On January 11, 1908, our 26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. President Roosevelt was remarkable in his foresight. He knew the historical, ecological, and recreational value of the site. Find out for yourself. Take the U.S. National Park Service’s Virtual Tour of the Grand Canyon and discover the wonders that archeologists, naturalists, and hikers experience when they move through the park.
In 1515, not too far from Bermuda, aboard a sea-going vessel bound for San Domingo, an anxious 37 year old fellow paced up and down the deck. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés wanted very much to make landfall. The nearby island fascinated Oviedo. Before 1505, no one in Europe had even known of its existence. The isle was so close. Yet, Oviedo’s ship was held at bay by less than accommodating winds. To pass the the time constructively, he observed a peculiar species of bird that was adept at feasting upon flying fishes.
The avian object that pleasantly distracted Oviedo’s is now known as the cahow (Pterodroma cahow or Bermuda petrel). In the year Oviedo observed the species, the birds most likely probably numbered well over a million. Though fun to watch, the birds were a source of an eerie nocturnal cries that spooked early Spanish seafarers. Owing to superstition–the sailors thought the isles were inhabited by devils–the Spanish steadfastly refused to colonize the islands. This turn of events bought the cahow a little time.
The respite was very brief.
The English had no problem settling down in the area. What followed was bad news for cahows. The birds and their eggs were easy prey for British inhabitants and the invasive dogs, cats, and rats that were brought over with settlers. So many birds were lost to predation that, by 1615, they were thought to be completely extinct.
In 1945 a full-grown cahow washed up on the beach at Cooper’s Island, Bermuda. The event prompted a noted ornithologist named Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum of Natural History to mount and lead an expedition to search for evidence of the bird’s existence. Being an amiable fellow, Murphy invited a thoughtful, adventure-seeking boy to come along. On January 8, 1951, that 15 year old boy helped Cushman re-discover the bird. The event was so moving to young David Wingate that he dedicated his life to bringing the cahow back from the edge of destruction.
The story is related in Lucinda Spurling’s moving 2006 documentary Rare Bird. The exciting documentary tells how a species of bird and a determine boy teach the world about the power of perseverance. Despite invasive species, the poisonous pesticide DDT, and unbridled development and the looming threat of climate change, the cahow and its champion refuse to give up.
- Official site for the Rare Bird documentary
- Audubon works to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.
- ARKive has an amazing collection of organisms from all over the earth, including the cahow
Science/Biology teachers: If you want to integrate technology, here’s the catch of the day. Dive into FishBase, a global information system with everything you want to know about our fine finned friends. This site’ll hook you with oceans of data concerning just about all species of fish known to science. Curious? Conduct a search and reel in some useful information about any underwater denizen.
By the way, this is a Microctenopoma fasciolatum.
- For our Georgia readers, Gray’s Reef has a nifty fish guide, too!
- EPA’s famous Freshwater Fish Identification will make biology class go along swimmingly.
- Brian W. Coad and Don E. McAllister have compiled an impressive Dictionary of Ichthyology. If I had to judge their work, the scales would definitely tip in their favor.
- It’s ten o’ clock. Do you know where your fish is? You will if you consult Practical Fishkeeping and its fintastic Fish Mapper. While you’re at the site, open up their tacklebox and check out the rest of their tools.
If you teach conecpts related to Biology and/or Environmental Science and have students who are intrigued with aquatic organisms, you might want to dive into the resources amassed by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. The WDCS site has engaging content that’ll inundate eager minds. For example, check out the WDCS’s visualization of a life size image of a Blue Whale. Be warned that this particular image of a Balaenoptera musculus does take a little while to load in your browser. After all, it’s huge! That said, when the image does finish surfacing, you can use your mouse to explore the length of its body without having to don a wetsuit or suffer the pressures of the deep.
- Make sure to take a look at the stunning visuals of Blue Whales at ARKive.org.
- Do some Virtual Globetrotting via this Google Map (or download the site’s Google Earth KML file ) and see a Blue whale skeleton, outside the Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California in Santa Cruz.
- View a virtual reality movie of the Blue Whale skeleton via the kind folks at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
- Surf on over to the swell of Blue Whale Facts provided by National Geographic. Better yet, compare the size of a Blue Whale to that of other, well-konown objects.