Guest Post-Whale Watching: Southern California Style!

By , April 16, 2015 2:00 pm
Humpback whale mother & calf

Humpback whale mother & calf flukes photo by: Vaishali Shah

My name is Vaishali Shah and I am a volunteer Naturalist for the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program sponsored by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter.

I have been a volunteer for 5 years and it has been an amazing experience. Currently we have over 100 volunteers who join the whale watch boats on their daily tours from December to April. They educate the public on the variety of marine life found in the Santa Monica Bay, CA.

These months (winter and spring) are when the Pacific Gray whale migrates from Alaska to Baja, Mexico and back again. Being right in the migration path, whale watching boats rarely have go out more than 2-3 miles to see these amazing animals. This particular season has been an epic year for gray whale counting. All along the west coast of US, people count the number of gray whales going past. Volunteers, including Whalewatch naturalists, take part in this activity at the Point Vicente Interpretative Center in Palos Verdes, CA as part of the Gray whale census that lasts from 1st December to April, dawn to dusk every day.

This year has been a record year for the Southbound migration of gray whales as 1900 whales have been counted. This is an all time high in the 32 year-old census. This made for many exciting whale watch trips. Each trip lasts for 3 hours and we would see anywhere between 10-16 whales at the peak of migration. This year was fantastic for me as I got to witness my first breaching whale, (when the whale comes right out of the water and splashes down) a truly breath-taking experience.

The captains of the boats are extremely sensitive to the behavior of the whales and will respect them by keeping their distance. By law all vessels, including paddle boarders, have to stay at least 100 yards away from any whale. On numerous occasions, the captain has shut off the boat engine only for the whale to approach and check us out! One time a Humpback whale came so close, I got covered in whale snot!

We see many other types of whales too. Southern California has a variety of different species. This year in the bay we have had resident humpbacks including a mother and calf, and finback whales (the 2nd largest animal in the ocean). There are already sightings of blue whales (the largest animal known to have lived), which usually come to visit us in summertime to feed. Every now and then we get the very rare chance to see orcas, pilot whales, false killer whales and even sperm whales have been sighted.

Common dolphins seen while whale watching

Common Dolphins photo by: Vaishali Shah

The whales with their gigantic size are what people come to see on the whale watch, but it is often the smaller cetacean species that make the trip worthwhile! Dolphins. There are up to 5 species of dolphins in Southern California and the most well known being bottlenose dolphin (Flipper was one). However, my favorite are the common dolphins. On a good day these animals will jump, leap, tail slap and bow-ride the boat. They can be seen in mega pods of thousands. They come close to the boat. It is truly something when you look down into the eye of a wild dolphin.

Last but not least, a typical whale watch is never complete without seeing California Sea Lions. Whether they are resting on a buoy or porpoising behind the boat, children and adults love them. How could you not with those big surly eyes!

Hope you have enjoyed a brief glimpse of a whale watch trip in Santa Monica Bay.


This is a link to the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program Facebook page, come join us!


I also take photographs on the trips, you can buy
matted prints at my Etsy Store: CreatureCurious

10 Fabulous Facts About Sea Snakes

By , March 23, 2015 8:08 am

Banded Sea Krait

Banded Sea Krait photo by: Cherilyn Jose


Note on picture: Sea kraits are sea snakes that go onto land, true sea snakes spend their whole lives in the water.

1. Sea snakes are reptiles and need to breathe air.

2. 50 different species of true sea snakes live in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

3. A beaked sea snake venom is 4x more deadly than a cobra’s.

4. Sea snakes move by wriggling like an “S”

5. Most sea snakes are 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5 meters) long, but some can reach lengths of 8 feet (2.4 meters).

6. A sea snake can hold its breath for 2-3 hours!

7. A sea snakes spits out excess salt on its forked tongue.

8. True sea snakes do not lay eggs. The eggs develop in the female and the young are born alive.
9. Sea snakes have 2-20 young, around 12 inches long (0.3 meters)

10. The few predators sea snakes have are sharks, moray eels, sea eagles (a type of bird).

Meet the Endangered Vaquita Porpoise

By , March 8, 2015 8:08 am
Vaquita Porpoise Gulf of California

Vaquita photo by: Chris Johnson courtesy of http://vaquita.tv

Hello, my name is Vance, and I am a Vaquita. I am also known as the Gulf of California Harbor Porpoise. I live off of Mexico in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). There are only 100 of us left, making us the most critically endangered small cetacean (whale) in the world. Eek, that’s a lot of pressure on us, just trying to stay alive. I’d hate to go extinct just because we live in a limited range.

We are the smallest cetacean, reaching lengths of 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) and weights of 65-120 pounds (30-55 kg). We are hard for humans to study because we avoid boats if possible. It’s nothing personal, except that we’ve had so much trouble with humans setting out fishing nets (see below). We hang out in pairs, but sometimes we get together in groups of 7-10. We eat schooling fish such as croakers and grunts, as well as crustaceans, squid and octopus

.
Our greatest threats are through commercial fishing. Gillnets are miles long, and are used to catch shrimp for export to places such as the United States. Shrimp is the most popular seafood of choice there. Gillnets catch anything and anybody in its path, including us Vaquita.
There is also a fish called the Totoaba, whose swim bladders are exported to China for a medicinal soup. This is an illegal fishery, and Vaquita get caught in these nets too.

The bad news is that cetaceans worldwide are caught as bycatch in fishermen’s nets. 300,000 cetaceans die a year, or one every two minutes, just to satisfy human’s demand for seafood.

The good news is that there is a moratorium on gillnets in the Gulf of California for two years. If it gets enforced regularly, then my population of Vaquita have a chance to recover. Females have calves every other year, and the calves already born will have a chance to grow up.

For now, it’s time for my morning meal. It’s time to celebrate!

For more on the Vaquita, visit Vaquita, Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise
NOAA Fisheries Page about the Vaquita

Photos and video taken under permit (Oficio No. DR/847/08 ) from the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP/Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT), within a natural protected area subject to special management and decreed as such by the Mexican Government. This work was made possible thanks to the collaboration and support of the Coordinador de Investigación y Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos at the Instiuto Nacional de Ecología (INE).

10 Cool Facts About Dolphins

By , February 26, 2015 9:13 am
dolphin mother and calf

Dolphin mother and calf Photo by: Cherilyn Jose

1. Dolphins are mammals and breathe air through the blowhole at the top of their head. Their blowhole doesn’t shoot out water, only air.

2. Killer Whales, or Orcas, are the largest dolphin and grow up to 23 feet (7 meters) long.

3. The most common and recognizable dolphin is the Bottlenose Dolphin.

4. Some Bottlenose Dolphins use a tool, a sponge on its snout, to help flush out fish on the bottom of the ocean.

5. Dolphins mainly eat fish, squid and crustaceans (such as crabs and lobsters) that they swallow whole.

6. Female Dolphins are called cows, males are called bulls, and babies are called calves.

7. Dolphin calves are born tail first.

8. A Dolphin can “see ” by using sound waves bouncing off objects in the environment (called echolocation).

9. Dolphins are very intelligent and can recognize themselves in a mirror (like humans, chimpanzees and elephants).

10. Dolphins have signature whistles which are like human names.

Giant Squid Myths–True or False?

By , February 17, 2015 8:08 am

First giant squid filmed in deep sea: photo by Edie Widder/Discovery Channel

1. The eyes of the Giant Squid Architeuthis dux are the size of dinner plates.

*TRUE* Giant Squid eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom.

2. The Giant Squid have tentacles 60 feet long.

*FALSE* The longest measured dead Giant Squid was 43 feet (13 meters) long.

3. Giant Squid are the Kraken of legend that attacked ships and sailors.

*TRUE* to a certain degree, as washed up specimens of Giant Squid have fascinated humans for 2,000 years. They are known to “attack” boats by sticking their tentacles on them, but they have never attacked any humans!

4. Giant Squid attack Sperm Whales.

*TRUE* but probably only in defense. Sperm Whales have been found with sucker disk marks on their skin which proves that these two species tussle. Sperm Whales probably win most battles, as Giant Squid beaks (their only hard part) have been found in their stomachs.

5. Captain Nemo’s encounter with a Giant Squid in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was inspired by a true event.

*TRUE* in 1861, a French Naval ship encountered a Giant Squid, but Verne’s imagination took over from there!

6. Giant Squid have never been filmed in their natural environment underwater.

*FALSE* in 2012 a Giant Squid was filmed in the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the Discovery Channel’s coverage of a live Giant Squid.

7. A Giant Squid’s beak resembles that of a Parrot.

*TRUE* only a Giant Squid’s beak is made of chitin, which is what the exoskeleton of many insects is made of.

8. When a Giant Squid swallows its food, the food goes past its brain.

*TRUE* A Giant Squid’s esophagus (feeding tube that reaches the stomach) goes past its brain!

9. A Giant Squid’s feeding tentacles are 2x its body length.

*TRUE* A Giant Squid has 8 arms and two long feeding tentacles with clubs at the end.

10. Giant Squid eat other Giant Squid.

*TRUE* Giant Squid are cannibals!

For more information visit Giant Squid Legends

Smithsonian page on Giant Squid

10 Fabulous Facts About Sea Turtles

By , January 21, 2015 4:59 pm
green sea turtle Monterey Bay Aquarium

Green Sea Turtle at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Photo by: Cherilyn Jose

1. Sea Turtles are reptiles that breathe air.

2. There are 7 species of Sea Turtles: Kemp’s Ridley, olive Ridley, flatback, hawksbill, loggerhead, green and leatherback.

3. The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest turtle and heaviest reptile on the planet. It can grow up to 8 feet long (2.4 m) and weigh 1 ton or 2,000 pounds (907 kg).

4. Sea Turtles have been around longer than the dinosaurs (150 million years ago versus dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago).

5. The temperature of a Sea Turtle nest determines whether a Sea Turtle will be a girl or boy. The warmer part of the nest produces females, and the cooler part of the nest produces males.

6. As few as 1 in 4,000 hatchling Sea Turtles will reach adulthood to reproduce.

7. Some Sea Turtles mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean for jellyfish and eat them. Other threats to Sea Turtles include being entangled in fishing gear, disease, light and oil pollution, and habitat loss.

8. Some Sea Turtle females lay their eggs on the same beach they were born on.

9. Sea Turtles can hold their breath for up to 6 hours when resting underwater.

10. Sea Turtles can live up to 100 years old.

10 Fascinating Facts about Piranhas

By , December 22, 2014 1:45 pm
picture red-bellied piranha

Red-bellied Piranha photo by wikimedia commons Karelj

1. All Piranhas live in tropical freshwater rivers, lakes, and lagoons in the northern half of South America.

2. There are between 30-60 species of Piranhas.

3. Piranhas’ teeth are triangular shaped and as sharp as sharks’ teeth.

4. Only 3 species of Piranhas are considered dangerous to humans:
a. Black shoulder Piranha
b. Red-bellied Piranha (average sized at 13 inches and 3 pounds)
c. Sao Francisco Piranha (largest at 24 inches and 13 pounds)

5. There have been no fatal attacks on humans as Piranhas only bite fingers, toes and chunks of legs and hips.

6. Piranhas live 10-25 years.

7. Shoals of up to 1000 Piranhas stay together to survive, not necessarily to hunt.

8. Most Piranhas are omnivores that eat meat (scavenge mainly), seeds and fruits.

9. Predators include caimans (a small crocodile), river otters, larger fish, and herons (a large bird).

10. When Piranhas attack a large animal, they eat the flesh and muscle in seconds, and leave only the skeleton.

Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

By , December 11, 2014 8:08 am
book cover Deep Blue

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly is a mermaid book. There are spells, tails, fancy clothing, houses underwater, animals as pets, and anemones as beds.

This blurb from the inside cover perfectly sums up the book:
“Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromar, has been raised with the expectation—and burden—that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimi ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil…The Dokimi proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin’s arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina’s darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela (her best friend) must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to the other mermaid heroines scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.”

It took me awhile to get into this book as the first 50 pages or so introduce dozens upon dozens of new terms specifically made up for this book series. I’m glad I trudged through, as the story picked up speed once Serafina left her kingdom (the first 100 pages). She and her best friend Neela, also one of 6 “chosen ones,” go on a dangerous quest to quell the six seas of evil.


Danger lurks behind every corner, but since this book is a part of a series, I knew the protagonist and those that are part of the chosen 6, weren’t going to die. The only mermaids in danger are (minor SPOILER) those that Serafina meets along her journey.

Humans are referred to as terragogs, and Serafina meets a few along the way. Humans are seen as bad, and spells have been placed upon them so they don’t expose the mermaids below.

The rest of the book focuses on getting the 6 female characters together, them getting used to their “powers,” and of their almost impossible quest to get some talismans that will help banish the evil from the mer kingdoms.

I would recommend this book who love richly drawn fantasy worlds (one look at the glossary shows how intensive this world is), to those who love mermaid books, and to those that enjoy non-stop action. I am looking forward to the 2nd book in the Waterfire Saga series.

The Real Monsters of the Ocean: Plankton

By , December 1, 2014 8:08 am
icefish larva picture

Icefish larva, part of the plankton

As darkness slowly creeps over the coral reef, the night dwellers begin to appear. Coral relies upon its symbiotic algae to feed themselves during the day, but after dark the coral polyps unfold their sticky tentacles. These tentacles grab food (plankton) floating by in the water.

Black tip reef sharks, which have been snoozing lazily on the sandy bottom during the day, become violent predators. They travel in packs with some sharks flushing out and eating prey from the fish cowering in their reef lairs. Other sharks catch whatever the flushing sharks missed.

A chambered nautilus, the less sexy cousin of octopus and squid, slowly ascends from 2,000 feet deep to 300 feet deep, its shell’s chambers acting like a submarine’s ballast.

Then the real stars of the night show up, barely visible to the naked eye. The longest vertical migration takes place every night. Plankton rise from depths of 1,500 feet to feed near the surface.

I was lucky to see some of these other-worldly creatures on a Blackwater dive called “Pelagic Magic,” through Jack’s Diving Locker in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Divers hold onto ropes under the boat and like a seat back entertainment center on an airplane seat, each diver gets their own individual show. The highlight of my dive was seeing a squid flush red, catch a meal and dart to the surface, all in a blink of any eye.

Plankton are the real monsters of the ocean, as the myriad of shapes and colors is outstanding. The larval form of many animals, like a crab or sea urchin, look nothing like the adults. Much of the plankton is translucent because in the depths of the ocean they virtually disappear. Other plankton are bright red, which at the surface are obvious, but at depth they are barely visible. This is because red is the first color to be lost under the water. The further down you descend in the ocean, the less colors you see.

Did you know krill (part of the plankton) are the most abundant animal on Earth?

Book Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

By , November 25, 2014 8:08 am
atlantia by allie condie

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Despite that the blurb from this fiction book makes it sound like it is about mermaids, it isn’t truly. It is a tale of humans living underwater once the air “Above” got too polluted. It is also a story about sisterhood and friendship. The book even ventures into religious territory with the people “Above” and “Below” worshipping their gods, and the people’s changing faith over time. It is a quick read at 298 pages. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, a young adult dystopian series. But I would recommend it to Condie’s fans, those with an environmental bent, and those who enjoy a good story about female empowerment and the strong sisterly bond.

The story revolves around the relationship between those that live Above with those that live Below. Since the book is titled “Atlantia,” most of the story takes place Below. The main character is Rio is recovering from her mother’s mysterious death a year ago. She then has to grieve over the decision of her sister (SPOILERS) to live Above. About three-quarters of the book follows Rio Below, and the rest of the book of her adventure Above. I wouldn’t call this an adventure book as the pace is slow, and it’s not quite a thriller. It is like a mystery, as Rio investigates not only why her sister left without an explanation, but also into the mysterious circumstances of her mother’s death.

Rio meets True, who helps her earn money so she can try and escape Above. True is her love interest, but the romance takes a back seat to the rest of the plot of Rio trying to escape Above. Most of the book focuses on the complicated relationship between her and her mother’s sister, who is a Siren like Rio. Sirens are sort of like mermaids in that they have powerful voices, but they don’t swim underwater or have tails. So Rio slowly learns about her Siren abilities from her Aunt Maire, a shifty figure who is blamed by many for the death of her sister.

The ending is satisfying if not predictable, but the ride is worth the read. I recommend this book for readers who enjoy strong female characters and being immersed in new worlds.

10 Awesome Facts About Cuttlefish

By , November 10, 2014 8:08 am
pharaoh cuttlefish

Pharaoh Cuttlefish (photo by Cherilyn Jose)

1. Cuttlefish are cephalopods, not fish. Cephalopods include octopus, squid and nautilus.

2. Cuttlefish, along with most cephalopods, are the ocean’s most intelligent invertebrates.

3. Cuttlebone, found in the body of a cuttlefish, is used by pet birds to get calcium.

4. Cuttlefish have green-blue blood and 3 hearts!

5. A cuttlefish’s camouflage is so good that it can take on a checkerboard pattern placed beneath it.

6. Cuttlefish are color blind.

7. Cuttlefish taste with their suckers.

8. Cuttlefish have 8 arms and 2 long tentacles used for feeding.

9. The largest cuttlefish is the Australian giant cuttlefish, which is the size and shape of an American football.

10. Cuttlefish have W shaped eyelids so they can see in front of them and behind them at the same time.

Guest Post: World’s Most Fabulous Diving Hotspots

By , October 13, 2014 4:10 pm
snorkeler

Snorkeler

World’s Most Fabulous Diving Hotspots by Angel Jessica

For some international tourists, a leisure trip would not be complete without engaging in some form of fun activity. For such tourists, planning a vacation includes identifying locations that can be described as sporting destinations. These locations are either naturally or artificially designed to support various sporting activities. Countries with long and safe coastlines are bound to offer some of the best diving experiences. Indeed, most divers prefer areas that will allow them to explore their beautiful fantasies of the underwater world and at the same time, allows underwater photographers to take stunning underwater pictures. Depending on the main reason why one wishes to go diving, they can choose a location that suits their needs. However, with scuba diving becoming increasingly popular, diving enthusiasts are looking for new locations. Here are some of the World’s Most Fabulous Diving Hotspots.

Cocos Island, Costa Rica
For those who wish to visit this island, they must take the long journey from Puntarenas, the mainland port. Indeed, the beauty of the island is worth the trip and any tourist who decides to go to the island will have great fun. However, only experienced divers are allowed to dive the waters of the four mile-long island. Divers visit the island by means of a live aboard.

Magnetic Island, Australia
Many people have praised this famous diving hotspot for a number of reasons. First, anyone who jumps into the water will be in a position to see beautiful underwater wildlife. At the same time, divers enjoy great visibility at this diving spot, making it easy to make the most of the diving experience. Apart from the amazing marine life, another factor that makes this spot attractive is the fact that it is accessible from the sheltered beaches of Townsville. For international divers who are keen on travelling to Australia, they must ensure that they obtain an Australian visa with them.

Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize, home to the second largest reef in the world, is also renowned as a great diving spot. What makes this spot stand out is that the diving depths are shallower in comparison to those of other diving spots. The area has more than adequate accommodations, so visitors will not have to worry. All that will be left is for tourists to enjoy the splendours of the area.

Red Sea, Egypt
The best diving spot in Egypt is at Yolanda Reef, which is located in Ras Mohammed National Park. The best kept national park in the country also has a number of other great diving spots. For this reason, divers can also explore Abu Nuhas and Woodhouse Reef diving sites.

Baa Atoll, Maldives
The fact that this atoll has featured on several television documentaries is a clear indication that the location is a great and popular diving spot. Indeed, while the atoll offers tourists a chance to indulge and have fun, the same place allows scientists to conduct scientific studies on animals such as manta rays and whale sharks.

What it’s Like to SCUBA Dive: Part I

By , September 15, 2014 11:42 am
manta ray cleaning station

Me and a manta ray at a cleaning station

I have returned from a SCUBA diving trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, and I am inspired to share the joy of diving with those that may never learn to dive. PADI, a leading SCUBA diving organization that certifies divers, has certified over 23 million SCUBA divers. That means (assuming most of the certifications from PADI were in the USA) less than 1% of people in the USA have gone diving.

Here’s a description of what it’s like to suit up on a boat dive and actually enter the water:
(This assumes that the gear is already setup, which also takes time to do and will be a part of a different post)

Gearing up for me starts with a fleece-lined dive skin. This layer helps keep me warm, and it helps the wetsuit slide on more easily. Then it’s the farmer john wetsuit layer (think overalls). After sliding it on, I get help with the Velcro shoulder straps. The shortie part of the wetsuit (it covers the chest, arms, crouch and part of thighs) is next. I put on the booties on my feet under the leg portion of my farmer john wetsuit.

It’s time to defog my mask with defog drops (others use spit, dilute baby shampoo or defog gel). I rub them on the inner windows of my mask, and rinse in water. It’s then time to sit down on the bench in front of my gear. I check that my tank and dive computer are on. I put my flippers on. I strap on my BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device) on like a backpack, and clip or Velcro several straps to me. I shimmy my way out of my seat and shuffle to the back of the boat. Take a giant stride off the dive platform, signal I’m okay to the boat, and get camera from crew member.

I let all the air out of my BCD and start to descend. I clear my ears frequently (it’s the same as when you pop your ears on an airplane). Near the bottom I add air to my BCD so I don’t hit the bottom, especially if it’s a coral reef. I always marvel at some point during my dive at how I’m breathing underwater. It’s a weird yet exhilarating feeling. I look around at all the fish and coral, and look around frequently for large visitors such as dolphins and tiger sharks that prove quite elusive.

I usually follow a dive guide so I don’t get lost. More experienced divers, especially photographers, go off on their own. I take lots of pictures even though I know they aren’t good. They serve as a reminder of the fish and coral I’ve seen. I check my dive computer frequently to monitor depth and air consumption. By 500 psi I signal to my buddy and dive guide that I need to surface (a thumbs up) and the guide points up to the boat above and waves goodbye. I do a safety stop for 3 minutes at 15 feet. Then I kick up to the boat’s ladder and take off my fins. I give them and my camera to a crew member on the boat. I haul myself out of the water and waddle over to my spot on the bench. Once the tank is in place, it’s time to unstrap myself and share what I saw with my fellow SCUBA divers!

Review of Mission Blue Documentary about Dr. Sylvia Earle

By , August 26, 2014 5:08 am

On August 15, 2014, Netflix began streaming a biographical documentary on Dr. Sylvia Earle called “Mission Blue.” Sylvia is the pre-eminent oceanographer of our time. She has logged over 7,000 hours underwater, and even walked beneath the ocean untethered to 1,250 feet! She is often called “Her Deepness.”

I have admired Sylvia for most of my life, as she once spoke at my elementary school close to where she lives in Oakland, California. I have read biographies of Sylvia, but none compare to this documentary. It covers her whole life, from growing up in New Jersey (where she was free to romp in the woods), to moving to Florida at age 12 (where she fell in love with the ocean), to today where she is a crusader against all the atrocities facing our oceans today. It not only covers her professional life, but it touches on her personal life including three marriages (and divorces) and being a working mother when it was not common. All women scientists today owe gratitude to Sylvia for blazing a trail on her way through a sexist society. She was often the only woman on an expedition and she endured headlines such as “Sylvia sails away with 70 men,” and for her time with five other aquanauts living underwater, the headline read, “6 women and only one hairdryer.”

Like her terrestrial counterpart, Dr. Jane Goodall, Sylvia travels up to 300 days a year. She is spreading a message of hope for the oceans and often says, “No Blue; No Green. No Oceans; No Us.” The oceans are the Earth’s life support system. They produce oxygen from marine plants, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The oceans are the life blood of the planet.

I highly recommend “Mission Blue” for anyone who streams movies through Netflix. You will not only learn about Sylvia’s amazing life, from her first set of SCUBA gear, to the deep sea submersibles she has help built, but also about the many changes happening to our ocean environment. There are breath-taking segments showing the ocean in all its beauty and splendor. It can be depressing at times, like seeing the sharks being finned alive, but overall the theme is “ocean optimism.” Sylvia recommends designating “Hope Spots” around the globe. In fact this was her TED wish in 2009. Less than 3% of the ocean is protected, compared to 12% of land that is protected. Sylvia’s wish is coming true, though she would like 20% of the ocean to be protected by 2020!

A Great White Shark’s view of Shark Week

By , August 11, 2014 8:08 am
great white shark picture

Great White Shark (photo by Cherilyn Chin Jose)

Hi, my name is Boo. I’m the star of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. At least my species is. I’m a great white shark. My name is Boo because I like to sneak up on my prey. The name “shark” already strikes terror in humans, but adding the “great white” part makes me sound scarier. I must admit, my mouthful of teeth and red gums are very intimidating, and aren’t very pretty. But my mouth sure does scare my prey, which is what matters most to me!

I don’t like how sharks are portrayed during Shark Week. We’re not man-eating mindless machines. I gotta eat, and over millions of years, great white sharks have become very proficient at eating other animals. Eating live prey is messy with blood everywhere in the water. Did you know I can smell one drop of blood in 25 gallons (100 liters) of seawater?

I could have been named a “great gray shark” because my back is gray. This is due to countershading. That means that when animals see me from below, my white belly blends into the sunlight above me. When an animal looks at me from above, my gray back blends into the dark water below me.

I’m not like those show-off great white sharks that live off of South Africa. I don’t jump clear out of the water when catching my prey. Instead I sneak up on my prey from below. I live off the coast of California, and I like to eat sea lions, seals, small toothed whales and carrion (food I scavenge).

I have 300 triangular teeth several rows deep. The teeth are continually being replaced so I never have to see a dentist.

I have no natural predator, except for orcas or killer whales. I have an unnatural predator in humans. Up to 100 million sharks annually are killed, mainly for their fins. The fins are used in shark fin soup, a delicacy in many Asian countries.

I would be safer if I just stayed near California, but a lot of great white sharks travel to the “White Shark Café” between Baja California and Hawaii. Those waters are not protected by any one nation. Why we do that is a mystery to humans, and I ain’t gonna be the one who talks!

I hope if you tune into Shark Week this week that you remember who the true killers are (humans) and that you remember me, Boo. I’m not that scary after all, right?

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