The sandhill cranes are in the midst of their spring migration through the Sandhills of Nebraska. At dusk and dawn when they thicken the skies, Nebraska becomes the Serengeti. I recently discovered the livestream from Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary, and I’ve been playing it in the background on my laptop ever since. The slow meanderings of the Platte River (a mile wide and an inch deep) and the rattling of the cranes steady my nerves.
Two days ago I took my five-month old son out for a walk in our back yard, and he saw his first honeybee -- and the first of spring for me -- on some tiny yellow flowers in my rock garden. We gazed at her silently for a long while.
Nature is one of the things not denied to us right now. We should savor it.
So take a few moments, if you have them, to travel far below the waves with this highlight reel from the Schmidt Ocean Institute. The R/V Falkor and its submersible SuBastian recently returned from the first exploration of Bremer and Perth Canyons off southwest Australia. They ventured as deep as two and a half miles. After the video, I'll talk about a few things you'll see.
The odd, upside-down fish at :07 is a whipnose anglerfish, according to Glenn Moore of the Western Australian Museum. The whip is a fishing rod with a bioluminscent lure affixed. Why the fish swims upside down remains a mystery, although the first time the behavior was seen the fish was close to the seabed so someone suggested that was where their prey lived. In this specimen, obviously, not so much.
The odd translucent organism at :09, identified by Mandy Reid of the Australian Museum, is the delightfully named googly-eyed glass squid, a rare abyssal Southern Ocean squid. It’s about 8 inches long. The squid’s tentacles and eyes are also bioluminscent (recent research seems to indicate the majority of deep sea creatures are) and it can inflate to make itself look bigger and scarier as needed.
The odd baggy creature at :39 is a predatory tunicate, according to Andrew Hosie at the Western Australian Museum. Tunicates are close relatives of vertebrates, in spite of their alien appearance. As larvae, they are bilaterally symmetrical and have spinal cords and gill slits, but they metamorphose into adults who lack these things. Adult tunicates are baggy and usually sedentary, and are typically innocuous filter feeders. Predatory tunicates, on the other hand, look like something devised by one of Jim Henson’s more demented puppeteers in his Muppet Show heyday. According to Moore, they eat worms; crustaceans like copepods, amphipods, and isopods; and brittle stars.
One other organism of note is the stalked barnacle at :15. I didn’t know barnacles could have stalks, or be objects of such beauty. Apologies, barnacles, for all those things I’ve said about you over the years.
More beautiful video from the Falkor's explorations can be found here.