The blanket octopus can rip a poisonous tentacle from a Portuguese man-o-war and wield it like a sword to ward off enemies as it soars through the ocean trailing its webbed cloak behind it. Vampyroteuthis infernalis , the vampire squid from hell, has been egregiously misnamed. This poor little thing – more like a wallflower or a tumbleweed than a devil from hell – is sometimes reduced to defending itself by biting off its own arm tip. Then the tip floats off, sparkling its blue lights in the darkness and luring away the enemy. The giant Pacific octopus with its eight huge arms can pass a...
May is here and that means National Poetry Month is officially over. As promised, we're going to highlight a few of the submissions we've received from our call for your ocean poems . Sailors, divers, and sunbathers all penned poems. Some praised the big blue's beauty. Others bemoaned its mistreatment. Coral reefs inspired some, aircraft carriers moved others (literally and figuratively). Full disclosure: the Ocean Portal staff does not profess to have advanced degrees in poetry, rhyming, meter, or the like. Thanks to all who submitted their work! Your poems are truly inspiring and moving...
When he was 10 years old, Stephen Cairns lived in Cuba where he kept a collection of butterflies and sea shells. When his family moved to Louisiana, he could bring only one of the collections with him. He chose the shells. He says that is when he knew he was going to be a marine biologist. Today, Dr. Cairns is a research zoologist and chair of the Invertebrate Zoology Department at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Recently Dr. Cairns and other scientists teamed up with the Ocean Portal to showcase examples from the marine collections on the “Explore the...
It blew in for two solid days: a flotilla of plastic forks, soda bottles, rubber gloves, and other refuse. I tried to pick everything up off the beach, but when I turned around, you couldn’t tell that I had cleaned at all. When we went out in the boats, we had to go slowly in order to dodge the debris. Eventually the tide came in and swooped it all away. I was at the Smithsonian Marine Research Station on Carrie Bow , a small island on the southern end of Belize. My colleagues and I discussed where the garbage could be coming from. This area is very remote and the trash was blowing in from...
For more than 40 years, Earth Day has been a day to get your hands dirty—or wet! No act of green or blue is too small. Whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to use less water, small collective acts add up. They also help raise awareness and inspire protection of the Earth and its ocean. It is no surprise that some of the students who gathered at the Smithsonian in February 2011 for the Third Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts are planning actions for Earth Day, held annually every April 22. This week I caught up with a couple of the groups to find out how they’re marking the day...
Last September, the Citizens of the Sea blog series brought you a story of doom and gloom from the reefs of Bocas del Toro, Panama. That is the time of year we typically study -- and celebrate -- the annual birth of baby corals in the area. We arrived to find very hot water (2010 turned out to be the hottest year on record), and in the shallows the reefs had turned a ghostly white. This was the most extreme coral bleaching we had ever seen since we started our studies there in 1998. We worried that many of the bleached corals would die. Unsure of what would happen, we returned last month to...
With the nuclear and humanitarian crisis in Japan, major political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, and heated budget battles here in the United States, you'd be forgiven for not remembering that nearly one year ago the Gulf of Mexico was dominating the news. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and opening up a well that pumped nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. One year later, where do things stand? Join us next week as we seek answers from a panel of experts in a Live Webcast on...
April is National Poetry Month here in the United States. We'd like you to help us celebrate by penning a poem in the comment field below or on our Facebook page . Not the next Walt Whitman? Fear not. The only rule is that you must invoke our favorite muse: the ocean. Whether you praise saltwater waves, ponder Arctic jelly fish , or pretend to be the baleen in a whale's mouth , WE WANT YOUR POEMS. Please take a few seconds, minutes, or hours and submit your odes to the big blue. We'll post some of our favorites (good and bad) on our blog at the end of the month. Want a bit more structure? Try...
Tags: Ocean art
Over the past year I have been working for an organization called Coastal America helping to plan the Third National Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts , a program that teams up high school students with educators to work on an ocean-related research project and “action plan” in their community. In February, the program brought 80 students and 40 educators from schools and aquariums across the United States and Mexico to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to present their plans for projects that involve the ocean and climate. The student presentations were webcast live...
This week at the Smithsonian Ocean Portal we embark on an experiment we're calling "Make Me Care." The concept is simple: we ask a renowned expert to tell us why we should care about his or her marine subject matter. We're giving them only about a minute on video to accomplish the task, so it's a difficult - and not very fair - challenge. Dennis Whigham is a senior botanist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Edgewater, Md. He's graciously agreed to be the first expert to participate. Whigham is a specialist in many subject areas, including mangroves , orchids, tidal...