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Friday, March 30, 2012

Are dolphins the gangsters of the sea?

An interesting article that I picked up off my friend Tony Wu's twitter. The underlying point - never underestimate dolphins just because they appear playful. Team leader Dr. Richard Connor says: "If you're going to run into your enemies, you better be with your friends, or have some that are close by, willing to be recruited."

In 2003 I actually had the great fortune of watching an incredible encounter between a group of dolphins and a sperm whale. I was sitting 80 feet above the water atop the crow's nest of the R/V Odyssey, essentially the best view in the house, and I saw this group truly harass a sperm whale. Every time the sperm whale tried to move forward, the dolphins would form a wall in front of it. They did this repeatedly until finally the sperm whale dived. It has intrigued me ever since.

Click here to read a news report on this research: http://theweek.com/article/index/226233/are-dolphins-the-gangsters-of-the-sea

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Picture by Sopaka Karunasundera
A picture speaks a thousand words. This incredible but deeply saddening photograph was taken by Sopaka Karunasundera a Marine Pilot with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority on the 20th of March 2012. The whale was wrapped on the bow of the CMA CGM Quartz that arrived in Colombo from Chennai. The ship's staff were unaware of the carcass until the pilot sighted the whale while boarding the vessel for berthing.

This is just one incident. Undoubtedly there are many more that go unrecorded. Many times I have anxiously watched the blue whales on our south coast weave in and out of the heavy shipping traffic within our shipping lanes. I have seen near misses and in some cases I doubt very much that the whale escaped in time.

Here's a link to an old story about our south coast being one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. http://whalessrilanka.blogspot.com/2011/10/global-shipping-traffic-in-prime-blue.html 

Good quality science is key to making a difference and protecting these incredible creatures. Follow this blog to find out more about our efforts to protect these great ocean giants.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

'Protecting the Giants of our Ocean' -- Open invite

Thank you for the incredible support you have all afforded me through my adventures. I would love to see you in the audience on the 5th of April at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute from 5-6pm.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The deepest place on earth: The Mariana Trench

Today, Canadian born film maker and National Geographic explorer James Cameron reached the deepest point on earth - Challenger Deep - where he spent approximately 6 hours collecting valuable scientific information in a place only three people have ever visited. So where exactly is this place? The Challenger Deep located in the Pacific Ocean is the deepest point of the Mariana Trench. It is located 10,994 m down, in the dark depths. In order to better illustrate the actual depth of the Mariana Trench, consider the following; if Mount Everest, which is the tallest point on earth at 8,848 meters, were set in the Mariana Trench, there would still be 2,146 meters of water left above it.

As you can imagine - conditions down there are different to what we experience on earth's surface. It's dark and pressures are high - approximately 1,099 times that at the surface. All things to consider when designing Mr. Cameron's state-of-the-art submersible. 

BREAKING NEWS! Make a note of this day in your calendars!

James Cameron is back after a historic solo dive to the deepest point in our oceans - the Mariana trench! Congratulations and admiration Mr. Cameron! Our generation will continue to talk about this day much like the last generation talk about Mr Armstrong's first foray on the moon. Click here for the latest update http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120325-james-cameron-mariana-trench-challenger-deepest-returns-science-sub/?source=link_fb20120324news-deepseasurface

James Cameron now at ocean's deepest point

How remarkable - this seascape is more alien to humans than the moon and film-maker and Nat-Geo explorer James Cameron is the first person to reach it solo!! Stuck within a cramped small space for over 9 hours he will be filming everything he sees using 3D technology and collecting all kinds of never-before-seen samples for scientists eagerly awaiting at the top.

What incredible times we live in...this date will go down in history books....Click here for the whole update http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120325-james-cameron-mariana-trench-challenger-deep-deepest-science-sub/?source=email_deepseachallenge

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why are they called sperm whales?

Whalers originally mistook the semi-liquid, waxy substance found in the spermaceti organ or case in front of and above the skull bone for the whales' 'sperm'. Thus, this species carries the burden of this awkward name for posterity! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DEEPSEA challenge!

This is the new age of exploration. National Geographic explorer and film maker (Avatar, Titanic, Abyss) James Cameron embarks on a dive to the ocean's deepest point. Its the least known and explored place on earth.

In March 2012, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron will tackle his biggest challenge ever—a solo journey to Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean. Challenger Deep is 10.99 kilometers (6.83 miles) deep and is found at the southern end of the Mariana Trench near Guam. Years in the making, this feat has been compared to landing on the moon. 

Stay connected and receive updates by clicking on this link: http://deepseachallenge.com/ 

Friday, March 9, 2012

The future of our oceans lie in the palms of our children

The future of our oceans lie in the palms of our children - Photo by Benjamin Schroeder (aged 4)
Do you or your kids have a burning ocean-related question? Like - why are blue whales called blue whales, or for that matter, why are sperm whales so-called?

If you do - please email them into me at whalessrilanka@gmail.com and I will try to answer your questions as future blog posts. If you are wondering it - chances are, someone else is too...AND your questions will help make this feel more interactive, less like a monologue.

Don't you poo poo that!

Copyright - Teru Kuwayama (TED Senior Fellow) 
Blue whale poo can only be described as - BEAUTIFUL! The poo gets its colour from the krill that the blue whales feast on. It's powdery and clumpy but tends to dissolve after a bit.....into a big red patch! Point to note - it smells bad! and if you touch it, the smell will linger......for a long long time! 

It turns out this photo of poo struck a chord with the majority of the audience and left them intrigued....and asking questions - mission accomplished!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Partying under the....

The life size blue whale at the entrance of the aquarium was a real treat and an amazing surprise for me!! I spent a lot of time talking to people about these amazing giants! I felt very much at home :)

Do you know what a mermaid's purse looks like?

During the TED conference we had a party at the Aquarium of the Pacific where I was LITERALLY in my element. In the moments where I was not talking to people about whales and the ocean, I was taking in the wonderful sights. Here is an exciting one I would like to share with you all. 

The little shark egg sacs are slit on one side so visitors can get a glimpse inside. Watch how the tiny critter moves while feeding on its companion yolk sac which supplies it with nutrients. They even have egg sacs of different ages so you can see growth......

....and what does this have to do with mermaid's and their purses? the egg cases are coloquially known as mermaid's purses or devil's purses. Click this link for more! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_case_(Chondrichthyes)

Everyone loves whales: I want you to too!


Meeting an icon: Sylvia Earle

After many years of reading about and closely following Sylvia Earle's adventures in the ocean realm, I finally got my turn to meet her at a cocktail party held in honour of 'her deepness' and the launch of the Mission Blue website. All a bit surreal but thank you to the TED fellow's team for making it all possible :)

Learn more about her through her Nat Geo page by clicking here: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/sylvia-earle/