That is a tough question for me. I have spent most of my life seeing whales and dolphins in the wild and it breaks my heart to see them cooped up in a chlorinated concrete pool. But most people would never get a chance to see these wonderful creatures if they weren't captured and put on display. And these are the same people that work to produce and pass laws that protect these animals in the wild. So I view it as sort of a necessary evil: a few animals are sacrificed, so to speak, in order to educate the public. And the best we can do then is to make sure that the animals on display have as humane an environment as possible. --From Bob
27) Jason Hunchuck wonders "How long was the largest whale you ever saw?"
The largest whale that I have ever seen was a blue whale in the Gulf of California, Mexico. This whale was swimming slowly to the south on a hot day. The water was glassy calm. It is difficult to estimate the size of a large whale from a boat because you often lack a reference length. I was on a 35 foot boat at the time and this whale was almost three times that length, which would make it about 90 feet long. It was an awesome sight. --From Lisa
28) Vivian Viejo, Victor Vega and Chris Smith wondered, "In the cup experiment, why will our cups shrink instead of being crushed?"
If you step on a styrofoam cup, the force applied is from one direction and it crushes. But if you submerge a cup in deep water, the force is coming in from all directions evenly and the cup responds differently - shrinking in this case is just the result of being crushed in all directions at once! -- From Bob
29) Marcus McGill would like to know, "How far from land do seabirds go?"
Most people are surprised to find out that there is nowhere on the ocean you can go and not see seabirds. Many seabirds are strictly coastal, like gulls and a lot of tern species. These birds generally stay within sight of land. But many kinds feed only far out of sight of land, albatrosses and petrels for example. Most seabirds are long-lived, often living decades, and may spend the first few years of their lives at sea without ever returning to land. Finally, when they are old enough to breed, they will come back to the island where they hatched and raise their own young. At night most seabirds quit feeding and just sit down on the water and go to sleep, so being far at sea is not a problem. --From Bob
30) Emilee Sykes has asked "How much and what type of pollution have you observed on your voyage?"
The answer to this is a bit disheartening I am afraid. We have seen a lot. There has not been a day on our trip since we left South Africa that we have not seen at least one piece of garbage floating on the water surface and many days we see much much more. This garbage is composed of all kinds of things but the most common are pieces of styrofoam of all shapes and sizes, large steel drums, plastic fish net floats.
In my cruises in the Pacific, we occasionally find an entire fishing net that has been lost at sea. Usually these nets contain animals that have become entangled in them and died. Unfortunately, the net does not deteriorate so it goes on entangling animals for longer than you and I will be alive. And some of the most dangerous garbage is too small for us to see from the ship. It is composed of small bits and pieces of plastic.
Many seabirds, turtles, fish, and dolphins eat small animals that look a lot like these small pieces of plastic and the result is that plastic is eaten and ultimately blocks the entire digestive tract. I remember a crew member catching a fish in the tropical Pacific several years ago. When we cut it open to see what it had been eating, its stomach was completely packed with bits and pieces of plastic.
Plastic is manufactured as tiny balls, not much larger than sand grains. This raw plastic is shipped all over the world in vessels, then unloaded by crane at the docks. A lot of it spills and ultimately ends up on the water where it disperses. Many people think that the oceans must be pristine because they are so vast. But the sad truth is that these raw plastic pellets have reached the shores of every beach on every island in the world. It's important that people know the destructive potential of plastic -- because it takes a long time to degrade. It stays around for many, many, many years. So, whenever I get a chance, I ask people to be very careful about how much plastic they use, to recycle it, and to tell their friends and family to do the same. There is already too much of it in the ocean. --From Lisa
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