Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dolphin Tales

All wet again: The Island allows one to be close to mountains and sea. A dolphin I've been watching has been expecting for some time. (Their gestation period is 12 months.) I was hoping to give some happy news, but the calf was stillborn this week. Unfortunately that happens to dolphins too. It is very sad, but the dolphins are taking it better than the humans.

My friend is 9 feet long and weighs about 500 pounds. The round forehead, which we call the melon, is shaped that way to transmit sound signals. Those signals are received via the beak, which allows dolphins to determine echo direction. The forehead is filled with a waxy substance. From observations of dolphins this physicist has theorised that the sperm whale's huge oil reservoir, which also occupies the forehead, aids in low-frequency sonar.

An expedition led by millionaire August Pfluger is searching China's Yangtze River for the Baiji, a white dolphin that may already be extinct. The Baiji first moved into the Yangtze about 20 million years ago, one of the oldest dolphin species. In the muddy river waters they developed an elongated snout to better locate sonar echoes. The Yangtze was once home to elephants, alligators, sturgeon and abundant wildlife. Today uncontrolled development has made the river a dead zone, unable even to support fish. In 1997 there were estimnated to be just 17 Baiji left. Pfluger and comapany may find none today.

Dolphins have been sited in the Thames since the 1980's. The Western world has moved beyond industrialisation and become more mindful of the Earth. The Chinese Alligator and Yangtze River Sturgeon are endangered. China's price for rapid industrialisation may be the loss of species.


Blogger Kea said...

Awww. Beautiful. It must be wonderful to get so close to a dolphin.

4:13 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

It is wonderful. The rewards of being close to nature are too great to express. I met a Nene bird in the wild last week, and will put up pictures sometime.

8:05 PM  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Hi louise, awesome pic!

yeah, the Thames & Humber are now teeming with fish after more than 30 years of efforts by dedicated environmentalists to stop chemical industrial, and farm waste being poured untreated directly into rivers causing some of the worst environmental damage & pollution known to mindkind.

PS even the river Cam in Cambridge has been succesfully cleaned of farm waste coming from further upstream, and now teems with punters (in summer), fish and other wildfowl all year round.

3:25 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thank you Kea and Q9. Q9, that is wonderful to hear. I remember as a child hearing about dolphins returning to the Thames. Untreated waste in rivers is intolerable. I am glad that the environmentalists succeeded.

6:03 PM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

I'm sure you'll be glad to know that I'm filling out environmental reports for water quality for an ethanol plant. Things like the amount of area concreted over and how we test storm water before letting it out are covered.

By the way, a far more difficult problem than the rivers, in my opinion, is the ground water in general. What you put into the ground does get filtered, but it's much harder to measure than what goes into the surface runoff or the air.

12:49 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Carlb, you are doing an important task (though you do even better at physics). At least in the West we think about such things.

3:06 PM  

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