Wednesday, November 30, 2011

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Ch 14

CHAPTER 14 -- The Black Current
THE PART OF THE planet earth that the seas occupy has been assessed at 3,832,558 square myriameters, hence more than 38,000,000,000 hectares. This liquid mass totals 2,250,000,000 cubic miles and could form a sphere with a diameter of sixty leagues, whose weight would be three quintillion metric tons. To appreciate such a number, we should remember that a quintillion is to a billion what a billion is to one, in other words, there are as many billions in a quintillion as ones in a billion! Now then, this liquid mass nearly equals the total amount of water that has poured through all the earth's rivers for the past 40,000 years!

During prehistoric times, an era of fire was followed by an era of water. At first there was ocean everywhere. Then, during the Silurian period, the tops of mountains gradually appeared above the waves, islands emerged, disappeared beneath temporary floods, rose again, were fused to form continents, and finally the earth's geography settled into what we have today. Solid matter had wrested from liquid matter some 37,657,000 square miles, hence 12,916,000,000 hectares.

The outlines of the continents allow the seas to be divided into five major parts: the frozen Arctic and Antarctic oceans, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Ocean extends north to south between the two polar circles and east to west between America and Asia over an expanse of 145 degrees of longitude. It's the most tranquil of the seas; its currents are wide and slow-moving, its tides moderate, its rainfall abundant. And this was the ocean that I was first destined to cross under these strangest of auspices.

"If you don't mind, professor," Captain Nemo told me, "we'll determine our exact position and fix the starting point of our voyage. It's fifteen minutes before noon. I'm going to rise to the surface of the water."

The captain pressed an electric bell three times. The pumps began to expel water from the ballast tanks; on the pressure gauge, a needle marked the decreasing pressures that indicated the Nautilus's upward progress; then the needle stopped.

"Here we are," the captain said.

I made my way to the central companionway, which led to the platform. I climbed its metal steps, passed through the open hatches, and arrived topside on the Nautilus.

The platform emerged only eighty centimeters above the waves. The Nautilus's bow and stern boasted that spindle-shaped outline that had caused the ship to be compared appropriately to a long cigar. I noted the slight overlap of its sheet-iron plates, which resembled the scales covering the bodies of our big land reptiles. So I had a perfectly natural explanation for why, despite the best spyglasses, this boat had always been mistaken for a marine animal.

Near the middle of the platform, the skiff was half set in the ship's hull, making a slight bulge. Fore and aft stood two cupolas of moderate height, their sides slanting and partly inset with heavy biconvex glass, one reserved for the helmsman steering the Nautilus, the other for the brilliance of the powerful electric beacon lighting his way.

The sea was magnificent, the skies clear. This long aquatic vehicle could barely feel the broad undulations of the ocean. A mild breeze out of the east rippled the surface of the water. Free of all mist, the horizon was ideal for taking sights.

There was nothing to be seen. Not a reef, not an islet. No more Abraham Lincoln. A deserted immenseness.

Raising his sextant, Captain Nemo took the altitude of the sun, which would give him his latitude. He waited for a few minutes until the orb touched the rim of the horizon. While he was taking his sights, he didn't move a muscle, and the instrument couldn't have been steadier in hands made out of marble.

"Noon," he said. "Professor, whenever you're ready. . . ."

I took one last look at the sea, a little yellowish near the landing places of Japan, and I went below again to the main lounge.

There the captain fixed his position and used a chronometer to calculate his longitude, which he double-checked against his previous observations of hour angles. Then he told me:

"Professor Aronnax, we're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west--"

"West of which meridian?" I asked quickly, hoping the captain's reply might give me a clue to his nationality.

"Sir," he answered me, "I have chronometers variously set to the meridians of Paris, Greenwich, and Washington, D.C. But in your honor, I'll use the one for Paris."

This reply told me nothing. I bowed, and the commander went on:

"We're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west of the meridian of Paris, and latitude 30 degrees 7' north, in other words, about 300 miles from the shores of Japan. At noon on this day of November 8, we hereby begin our voyage of exploration under the waters."

"May God be with us!" I replied.

"And now, professor," the captain added, "I'll leave you to your intellectual pursuits. I've set our course east-northeast at a depth of fifty meters. Here are some large-scale charts on which you'll be able to follow that course. The lounge is at your disposal, and with your permission, I'll take my leave."

Captain Nemo bowed. I was left to myself, lost in my thoughts. They all centered on the Nautilus's commander. Would I ever learn the nationality of this eccentric man who had boasted of having none? His sworn hate for humanity, a hate that perhaps was bent on some dreadful revenge--what had provoked it? Was he one of those unappreciated scholars, one of those geniuses "embittered by the world," as Conseil expressed it, a latter-day Galileo, or maybe one of those men of science, like America's Commander Maury, whose careers were ruined by political revolutions? I couldn't say yet. As for me, whom fate had just brought aboard his vessel, whose life he had held in the balance: he had received me coolly but hospitably. Only, he never took the hand I extended to him. He never extended his own.

For an entire hour I was deep in these musings, trying to probe this mystery that fascinated me so. Then my eyes focused on a huge world map displayed on the table, and I put my finger on the very spot where our just-determined longitude and latitude intersected.

Like the continents, the sea has its rivers. These are exclusive currents that can be identified by their temperature and color, the most remarkable being the one called the Gulf Stream. Science has defined the global paths of five chief currents: one in the north Atlantic, a second in the south Atlantic, a third in the north Pacific, a fourth in the south Pacific, and a fifth in the southern Indian Ocean. Also it's likely that a sixth current used to exist in the northern Indian Ocean, when the Caspian and Aral Seas joined up with certain large Asian lakes to form a single uniform expanse of water.

Now then, at the spot indicated on the world map, one of these seagoing rivers was rolling by, the Kuroshio of the Japanese, the Black Current: heated by perpendicular rays from the tropical sun, it leaves the Bay of Bengal, crosses the Strait of Malacca, goes up the shores of Asia, and curves into the north Pacific as far as the Aleutian Islands, carrying along trunks of camphor trees and other local items, the pure indigo of its warm waters sharply contrasting with the ocean's waves.
It was this current the Nautilus was about to cross. I watched it on the map with my eyes, I saw it lose itself in the immenseness of the Pacific, and I felt myself swept along with it, when Ned Land and Conseil appeared in the lounge doorway.

My two gallant companions stood petrified at the sight of the wonders on display.

"Where are we?" the Canadian exclaimed. "In the Quebec Museum?"

"Begging master's pardon," Conseil answered, "but this seems more like the Sommerard artifacts exhibition!"

"My friends," I replied, signaling them to enter, "you're in neither Canada nor France, but securely aboard the Nautilus, fifty meters below sea level."

"If master says so, then so be it," Conseil answered. "But in all honesty, this lounge is enough to astonish even someone Flemish like myself."

"Indulge your astonishment, my friend, and have a look, because there's
plenty of work here for a classifier of your talents."

Conseil needed no encouraging. Bending over the glass cases, the gallant lad was already muttering choice words from the naturalist's vocabulary: class Gastropoda, family Buccinoidea, genus cowry, species Cypraea madagascariensis, etc.

Meanwhile Ned Land, less dedicated to conchology, questioned me about my interview with Captain Nemo. Had I discovered who he was, where he came from, where he was heading, how deep he was taking us? In short, a thousand questions I had no time to answer.

I told him everything I knew--or, rather, everything I didn't know--and I asked him what he had seen or heard on his part.

"Haven't seen or heard a thing!" the Canadian replied. "I haven't even spotted the crew of this boat. By any chance, could they be electric too?"


"Oh ye gods, I'm half tempted to believe it! But back to you, Professor Aronnax," Ned Land said, still hanging on to his ideas. "Can't you tell me how many men are on board? Ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred?"

"I'm unable to answer you, Mr. Land. And trust me on this: for the time being, get rid of these notions of taking over the Nautilus or escaping from it. This boat is a masterpiece of modern technology, and I'd be sorry to have missed it! Many people would welcome the circumstances that have been handed us, just to walk in the midst of these wonders. So keep calm, and let's see what's happening around us."

"See!" the harpooner exclaimed. "There's nothing to see, nothing we'll ever see from this sheet-iron prison! We're simply running around blindfolded--"

Ned Land was just pronouncing these last words when we were suddenly plunged into darkness, utter darkness. The ceiling lights went out so quickly, my eyes literally ached, just as if we had experienced the opposite sensation of going from the deepest gloom to the brightest sunlight.

We stood stock-still, not knowing what surprise was waiting for us, whether pleasant or unpleasant. But a sliding sound became audible. You could tell that some panels were shifting over the Nautilus's sides.

"It's the beginning of the end!" Ned Land said.

". . . order Hydromedusa," Conseil muttered.

Suddenly, through two oblong openings, daylight appeared on both sides of the lounge. The liquid masses came into view, brightly lit by the ship's electric outpourings. We were separated from the sea by two panes of glass. Initially I shuddered at the thought that these fragile partitions could break; but strong copper bands secured them, giving them nearly infinite resistance.

The sea was clearly visible for a one-mile radius around the Nautilus. What a sight! What pen could describe it? Who could portray the effects of this light through these translucent sheets of water, the subtlety of its progressive shadings into the ocean's upper and lower strata?

The transparency of salt water has long been recognized. Its clarity is believed to exceed that of spring water. The mineral and organic substances it holds in suspension actually increase its translucency. In certain parts of the Caribbean Sea, you can see the sandy bottom with startling distinctness as deep as 145 meters down, and the penetrating power of the sun's rays seems to give out only at a depth of 300 meters. But in this fluid setting traveled by the Nautilus, our electric glow was being generated in the very heart of the waves. It was no longer illuminated water, it was liquid light.

If we accept the hypotheses of the microbiologist Ehrenberg--who believes that these underwater depths are lit up by phosphorescent organisms--nature has certainly saved one of her most prodigious sights for residents of the sea, and I could judge for myself from the thousandfold play of the light. On both sides I had windows opening over these unexplored depths. The darkness in the lounge enhanced the brightness outside, and we stared as if this clear glass were the window of an immense aquarium.

The Nautilus seemed to be standing still. This was due to the lack of landmarks. But streaks of water, parted by the ship's spur, sometimes threaded before our eyes with extraordinary speed.

In wonderment, we leaned on our elbows before these show windows, and our stunned silence remained unbroken until Conseil said:

"You wanted to see something, Ned my friend; well, now you have something to see!"

"How unusual!" the Canadian put in, setting aside his tantrums and getaway schemes while submitting to this irresistible allure. "A man would go an even greater distance just to stare at such a sight!"

"Ah!" I exclaimed. "I see our captain's way of life! He's found himself a separate world that saves its most astonishing wonders just for him!"

"But where are the fish?" the Canadian ventured to observe. "I don't see any fish!"

"Why would you care, Ned my friend?" Conseil replied."Since you have no knowledge of them."

"Me? A fisherman!" Ned Land exclaimed.

And on this subject a dispute arose between the two friends, since both were knowledgeable about fish, but from totally different standpoints.

Everyone knows that fish make up the fourth and last class in the vertebrate branch. They have been quite aptly defined as: "cold-blooded vertebrates with a double circulatory system, breathing through gills, and designed to live in water." They consist of two distinct series: the series of bony fish, in other words, those whose spines have vertebrae made of bone; and cartilaginous fish, in other words, those whose spines have vertebrae made of cartilage.

Possibly the Canadian was familiar with this distinction, but Conseil knew far more about it; and since he and Ned were now fast friends, he just had to show off. So he told the harpooner:

"Ned my friend, you're a slayer of fish, a highly skilled fisherman. You've caught a large number of these fascinating animals. But I'll bet you don't know how they're classified."

"Sure I do," the harpooner replied in all seriousness. "They're classified into fish we eat and fish we don't eat!"

"Spoken like a true glutton," Conseil replied. "But tell me, are you familiar with the differences between bony fish and cartilaginous fish?"

"Just maybe, Conseil."

"And how about the subdivisions of these two large classes?"

"I haven't the foggiest notion," the Canadian replied.

"All right, listen and learn, Ned my friend! Bony fish are subdivided into six orders. Primo, the acanthopterygians, whose upper jaw is fully formed and free-moving, and whose gills take the shape of a comb. This order consists of fifteen families, in other words, three-quarters of all known fish. Example: the common perch."

"Pretty fair eating," Ned Land replied.

"Secundo," Conseil went on, "the abdominals, whose pelvic fins hang under the abdomen to the rear of the pectorals but aren't attached to the shoulder bone, an order that's divided into five families and makes up the great majority of freshwater fish. Examples: carp, pike."

"Ugh!" the Canadian put in with distinct scorn. "You can keep the freshwater fish!"

"Tertio," Conseil said, "the subbrachians, whose pelvic fins are attached under the pectorals and hang directly from the shoulder bone. This order contains four families. Examples: flatfish such as sole, turbot, dab, plaice, brill, etc."

"Excellent, really excellent!" the harpooner exclaimed, interested in fish only from an edible viewpoint.

"Quarto," Conseil went on, unabashed, "the apods, with long bodies that lack pelvic fins and are covered by a heavy, often glutinous skin, an order consisting of only one family. Examples: common eels and electric eels."

"So-so, just so-so!" Ned Land replied.

"Quinto," Conseil said, "the lophobranchians, which have fully formed,
free-moving jaws but whose gills consist of little tufts arranged in pairs along their gill arches. This order includes only one family. Examples: seahorses and dragonfish."

"Bad, very bad!" the harpooner replied.

"Sexto and last," Conseil said, "the plectognaths, whose maxillary bone is firmly attached to the side of the intermaxillary that forms the jaw, and whose palate arch is locked to the skull by sutures that render the jaw immovable, an order lacking true pelvic fins and which consists of two families. Examples: puffers and moonfish."

"They're an insult to a frying pan!" the Canadian exclaimed.

"Are you grasping all this, Ned my friend?" asked the scholarly Conseil.

"Not a lick of it, Conseil my friend," the harpooner replied. "But keep going, because you fill me with fascination."

"As for cartilaginous fish," Conseil went on unflappably, "they consist of only three orders."

"Good news," Ned put in.

"Primo, the cyclostomes, whose jaws are fused into a flexible ring and whose gill openings are simply a large number of holes, an order consisting of only one family. Example: the lamprey."

"An acquired taste," Ned Land replied.

"Secundo, the selacians, with gills resembling those of the cyclostomes but whose lower jaw is free-moving. This order, which is the most important in the class, consists of two families. Examples: the ray and the shark."

"What!" Ned Land exclaimed. "Rays and man-eaters in the same order? Well, Conseil my friend, on behalf of the rays, I wouldn't advise you to put them in the same fish tank!"

"Tertio," Conseil replied, "The sturionians, whose gill opening is the usual single slit adorned with a gill cover, an order consisting of four genera. Example: the sturgeon."

"Ah, Conseil my friend, you saved the best for last, in my opinion anyhow! And that's all of 'em?"

"Yes, my gallant Ned," Conseil replied. "And note well, even when one has grasped all this, one still knows next to nothing, because these families are subdivided into genera, subgenera, species, varieties--"

"All right, Conseil my friend," the harpooner said, leaning toward the glass panel, "here come a couple of your varieties now!"

"Yes! Fish!" Conseil exclaimed. "One would think he was in front of an aquarium!"

"No," I replied, "because an aquarium is nothing more than a cage, and these fish are as free as birds in the air!"

"Well, Conseil my friend, identify them! Start naming them!" Ned Land exclaimed.

"Me?" Conseil replied. "I'm unable to! That's my employer's bailiwick!"

And in truth, although the fine lad was a classifying maniac, he was no naturalist, and I doubt that he could tell a bonito from a tuna. In short, he was the exact opposite of the Canadian, who knew nothing about classification but could instantly put a name to any fish.

"A triggerfish," I said.

"It's a Chinese triggerfish," Ned Land replied.

"Genus Balistes, family Scleroderma, order Plectognatha," Conseil muttered.

Assuredly, Ned and Conseil in combination added up to one outstanding naturalist.

The Canadian was not mistaken. Cavorting around the Nautilus was a school of triggerfish with flat bodies, grainy skins, armed with stings on their dorsal fins, and with four prickly rows of quills quivering on both sides of their tails. Nothing could have been more wonderful than the skin covering them: white underneath, gray above, with spots of gold sparkling in the dark eddies of the waves. Around them, rays were undulating like sheets flapping in the wind, and among these I spotted, much to my glee, a Chinese ray, yellowish on its topside, a dainty pink on its belly, and armed with three stings behind its eyes; a rare species whose very existence was still doubted in Lacépède's day, since that pioneering classifier of fish had seen one only in a portfolio of Japanese drawings.

For two hours a whole aquatic army escorted the Nautilus. In the midst of their leaping and cavorting, while they competed with each other in beauty, radiance, and speed, I could distinguish some green wrasse, bewhiskered mullet marked with pairs of black lines, white gobies from the genus Eleotris with curved caudal fins and violet spots on the back, wonderful Japanese mackerel from the genus Scomber with blue bodies and silver heads, glittering azure goldfish whose name by itself gives their full description, several varieties of porgy or gilthead (some banded gilthead with fins variously blue and yellow, some with horizontal heraldic bars and enhanced by a black strip around their caudal area, some with color zones and elegantly corseted in their six waistbands), trumpetfish with flutelike beaks that looked like genuine seafaring woodcocks and were sometimes a meter long, Japanese salamanders, serpentine moray eels from the genus Echidna that were six feet long with sharp little eyes and a huge mouth bristling with teeth; etc.

Our wonderment stayed at an all-time fever pitch. Our exclamations were endless. Ned identified the fish, Conseil classified them, and as for me, I was in ecstasy over the verve of their movements and the beauty of their forms. Never before had I been given the chance to glimpse these animals alive and at large in their native element.

Given such a complete collection from the seas of Japan and China, I won't mention every variety that passed before our dazzled eyes. More numerous than birds in the air, these fish raced right up to us, no doubt attracted by the brilliant glow of our electric beacon.

Suddenly daylight appeared in the lounge. The sheet-iron panels slid shut. The magical vision disappeared. But for a good while I kept dreaming away, until the moment my eyes focused on the instruments hanging on the wall. The compass still showed our heading as east-northeast, the pressure gauge indicated a pressure of five atmospheres (corresponding to a depth of fifty meters), and the electric log gave our speed as fifteen miles per hour.

I waited for Captain Nemo. But he didn't appear. The clock marked the hour of five.

Ned Land and Conseil returned to their cabin. As for me, I repaired to my stateroom. There I found dinner ready for me. It consisted of turtle soup made from the daintiest hawksbill, a red mullet with white, slightly flaky flesh, whose liver, when separately prepared, makes delicious eating, plus loin of imperial angelfish, whose flavor struck me as even better than salmon.

I spent the evening in reading, writing, and thinking. Then drowsiness overtook me, I stretched out on my eelgrass mattress, and I fell into a deep slumber, while the Nautilus glided through the swiftly flowing Black Current.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Attorney Says Macondo Well Still Leaks Oil From Seafloor

From Courthouse News: Attorney Says Macondo Well Still Leaks Oil From Seafloor
NEW ORLEANS (CN) - An environmental attorney said oil is still leaking from BP's Macondo Formation more than 16 months after the well was declared sealed. The attorney said the only explanation for fresh oil bearing the Macondo fingerprint that's washed ashore on barrier islands is that the seafloor was damaged during the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and oil is seeping through.

The April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people and dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, until the well was declared capped, on July 15, 2010.

But attorney Stuart Smith told Courthouse News that new oil is washing up on barrier islands in Louisiana and Mississippi.

"There's a deafening silence on the issue," from the Coast Guard and from BP, Smith said.

"We've been doing environmental testing, we've been spending a lot of time and resources doing what's called 'fingerprinting' the oil," Smith said.

"Oil from different reservoirs contains different concentrations of various stuff, and so each reservoir has a fingerprint. If you test it, you can tell where it's coming from. The Macondo well was the only well that was completed into that particular reservoir.

"In the spring of this year, we did some sampling and when we got the results back, it was a fingerprint match to fresh Macondo oil," Smith said.

"That was very interesting to us. We couldn't understand why. Then again, we did some more testing this summer and it came back the same way. We're finding fresh Macondo oil washing up on beaches on the barrier islands. And then, through sources that I have, we heard that their [BP's] well was leaking, and that there was oil in the Gulf, and that they had research vessels there at the site.

"We covered that, and then there was a big push back from BP, denying it. And so Bonny Schumaker [a pilot and founder of Wings of Care] flew out there in late August, and lo and behold, there's fresh oil bubbling up to the surface and this is still in the vicinity of the well. We don't know how much oil it is."

Wings of Care is a California-based nonprofit whose pilots, boat captains, scientists, veterinarians and other professionals work on environmental projects, including surveys, research, rescues and rehab.

Smith said Schumaker has done several flights since August. In each case, he said, she identified oil in the area of the Macondo Prospect well.

A story Smith posted on his bloglast week details Schumaker's Nov. 12 flight over the Macondo well: "Macondo Mystery Deepens: Nine Large Vessels Spotted Working in Vicinity of Deepwater Horizon Site."

Smith said BP and the Coastguard sent investigators to the well in August, and they came back saying no oil was leaking.

"They said they sent remotely operated vehicles down there which found no oil leaking from the well itself. And then there was speculation that it might be leaking from the equipment that has fallen to the seafloor. Transocean did a submersible dive and they found nothing leaking from the equipment.

"So the question becomes: Where is it coming from?

"We know that fresh oil is washing up to this day. It's a fingerprint match to the Macondo crude. That's even been admitted by Ed Overton, who is a research scientist at LSU that's been hired by the Coast Guard to do these tests.

"The only explanation is that there has been damage to the seafloor because of the blowout, which has allowed oil to come from that formation," Smith said.

In an emailed statement late Friday, a representative from BP verified that several vessels are in the vicinity of the Macondo well: "There are several vessels there participating in a study of natural oil seeps. This study has been ongoing for the past month or so. Data continues being collected and we provided an update on the natural oil seeps at the SETAC [Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry] conference in Boston this week. ... The study is documenting the specific locations of these seeps and is seeking to track oil flow from seabed to surface," BP wrote.

Smith responded to BP's statement: "If there are seeps in this area they are not natural. BP was required to do a seafloor survey prior to applying for a permit to drill. If these seeps were not discovered at that time, they are clearly related to the disaster and the methods used to try to seal the well," Smith said.

BP was not immediately available for further comment.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Australia: Scientists freeze reef samples for marine 'bank'

From ABC News: Scientists freeze reef samples for marine 'bank'
Marine researchers say they are freezing coral samples from the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland as an insurance policy for the future.

In what is said to be an Australian first, scientists have frozen coral embryonic cells and sperm to create a bank of the species.

The cryo-preserved specimens will be held in a specialist facility for genetic material at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo in New South Wales.

Australian Institute of Marine Science spokeswoman Dr Madeleine van Oppen says the coral could one day play an important role in maintaining the diversity of reefs.

"It is hoped that we will never need them that we will be able to preserve the reefs as they are by other measures but in case we do need to use them then at least they are there," she said.

Dr van Oppen says it is the first time the project has been carried out in Australia.

"These cells are frozen but kept alive so we can thaw them in the future and sperm can be used to fertilise fresh eggs and we're hoping that the technologies will be developed to such an extent that we can regrow coral colonies from the frozen cells," she said.

Sea turtle find in B.C. a first

Wickaninnish was a chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht people of Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada during the opening period of European contact with the Pacific Northwest Coast cultures in the 1780s and 1790s. He is also known by various other names and spellings, including Wickaninish, Wickananish, Wikinanish, Huiquinanichi, Quiquinanis, and Hiyoua.

Wickaninnish was a rival of the Mowachaht chief Maquinna of Nootka Sound and in one account is blamed for the death of Maquinna's brother, Callicum, an event which spurred a war by the Mowachaht against the Tla-o-qui-aht.

A confrontation between Wickaninnish and Capt. Jonathan Thorn of the Tonquin led to the Tla-o-qui-aht massacre of the Tonquin's crew and the destruction of the vessel by one of the surviving crew members.

Wickaninnish's name is preserved in the name of Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Wickaninnish Island, and Wickaninnish Bay, and the Wickaninnish Inn. There is a surfside hotel, restaurant, and spa on Chesterman Beach, close to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

From CBC News: Sea turtle find in B.C. a first:
A species of sea turtle that historically has no place in the waters of British Columbia has been found near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

An olive ridley sea turtle washed up this week on Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, far from the species' native waters along Mexico.

The turtle, which was found by a park visitor on Wednesday, was injured. It was limp and had a large crack in its shell. Vancouver Aquarium staff quickly retrieved the animal and brought it to Vancouver for care, but it died the next morning.

A necropsy revealed that the female turtle had died from blunt force trauma. It also had pieces of hard plastic in its stomach.

Staff said the plastic did not directly cause the animal’s death, but said it serves as a reminder that debris that ends up in the marine environment is a threat to sea turtles.

Biologists at the Vancouver Aquarium said it’s the first documented sighting of an olive ridley in the region, and brings the count of sea turtles found in the wild in B.C. waters to three.

The scientists are trying to figure out where in Mexico or Central America the new arrival came from.

The aquarium, which tracks B.C. sightings of a number of marine mammals and reptiles, is asking anyone who sees a sea turtle in or around B.C. coastal waters to report it through an online web form or by calling 1-866-I-SAW-ONE.

The Oliver Ridley Turle

- up to 1.0 m

- olive-grey

- smooth, heart-shaped (as wide as it is long)
- scute behind the head is square
- shell is very domed
- has many more scutes along the length of the shell than green or loggerhead turtles.

Surface behaviour
- surfaces to breathe for a few minutes
- holds head above water, then slowly sinks back down

Group size / social behaviour
- solitary

Other characteristics
- smallest of the sea turtles

Can be confused with
- loggerhead sea turtle
- green sea turtle


Olive ridley sea turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles. They are widespread in tropical waters in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Ocean, they are commonly found around Mexico and Central America; however many have been known to migrate as far south as Peru.

Olive ridley sea turtles are strong divers, and have been known to dive up to 150 m in search of crabs, sea urchins and other bottom-dwelling creatures. They also roam widely in the open ocean in search of sea jellies.

Like all sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, poaching and harvesting at their breeding beaches, disease, and mortality in fishing gear.

Although olive ridley sea turtles have never been seen in British Columbia, there have been occasional sightings of olive ridley sea turtles in Oregon and Washington waters in recent years. As our oceans change, we might expect to start seeing loggerheads on Canada’s Pacific coast.


The olive ridley sea turtle is designated asVulnerable worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN has posted the following assessment of olive ridley sea turtles.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley


Cheng, I.-J. and Chen, T.-H. 1997. The incidental capture of five species of sea turtles by coastal setnet fisheries in the Eastern waters of Taiwan. Biological Conservation 82(2): 235-239

Koch, V., Nichols, W.J., Peckham, H. and de la Toba, V. 2006. Estimates of sea turtle mortality from poaching and bycatch in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Biological Conservation 128(3): 327-334

Mascarenhas, R., Santos, R. and Zeppelini, D. 2004. Plastic debris ingestion by sea turtle in Paraíba, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49(4): 354-355

Sea Shepherd again appeals for NZ help

From Stuff.NZ: Sea Shepherd again appeals for NZ help
Radical eco-movement Sea Shepherd has appealed again for New Zealand to send a navy ship into the Southern Ocean as they mount what they call their most dangerous campaign yet against Japan's whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd head Paul Watson said their "Operation Divine Wind" - or kamikaze - would try to sink the Japanese whaling fleet politically.

He said it had already destroyed the economics of the whaling.

Sea Shepherd would have three boats in its fleet: the Bob Barker, Brigitte Bardot and Steve Irwin.

Watson said the Sea Shepherd would be in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary without prospect of help.

"We have repeatedly requested cooperation from Greenpeace. They refuse to acknowledge us," he said.

"We have asked for New Zealand and Australia to send ships down to at least observe the situation and to be on hand in the event of a tragedy.

"After all, many of our crew members are Australians and New Zealanders."

Watson said it was irritating that governments obstructed and that Greenpeace publicly condemned them.

In February last year Japanese whalers clashed with the Sea Shepherd, resulting in the sinking of the Ady Gil. Its skipper, New Zealander Pete Bethune, also boarded a Japanese whaler and was arrested. Taken to Japan he was eventually given a suspended two-year jail term and deported to New Zealand.

Watson said Bethune would not be part of Divine Wind and he denounced the New Zealander.

"[He] provided false information and cooperated with the Japanese prosecution to enable the Japanese to build a case against me," he said.

"Bethune told the Japanese that I ordered him to board the Shonan Maru No. 2 when the footage captured by cameras clearly illustrated that I advised him not to board the Japanese vessel.

Watson said Bethune was trying to sue Sea Shepherd for the loss of the Ady Gil.

"The New Zealand investigation found Bethune 50 per cent negligent for the loss of the Ady Gil, the Japanese whalers were found responsible for the other half.

"Instead of suing the Japanese, Bethune decided to sue Sea shepherd for a half a million dollars."

Watson said the Japanese Government had put US$30 million [NZ$40 million] into stopping Sea Shepherd.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Ch 13

CHAPTER 13 --Some Figures
A MOMENT LATER we were seated on a couch in the lounge, cigars between our lips. The captain placed before my eyes a working drawing that gave the ground plan, cross section, and side view of the Nautilus. Then he began his description as follows:

"Here, Professor Aronnax, are the different dimensions of this boat now transporting you. It's a very long cylinder with conical ends. It noticeably takes the shape of a cigar, a shape already adopted in London for several projects of the same kind. The length of this cylinder from end to end is exactly seventy meters, and its maximum breadth of beam is eight meters. So it isn't quite built on the ten-to-one ratio of your high-speed steamers; but its lines are sufficiently long, and their tapering gradual enough, so that the displaced water easily slips past and poses no obstacle to the ship's movements.

"These two dimensions allow you to obtain, via a simple calculation, the surface area and volume of the Nautilus. Its surface area totals 1,011.45 square meters, its volume 1,507.2 cubic meters-- which is tantamount to saying that when it's completely submerged, it displaces 1,500 cubic meters of water, or weighs 1,500 metric tons.

"In drawing up plans for a ship meant to navigate underwater, I wanted it, when floating on the waves, to lie nine-tenths below the surface and to emerge only one-tenth. Consequently, under these conditions it needed to displace only nine-tenths of its volume, hence 1,356.48 cubic meters; in other words, it was to weigh only that same number of metric tons. So I was obliged not to exceed weight while building it to the aforesaid dimensions.

"The Nautilus is made up of two hulls, one inside the other; between them, joining them together, are iron T-bars that give this ship the utmost rigidity. In fact, thanks to this cellular arrangement, it has the resistance of a stone block, as if it were completely solid. Its plating can't give way; it's self-adhering and not dependent on the tightness of its rivets; and due to the perfect union of its materials, the solidarity of its construction allows it to defy the most violent seas.

"The two hulls are manufactured from boilerplate steel, whose relative density is 7.8 times that of water. The first hull has a thickness of no less than five centimeters and weighs 394.96 metric tons. My second hull, the outer cover, includes a keel fifty centimeters high by twenty-five wide, which by itself weighs 62 metric tons; this hull, the engine, the ballast, the various accessories and accommodations, plus the bulkheads and interior braces, have a combined weight of 961.52 metric tons, which when added to 394.96 metric tons, gives us the desired total of 1,356.48 metric tons. Clear?"

"Clear," I replied.

"So," the captain went on, "when the Nautilus lies on the waves under these conditions, one-tenth of it does emerge above water. Now then, if I provide some ballast tanks equal in capacity to that one-tenth, hence able to hold 150.72 metric tons, and if I fill them with water, the boat then displaces 1,507.2 metric tons--or it weighs that much--and it would be completely submerged. That's what comes about, professor. These ballast tanks exist within easy access in the lower reaches of the Nautilus. I open some stopcocks, the tanks fill, the boat sinks, and it's exactly flush with the surface of the water."

"Fine, captain, but now we come to a genuine difficulty. You're able to lie flush with the surface of the ocean, that I understand. But lower down, while diving beneath that surface, isn't your submersible going to encounter a pressure, and consequently undergo an upward thrust, that must be assessed at one atmosphere per every thirty feet of water, hence at about one kilogram per each square centimeter?"

"Precisely, sir."

"Then unless you fill up the whole Nautilus, I don't see how you can force it down into the heart of these liquid masses."

"Professor," Captain Nemo replied, "static objects mustn't be confused with dynamic ones, or we'll be open to serious error. Comparatively little effort is spent in reaching the ocean's lower regions, because all objects have a tendency to become 'sinkers.' Follow my logic here."

"I'm all ears, captain."

"When I wanted to determine what increase in weight the Nautilus needed to be given in order to submerge, I had only to take note of the proportionate reduction in volume that salt water experiences in deeper and deeper strata."

"That's obvious," I replied.

"Now then, if water isn't absolutely incompressible, at least it compresses very little. In fact, according to the most recent calculations, this reduction is only .0000436 per atmosphere, or per every thirty feet of depth. For instance, to go 1,000 meters down, I must take into account the reduction in volume that occurs under a pressure equivalent to that from a 1,000-meter column of water, in other words, under a pressure of 100 atmospheres. In this instance the reduction would be .00436. Consequently, I'd have to increase my weight from 1,507.2 metric tons to 1,513.77. So the added weight would only be 6.57 metric tons."

"That's all?"

"That's all, Professor Aronnax, and the calculation is easy to check. Now then, I have supplementary ballast tanks capable of shipping 100 metric tons of water. So I can descend to considerable depths. When I want to rise again and lie flush with the surface, all I have to do is expel that water; and if I desire that the Nautilus emerge above the waves to one-tenth of its total capacity, I empty all the ballast tanks completely."

This logic, backed up by figures, left me without a single objection.

"I accept your calculations, captain," I replied, "and I'd be ill-mannered to dispute them, since your daily experience bears them out. But at this juncture, I have a hunch that we're still left with one real difficulty."

"What's that, sir?"

"When you're at a depth of 1,000 meters, the Nautilus's plating bears a pressure of 100 atmospheres. If at this point you want to empty the supplementary ballast tanks in order to lighten your boat and rise to the surface, your pumps must overcome that pressure of 100 atmospheres, which is 100 kilograms per each square centimeter. This demands a strength--"

"That electricity alone can give me," Captain Nemo said swiftly. "Sir, I repeat: the dynamic power of my engines is nearly infinite. The Nautilus's pumps have prodigious strength, as you must have noticed when their waterspouts swept like a torrent over the Abraham Lincoln. Besides, I use my supplementary ballast tanks only to reach an average depth of 1,500 to 2,000 meters, and that with a view to conserving my machinery. Accordingly, when I have a mind to visit the ocean depths two or three vertical leagues beneath the surface, I use maneuvers that are more time-consuming but no less infallible."

"What are they, captain?" I asked.

"Here I'm naturally led into telling you how the Nautilus is maneuvered."

"I can't wait to find out."

"In order to steer this boat to port or starboard, in short, to make turns on a horizontal plane, I use an ordinary, wide-bladed rudder that's fastened to the rear of the sternpost and worked by a wheel and tackle. But I can also move the Nautilus upward and downward on a vertical plane by the simple method of slanting its two fins, which are attached to its sides at its center of flotation; these fins are flexible, able to assume any position, and can be operated from inside by means of powerful levers. If these fins stay parallel with the boat, the latter moves horizontally. If they slant, the Nautilus follows the angle of that slant and, under its propeller's thrust, either sinks on a diagonal as steep as it suits me, or rises on that diagonal. And similarly, if I want to return more swiftly to the surface, I throw the propeller in gear, and the water's pressure makes the Nautilus rise vertically, as an air balloon inflated with hydrogen lifts swiftly into the skies."

"Bravo, captain!" I exclaimed. "But in the midst of the waters, how can your helmsman follow the course you've given him?"

"My helmsman is stationed behind the windows of a pilothouse, which protrudes from the topside of the Nautilus's hull and is fitted with biconvex glass."

"Is glass capable of resisting such pressures?"

"Perfectly capable. Though fragile on impact, crystal can still offer considerable resistance. In 1864, during experiments on fishing by electric light in the middle of the North Sea, glass panes less than seven millimeters thick were seen to resist a pressure of sixteen atmospheres, all the while letting through strong, heat-generating rays whose warmth was unevenly distributed. Now then, I use glass windows measuring no less than twenty-one centimeters at their centers; in other words, they've thirty times the thickness."

"Fair enough, captain, but if we're going to see, we need light to drive away the dark, and in the midst of the murky waters, I wonder how your helmsman can--"

"Set astern of the pilothouse is a powerful electric reflector whose rays light up the sea for a distance of half a mile."

"Oh, bravo! Bravo three times over, captain! That explains the phosphorescent glow from this so-called narwhale that so puzzled us scientists! Pertinent to this, I'll ask you if the Nautilus's running afoul of the Scotia, which caused such a great uproar, was the result of an accidental encounter?"

"Entirely accidental, sir. I was navigating two meters beneath the surface of the water when the collision occurred. However, I could see that it had no dire consequences."

"None, sir. But as for your encounter with the Abraham Lincoln . . . ?"

"Professor, that troubled me, because it's one of the best ships in the gallant American navy, but they attacked me and I had to defend myself! All the same, I was content simply to put the frigate in a condition where it could do me no harm; it won't have any difficulty getting repairs at the nearest port."

"Ah, commander," I exclaimed with conviction, "your Nautilus is truly
a marvelous boat!"

"Yes, professor," Captain Nemo replied with genuine excitement, "and I love it as if it were my own flesh and blood! Aboard a conventional ship, facing the ocean's perils, danger lurks everywhere; on the surface of the sea, your chief sensation is the constant feeling of an underlying chasm, as the Dutchman Jansen so aptly put it; but below the waves aboard the Nautilus, your heart never fails you! There are no structural deformities to worry about, because the double hull of this boat has the rigidity of iron; no rigging to be worn out by rolling and pitching on the waves; no sails for the wind to carry off; no boilers for steam to burst open; no fires to fear, because this submersible is made of sheet iron not wood; no coal to run out of, since electricity is its mechanical force; no collisions to fear, because it navigates the watery deep all by itself; no storms to brave, because just a few meters beneath the waves, it finds absolute tranquility! There, sir. There's the ideal ship!

And if it's true that the engineer has more confidence in a craft than the builder, and the builder more than the captain himself, you can understand the utter abandon with which I place my trust in this Nautilus, since I'm its captain, builder, and engineer all in one!"

Captain Nemo spoke with winning eloquence. The fire in his eyes and the passion in his gestures transfigured him. Yes, he loved his ship the same way a father loves his child!

But one question, perhaps indiscreet, naturally popped up, and I couldn't resist asking it.

"You're an engineer, then, Captain Nemo?"

"Yes, professor," he answered me. "I studied in London, Paris, and New York back in the days when I was a resident of the earth's continents."

"But how were you able to build this wonderful Nautilus in secret?"

"Each part of it, Professor Aronnax, came from a different spot on the globe and reached me at a cover address. Its keel was forged by Creusot in France, its propeller shaft by Pen & Co. in London, the sheet-iron plates for its hull by Laird's in Liverpool, its propeller by Scott's in Glasgow. Its tanks were manufactured by Cail & Co. in Paris, its engine by Krupp in Prussia, its spur by the Motala workshops in Sweden, its precision instruments by Hart Bros. in New York, etc.; and each of these suppliers received my specifications under a different name."

"But," I went on, "once these parts were manufactured, didn't they have to be mounted and adjusted?"

"Professor, I set up my workshops on a deserted islet in midocean. There our Nautilus was completed by me and my workmen, in other words, by my gallant companions whom I've molded and educated. Then, when the operation was over, we burned every trace of our stay on that islet, which if I could have, I'd have blown up."

"From all this, may I assume that such a boat costs a fortune?"

"An iron ship, Professor Aronnax, runs 1,125 francs per metric ton. Now then, the Nautilus has a burden of 1,500 metric tons. Consequently, it cost 1,687,000 francs, hence 2,000,000 francs including its accommodations, and 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 with all the collections and works of art it contains."

"One last question, Captain Nemo."

"Ask, professor."

"You're rich, then?"

"Infinitely rich, sir, and without any trouble, I could pay off the ten-billion-franc French national debt!"

I gaped at the bizarre individual who had just spoken these words. Was he playing on my credulity? Time would tell.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Fish That Hunt Like Lions The Fish That Hunt Like Lions
Lions, orcas, dolphins, hyenas, some hawks and several other species collaborate when they hunt, with each individual in the group performing different but complementary actions with the singular goal of bringing down prey. Now we can add a species of fish to the list of collaborative hunters–the yellow saddle goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus), which lives in the shallow waters of the Red Sea.

A group of researchers (who report their findings in Ethology) traveled to Egypt and spent a lot of time snorkeling, watching the goatfish, recording their behavior and taking photographs of the fish. Yellow saddle goatfish are easy to recognize underwater due to their size, color and pattern of black spots on their body and fins. Individual fish can be distinguished in photos due to differences in the shape of the blue lines around their eyes.

The goatfish often congregate in groups. And when one fish starts accelerating towards a prey fish, other members of the group join in the hunt. These “blockers” spread out over the reef to cut off the prey fish’s escape routes, giving their buddy, the “chaser,” a better chance at making a successful catch.

Other species of goatfish eat only invertebrates, while the yellow saddle variety chases other fish. The researchers suggest that the collaborative hunting behavior is essential for the yellow saddle goatfish to successfully hunt other fish on the reef and that the behavior may have evolved to allow them to exploit that source of food.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not So Bad: Great Lakes Fish Feeding On Invading Shrimp

From Underwater Times: Not So Bad: Great Lakes Fish Feeding On Invading Shrimp
KINGSTON, Ontario -- The latest invader of the Great Lakes—Hemimysis anomala, or more commonly the bloody red shrimp after its bright red spots—may become a new food source for fish, allaying concerns about how it will impact native fish populations.

"Forecasting how an invader will affect the growth and production of a specific native fish species is very relevant to conservation groups and government agencies hoping to conserve those fish," says Biology graduate student Mike Yuille.

Mr. Yuille is the lead author of a study that suggests for the first time that several native fish species have incorporated the bloody red shrimp into their diet over a multi-seasonal period.

In addition to using traditional stomach content analyses, researchers measured the carbon and nitrogen signatures of muscle tissues of three potential Hemimysis predators (round goby, yellow perch, and alewife) to get a long-term picture of eating habits. All three predators exhibited increased nitrogen or carbon signatures, suggesting they had been feeding on prey with signatures very similar to Hemimysis. The team found these signatures in sites with dense populations of bloody red shrimp.

Like zebra mussels, Hemimysis anomala is native to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. It probably arrived in the Great Lakes through the ballast water of transoceanic ship. In 2006 it was discovered in Lake Michigan and has now been found in all of the Great Lakes except Lake Superior.

Mr. Yuille co-authored the research with Queen's associate professor Shelley Arnott, Linda Campbell, and Timothy Johnson at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' Glenora Fisheries Station in Picton.

These findings will be published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Unseen devastation from tsunamis can destroy coral reefs

From the Astorian Reporter: Unseen devastation from tsunamis can destroy coral reefs
CORVALLIS — The tsunami two years ago in American Samoa has given scientists a chance to examine an issue that often seems of little significance in the immediate aftermath of these massive disasters ; the little-seen, rarely studied but often frightening damage done to offshore coral reefs.

A new study by scientists from Oregon and Michigan, done with a remotely operated undersea vehicle (ROV) surveyed large areas of that area's coral reefs, and revealed significant damage from sediment, debris, and the enormous forces of both the incoming and outgoing waves.

Corals are delicate living organisms that can only survive in shallow, nearshore areas where they get adequate sunlight. That's also where the tsunami wave action is most violent, and they are especially vulnerable to its impacts ; but often ignored in the understandable concern about terrestrial damage and loss of life.

"Very little until now has been known about the impact of tsunamis on coral reefs," said Solomon Yim, a professor of structural and ocean engineering at Oregon State University and co-author of the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation.

"These are huge forces and often these events have happened in remote locations of the world where we had little opportunity to study them," Yim said. "American Samoa gave us the chance to use some very sophisticated equipment to gain a much better understanding of what damage is being done to coral reefs, and what might be done in the future to help reduce it."

On Sept. 29, 2009, a magnitude 8.3 subduction zone earthquake near American Samoa sent waves crashing into many islands, destroying buildings and eroding coastlines with waves up to 20 feet high that came almost a mile inland and killed more than 180 people. It was the world's largest earthquake that year.

The onshore devastation was heavy. Although not seen at the time, so was the underwater damage to coral reefs.

"We found tires, clothing, sheet metal roofs, and window frames littered on the reefs," Yim said. "Much of the coral was broken or covered with sediments, and some of it died as a result. Both the run-up and run-down of the tsunami waves were very destructive. It will probably take years to decades for the reef to recover."

The sediments and debris carried by the rapid drawdown back into the sea can be harmful to the delicate marine ecosystem, the researchers noted in their report. They introduce bacteria and toxic chemicals, erode the seafloor and destroy the reef.

Work with the ROV examined the reefs five weeks after the tsunami, when they were still deeply scarred. Some corals were ripped up and tossed onshore, others broken and sucked back into deep water. In either case they would not survive. Hours of video footage were made of the damage, and the research indicated the drawdown of the water was even more destructive than the incoming waves.

Most of the damage and debris was found in comparatively shallow ocen waters, about 30 to 70 feet deep.

Since so little is known about the damage to coral reefs by tsunamis, more studies are needed to examine the influence of water depth, three-dimensional effects, wave-wave interactions and coral strengths, the researchers said.

"In the aftermath of a destructive tsunami, there may be some things we could do to aid reef recovery after the more immediate needs onshore are tended to," Yim said. "There's probably not much we can do about the fine sediments that bury the coral, but we could perhaps clean up some of the larger debris and building materials like sheet metal roofing that cover up the coral. It's a significant challenge."

Collaborating on this research, which was published in Marine Geology, a professional journal, were Y.L. Young and D.L. Witt, scientists from the University of Michigan. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the video was produced by Paul Hillman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Ch 12

CHAPTER 12 -- Everything through Electricity
"SIR," CAPTAIN NEMO SAID, showing me the instruments hanging on the walls of his stateroom, "these are the devices needed to navigate the Nautilus. Here, as in the lounge, I always have them before my eyes, and they indicate my position and exact heading in the midst of the ocean. You're familiar with some of them, such as the thermometer, which gives the temperature inside the Nautilus; the barometer, which measures the heaviness of the outside air and forecasts changes in the weather; the humidistat, which indicates the degree of dryness in the atmosphere; the storm glass, whose mixture decomposes to foretell the arrival of tempests; the compass, which steers my course; the sextant, which takes the sun's altitude and tells me my latitude; chronometers, which allow me to calculate my longitude; and finally, spyglasses for both day and night, enabling me to scrutinize every point of the horizon once the Nautilus has risen to the surface of the waves."

"These are the normal navigational instruments," I replied, "and I'm familiar with their uses. But no doubt these others answer pressing needs unique to the Nautilus. That dial I see there, with the needle moving across it--isn't it a pressure gauge?"

"It is indeed a pressure gauge. It's placed in contact with the water, and it indicates the outside pressure on our hull, which in turn gives me the depth at which my submersible is sitting."

"And these are some new breed of sounding line?"

"They're thermometric sounding lines that report water temperatures in the different strata."

"And these other instruments, whose functions I can't even guess?"

"Here, professor, I need to give you some background information," Captain Nemo said. "So kindly hear me out."

He fell silent for some moments, then he said:

"There's a powerful, obedient, swift, and effortless force that can be bent to any use and which reigns supreme aboard my vessel. It does everything. It lights me, it warms me, it's the soul of my mechanical equipment. This force is electricity."

"Electricity!" I exclaimed in some surprise.

"Yes, sir."

"But, captain, you have a tremendous speed of movement that doesn't square with the strength of electricity. Until now, its dynamic potential has remained quite limited, capable of producing only small amounts of power!"

"Professor," Captain Nemo replied, "my electricity isn't the run-of-the-mill variety, and with your permission, I'll leave it at that."

"I won't insist, sir, and I'll rest content with simply being flabbergasted at your results. I would ask one question, however, which you needn't answer if it's indiscreet. The electric cells you use to generate this marvelous force must be depleted very quickly. Their zinc component, for example: how do you replace it, since you no longer stay in contact with the shore?"

"That question deserves an answer," Captain Nemo replied. "First off, I'll mention that at the bottom of the sea there exist veins of zinc, iron, silver, and gold whose mining would quite certainly be feasible. But I've tapped none of these land-based metals, and I wanted to make demands only on the sea itself for the sources of my electricity."

"The sea itself?"

"Yes, professor, and there was no shortage of such sources. In fact, by establishing a circuit between two wires immersed to different depths, I'd be able to obtain electricity through the diverging temperatures they experience; but I preferred to use a more practical procedure."

"And that is?"

"You're familiar with the composition of salt water. In 1,000 grams
one finds 96.5% water and about 2.66% sodium chloride; then small quantities of magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium bromide, sulfate of magnesia, calcium sulfate, and calcium carbonate. Hence you observe that sodium chloride is encountered there in significant proportions. Now then, it's this sodium that I extract from salt water and with which I compose my electric cells."


"Yes, sir. Mixed with mercury, it forms an amalgam that takes the place of zinc in Bunsen cells. The mercury is never depleted. Only the sodium is consumed, and the sea itself gives me that. Beyond this, I'll mention that sodium batteries have been found to generate the greater energy, and their electro-motor strength is twice that of zinc batteries."

"Captain, I fully understand the excellence of sodium under the conditions in which you're placed. The sea contains it. Fine. But it still has to be produced, in short, extracted. And how do you accomplish this? Obviously your batteries could do the extracting; but if I'm not mistaken, the consumption of sodium needed by your electric equipment would be greater than the quantity you'd extract. It would come about, then, that in the process of producing your sodium, you'd use up more than you'd make!"

"Accordingly, professor, I don't extract it with batteries; quite simply, I utilize the heat of coal from the earth."

"From the earth?" I said, my voice going up on the word.

"We'll say coal from the seafloor, if you prefer," Captain Nemo replied.

"And you can mine these veins of underwater coal?"

"You'll watch me work them, Professor Aronnax. I ask only a little patience of you, since you'll have ample time to be patient. Just remember one thing: I owe everything to the ocean; it generates electricity, and electricity gives the Nautilus heat, light, motion, and, in a word, life itself."

"But not the air you breathe?"

"Oh, I could produce the air needed on board, but it would be pointless,
since I can rise to the surface of the sea whenever I like. However, even though electricity doesn't supply me with breathable air, it at least operates the powerful pumps that store it under pressure in special tanks; which, if need be, allows me to extend my stay in the lower strata for as long as I want."

"Captain," I replied, "I'll rest content with marveling. You've obviously found what all mankind will surely find one day, the true dynamic power of electricity."

"I'm not so certain they'll find it," Captain Nemo replied icily.
"But be that as it may, you're already familiar with the first use I've found for this valuable force. It lights us, and with a uniformity and continuity not even possessed by sunlight. Now, look at that clock: it's electric, it runs with an accuracy rivaling the finest chronometers. I've had it divided into twenty-four hours like Italian clocks, since neither day nor night, sun nor moon, exist for me, but only this artificial light that I import into the depths of the seas! See, right now it's ten o'clock in the morning."

"That's perfect."

"Another use for electricity: that dial hanging before our eyes indicates how fast the Nautilus is going. An electric wire puts it in contact with the patent log; this needle shows me the actual speed of my submersible. And . . . hold on . . . just now we're proceeding at the moderate pace of fifteen miles per hour."

"It's marvelous," I replied, "and I truly see, captain, how right you are to use this force; it's sure to take the place of wind, water, and steam."

"But that's not all, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo said, standing up.
"And if you'd care to follow me, we'll inspect the Nautilus's stern."

In essence, I was already familiar with the whole forward part of this underwater boat, and here are its exact subdivisions going from amidships to its spur: the dining room, 5 meters long and separated from the library by a watertight bulkhead, in other words, it couldn't be penetrated by the sea; the library, 5 meters long; the main lounge, 10 meters long, separated from the captain's stateroom by a second watertight bulkhead; the aforesaid stateroom, 5 meters long; mine, 2.5 meters long; and finally, air tanks 7.5 meters long and extending to the stempost. Total: a length of 35 meters. Doors were cut into the watertight bulkheads and were shut hermetically by means of india-rubber seals, which insured complete safety aboard the Nautilus in the event of a leak in any one section.

I followed Captain Nemo down gangways located for easy transit, and I arrived amidships. There I found a sort of shaft heading upward between two watertight bulkheads. An iron ladder, clamped to the wall, led to the shaft's upper end. I asked the captain what this ladder was for.

"It goes to the skiff," he replied.

"What! You have a skiff?" I replied in some astonishment.

"Surely. An excellent longboat, light and unsinkable, which is used for excursions and fishing trips."

"But when you want to set out, don't you have to return to the surface of the sea?"

"By no means. The skiff is attached to the topside of the Nautilus's hull and is set in a cavity expressly designed to receive it. It's completely decked over, absolutely watertight, and held solidly in place by bolts. This ladder leads to a manhole cut into the Nautilus's hull and corresponding to a comparable hole cut into the side of the skiff. I insert myself through this double opening into the longboat. My crew close up the hole belonging to the Nautilus; I close up the one belonging to the skiff, simply by screwing it into place. I undo the bolts holding the skiff to the submersible, and the longboat rises with prodigious speed to the surface of the sea. I then open the deck paneling, carefully closed until that point; I up mast and hoist sail--or I take out my oars--and I go for a spin."

"But how do you return to the ship?"

"I don't, Professor Aronnax; the Nautilus returns to me."

"At your command?"

"At my command. An electric wire connects me to the ship. I fire off a telegram, and that's that."

"Right," I said, tipsy from all these wonders, "nothing to it!"

After passing the well of the companionway that led to the platform, I saw a cabin 2 meters long in which Conseil and Ned Land, enraptured with their meal, were busy devouring it to the last crumb. Then a door opened into the galley, 3 meters long and located between the vessel's huge storage lockers.

There, even more powerful and obedient than gas, electricity did most of the cooking. Arriving under the stoves, wires transmitted to platinum griddles a heat that was distributed and sustained with perfect consistency. It also heated a distilling mechanism that, via evaporation, supplied excellent drinking water. Next to this galley was a bathroom, conveniently laid out, with faucets supplying hot or cold water at will.

After the galley came the crew's quarters, 5 meters long. But the door was closed and I couldn't see its accommodations, which might have told me the number of men it took to operate the Nautilus.

At the far end stood a fourth watertight bulkhead, separating the crew's quarters from the engine room. A door opened, and I stood in the compartment where Captain Nemo, indisputably a world-class engineer, had set up his locomotive equipment.

Brightly lit, the engine room measured at least 20 meters in length.
It was divided, by function, into two parts: the first contained the cells for generating electricity, the second that mechanism transmitting movement to the propeller.

Right off, I detected an odor permeating the compartment that was sui generis.* Captain Nemo noticed the negative impression it made on me.

*Latin: "in a class by itself." Ed.

"That," he told me, "is a gaseous discharge caused by our use of sodium,
but it's only a mild inconvenience. In any event, every morning we sanitize the ship by ventilating it in the open air."

Meanwhile I examined the Nautilus's engine with a fascination easy to imagine.

"You observe," Captain Nemo told me, "that I use Bunsen cells, not Ruhmkorff cells. The latter would be ineffectual. One uses fewer Bunsen cells, but they're big and strong, and experience has proven their superiority. The electricity generated here makes its way to the stern, where electromagnets of huge size activate a special system of levers and gears that transmit movement to the propeller's shaft. The latter has a diameter of 6 meters, a pitch of 7.5 meters, and can do up to 120 revolutions per minute."

"And that gives you?"

"A speed of fifty miles per hour."

There lay a mystery, but I didn't insist on exploring it. How could electricity work with such power? Where did this nearly unlimited energy originate? Was it in the extraordinary voltage obtained from some new kind of induction coil? Could its transmission have been immeasurably increased by some unknown system of levers? This was the point I couldn't grasp.

"Captain Nemo," I said, "I'll vouch for the results and not try to explain them. I've seen the Nautilus at work out in front of the Abraham Lincoln, and I know where I stand on its speed. But it isn't enough just to move, we have to see where we're going! We must be able to steer right or left, up or down! How do you reach the lower depths, where you meet an increasing resistance that's assessed in hundreds of atmospheres? How do you rise back to the surface of the ocean? Finally, how do you keep your ship at whatever level suits you? Am I indiscreet in asking you all these things?"

"Not at all, professor," the captain answered me after a slight hesitation, "since you'll never leave this underwater boat. Come into the lounge. It's actually our work room, and there you'll learn the full story about the Nautilus!"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Ch 11

CHAPTER 11 --The Nautilus

CAPTAIN NEMO stood up. I followed him. Contrived at the rear of the dining room, a double door opened, and I entered a room whose dimensions equaled the one I had just left.

It was a library. Tall, black-rosewood bookcases, inlaid with copperwork, held on their wide shelves a large number of uniformly bound books. These furnishings followed the contours of the room, their lower parts leading to huge couches upholstered in maroon leather and curved for maximum comfort. Light, movable reading stands, which could be pushed away or pulled near as desired, allowed books to be positioned on them for easy study. In the center stood a huge table covered with pamphlets, among which some newspapers, long out of date, were visible. Electric light flooded this whole harmonious totality, falling from four frosted half globes set in the scrollwork of the ceiling. I stared in genuine wonderment at this room so ingeniously laid out, and I couldn't believe my eyes.

"Captain Nemo," I told my host, who had just stretched out on a couch, "this is a library that would do credit to more than one continental palace, and I truly marvel to think it can go with you into the deepest seas."

"Where could one find greater silence or solitude, professor?" Captain Nemo replied. "Did your study at the museum afford you such a perfect retreat?"

"No, sir, and I might add that it's quite a humble one next to yours. You own 6,000 or 7,000 volumes here . . ."

"12,000, Professor Aronnax. They're my sole remaining ties with dry land. But I was done with the shore the day my Nautilus submerged for the first time under the waters. That day I purchased my last volumes, my last pamphlets, my last newspapers, and ever since I've chosen to believe that humanity no longer thinks or writes. In any event, professor, these books are at your disposal, and you may use them freely."

I thanked Captain Nemo and approached the shelves of this library. Written in every language, books on science, ethics, and literature were there in abundance, but I didn't see a single work on economics-- they seemed to be strictly banned on board. One odd detail: all these books were shelved indiscriminately without regard to the language in which they were written, and this jumble proved that the Nautilus's captain could read fluently whatever volumes he chanced to pick up.

Among these books I noted masterpieces by the greats of ancient and modern times, in other words, all of humanity's finest achievements in history, poetry, fiction, and science, from Homer to Victor Hugo, from Xenophon to Michelet, from Rabelais to Madame George Sand. But science, in particular, represented the major investment of this library: books on mechanics, ballistics, hydrography, meteorology, geography, geology, etc., held a place there no less important than works on natural history, and I realized that they made up the captain's chief reading. There I saw the complete works of Humboldt, the complete Arago, as well as works by Foucault, Henri Sainte-Claire Deville, Chasles, Milne-Edwards, Quatrefages, John Tyndall, Faraday, Berthelot, Father Secchi, Petermann, Commander Maury, Louis Agassiz, etc., plus the transactions of France's Academy of Sciences, bulletins from the various geographical societies, etc., and in a prime location, those two volumes on the great ocean depths that had perhaps earned me this comparatively charitable welcome from Captain Nemo.

Among the works of Joseph Bertrand, his book entitled The Founders of Astronomy even gave me a definite date; and since I knew it had appeared in the course of 1865, I concluded that the fitting out of the Nautilus hadn't taken place before then. Accordingly, three years ago at the most, Captain Nemo had begun his underwater existence. Moreover, I hoped some books even more recent would permit me to pinpoint the date precisely; but I had plenty of time to look for them, and I didn't want to put off any longer our stroll through the wonders of the Nautilus.

"Sir," I told the captain, "thank you for placing this library at my disposal. There are scientific treasures here, and I'll take advantage of them."

"This room isn't only a library," Captain Nemo said, "it's also a smoking room."

"A smoking room?" I exclaimed. "Then one may smoke on board?"


"In that case, sir, I'm forced to believe that you've kept up relations with Havana."

"None whatever," the captain replied. "Try this cigar, Professor Aronnax, and even though it doesn't come from Havana, it will satisfy you if you're a connoisseur."

I took the cigar offered me, whose shape recalled those from Cuba; but it seemed to be made of gold leaf. I lit it at a small brazier supported by an elegant bronze stand, and I inhaled my first whiffs with the relish of a smoker who hasn't had a puff in days.

"It's excellent," I said, "but it's not from the tobacco plant."

"Right," the captain replied, "this tobacco comes from neither Havana nor the Orient. It's a kind of nicotine-rich seaweed that the ocean supplies me, albeit sparingly. Do you still miss your Cubans, sir?"

"Captain, I scorn them from this day forward."

"Then smoke these cigars whenever you like, without debating their origin. They bear no government seal of approval, but I imagine they're none the worse for it."

"On the contrary."

Just then Captain Nemo opened a door facing the one by which I had entered the library, and I passed into an immense, splendidly lit lounge.

It was a huge quadrilateral with canted corners, ten meters long, six wide, five high. A luminous ceiling, decorated with delicate arabesques, distributed a soft, clear daylight over all the wonders gathered in this museum. For a museum it truly was, in which clever hands had spared no expense to amass every natural and artistic treasure, displaying them with the helter-skelter picturesqueness that distinguishes a painter's studio.

Some thirty pictures by the masters, uniformly framed and separated by gleaming panoplies of arms, adorned walls on which were stretched tapestries of austere design. There I saw canvases of the highest value, the likes of which I had marveled at in private European collections and art exhibitions. The various schools of the old masters were represented by a Raphael Madonna, a Virgin by Leonardo da Vinci, a nymph by Correggio, a woman by Titian, an adoration of the Magi by Veronese, an assumption of the Virgin by Murillo, a Holbein portrait, a monk by Velazquez, a martyr by Ribera, a village fair by Rubens, two Flemish landscapes by Teniers, three little genre paintings by Gerard Dow, Metsu, and Paul Potter, two canvases by Gericault and Prud'hon, plus seascapes by Backhuysen and Vernet.

Among the works of modern art were pictures signed by Delacroix, Ingres, Decamps, Troyon, Meissonier, Daubigny, etc., and some wonderful miniature statues in marble or bronze, modeled after antiquity's finest originals, stood on their pedestals in the corners of this magnificent museum. As the Nautilus's commander had predicted, my mind was already starting to fall into that promised state of stunned amazement.

"Professor," this strange man then said, "you must excuse the informality with which I receive you, and the disorder reigning in this lounge."

"Sir," I replied, "without prying into who you are, might I venture to identify you as an artist?"

"A collector, sir, nothing more. Formerly I loved acquiring these beautiful works created by the hand of man. I sought them greedily, ferreted them out tirelessly, and I've been able to gather some objects of great value. They're my last mementos of those shores that are now dead for me. In my eyes, your modern artists are already as old as the ancients. They've existed for 2,000 or 3,000 years, and I mix them up in my mind. The masters are ageless."

"What about these composers?" I said, pointing to sheet music by Weber, Rossini, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Meyerbeer, Hérold, Wagner, Auber, Gounod, Victor Massé, and a number of others scattered over a full size piano-organ, which occupied one of the wall panels in this lounge.

"These composers," Captain Nemo answered me, "are the contemporaries of Orpheus, because in the annals of the dead, all chronological differences fade; and I'm dead, professor, quite as dead as those friends of yours sleeping six feet under!"

Captain Nemo fell silent and seemed lost in reverie. I regarded him with intense excitement, silently analyzing his strange facial expression. Leaning his elbow on the corner of a valuable mosaic table, he no longer saw me, he had forgotten my very presence.

I didn't disturb his meditations but continued to pass in review the curiosities that enriched this lounge.

After the works of art, natural rarities predominated. They consisted chiefly of plants, shells, and other exhibits from the ocean that must have been Captain Nemo's own personal finds. In the middle of the lounge, a jet of water, electrically lit, fell back into a basin made from a single giant clam. The delicately festooned rim of this shell, supplied by the biggest mollusk in the class Acephala, measured about six meters in circumference; so it was even bigger than those fine giant clams given to King François I by the Republic of Venice, and which the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris has made into two gigantic holy-water fonts.

Around this basin, inside elegant glass cases fastened with copper bands, there were classified and labeled the most valuable marine exhibits ever put before the eyes of a naturalist. My professorial glee may easily be imagined.

The zoophyte branch offered some very unusual specimens from its two groups, the polyps and the echinoderms. In the first group: organ-pipe coral, gorgonian coral arranged into fan shapes, soft sponges from Syria, isis coral from the Molucca Islands, sea-pen coral, wonderful coral of the genus Virgularia from the waters of Norway, various coral of the genus Umbellularia, alcyonarian coral, then a whole series of those madrepores that my mentor Professor Milne-Edwards has so shrewdly classified into divisions and among which I noted the wonderful genus Flabellina as well as the genus Oculina from Réunion Island, plus a "Neptune's chariot" from the Caribbean Sea--every superb variety of coral, and in short, every species of these unusual polyparies that congregate to form entire islands that will one day turn into continents.

Among the echinoderms, notable for being covered with spines: starfish, feather stars, sea lilies, free-swimming crinoids, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, etc., represented a complete collection of the individuals in this group.

An excitable conchologist would surely have fainted dead away before other, more numerous glass cases in which were classified specimens from the mollusk branch. There I saw a collection of incalculable value that I haven't time to describe completely.

Among these exhibits I'll mention, just for the record: an elegant royal hammer shell from the Indian Ocean, whose evenly spaced white spots stood out sharply against a base of red and brown; an imperial spiny oyster, brightly colored, bristling with thorns, a specimen rare to European museums, whose value I estimated at 20,000 francs; a common hammer shell from the seas near Queensland, very hard to come by; exotic cockles from Senegal, fragile white bivalve shells that a single breath could pop like a soap bubble; several varieties of watering-pot shell from Java, a sort of limestone tube fringed with leafy folds and much fought over by collectors; a whole series of top-shell snails--greenish yellow ones fished up from American seas, others colored reddish brown that patronize the waters off Queensland, the former coming from the Gulf of Mexico and notable for their overlapping shells, the latter some sun-carrier shells found in the southernmost seas, finally and rarest of all, the magnificent spurred-star shell from New Zealand; then some wonderful peppery-furrow shells; several valuable species of cythera clams and venus clams; the trellis wentletrap snail from Tranquebar on India's eastern shore; a marbled turban snail gleaming with mother-of-pearl; green parrot shells from the seas of China; the virtually unknown cone snail from the genus Coenodullus;every variety of cowry used as money in India and Africa; a "glory-of-the-seas," the most valuable shell in the East Indies; finally, common periwinkles, delphinula snails, turret snails, violet snails, European cowries, volute snails, olive shells, miter shells, helmet shells, murex snails, whelks, harp shells, spiky periwinkles, triton snails, horn shells, spindle shells, conch shells, spider conchs, limpets, glass snails, sea butterflies-- every kind of delicate, fragile seashell that science has baptized with its most delightful names.

Aside and in special compartments, strings of supremely beautiful pearls were spread out, the electric light flecking them with little fiery sparks: pink pearls pulled from saltwater fan shells in the Red Sea; green pearls from the rainbow abalone; yellow, blue, and black pearls, the unusual handiwork of various mollusks from every ocean and of certain mussels from rivers up north; in short, several specimens of incalculable worth that had been oozed by the rarest of shellfish. Some of these pearls were bigger than a pigeon egg; they more than equaled the one that the explorer Tavernier sold the Shah of Persia for 3,000,000 francs, and they surpassed that other pearl owned by the Imam of Muscat, which I had believed to be unrivaled in the entire world.

Consequently, to calculate the value of this collection was, I should say, impossible. Captain Nemo must have spent millions in acquiring these different specimens, and I was wondering what financial resources he tapped to satisfy his collector's fancies, when these words interrupted me:

"You're examining my shells, professor? They're indeed able to fascinate a naturalist; but for me they have an added charm, since I've collected every one of them with my own two hands, and not a sea on the globe has escaped my investigations."

"I understand, captain, I understand your delight at strolling in the midst of this wealth. You're a man who gathers his treasure in person. No museum in Europe owns such a collection of exhibits from the ocean. But if I exhaust all my wonderment on them, I'll have nothing left for the ship that carries them! I have absolutely no wish to probe those secrets of yours! But I confess that my curiosity is aroused to the limit by this Nautilus, the motor power it contains, the equipment enabling it to operate, the ultra powerful force that brings it to life. I see some instruments hanging on the walls of this lounge whose purposes are unknown to me. May I learn--"

"Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo answered me, "I've said you'd be free aboard my vessel, so no part of the Nautilus is off-limits to you. You may inspect it in detail, and I'll be delighted to act as your guide."

"I don't know how to thank you, sir, but I won't abuse your good nature.
I would only ask you about the uses intended for these instruments of physical measure--"

"Professor, these same instruments are found in my stateroom, where I'll have the pleasure of explaining their functions to you. But beforehand, come inspect the cabin set aside for you. You need to learn how you'll be lodged aboard the Nautilus."

I followed Captain Nemo, who, via one of the doors cut into the lounge's canted corners, led me back down the ship's gangways. He took me to the bow, and there I found not just a cabin but an elegant stateroom with a bed, a washstand, and various other furnishings.

I could only thank my host.

"Your stateroom adjoins mine," he told me, opening a door, "and mine leads into that lounge we've just left."

I entered the captain's stateroom. It had an austere, almost monastic appearance. An iron bedstead, a worktable, some washstand fixtures. Subdued lighting. No luxuries. Just the bare necessities.

Captain Nemo showed me to a bench.

"Kindly be seated," he told me.

I sat, and he began speaking as follows:

Helen Scales on Ocean Life

From the Browser: Five Book Interviews: Helen Scales on Ocean Life
Interview by Daisy Banks

We plunder the ocean for food, dump our waste in it, respect its wildlife less than land-based creatures. Why? Is it a case of "out of sight, out of mind"? A marine biologist tells us what's down there and what we're doing to it

You have spent most of your life exploring the ocean – why are you so fascinated by it?

Anyone who has put their head under water, whether snorkelling or swimming or scuba diving, will have hopefully caught a glimpse of an extraordinary world that for most of the time is out of sight and out of mind. As soon as I first got down among all the creatures and fish and extraordinary things you can see down there, I was instantly addicted to it.

Can you describe one really memorable experience that you’ve had beneath the waves?

I think it has to be the first time I saw a seahorse in the wild. These were a group of animals I’d been obsessed with for ages. But for more than 10 years of diving and researching in the sea, I never saw one. While I was in Vietnam, researching the impact on seahorses of shrimp trawlers for my book, I spent a day diving at a spot where I’d been told seahorses still hung out. And there it was. A perfect little orange seahorse, snoozing quietly on the seabed. Funny thing was, I’d been wrong every time I’d imagined what it would be like to see my favourite animal in real life. I didn’t scream and dance about in delight – I just lay down on the sand next to it and watched, utterly gripped and completely content.

Lady With a Spear
By Eugenie Clark

Your first book is the autobiographical Lady With a Spear. It’s author Eugenie Clark is someone who has dived the world, just like you.

I had the great honour of meeting her earlier this year. She is in her late eighties now and is an absolute inspiration to me. Getting a chance to sit down and chat with her over lunch was a joy. She has been studying the ocean for 60 years. She is still diving, still researching and still as much in love with the ocean as she ever was. I felt a huge connection with her.

This book describes a time when she was a pioneering female scientist, going off and having adventures and following her extraordinary obsession with the ocean. She spent time in Egypt studying the fishes of the Red Sea, as a single female at a time when such things were completely unheard of. To some extent she is one of the female underwater explorers who isn’t quite so famous, and she really should be.

Where did she come from?

She is American, grew up in New York and tells a lovely story of how she fell in love with fish at a young age when visiting the New York aquarium. She went on to become known as the “shark lady” for her studies of shark behaviour, and founded the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, now known as the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Her second book, The Lady and the Sharks, describes how that was set up and how she raised her family at the same time in what then was a remote, undeveloped part of Florida.

She actually spent most of her career up in Maryland, where she was a professor at the university there. I only wish I could have been one of her students, it must have been so exciting to work with her. She has spent her whole life teaching and researching. And she is still doing it because she loves it so much she can’t give it up.

Do you think you will end up like that?

I would love to be like that. If I get to that age and I am still diving and exploring the oceans, it would be fabulous.

Blueback: A Contemporary Fable
By Tim Winton

The next book on your list is Tim Winton’s novel Blueback, which is set in a very beautiful part of Australia.

I read this story years ago and it is just lovely. Winton calls it a fable for all ages and I think that is absolutely true. I read it to my nephews when they were about seven but I think everyone should read it no matter how old they are. It is about a boy called Abel Jackson who grows up in this gorgeous part of what I presume is the Western Australian coast, because that is where the author hails from. The story tells how Abel goes diving every day. He makes friends with a huge blue fish he names Blueback.

It is part adventure story, part ode to the oceans. You see the unfolding problems of the modern world pushing in on his beloved bay. Abel decides that he wants to study the sea to figure it out and solve the puzzle of why the ocean is getting sick. And on a lighter note he wants to learn the language of the sea. He wants to know what Blueback is thinking about. It is beautifully written and very evocative. Ultimately, it is a story about childhood dreams and realising it is never too late to go back and relive them.

It also discusses the problems of overfishing by predatory fishermen.

Yes, one part of the story is that fishermen come and pillage the bay where Abel and his mother live. It describes the efforts they make to stop that happening, but I don’t want to spoil the ending.

Have you seen similar things during your travels – beautiful bays being destroyed?

Sadly, I often turn up when it has already got to the point of being fairly degraded. I have spent a long time working and researching in South East Asia where there are all sorts of problems like dynamite and cyanide fishing, and the impacts are obvious. I have been in the water when a fish bomb has gone off not too far away – which is terrifying.

What is it like?

You can almost feel it before you hear it. It was deafening. I was petrified that if it had come any closer my buddy and I would have been deafened if not worse. It rocks through your insides and you feel this powerful pressure wave coming off the bomb. It is that pressure wave that kills the fish. It really brought home to me just how destructive that kind of fishing is. We came up immediately and the boat was miles away, but sound travels through the sea so fast. So I have seen some sad cases of ocean destruction, but I have also been very lucky to go to some of the most beautiful and relatively untouched places there are left.

The Unnatural History of the Sea
By Callum Roberts

Callum Roberts’s book The Unnatural History of the Sea returns to the more destructive things happening to the ocean, tracing the roots of overfishing.

This book goes through the sequence of events that led us to today’s depleted ocean. It takes you back to a time when people believed the oceans were essentially inexhaustible.

It looks back to the late 18th century.

Yes, back as far as whale hunting and all sorts of different ways of exploiting the ocean. And it tells the story in a very vivid way. Everyone will learn something from this, even if they think they know lots of stuff about how we have affected the oceans. There are many things in there that I wasn’t aware of. And he reminds us that we easily forget about how things have changed. Even in recent times, we have come to accept a degraded state of the natural world and the oceans. We quickly forget just how abundant life used to be and how rich fisheries used to be.

I should point out that he does take an optimistic outlook. He isn’t all doom and gloom. He lays out hundreds and hundreds of years of over-exploitation but he also lays out his manifesto for restoring some of that former glory. He doesn’t think it’s too late.

What does he think we can do?

It is all about setting up marine protected areas or marine reserves, and reinventing the way that we manage fisheries. He knows what he is talking about. This guy is a top academic in fisheries and marine conservation.

Do you think people will buy into it?

That is the big question. The science is there. It is the people side of the equation that still has a big question mark hanging over it. I can only hope that books like this can help chip away at that. We have to remember that the things that live in the ocean are wildlife. They aren’t just resources for us to use up. We have a lot more respect for wildlife on land and see it as something we need to look after. There is a very different attitude towards the oceans. We see them as a place to dump our waste and grab as much food from as possible.

It is vital that we try and get the message across that these are wild creatures and ecosystems that we are damaging, and that losing them will affect our lives in practical and economic ways as well as more intangible ways. The oceans fuel our imaginations. I think it’s crucial for there to still be wild sea monsters out there. Werner Herzog said, “What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the deep? It would be like sleep without dreams.”

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
By Paul Greenberg

Next up is Four Fish by Paul Greenberg, which explores our relationship with the ocean through four iconic fish.

Greenberg brings Roberts’s story bang up to date. He answers questions about what we eat today and how that is affecting the ocean. He picks four fish, which in the western world at least are the main species we eat. Those are tuna, salmon, cod and sea bass. It is a fascinating story about how we got hooked on those four species, which he tells from his perspective as an avid angler.

Some of the most interesting parts of Greenberg’s book concern the future of fishing and particularly fish farming. He writes about a couple of companies that are taking a truly rational approach to large-scale fish farming and asking the question, will it feed the masses? Greenberg encourages us to think about farming fish in the same way that farmers think about raising animals on land.

Does he think that fish farming can feed the masses?

He thinks that if we pick species that get on well in captivity then absolutely we can. But fishers and fish farmers need to rethink what they’re currently doing, and as consumers we need to be persuaded to give up our rather boring palette. We only really eat four types of fish but there is so much more that we could be eating that has a lighter impact on the natural world.

The Rime of the Modern Mariner
By Nick Hayes

Your last book is an update of Coleridge’s classic. The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes is a tale of environmental disaster.

This graphic novel is a beautiful re-telling of Coleridge’s poem for our modern plastic-filled times. It carries a really chilling message about our consumer-driven lives and its consequences on our planet and the ocean in particular. The book is also an object of great loveliness with stunning illustrations. In and of itself it is a beautiful thing to have, but the story is also very touching and poignant. And it has lots of science in there. I love the way Hayes has used his artwork and poetry as a really imaginative way of telling the stories of the oceans and getting ideas across about the problems that we are causing.

We have spoken a lot about overfishing, but what are some of the other problems that we are causing?

One of the big problems in the oceans is plastic waste, and the fact that so much of what we throw away or flush down the toilet ends up in the ocean and just stays there – it’s not biodegradable. A lot of it gets broken down into smaller and smaller fragments of plastic known as “mermaid tears”. These tiny plastic particles infiltrate marine ecosystems, causing all sorts of problems when animals eat them and choke on them, and because of toxic compounds associated with them. I was in the Red Sea just last year – every morning I would go out snorkelling on the reef next to where we were staying and I would pick up armfuls of plastic bags. I knew it wouldn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things but it made me feel better.

There is also the problem of climate change, which causes specific problems for the oceans like acidification – carbon dioxide not only warms up the atmosphere but it dissolves in the oceans, making them more acidic. That causes problems for all the creatures that live inside chalky, calcium-carbonate skeletons. The animals that build coral reefs, plus many plankton species and all sorts of organisms that are very important for ocean ecosystems, will suffer the consequences.

What can we individually do to help the situation?

We have to be positive that there are things we can do as individuals – everything from deciding which fish to eat, refusing to use plastic bags, that kind of thing. At the same time we can think about the bigger problems like climate change, and what we can do as individuals as well as nations to deal with that. There are many different scales at which we need to make our voices heard.

We must also support the setting up of conservation areas. The UK at the moment is establishing a network of conservation areas around our shores. We desperately need things like that. We need to protect parts of the sea from these problems that we are inflicting on the whole planet, and give the oceans a chance to recover.