The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Month: September, 2011

An Ode to Semaphore (And How It Inspired Lord Nelson’s Fleet at Trafalgar)

SemaphoreI know how to speak in semaphore. It’s a visual alphabet, like sign language. Each letter of the alphabet is associated with a specific positioning of the arms. You grab a flag in each hand, and spell out whatever it is you want to say by moving your arms accordingly. It’s intended to be seen at distances across several hundred yards. As a form of communication, it predates the telegram.

I learned semaphore when I was a beach lifeguard. It takes a while to learn it, but once you know it, it’s almost impossible to un-know it. Almost every beach patrol in the world uses walkie talkies, but for some reason, on a 30 mile stretch of beach that runs through Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, walkie talkies are shunned for the more traditional use of semaphore.

I gotta admit that semaphore was one of the most fun parts of the job. You speak a language that no one else knows, and enter in what feels like some sort of secret society, as you send mundane images about what you want to eat for lunch up and down the beach. With each letter, the nylon flags fly into place with a satisfying Snap!

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Friday Happy Hour: Dockside Bars Around the World


Throughout history, wherever there have been sailors, there are dirty, dingy, salt-encrusted dive bars left behind, some to rot to the ground in stale grog and vomit (as well they should), some to be sadly repurposed into “new” drinking holes, and disgracefully enough, some even find themselves polished and turned into tourist traps or family-friendly establishments. Nevertheless, the sailor bar is almost a methodical arrangement, consistent throughout maritime culture, going back to, well, the creation of booze and the very first pubs.

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Wish You Were Here: The World’s Largest Artificial Island

King’s Island, just miles outside of Copenhagen Harbor, was commissioned by King Christian IX in 1890. Unattached to the mainland, it’s the largest artificial island in the world, and it’s for sale.

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The Ocean From Space


The space station is treated to 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets per day, so there are endless opportunities to see how the sun transforms the land and ocean below. Shown here, sunlight bounces off the waters surrounding Newfoundland on Aug. 27. Credit: NASA

“I will miss watching the Earth transform from day into night and night into day sixteen times a day,” said Garan.

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New amazing close-up shot of rare white humpback whale


A rare white humpback whale calf breaches in Cid Harbour in the Whitsunday Islands area near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. An extremely rare white humpback whale calf was spotted near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in an event witnesses described as a “once in a lifetime experience”. Believed to be just a few weeks old, the baby humpback was seen by local man Wayne Fewings, who was with his family in a boat when he spotted a whale pod.


Pictures of the day: 29 September 2011 (

Fisherman Catches Great White, Venice Beach Surfer Saves Shark

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Just south of the Venice Beach Pier, a fisherman hooks and lands what looks to be about a 4 or 5-foot juvenile great white shark. Carelessly unprepared, the fisherman has neither a pair of pliers nor any other hook-removing device and a pile of onlookers appear to take videos and pictures.

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Computers That Understand Dolphins

Dr. Denise L. Herzing has been visiting the same pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins out of Jupiter, Florida for three generations. Denise’ venture, “The Wild Dolphin Project,” is the longest-running underwater study of it’s kind, the New York Times is reporting, and now she’s developing a computer-generated system through which she hopes to communicate with them.

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Ocean Mitzvah: Cape-Able Workers Build Deep-Sea Devices


Cape Abilities worker Carol Dimock and project manager Trevor Harrison work together in a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) laboratory on one step in the assembly of a silver chloride electrode that will be used in a sea-bottom instrument later this year. Cape Abilities is a Cape Cod organization that provides assistance and locates good jobs for local residents with disabilities. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)

In 2009 Rob Evans knew he had a laborious task coming. He needed to build 120 complicated and delicate silver chloride electrodes for deep-sea instruments. He also wanted to change the design, to make them more robust. And he needed all 120 of them finished by the fall of 2011.

imageHe knew how to build the electrodes, because he had made hundreds of them before. “We made all the old electrodes ourselves in the lab,” said Evans, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

“It’s painstaking work. I’d make a batch and then test them,
make another batch. I didn’t have time.”

Evans found a novel solution. He formed a partnership with Cape Abilities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding good jobs for Cape Cod residents with disabilities, and secured funding for the project. Cape Abilities hired a project manager and selected workers, who learned how to manufacture the electrodes and constructed the entire quantity in time to be deployed this fall in instruments in the western Pacific Ocean.

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