Sea Lion, Blue shark, Chinook salmon, Black-throated Diver, and Brandt's Cormorant.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 5, 2011 : Breaching


A breach or a lunge is a leap out of the water also known as cresting. The distinction between the two is fairly arbitrary: cetacean researcher Hal Whitehead chooses to define a breach as any leap in which at least 40% of the animal's body clears the water, and a lunge as a leap with less than 40% clearance. Qualitatively, a breach is a genuine jump with an intent to clear the water, whereas a lunge is the result of a fast upward sloping swim, perhaps as a result of feeding, that has caused the whale to clear the surface of the water unintentionally.

Whales such as Sperm Whales perform a breach by travelling vertically upwards from depth, and heading straight out of the water. Others, such as the Humpback Whale, travel close to the surface and parallel to it, and then jerk upwards at full speed to perform a breach. In a typical breach, as performed by a Humpback or Right Whale, the whale clears the water at an angle of about 30° to the horizontal. Around 90% of the body clears the water before the whale turns to land on its back or side. "Belly flops" also occur but are less common. In order to achieve 90% clearance, a Humpback needs to leave the water at a speed of eight metres per second or 29 km/h. For a 36 ton animal this results in a momentum of 288 thousand newton-seconds.

Breaches are often carried out in series. The longest recorded sustained series was by a Humpback near the West Indies - totaling 130 leaps in less than 90 minutes. Repeated breaches tire the animal, so that less of the body clears the water each time.

The Right, Humpback and Sperm whales are the most prodigious jumpers. However the other baleen whales such as Fin, Blue, Minke and Sei whales also breach. Oceanic dolphins, including the Orca, are very common breachers and are in fact capable of lifting themselves completely out of the water very easily.

Many reasons have been suggested for breaching. Whales are more likely to breach when they are in groups, suggesting social reasons, such as an assertion of dominance, courting or warning of danger. Scientists have called this theory "honest signalling". The immense cloud of bubbles and underwater disturbance following a breach cannot be faked; neighbours then know a breach has taken place. A single breach costs a whale only about 0.075% of its total daily energy intake, but a long series of breaches may add up to a significant energy expenditure.

It is also possible that the loud "smack" upon re-entering is useful for stunning or scaring prey. Noisemaking is believed to be the reason for lobtailing. Others suggest that a breach allows the whale to breathe in air that is not close to the surface, which may aid breathing in rough seas. Another widely accepted possible reason is to dislodge parasites from the skin. While other whale experts think some of the behavior might simply be playful in nature.

Breaching has also been observed in the following sharks and rays: the great white shark, thresher shark, shortfin mako, longfin mako, spinner shark, blacktip reef shark, salmon shark, porbeagle shark, copper shark and basking shark as well as the manta ray.

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011 : Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle

Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle

Rafetus swinhoei, commonly known as the Red river giant softshell turtle, Shanghai softshell turtle, Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Chinese: 斑鱉; Pinyin: Bān Bīe; literally "specked softshell turtle"), or Swinhoe's softshell turtle, is a species of softshell turtle.
Rafetus leloii is considered a junior synonym of Rafetus swinhoei, a related and much bigger softshell turtle which lives more than 2000 km further south in Vietnam. It is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List 2006, and is one of the rarest turtles in the world. There are only four known to survive in Vietnam and China: one each at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi and Dong Anh, Hanoi, Vietnam, an 80-year-old female in Changsha Zoo and a 100-year-old male in Suzhou Zoo.

Rafetus swinhoei have been known to inhabit the Yangtze River and Lake Taihu, situated on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, in eastern China; Gejiu, Yuanyang, Jianshui and Honghe in Yunnan province in southern China; . The last known specimen caught in the wild in China was in 1998 in the Red River between Yuanyang and Jianshui ; that turtle was then released. There are only four known living specimens in Vietnam and China, one each at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Dong Anh Hanoi, Vietnam and Suzhou, Changsha Zoos, China.

A specimen at the Beijing Zoo died in 2005, and another one at the Shanghai Zoo died in 2006; both of them were caught at Gejiu in the 1970s.

Coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Turtle Survival Alliance, the still reproductive, more than 80-year-old female living in the Changsha Zoo was introduced to the only known male in China, a more than 100-year-old individual living more than 600 miles away at the Suzhou Zoo, on May 5, 2008. The female has arrived safely and settled in well into her new habitat at the Suzhou Zoo, and biologists were optimistic for breeding success.

Rafetus swinhoei is on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, hunting for subsistence and local consumption, and the use of the carapace and bones in medicine. Skulls are often kept as trophies. A recent plan to build hydropower cascade of 12 dams on the Red River in China may flood all of its habitat and change the ecosystem of lower Vietnam.

In 1999, 2000, and 2005 turtles have reemerged from Hoan Kiem Lake on special occasions, when it was seen by a large audience and caught on film. It is believed that there is only a single turtle left in the lake. In April 2011, it was captured because it had open sores that needed to be treated.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3, 2011 : Bearded Fireworm

Bearded Fireworm

The bearded fireworm, Hermodice carunculata, is a type of marine bristleworm.

Bearded fireworms are usually between 5–10 centimetres (1.9–3.9 in) in length, but can reach up to 35 centimetres (13.8 in). They are endowed with a group of poisonous white bristles on each side, which are flared out when the worm is disturbed. It is considered by marine biologists as a particularly beautiful and colourful species, though swimmers wisely tend to avoid them due to their appearance.

The bearded fireworm is usually found on reefs, under stones in rocky areas of the sea, and on some mud bottoms. Sometimes, they can be found to be hidden on moss-covered rocks.

It is encountered throughout the tropical western Atlantic and at Ascension Island in mid-Atlantic. It can be found near ocean reefs and at depths of up to 150m. These worms are also common in the mediterranean sea, in the coastal waters surrounding Cyprus and the Maltese archipelago.

The bearded fireworm is a slow creature, and is not considered a threat to humans unless touched by a careless swimmer. The bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. This sensation lasts up to a few hours, but a painful tingling can continue to be felt around the area of contact. In a case of accidental contact, application and removal of adhesive tape will help remove the spines; applying alcohol to the area will also help alleviate the pain.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 2, 2011 : Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex whale song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. The purpose of the song is not yet clear, although it appears to have a role in mating.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique.

Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered; however, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution also remain concerns. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpbacks are now sought by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada, and the United States.

Humpback whales are rorquals (family Balaenopteridae), a family that includes the blue whale, the fin whale, the Bryde's whale, the sei whale and the minke whale. The rorquals are believed to have diverged from the other families of the suborder Mysticeti as long ago as the middle Miocene. However, it is not known when the members of these families diverged from each other.

Though clearly related to the giant whales of the genus Balaenoptera, the humpback has been the sole member of its genus since Gray's work in 1846. More recently though, DNA sequencing analysis has indicated the Humpback is more closely related to the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) and to certain rorquals, such as the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) than it is to other rorquals such as the minke whales. If further research confirms these relationships, it will be necessary to reclassify the rorquals.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1, 2011 : Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

A Fata Morgana is an unusual and very complex form of mirage, a form of superior mirage, which, like many other kinds of superior mirages, is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian phrase derived from the vulgar Latin for "fairy" and the Arthurian sorcerer Morgan le Fay, from a belief that the mirage, often seen in the Strait of Messina, were fairy castles in the air or false land designed to lure sailors to their death created by her witchcraft. Although the term Fata Morgana is sometimes incorrectly applied to other, more common kinds of mirages, the true Fata Morgana is not the same as an ordinary superior mirage, and is certainly not the same as an inferior mirage.

Fata Morgana mirages tremendously distort the object or objects which they are based on, such that the object often appears to be very unusual, and may even be transformed in such a way that it is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana can be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions or in deserts. This kind of mirage can involve almost any kind of distant object, including such things as boats, islands, and coastline, as shown in the photographs which accompany this article.

A Fata Morgana is not only complex, but also rapidly changing. The mirage comprises several inverted (upside down) and erect (right side up) images that are stacked on top of one another. Fata Morgana mirages also show alternating compressed and stretched zones.

This optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are strongly bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed. (A thermal inversion is an atmospheric condition where warmer air exists in a well-defined layer above a layer of significantly cooler air. This temperature inversion is the opposite of what is normally the case; air is usually warmer close to the surface, and cooler higher up.)

In calm weather, a layer of significantly warmer air can rest over colder dense air, forming an atmospheric duct which acts like a refracting lens, producing a series of both inverted and erect images. A Fata Morgana requires a duct to be present; thermal inversion alone is not enough to produce this kind of mirage. While a thermal inversion often takes place without there being an atmospheric duct, an atmospheric duct cannot exist without there first being a thermal inversion.