December 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

Whale Watch Training!

Today was the annual traning trip for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s whale watch docent naturalist program.

I was worried that the trip would be canceled for bad weather, after all, we have huge swells hitting our coast from storms far out in the Pacific, but today was remarkably calm. Even though it was raining when I left the house, I called the landing to get confirmation that things were a go. And they were. It was still drizzly as we left on the Voyager but the water was glassy and the swells were rather tame.

Unlike a regular whale watching trip, this one was led by no less than a half-dozen naturalists including: Diana McIntyre, Bernardo Alps, Diane Alps, Alisa Schulman-Janiger and John Olguin. Though the whales eluded us (it’s still early in the season) we did find two pods of long-beaked common dolphins. The first was a large one with probably 800 individuals feeding on some herring (or some other small silvery fish) along with a large variety of gulls and pelicans with the occasional sea lion thrown in.

But you really just wanna see photos, right? Click for larger versions:


Rocky Point as seen from the boat.


Common Dolphin pod.


Long-beaked common dolphin.


Possibly the same long-beaked common dolphin.


Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Santa Monica Bay


A Brown Pelican in breeding plumage.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:11 pm     Whale Watching

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas Readers

This was the tree on Christmas Eve. It looks rather different now as all the presents are either distributed or opened.


(Okay, I photoshopped that hat on her. There’s no way she’s sit there so accomodatingly with a real one. Click on the photo for larger lameness.)

I got lots of candy (shock!) and I’m thrilled with all of it. My father even sent me pounds and pounds (I’m not kidding) of various kinds of Wilbur which means I’ll be making candy very soon because there’s no way I’m eating three pounds of unsweetened baking chocolate. I also got a home photo studio setup for taking, so look forward to both fresh candy and copious photos of it all! My mother also gave The Man and me a wonderful gift this year as she adopted a dozen kids at a rescue mission and got Christmas gifts for all of them - what a wonderful way to spread the joy of the season around.

In other news the waves are still high here in Southern California and they’re calling for rain. Even if the skies are clear, the large swells may keep the boat at the dock so no whalewatching. My hopes are high for Friday though.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:44 pm    

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Card Carrying

I passed my whalewatching naturalist test!

(None of you doubted me, did you?)

So, I get to go out on Monday for the training trip (out of Redondo Beach on the Voyager) and then on my first trip as a veteran whalewatch naturalist on Friday the 30th through Spirit Cruises at Ports ‘o Call.

You can now expect many photos of cetaceans and other sea-related things.


POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:07 pm    

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Decorative Mood

So The Man is on his way out to buy a Chistmas tree for us.

One problem.

I can’t find the decorations. I have two boxes, maybe you’ve seen them around? One is a plastic Rubbermaid bin with a piece of white fabric gaffer’s tape on it that says CHRISTMAS on it? There’s another file box, too that also has the word Christmas scrawled in black with as Sharpie marker? Anyone see those around the house?

It’s been three years since we’ve been home, so the last time we had a tree was before the kitchen remodel. I’ve looked everywhere they could be ... but the list of places I don’t think they are but could be is much longer. Sigh. Maybe we’re getting new ornaments this year.

UPDATE: I found one of them. The Rubbermaid tub. Apparently that “marking them” thing works much better if you do it on both ends ... or at least stack the tub so that the label is facing out.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:46 pm    

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Narwhal’s tusk explained

Marine Biology Mystery Solved: Function of “Unicorn” Whale’s 8-foot Tooth Discovered

After hundreds of years of guessing, Harvard Medical School announced what they believe to be the purpose of the Narwhal’s tusk.


The Narwhal is a small toothed whale (member of the Odoncete suborder) that lives in the Arctic and North Atlantic. Males grow to be about 15 feet and weigh about 3,500 pounds and females slightly smaller at 13 feet and a slimmer 2,000 pounds. They are unique in the world of cetaceans in that they have a single tusk, which is a modified tooth grows in corkscrew fashion from their left jaw. Many are up to nine feet long, which means that they may be two thirds as long as their body. Unlike most Acrtic whales, the Narwhal does not migrate south but they do move around in larger groups within the Arctic Ocean from the shores to more open ocean as ice floes cover areas.

Nweeia has discovered that the narwhal’s tooth has hydrodynamic sensor capabilities. Ten million tiny nerve connections tunnel their way from the central nerve of the narwhal tusk to its outer surface. Though seemingly rigid and hard, the tusk is like a membrane with an extremely sensitive surface, capable of detecting changes in water temperature, pressure, and particle gradients. Because these whales can detect particle gradients in water, they are capable of discerning the salinity of the water, which could help them survive in their Arctic ice environment. It also allows the whales to detect water particles characteristic of the fish that constitute their diet. There is no comparison in nature and certainly none more unique in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.

This is a totally cool adaptation as far as I’m concerned. Much like a lizard or snake uses their tongue to taste the air, this discovery about the sensory sensitivity of the Narwhal’s tooth must makes their adaption to their habitat all the more admirable.

UPDATE: Amazingly detailed article from the NY Times now up!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:11 pm     Whale Watching













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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.