This article is one of my meditations, where I first think and write about something from my own knowledge and point of view, and then research it and write some more….
One of the rites of passage of a child’s scientific learning is to understand that polar bears and penguins only meet in zoos and cartoons, never in the wild. But what if it made sense to change that?
The polar bear’s habitat has been changing due to global warming, leaving the bears with less and less sea ice to use as a hunting platform. With less ice, the bears have to swim great distances to find prey. Increasingly, this has pushed them past their limits and many bears either starve or drown.
So I had the idea, why not move some polar bears to the Antarctic, where there’s still plenty of ice and there is a solid land mass that supports that ice as well as several species that could provide food?
Two friends and I went sailing a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time. We put the boat in the water from the marina and then sailed with the tide for about three hours to a lovely harbor town called Brightlingsea to camp the night. Because of the timing of the tide, we arrived late in the afternoon, as it happened, at exactly 5:00 pm. My friend, John, who owns the boat, knew that the overnight moorings were in the middle of the harbor channel and would require a ride on the water taxi to get us to shore and the town. But he didn’t know that the water taxi went off duty at 5:00.
The harbourmaster told us that he could give us a ride, but he made us feel that he was doing us a big favour. And he told us that he himself went off duty at 6:00 pm. After that, there would be no one looking after the harbor and there would have been no one to take us to shore.
This started me thinking. Here is this nice little village, isolated from London by meandering creeks and estuaries, a wonderful place to go to get away from it all, and historically it would have been even more isolated and necessarily self-sufficient. They would have had a harbormaster who lived in a little house by the harbor, like lighthouse keepers lived in or by their lighthouses. They wouldn’t leave at 5 or 6 pm, because they would live where they worked. They would always be there, even of you arrived at 2 am. Because people who arrive at 2 am may need help more than anyone.
I’m reading the 2005 book Twilight in the Desert about the state of the Saudi oilfields. The author uses professional papers published by petroleum engineers to try to get around the three-decade Saudi embargo on information about the state of the oilfields. The author’s point is that the Saudis aren’t being completely forthcoming because they have an interest in maintaining the impression that their oil supply is steady and reliable. The book is interesting and well-written if repetitive and long-winded, but one thought keeps recurring to me:
Why is the largest land animal also the strangest-looking?
Meditation: Whether you think the elephant is the strangest looking land animal is a matter of taste, but you have to admit it is one of the stranger ones. I think there are several reasons why. One is just sheer numbers: Animals get rarer as they get bigger. Rarer not only in individuals, but also in species. There are millions of species of insects and other small animals. And jillions of members of each species. But bigger species are rarer and so are the members of each big species. If only because there are only two species of elephant, while for example there are dozens of species of say, deer/antelope/gazelle-type creatures, the elephant looks less “normal” because there are fewer examples of it.
Where is the blow hole of a Sperm Whale?
Meditation: This is cheating because I already know due to an exhibit I saw several years ago. But f you asked me this 5 years ago, I would have said “On the back, same place the blow hole is for all other whales.” But that would be wrong. So instead of a true meditation, I will present the facts as I understand them from the exhibit I saw at the National Geographic Society.