Monday, December 29, 2008

Disentangling Whales

I love the Internet. I love awesome websites. What I love most is when people on the Internet send me awesome websites. So, when Jives over at The New Blue sent me the link to the New England Aquarium Research Team site, I was pretty darn excited! Here's a group of people, so driven to help protect Right Whales, that they get out on the water and disentangle fishing gear from the whales. Let me say that again, they disentangle fishing gear from whales. Wow! How do I get a job like that?

With so many human-created dangers out there, it's a wonder the worldwide whale populations are not even worse off. With abandoned fishing gear littering the ocean and starving Southern Resident Orcas, there is so much set against the mystical megafauna. I'm thankful that there are people making an effort to even out the playing field. One whale at a time is much, much better than nothing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Pet Peeve

Every now and then I like to mix my interests of crafting and marine biology and check out what creative marine biology-related crafts people are coming up with. I'm also a fan of Etsy, and their searchable site makes it easy to find what I'm looking for. Most of the crafts that feature whales are of the cutesy, cartoonified variety. You know the one I mean, right? It's the whale with an open mouth -- no teeth or baleen -- and no pectoral fins. Kind of like this one...

Well, I've learned to get over the misleading imagery of this whale design, but -- and here's where the pet peeve comes in -- I can't get over it when people make these designs even more scientifically inaccurate. For example, I was just browsing for some whale crafts, and found one that had a whale, like the one above, eating krill. I mean, come on! The whale looks most like a sperm whale, yet has no teeth, and would not intentionally be eating krill! (Sure, a sperm whale might ingest some krill while getting other food, but that's not the point.) It doesn't make sense, but I'm not going to message the person to tell them that this cute thing they've designed and put so much work into is wrong. I'm just not that kind of person. This type of inaccuracy seems to be contagious in the world of crafts, which is why scientifically correct crafts make me so happy when I see them.

Here are some of my favorite artist-designed, marine biology-related items:

Angler Fish shirt at

Whale Huggers poster by Don McMichael at The Whale Museum

The "I Feel Pretty" Giant Isopod totebag at Questionable Content

Nudibranch Soft Sculpture by Weirdbuglady on Etsy

Arctic Print by SepiaLepus on Etsy

Whale Tails Shadow Puppet Set by Orangemoontoys on Etsy

Do you have any favorites?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10,000 Kitty Cats!?

The new Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is an intense visual experience. They've done a lot to immerse visitors into the realm of oceanic wonder. The hall itself is rectangular with the entrance off the first floor rotunda. My first instinct was to look up; the ceiling spans two floors and there are many things to see above the floor exhibits.

The most eye-catching exhibit is Phoenix, a model of a resilient Northern Right Whale. At one point in her life, she was entangled by a mess of fishing line, but she made it out fine -- save for some scarring on her fluke and bottom lip. All these scars were visible on the model as well.

All through the hall, a graphic of Phoenix accompanied a word bubble with text pointing out a key fact about that exhibit. Often there would be a follow-up question to the visitor, or a humorous anecdote. For example, one of Phoenix's bubbles stated that an adult Northern Right Whale weights 140,000 pounds, which is equal to twelve African Elephants or 10,000 kitty cats!

Along with general species information, the biological exhibits had three main questions emblazoned on the cases:

1) Where does it live?
2) Is it big (or small)?
3) What is it related to?

It was easy to see the main education objectives of the exhibit developers.

One of my favorite exhibits was on vertebrates, and compared the largest -- Blue Whale -- with the smallest -- the Goby. To reach the weight of a Blue, one would need 155,000,000,000 gobies. That's a lot of gobies!