Someone is killing and mutilating dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, and no one can figure out who is doing this, or why. This Friday, a team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi encountered a dolphin with its lower jaw cut off; last weekend, they found a dead dolphin with a 9mm bullet wound that "went through the abdomen, into the kidneys and killed it," according to IMMS director Moby Solangi. Snip from the Sun-Herald's coverage:
In Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail cut off. "Animals don't eat each other's tails off," Solangi said. "We think there's someone or some group on a rampage," he said. "They not only kill them but also mutilate them."
IMMS investigated the first dolphin shooting earlier this year and incidents have increased in the past few months. In Alabama, someone stabbed and killed a dolphin with a screwdriver, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release. In September, a dolphin was found on Elmer's Island, La., with a bullet in its lung. Others have been mutilated with knife-like lesions.
What's 3,400 lbs and makes fart-noise vocalizations when asked? E.T., a 30-year-old Pacific walrus at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, WA, who is one of only 17 walruses in U.S. zoos and aquariums. He came to the Tacoma facility as an orphan from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and is named "for his wrinkled resemblance to alien in the popular 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial."
I'd sure like to hear his rendition of "Trololo." [EDIT] OK. Here we go.
This week, I'm reporting from the Aquarius undersea research base in Key Largo, Florida. The habitat is the world's last undersea research base. Because NOAA is pulling funding from the 22 year old facility in September, this week's mission is its last scheduled one.
This is a video of oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle that was taken a day or two ago. She's being filmed on Aquarius a Red Camera that is in a waterproof housing tethered to an internet connection in the base. Sylvia's helmet, which is a custom variation of a helmet that working divers use, is equipped with a point of view camera and audio comms. The entire thing was streamed over Ustream a few days ago. This section of the video is of her answering the broad and simple question--Why should we care about the ocean?
In the New York Times today, Brian Lam (formerly of Gizmodo, now the creator of Scuttlefish and Wirecutter) writes about OpenROV, a low-cost submarine designed to be an affordable tool for "curious students and amateurs, as well as provide a highly valuable shallow water tool for explorers and scientists."
This month, NASA engineer Eric Stackpole hiked to a spot in Trinity County, east of California’s rough Bigfoot country. Nestled at the base of a hill of loose rock, peppered by red and purple wildflowers, is Hall City Cave. For part of the winter the cave is infested with large spiders, but is mostly flooded year-round. Locals whisper the cave’s deep pools hold a cache of stolen gold, but Mr. Stackpole isn’t here to look for treasure.
He had, under his arm, what might appear to be a clunky toy blue submarine about the size of a lunchbox. The machine is the latest prototype of the OpenROV–an open-source, remotely operated vehicle that could map the cave in 3D using software from Autodesk and collect water in places too tight for a diver to go.
It could change the future of ocean exploration.
For now, it is exploring caves because it can only go down 100 meters. But it holds promise because it is cheap, links to a laptop, and is available to a large number of researchers for experimentation.
Indeed, the OpenROV team hopes to start taking orders for OpenROV kits on the crowd sourced project site, Kickstarter. Going for $750, the kits include laser cut plastic parts and all the electronics necessary to build an OpenROV. (Users will have to bring their own laptops to view the onboard video feed and control the machine. They’ll also have to supply their own C-cell batteries which power the sub.) The subs are expected to be available by the end of summer.
There are things you can't buy at Radioshack. There is not always an App for that. Sometimes, the only way to make something work is to build it yourself.
Nobody knows that better than scientists.
From physicists tracking a particle, to taxonomists identifying a new species of wasp, to chemists creating a useful molecule—nearly every discovery you read about in the paper began with the researchers creating the tools they needed to test their own hypotheses. In the lab, DIY isn't just a hobby. It's part of the job.
And Alvin, a research submersible owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, is one of the most successful scientist DIY projects ever. Launched in 1964, Alvin was part of a trend. At the time, everybody wanted their own deep-sea-worthy mini-submarine. But, almost 50 years later, Alvin is one of the few still in use. The little research vessel that could, Alvin was made—and is regularly re-made—by the very people who use it.
The project includes a partnership with Google: "Using their mapping technology, Google hopes to chronicle the dives as they happen and share discoveries, footage and record breaking achievements with the world."
Full launch announcement follows, along with more artist's conceptual images of the submarine and accompanying catamaran. Click each image for large.