Several hundred years ago there was said to be a strange and fierce sea creature that attacked ships. The Water-Owl or Ziphius had the body of a fish and a head of an owl with huge eyes and a beak-like a sword. Today we think the animal behind these stories is Cuvier’s beaked whale or Goose-beaked whale. This deep water whale It is the most widely distributed beaked whale species.
In early February I was on a sailing ship in the Caribbean passing through the channel between St Lucia and Martinique. It is deep in that area – several thousand feet and suitable for beaked whales. I was not thinking about whales at the time because I was busy photographing the brown boobies that were following the ship. Suddenly a robust, chocolate brown animal appeared next to the ship below me. I took as many photographs as I could before it disappeared into the deep. I was pretty certain I had seen a beaked whale but I had no idea what species. It was not large – about 10 to 12 feet long but had the typical curved dorsal fin towards the back of the body and a strange elongated and slightly bulbous head. When I returned one of our marine mammal scientists at the New England Aquarium identified it as a young Cuvier’s beaked whale. I feel so lucky to have seen one of these elusive animals.
Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive deeper than any other marine mammal. A recent study shows that at least one individual went down as far as 9,816 feet! Not much is known about these elusive and extreme divers, but there is concern that noise in the ocean from sonar and seismic testing may cause these whales to strand. There is evidence to suggest that some of these stranded animals have surfaced too quickly and developed damage similar to that of the bends in humans.
Noise in the ocean is a serious threat to marine mammals and other marine life. Commercial shipping noise, sonar testing and seismic surveys can clearly have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on marine mammal and fish populations. Normally, when we think about pollution in the seas we don’t think about noise. We think about plastics and chemicals and ghost fishing nets. Noise in its various forms is just as big a problem for life in the ocean. If we care about the future of strange and elusive mammals such as the ‘Water-owl’ we need to understand and mitigate noise impacts in the ocean far more than at present.
A large and rich brown shape appeared – Cuvier’s Beaked Whale surfaces beside the ship
Caracteristic dip behind the head and elongated head just visible
cookie cutter shark scars clearly visible
Small and curved dorsal fin
Posted in environment, General, mammal, marine, Nature, ocean, outdoors, sea, Travel, Whales
Tagged Biology, environment, Flora and Fauna, marine, nature, ocean, outdoors, sea, whales, wildlife
Posted in American Samoa, birding, birdings, birds, environment, General, marine, Nature, ocean, outdoors, pacific islands, photography, Travel, wildlife
Tagged Biology, bird, bird watching, birding, birds, environment, Flora and Fauna, marine, nature, outdoors, travel, wildlife
Posted in birding, birdings, birds, Nature, outdoors, photography, San Diego, wildlife
Tagged Biology, bird, bird watching, birding, birds, California, environment, Flora and Fauna, nature, outdoors, San Diego, wildlife
November 26, 2015
Tagged Biology, bird, bird watching, birding, birds, environment, Flora and Fauna, marine, nature, ocean, outdoors, sea, wildlife
Posted in American Samoa, birding, birdings, birds, environment, General, marine, Nature, ocean, outdoors, pacific islands, photography, sea, Travel, wildlife
Tagged Biology, bird, bird watching, birding, birds, environment, Flora and Fauna, marine, ocean, outdoors, sea, seabirds, travel, wildlife
The second island in American Samoa I visited was Ofu. It is joined by a slim suspension bridge to Olisega and together they are six kilometers long. This isolated speck of paradise has steep verdant slopes of thick forest and a lagoon full of coral and bright reef fish. The South side is part of American Samoa national Park. I spent an afternoon snorkeling off Ofu Beach – One of the most magical places I have ever seen. My photos taken with a small digital camera really don’t do it justice but I hope they give you a glimpse of this pacific jewel
Young Humpback Whale
Algae eating into the coral looked like a strange hand print
Marks from Puffer fish feeding on the coral
Removing species of algae harmful to the coral
Huge Blue Star fish
Leaving the Harbor
Posted in American Samoa, environment, fish, General, Landscape, marine, National Parks, Nature, ocean, outdoors, pacific islands, photography, Travel
Tagged environment, Fish, Flora and Fauna, invertebrate, Lagoons, landscape, marine, nature, ocean, outdoors, Park, Recreation, travel, whale
I have just come back from a remarkable visit to one of our least known treasures and one of the most beautiful places I have seen – A National Park far deep in the Southern Hemisphere spanning several of the verdant volcanic islands of American Samoa. This post shows some of the photographs I took from a visit to the National Park of American Samoa on the island of Tutuila on a rainy morning in early October. The light was terrible but you will have some idea of the landscape and birds in the Park.
View from American Samoa National Park
Entering US Southern-most Park!
View of Pago Pago, the Capital of American Samoa on Tutuila the main island
The National Park in light rain
The sun came out briefly
The endemic Samoan Starling
The endemic Wattled Honeyeater
The Collared Kingfisher
Moth – Alas no idea of the species
Small blue butterfly – probably Euchrysops cnejus samoa
Purple-Capped Fruit Dove
Posted in American Samoa, birding, birdings, birds, Butterflies, environment, General, insects, Landscape, National Parks, Nature, outdoors, pacific islands, photography, Travel
Tagged american samoa, bird, bird watching, birding, birds, Butterfly, environment, Flora and Fauna, Insect, Insects, invertebrate, landscape, national parks, nature, outdoors, Recreation, Samoa, travel, United States, wildlife