Whenever Scott Wallace heads out on the Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia, he hopes it will be the time when he finally sees a Basking shark, an endangered species which once cruised in large numbers in plankton-rich waters.
“It’s like a mythical animal for me because I’ve never seen one here … when I do hear about them I get a sense of optimism,” said the scientist about the second-largest fish in the world next to the whale shark.
Wallace, a senior research scientist with David Suzuki Foundation, became fascinated with Basking sharks while living on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island to study historical ecosystems. He heard stories about the giant, harmless sharks that once gathered in large numbers in the area.
The animals, which can grow up to 10 metres in length, have a huge gaping mouth they open as they swim to consume tiny plankton and are considered an important part of B.C.’s biodiversity.
Wallace has seen the shark in the water while on a dive off the Isle of Man in the UK where they still gather in numbers.
“You can see their fins coming at the surface and eventually right in front of you there’s this huge like 5-foot gap, wide mouth just kind of comes streaking by you,” he said. “It worries you, but it’s pretty amazing to see them feeding like that.”
Basking sharks were once so common in B.C.’s waters that they were deemed a nuisance for fishers and boaters. An eradication program was devised, which involved a special blade on the bows of vessels that would slice through the sharks to kill them.
‘What did we squander?’
Wallace ended up publishing a book about their history in B.C. in 2006 called Basking Sharks: The Slaughter of BC’s Gentle Giants.
“What did we squander here with our ignorance?” he said.
Scientists estimate that the eradication program from 1955 to 1969 destroyed up to 90 per cent of the Basking sharks that would swim into B.C. during summer, coming up from Mexico, along the California coast.
It’s been Jackie King’s job to try and get a sense just how many Basking sharks may come and go now. She’s a scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and has spent considerable time in the water and flying in airplanes searching for the shark.
Despite all the effort, she’s never seen one.
“I think that is one of life’s ironies is that I have never seen a Basking shark,” she said.
King is not pessimistic though about the shark’s future in B.C.
It’s estimated that there are between 300 and 550 of the sharks living and feeding between Mexico and B.C. and even though there have been only two to three sightings in B.C. each year for the past decade, those sightings have not decreased.
“I would be happier if they were going up,” she said. “It makes me happy that they are not going down. Static is at least stable.”
Florian Graner is someone lucky enough to have seen a Basking shark in the Pacific along the B.C. and Washington border.
It happened in 2009 when the marine biologist, who works on natural history documentaries, was out on the water off Washington State’s west coast.
He had previously filmed the animals off the coast of Cornwall, England, so he knew the fins he was seeing poking above the surface belonged to Basking sharks.
“My encounter was purely by luck,” he reported to King of the incident at the time.
He managed to get in the water and film what he believed were four different sharks. One of them was close to eight metres in length.
“They are breathtaking,” he said. “It was really rare … I have not seen them since myself.”
Graner hopes sightings like this will continue, but admits that it could take several more decades for numbers to increase. The animals have a low birthrate but can live up to 50 years.
The other concern for Wallace is that if the sharks do show up in a group all of a sudden, will fishers know not to drop fishing gear near them, which is part of the rules in place to protect them.
“If they did show up in a group of 20 or 30 in back in an area that they used to be found, Barkley Sound or Clayoquot Sound or Rivers Inlet, somewhere … would we be prepared to suddenly close down all fisheries that may interact with them?” he said.
For now though, he just hopes the next time he’s out on the water he’ll be lucky enough to finally see one.
Not only is it Halloween, but Saturday night also marks two rare lunar events.
We are in for a blue moon and a micromoon.
According to NASA, a blue moon occurs about seven times every 19 years.
The moon will not actually be blue Saturday night, the term refers to the time when a second full moon occurs in one month.
The last full moon was on October 1.
A micromoon, opposite to a supermoon, is when the moon is at its furthest point from Earth.
Victor Arora, observatory co-ordinator at the University of Waterloo, said not only will the special moon be visible all night, but Mars will also be easy to spot.
“On this evening you’ll be looking at the confluence of these two or three different cosmic events…it makes it a little bit more meaningful…If you want to see the full moon rise just basically look towards the sun, and turn around so your back is against the sun, and that’s the direction the moon will be rising from.”
Arora added being outdoors and enjoying a unique event such as a blue moon, is a great pandemic-friendly activity.
“There has been an uptick in interest among people wanting to observe in the evenings. Things like telescope sales have gone through the roof – I’ve heard, and spending time with your close circle and getting out into nature.”
Earlier in October, NASA successfully collected rocky samples from asteroid Bennu, a relatively small, well-preserved space rock some 200 million miles from Earth. On Friday, NASA released footage of the spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, approaching and briefly touching down on the rubbly Bennu. The events, seen in the space agency’s tweet below, show OSIRIS-REx carefully descending to Bennu’s rock-strewn surface.
The spacecraft collected some 60 grams, or about two ounces, of fine-grained material during the quicktouchdown, which lasted under 16 seconds. To planetary scientists, this asteroidal stuff is invaluable: Bennu hasn’t changed much since the formation of our solar system (4.5 billion years ago), so the samples provide a glimpse into our past, and how our planets formed.
“They are like time capsules from the beginning of our solar system,” Richard Binzel, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a scientist working on the OSIRIS-REx mission, told Mashable. “This is like sampling the original ingredients for making planets.”
NASA called the endeavor a “Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event.” The maneuver was indeed a quick “tag” of Bennu’s surface. OSIRIS-REx carefully approached the asteroid for over four hours before briefly touching down and firing nitrogen gas to stir up fragments into Bennu’s sample collector. Then, the spacecraft promptly blasted away.
OSIRIS-REx captured so much surface material that some of the fine grains even escaped before the collector was stowed away for the return trip home. The spacecraft is expected to arrive on Earth with the invaluable cargo on Sep. 24, 2023.
This is certainly the news of the week in the field of science: Monday, October 26, NASA released a report revealing that the presence of water on the Moon was in fact more abundant and accessible than previously thought. until then. “It’s not about lakes or blocks of ice, warns Jean-Christophe Batteria, however, in the 11pm edition of Friday October 30. But these are water molecules trapped in dark interstices on the Moon. “
Where could this water come from? “Two theories have emerged, explains Jean-Christophe Batteria. EIt can originate from asteroids, as these are often loaded with ice. Or the flow of hydrogen ions coming from the Sun and which, when they reach the lunar rocks, form the famous H2O molecule. “ The presence of water on the Moon is, in any case, likely to simplify life on a lunar base.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.