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A blue encounter

I remember watching a David Attenborough BBC film and he was talking about the blue whale. How its heart is the size of a VW beetle and some blood vessels are so wide you could swim down them. The segment wraps with a shot of the blues tail lifted up out of the water, ‘as wide as a small aircrafts wings’ it stretched out wider than the edges of the screen. After I saw that I thought to myself, if I ever see a blue whale I will be the luckiest person alive. It seemed as probable as seeing a real live unicorn. Only a dedicated researcher or well-funded film crew could be privileged enough to see such an amazing creature. The one and only largest animal that ever lived. And today I saw it. Not just one but two.

WOW. Everything I’ve heard is true, the blow really is tall and they really do have a long body, the dorsal fin is really far back. Once the whale surfaced along side of the boat and I started taking pictures blind;  I was so excited I couldn’t even look straight through the view finder. When I calmed down I got the hang of seeing the turquoise colour in the water where it was cruising just under the surface.  I was almost able to predict when it was about to surface and blow. I got some decent photos, even the ones from far away turned out to be usable. Next time I should definitely take more pictures, it’s easy enough to delete the really bad ones. I can’t wait until I go out again!

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Weird things to find on a dive

Took some fresh Open water students on a tour of Whytecliff Marine Park today when I noticed a peculiar piece of debris on the sandy bottom it looked like this:

What is it?

This object fits in the palm of my hand and is quite durable, as it doesn’t fall apart when handled.

I just learned what it was a week ago so I was pretty excited to show it to the new divers.

This strange spiral is a Moon snail egg cluster, like nudibranch they lay eggs in a ribbon but this ribbon contains sand and is not to a rock but left loose on the sandy bottom. Watch for them on your next dive!

I am wondering if they are seasonal since it is only recently that I have started noticing them.

Explained: Ocean Acidification

This week school groups started up again at the Vancouver Aquarium and for the Cnidarian station I took the kids over to the coral exhibit. I told them about how sensitive corals are to their environment, and changes, including ocean acidification are causing them to die off in coral bleaching events.

Ocean acidification was a key topic throughout my undergrad degree. We were told the chemical reaction that occurs between CO2 and the ocean that creates acid.  Quickly I forgot the formula and “acidification” became the stock answer I gave whenever a prof asked what effects humans have on the oceans.

Now that I am teaching kids who haven’t taken Organic Chem, I struggle to find a way to explain it to the grade 11 and 12 students in a way that makes sense.

Today I stumbled upon this analogy via a twitter post from @theoceanproject

Imagine you are filling buckets to build a sand castle on the shore. Then someone begins to remove the sand from your buckets faster than you can add to your castle. Then you realize that the waves are beginning to lap at your castle. You are trying to build your castle, but someone is taking away your building material, while another force erodes your creation capacity.

This article also reminded me that Carbonic Acid is what forms when high CO2 concentrations and ocean water meet.

This week when I’m talking to school groups I’m going to challenge myself to stay focused on Acidification and its impact on the groups of animals we look at: Molluscs, Echinoderms, Arthropods, and Cnidarians.

Swam with a Shark (and lots of turtles)

On my recent trip to Maui, Hawaii I decided to do a boat dive to Molokini. Molokini is a sunken crater a few miles off the south coast of Maui.

Image courtesy of aloha-hawaii.com

There are numerous ways to dive the site, dives inside the crater are popular for their reef sharks, manta rays and abundant fish with a max depth of 40 ft. I was more interested in the backwall dive, where the crater exterior plunges down to depths of 350ft.  This diving requires good buoyancy but is worth it for advanced divers. I was amazed by the clarity of the water, which made visibility nearly 200ft. I remember looking down from the surface while waiting to be picked up by the boat as the remaining group continued the dive. I had left them at about  80ft and I could see them as clearly as if they were 10 ft below, even more I could see the wall fading into the blue 50ft below them. Overall amazing topography on this dive. I was happy to see at least one large pelagic (my first shark!), unfortunately no whales or dolphins though those types of underwater sightings are more rare.

For the second dive that day we went to a site called 5 graves/ 5 caves. This site is named after the ancient Hawaiian burial grounds located onshore and for the caves and tubes formed by gas bubbles in lava flows that are now hardened rock. I managed to get some good footage of this site with my camera.

See my facebook album of the dives here.

Make Sustainable Seafood Easy

Consider the affect your food has on our oceans: choose hook and line caught fish (trolling) over trawling (destructive nets dragged along the bottom).

This video highlights some common places to buy seafood and what types you should look out for.

For your convenience try the mobile apps developed by Monterey Bay Aquarium

 

and the Vancouver Aquarium.

Monterey bay also provides location specific seafood guides here.

You can also check out Canada’s seafood guide.

Now there’s little excuse for you not to help our oceans by eating sustainably.

Don’t need to be a pro to get stoked

Found this,

which linked me to this article,

For many people – surfers and non-surfers alike – the experience of standing on the shore and gazing out at the ocean is deeply satisfying. There is something uniquely calming and contemplative about an ocean vista – something that touches us on an emotional level, but is nonetheless difficult to put into words, or even fully understand.

– Mind surfing, Tom Garlinghouse

And I totally agree,

I would love to have a paddle board and an oceanfront home so I could go sit out on the ocean whenever I want.

One of my favourite parts of diving is the swim back to shore after a good dive, especially when it gets late in the day, the water is super calm and the air is warm, you feel so refreshed and tranquil, then a seal swims by… definitely relaxing.

Communicating Science

Last year I did a project in the realm of Science journalism.
See the final product here.

Included is the following video which I narrated myself, and filmed with 2 other classmates

Today science is playing a larger role than ever in our everyday life, it’s important that we are able to understand what is being discovered.

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