A Handful of Wonders

One of the projects I developed for school this year was a National Geographic-inspired article. However, the places that I chose to depict might have something else to it... Below are the five locations and bit from the article which accompanied them. Click the thumbnails for bigger versions, please.

The Whale Cemetery

This is the first actual record of a whale cemetery being found, and there are probably several other grottoes which serve the same function, scattered in banks and islands accross this area of the Indian Ocean. This concept, the idea that there might be these sacred places where animals go to die, was not unheard of, but it had been thought to be merely the stuff of legends.

The red whale is, in itself, quite a vision, as one of the most elusive species of whales, as it has an immense lung capacity and seldom comes up for air. It was thought to be native to the Atlantic Ocean, but it is now known that, when it reaches a certain age, it separates from its group, swimming towards the southwest Indian Ocean - as it enters its increasingly warm waters, its brown skin becomes lighter and closer to red.

As it approaches its final destination, the whale stops eating, grows weaker and eventually its deteriorated epidermis starts decomposing, leaving behind a trail of floating red skin. Despite this, it never stops swimming, which has earned this species the nickname of “zombie whale“.

The Edenbird Hive

Native to the archipelago, these hummingbirds (named edenbirds due to their long white tails and fragile appearance) are quite unique: they are not just considered one the the most aggressive species of bird (even if technically harmless to humans, due to their size), they are also the only known species of hummingbird with a hive-like mind, living in communities of several hundreds of individuals. They usually build their nests to surround a circular area, creating a dome that provides a safer space for the colony.

During hatching season, females usually stay in the highest nests. Males stay outside and close the nests with clay and leaves almost completely, leaving only a tiny opening through which they bring food to the females. These become particularly aggressive, buzzing loudly, much like bees, to wear off predators, and sometimes even going for the eyes.

The Giant Hourglasses of Abuya

At certain times during the year, in the southern region of the Abuya desert, it is possible to witness one of the most unique shows nature has to offer - a field of sand whirlpools. Throughout the years, several different species of desert vines have grown and taken over the canyons, forming natural pergulas that cover the whole labyrinth of passageways. Their roots are extremely long and resistant, extending to find water in the dry desert.

This is a particularly windy desert, though, and over time, sand has covered the vines, in such a way that one who is unaware of this phenomena would not be able to tell there is anything more than sandy desert up ahead. However, during Spring time, one specific type of vine, the Fissurae azulis, blooms blue flowers that emerge through the sand. As Spring progresses into Summer, the vines grow weaker and start opening under the weight of the sand, making it fall into the canyon below.

 The Guatemalan Stone People

Covering an area of about 14 square kilometers, statues - human figures - are stationed along the ocean floor and provide shelter to fish, algae and coral, among other underwater organisms. Throughout the years, they have deteriorated and been heavily modified by the swirling ocean water, but the semblance of humanity still present in their faces is nothing short of remarkable.

They have become a tourist attraction in recent years, but very recently the government has had to intervene and restrict human presence in the area - the heavy daily ammount of tourist groups and divers, particularly during the Summer months, was starting to stress coral reef and affecting the local wildlife.

 The Glowing Lakes of Cape York

After the 2006 bushfires in Victoria, Australia, which burnt for almost seventy days, and the heavy rain that followed in the Winter, a vast ammount of burnt ash, rich in chemicals, was dumped into the lakes in the Cape York region. Concerns were raised regarding public health and, as predicted, in the following Summer, algae started to grow heavily in the lakes, making the water look green and murky.

However, in 2008, as the Summer ended, a new species started to prosper by feeding on the
Synechococcus - the Noctiluca scintillans. During the day, these algae look red, murky and unremarkable, building up amidst the green algae it feeds on.

But during the night, the
Noctiluca scintillans glow bright blue and turn the lakes into a sea of stars. This phenomena is called bioluminiscence - the same kind of phenomena that makes fireflies produce light, albeit through different mechanisms. The species was well known and it had been been present in australian lakes before, but never as remarkably as it appeared now. 

And for the final reveal - click here


Post a Comment