Saturday, May 26, 2012


Moon rise, May 5th, 2012

Once again I have to gladly thank my dear friend Star Gilley for reminding me to “look to The Heavens”. We have beautiful moon rises here in Baja pretty regularly but this one was the closest approach of the moon to our Mother planet for the year, worth a moment of appreciation.

Fifteen years ago, I had a moon like this off the stern as I sailed an 84’ sailing schooner across The Pacific.
The schooner Dariabar

We were in the very middle of The Pacific Ocean and I was steering by The Constellation Orion.

Me at the helm, 1998

The Moonbeam that night was like liquid Mercury and pointed us toward Hawai’i. Last May 5th, this Moon, pointed directly to me on my bodega roof and my Shangri-La.

If there is any question in your mind of the importance of The Moon, check out this article from Scientific American.

Without the Moon, Would There Be Life on Earth?
By driving the tides, our lunar companion may have jump-started biology--or at least accelerated its progression
By Bruce Dorminey  | April 21, 2009 | 16

            The ocean tides mirror life itself. Their ebb and flow pay homage to the cyclic nature of the cosmos along even the most secluded seashores. But is life itself also ultimately a fluke of the tides?

If so, life may ultimately owe its origins to our serendipitously large moon. The sun and wind also drive the ocean's oscillations, but it is the moon's gravitational tug that is responsible for the lion's share of this predictable tidal flux.

Our current Earth–moon system, according to the prevailing theory of lunar formation, reflects our solar system's early game of planetary billiards, when colliding planetary embryos created entirely new versions of themselves—in the case of our own planet, a disproportionately large natural satellite in close orbit.

It all started some 4.5 billion years ago when, as theory has it, our nascent Earth was blindsided by a Mars-size planetary embryo, believed to have spun Earth into its initial fast rotation of roughly 12 hours per day. The molten mantle thrown into orbit after the catastrophic lunar-forming impact quickly coalesced into our moon. Within a few thousand years, Earth cooled to an object with a molten surface and a steam atmosphere. Life emerged some 700 million years later, or about 3.8 billion years ago.

But four billion years ago a cooling Earth already had an ocean, but remained barren. The moon was perhaps half as distant as it is now, and as a result, the ocean tides were much more extreme.

At an average distance of 235,000 miles (380,000 kilometers), the moon is currently receding from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) per year. As it does, Earth's own spin rate is slowing. And, in the process, roughly 1020 joules of gravitational energy is shed into the oceans annually.*

Over the eons, all that energy has had an evolutionary impact.

"The oceans' tidal flow helps transport heat from the equator to the poles," says Bruce Bills, a geodynamicist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Without the lunar tides, it's conceivable that climate oscillations from the ice age to the interglacial would be less extreme than they are. Such glaciations caused migrations of animal and plant species that probably helped speed up speciation."

Bills also points out that such tidal heat transfer could have also mitigated climate fluctuations. The problem in determining which "tidal forcing" scenario is correct, he says, is that climate researchers currently lack data spanning extremely long timescales. Even so, Peter Raimondi, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says the tools of evolution are also driven by the tides' influence on these intertidal regions.

"In a rocky intertidal area," Raimondi says, "it's very clear there are strong evolutionary pressures brought on by a changing environment over a short spatial scale. Without our moon, our marine environment would be much less rich in terms of species diversity."

But is the influence of the lunar tides actually responsible for life itself?

If life originated around deep ocean hydrothermal vents (so-called black smokers), then the lunar tides played a minor role, if any, says James Cowen, a biogeochemical oceanographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. If, however, life originated in tidal waters, he says, then tidal cycles could have played a major role.

Before leaving El Cardonal for my cataract operations in The States, I took one last kayak out to The WZ. There was a fog bank out about 1 mile, not particularly rare, but always adding something to the “adventure”. As I entered the fog I remembered that day in Bodega 35 years ago when I encountered my first Humpback. As I was paddling back in towards shore I heard some dolphins approaching from the north. I was out of the fog, it was a beautiful day so I put on my mask and rolled in. Three Bottlenose Dolphins swam by within about 15 feet, gave me a once over and continued on their way. These were the first BN dolphins I had seen this season so it was a delight to say hello.

There were also some Mobulas doing a mating dance nearby and then a masked Boobie flew by 6 feet overhead. I finished the day by swimming in from the tip of the reef....paradise!
Masked Boobie, not my pic

Two days before I left (I am now 10 days from returning to my beloved Mexico) I went out in the panga to see if any last whales were passing by on their way to The Arctic. My friends Noel and Bonnie came out with me and we really lucked out by coming across a breaching male Humpback, I also got a good ID (HB# 23 12).
HB# 23 12

It was my first time out with Vicente’s nephew Fabien, a young man who caught on real quick to the need for proper positioning during a photo sequence. Noel caught a nice 18 pound Dorado that we all shared and I saw my first Brown Boobie, another fine day, no?
Noel and his Dorado......dinner!

Brown Boobie, not my pic

Here’s a great sequence of Humpback Whales trying to help a Gray Whale calf during an Orca attack. Keep in mind that The Orcas are simply doing their part in the greater scheme of the Biosphere.

I’ll leave you with this:

I'll be back in Mexico on the 4th of June....with BIONIC eyes!