The Ocean Blog

What We're Reading 10/21

We’re more than half way through October! Take a break from jumping into crunchy piles of leaves and check out what’s happening in the ocean world. The Future of Animal Observation? Only recently has drone technology become cheap and accessible enough to reach the general public. Drones have made national news, from a drone owner famously landing his device on the White House lawn in 2015 to drones that make much-needed blood deliveries in Rwanda. The scientific community is also capitalizing on this new tech trend by turning drones into an unlikely research tool. Last week, more

What We’re Reading 10/6

A thresher shark was killed after becoming stuck in a gillnet. Credit: Brian Skerry Welcome to October, where there’s a lot going on in ocean news! Protecting Sharks & Rays Just Monday there was news from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that the silky shark, thresher shark and devil ray have been added to the Appendix II listing , meaning that additional limitations are placed on the trade of the species and fisheries must prove they are sustainable, “meaning they can recover from large-scale fishing, before they can be taken...Read more

What We're Reading - 9/22

A bluefin trevally swims in Hawaii’s Maro Coral Reef, part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Credit: ©James D. Watt/Ocean Stock It’s hard to keep up with the latest news on the Internet. We all have information and headlines constantly streaming at us via Facebook, Twitter, email and news sites. We realize the Ocean Portal is a part of that noise. But since we are attempting to stay up-to-date on everything ocean, we thought, why not let you know what we are reading? Here’s our inaugural post. We will plan to give you an idea of what is going on in the ocean-world every two...Read more

Why Are We So Afraid of Sharks? It Could Be the Background Music

Blacktip reef sharks congregate in the lagoon of Millennium Atoll in the Southern Line Islands. Credit: Enric Sala / National Geographic Remember the first time you watched Jaws ? Can you hear John Williams’ spine tingling movie score playing right now? Dahh-na. Dahh-na. Dah-na dah-na dah-na—it’s enough to make a swimmer beeline for the shore. Now imagine Jaws without music. No hair-raising bass and cello combination to signal the dread of an oncoming great white , nor the crescendo of trombones and tubas to cue the unknowing swimmer’s untimely end. Without music, the monster shark looks more...Read more
Greenland Shark in cold water

In the Eyes of One Shark, Age is Nothing to Fear

Greenland Shark in icy Arctic waters. Credit: Julius Nielson In the freezing waters of the Arctic a toothed leviathan – the Greenland shark - claims an impressive feat. It now holds the record for longest documented lifespan of any vertebrate. The new discovery points to an age of roughly 400 years, meaning that some sharks swimming in today’s Arctic ocean may have shared the waters with explorers like Henry Hudson as he searched for the elusive Northwest Passage in the early 1600s. Little is known about Greenland sharks, and even shark specialists see them as creatures of mystery . Perhaps...Read more
A hippopotamus-like creature swims underwater

Flippers or Feet? An Extinct Mammal May Have Been Replaced By Today's Sea Cows

An artist's rendition of the Paleoparadoxia tabatai, a desmostylian from the Miocene Credit: Nobu Tamura In the seagrass beds and kelp forests of the Oligocene-Miocene transition, nearly 32.5 to 10.5 million years ago, a four-legged, gnarly-toothed mammal roamed the Northern Pacific shores of what is now Japan, Canada and the United States. This mammal, part of the order Desmostylia, straddled the marine and terrestrial environments much like seals and sea lions of today, but with feet instead of flippers. The Desmostylia are the only order of marine mammals to entirely go extinct, and a new...Read more
A map of the Mid Ocean Ridge

Making a Mark on the Ocean Floor

A map of the mid Atlantic Ridge by Marie Tharp Credit: Marie Tharp Historical Map Google Earth Until very recently oceanography was a field dominated by men. A seafaring career, oceanography was still influenced by the superstitions of ship life; a woman on board was considered to bring bad luck. It may come as a surprise then, that one of the most influential oceanographic cartographers (mapmakers) of the 20th century was a woman, and she achieved such status without even stepping foot on a boat. Marie Tharp is credited with producing one of the world’s first comprehensive maps of the ocean...Read more
Illustration of a real oarfish vs the Pokémon counterpart.

Our Favorite Water Pokémon and Their Real-Life Doppelgängers

Pokémon Go came out in the United States last week and it’s safe to say that the gaming community is collectively losing its mind. Already boasting an estimated 7.5 million downloads as of Monday, 6 days after the release, the Nintendo-owned franchise is making a raging comeback. The game uses your smartphone’s GPS to locate virtual Pokémon in your vicinity allowing the player to both see and “capture” Pokémon à la augmented reality through your phone’s camera. Still confused? Check out this explainer. Pokémon mania has rekindled some serious nostalgia at the Ocean Portal so we decided to...Read more

Shipboard Life in the Antarctic

The R/V Laurence M. Gould amid icy waters in Antarctica Credit: Danielle Hall Strapped in to a harness on the back deck of a 230-foot research vessel off the coast of Antarctica , I take a moment to take in my surroundings. For as far as the eye can see bleached white ice floes jigsaw the open ocean, save for a distinct, unnatural channel our icebreaking hull has masterfully carved. The occasional lazy crabeater seal nods its head in acknowledgement as it drifts by atop one of the ice floes and a few Adélie penguins flit across the water between the large tiles of ice. For a second I am at...Read more
The colorful parrotfish sculpture is made entirely of ocean plastic trash.

Turning Ocean Trash to Treasure

Priscilla the Parrotfish is strikingly beautiful―showcasing a range of bright colors and large grasping teeth. There is absolutely no dye used by the Washed Ashore team, plastic is made in all the colors necessary. Credit: Washed Ashore Upon entering the Smithsonian’s National Zoo this summer, visitors can expect a bright greeting from a larger-than-life Priscilla the Parrotfish. Priscilla is a mosaic of every color in the rainbow, but upon further inspection her scales reveal a darker story. In “I-Spy” fashion you can find discarded sand shovels, cigarette lighters, combs, soda bottle caps,...Read more