Pygmy Sperm Whale Stranding In Galveston—Every News Story Gives You The Opportunity To Learn More And To Take Action
A Pygmy Sperm Whale washed up on the beach in Galveston early on Wednesday.
Above you see a Houston Chronicle picture of the incident.
“A vacationer from Dallas and his 11-year-old daughter discovered a pygmy sperm whale thrashing about in the surf Wednesday morning on the West End. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network came to Shores Drive and FM 3005 shortly after 9 a.m. and placed a stretcher under the whale and lifted it into a rescue truck. The animal was breathing and its eyes were open. It was taken to a holding tank at the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.”
Unfortunately, the whale has since been euthanized.
The article I link to above does not assert that these dolphin deaths have been caused by the BP oil disaster. It does say though that this is possible and tests are being done to determine the facts.
From The Huffington Post–
“Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist’s video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn’t degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012. At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. She went to places she had visited in the summer and expected the oil and residue from oil-munching microbes would be gone by then. It wasn’t.”
Here is the web page for Dr. Samantha Joye. Dr. Joye led the study about the oil at the bottom of the gulf.
The impact of the BP spill may not be as bad as some first feared. But it appears to be bad enough.
The government, academic researchers, the press, and groups such as Greenpeace should keep monitoring conditions in the Gulf.
(Below–A picture of the oil-covered bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that sea worms of some kind do well in oil. Here is a previous post I’ve written here about sea worms.)
Every news story offers the chance to learn more than we know at the moment. It is up to each of us to learn about the world. When we learn more, then we are more likely to take action to improve the world.
A great book on marine mammals is the National Audubon Society’s Guide To Marine Mammals of the World. (Books remain the strongest source on many issues and subjects. Please consider getting off the computer and reading a book.)
Here are some basic facts about the Gulf of Mexico. This site I link to here, Gulfbase.org, has far more than just basics if you would like to know more.
A useful book on the coast in and around Galveston is The Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast by John Anderson. This book, published by Texas A & M, has scientific value while also being accessible.
I cannot stress this fact enough—It is up to the individual to learn about the world and to take action to improve the world.
You may well decide to take that action in concrt with others. But at core—You must decide yourself to be involved.
(Above–Drawing of a narwhal.)
A small device is attached the narwhals. When they dive , data is recorded. The narwhals in this study live in Baffin Bay up in the Arctic.
The data shows that the water is warmer than was thought, and that the ice is more thin than had been known.
American conservatives might argue that narwhals don’t believe in God and that they don’t live in the “heartland” with “Real Americans.”
All true. Narwhals never attend church and there are likely no narwhals in Nebraska or Kansas.
On the other hand, narwhals are like many “Real Americans” in that they are willing to work for less than a livable wage without offering any objection at all.
In fact, narwhals are the perfect employee for the American conservative movement. They are willing to work for absolutely no wages.
While I understand our current political realities, I’m not certain at the bottom line why being a Republican would make one a doubter of climate change.
There is a video going around of Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois essentially saying that global warming won’t do great harm to the world because God made a promise to Noah that He would not destroy the Earth. Mr. Shimkus may end up with a powerful committee Chair in the next Congress that will have oversight on climate issues.
I’ve no interest in being dismissive of people’s religious beliefs, but I just don’t see how this kind of thing will serve as a helpful environmental policy in the years ahead.
People are at some point going to have decide what kind of future we are going to have in this world. The facts are more clear everyday. We can keep on denying the facts for ideological reasons or we can move ahead.
A great book to learn about all types of whales and dolphins is the National Audubon Society’s Guide To Marine Mammals Of The World.
Captive Dolphin Is Named Liberty—If You Go To These Shows, Please At Least Learn Something About Dolphins And The Ocean
The dolphin you see above is named “Liberty.”
It should be named “Prisoner” because it is in dolphin jail.
This dolphin prisoner lives at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Park in Vallejo, California.
The dolphin is called Liberty because it was born on the Fourth of July.
Liberty, as seen in an Associated Press picture, was forced to do tricks on the Fourth of July for people visiting the park.
Even though it lives its life in a tank, the dolphin is called Liberty as if it were free and swimming around in the ocean.
These shows would bug me less if I had any sense that they made people care about the creatures they see, or care about the health of the oceans.
I think people come and gawk at the dolphins and the Shamus and move on to some other thought as soon as they leave the park.
I know these shows are not going away, but if take your kids, or go on your own, please take some time to learn about what you are seeing.
Here are a number of questions about oceans answered by the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There is a lot of information to be found at this site.
Here is a Christian Science Monitor blog post about overfishing and that has a number of links to other sources on the topic. The fish you are eating may be on the verge of going away for good.
The Empty Ocean by Richard Ellis is a very good book about overfishing that I have read.
Below is a picture of a Bottlenose Dolphin in the ocean I’m going to name “Captive.”
The National Audubon Society Guide To Marine Mammals Of The World is a top rate book.
The Supreme Court today heard a case about Navy testing of sonar that may well harm and kill whales and dolphins.
At the moment, these tests off the coast of California are banned by federal court order.
Environmental groups say these sonar blasts sound as loud as a jet engine to whales and dolphins. The Navy says the tests are needed for national security.
Beyond these issues, the core of the matter seems to be whether the a judge can order the Navy to stop the tests because no environmental impact study has been done by the Navy. The case has implications beyond this specific concern.
Why can’t the Navy just do the study?
I think what we should do is extensively test just how the sonar bombardments sound to whales, and then recreate that noise for Naval test subjects. Maybe some in Navy could volunteer unlike the whales who have no choice in the matter. ( Though I bet that not many would volunteer to have their ears blasted out.)The test subjects could then report just how it sounded and we could make a judgement from that point.
This National Geographic story discusses possible harm done to Killer Whales because of Navy sonar tests.
And this National Geographic story says whales can be given the bends by such tests.
I watched the second debate this evening between John McCain and Barack Obama. Here is my summary of this second debate.
During the debate my mind wandered and I can’t clearly recall what was said.
I became terrified that people who remain undecided could decide the election and I could not concentrate. The debate hall in Nashville was, it was claimed, filled with these so-called undecided voters. I support democracy. Yet sometimes I run from the implications of my support for democracy. How could one not?
Who could be undecided at this point? After eight years of George W. Bush and the clear contrast between John McCain and Barack Obama, who could still be undecided? Should these folks be allowed to provide the final margin of victory for either of the candidates?
What did I think about while my mind was wandering from whatever it was the candidates were discussing?
Dolley Madison (below) for one thing. I think she was our best looking First Lady. The best biography I am aware of James Madison is James Madison–A Biography by Robert Louis Ketcham. Dolley gets a good write-up in this account of Mr. Madison’s life.
During the debate, I thought about giant whales smashing the boats of whalers.
My debate haze was broken for a few moments when Senator McCain referred to Senator Obama as “That one.” This was good because it seemed just the kind of gaffe that would nag Mr. McCain the rest of the way. I was relieved that other guy made the mistake instead of the candidate I was supporting.
Issues? Yeah—I guess they have a place. Just not in one of these debates.
During the debate I felt I could hear airplanes roaring inside my head.
Biplanes do not make a roaring sound? In that case, what I was hearing in my head?
Most of all during the debate, I thought to myself that I sure hope Senator Obama can hold on to his lead in the polls and win the election next month.
It is this thought that best sumarizes the debate in my mind. Just hold on and wait for Election Day to arrive.
For a longer view, read the excellent America’s Three Regimes–A New Political History by Morton Keller. Every minute we spend following this campaign is time we don’t spend learning something that will have value after November 4.
A wild dolphin is apparently teaching other members of her group to walk on their tails, a behaviour usually seen only after training in captivity. The tail-walking group lives along the south Australian coast near Adelaide. One of them spent a short time after illness in a dolphinarium 20 years ago and may have picked up the trick there.
Scientists studying the group say tail-walk tuition has not been seen before, and suggest the habit may emerge as a form of “culture” among this group. “We can’t for the life of us work out why they do it,” said Mike Bossley from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), one of the scientists who have been monitoring the group on the Port River estuary. “We’re doing systematic observations now to determine if there’s something that may trigger it, but so far we haven’t found anything,” he told BBC News.
In the 1980s, Billie, one of the females in the group, spent a few weeks in a local dolphinarium recovering from malnutrition and sickness, a consequence of having been trapped in a marina lock. She received no training there, but may have seen others tail-walking.
Now, other females in the group have picked up the habit. It is seen rarely in the wild, and the obvious inference is that they have learned it from Billie. “This indicates that they do learn from each other, which is not a surprise really, but it does also seem that they exhibit elements of what in humans we would call ‘cultural’ behaviour,” said Dr Bossley.
“These are things that groups develop and are passed between individuals and that come to define those groups, such as language or dancing; and it would seem that among the Port River dolphins we may have an incipient tail-walking culture.” The “cultural” transmission of ideas and skills has been documented in apes, while dolphins off the coast of Western Australia are known to teach their young to use sponges as an aid when gathering food.
In an effort to bond with dolphins in Galveston Bay, I’m going to blindfold myself and drive to Galveston using echolocation. Echolocation is one way dolphins find fish in murky waters.
While I don’t have the dolphin anatomy you see in the above illustration, I’ve been practicing some of the skills involved. Just a few weeks ago, I shut my eyes and walked successfully from the dinner table to the couch. At that point I had to open my eyes because I wanted to watch the TV.
Having mastered that walk, I feel I’m now ready for the blindfolded drive to Galveston. I’m hoping at some point to be able to communicate with dolphins. (Please click here for my post on commuincating with zebra mussels.)
Better that I speak to the dolphins— I’m also practicing my sonar clicks— than somebody with a more evil plan.
Once reaching Galveston, I’ll be keeping my eyes open in case I see a mermaid. I’ll have my digital camera because blog traffic would spike if I could get a picture of a mermaid.
Here are some Houston and Galveston County notes.
Above is the pink dolphin spotted in Galveston Bay last year.
Skelly On The Move
Texas political blog Capitol Annex posts that Democratic Texas U.S. House District 7 candidate Michael Skelly is on the radar of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mr. Skelly is going to defeat incumbent John Culberson in this Houston-area district. Watch for this race to get more attention as Election Day nears.
Please here click for my post on why you should volunteer for Mr. Skelly. I say in the post that the Skelly race is an uphill race. I’m glad to say I will be adjusting my thinking on that matter.
TexBlog Pac To Hold Houston Fundraiser
TexBlog pac will be holding a fundraiser in Houston on June 26.
The goal is to raise money to help elect a Democratic majority in the Texas House.
The event will be at the Rice Lofts located at 909 Texas Avenue in Downtown Houston.
It starts at 6:30 PM.
State Representative Garnet Coleman will be there as will a number of other local office holders and candidates.
Vo Fixes Apartments
Well….That’s good. But why does a urban Democratic officeholder run a slum operation to start? People deserve forgiveness. I make mistakes all the time. Still, I find this frustrating on many levels.
Voters in Mr. Vo’s district can decide this November how they feel about the issue.
Galveston County Reconstruction-Era Black Settlement Marked
The black run town of Our Settlement, the only all black town in Galveston County in the years right after the Civil War, now has a Texas historical marker.
First Woman Elected In Galveston Dies
From the Galveston County Daily News ( Here is the full obit)—
When the city adopted the council-manager form of government, Kempner ran for council and became the first woman elected to city office. As a councilwoman, she was a sharp-witted, well-spoken fighter for her cause, said Bob Albright, who served on the council with Kempner from 1961 to 1963.
From the Houston Chronicle—
A 2½-year-old killer whale died Sunday night at SeaWorld San Antonio, becoming the second orca to die at the theme park in the past eight months. Early Monday, Sea World officials said the female killer whale named Halyn died unexpectedly.
But Sea World spokeswoman Fran Stephenson said Monday evening that the whale had been under a 24-hour watch and was on two courses of treatment after her behavior changed earlier in the weekend. She said she didn’t know what those changes were.
Tissue samples from the whale will be examined to establish a cause of death, she said, but that will take about six weeks. “While we recognize that death is part of the life cycle, we are saddened over the unexpected loss of this animal,” a SeaWorld press release said.
Halyn was one of five killer whales at SeaWorld San Antonio’s Shamu Theater, but Stephenson said Halyn didn’t perform regularly because she was young.The whale was, however, featured in educational presentations and behind-the-scenes tours.
The death comes almost eight months after Taku, a 14-year-old male orca, died Oct. 17 at the park. Officials said that death was unexpected as well. Tests showed Taku died of pneumonia, a respiratory infection.
I’ve said a number of times on this blog that killer whales don’t belong in tanks.
Above you see a picture of a killer whale that did not have to be trained to jump.
Above is a photo of a white killer whale taken in seas around the Aleutian Islands in late February.
Notice the racial harmony among the killer whales.
They do not care the that one killer whale is of a different color.
They are just all swimming around and about the affairs of killer whales.
Why can’t all people be as smart as these killer whales?
This is apparently for the best because true albinos can have health problems.
The picture was taken by a researcher for the National Marine Mammal Laboratory.
Here is some good information on killer whales.
Here in Texas, there has been a large stranding of Bottlenose Dolphins in Jefferson County and Galveston County beaches.
21 dolphins have been found in the last two days.
Another large stranding took place around this time last year.
This may prove to be the beginning of a large die-off of dolphins this year.
Some will claim this proves that Texas beaches are dirty.
As much I enjoy visiting Galveston, this claim may have merit.
From a leading guide to marine mammals–
Major die-offs of these dolphins along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts have been linked to viral outbreaks and acute exposure to toxins. There is speculation that heavy burdens of pollutants have weakened their immune systems.
The Bottlenose Dolphin is a common dolphin in the world.
Here are some facts and information about these creatures.
The Guide To Marine Mammals of the World published by the National Audubon Society reports that–
“This is the archetypal dolphin, well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans because of its common seashore presence throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Today it has achieved world-wide exposure as the start of the television series Flipper and as the main attraction in many oceanariums.”
“This dolphin is a cosmopolitan species that occurs in oceans and peripheral seas and tropical and temperate latitudes. It occupies a wide variety of habitats and is regarded as perhaps the most most adaptable cetacean….
Don’t you wish some people were as flexible and as adaptable as these dolphins?
Common Bottlenose Dolphins occur in groups that vary greatly in size…animals in bays from smaller groups ( 2 to 15..) than those offshore ( often tens or hundreds.) Composition and stability of these groups often varies. bands of related females may stay together for many years, during which time they are visited briefly and occasionally by adult males.”
“Pair bonds between adult males have been documented to last 20 years or longer.”
“In Scotland’s Moray Firth, Bottlenose Dolphins have been seen chasing, butting, and propelling Harbor Porpoises clear out of the water. Sharks are significant natural predators of Bottlenose Dolphins and it is not unusual to see wounds or scars attributed to shark bites on the bodies of living dolphins.”
The Bottlenose Dolphin can live up to 50 years. Male Bottlenose range from 8 to 12 feet long and can weigh up to 1100 pounds. Females are 8 to 10 feet long and reach 570 pounds.
(Here is a photo of a Bottlenose Dolphin killing a Harbor Porpoise in Scotland. Now how cute and nice do you think they are?)
Texas Liberal has many plans and goals for 2008.
I’ll continue with topics I posted on in 2007 and add new subjects for 2008.
With this an election year, I’ll be making posts about not just the ongoing campaign, but also about political history.
All events have context. History is about putting current events in context.
I’ll be discussing questions of political science and political philosophy.
To take their fullest form, events require the substance provided by what some might term “abstractions.”
In 2008, I’ll continue taking up questions of relationships and interactions with others and trying to draw the link between the personal and the private.
Relationships, like current events, always have a broader context.
In 2007, I made many posts about Colonial American history. In 2008, a focus will be American history from Washington through Polk—1789-1849. This will be in addition to more recent political history for the 2008 Election.
I’ll continue to write about marine mammals and sea life. ( The drawing is of a modern whale ancestor called a Kutchicetus. )
I’ll work hard to find good pictures and drawings to accompany posts.
A goal for 2008 will be to link more often to blogs far away from my home city of Houston that are doing interesting work.
There’s a whole world out there.
Texas Liberal is a political blog located in Texas—It’s not a Texas politics blog.
I have many reference books and other books I’ll draw upon in the new year.
I’ll be using Congressional Quarterly’s Guide To U.S. Elections, S.E. Finer’s History of Government from Earliest Times, The 2008 Almanac of American Politics, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress 1789-1989 by Kenneth C. Martis, 30,000 Years of Art by Phaidon Press ( To help with picture selection and art-related posts) and The National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World.
(If you have a question about American political history, I might have the answer. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at the address provided at the end of this post.)
A more general reading list that will be reflected in the blog will include Vernon L. Parrington’s The Romantic Revolution in America 1800-1860, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe , Revolutionary Characters by Gordon S. Wood, and James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse by Sam Haynes.
I’ll also be reading Carl Zimmer’s At The Water’s Edge about the evolution of marine mammals.
To the extent possible, I’ll post every day. We’ll see how that goes.
In 2008, I’ll try to offer an alternative voice to the increasing mainstreaming of some political blogs.
Some political blogs have in many respects become adjuncts of one or the other major political parties.
It is difficult to seek mainstream power and influence, and then not become or be part of the mainstream.
In the end, I think it’s up to blog readers, rather than blog owners or groups of blogs, to define what the so-called netroots really are.
I’ll start the year by linking to Reporter’s Without Borders Handbook For Bloggers And Cyber-Dissidents.
Good luck in 2008 and thanks for reading. Please consider forwarding the link to somebody else. A blog grows one reader at a time.
I can be e-mailed at naa six-one-eight AT att.net
Happy New Year and good luck to you and yours in the New Year!
I”ll start 2008 with some links.
Globe of Blogs is a friendly site that makes it easy to look for blogs from all over the world.
The Next American City offers viewpoints on how to improve life in American cities. These folks also put out a great magazine.
City Mayors discusses municipal politics from around the world. A ton of information about mayors and the cities they run. First-rate.
The American Cetacean Society is the best on-line source I am aware of to learn about marine mammals.
Here is a BBC article about the threat climate change poses to poor people in the world. Many of us live quite well in America and people elsewhere pay the price.
Here is the blog Angry Black Bitch out of St. Louis.
Bitch now surpasses Hell as the worst profanity I have written in the blog.
Sometimes you just have to let go of your inhibitions.
Texas could use some more black political bloggers. If I’ve missed some currently blogging, I’d sure like to know.
Backyard Birder is an informative Houston Chronicle reader blog run by committed liberal Birdwoman from Montgomery County, Texas.
The painting is called Market in Algiers by August Macke. It is from 1914
There has been much marine life in the news in recent weeks.
Japan is undertaking a new whale hunt for “research.” It will be the first so-called legal hunt of Humpback Whales since 1963. Theoretically, the number of Humpbacks is now high enough to sustain a hunt.
It seems a restored population is in fact bad news for these whales. It is indeed hard to get ahead sometimes.
The photo is a Greenpeace file picture of previous Japanese research on whales.
Here is a story about a firm in Tokyo that offers “whale curry” as something for you to eat. Another product of the research no doubt.
A Minke Whale found its way far into the Amazon River. Local people tried to save it by splashing water on its back when it swam into shallow waters, and by attempting to use boats to push it back to the ocean. These efforts were not successful.
This BBC story relates that rivers and lakes that become brown after being clear may in fact be much more clean and natural. What was keeping some European and North American waterways clear was acid rain that was killing off what would otherwise turn the water a more healthy brown.
Here is a story from Practical Fishkeeping about an attack by billions of jellyfish on the only salmon farm in Ireland.
The jellyfish involved were Mauve Stinger Jellyfish.
Close to where I live, the former Texas A & M at Galveston floating classroom ship Texas Clipper has been sunk near South Padre Island so that it might become an artificial reef. This is reported by The Galveston County Daily News.
Here is a link to the great liberal magazine The Nation. I’ve linked it here to articles discussing the merits of the Democrats running for President in 2008.
Please consider becoming involved in politics and becoming a fighting liberal!
The National Audubon Society Guide To Marine Mammals Of The World uses the word “aggregation” to describe dolphins that come together only for purposes of feeding. These dolphins are linked in this case by a practical purpose and will break back down into more stable and normal social groupings once they eat enough fish.
In Jean-Jacques Rosseau’s The Social Contract, Rosseau uses the word “association” to describe people in political union or unified in some way transcendent of immediate needs.
I was reading both books around the same time. Seeing both words used in these ways got me to thinking about why we spend time with the people we spend time with.
For example, on a city bus you have an aggregation. The people are on the bus only until they reach the right stop.
At work, you might have of mix. At core it’s an aggregation because you are the there to get a job done and earn a living. But with time, as relationships form and the common purpose, possibly, takes on more meaning, an association may exist.
When I hung out at punk rock bars, I always felt that many of us had something in common—If only various types and degrees of alienation. That would be an association.
At a hotel bar you would have more of an aggregation. People just passing through.
How about school? For some it is an association with real meaning and substance. For others it is an aggregation as the days are counted down to summer vacation, graduation or dropping out.
People today can be linked today by computer and e-mail. You might have a substantive association with others far away, while you feel the people you spend your time with daily are no more than an aggregation.
Jail would be an aggregation. Tough I suppose a widespread plot to escape could turn it into an association.
I see society itself as an association. People on the right might see it as an aggregation.
You might see the distinction between aggregation and association as a kind of academic exercise.
However, I’d say it is important to realize who we feel we share a common purpose with and who may be more incidental to our lives. Having such knowledge would provide a more clear sense of what is important in life and what is worth your time.
On the level of society as a whole, the more people we feel as truly connected with in an association of fellow citizens and fellow human beings, the more likely we are to pursue fair and humane policies of basic social justice.