Thankful

Feather star on gorgonian fan, Yasawa Island, Fiji.
Photo by Stacy Jupiter 2009/Marine Photobank

I smile o’er the wrinkled blue­
Lo! the sea is fair,
Smooth as the flow of a maiden’s hair;
And the welkin’s light shines through
Into mid-sea caverns of beryl hue,
And the little waves laugh and the mermaids sing,
And the sea is a beautiful, sinuous thing!

–from The Sea Spirit, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

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World Oceans Day – 6 Things You Can do to Celebrate & Help

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”
– e.e. cummings

Atlantic Ocean, Morrazo, Galicia, Spain. Photo by Paulo Brandao.

Celebrate the oceans today, and do something:

1. Be ocean-creative today – add your ocean photo, poem, message to the Ocean Story – a boat that will be wrapped in these photos and messages and sail across the sea. (Ocean Story, @OceanDelight)

2. Sponsor a sea turtle’s satellite tag or adopt a sea turtle – track their ocean voyages over time. (seaturtle.org, @seaturtle)

3. Carry a sustainable seafood guide in your wallet and use it when you dine out. (Monterey Bay Aquarium, @MontereyAq)

4. BYOB – bring your own bag when shopping, and everywhere you go – refuse the single-use bags (and other plastics) that are polluting our oceans and harming marine life. Click above to order Chico Bags, or find a long list of reader recs here.

5. Watch great talks about the oceans – Sylvia Earle on protecting our oceans, David Gallo on deep sea wonders,  Edith Widder on weird, wonderful bioluminescence.

6. Read about the oceans, learn about them, experience them, follow ocean expeditions, support marine protected areas, and visit the sea, swim in it, dive in it, surf in it — simply renew your wonder of it and interest in it.

… and find more ways to make a difference for the oceans here, thanks to the MarineBio Conservation Society (@MBSociety)

* photo courtesy Paulo Brandao, under Creative Commons

Pic ‘o the week – technicolor nudibranch


Nudibranch, Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy Jan Messersmith

Nudibranch, nudibranch, living in the sea.
Bright flashing colors say, ”Don’t eat me!”
–by Erin Nash 

These mollusks without shells live in seas the world over, and come in all colors – even neons. National Geographic provides some quick nudibranch facts:

“There are more than 3,000 known species of nudibranch, and new ones are being identified almost daily. They are found throughout the world’s oceans, but are most abundant in shallow, tropical waters. Their scientific name, Nudibranchia, means naked gills, and describes the feathery gills and horns that most wear on their backs.”

Thanks to Jan Messersmith for this gorgeous photo.

Pic o’ the week – spotted scorpionfish

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri), Florida Keys

Can you tell where the oceanfloor ends and the fish begins? Terrific camouflage.

Students from Missouri’s Saint Joseph School District encountered this creature during their spring field study in the Florida Keys. In their words –

“This spotted scorpionfish was photographed in shallow water off Burnt Point in the Florida Keys. The three bands on the tail help to ID this fish. He ignored us for a good ten minutes while we took all the photographs we cared to.

This well-camouflaged fish can deliver serious puncture wounds with its dorsal spines that cause severe pain and illness.”

Here’s another pic of the fish moving that helps you see it a little more clearly:

Photos courtesy Sean Nash

Pic o’ the week – transparent sea cucumber, Gulf of Mexico

A transparent sea cucumber, photographed 1.7 miles down (2,750 meters) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists found this transparent sea cucumber, Enypniastes, creeping forward on its many tentacles at less than 1 inch (2 cm) per minute while sweeping detritus-rich sediment into its mouth. From LiveScience; photo by Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.


The fact that the BP oil leak is gushing a mile underwater has kept the incident from becoming the complete public relations disaster it would be if a fraction of the oil geyser’s output was coming anywhere near lots of shore or humans.

This is divine luck for BP right now.

But it’s the opposite for the wildly diverse and biologically important life in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep waters.

The creatures of the deep sea are not entirely documented nor understood by researchers. Complex, labor-intensive and invaluable expeditions have been regularly trying to find these creatures, document them, and study their wondrous biologies, including bioluminescence and visual polarization. Thousands and thousands of creatures somehow thrive in darkness. Some are so delicate, their bodies disintegrate when scientists try to capture them for study.

The deep sea “is the Earth’s largest continuous ecosystem and largest habitat for life. It is also the least studied,” said researcher Chris German of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, co-chair of Biogeography of Deep-Water Chemosynthetic Systems project, part of the global 10-year Census of Marine Life.

It’s difficult to know how the sea life anywhere near the mile-deep oil spigot – or those being soaked in BP’s chemical dispersant (Corexit 9500) – will live through it. And even harder to understand how the damage at those depths could be documented.

It will be the silent, unmarked devastation of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. We’ll probably never know the magnitude of destruction at depth.


life in the Gulf’s Mississippi Canyon

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon’s well is spewing 5,000 gallons of oil a day into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Canyon. Engineers try to build a dome over the gusher, while others work on digging a “relief” well nearby in a bid to stop the flow.

Today we revisit some of the sealife that NOAA and the US Minerals Management Service have documented so far in the their four-year series of deep sea explorations in the Gulf.


Above, an example of the Mississippi Canyon 751 site (near Deepwater Horizon well) where coral and cold seep habitats intersect. On the left is the gorgonian coral Callogorgia americana. On the right is the seep tubeworm. From Lophelia II expedition, 2009.



Lophelia pertusa coral from the Mississippi Canyon 751 site at approximately 450 m depth. From Lophelia II expedition, 2009.



Tubeworms living on the same piece of carbonate rock as large colonies of the gorgonian Callogorgia Americana americana. Note the brittle stars and a galatheid crab crawling on the gorgonians. Photo by Derk Bergquist.


Iceworms (Hesiocaeca methanicola) infest a solid piece of orange methane ice at 540 m depth in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Ian MacDonald. Both above photos from Expedition to the Deep Slope, 2006.


 

Photos courtesy NOAA Office of Ocean Research and Exploration