Subject: SeaBits, NEAq

mike williamson (
Sun, 3 Jan 1999 12:01:12 -0500 (EST)

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 3, Issue 1, January 1999
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1999.
Happy 1999 everyone. On June 20th, we will celebrate the New England 
Aquarium's 30th birthday. This year should be an interesting year for 
us, as we continue to grow physically and programmatically, adding 
new exhibits, activities, and a boat for summer whale watches. In 
this issue, we bring you news of two exhibits, one new and one being 
renovated, and a new perspective on Free Willy.

In this issue:
  Watery Words
    - Twinkle, Twinkle
    - Penguins Fly Coop
    - Killer Instinct
  Out On The Net
  Antarctic Oasis: Under The Spell Of South Georgia
  Aquarium Library
  Admission Price Change
  January/February Calendar
  Contact Us

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

        "Easy Recipe for Sand

         Take a huge boulder and place it in the way of waves.
         Check back every few million years. When your boulder
         fits into a teaspoon, it's done."

                   -- From "Disaster Science" by the editors of Klutz.

=-=-= STORIES =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
This month's stories
  1) Twinkle, Twinkle
  2) Penguins Fly Coop
  3) Killer Instinct

----- TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE SATELLITE -----------------------------------
If you have ever gazed up at the night sky to wish on a twinkling 
star, and then realized that your "star" was moving a little too fast 
for something that is supposed to be a zillion light years away but 
not quite fast enough to be an airplane, you may have wondered 
exactly what you were wishing on. It may have been one of the 
approximately 2,652 live satellites currently orbiting the earth, and 
could have even been a satellite called TOPEX/Poseidon.

TOPEX/Poseidon is a joint project of the United States and France, 
and is monitoring global ocean circulation from approximately 830 
miles above the earth. The satellite orbits the earth 4,700 times per 
year, approximately 12.88 times per day or once every 112 minutes. 
Every 10 days, the satellite's measurements cover 95% of the earth's 
ice-free regions, gathering information on wave height, wind speed 
and surface height.

Beginning Saturday, January 23, a TOPEX/Poseidon display will open in 
the New England Aquarium's lobby. This free exhibit, funded by a 
grant from Jet Propulsion Lab/NASA, was created in collaboration with 
the Gulf of Maine Aquarium and MIT. The exhibit consists of five 
display panels with interactive elements that explain how this 
satellite helps scientists understand the links between ocean 
circulation and weather patterns. By understanding heat storage in 
the oceans, researchers are beginning to understand how currents move 
energy around the globe on what they call a "global conveyer belt," a 
circuit that takes about a thousand years to complete. A second 
identical exhibit will be opening at the end of January in the Maine 
Mall in Southport, Maine and will be traveling to malls throughout 
New England.

One interesting tidbit revealed by the satellite is that sea level, 
well, isn't. Data gathered by the satellite tells us that highest 
elevation is in the western Pacific ocean, and the lowest elevation 
is around Antarctica. The variations are generally measured in 
centimeters, but can be up to a few meters. These changes might seem 
insignificant, until you think about the fact that when the sea level 
changes by a few centimeters, the tilt of the surface can result in 
an ocean current carrying several millions of cubic meters of water 
per second.

By itself, difference in ocean height might not seem particularly 
enlightening, but oceans play a dominating role in year-to-year 
variability that strongly influences the atmosphere and dramatically 
impacts the weather. From data about sea surface height, scientists 
are learning about ocean currents, climate, seasonal changes, winds, 
waves and weather, global sea level change, eddy detection and El 
Niqo events. This information has also turned out to be unexpectedly 
useful for marine mammal surveys and shipping operations.

Of particular interest are eddies, swirls of water currents that spin 
off from a large current or are forced by wind, that are comparable 
to atmospheric storms. Eddies play an important role in transporting 
heat, salt and nutrients around the globe. Ocean eddies can last for 
weeks or months, can have diameters of tens to hundreds of 
kilometers, and can extend deep into the sea. Rapidly swirling eddies 
cause the greatest changes in sea height.

Satellite tracking of eddies has proven useful in studies of the 
distribution and abundance of whales. Correlations between eddy 
locations and the migration routes of sperm whales have been found. 
Whale pods are often found near areas of low sea-surface height, 
which are associated with upwellings of nutrient-rich deep waters. 
Information from the satellite is used to generate near real-time 
maps, which can direct marine biologists to areas where whales are 
likely to be found. New England Aquarium right whale researchers have 
also used information from this satellite to help them find right 

How does the satellite work? The TOPEX/Poseidon satellite uses two 
kinds of instruments, an altimeter and a radiometer. To measure sea 
surface height, the altimeter sends off a sharp pulse which bounces 
off the sea's surface. The pulse travels at the speed of 187,000 
miles per second. Thus, by measuring the amount of time it takes for 
the pulse to travel to the sea surface and back, we can determine the 
height of the sea. The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer 
(AVHRR - I didn't make this up, I swear) measures the sea surface 
temperature by measuring the visible and infrared light reflected 
into space. (It's more complicated than that, so if you are 
interested visit <> ).

When the cold, dreary winter days start getting to you, get out of 
the house and come on down to the Aquarium, where you can learn all 
about the fascinating world of ocean currents and how they affect 
your daily life -- which they really do!

Droplet: The first month of TOPEX/Poseidon's operation, alone, 
provided more data about the ocean's surface height and temperature 
than had been collected by ships during the previous 100 years.

----- PENGUINS FLY COOP  --------------------------------------------------
Peter Brady, Rock Designer

Our little hiatus of construction calm will abruptly end on January 
4th, when more than a year of behind-the-scenes activity erupts onto 
the public scene. The Penguin Exhibit is undergoing a major 
renovation, and will be closed until February 12th. Until it reopens, 
all 60 penguins will be off exhibit, living in our Animal Care Center 
around the back of the building.

If you are not a penguin (and so few Seabits readers are), the 
current islands probably look perfectly adequate. The penguins, 
however, may be noticing antiquated structural supports, inferior 
life support systems, and too few nesting caves. How do we find rocks 
with perfect nesting sites, life support and sprinklers? It's not 
just a matter of wandering up to Nahant and picking out a few 
boulders. We make them. In fact, our team of "rock whisperers," Nat 
Hammatt, John Clark and Carolyn Nichols, have been busy assembling 
precast fiberglass rock pieces for some time now. Interestingly, the 
fiberglass rocks are based on the impressive rock formations at 

Opening to the public on February 13th, the new penguin exhibit will 
feature four new large islands, improved life support, more than 30 
nesting sites, and most importantly, a new island specifically for a 
new species of penguin, the little blue penguin from Australia. 
Joining the African and rockhopper penguins already on exhibit, the 
little blue or "fairy" penguin, as it is sometimes called, is the 
smallest of the 17 penguin species, weighing in at only around 2 
pounds. A little smaller than a football, these penguins are natives 
of Australia and New Zealand. The "blue" comes from the fact the 
feathers on their backs sport a bluish-gray to turquoise hue, quite 
different from the more familiar black and white formalwear of other 

Six little blue penguins have been living behind the scenes at the 
New England Aquarium since August 1997. The population of three 
males, Martidekker, Gur-roo-mul and Tasmania, and three females, 
Tomeranaray, Melbourne and Phillip (named for regions they populate 
and for aboriginal tribal names) came to us from the Melbourne Zoo in 
Australia. All six were born at the Melbourne Zoo between August 1994 
and February 1997, offspring of parents that had been rescued as sick 
or injured birds from the wild and were deemed unlikely to survive in 
the wild on their own.

Our six have adjusted well to their new home according to aquarist 
and penguin caretaker Dyan deNapoli. "At first, they were very quiet. 
They hardly made a sound at all," she says. But now, well, you just 
have to get Dyan's voicemail and listen to the raucous trills in the 
background to know they have found their voices! One of the most 
remarkable things about little blues is that such a wide and LOUD 
range of vocalizations emanates from such a small bird. Once they 
adjust to the new exhibit, you may be surprised at what you will hear!

Droplet: Creatures of routine, the daily "penguin parade" of little 
blues has become so popular that people have built viewing stands 
along the age-old, flipper-worn pathways to the procession. On 
Phillip Island, close to 500,000 tourists a year watch the little 
blues as they emerge from the waves at dusk and travel en masse to 
the dunes to feed their young and rest.

----- KILLER INSTINCT -----------------------------------------------------
Two marine scientists, Robert L. Pitman and Susan J. Chivers, from 
the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, were 
recently witnesses to something humans have rarely seen. After two 
weeks of searching for sperm whales to study their diving behavior, 
they finally sighted a large group rafting close together at the 
surface. What they saw next is not for the faint of heart nor weak of 

A group of nine sperm whales had gathered forming a "rosette," or a 
formation where their heads all point to the center with their bodies 
radiating outwards. This is usually a defensive position, the tails 
of sperm whales being rather formidable weapons. Suddenly, a group of 
three or four adult female killer whales started attacking the sperm 
whales. For three hours the killer whales charged the rosette, drew 
blood or inflicted injury, then left the scene, returning again 
shortly to inflict more damage.

The sperm whales, probably adult females, were much larger (33 feet 
compared to 21 feet long) than their aggressors, and much heavier (13 
tons compared to four tons), but they did not defend themselves or 
try to escape. In fact, they seemed helpless in the face of this 
onslaught. Several times, injured sperm whales broke formation, and 
were brought back to the rosette by others of their group.

In the end, a bull killer whale came charging in to the fray, grabbed 
a dying sperm whale by the tail, delivered the final blows, and took 
off with it. The other killer whales followed, and were seen a mile 
or so from the kill site probably feeding on the carcass beneath the 
surface. The remaining sperm whales were left behind, every one of 
them injured and several near death.

The scientists were left with many unanswered questions, among them: 
Why didn't the sperm whales fight back? Why did they risk their lives 
repeatedly to help others in their group? Why did the killer whales 
attack the whole group, rather than singling out an individual, a 
typical pack-hunter strategy? Why did the female killer whales do 
most of the hunting, with the bull only coming in at the end? And, 
how has killer whale predation affected the lives of large whales? Up 
until this point, the scientific community generally considered sperm 
whales to be immune to killer whale attacks because of their greater 
strength and ability to out-dive the killer whales.

Apparently, not all killer whales prey on large whales. Marine 
scientists currently divide killer whales into two types: the docile, 
coastal animals that prey mainly on fish, and the wilder, open-ocean 
animals that prey primarily on marine mammals. Despite the gentle 
giant images of "Free Willy" and "Shamu" we see in the media, it 
seems that these animals are aptly named.

For pictures and more details on the attack, see the December/January 
issue of Natural History magazine.

Droplet: In the waters off Antarctica, killer whales often attack 
minke whales, eating only their fleshy lips and tongues, and leaving 
their victims to die. Yuck.

=-=-= 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.

TOPEX/Poseidon Satellite

Little Blue Penguins

Killer Whales

On Tuesday, April 13, the USS Constitution Museum and the New England 
Aquarium present renowned sailors Pauline and Tim Carr, as they 
describe their experiences as the only permanent inhabitants on an 
island off the coast of Antarctica. A forgotten remnant of the 
far-flung British Empire, South Georgia is a splendid if forbidding 
land of towering, glacier-clad mountains with a treacherous, 
storm-torn coast indented with sheltered bays. During its polar 
summer, the island's verdant shoreline offers Antarctic wildlife a 
place to mate and rear their young. The planet's greatest 
concentration of seals, penguins, albatrosses and other birds throngs 
the shores.

This presentation will take place at the USS Constitution Museum at 
the Charlestown Navy Yard. Reception begins at 6 P.M., presentation 
begins at 7 P.M. The presentation is free and open to the public, but 
seating is limited. For more information or to register, call Ken 
Mallory at 617-426-1812  or email <>.

=-=-= AQUARIUM LIBRARY  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Whether you are doing a project on the Great White Shark, are 
searching for an environmentally related job on the West Coast or are 
looking for the latest issue of Copea or Science, you can find what 
you need at the New England Aquarium Library. Library resources 
include 5000 adult books, 500 children's books, more than 100 
journals and magazines, more than 600 subject files, a variety of 
newsletters and job resources, and internet access.

The library is not a lending library. If you would like to use the 
library, please call (617) 973-2537 weekdays between 9 A.M. and 1 
P.M. or email to make an appointment.

If you can't come to the library, you can write us a letter and a 
volunteer will respond to your questions. The library answers more 
than 900 letters every year.

Monday - Thursday, 9 A.M. - 2:30 P.M.
Saturday- Sunday, 10 A.M. - 3:00 P.M.

Mailing Address:
New England Aquarium Library
Central Wharf
Boston, MA 02110

=-=-= ADMISSION PRICE CHANGE  =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
As of January 1, 1999, admission prices at the New England Aquarium 
are: General, $12.00 (ages 12-59); Junior (ages 3-11), $6.00; Senior 
Citizens, $10.00 (ages 60+). As always, members and children under 
the age of 3 are admitted free. This gives me a great opportunity to 
make a shameless membership plug: Membership is a better deal than 
ever, since membership prices are not increasing in 1999. Find out 
how you can become a member by calling (617) 973-6554 or email 

=-=-= JANUARY/FEBRUARY CALENDAR =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Mondays, January 4 to May 24, Sea-niority Free Admission Program, 12 
- 4:30 P.M.
Complimentary admission for senior citizens age 60 and older on 
Monday afternoons.

Saturday, January 9 and 23, Our Watery World Explorer Class, 9:30 
A.M. Explorer classes are designed with the preschooler in mind. Each 
program combines a story about the sea and the featured animal with a 
take-home art project, a related activity, or a closer look at some 
live animals. Each program lasts one hour and fifteen minutes, and 
concludes with a visit to see the featured animal. Choose to attend 
any one of the programs, or the entire series. Children must be 
accompanied by an adult. Fees: $4.00 per child for members and $8.00 
per child for non-members. No fee for adult participant. The 
non-member fee does not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 
973-5206 to register.

Saturday, January 23, Swim with the Sharks, 11 A.M. to 1 P.M
For two hours, WJMN-FM Jammin 94.5 will be on-site to watch two lucky 
WJMN listeners dive in the Giant Ocean Tank with the sharks. During 
the two hours that WJMN is here, visitors mentioning the promotion 
will receive $2 off an adult admission. During the previous 2-3 
weeks, WJMN listeners and patrons at area dives shops can register to 
win a chance to "Swim with the Sharks." The actual dives will take 
place at 12:30 P.M.

Saturday, January 30, Georges Bank Guided Tour, 9:30 A.M.
Travel through time, to the past when Georges Bank was teeming with 
cod, haddock and other marine life. Today, after decades of 
overfishing, Georges Bank is in crisis. Here, you will learn more 
about the past, present and future of Georges Bank with 
issue-oriented exhibits and hands-on interactives. Recommended for 
ages 5 and older. Fees: $5.00 per person for members; $10.00 plus 
admission for non-members. Tours limited to 12 people. Call (617) 
973-5206 to register.

Saturday, February 13, Renovated Penguin Exhibit Opens
Come see the newly renovated penguin exhibit, now inhabited by three 
species of penguins: The Africans from South Africa, the rockhoppers 
from South America, and the very diminuative little blues from 
Australia and New Zealand. The little blues will be enjoying a new 
island all of their own, while the Africans and rockhoppers will 
share two other newly renovated rocks.

Monday - Friday, February 15-19 Winter Break-Away Camp, 9 A.M. - 5 P.M.
This five day program, open to 4th through 7th graders, will allow 
students to explore the many ways creatures of the wild have adapted 
to survive cold New England winters. Students will search for hidden 
life in a frozen pond, test winter-tracking skills and engage in 
group activities that highlight animal adaptations in the Blue Hills 
Reservation in Milton, MA and at the Plum Island wildlife refuge in 
Newburyport, MA.  Observe staff veterinarians and biologists treating 
animals from the wild that are submitted to the ravages of winter. 
Witness exciting adventures and relive heroic rescues at the 
Lifesaving Museum in Hull, MA.  A visit to the U.S. Coast Guard 
Station in Boston will encourage participants to learn more about 
ocean safety and thrill them with stories of out to sea rescues. This 
program includes time spent in the exhibits and galleries, a sea lion 
show, behind the scenes activities, small group projects and an 
overnight at the Aquarium's Exploration Center. The Spring  Session 
will take place April 19 - 23, and will focus on spring cycles. Call 
(617) 973-5206 to register or for more information.
- Group Size: 25, Participant to Staff Ratio:  7:1
- Fee:  $175 for members, $225 for nonmembers

Saturday, February 20, Ice Fishing Moon Celebration, 11 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Join the Native American tribes of our region at the New England 
Aquarium for the free Ice Fishing Moon Celebration. This special day 
is dedicated to the role that such winter activities as snowshoeing, 
trapping and ice fishing play in the lives of Native Americans in our 
region. For thousands of years, Native Americans of our region 
depended on marine and coastal resources for survival, and 
incorporated aquatic themes in their cultural activities as well. 
These traditions still continue today. The Ice Fishing Moon 
Celebration will feature interactive programs and educational 
exhibits that highlight the role of seasonal activities.  The Ice 
Fishing Moon Celebration is the third of five free events as part of 
the Gifts from the Sacred Waters series. This program does not 
include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-0295 for more information.

Saturday, February 27, National Ocean Sciences Bowl Regional Competition
This science competition for high school students, known as the Blue 
Lobster Bowl, is hosted by the New England Aquarium and Woods Hole 
Oceanographic Institute, and tests ocean knowledge in quiz-show 
style. This event will be held at the World Trade Center. If you are 
interested in volunteering, please contact Elizabeth Coleman at (617) 
973-0215 or email <> for more information.

=-=-= SUBSCRIBE/UNSUBSCRIBE INFORMATION =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
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=-=-= CONTACT US =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Content questions and comments? Contact Jennifer Goebel at

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

=-=-= THAT'S ALL FOLKS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
That's it from the World of Water this month. Makes a nice change 
from bombs and sex scandals, doesn't it? As always, if you have 
comments, suggestions, tidbits, watery words or watery jokes, please 
send them on over.  -Jen Goebel