Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whistled Language of La Gomera, Canary Islands

Known as the Silbo Gomero...
On our recent transatlantic cruise on board the Maasdam, I was lecturing about the ecology, culture and geology of the Canary Islands.  I presented a clip from the following excellent UNESCO video on the unique and amazing "Whistled Language of Gomera" 
UNESCO: Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity - 2009:  Visit the UNESCO website to learn more:
Description: The whistled language of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, the Silbo Gomero, replicates the islanders habitual language (Castilian Spanish) with whistling. Handed down over centuries from master to pupil, it is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practised by a large community (more than 22,000 inhabitants). The whistled language replaces each vowel or consonant with a whistling sound: two distinct whistles replace the five Spanish vowels, and there are four whistles for consonants. The whistles can be distinguished according to pitch and whether they are interrupted or continuous. With practice, whistlers can convey any message. Some local variations even point to their origin.
Taught in schools since 1999, the Silbo Gomero is understood by almost all islanders and practised by the vast majority, particularly the elderly and the young. It is also used during festivities and ceremonies, including religious occasions. To prevent it from disappearing like the other whistled languages of the Canary Islands, it is important to do more for its transmission and promote the Silbo Gomero as intangible cultural heritage cherished by the inhabitants of La Gomera and the Canary Islands as a whole.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

African Wildlife -- Intro Slides for Lectures

Here's a short video clip I've prepared showing some of my wildlife photos from South Africa.


This is one of the clips I will be showing during our upcoming voyage with Holland America on the ms Maasdam.  I will be lecturing from Fort Lauderdale to Rome (Civitavecchia) on the Atlantic Adventure October 31 - November 21.  Hope to see you onboard!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Travel Priorities in the face of climate change

Thirty-three things to eat, drink, see, and do before climate change ruins them. 

Part bucket list, part illustrated guide to global eventualities and painful realities, Kurt McRobert and Rich Petrucci’s rundown of the wonders threatened by climate change is at once entertaining, sobering, and a very practical way to prioritize your travel plans. (thanks to for this link...)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Protecting Parrotfish Can Help Save Reefs

Excellent report and short video available on how to protect coral reefs, based on forty years of research in the Caribbean. 

Based on over 40 years of research in the Caribbean, Dr Jeremy Jackson, senior advisor on coral reefs for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, writes:

"We already know that protecting parrotfish and other herbivores from fishing can, in turn, protect healthy reefs. The stunning Flower Garden Banks in the northern Gulf of Mexico are protected by their United States National Marine Sanctuary status, which prohibits the use of fish traps and parrotfish fishing. Bermuda has an even longer history of banning fish traps and spearfishing. And Bonaire, with an entirely tourist-based economy that is reliant on the health of their reefs, has long restricted fishing. A brief breakdown in these protections resulted in an immediate decline in the health of Bonaire’s reefs, which triggered a quick reinstatement of protections. 

But reefs where parrotfish are unprotected have suffered tragic declines. These “Failure Reefs” are places where a variety of local human impacts have been allowed to run unchecked: not just by overfishing but also by overuse for recreation, excessive and destructive coastal development, and pollution. The worst of these include Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Climate Change resource

In my lectures, I try to give folks some insights into the massive changes we're seeing in the oceans, such as rising seas and acidification, and weather conditions around the planet.  One excellent resource is available online at the Guardian websitethe ultimate climate change FAQ.

As far as economics are concerned, here's the conclusion of one of the most recent articles:

It's important to understand that our choices aren't to either reduce carbon emissions or to do nothing. Our options are to either reduce carbon emissions or to continue with business-as-usual emissions that will cause accelerating climate change and damage costs beyond what we can accurately estimate. From an economic perspective, and from a risk management perspective, this should be a no-brainer. As economist Paul Krugman put it,
"So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong?"

Japanese Fish Market & Squid sashimi

Just returned from a cruise lecturing aboard the ms Volendam, from Yokohama to Vancouver, via Hokkaido and Alaska.

The fish market in Hakodate, Hokkaido was amazing!  Crabs, including King Crab, and fish of all sizes... and live squid...
King Crab in fish market, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

Crabs galore in the various tanks
Jigging for Live Squid at the fish market
Squid in that tank do not have a bright future!!  Once caught they are quickly turned into sashimi on the spot.   Good thing this is a relatively sustainable fishery!  I for one am not a big fan of squid sashimi... I prefer not to look my lunch directly in the eyeballs!

I prefer my squid nicely grilled on a skewer... thank you!