Until the 18th century, the seashore was not a place most people would go to relax. In ancient times, it was where you might run into a variety of monsters like Scylla and Charybdis. The shore is also where one might encounter pirates, smallpox, or even a wayward Kraken. Then something changed. Sorbonne University historian Alain Corbin explores this unusual history in the book The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840, one of the sources for a fascinating Smithsonian magazine article about "Inventing the Beach":
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Around the mid-18th century, according to Corbin, European elites began touting the curative qualities of fresh air, exercise and sea bathing. Especially in Britain, home of the Industrial Revolution, aristocrats and intellectuals became preoccupied with their own health and hygiene. They viewed workers, whose numbers were multiplying in factories and new industrial towns, as strengthened through labor. By comparison, the upper classes seemed fragile and effete: lacking in physical prowess and destined for decline. The notion of the “restorative sea” was born. Physicians prescribed a plunge into chilly waters to invigorate and enliven. The first seaside resort opened on England’s eastern shore in the tiny town of Scarborough near York. Other coastal communities followed, catering to a growing clientele of sea bathers seeking treatment for a number of conditions: melancholy, rickets, leprosy, gout, impotence, tubercular infections, menstrual problems and “hysteria.” In an earlier version of today’s wellness culture, the practice of sea bathing went mainstream...
Tracing this remarkable turnaround, “the irresistible awakening of a collective desire for the shore,” Corbin concludes that by 1840, the beach meant something new to Europeans.
His face says it all.
I have taken whale-watching boat rides off Newport Beach many times, and seen many beautiful things. But there's always new beauty nature has ready to surprise us. Read the rest
About two thousand feet (598 meters) below the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, remotely operated vehicle Hercules encountered a magnificent sperm whale. Read the rest
Thalassophobes and NSFW-phobes will want to skip this beautiful short about deepwater free diver Guillaume Néry and the kinds of hypoxia-induced hallucinations he experiences when free diving to depths beyond 100 meters. Thalassophiles who love beautiful underwater cinematography and trippy dream sequences will find the underwater footage hypnotic. Read the rest
My friend, former NPR colleague, and longtime journalism mentor Alex Chadwick has an incredible new radio documenting hitting the public radio airwaves this week. We're sharing it here on Boing Boing before it hits the radio-waves. I asked Alex to tell us a little about 'Rising Seas.' He explains:
The Rising Seas project grew out of an encounter at an MIT energy seminar almost a year ago. I met an Americanized Brit, Dr. Len Berry, from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He's been speaking forcefully and clearly about the threat that rising seas present. At the end of his talk, I asked if Miami is a viable city. He smiled and answered, 'well, it is right now'.Read the rest
And then I asked about the end of the century. He smiled again, but said nothing.
Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute was snorkeling off the coast about 20 miles southwest of L.A. when she spotted an 18-foot-long oarfish. It was dead. From the AP:
"We've never seen a fish this big," said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI's sail training ship. "The last oarfish we saw was three feet long.""18-foot-long sea creature found off Calif. coast" Read the rest
Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied, according to CIMI…
The carcass was on display Tuesday for 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students studying at CIMI. It will be buried in the sand until it decomposes and then its skeleton will be reconstituted for display, Waddington said.
Icelandic news outlets are reporting that an Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, "caught its first fin whale yesterday evening," after sailing out yesterday with two boats, both due back in port today.
Now, this thing doesn't come close to the output of powered speakers. Duh. But it does increase the volume quite a bit and layers the sound with a subtly echoey and organic vibe. But that isn't really the point. It's a wonderful curiosity at the intersection of nature, art, and technology. And it's beautiful to boot. Vomhof and Zinsmaster have launched a Kickstarter to bring their prototype design into full production. Pledge $60 and, if they hit their goal of $10,000, you'll receive your own Shellphone Loudspeaker early next year. Read the rest
Henry Kaiser is kind of our man on the inside in Antarctica. He works there every year as a film maker, turning science into movies. He sent this awesome Halloween greeting from underneath the sea ice.
Bonus: He also sent us a video taken at the same spot — only this has 100% fewer wacky masks and 100% more sea anemones. Read the rest
When it comes to powers, he's no Superman. And he lacks Batman's popularity. But at the Southern Fried Science blog, perennial also-ran superhero Aquaman is at least able to inspire some fascinating discussion of science.
Marine biologist Andrew Thaler is on his second post about the science of Aquaman. Besides being just fascination information about the ocean and the creatures that live there, the posts also build a pretty good case for why we—the comic-book reading public—should care about Aquaman in the first place.
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If Superman existed to show us how high the human spirit could fly, and Batman to show us the darkness within even our most noble, Aquaman is here to show us the world that triumphs in our absence. The ocean is not ours, and no matter how great our technology, we will never master it as we have mastered land, but Aquaman has. Through this lonely ocean wanderer, we can experience a world that we can never truly command.
...Aquaman is, for all intents and purposes, a marine mammal. And, with the exception of a healthy mane in later incarnations, he is effectively hairless. As a human, we would expect his internal body temperature to hover around 99°F, or about 37°C. Even at its warmest points, the surface temperature of the ocean around the equator is only about 80°F/27°C. At the poles ocean temperature can actually drop a few degrees below freezing. In the deep sea, ambient temperature levels out around 2 – 4°C. The ocean is cold, and water is a much better thermal conductor than air.
Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)
When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.
My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.
But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.
This clip from the BBC's Frozen Planet is one of the most amazing things you will ever see.
"Brinicle" is a clever portmanteau for an icy finger of death that forms naturally in the very cold seawater one finds around Earth's poles. A crust of sea ice can form on top of this water, and that's the first step to making a brinicle. Here's how polar oceanographer Mark Brandon explained the process in an article on the BBC website:
In winter, the air temperature above the sea ice can be below -20C, whereas the sea water is only about -1.9C. Heat flows from the warmer sea up to the very cold air, forming new ice from the bottom. The salt in this newly formed ice is concentrated and pushed into the brine channels. And because it is very cold and salty, it is denser than the water beneath.
The result is the brine sinks in a descending plume. But as this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume, which grows into what has been called a brinicle.
Check out that BBC website link for more information on how the Frozen Planet videographers captured this footage. That's also where you should go to watch the video when this YouTube version is inevitably taken down.
Thank you, Brittany. Truly freaking amazing.Observation tube under the Antarctic sea iceMusic video set beneath the Antarctic sea iceResearch Diving in Antarctica Read the rest
One more incredibly cool video from research diver, musician, and filmmaker Henry Kaiser. Henry says:
"Since support workers in town cannot make their usual recreational trips out onto the sea ice, the powers-that-be at McMurdo Station installed the OB TUBE within walking distance of town.
Anyone can climb down the ladder and watch us divers at work under the ice. The snow was bulldozed off of the sea ice around the observation tube, creating a very light environment; which seems to have attracted an enormous population of larval and juvenile ice fish that form great clouds around the tube."
Suddenly, I wish I were washing dishes in Antarctica.