pollyannamustdie: (Gojira '54)
I have always known/believed this, because it is blatantly obvious, but now science is says so, too: An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus.

Here is the declaration itself.

consc

I have gotten into so many arguments about this over the years, well, this is deeply satisfying. Beyond that, it is critically important for animals, although probably too little, too late.

Also in the IN YOUR FACE file:

That absurd myth about hair growing back thicker or more thickly after shaving is FUCKING BULLSHIT, just like I told my mother when I was a kid. Good GOD, y'all.

I have, perhaps unbelievably, gotten into debates about this, too, but they were never as heated as the ones about animal consciousness.

Anyway.

toldyouso

pollyannamustdie: (Alien Heritage)
A little bit ago, this American dialect quiz was floating around on Facebook. People who have lived in a lot of different regions of the US, or have lived abroad, got some less predictable results. My results pinned me dead-on.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 12.33.01 PM

My friend Jason wanted to see the answers I selected. I also went back later and monkeyed with some of the answers to a fresh quiz to see what they would say, since some of my word choices and pronunciations have changed since childhood. The above result, plus Tulsa, of all places (Texas leakage?), came from the quiz that I answered completely honestly based upon the words I use now, and have been using for my adult life. To illustrate what I mean, let me start with the word crayon.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 12.15.18 PM   Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 10.15.59 AM   Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 10.33.30 AM

At points in my childhood, crayons were crans, and, at other points, they were crowns. When I was a teenager and trying to better myself, I adopted (what I finally determined to be) the "correct" pronunciation, cray-awn. I really don't know what to tell you about all that. Even the mini maps don't make it make sense. I can tell you with absolute confidence that not once did I even consider eating a crayon, or putting a crayon in my nose. I really couldn't stand to even color with a broken crayon, and their value to me dropped pretty much the instant the point was worn down to a rounded nub (like driving a new car off the lot). Crayons were only beautiful when they were brand new.

I am famous (within my inner circle, anyway) for being a serious and committed offender when it comes to vowel mergers. [livejournal.com profile] pamelonian in particular likes to tease me about my pen/pin merger (thery're all pins to me). I am trying to fix that, but when I try to say pen, I feel like I am saying pan. SMH. I have worked throughout my life to become a more precise speaker, but I cannot be bothered to change the following lifelong habits, or even be convinced that they need changing:

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 12.03.42 PM   Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 10.15.09 AM   Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 12.06.13 PM

Courtesy cut. )
pollyannamustdie: (Future Leathery Sea Hag in Bimini)
I am somewhat distressed that it is taking me so long to get these written up. Again, if you were there, and have any factual corrections or can fill in any gaps in my recollections, please feel ever so free, if not downright begged, to do so. Thank you.

November 4, 2013

After breakfast, we snorkeled through the lagoon and around the bend to the pens out back, where baby lemon sharks are temporarily held for tagging and observation. Doc mentioned that we could get some exercise snorkeling around the mangroves, rather than just wading out from the beach behind Sharklab, which is often done. Doc said to hang close to the mangrove fringe, as that's where all the critters are.

Where the critters are... )

Bull Shark

Nov. 24th, 2013 12:08 am
pollyannamustdie: (Lemon)
I'm going to step out of sequence and share the video taken by Michael Lenis, on his Go Pro, of the catch, sciencing, and release of a gorgeous lady bull shark on our third day of the Naturalist Course. I will never tire of this video, and while I am not in it very much, I want you to know that I did creep up and stroke her tail. Her skin was a little rough, even head to tail... she was so beautiful. When she is released, she turns back toward us spectators, but Joanne knows not to run away. Who Joanne is will become very evident when, in the video, she stands calmly and waves to the shark while most of the rest of us jog up to the sand flat.

We were at least two hours on this excursion, which you will witness in just over three minutes. Note the concern throughout, and after the hook is cut, as to how the shark gets on and gets swimming again. Doc makes sure she is good to go; you will see his care.

I miss my Sharklab friends.



pollyannamustdie: (Future Leathery Sea Hag in Bimini)

Post the First: Introduction
Post the Second: Getting to Sharklab

When we arrived at Sharklab on Sunday afternoon, we got our room assignments. I was in Room 1, which was right by the kitchen and dining room. My roommates were Amanda the Virginian, Rhode Island Melissa, and Jen the Ontarian. I really lucked out with this roomie combination, because we had nightly fits of uncontrollable laughter when bedtime rolled around. It was a shark enthusiast summer camp slumber party. We had so much fun.

The state rooms were very small, but they all had sinks for the tooth-brushing and the face-washing. Each room had two metal bunk beds. I didn't find out until later that Naturalist Course students had displaced the scientists and volunteers, who were camped out at a nearby apartment so we could have a complete Sharklab experience. It wouldn't be long before I was totally down with my bed and referring to Sharklab as "home."

I won't lie. When I first looked at that bare, blue and white striped bunk bed mattress, I was momentarily beset by an internal surge of my semi-famous snootiness. My pinkies twitched upward when it came time to dress the mattress with a thin sheet from the linen closet, and get my pillows into their cases.

I have talked a little bit already about this, so so what follows is a bit of a repeat, but I'm going to transcribe from my Shark Dreams paper journal that I wrote in every night while in Bimini. I haven't read this since the night I wrote it. Any factual inaccuracies are unintentional, and likely due to me being super tired when I finally did my journaling after my roomies and I quieted down from that night's festival of hilarity. I welcome correction from anyone who was there with me, so I can get my facts straight!

November 3, 2013 )

pollyannamustdie: (Future Leathery Sea Hag in Bimini)
All the sharks in this part of the story were on t-shirts and tattoos, but it is good to meet other shark enthusiasts, even if it's in the Fort Lauderdale airport Chili's.

[livejournal.com profile] philrancid dropped [livejournal.com profile] pamelonian and me off at Kansas City International Airport with our wheeled duffels on Saturday morning. KCI has lovely flooring. I might spend a day photographing it some time next spring, since they are threatening to replace the terminal buildings. I have never seen KCI truly busy, or been in that airport when the atmosphere was not relaxed.

We were originally told to fly into FLL, where we would connect with two small planes to get us to the island. Over the course of a few days, our mode of transportation for getting from south Florida to Bimini changed three times. The ferry that was arranged when the first airline canceled also had to back out, because of weather. So, it ended up that we would be flying out of the Opa-locka Executive Airport. The eight of us that flew into FLL were to take a shuttle to Hotel Indigo in Miami Lakes, which Jill Brooks, the lab manager, set up for us so we would be closer to the Opa-locka airport. While I did not understand the presence of all of the pictures of cows that were kind of everywhere, it turned out to be a really nice hotel. Fans of the TV show Supernatural will understand why I took up referring to our room as the Sam and Dean Suite:

samndean    sndgink

I rather wish I'd taken a picture of the shower array, because it was fairly magnificent, but you didn't come here to read a hotel review. Fear not, DR, we are getting closer and closer to the sharks with every passing word!

At any rate, seven of us that flew into FLL met up at the Chili's and got acquainted while we waited for the arrival of the eighth member of your group, who was flying in from Virginia. We had two Kansans (that would be yours truly and friend Pam), one Minnesotan who now lives in Tampa (lucky girl), three friends who'd flown in from Ontario (one of these ladies is English, but lives and works in Canada), and Sarah, a young lady from Quebec. We all got acquainted over drinks and snacks.

Once Amanda, our Virginian, arrived, we exited the Chili's and went out to find our shuttle, who would deliver us to the Hotel Indigo. With that, I will cut straight to our flight from Opa-locka, because I know you want to hear about the freaking SHARKS! For the love of all that is pure and sacred in this tattered world, GET US TO THE SHARKS!!! Am I right?

We connected with the other six course students at the Opa-locka airport, did the passport thing, filled out a form for customs, and got assigned to our flights. I was fairly nervous for the first five minutes of our short flight to the island, but I calmed down. Small aircraft are small, but Melissa from Rhode Island sat copilot, so everything went fine:

cockpit    flight

I wish I'd taken a picture of the Bimini airport and customs office. It was barely bigger than my house, but far more awesome, because BIMINI. Dr. Tristan Guttridge pulled up in one vehicle, and Doc Gruber soon pulled up in another. Then, in just a few minutes, we were there. Sharklab actual.

bbfstruck    bbfs

My feelings about meeting Doc Gruber were very similar to my feelings about meeting Tim McCreight when I was finishing my metalsmithing degree at the University of Kansas. In the metals world, Tim McCreight is a rock star. Same goes for Doc in the shark world. Doc has a big personality and a big passion. I never thought I'd actually get to hang out with the man, or camp out at the world-famous Sharklab for a week. Who gets to do awesome shit like that? Apparently, *I* do! I'm glad Pam was there, too, or I would probably start wondering if it was all just a magnificent imagining.

All subsequent posts will be shark-infested, I promise, but I don't want to forget these other things, either.

pollyannamustdie: (Lemon)
I've been reading The Biology of Sharks and Rays by A. Peter Klimley. In the book's opening, he mentions that humans feel insecure around sharks. I think that "insecure" is much more apt a word to choose than "afraid." Dogs, for example, have strong jaws and teeth made for tearing flesh and grinding through bone. I feel perfectly secure around my dog, because our relationship is established, I know she has been vaccinated against rabies, and I know where and how she spends her time. A wild animal, one that you have never met before, is an unknown quantity. The first time you meet that wild individual, you might, at minimum, feel insecure.

November 3 through 9, 2013, I visited the Bimini Biological Field Station, informally known as Sharklab. Sharklab was founded by Dr. Samuel Gruber, who is a celebrity in my world. When I first learned about Sharklab in the early 00s, I wanted to go there, but I didn't know that it was a thing that could be done. So, several months ago, when I saw they were promoting the Naturalist Course on Facebook, I knew I had to go; how often do dreams come true? [livejournal.com profile] pamelonian, one of my best friends and a very experienced traveller, signed up to go with me.

When we got to Sharklab and were given our room assignments, the call came that Doc wanted us to suit up for a swim with Caribbean reef sharks; we had thirty minutes to get ready. I had just unzipped my duffel. Conditions were windy and the seas were less than placid. I got my suit on and my snorkel gear ready. In short order, we were on the boats and headed to the site.

I felt insecure.

A line was stretched from a anchored buoy to the main boat. Doc was throwing chunks of fish to the sharks on that side of the boat. We were to jump in on the opposite side of the boat and swim around to the line, grab on, and be shoulder to shoulder so we could observe the sharks feed. We were to kick with our fins if the sharks came too close to us or tried to pass between us.

When I jumped into the water, I was surprised by being suddenly in the company of three passing reef sharks. They were a little bit lower in the water column than I was, and their path was perpendicular to mine. Accounting for the way things look closer through a mask, underwater, I am guessing they were four to five feet away. They looked at me, and I looked at them. Caribbean reef sharks have beautiful eyes. They were headed toward the area where the food was splashing into the water. I thought to myself, Well, you need to swim over to the line, so swim on over. I just put myself on top of the water and snorkeled over the tails of the passing sharks.

feedingreefies
Photo by Pam. This is actually from the second dive with the reefs, but is still a fair representation of what we observed when the sharks were feeding.

The cultural narrative around sharks is really a goddamned mess. People really do seem to think that sharks indiscriminately devour absolutely everything they encounter. When I returned to my routine existence, I had to field questions like, "How did you not get bitten?" "Why didn't they attack?" and "Sharks bite, don't they?" After spending a week surrounded by sharks and a couple dozen other people who love sharks, I was a bit thrown by the questions.

There are only about a hundred shark attacks reported each year. To put that is some perspective, think about how many human beings spend time in the sea each year. Diving, snorkeling, surfing, spearfishing, swimming; think of all the crowded beaches and all the hundreds of thousands of presumably tasty humans that spend time on coasts and at sea. Think of the fact that it is possible to get attacked by a squirrel, and a squirrel can fuck you up. Think about that the next time you check your mail, landlubbers.

Chances are excellent that you will not be attacked by a squirrel. Chances are also excellent that you will not be attacked by a shark. A shark is not going to hide nuts in your wheel wells and sabotage your car's brake system. I'd go further into that, but it's not my story to tell.

Anyway, it should not have come as a shock to anyone that I returned from Bimini with all my arms and legs, fingers and toes. It's totally possible to be in the company of sharks and not be sampled. In fact, if you have swum in the sea, there were probably sharks nearby, whose presence you never noticed.

When I was six, about to start second grade, I was moved to Corpus Christ, Texas. The first apartment complex we lived in was right on the bay. There, right there, was the sea. I loved living on the coast. I loved having access to the Gulf of Mexico. I loved the beach, I loved the waves, I loved the wind. I also loved the very idea of sharks and rays. I wanted so much to see them, to swim with them. To tread into the fantastical, I really wanted to *be* a sea creature. A shark, a dolphin, a ray, a whale. I felt the greatest kinship with sharks; contributing to that was probably that I felt misunderstood, myself, but the grace, beauty, and strength of sharks and rays captivated me on contact, as they have many other people over the course of history.

In my next post, I will start from the beginning, and take you through my trip, based upon pictures, my fragile memory, and the journal entries I made each night after days full of sharks and new friends.

Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:08 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios