Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 3.11 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Tue, 9 Nov 1999 14:05:31 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 18:44:10 -0500
From: Bruce Wyman <>
To: Seabits <>
Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 3.11

New England Aquarium Monthly email Newsletter
Volume 3, Issue 11, November 1999
Copyright, New England Aquarium 1999
As the days get darker, there's much more time to spend huddled over a warm
computer! So read on, as I regale you with tales of Nikes and bath toys
that help scientists, an endangered right whale that met an unhappy end in
fishing gear, and our new way of helping harbor porpoises. For kids (of all
ages), we are happy to announce our free Stuffed Animal Clinic, where your
loved-almost-to-death stuffed toys can receive treatment for trauma,
missing limbs and more from trained animal care experts. As usual, there's
a lot going on at the New England Aquarium.

In this issue:
   Watery Words
     - Elephantbird Eggs and Other Treasures
     - Endangered Right Whale Dies in Fishing Gear
     - Eulogy for a Fish with Braces
     - A Sense of Porpoise Comes to Duxbury
   Out on the Net
     - New December Vacation Week Camp
     - Activity Center Fall Hours
     - Lowell Lecture Series
     - Stuffed Animal Clinic and Holiday Toy Drive
   November Calendar
   Coming in December
   Contact Us

***** WATERY WORDS ********************************************************

      "We know we are supposed to believe in it, but we still doubt.
       Can there really be a 60-foot-long creature with unblinking
       dinner-plate eyes in the unknown vastness of the icy depths?
       The existence of Architeuthis only confirms our fears and
       inadequacies; despite our puny efforts to capture or understand
       it, the monster perdures. What will happen if someone finds
       it or takes its picture? It will lose some of the mystery, and,
       in a sense, we will be poorer for having been deprived of the
       anticipation of finding it. In The Log from the Sea of Cortez,
       John Steinbeck wrote "Men really need sea-monsters in their
       personal oceans .... An ocean without its unnamed monsters would
       be like a completely dreamless sleep." We need to find the giant
       squid, but we also need not to find it."

                                   -- Richard Ellis,
                                      The Search for the Giant Squid

***** STORIES *************************************************************
This month's stories
   1) Elephantbird Eggs and Other Treasures
   2) Endangered Right Whale Dies in Fishing Gear
   3) Eulogy for a Fish with Braces
   4) A Sense of Porpoise Comes to Duxbury

----- ELEPHANTBIRD EGGS AND OTHER TREASURES -------------------------------
What do 5 million Lego pieces, 80,000 Nike athletic shoes and millions of
bite-sized chocolates have in common? In the last ten years, cargo ships
carrying each of the above have lost dozens of containers in heavy seas.
Although vast flotillas of plastic toys and fine chocolate may be confusing
and downright dangerous for some marine life, scientists are using these
opportunities to study ocean circulation. (A tidbit I just can't resist is
that some of the Lego pieces were destined for sea adventure kits -
octupuses, divers, sea grass and more.)

Oceanographers James Ingraham and Curtis Ebbesmeyer in Seattle have
collaborated to produce an ocean-simulating current program called the
Ocean Surface Current Simulator, or OSCAR. OSCAR takes into account weather
conditions, air pressure and the rotation of the earth along with
information about water currents to map out projected circulation patterns.
Understanding ocean circulation helps scientists understand how oil and
toxic chemicals will disperse in the ocean.

Before these two oceanographers hit on the idea of tracking cargo spills
with the help of beachcombers, the usual way to study ocean current
pathways was to instantaneously release 500-1000 drift bottles. In the
Pacific Ocean, where the recovery rate is about 2%, they might have gotten
10 or so drift bottles returned. Upon learning that containers filled with
approximately 29,000 floatable children's bath toys (blue turtle, yellow
duck, red beaver and green frog) had fallen off a container vessel on
January 10, 1992, they set out to track the toys.

By placing ads in newspapers in areas where toys had either been spotted or
were expected, Ingraham and Ebbesmeyer received reports from beachcombers
from November 1992 to August 1993 of more than 400 toys found on beaches in
Canada and Alaska. By comparing these to the drift bottle and Nike shoe
landings, they were able to determine quantitative estimates for the
differences in travel trajectories between objects that float mostly
submerged (like Nike shoes) and those that float mostly above the surface
(like bath toys).

There's obviously quite a bit that can be learned from studying product
spills. For one, the solution to pollution isn't dilution. Debris can stay
afloat for years and travel incredibly long distances. A Nike shoe from a
1982 shoe spill washed ashore, in identifiable condition, in 1998. The 1990
Nike spill gave rise to Nike swap meets where people matched the shoes they
recovered with mates, and the shoes were apparently none the worse for
their aquatic journey.

But it isn't just human artifacts that bob interminably in the sea.
According to the Spring 1999 Beachcomber's Alert, an online publication put
out by Ebbesmeyer, the newest thing to look for on the coasts of
Madagascar, South Africa and Australia, are foot long "bobombes" or
fossilized elephantbird eggs. Elephantbirds, native to Madagascar before
their extinction 2000 years ago, laid these enormous eggs in beach, dune
and river sands. River floods and ocean tides have recently floated some of
these fossilized eggs out to sea, setting them adrift on a 6000 mile,
two-year circuit (maybe less since they float so high). To date, 43 fully
intact eggs have been found, one as large as 3 feet around, holding 2.4
gallons! Two eggs were discovered along the southwestern coast of Australia
coast and one is on display in the Perth Museum.

Droplet: If you are near a beach in Washington state, Oregon or British
Columbia this January 2000, keep your eyes peeled for some 100,000 toy cars
and 1 million party balloons that fell off a cargo ship near Japan last
January. New Englanders should keep watch for Legos and candy - Hershey's
kisses, Tootsie Rolls, Reisen dark German chocolates and Werther's hard
butterscotch candies may still be lurking out there. Don't eat them unless
you're sure they are airtight. Report interesting findings on the
beachcomber website <>.

----- ENDANGERED RIGHT WHALE DIES IN FISHING GEAR -------------------------
by Sue Knapp and Jen Goebel

Just a few months after researchers found a female right whale called
Staccato killed by a ship strike off of Cape Cod, tragedy has struck again.
This time the victim, an adult female known only as #2030, was killed by
fishing gear. The 40 foot, 30-50 ton whale apparently died of the severe
wounds inflicted by the gillnet wrapped tightly around her body. The
fishing gear was deeply embedded in her back almost cutting into her body
cavity, exposing the shoulder blade and nearly slicing through her right
flipper. Such catastrophic injury surely caused her to suffer enormously in
the last few weeks before her death.

Number 2030, first sighted in 1990, was reported dead, floating near Cape
May, New Jersey on Wednesday, October 20. The Coast Guard, working with a
New Jersey-based stranding team, towed the animal to shore in Cape May on
Thursday, October 21. It appears she had been dead at least a week.
Researchers and veterinarians performed a necropsy, an animal autopsy, to
find out more.

The whale's entanglement was first reported on May 10, 1999, when she was
seen off the Massachusetts coast. She was not spotted again until September
2 in the Bay of Fundy. Efforts then began to disentangle #2030 and two
other female right whales in the area. Number 2030 was in the poorest
condition. She had gillnet gear wrapped tightly around her body. The
gillnet, a type of gear mainly used by commercial fishermen to catch cod,
mackerel and other schooling fish that swim in mid-water column, may have
been picked up by #2030 as early as April 1999. Efforts to disentangle
#2030 succeeded in removing two of the three wraps of gear, but the third
embedded wrap proved fatal.

Her exact age is unknown, and although she is old enough to reproduce, she
has never been seen with a calf. With a population numbering only about
325, this death represents another serious and tragic blow to the right
whale species.

Droplet: While the North Atlantic right whale population struggles with
survival, the South Atlantic population seems to be rebounding quite well.
Breeding off the relatively unpopulated and quiet coast of Argentina, these
whales are not nearly as troubled by boat traffic, fishing and pollution as
the North Atlantic population. In the North Atlantic, human activities
account for at least 40 percent of all right whale deaths.

----- EULOGY FOR A FISH WITH BRACES ---------------------------------------
For a little Nile perch with a deformed jaw, veterinary staff determined
his only hope was never-before-attempted facial reconstructive surgery.
Yukon, as he was called, after Yukon Cornelius and the Island of Misfit
Toys (in the TV version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), came to us from
Africa with a jaw that grew twisted down and to the right. As he grew, the
deformity got worse. It could have been congenital or it could have been
caused by trauma. In either case, he certainly would have perished in the
wild. But for two years, dedicated staff hand-fed Yukon as they tried to
figure out a way to save him. With the donated services of a human oral
surgeon from New Hampshire and donated titanium, Yukon received the first
set of fish braces. At first, his recovery went well. Aquarists were
hopeful that he would soon be able to feed on his own. But, alas, it was
not to be. Yukon gave up, after a good fight, due to complications from the
surgery. He will long be remembered.

----- A SENSE OF PORPOISE COMES TO DUXBURY --------------------------------
by Teresa Roberts, Fundraiser for the Fishes

Duxbury, Massachusetts will soon be home to a New England Aquarium
satellite facility--the Harbor Porpoise Rehabilitation Center. The
facility's purpose is the porpoise -- New England's harbor porpoise
(Phonoeca phonoeca).

These small porpoises may be in trouble. Many of them die in fishing gear
accidents every year. With only 48,000 to 54,000 living in the Gulf of
Maine and Bay of Fundy, the mortality rate is raising a red flag. The
National Marine Fisheries Service classifies them as a "species of
concern;" this means that while the available information is still
inconclusive, they're being monitored closely for possible inclusion on the
federal endangered or threatened species list. Work done at the Duxbury
Rehabilitation Center will be part of this monitoring process and may help
secure federal protection for the harbor porpoise, if needed. But as the
facility's name says, its mission is primarily medical, dealing with
helping stranded porpoises.

Strandings are natural and often result in death, but each death is a blow
to a vulnerable species. Human intervention can help at least some stranded
porpoises. In fact, these tough little guys are good candidates for
rehabilitation, according to Belinda Rubinstein of the New England
Aquarium's Rescue and Rehabilitation team. One reason is that they are
small. Harbor porpoises can grow up to 6 feet long, but most are around 3
to 4 feet. This makes them easy to handle. (Imagine trying to move an
injured humpback whale!) Also, harbor porpoises are resilient. While many
of their larger cousins go into shock quickly after stranding, harbor
porpoises hold up better. Scientists are still investigating what factors
contribute to this hardiness.

The new, temporary facility acts as a combination emergency room and
intensive care ward. The first step for a stranded animal in our
rehabilitation process is to undergo a thorough physical, blood-work, and
possibly x-rays. Many are dehydrated, so that problem is addressed
immediately, and often the animal is treated with antibiotics for
infections. Then, the critical-care watch begins. Until the animal is
stabilized, staff and volunteers monitor the animal 24 hours a day. An
injured or exhausted porpoise may sink and drown, so people in wetsuits
share its chilly pool for the early stages of critical-care watch, ready to
support it if it starts to go under. The porpoises usually get through this
stage quickly and their human helpers retreat to the side of the pool.
After that, it's a long process of nursing the animal back to health. I
joked about porpoise physical therapy and Belinda told me I wasn't so far
off. During a 1996 rehabilitation, an animal did receive massages to loosen
up healing muscles!

  The facility is at 397 Washington Street in Duxbury, on the property of
Battelle, an international research organization specializing in
technology-based environmental consulting. The facility has a 2,000-gallon
critical care pool and a 29,600-gallon rehabilitation pool.

Droplet: HOW TO HELP: While our Rescue and Rehabilitation staff is very
excited about the Duxbury site, it also presents a challenge. We need
volunteers and donations. Hands-on types 18 and older may contact Maureen
Crawford Hentz <> for information about volunteering.
Since Duxbury is a critical care facility, be prepared for extensive
training before you get to work with the animals. If you want to assist
without actually sitting up with a sick porpoise, cash and in-kind
donations of any size are a huge help--they pay for food, medicine and
overhead for the facility. Contributions of things like old sheets or
towels, buckets, pool equipment, spray bottles, hoses, plastic bins,
rubbers mats and the like are welcome! For more information on making a
donation, contact Angela Ellis, <>.

***** 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.


Right Whales

Nile Perch

Harbor Porpoises

***** Announcements *******************************************************
This month's announcements
   1) New December Vacation Week Camp
   2) Activity Center Fall Hours
   3) Lowell Lecture Series
   4) Stuffed Animal Clinic and Holiday Toy Drive

----- NEW DECEMBER VACATION WEEK CAMP -------------------------------------
In our new Create-A-Creature Art Camp, kids grades 3 and up, with help from
local artists, create their own creature to wear or carry in Boston's First
Night Parade! This new 4-day program introduces kids to the exciting world
of puppet-making. Participants will spend 3 hours each day studying giant
spider crabs, toothy crocodiles, preening puffins and more as models for
their work. On Friday, December 31st, the puppet-maker and a parent will
present their work in the First Night Grand Procession from 5 - 7 p.m.
during the millennium celebration. For more information, please call Seth
(617) 973-2050 or Julie (617) 973-0253. To register, call (617) 973-5206.
Camp Schedule: December 27-30, Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 noon.
Fee: $120/per person for members, $170/per person for non-members. Includes

----- ACTIVITY CENTER FALL HOURS ------------------------------------------
An often over-looked feature of the Aquarium is our Activity Center.
Located in the Exploration Center away from the hubbub of the main
building, this space has great hands-on art activities, a story area,
aquatic-themed games and a puppet theater. The Activity Center's fall hours
Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12 noon to 3 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

----- LOWELL LECTURE SERIES -----------------------------------------------
Pioneering at the New England Aquarium: A 30th Birthday Look at Leadership
Roles at the New England Aquarium.

There is a flurry of new aquariums being built in all corners of the globe.
Most follow the model set by the New England Aquarium when it opened in
1969: to entertain by presenting engaging animals in naturalistic habitats.
Aquariums have played an important role in increasing public awareness of
and appreciation for the aquatic world. But in the face of mounting
pressures that are destroying aquatic habitats and species at alarming
rates, the current aquarium paradigm is no longer adequate to meet the
enormity of the challenges we face.

Lectures are evenings at 6:30 p.m. in the Aquarium's conference center,
which is located in the first level in the Boston Harbor Parking Garage.
Each presentation is free to the general public thanks to the support of
the Lowell Institute. Seating is limited and available on a first-come,
first-served basis. Advance tickets are available by sending an e-mail to
<> with the dates of the lectures you would like to see.
Details in calendar section below.

----- STUFFED ANIMAL CLINIC AND HOLIDAY TOY DRIVE -------------------------
Weekends, November 20 - December 19
Does your family have a cherished stuffed animal at home in need of some
attention -- missing eyes, limbs hanging by a thread, flattened stuffing,
general trauma or just in need of a check-up? Our animal care staff will be
on hand on weekends from November 20 to December 19 to help repair,
rejuvenate and check the health of your plush friends. The patient's
"parent" will have the opportunity to interact with animal care staff,
assist in any operations or procedures wearing gloves and gown, and learn
about our care of live animals in the Aquarium Medical Center.

Our health care plan accepts donations to the Aquarium's and WKLB 99.5's
holiday toy drive. Bring a new unwrapped children's toy and help brighten
the season for the children at Boston area hospitals. Toys should be in
original packaging; we can't accept stuffed animals or cloth toys because
of the chance of bacteria contamination. We will thank contributors with a
return-visit coupon for a free junior admission with a purchase of a
general admission or $2 off a general admission to the Aquarium, your
choice. For more information or details on the hours of the Stuffed Animal
Clinic call Michelle at (617) 973-6588 or e-mail <>.

***** NOVEMBER CALENDAR ***************************************************
Thursday, November 11, Lowell Lecture, 6:30 p.m.
Aquariums for the 21st Century: A New Aquarium Paradigm by Jerry R.
Schubel, President, New England Aquarium. The first in our 30th birthday
Lowell Lecture Series, Jerry will talk about the role of Aquariums in
public education as we look toward a new millennium. In the Aquarium's
conference center, part of the Exploration Center in the first level of the
Boston Harbor Garage. FREE, but seating is limited and available on a
first-come, first-served basis. You can get tickets in advance by e-mailing

Friday, November 12, Family Sleepover, 7 p.m.-10 a.m.
Enjoy an evening chock full of "fishy" activities in the Aquarium's
Exploration Center. After a busy evening of marine exploration, midnight
snacks and T-shirt art, you will sleep in the Exploration Center. A light
evening snack and breakfast are included. To register and for fee
information, call (617) 973-5206.

Wednesday, November 17, Dive Club Meets, 6:30 p.m.
Dive Club meets at New England Aquarium. Guests and new members always
welcome. Call (617) 973-0240 for details. Meeting Location: Studio 2.

Wednesday, November 17, Lowell Lecture, 6:30 p.m.
Environmental Education: The Role of Aquariums by Billy Spitzer, Director
of Education, New England Aquarium. This Aquarium Education Department
presentation will take a look at some recent successes and future
directions. In the Aquarium's conference center, part of the Exploration
Center in the first level of the Boston Harbor Garage. FREE, but seating is
limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. You can get
tickets in advance by e-mailing <>.

Saturday, November 20, Fierce Fishes Guided Tour, 9:15 a.m.
Piranhas and eels and sharks, oh my! There are many ferocious fish living
at New England Aquarium. Or are there? Join us on this guided tour to find
out. To register, call (617) 973-5206.

Saturday, November 20, How To Organize A Successful Environmental Field
Trip. Designed for teachers but open to everyone, this one day seminar
teaches you how to take your students or family to the shore and bring the
coast to your classroom or home. Includes pre-trip planning, making and
ordering field equipment, use of field guides, multidisciplinary activities
and sample wrap-up activities. The workshop will include a resource packet
with activity sheets and lesson plans, inventory list and a bibliography.
Call (617) 973-6590 for more information. To register, call (617) 973-5206.
Fee: $50.

Saturday, November 20, Stuffed Animal Clinic, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Does your teddy need a tourniquet, your octopus an operation or kitty need
a cast? Our animal care staff will be on hand to stitch up your friends or
just give them general check-ups throughout each weekend until December 19.
Free with admission. Donations to the Holiday Toy Drive sponsored by WKLB
FM are being accepted during this time. For more information, call or
e-mail Michelle Sullivan at (617) 973-6588, <>.

Sunday, November 21, Crocodile Smiles Explorer Class, 9:30 a.m.
For preschoolers. This program combines a story about the sea with a closer
look at the featured animal and an art project. To register, call (617)

Tuesday, November 23, Lowell Lecture, 6:30 p.m.
Conservation: Aquariums as motivators for aquatic conservation at the
local, national, and international level, by Gregory S. Stone, Director of
Conservation, New England Aquarium. The New England Aquarium was one of the
first museums to realize the importance of conservation to create a
conservation department. The presentation will include video and slides on
conservation issues worldwide including dolphins, fisheries bycatch, and
the importance of ocean exploration. In the Aquarium's conference center,
part of the Exploration Center in the first level of the Boston Harbor
Garage. FREE, but seating is limited and available on a first-come,
first-served basis. You can get tickets in advance by e-mailing

***** COMING IN DECEMBER **************************************************
Saturday, December 4, Winter Bird-Watching Cruise, 9 a.m. - 12 noon.
Join Aquarium bird care expert Steve Baker along with Massachusetts Audubon
ornithologist Wayne Petersen for a three-hour Boston Harbor winter bird-
watching tour. For more information, e-mail <>. To
register, call (617) 973-5206.

Saturday and Sunday, December 4 and 5, Planet of the Penguins, 9 a.m. - 5
Join us for our annual weekend-long celebration of our tuxedoed feathered
friends with a series of live animal programs, craft and educational
activities, penguin tattoos, and a special Happy Birthday song to Robben,
our 30+ -year-old African penguin. For more information, e-mail

***** 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 Jennifer Goebel at

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

***** THAT'S ALL FOLKS ****************************************************
Next month Seabits will be more formal , or at least some of its subjects
will, as they are permanently attired in tuxedoes. -- Jen Goebel