Archive for January 3rd, 2012
Just a few quotations culled from the campaigns, presented to you on Iowa caucus day:
“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Governor Rick Perry.
“Gingrich goes negative, labels Romney ‘moderate.’” Reported CNN Headline Dec 27
“I think he compared that to … Pearl Harbor. I think its more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory. So, I mean, you know, you gotta get it organized.” Mitt Romney on Gingrich’s failure to make the Virginia primary ballot
For folks who don’t get the reference, it’s to one of the all-time classic I Love Lucy episodes, which WC provides below, purely as a service to his readers:
“Obama is putting abortion pills for young minors, girls as young as 8 years of age or 11 years of age, on [the] bubblegum aisle.” Michele Bachman, December 28, 2011, a week after the President overrode an FDA recommendation to make emergency contraception available over the counter for all ages.
“A poet once said, ‘life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.’” — Herman Cain, quoting lyrics from the theme song to Pokemon: The Movie 2000. The “poet” who wrote those lyrics was disco queen Donna Summer.
Of course, all of these would be a lot more entertaining if they weren’t coming from folks who seriously think they ought to be President of the United States.
Albatrosses have gotten a bad rap. We say someone is doing something “with an albatross around his neck,” meaning an unreasonable burden or handicap. The connotative meaning is a distortion of the theme of Samuel Taylor Coelridge’s long poem, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” where the mariner of the title is punished for wantonly killing a Wandering Albatross by, among other things, being forced to wear the dead, rotting thing around his neck.
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
But albatrosses are wonderful birds, perfectly adapted to their habitat, and include the longest-winged flying birds in the world today. WC was lucky enough to see several species in the Southern Ocean November-December 2010, and got a few photos. Long-time readers will recall WC’s post on the Black-browed Albatross. Here are some other species.
It’s not a great shot (it was taken from a Zodiac raft bouncing around in 3-foot waves) but these are Grey-headed Albatrosses nesting in the tussocks on the northerly end of South Georgia Island at Elsehul. Reproduction is a time-consuming business for all albatrosses; they lay a single egg and from courtship through a fledged chick, it takes a full year. It’s the only time they come ashore, and most reproduce only every other year or every third year. This is one of the smaller species, with a wingspan of about 7.2 feet.
A beautiful bird in its own right, the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross is easily identified by its distinctive wedge-shaped tail. A little smaller than the Grey-headed, it also dives more, where the Grey-headed dips on the surface. Ornithologists quarrel over the taxonomy of albatrosses; some classify the Light-mantled with the Grey-headed; others put it in a larger family with all of the smaller southern albatrosses. Whatever the classification, it’s a beautiful bird in flight.
Unlike the smaller albatrosses, who will circle a ship out of curiosity or food-conditioning, the big guys, Royal and Wandering Albatrosses, simply pass ships by as they go about their businesses. The Royal Albatross is astonishingly big, with a 10.8 foot wingspan. For all their size, they are not the least bit clumsy in the air. They fly without flapping their wings often, using the winds, air displaced by waves and the ground effect. It’s both elegant and astonishing. They can bank over the water with their wingtips just inches over the water, and never make a mistake. These birds fly most of their lives, dipping food and water from the waves without landing; until they are sexually mature at age 7-9, they never come to land.
But the king of them all, the living bird with the biggest wingspan on the planet, is the Wandering Albatross. This species has documented wingspans for 13 feet, although 11.5 feet is more common. By comparison, an Alaska Bald Eagle has a wingspan of about 7 feet. The Wandering Albatrosse’s body is more than four feet long, and an adult weighs 25 pounds. WC watched this bird as it flew, and over more than 15 minutes it never flapped its wings. This bird is the very definition of flight.
Altogether, WC saw eight species of albatrosses on the trip, all endangered by long line fishing and pollution. Over-fishing seems to be impairing reproduction, a real problem in species that reproduces as slowly as these. For WC, albatrosses are the living definition of the wild ocean. The planet will be a much poorer, sadder place if we allow these giant, beautiful birds to go extinct. As Coelridge eerily foresaw,
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.