Mar 15

On Moby Dick, Extinction and Our Current Age

I’ve been listening to Moby Dick for the past several weeks (it is a long-ish book and takes some time to get through when I’m only driving for an hour a day now). I’ve been struck by a great many things about the book, not least of which was Chapter 105 where Melville ponders if whaling could possibly ever dent the population of whales.

Nor, considered aright, does it seem any argument in favor of the gradual extinction of the Sperm Whale, for example, that in former years (the latter part of the last century, say) these Leviathans, in small pods, were encountered much oftener than at present, and, in consequence, the voyages were not so prolonged, and were also much more remunerative. Because, as has been elsewhere noticed, those whales, influenced by some views to safety, now swim the seas in immense caravans, so that to a large degree the scattered solitaries, yokes, and pods, and schools of other days are now aggregated into vast but widely separated, unfrequent armies. That is all. And equally fallacious seems the conceit, that because the so-called whale-bone whales no longer haunt many grounds in former years abounding with them, hence that species also is declining. For they are only being driven from promontory to cape; and if one coast is no longer enlivened with their jets, then, be sure, some other and remoter strand has been very recently startled by the unfamiliar spectacle.

The argument is a familiar one. The sea is vast. We are small. We couldn’t possibly have an impact on such large a creature in such large a place.

Yet, populations of many species approached the low hundreds and some still hover there. Maybe Ishmael could not conceive of exploding harpoons or fast, diesel ships. He would have been shocked at monofilament nets and lines and sonar and tracking planes. Maybe he would have changed his tune, but probably not. When you are right up against it, sometimes you only perceive the grey wrinkled wall, and not the elephant.

In chapter 105 Melville writes about the buffalo and about how, even then, it was a cautionary tale, but he fails to see how we could, with a few tweaks, play out that same opera on the high seas.

I think of the buffalo every time I see a picture of an angler with 30 fish on a stringer or 20 fish nailed up to a board. But, you know, the oceans and rivers and lakes are vast and we are small. We couldn’t possibly have an impact.

Also, the earth is colossal and we humans are so small. We couldn’t possibly have an impact on something like the climate.

One day we are going to wake up, or our kids or their kids, and find our fish all gone, and, ironically, some of our favorite beaches well under water. More water, fewer fish and all of us poorer for it.

Seems like we have learned very little since Ishmael.



Oct 12

Science Wednesday – Storms on Steroids

Sandy was a real wench and her impact is still very much being felt along the Eastern Seaboard. One thing that has been brought up a few times is what impact Global Warming  or Climate Change played in Sandy’s creation or strength.

Now, I’m a big lefty, but I also tend to be a little cautious when drawing straight lines between a specific weather event and Climate Change.  Big storms have happened for as long as there has been weather. The first hurricane recorded along the East Coast was back in 1502!

So, with that in mind I was interested to see this little clip about how Global Warming is like… get ready for it… steroids in baseball.

So, did Climate Change cause Sandy? Probably not. Did it contribute to it?  Probably.

How much?  Maybe 10%, according to this snippet:

But, he added, human-induced global warming has been raising the overall temperature of the surface ocean, by about one degree Fahrenheit since the 1970s. So global warming very likely contributed a notable fraction of the energy on which the storm thrived — perhaps as much as 10 percent, he said.

Of course, these storms do impact bonefishing and bonefish and the places they live, the people who live there, the people who depend on those fisheries. Hurricanes have been known to kill mangroves and reefs. Increasing intensity, maybe even frequency… well… could be a bit rougher ride in the years to come.

Apr 10

Surf Perch Day

I’m a fan of global warming in one sense and wish it would hurry on up so that our waters off of Santa Cruz might be in the 70’s and I could catch bonefish an hour’s drive away.  Alas, that’s not the reality I’m living in and I’m told such a change would take thousands of years… so, I have my car running right now, in the driveway and I’m eating only beans in the hopes that the  added CO2 and methane will speed things.

Until then, and also until I hit the lottery, I won’t be bonefishing this weekend, but will, instead, be taking my 8 wt. to the coast near Santa Cruz in the hopes of a) not dying, and b) getting a surf perch on the fly.

Should be interesting and terrifying.  The idea of 4 foot swells, while standing thigh deep… well… I’ve done the math and it doesn’t seem favorable (although I never was really good at math).

Oh... great. I wish I was in South Andros.