Lonely Penguin

I miss being able to see serious wildlife every time I look out my window.  Nothing against the crickets and domestic cats of North Carolina, but an occasional penguin would be super.  Anyway, I’m posting a photo to quench my own nostalgia:

A Race to the Deepest Point on Earth

The media is buzzing today with news of James Cameron’s upcoming solo journey into the Challenger Deep.  At 35,768 ft (more than 6.7 miles!) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, it’s the deepest spot on Earth.  He broke a solo depth record yesterday during a test dive.

Jacques Piccard and Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, in the Bathyscaphe Trieste, were the first and last to journey into the trench.  That was in 1960!  Since then only two robotic missions have made it.  We’ve sent humans to the MOON more often and more recently than we have to the Challenger Deep.

Cameron, however, is not the only one with a bid for the Deep.  A handful of wealthy private endeavors have built or commissioned submersibles in the last couple years. Among them is Richard Branson, the billionaire papa of Virgin Records (and Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Airways, to name a few), whose goal is to dive into the deepest point in each of Earth’s five oceans this year – including, of course, the Challenger Deep in the Pacific.  I’m not picking teams or anything, but at the very least I’ll say it sure looks like Cameron’s National Geographic website totally ripped off Branson’s Virgin Oceanic homepage.

At any rate, what interests me most is this:  we seem to have arrived at a new age of exploration in which Bazillionaire Private Company 1 and Bazillionaire Private Company 2 race each other to distant frontiers.  I’m not sure our lunar missions in the 1960s and 70s were for a much nobler cause…  so if a movie mogul and Branson want to spur each other towards the first live video feed from the darkest pit of the sea?  I say bring it on, y’all!  Scientific discoveries and incredible technological advancements often go hand in hand with competitive exploration.

Read more from the New York Times here.

Scary Birds

If you thought the Giant Petrel was a little scary, let me tell you about the Skua.  Skuas are one of the top predators here.  They’re quite good at what they do, too, and get a reputation for being a bit evil.  Some individuals, for example, have been caught pecking out the eyeballs of penguin chicks.  Rather than eating them on the spot, the skuas leave these chicks wandering around helpless, ensuring a fresh supply of easy-to-catch meat throughout the entire Antarctic summer. Yup, skuas are pretty easy to hate… until you see BABY SKUAS, which are even cuter than penguin chicks.  I mean, c’mon.  Look at this lil guy.  He’s like a real-life marshmallow Peep!

Squawkward: embarrassing penguin portraits (Episode 1)

SIX-FOOT WINGSPAN

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of six-foot wingspans before. Heck, there are folks on UNC’s basketball team with wingspans much wider than that. I don’t think any of them have big, pointy beaks, though, and I’m also pretty sure none of them have ever eaten a penguin or seal. Meet the Giant Petrel: closest thing I’ve ever seen to a pterodactyl.

Rondo à la Penguin

ice tide

Today is a nice, cozy, indoorsy kind of day – as in it’s blowing 45 knots with gusts of 55.  King Neptune is having a great time blasting sea spray into faces and teaching lessons to the idiot who tried to carry her open coffee mug between buildings.  So, after a quick trip to the laundry room, I’m huddled in the galley, with a fresh vat of caffeine safely in hand.  What to do with my spare time?  How about string together some mellow video clips of sea ice rolling in on the changing tide: