Dick Watching: The Grand Armada

Hey there Dick Watchers, and welcome to your weekly fix of whale love. All aboard, plz!

Guys, let’s talk about whale sharks for a minute. You know, the gentle giants of the deep? Yes, those big buddies. Well, they really like the Ningaloo Reef, but unfortunately Shell is developing the Prelude liquefied natural gas venture and explore for oil and gas in the Exmouth basin off the WA north-west coast on Monday. This put pretty much puts our big buddies in the line of fire if anything goes wrong. Shell dispelled the notion that a spill would put whale sharks at risk. No, it’s cool: it’ll just kill all the sea turtles.

Just like thousands of frat boys and sorority girls, whale sharks also love flocking to Mexico every year to drink margaritas and contract venereal diseases. Whale sharks don’t follow the rules, either; they keep showing up in droves in areas outside of the sanctuary the Mexican government set up for them. From this awesome WashPo article: “Hundreds of whale sharks appear off the Yucatan barrier island of Holbox each summer to feast in a large swath of ocean turned pea green by a massive plankton bloom. But the Holbox sharks are spread over dozens and even hundreds of square miles in often murky waters.

The afuera is extraordinarily different. Here the giant sharks are concentrated in clear water in an area that can be as large as a few square miles or as small as a football field. Visibility in the blue water is often 100 feet. During the afuera, the huge sharks swarm at the surface, their massive mouths agape, vacuuming up a feast of tiny fish eggs in a chaotic, slow-moving feeding frenzy.

“It’s easily the most amazing biological phenomenon I’ve ever seen,” said biologist Al Dove, senior scientist at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. “Even as a scientist, it takes you back to an almost childlike state of wonder, a state of absolute awe.”

In the San Francisco Chronicle, there’s a review of a book about the Monterey Bay, one of my favorite places in the world. When I was in high school and on the Otter Bowl team (why yes, that IS Academic Decathlon for oceanography, marine biology and water chemistry! And we were California champs, so there), I remember we took a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium after the regional competition and it was the coolest place I’d ever seen, and where I picked up the inspiration for all the tattoos that now cover half my torso. Monterey Bay is known for its underwater kelp forest, in all its glory, not to mention little fuzzy otters that populate the bay.

This just in: 200 people aided in the rescue of 22 melon-headed whales. More importantly, there is such thing as a melon-headed whale. Who knew?

Lastly: Orson Whales! It’s a thing, and a sentence.

(Artwork by Margarita Korol)