Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 1.7 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Wed, 7 Jan 1998 10:14:49 -0500 (EST)


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Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 16:34:36 -0500
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 1.7

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 7, January, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
Happy New Year, folks. The big news from the New England Aquarium is that,
as of January 10, we've opened our brand new West Wing, and the Coastal
Rhtyhms: Creatures on the Edge exhibit. The exhibit explores the delicate
balance between human activity and coastal life, and it has some of the
most interesting and bizarre critters we've exhibited here in some time.
Don't miss the leafy and weedy seadragons, ornate and beautiful members of
the seahorse family; Atlantic puffins; baby crocodiles from Indochina;
lagoon jellies from the island nation of Palau; and, giant spider crabs
from Japan.

In this issue:
  Watery Words
    Seal Swims off into the Sunset
    Sperm Whale Beaches on Nantucket
    Watch Your Trash; It Can Kill
  Out On The Net
  January Calendar
  Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information
  Contact Us

=-=-= WATERY WORDS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"Aye, aye," he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a
heart-stricken moose; "Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that
razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!"

                - Herman Melville
                 From "Moby Dick, or The Whale"

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

This month's story is from our favorite seal tracker, Greg Early.

Last May, the Northeast Marine Animal Lifeline rescued an abandoned harbor
seal pup from Gooch's Beach in Kennebunk, ME. The newborn seal was sick and
dehydrated, and had been orphaned by his mother. Because he showed some
signs that he could be nursed back to health, Gooch was brought to the New
England Aquarium for intensive medical care, where he stayed until October
9. He was fed and treated, fattened up, and as soon as he was in full
health and able to eat whole fish, he was ready for release back to the
ocean. Before he was released, Greg Early fit him with a satellite tag that
would send signals of his whereabouts and behavior in the wild.

Greg tracked Gooch for a total of 36 days, until he stopped receiving
signals on November 14. During this time, Gooch had travelled more then 725
miles from southern and central Maine to Cape Cod Bay, where the last
signals were received in Wellfleet Bay. He travelled roughly 20 miles per
day, never stopping in one location for long. At times, he was as far as 50
miles offshore, and spent several days up the Kennebec River in Maine.

Gooch also made a southerly run, from near Harpswell, Maine to Wellfleet
Bay, a distance of over 175 miles in five days (over 35 miles per day).
Although it is commonly believed that seals move down the coast from Maine
to Cape Cod in the fall and winter months, this is the first time that this
movement has been documented. It also gives us valuable information on the
rate at which a young seal can travel.

While the length of time Gooch was tracked was enough to verify his
survival for the short term, it is not long enough to say for certain that
he was able to survive in the long term. Similar studies have shown that
tracks of several months are necessary to establish this for certain.

According to Greg, "Whenever we lose a signal from an animal we are
tracking there are three basic possibilities: that the tag became detached
from the seal, that the tag malfunctioned, or the seal did not survive. We
received no information from the tag that indicated that it was
malfunctioning, and it should have had power for several more months."
There was no indication that the attachment failed, and, in general the
tags are not often lost this quickly. "While we are concerned that Gooch
had not established a 'normal' movement or dive pattern, we are still in
the early stages of studying the way rehabilitated seals reintegrate into
the wild."

The New England Aquarium has been treating and releasing seals for more
than twenty years, but it was not until recently that technology allows us
to track what happens to these seals when they are released into the wild.
Gooch was one of the first harbor seals we've ever fit with a satellite tag
before his release. Tracking allows us to learn a great deal about seal
behavior, and how they fit into the larger North Atlantic ecosystem. It
also lets us know whether sick seal pups that have been rescued and
released can survive. In the wild the survival of young pups is far from
assured, and in some populations mortality within the first year of life
may be as high as forty to fifty percent. The good news is, that by
rescuing Gooch, we gave him a second chance at survival. But, his
reintegration into the wild is a mystery.

Droplet: According to the dive data Gooch made more than 11,000 dives
during his 39 days of tracking (more than 500 dives per day). Our tag
allowed us to collect information on roughly 60% of these dives.

------SPERM WHALE BEACHES ON NANTUCKET-------------------------------------
(January 2) New England Aquarium veterinarian Howard Krum today is trying
to determine what caused a 48-foot-long male sperm whale to beach itself
and die on a Nantucket Island beach on December 31, 1997.

Last week, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and volunteers in the New
England Aquarium's stranding network reported that the whale was in shallow
surf, was obviously ill and lethargic. Dr. Krum and Aquarium stranding
staffer Connie Merigo flew to Nantucket immediately to assess the health of
the animal, and determine what should be the course of action. They arrived
on the scene but unfortunately were unable to approach the animal, which
was in 15-foot surf. And, approaching a more than 20-ton whale can be
tricky, as when animals are sick, they may act unpredictably. Merigo and
Krum returned to Boston, instructing Nantucket stranding volunteers to keep
a close eye on the animal, which appeared disoriented as it swam in shallow
water off the beach. Later, on December 31, they reported that the whale
had died.

The animal was towed up onto the beach at high tide, and today, Dr. Krum,
Connie Merigo, and scientist Dr. Darlene Ketten of Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institute are performing a necropsy (animal autopsy) to discover what may
have been the cause of the whale's death. They will assess the animal's
condition for obvious indications. It may take months for results of blood
and tissue sample to come back from the laboratory, and these results may
not even provide conclusions.

So what does one do with all those bones and blubber? The skeleton will be
prepared and displayed at the whaling museum, and the teeth saved for
scientific record. The whale's teeth will likely be analyzed to determine
its age, in a process similar to tree-ring dating.

Sperm whales, most commonly recognized by their huge, squarish heads, were
the inspiration for the novel Moby Dick.  (Did you know that reading that
book aloud would take longer than 24 hours?) They are widely distributed in
all oceans of the world, and are usually found in very deep water. In 1994,
International Wildlife Coalition estimated that there are some 1.9 million
sperm whales worldwide. They are generally considered plentiful. Adult male
sperm whales grow to lengths of up to 60-65 feet; females tend to be
smaller, growing to lengths of up to 40 feet.

Droplet: Sperm whales are among the deepest diving marine mammals, having
been tracked to over 2,000 meters (+6,500 feet, or 65 football fields)
deep. They have been known to become entangled in trans-Atlantic telephone
cable in deeper dives, though
this type of incident is rare.

*Bonus Droplet, because I just couldn't resist:  Ambergris is a strange
material found in the lower intestine of sperm whales. It forms around
undigested squid beaks, as if it were a giant whale hairball. It was once
used as a fixing agent for perfumes, and is still highly prized. Globs as
large as 100kg have been found. In the mid-1960s, nearly 30,000 whales
per year were taken in commercial whaling operations.

-----WATCH YOUR TRASH; IT CAN KILL-----------------------------------------
This, from The Boston Globe, Monday, December 1, 1997. Plastic Poisoning:
A 65-foot, 70-ton finback whale died on Spain's northern coast after eating
about 130 pounds of plastic debris. The Spanish daily El Pais reported
that the whale beached near Santander, and died despite the efforts of 40
rescue workers. An examination of the whale's intestines revealed that the
mammal had swallowed about 30 plastic bags, a rubber glove and several hard
plastic objects. The plastic had formed into a ball that blocked the
whale's digestive tract, causing it to lose more than four tons of weight
before dying. From Earthweek, by Steve Newman.

Droplet: The fin whale is the second largest animal in the world, after the
blue whale. It can grow to a length of 26m (85ft) and weigh 30-80 tons, but
the average it is much smaller.

=-=-= OUT ON THE NET =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Animal Tracking:

Sperm Whales:

Ocean Trash:

=-=- FREE ADMISSION FOR SENIORS -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Beginning Monday, January 5, 1998, the New England Aquarium awards
sea-niority to senior citizens (age 60+) with FREE admission on Monday
afternoons from 12:00 - 4:30 P.M. The Sea-niority program runs January 5
through May 18, 1998. Simply present valid identification to explore the
world of water, from the mysterious Amazon, to the depths of the Caribbean,
to the rocky coast of Maine.

=-=-= JANUARY CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Saturday, January 10, Coastal Rhythms: Creatures on the Edge exhibit opens
heralding the completion of the brand new West Wing. Coastal Rhythms
explores the exotic and turbulent realm where land meets sea. Peek at a
puffin, gaze into a garden of eels, and watch ornate leafy and weedy sea
dragons. Learn how coastal people and coastal animals interact. This
exhibit is included with Aquarium admission.

February's a busy month! Watch here for great activities for school
vacation week.

=-=-= SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
To subscribe to Seabits, either visit <>
OR send e-mail to <>. In the body of your email message
write "subscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

To unsubscribe to Seabits, send email to <>. In the body
of your email message write "unsubscribe seabits" (without the quotes).

=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Content questions and comments? Contact Susan Gedutis at <>.

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at <>.

=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Wishing you all a very pleasant new year. And let me just say again, don't
miss the leafy seadragons. They are really amazing!  Catch you in