Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Evanston: BLACKFISH; the world's greatest athlete; seeing the wind

        GANNET floats about a half mile from the original Sea World in San Diego which opened in 1964.  I know I went there once in its early years, but don’t recall the experience.  Probably I was entertained.  I hope I was uneasy.  At least I never went back.  After watching the documentary, BLACKFISH, last evening, available in the U.S. on Netflix streaming, and which I highly recommend, I strongly believe that the place should be shut down.  I’m sorry for those who have jobs there taking tickets and selling souvenirs, but this is a despicable business.
        BLACKFISH focuses on the life of one orca, who was stolen from his mother and named by some of our species, Tilikum.  Tilikum has killed three humans.  Unfortunately the wrong three; but I doubt that chief executives of Sea World often venture into the tanks.  That Tilikum goes berserk every once in a while is not surprising when you learn what we have done to him.  A human treated the same way would become a psychopath, too.
        Orcas are too big, too intelligent, too social to be kept captive in tanks when in the open ocean they often swim a hundred miles/one hundred and sixty kilometers a day.  And all for our entertainment and to make a few people rich.
        I expect that if it were legal, some investors  would build a replica of Rome’s Colosseum, though naturally bigger, and stage gladiatorial combats to the death and the feeding of people to lions.
        Sea World is not much better.  If any.


        The photo is of another creature we have taken from the wild and named.  Fortunately we only detain him briefly.  He is E7, a bar-tailed godwit who has been called the greatest athlete in the world, a claim that presumably he does make himself but is not all that outlandish.  He, along with other godwits, is also a superior weather forecaster.
        Every northern autumn, bar-tailed godwits make the longest non-stop migration flight of any birds, 11,000 kilometers/6,800 miles/6,000 nautical miles, from Alaska to New Zealand.  I repeat the non-stop in case you missed it.  Wind from astern is obviously critical, and researchers have determined that bar-tailed godwits are very adept at picking the best time for departure.
        In 2007 E7, GPS tagged and tracked by satellite, left Alaska on August 30 and was in New Zealand on September 7, eight days and 11,700 kilometers as the godwit flies later.  This averages to about 790 nautical miles a day with an average speed of 33 knots.  Clearly the bird flies spinnakers.
        If interested you can read more here.
        I thank Larry for the link.


        Yesterday morning I came across mention of a visualization of the world’s wind updated every three hours.  Since then Alan and Zane have both emailed me about it, for which I thank them.   They were correct that it is something in which I would be interested.
        The visualization is beautiful and instructive.  There has been something similar for the continental U.S. for a while, but nothing of which I am aware like this.  The globe can be rotated and zoomed in and out.
        You can see the trade winds, the varying width of the doldrums, storms.  I was struck by the depiction of wind funneling and accelerating between the mountains of Central America to emerge in the notoriously windy Gulf of Tehuantepec.
        I think this is wonderful and will write the creator, who is listed as Cameron Beccario, and tell him so.

        Of wind, I am now using an app called Windfinder Pro, which I find much more user friendly than WindAlert.  There is a free version.  I paid a few dollars to get rid of ads.
        I have thirteen locations as favorites, ranging from Evanston to San Diego to Cape Brett and Opua, New Zealand, Cape Town, Lord Howe Island in the Tasman, Hilo and Ala Wai in Hawaii, Mt. Pleasant Airport in the Falklands, and Tarifa, Spain.  Tarifa was pre-included.  I was once almost killed there when a 50+ knot Levanter developed while I was sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar—you can find details in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II—so have kept it for the fond memories.
        Interesting to me is that generally the windiest of these is not Cape Horn, but Mt. Pleasant Airport, which can’t be accurately named, in the Falklands.  At the moment it is blowing 22 knots at Mt.  Pleasant and 20 at Cape Horn.  However, it is warmer, 55°F/13°C, at Mt. Pleasant than the 43°F/6° at the Horn.
        Perhaps needless to say, both are far warmer than Evanston.