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While watching the awesome BBC documentary series The Blue Planet yesterday, it occured to me that this blog shows gross favoritism toward humans (and land-based mammals generally). This seems unfair and, since most of the world is water, I decided to launch an expedition into the recent news in order to learn more about what’s popping below the sea level.

It started off just good times, like in that scene from Jaws where they’re all drinking and singing shanties and showing each other their scars, but as my search went further the mood changed, like in that scene from Jaws, and I became disturbed, then terrified and, eventually, soaking wet. In the end, the survey reveals that we are in the preliminary stages of what can only be described as a cataclysmic struggle to determine the future of life as we know it. What follows is a synopsis of my key findings:

1. Holland’s Green Tide: a sign of things to come
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For centuries, the Dutch have fought a heroic battle against the sea. With almost a third of its territory below sea level, the Netherlands has been forced to continually imagine new ways to prevent their mighty nation from being washed way with the tide.

But for a handful of islands in the North Sea, the problem is not what the sea takes away, but what it carries in. According to an article in last Wednesday’s Herald Tribune:

A one-kilometer (half-mile) stretch of beach on Terschelling island, 115 kilometers (70 miles) north of Amsterdam, was littered with bunches of unripe fruit from Cuba, Buren said. Bananas also washed up on neighboring Ameland island.

Terschelling residents are no strangers to stuff turning up on their beach; a year ago thousands of tennis shoes, aluminum briefcases and children’s toys washed ashore, drawing crowds of treasure-hunting residents. Some 20 years ago it was a load of sweaters.

“So…” you might say, “what’s the big deal?” Everyone likes bananas right? I know I do. Sweaters and sneakers too. But not everyone is as lucky as the banana-munching sweater-wearing sneaker fiends of Terschelling.

2. Japan’s Jelly Sea
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According to a recent piece on NPR

Giant jellyfish are flooding into the Sea of Japan.

The translucent creatures can grow as large as 6 feet in diameter and weigh 450 lbs. Over the last 5 years, millions have migrated from the coast of China into Japanese waters. Scientists believe they’re floating in on ocean currents warmed by global climate change.

Now, jellyfish are a different story. Everyone hates jellyfish right? Sure they might look cool in your college roommate’s calender of aquatic life images, or maybe you like jelly and they remind you of that, so you give them a pass. But anyone that’s been stung by a jellyfish knows exactly what type of rotten shit cunts these guys are. And don’t let the fact that a jellyfish has no brain, heart, eyes, or ears soften your view on them either, because some them are fucking huge.

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Right?

But, of course, jellyfish do have their competitive weaknesses and, for the most part, it seems that the Japanese are handling their invasion ok. So probably we’re safe if it stays like that. But there are already signs that other, more menacing species are making serious threats to our beachland security.

3. Whales: friend or foe?
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The whale enjoys a much better reputation than the jellyfish. Even the so-called Killer Whale somehow managed to spin its PR nightmare of a name and, once confined to family-friendly prisons like Sea World, reinvented itself as an almost cuddly animal. But whales are no joke, as was recently shown when a group of good-intentioned seamen tried to lead a stray sperm whale away from a popular beach.

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(This is kind of a side issue, but would anyone else prefer that the whale had attacked Wolf Blitzer and whoever that other fool is instead? “…off the coast of that… that.. island nation over there.” Jesus.)

Anyway, I don’t mean to make light of an incident in which someone was killed. But I include it just to make clear that even with our supposed higher intelligence, fancy machines, and notions of teamwork, we are easily overpowered by these supposedly gentle giants of the deep.

And if you think that they’ll never survive on land, so we don’t really need to worry about a whale invasion, well then I’d ask you to explain THIS:

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Photo in the News: Whale Found in Egypt Desert

Just this week here, geologist Philip D. Gingerich announced his team had excavated the first known nearly complete skeleton of a Basilosaurus isis (pictured)…

The first of the truly gigantic whales, Basilosaurus had the serpentine shape of a sea monster and short, sharp teeth for hunting sharks and other prey. Unlike today’s whales, it had no blowhole—the ancient behemoth had to raise its head above water to breathe. What’s more, Basilosaurus still had the feet it inherited from its land-dwelling ancestors, according to Gingerich, who works for the University of Michigan and is a National Geographic Society grantee.

How on earth could a whale have ended up all the way in the Egyptian desert? How else? He must have walked. He had feet right? It’s true that he died, but so would you if you found yourself in the middle of the desert for too long.

Some might contend, as the article does, that

once upon a time the Wadi Hitan desert was underwater and teeming with the sea giants.

But that seems a little dreamy to me. If I wanted fairy tales I’d read Hansel and Gretel not National Geographic. Nice try though.

10/18 UPDATE: You think I’m making this stuff up??

Whale found beached in deep Amazon rain forest

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — An 18-foot minke whale ran aground on a sandbar in the Amazon jungle some 1,000 miles from the ocean, Brazilian media reported Friday.

So, we’ve established that sea creatures are invading and that the largest and most powerful have successfully lived on land in the past. Really it’s a wonder that they’ve waited this long to mount the takeover. I guess it took time to get the various sonar frequencies lined up.

But don’t despair. All is not yet lost.

4. Human-Dolphin: a special relationship
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Dolphins are great. You know it, I know it. They’re warm-blooded like us. Some consider them our intellectual equals. Many of us refuse to eat tuna fish if the can doesn’t make a hollow promise to never hurt dolphins. An American football team named themselves after them. A dolphin was even star of a weird TV show that I remember from childhood.

But all this love isn’t one-sided. In fact, just last week:

Dolphins save surfer from becoming shark’s bait

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Awesome. So it’s clear that the dolphin is our greatest ally and first line of defense against the coming onslaught of sea creatures. It would be a good idea then, you might think, to start providing them with some formal training, so that we can make sure we’re all on the same page when shit really goes down. Well, I’m happy to report, the US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program is way ahead of you.

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According to this piece from The Pentagon Channel, “Dolphins, sea lions, and other mammals have been part of special military units since the end of World War II… Their area of operations is underwater, spotting suspicious objects, like mines, enemy swimmers, and vehicles.”

“Enemy swimmers” eh? I see you Uncle Sam.

Now, even though we have dolphins on our side, some may still feel fearful of the coming conflict since it’s against an enemy who is (literally) cold-blooded and, according to some schools of thought, soulless. How can we, with our warm hearts, feelings of empathy, allergies, pain thresholds, etc. overcome an enemy who is utterly without feelings.

Thankfully, on this front, I have some more good news to report.

5. Scientists: prawns hurt too
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According to an article in the Guardian last week, scientists have discovered that crustaceans – the Bradley Fighting Vehicles of the sea – feel pain.

The question of crustaceans’ ability to experience pain has become an unlikely obsession for some scientists. Over the past few decades, the question has been batted back and forth as fresh evidence comes to light. Two years ago, Norwegian researchers declared the answer was a firm no, claiming the animals’ nervous systems were not complex enough.

The latest salvo, published in New Scientist today, comes from Robert Elwood, an expert in animal behaviour at Queen’s University, Belfast. With help from colleagues, he set about finding an answer by daubing acetic acid on to the antennae of 144 prawns.

Immediately, the creatures began grooming and rubbing the affected antenna, while leaving untouched ones alone, a response Prof Elwood says is “consistent with an interpretation of pain experience”. The same pain sensitivity is likely to be shared by lobsters, crabs and other crustaceans, the researchers believe.

So, our best brains are working on crustacean pain-inducing techniques and attaching snubnose revolvers onto bottlenose dolphins.

It is clear that we are approaching the midnight hour. The question remains: What are YOU gonna do?
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