Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.4 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Thu, 2 Apr 1998 10:35:46 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 16:06:29 -0500
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 2.4

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 4, April, 1998
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1998.
Happy April, and happy spring! Anyone who's been anywhere near Boston this
week knows we're all celebrating global warming in style with 80-degree
scorchers. Of course, we mustn't forget that just one year ago today,
Boston was dumped on with almost three feet of snow. Gosh, let's all
observe a moment of silence, in its honor. Hmmm... never mind. Let's just
enjoy this year's anomaly. This month, we again bring you tales of
adventure and aquatic woe, along with an extremely busy month, as you'll
see in the calendar. Whale watch season begins, the World of Water Film
Series is screening free films all over Boston and Mass., the Native
America Herring Moon Festival kicks off a new series at the Aquarium, and
the Aquarium Travel Program has some unique offerings.

Note from the Editor:   I can't thank people who've sent feedback in the
past; it is immensely helpful. Now, I have a specific question: What do you
think of the length of Seabits? Too long? Too short? Send e-mail to me,
your dedicated Seabits correspondent, Susan Gedutis, at <>.

In this issue:
    Watery Words
       Scientists at a Loss to Explain Beaching of Marine Toaster
       Octopus Escapes: Considered Heavily Armed
       Sounds of the Sea
    Out On The Net
    Catch us on TV With Alan Alda
    Special Invitation to Travelers
    Aquarium Kicks off World of Water Film Festival
    April Calendar (It's wicked packed.)
    Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information
    Contact Us

=3D-=3D-=3D WATERY WORDS =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=

I don't like the sound of my phone ringing so I put my phone inside my fish
tank. I can't hear it, but every time I get a call I see the fish go like
this <<<>>><<<>>>. I go down to the pet store -- "Gimme another ten
guppies, I got a lotta calls yesterday."

                           -Steven Wright, comedian

=3D-=3D-=3D STORIES =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D=
This month's stories:
   1) Scientists at a Loss to Explain Beaching of Marine Toaster
   2) Octopus Escapes: Considered Heavily Armed
   3) Sounds of the Sea

(WYMAN, ME, April 1) -- Scientists at the New England Aquarium were at a
loss today to explain the rare beaching of a 25-foot toaster on Bruce's
Beach in Wyman, Maine. "We've never seen anything like it," said town
official William "Willy" Foolus. "And we've seen some weird things around

A large crowd of onlookers rushed to the beach early this morning when the
toaster was first reported rolling in on the morning tide. Passersby
initially pushed the toaster back into the surf, but were unsuccessful at
returning the appliance to the sea. "We tried pushing and dragging, but she
just didn't seem to want to go. I think it was suicide," said a local
resident. As the tide receded, representatives from several rescue groups
and local appliance repair shops arrived and began to keep the toaster wet
until officials at the New England Aquarium could arrive. "You've got to
keep 'em wet otherwise they rust," said longtime repairman Sam "Sparky"

"While toasters are quite common in Maine, this is the first time I've seen
a giant one wash ashore," said Aquarium representative Greg "Volts" Early.
"This one appears to have been dead for sometime, and they usually don't
float." Aquarium scientists began a detailed "appliopsy" (a toaster
autopsy) to determine the cause of the toaster's demise. "We are looking
for signs of human interaction, ship strike or possible fishing gear
entanglement," said Early. "Right now we can find no clear signs of what
happened, although the cord is frayed a bit, and we have sent samples of
crumbs we found inside the toaster to the Maytag National Appliance Center
for analysis." Scientists are hoping to have results from the tests in
several weeks. When asked about the significance of the rare beaching Early
said, "We know so little about giant appliances, every chance to examine
them is a rare scientific opportunity."

The National Marine Toasters Service reminds Cape residents that according
to the Marine Appliance Protection Act, it is illegal to touch or move a
marine toaster, except by official letter by the NMTS.

Special to Seabits, by "Drizzly" Early.

Droplet: Some researchers suggest that it was not an iceberg, but a wayward
marine toaster, that was responsible for the tragic Titanic incident.

------ OCTOPUS ESCAPES; CONSIDERED HEAVILY ARMED --------------------------
Sea-curity Police Warn: "I'm Gonna Get You, Sucker."

New England Aquarium Sea-curity personnel are asking coastal residents to
be on the lookout for a heavily-armed octopus that escaped its exhibit last
night sometime between 2 and 4 A.M.  Aquarium Nightwatchman David Godothis
reported that at about 1:30 a.m., the slimy molluscan creature looked a bit
shifty.  "He kept twitching his tentacles and looking sideways.   And then
there was this, like, big puff of ink, and I didn't see him again."

The wayward octopus, originally began community service at the Aquarium one
year ago after his arrest in the Pacific Northwest for several counts of
swindling and fraud at four-hand poker, is expected to head straight to the
wharves to aid and abet the escape of family members currently under
surveillance in various fish markets. Together, they are expected to
disguise themselves as calamari-bound squid and stow away on a seafood
truck headed for Foxwoods Casino restaurants.

It's not easy keeping an octopus in, said the obviously-shaken Steve
Bailey, Curator of Fishes at the New England Aquarium. "They can squeeze
through any opening as small as the size of their beak." The very small
beak, the only hard part of an octopus' body, is located on the animal's
underside at the dead center of its eight arms. The beak is used to crush
and tear things apart. "It's a hammer, a knife, a saw, a meat grinder--an
all purpose tool," said Bailey. "But I don't think he's likely use it on

"Based on past experience, we've rigged the octopus' Alcatraz-ish tank to
avoid this kind of escape," Bailey said. Several years ago, small fish from
a nearby exhibit went missing over a period of a few weeks.  One of our
long-time aquarists arrived early one morning to catch the octopus
red-handed (all eight of them) in its neighboring tank--three tanks away.
It had been wreaking havoc on the tank's residents, a peaceful community of
flounder, during all-night eating sprees in which it would eat only the
bellies of its victims. While somewhat uncanny, this was true to what
Bailey call the octopus' 'instinctive memory.'  Octopus have the most
complex brains of the invertebrates, and actually remember and learn from
experience.  "In the real world," said Bailey, "the octopus is built to
slither across reefs at low tide looking into tidepools for trapped
animals."  Interestingly, in this case, the octopus had to travel past two
other tanks, skipping what the aquarist referred to as "cheaper" fish for
the flounder delicacy.

The escapee is described as about two years old, with eight long arms. With
a diet that includes small fishes and invertebrates, he is not considered
dangerous to humans. However, home fish hobbyists are asked to keep their
fish off the streets until the escapee is apprehended.

NOTE:  Of course, it *is* April Fool's Day! The octopus is safe and happy.
However, the escape story about the octopus getting into its neighbor's
tanks is true.  No fooling.

Droplet:  The Hawaiian word for Octopus is He'e, which means sliding ghost.

------ SOUNDS OF THE SEA --------------------------------------------------
By John McGauley, Gehrung Associates, Special to Seabits

It's a din down there, ocean scientists discover, filled with moans,
crackling, bleeps, whirrs, screams, clanks, chatter, clicking, snapping,
grating, churning and much, much more.

As scientists slowly peel back layers of mysteries about the ocean, they've
discovered yet another fascinating thing -- it's a very noisy place.

"We've found there is plenty to listen to down there," says William "Billy"
Spitzer, of the New England Aquarium who is coordinating preparation for a
planned exhibit entitled "Sounds of the Sea" which will allow visitors to
hear the symphony of sounds in the ocean depths that range from beautiful
soothing rhythms to chaotic, jarring explosions. Researchers are building a
huge collection of recordings from as close as Boston Harbor to the
farthest reaches of the Arctic Ocean, to prepare for the exhibit.

"Sea creatures make and use sounds to survive," Spitzer says. "The obvious
examples are whale songs, or dolphin sonar to track objects, but then there
are thousands of sounds that people don't know about like snapping shrimps,
fish grating their teeth, all sorts of bizarre noises."

Spitzer says the sounds in the ocean are as diverse as those on land, with
some areas as noisy as Times Square, while other places as hauntingly quiet
as a Nebraska Prairie on a summer evening. "The Arctic has its own set of
sounds from seals and whales, and icebergs cracking in half, and off of the
coast of Georgia and South Carolina the shrimp are very noisy, crackling.
Reef fish make interesting noises."

Spitzer says that many of the sounds in the ocean are made by such things
as storms, icebergs, and manmade sounds of engines, derricks, jet skis,
submarines and propellers. "Researchers are studying whether sea creatures
avoid places where there is quite a bit of manmade noise. Preliminary
findings indicate they do." Researchers themselves often create quite a bit
of noise themselves, setting off acoustic explosions to measure sea

"We wanted to help the public understand how noisy the ocean is by itself,
and man's impact on the noise level," Spitzer says.

Who's the noisiest in the sea? Spitzer says the whale, appropriately, may
be the loudest. "People often will hear them above the water." However,
sound intensities above and below the water line are very different.
Underwater, a call from a fin whale at 100 meters is the equivalent on land
of being 1,500 feet from a roaring jet. Sound travels quickly, and
intensively, under water, with nary an echo reaching above the waves,
Spitzer says.

Do fish hear the same way as humans? No. Fish in general can sense
vibration very well, and they hear low-frequency sounds we can't hear.
Dolphins can hear way above our range. When you hear a dolphin 'click,'
what you're hearing is a harmonic frequency that's much lower than where
the energy is. Most of the energy is at 150,000 hertz, and we hear at up to
20,000 hertz. Fish are hearing what we're not hearing.

And it's not easy to test a fish's hearing, Spitzer says.

Do fish have ears? Many do, and they also have a lateral line, essentially
a vibration sensing organ along the length of their bodies, Spitzer says.

Droplet: Aquarium researchers have joined with other scientists at Woods
Hole, Cornell, and MIT to develop the exhibit, Spitzer says.  The exhibit,
"Sounds of the Sea," will open at the New England Aquarium in 1999.

=3D-=3D-=3D OUT ON THE NET =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
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.

Marine Toasters:


The Noisy Ocean:

=3D-=3D-=3D CATCH US ON TV WITH ALAN ALDA =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
From=20"'GBH The Members Magazine" -- In the newest installment of Scientif=
American Frontiers, host Alan Alda, who has been skeptical of zoos all his
life, discovers that they are now working both to improve the lives of
their captive inhabitants and help restore wild populations. Included in
"The New Zoos" is a profile of your own New England Aquarium, where
actor/science enthusiast visits with sea lion trainer Joanne Colwell, who
helps her slippery sea lion pal, Guthrie, perform simple medical procedures
that will enable researchers to learn more about the creatures; and follows
Connie Merigo and a team of experts as they rescue and tag some abandoned
harbor seal pups, then later release them off the shores of Maine to chart
their rehabilitation. Alda even scrubs up =E4 la Hawkeye Pierce to assist i=
the Aquarium Medical Center when a geriatric puffer fish has a kidney stone
removed. (And that's no fish story!) Catch it on Scientific American
Frontiers, on Wednesday, April 15 at 8:00 P.M. and Thursday, April 16 at
9:00 P.M. on Boston's WGBH Channel 2. Check listings; local public
television station broadcast times may vary. Check it out at

Travelers and aspiring travelers, you're invited to an exclusive
opportunity to learn more about the spectacular country of South Africa.
Please join us at the New England Aquarium on April 21 at 7:00 P.M. as
Joyce Basel, resident of Fun Safaris will present visual display and
lecture on the beauty of her native land. Aquarium staff and penguin
conservationists will be on hand to discuss our on-going research and
conservation efforts taking place in South Africa. We will even be treated
to a special appearance of a blackfooted penguin! The program has been
organized to give you a better understanding and insight into South Africa
and its culture. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn what is in
store for those who have already signed up for our Aquariums and Sights of
South Africa Tour as well as for those who our thinking about joining us.
Our customized tour departs on October 3, 1998.

Program Time:  7:00 P.M. Tuesday, April 21, 1998
Location:    Top Deck of the Discovery, New England Aquarium
To RSVP:    Please call (617) 973-6562 by April 17, 1998

=3D-=3D-=3D WORLD OF WATER FILM FESTIVAL, APRIL 18-25 =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a
free movie! The second annual World of Water Film Festival, from April 18
though 25, celebrates Earth Week with a series of aquatic documentary,
animated, feature, archival, and children's films. The films, many of them
FREE, are being shown at the New England Aquarium and at many partner
locations throughout the state. Join us at the special opening night
reception (fee required) at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline on
April 18, at 6 P.M. for a viewing of the 1956 feature film about the first
National Geographic Society sponsored voyage of Capt. Jacques Cousteau. The
festival is sponsored in part by The Lowell Institute. For more information
on the World of Water Film Festival and a complete schedule, please contact
Ken Mallory, (617) 973-5295, or e-mail <>.

=3D-=3D-=3D APRIL CALENDAR =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
Saturday, April 4
Whale Watch Season Begins: Hop aboard the Voyager II to sea the world's
largest marine mammals in their natural habitat. During the journey to
Stellwagen Bank, the summer feeding grounds of humpback, finback and minke
whales, naturalists relay the local cultural and natural history while
passengers enjoy a number of hands-on onboard exhibits. Call (617) 973-5206
to make reservations. For up-to-the-minute updates on whale sightings, call
the Captain's Report at (617) 973-5277.

Saturday, April 4, Puffin Workshop, 9 A.M.-4 P.M.
Educators are invited to join fellow teachers from National Audubon
Society's Puffin Project for an intriguing variety of science and art
activities that focus on these delightful northern seabirds. See slides
showing how puffins were recently restored to two Maine islands, and learn
how to make all sorts of crafts such as a food chain mobile, a seabird
quilt, and a 10-minute flapping puffin. You'll also visit the Aquarium's
new puffin exhibit and meet the puffin aviculturalist. Pete Salmansohn,
author of two new Audubon books on puffins, will facilitate the workshop
along with puffin ornithologist Susan Schubel, Marilyn Decker, co-author of
the Massachusetts Science Curriculum Frameworks, and Aquarium Teacher
Resource Coordinator, Joel Rubin. $50 per person, in the Aquarium's
Exploration Center. Reserve your spot by calling (617) 973-5206.

Saturday, April 18, Herring Moon, a Native American Springtime Celebration,
10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Enjoy spring at the first of the Gifts of the Sacred Waters series. These
free family events are presented by the New England Aquarium and members of
the Native American tribes of our region. Celebrate the environmental
concern and expression that lies at the heart of Native American cultural,
social and economic life. It will focus on herring and the herring runs,
including dancing by Wampanoag Tribal Singers and Dancers, herring tasting,
demonstrations of herring fishing, storytelling and other activities. This
is the first in a series of five events throughout 1998 and 1999. Held in
the Aquarium's Exploration Center. For more information, call (617)

Saturday, April 18 - Saturday, April 25
World of Water Film Festival 1998: The New England Aquarium's second annual
statewide World of Water Film Festival features documentary, animated,
experimental, feature, archival and children's films. Most are free. See

Tuesday, April 21, 9:15 A.M.
Aquarium 2000 Tour: Our research team and conservation department work
busily behind-the-scenes and off-site around the world. See how their
efforts and discoveries are reflected in Aquarium exhibits. Recommended for
ages 6 and older. $4.00 per person for members. $8.00 per person plus
admission fee for nonmembers. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Wednesday, April 22, 9:15 A.M. Fish of a Different Color Tour: Color is
important for fish - learn how color helps them survive. Recommended for
ages 6 and older. $4.00 per person for members. $8.00 per person plus
admission fee for nonmembers. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

Thursday, April 23, 9:15 A.M.
Babies on Board Tour: Penguin chicks, lobster larvae, whelk snail egg cases
and a queen trigger fish blowing on newly-laid eggs are all healthy signs
in the Aquarium's exhibits. At any given time of the year, visitors can see
different animals breeding and reproducing. Learn what to look for and
when. Recommended for ages 6 and older. $4.00 per person for members; $8.00
per person plus admission fee for nonmembers. Children must be accompanied
by an adult. Call (617) 973-5206 to register.

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=3D-=3D-=3D CONTACT US =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
Content questions and comments? Contact Susan Gedutis at

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

=3D-=3D-=3D THAT'S ALL FOLKS =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
A 25-foot marine toaster. Beached in Maine. You have to love that.
That's all for April. Hope you make it through April Fool's day without
being completely duped or humiliated by those you know and love.
                 --Susan "Risk All  For Humor" Gedutis, editor.