Here is a webisode from 60 Minutes on Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island, The Bahamas...enjoy!
A new species of dolphin has been distinguished in Australia. There are 150 dolphin known to live near Melbourne, and some were mistaken as common bottlenose dolphin.
This discovery is a huge deal considering there have only been three discoveries of new dolphin species since the late 1800s. The new species is called the Burrunan dolphin - Aboriginal Australian for "large sea fish of the porpoise kind."
Scientists discovered Burrunan dolphin were a different species after comparing its' DNA and skull to bottlenose dolphin were able to classify Burrunan as Tursiops australis.
There are two populations of Burrunan dolphin living in Australia, all in the Victoria State. Now that it has been realized Burrunan are a unique species, they have been placed under Australia's criteria for endangered animals.
Having Burrunan dolphin formally recognized as a species is crucial to giving the small populations a chance to survive. With only two small resident pods, living so close to the major urban centre of Melbourne - Burrunan dolphin are susceptible to many different ecological threats. Knowing this is a new species will help to raise awareness and protection - especially because people love dolphins.
GetTankedScuba.com is publishing it's own maps of The Bahamian Family Islands. Major marinas, favourite islands, towns or hidden gems, yet to be discovered. The interactive, hand drawn maps will highlight local spots, restaurants, sites and activities. Check out the new page under construction or come back for our update at the New Year!
Today marked the commencement of the murder of hundreds of Pilot Whales in the North Atlantic. It is an event that takes place every year called “The Grind,” in the Faroe Islands (part of Denmark). This event is the annual stranding and slaughtering of Pilot Whales. Each summer about 950 Long Finned Pilot Whales are murdered, an ancient tradition that dates back to Norse ancestry.
The Faroese compile their boats in a semicircle, pushing the whales to the bottom of the fjord and towards shore. Once the mammals are beached, they are murdered with a special knife, a grindaknivur used to cut the dorsal area through to the spinal cord. The length of death takes anywhere from a few seconds to …minutes. While murdering hundreds of mammals, the Faroese sing Raske drenge, grind at dræbe det er vor lyst, translation: tough boys, to slay the grind that’s our desire. Keep in mind in 1985 harpooning and spearing was made illegal because it was cruel to the mammals.
The Grind seems to be a modern bastardization of tradition, as in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines they also have an annual whaling season. But they only kill a whale or two each year, if they can catch any (which does not happen yearly), and use ancient techniques, of jumping off a long hand crafted canoe with a spear, endangering the humans, as much as the whale in the process.
It should be noted that even the Faroese authorities have released statements saying Pilot Whales are not safe for human consumption because of the high toxins in their meat. Yet continue to eat this poisonous meat because it is rich in social and cultural identity.
The tradition is engrained into the small Nordic islands’ culture, society and identity, but killing pregnant, pups and unborn whales from the womb of whales certainly cannot be a point of enlightenment. Pilot Whales are also not the only cetacean that may be murdered, the list also includes, Bottlenose Dolphin (like flipper), White-Breaked Dolphin, Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise.
National Geographic reports high caffeine levels in the oceanic waters off the Pacific Northwest of America. Along the coastline, some areas (the more polluted ones) have low levels of caffeine, 9 nanograms per litre, the open coastlines away from urban pollutants have highly caffeinated waters, 45 nanograms per litre (a nanograms is equal to one billionth of a gram). Elise Granek a co-author on the study of caffeinated waters in the Pacific Northwest hypothesizes “…that the bigger source of contamination here is probably on-site waste disposal…like septic systems.”
Because caffeine is unregulated, it is not specifically monitored during wastewater-treatment. Possibly stricter monitoring and more involved studies of the chemicals our waste produces can reduce the risk of contaminating the delicate pH levels of the oceans that have remained unchanged for millennia.
This is not a completely unknown problem, Boston’s drinking water is known to have traces of cocaine, spices and estrogen (from birth control pills) in its’ drinking water, so one can only imagine what the wastewater is contaminated with. Caffeine is a ubiquitous substance, and opens the doors to what other similarly nonthreatening substances are being dispersed amongst our delicate ecosystems.
Dana Kolpin, a hydrologist from Iowa City, Iowa, believes that if caffeine is in noticeable traces, then “aquatic organisms are getting hit with a soup of low-level contaminants.” The million-dollar question is does this change the cellular composition of aquatic beings? If mussels are exposed to higher concentrations, or longer periods of time, does this change the growth rates or reproductive output? In Lake Ontario, estrogen from birth control pills has caused wild fish populations to collapse. Caffeine’s environmental impact will have to be observed before we know the answers, but inevitably if humans continue to dump waste irresponsibly into coastal waters they will pollute the hand that feeds them.
For the first time in history, wild fish have been caught and observed with melanoma, skin cancer. About 15% of the trout in Australia have contracted cancer from ultraviolet radiation. Australia, lies under the world’s biggest hole in the ozone layer, and Aussies are the most likely global citizens to be diagnosed with melanoma. Until recently it was not known fish could get skin cancer, until researchers surveyed the coral trout and noticed dark patches that were confirmed as melanomas.
This was the last thing scientists thought they would observe while conducting a survey on shark prey near the Great Barrier Reef. But, the dark strange spots on brightly coloured orange fish caught their attention. First the dark spots were checked for microbial pathogens, but nothing appeared, so they “look[ed] deeper…”
While observing the darkened tissue under a microscope they “…stumbled on tumour formations,” then compared them with tissue samples from fish in captivity that had been given melanoma (as part of a laboratory experiment). The tissues were identical.
Although this is the first recorded account of melanoma in wild fish, it more than likely isn’t a unique case. Because of the location of these fish habitat, they lie directly in the centre of the ozone hole, and are more likely to carry cancer-causing mutations in their DNA. Also, this habitat is at the limit of coral trout’s habitat, meaning the extreme conditions cause more stress and make these trout more vulnerable to disease.
Jacques Cousteau was the first to pioneer the idea of people living in a submersible habitat underwater. For fifty years science has tried to put people into harsh and alien environments so humans can get a better understanding of the world, or universe around them. Since 1993, Aquarius has housed and made possible 114 missions, with over 550 scientific publications, television and educational programmes.
Because of this the Aquarius Aquanauts have observed the Key Largo Reef, under more scrutiny and observation than any other reef system in the world, unlocking fathoms of knowledge for scientists on a global scale. It has even been used to train and condition astronauts to the harsh and remote, extraterrestrial world they will embark into.
This year marks the end of an era; the Aquarius Reef Base (Key Largo, Florida), will no longer be the world’s only undersea lab, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have made the decision to pull funding for the Base. Jon White, an aquanaut on the last mission to Aquarius calls this decision, “…a foolish loss of capability, when we need all the help we can muster to understand the ocean and…measures to protect it.”
Remaining for hours, as saturated dives are able to do allows them to observe fish, shrimp, lobster, etc. in a more natural environment, without having to constantly think of their air consumption, scientists are able to put all their attention on the experiments being conducted. “The ability to spend almost limitless time at home beneath the sea…changed my life,” says Saul Rosser the operation direction of Aquarius returning from a weeklong saturation dive. The opportunities that have been made available because of Aquarius as proved to be an unprecedented opportunity to bring the public beneath the waves.
With half the coral reefs in the world have been destroyed, I believe it is of the utmost importance to preserve and fund missions like this that will help to protect and save the delicate ecosystem that feeds the world, and provides us with oxygen and clean water we need to survive. Hopefully despite the lack of federal funding Aquarius will survive from private funding. The uncertain economic and political climate the entire world is facing right now does not bode well for little known science projects, placing the ocean’s future under even more tenuous stress.
Dolphins are known for being intelligent creatures. Even though we tame them, and teach them commands like a dog, they are still wild and have minds of their own. Most of the interaction with dolphins humans have with dolphins is a response. It is rare for a dolphin to ask something of us; in what's referred to as, two-way communication.
Is it possible for dolphins and humans to develop a primitive language? The world's leading expert on dolphins, Dr. Denise L. Herzing, is determined on finding out just how far dolphins will go to interact with human beings.
The Bahamas is a perfect experimental playground for tests. The crystal-clear, warm water, no land in sight and pods of dolphins...it is here that Dr. Herzing swims with a pod of 15 Atlantic spotted dolphin, playing fetch with seaweed. Tackling the hardest part of this experiment, getting the dolphins interested in human interaction.
Herzing with wild dolphin in The Bahamas
So far it has been determined that dolphins make three distinct types of noises; whistles, clicks and burst pulses. The whistles are believed to identify individuals, navigation and prey, the other noises are more difficult to decipher. Then, there is also an ultra-high frequency dolphins communicate, that is not audible to human ears.
The communication system being developed by Dr. Herzing uses the idea of whistles for identification. Two divers will perform in front of a pod of dolphin; first making a whistle sound, then one hands off seaweed to the other. In doing this, Herzing hopes to develop an association between the noise and the object, and dolphins being natural mimics will respond by requesting to engage.
At this point, Herzing clearly states, "we're not talking to dolphins...we'll keep it simple and then we can potentially expand it." She also believes, that once the dolphin realize they can communicate with humans, they too will be excited, realizing they can "get what they want in real time." A language? Not exactly, but it's about the same amount of communication I have with my cat, and it seems pretty special.
Interestingly enough, this is not an uncommon thing. Below are seven species of marine mammals known to engage in homosexual activities:
This is not the first time, even recently, people have reported oil spills on the beach. Even my Facebook Newsfeed occasionally mentions friends seeing small amounts of oil wash on the shores of Southwest Nassau. Is it a coincident that Clifton Pier is targeted again for this week's oil coating? Even some of the statements made by the Government don't cloud the facts (see article below).
Whether this oil leakage is from Clifton Pier, or from a ship illegally dumping its' bilge, there is no doubt that the fragile coral reef patches growing beneath the crystal clear waters, a spectacular sight for any first timer or habitual vacationer of The Bahamas, are affected. Nassau's best reef systems are found off Southwest Nassau and, I personally know them to be beautiful, clean, kelidoscope-coloured reefs. Preserving coral reefs, and making sure oil spills do not happen is of the utmost importance. Not only to the fragile marine environment and mangrove forests, but also to the tourist industry that dominates The Bahamian economy.
Click here to read the article from The Tribune.