Sperm Whales of the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

There’s trouble for our neighborhood sperm whales that live in the new NE Canyons and Seamounts  Marine National Monument. Rob explains in this short video.


Sperm Whale home on briny deep, 140 miles SE of Nantucket, threatened by mineral mining, oil and gas drilling.

Join with us as Deep Sea Canyon Rangers.

Watchmen to serve on the continental front of North America and beyond out to four seamounts: Bear, Physalia, Retriever, and Mytilus.

Click here to be one of us standing together for the NE Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument.  This national park area needs you and will benefit from your outspoken support.   Every gift demonstrates resolve to stand by this magnificent ocean realm.

To make a donation via Paypal please click HERE to go to ORI support page.

Solar Eclipse in Somerville Through a Pin Hole Brightly

High cirrus clouds stretched white gauze across the sun leaving patches of blue sky.  I freed my bike from the stand by my office in Harvard Square at about 1:30 pm.  Only the leaves at the top of trees moved slightly to a wisp of a Southeast breeze.  Riding home along Kirkland Street the breeze was only apparent wind striking me face-on. The harder I peddled the faster the wind.  The air was thick with mid-day heat.  Moving down the road had a feeling of swimming to it.

Home in Somerville, I walked my bike to the backyard.  Opening the wooden gate, I heard the “cluck” of a disgruntled black bird moving away from me from dogwood perch to redbud tree branch, and then off across a neighbor’s yard.  Sparrows flitted about in leafy trees and over to evergreens.

I went through the backdoor to the kitchen. On the counter was a pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses that my wife had had the forethought to order weeks ago.  I stepped out onto the back porch, put the glasses on, and looked up at the sun.  With such opaque glasses the blackness was absolute, punctured by a round sphere the size of the sun.  The strange lit circle was broken by a smudge of blackness on the lower right side of the arc, at about 5 o’clock on a clock face.   The solar eclipse had begun before 1:37 pm.

Contrary to the illustrations in today’s Boston Globe, the moon was on the move across the sun from right to left, from west to east, at least according to my earthly perspective in Somerville.  This because the view from my back porch is of the moon moving slower than the sun. It cycles around closer to every 25 hours instead of 24.   The sun is eclipsing the moon’s orbit, passing behind it while the moon in the foreground sets to the west more slowly.

By 2:06 pm the smudge had become an orb covering more than a quarter of the sun, perhaps a third. Finches chirped their normal mid-day chatter.  A white butterfly flew about the yard.  In the neighbor’s large six sparrows sat a willow branch. Their combined weight caused the branch to bow down a bit.  Other sparrows sat other willow branches.  Their attention was on a bird feeder my neighbor keeps filled during the summer.  I could not see the feeder, just sparrow launching off willow wands in one direction out of sight and then returning.

Before the neighbor’s willow is a redbud in my yard.  A gentle gust of wind caused some but all redbud leaves to rustle and the willow to wave. By 2:15 the dogwood and maple had joined in with leaves moving for a moment and going still.  The sun appeared as the wide grin of a Cheshire cat rolled onto its left side.

The wind picked up. Arbor vitae and red cedar juniper branches moved with the leaves of deciduous trees.  A couple of sparrows perched momentarily on our empty bird feeder.  Then moved on.

The sun came out again, blazing through a vale of white.  By 2:30 it looked to me eclipsed with the east horn matching the west horn of light.  From my Somerville porch the eclipse is twisted to the west, not perpendicular with horizon to the southwest. Instead the horns of light, the corners of the open-mouth smile, are pointing to the West.  Wisps of passing cloud give the sun, viewed through my very dark glasses, the look of smoking.  As the world turns, the horns of the occluded sun appear to rotate downwards.

The moon stands before the sun, blocking about a third of light for what seems to me like a wonderfully long time.  Yet it has only been 15 minutes.

I took a piece of paper, about 4 by 4 inches, and with a sewing needle poked a hole in the middle of it.  Sunlight streamed through the window onto the kitchen table.  I held the paper in the sunlight, tipping it to be more perpendicular to the sun.  On table top a tiny bright spot appeared in the middle of the shadow square.  I got out the magnifying lens, the one we keep for reading warning labels not meant to be read. Held the lens above the spot of light on the kitchen table, while in the other hand held the shadow puppet. Through the lens I thought I saw tiny crescent eclipsed sun.  Concerned that perhaps I had made a crescent hole, I rotated the paper to turn the image. The image did not turn because it actually was a projection of the eclipsed sun through a pin hole.

The leaves and branches continued to rustle.  Raucous sparrows continued to seesaw on willow branches while cleaning my neighbor’s bird feeder.  A siren wailed in the distance.  Here a passing cloud, or passing shadow of a sharp-shinned hawk, would have disturbed nature more than did the moon eclipsing the sun.

Another fifteen minutes passed and the moon counter-clocked across the face of the sun.  The horns of the crescent sun tilted from West towards South.  Clouds thickened and the sun faded from view. I took a look without the special glass and could not see because the sun was too bright, despite the cloak of clouds. My passing glance left momentary spots drifting before my eyes.  I retreated to the kitchen table with pin-holed paper and magnifying lens to wait for sufficient clarity of light.

At 3:20 pm, an hour after a cloud hid the sun, the sun and moon continue to mostly hide while I sought glimpses of dark orb moving left across bright orb.  The wind gusted stronger confirming that clouds moving in and fronts on the move were a great influence than was the moon passing before the sun.

The sparrows quieted down either because they had sufficient seed or because they’ve moved on to better pickings.  Sunlight does not fall brightly again on the kitchen table.

3:45 pm, through my special eye protection glasses the clouds were black, they moved like waves of varying thicknesses over the sun, washing from right to the left side, where the black rim of the moon lingered before the sun.  The moon that began at about 5, if the sun’s face were a clock, had swung around to 9.  From there the moon continued to exit off to the left growing smaller in length and width.

By 4 pm, the inverted bite of apple had slipped away. Sun was round, complete once more.  Moon and sun had gone their separate ways across the sky.

NOTE: The photograph was taken on August 22, 2017 by a student of Tom Hallock, Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern Florida, St. Petersburg.  Tom and I were colleagues in John Elder’s nonfiction writing workshop at Orion’s Breadloaf Conference.  John distributed what Annie Dillard called her finest essay, Dillard experiencing an eclipse.  Tom distributed the article to his students and here it is in the photograph.  I was most thrilled and envious to see the student had found a tree with pinhole-camera leaves projecting many eclipses onto Dillard’s piece.  During the eclipse I searched the dozen or so small trees around my house for this solar effect without success. With students there are always wonderful discoveries.

Ocean River Institute display to come down and depart Harvard Square.

Last week, while I was sailing on the tall ship Europa from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, I was informed by email to remove the Ocean River Institute’s exhibit in the display window by the Mt Auburn Street Post Office in Cambridge. When I was hauling on halyards, I was directed to clear away the ducks and ocean images from the streets of Cambridge. I was up to date on monthly payments. However, after many years of occupancy, the last display window contract of eighteen months had expired during the winter. And now someone else is interested in the space and likely had agree to pay more rent per month.


The Ocean River Institute display window is a Harvard Square amenity. Inside the post office I over hear Dads saying: “after we finish with all this, then we’ll go see the ducks.” Once I found a woman looking intently at the one of the fish sketches by Dina Chapeau. She was France and wanted to know what we called monkfish so she could order it off a menu. The irony is we were all introduced to monkfish by Julia Child, who discovered it in France. I like the monkfish served at Parsnip on Winthrop.

Watercolors by Harper Dangler illustrate three ecotones, the Atlantic Ocean, Estuary and Coldstream River. At the bottom of the ocean may be seen four habitats, muddy, sandy, gravel and boulder reef. Each ocean floor has its own inhabitants who are identified by Dina’s legend on the right.

For me the most poignant image is up high on the wall. A vibrant and clean Boston Harbor with cat boat, tug boat, tall ship and people lolling about on the harbor walk. Across the bottom of the harbor image is written: Together, we are protecting environments not for self but for all.

When we’ve got a harbor of pride with marvelous animals dwelling within, it should be displayed. Must the amenity on Mt Auburn Street by the Post Office be gone because of a lapsed contract?

A Sperm Whale National Park Area or A Stove Seamount

Three times I’ve traveled across the codfish gray seas of Georges Banks, about 150 miles southeast of Nantucket, out onto the Mediterranean blue of Oceanographer’s Canyon. Every time we saw sperm whales surface, blow a spout that arched diagonally to the whale’s left, and dive.  One time we found a dead whale floating on the water likely killed by a ship strike.  This wondrous ocean realm is in great need of better management.

In 2016 President Obama did just that. He created the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.  He left for posterity a legacy that portends to be as great as President Theodore Roosevelt creating the Grand Canyons National Monument in 1908.  While eagles soar over the infamous Arizona canyons, sperm whales dive the cold water coral canyons of the Atlantic Ocean.

The trouble is the current president has requested reports be made on the “lost opportunity costs” of having a national park area instead of letting industry cash in on more lucrative enterprises such as oil and gas drilling. Most precious of all is a high-tech metal found in rare earth minerals, tellurium.  Due partly to its high atomic number, this element is rarer than gold or platinum, and it’s in more demand.

Tellurium when combined with bismuth becomes an alloy that is used by Intel for the fastest phase change memory chips.  When tellurium is combined with cadmium the result is the alloy with the greatest efficiencies for solar cell electric power generation.

In the Atlantic Ocean off the continent, four seamounts rise up from the ocean abyssal floor, Bear Seamount (3,615 ft), Physalia Seamount (6,062 ft), Retriever Seamount (5,967 ft.), and Mytilus Seamount (7,444 ft).  Each has its own unique assemblages of animals.  The craggy peaks are gnarly with black basalt.  This volcanic rock is very porous and soaks up rare earth minerals from seawater.  Over the millennia a crust is formed rich in tellurium.

Tellurium is mined from ancient seamounts in the mountains of China.  China will not permit the export of tellurium forcing companies to manufacture solar cells and computer chips in China.  The solar cell industry was looking to New England’s seamounts when Obama wisely went around Congress to create the monument.  He forced the industries to look instead to recovering tellurium from discarded solar panels and computer boards, as a company in Belgium does, or to mine tellurium from Mountain Pass in California.

While industries bellied-up to China’s tellurium mines, America’s only rare-earths mineral mine at Mountain Pass California filed for bankruptcy.  No surprise, the winning bidder for America’s rare earth minerals mine has ties to the Chinese government.

Unfortunately for the spectacular ocean places off of New England’s shores, instead of standing up to China like he promised in his campaign, President Trump would rather open up our four unique seamount ocean ecosystems to mining.

The window of opportunity to comment on why the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is of greater value to our nation than is mineral mining or oil drilling will close on Wednesday July 26. Speak out for the protection of these sperm whale canyons and seamounts.  We can find better ways to keep the glow on our screens and panels.

Deep Sea Canyon Rangers, Guardians of Ocean Realms, Attack of the Solar Cell Mining Industry

Far out in the Atlantic Ocean, east of New York and Boston, beyond the continental shelf, beyond the deep sea canyons known as Hudson, Hydrographers, and Oceanographers Canyons, four seamounts arise ten thousand feet off of the abyssal sea floor: Bear, Physalia, Mytilus, and Retriever. Gnarly with much surface areas, seamounts are made of basalt rock with a remarkable porosity of 60%, a multitude of surfaces.

This very hard extrusive igneous rock sponges out of seawater rare earth minerals (cerium, europium, lanthanum, and yttrium) and high tech metals (tellurium, cobalt, bismuth, zirconium, niobium, tungsten, molybdenum, platinum, titanium, and thorium).  Standing deep in seawater for more than 40 million years, Atlantic seamounts have accreted onto fractal seascapes significant amounts of high tech metals.

The mineral mining eye of the solar cell industry has turned to these four Atlantic Ocean seamounts.

As part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument these four seamount are protected.

Yet, the current administration wants to close this ocean refuge, remove the marine monument, and release the wrecking ball of high-tech metal mining. This will destroy the unique assemblages of marine life living deep below the sea’s surface on Bear, Physalia, Mytilus, and Retriever Seamounts.

Please make a donation in defense of these ocean realms.   

High tech metals are refined and combined into alloys. Tellurium combined with bismuth becomes an alloy that is being tested as a next-generation computer chip that is more efficient and immensely faster than existing chips. Tellurium is combined with cadmium into an alloy that is considered the best material for production of multi-terawatt solar-cell electricity using thin-film photovoltaic technology.

Current practices It is more expensive to use tellurium mined from ancient seamounts in China. China refuses to export their rare minerals, requiring the manufacturing of solar chips and next-generation computer chips to remain in China.  Strip mining the seamounts will go unnoticed because the highest summits are still over 1,000 feet below the surface.  It would be more regulated, create more jobs, and totally more expensive to mine tellurium from ancient seamounts in Sierra Mountains of California.  And everyone must have cheap solar panels to save the planet while saving on utility bills and increasing consumption of energy.

Mining seamounts for high tech metals may be good for the solar-cell industry.  An industry receiving government subsidies.  Mining seamounts is not good for fisheries, an industry without subsidies and much regulation by government.  Mining seamounts is not good for the economies of coastal communities.

Become a guardian of ocean realms defending ocean communities, acting for healthy oceans.

Please make a donation in defense of ocean realms and join with the Deep Sea Canyon Rangers.

Why for the love of river herring I went to frigid Plymouth for a sea herring meeting

On Tuesday, February 7,  when wind driven snow slashed across the bay, in Plymouth the fate of a small silver fish and a fishery was being decided at a meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Herring Committee.

The room was packed.  The council was deep into Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan. More than the aisle between the rows of chairs separated the audience. Overflowing out into the hallway were herring fishermen.  On the other side, were charter boat operators, striped bass and bluefish fishermen, anglers, watershed groups, and conservationists.

I was of the latter group and saw the problem as recognized by Amendment 1: “significant damage to a keystone species like herring could result in long-term and possibly irreversible damage to many other components of the…ecosystem.” The keystone species of great importance to me are the river herring (bluebacks and alewives). So why had I traveled far for a sea herring (different species) meeting on the icy shores of Plymouth harbor?

Coastal communities have improved river conditions for alewives, blueback herring, and shad since 1976 when fishery regulations were first passed. Watershed associations worked with state and federal agencies. Dams were removed; fish ladders, pools and ripple areas built, and shade trees planted. $8 billion has been spent by government improving river conditions for herring. Often, private investments have matched government spending.  Anglers and others have invested in the game fish that forage on herring.

Yet, despite all the efforts to restore river herring, there is mounting evidence that blueback herring populations may have dwindled to threatened status.

And then the river herring go to sea. Alewives and blueback herring are thought to spend up to seven years at sea schooling with other bait fishing including sea herring in the Atlantic Ocean. Much research has been done on the make-up of herring schools in the Gulf of Maine. Researchers have identified seasonal hotspots for where river herring co-mingle with Atlantic herring and these places are now in the regulations although they offer no protections. There are a number of small businesses that rely on adequate herring in the water, rather than harvested out of the water.  These user groups include the whale watch industry that rely on seeing whales and seabirds feed on forage fish.  My concern is for alewives, blueback herring and shads in collision with the North Atlantic herring fishery.  On the backs of Atlantic herring rides the fourth largest fishery, by weight, in the world.1

The biggest fishing ships in New England waters are the “mid-water trawling” vessels that reach 160 feet in length. They set massive nets six stories high. One set of the trawl can haul in 800,000 pounds of fish. The problem is a matter of scale where one misplaced trawl could destroy the entire population of one river’s herring. All the millions spent on that river’s herring could be for naught when a herring population does not return because they have been pulled from the ocean, a most final trawl.

Unfortunately, the fishery amendment only offers alternatives that prohibit mid-water trawlers from fishing from 6 to 50 nautical miles from shore.  Trawlers with different gear types, such as large bottom trawlers, also catch a ton of river herring that they dump at sea.  This was a concern last year when small mesh bottom trawlers nearly 150 feet in length hoovered inside of Narraganset Bay. Significant biological and ecological impacts can be caused by intense fishing.  Associated marine life may be harmed, particularly predator fish and marine mammals that must leave the area to find food and other animals such as river herring that are caught as bycatch.

I called on the fishery council to take the precautionary approach in amending the herring plan, to support year-round closures to mid-water trawlers extending 50 miles from shore. This is the only alternative under consideration that protects all identified river herring hotspots.  Don’t overfish our silver darlings!

I invite  you to take a moment to write a comment as to why sending sea herring fishing boats at least 50 miles offshore when using mid-water trawling gear.  Sea herring may be fished inshore using different gear.  The Council needs testimonies of how individuals other than sea-herring fishermen are linked to this particular fishery.  The more specific you can be, the more weight your voice will carry.   Click here to my letter to the Herring Committee, or paste in this link:  http://bit.ly/RiverHerringLet

Stop Florida from Closing the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

The South Florida Water Management District has begun a process to revoke the agreement between the State of Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to eliminate The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

No surprise, the Refuge was created to stop the sugar industry dumping waste. The U.S. Department of Justice has enforced water quality laws and ordered sugar industries to clean up their spoils.

Join with us in calling on Governor Scott to stop the Florida agency from revoking the license agreement. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has met all aspects of the agreement, except for the eradication of Lygodium, an invasive climbing fern.

osprey-w-fishLoxahatchee comes from the Seminole meaning “River of Turtles.”  The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a mosaic of wet prairies, sawgrass ridges, sloughs, tree islands, cattail communities, and a 400-acre cypress swamp. The refuge provides essential wildlife habitats for King Rail, Limpkin, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White and Glossy Ibis, Sandhill Crane, threatened Wood Storks, and endangered Everglade Snail Kites – home for 250 species of birds and two turtles, Peninsula Cooter and Florida Softshell.

See what others are saying both in the neighborhood and far, far away about how vital the Loxahatchee is. Add your voice and perspective to the chorus by commenting below.  Please include your name, town and state because the Loxahatchee NWR belongs to all of us.


“Management in partnership of the Loxahatchee NWR is working and the public is walking the raised trail in the largest remaining remnant of a cypress strand separating the pine flatwoods and Everglade marshes.”    Rob Moir, Ocean River Institute, Executive Director

As a Floridian and one who’s mom and brother live on the Loxahatchee with their home backing to a natural Everglades fed canal. I Desperately Ask you to continue the agreement and management of the Refuge.  All of the species that live and thrive there have been needed and loved by all for so long!!  “Gumbo Limbo” demonstrates all the good and necessary accomplishments they have made for the turtles. They and my family frequent that establishment often. PLEASE STOP SFWMD from from revoking the agreement. YOU can make this VITAL Difference, PLEASE HELP~~~WE NEED YOU~~~ Laurie Hein, Homosassa FL

“[Loxahatchee] turtles are the canaries in the coal mine.  We need to preserve the environment for creatures other than ourselves, or we will end up destroying it for ourselves as well.”    L.M. Holmes, Honolulu HI

“This wildlife refuge is an important means of providing sanctuary for hundreds of birds, plants and other animals living in this protected swamp area, especially turtles! Turtles are my favorite animals, so keeping this area of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge open is very important to me. Please do your part to help save the turtles. Thank you in advance! :)”    Kistin West, Kewanee IL

“Wildlife is diappearing at an alarming rate everywhere.  Do not retreat from your commitment to manage the refuge to preserve the natural habitat for a rich array of wildlife.”    Mrion Tidwell, Merrillville IN

“There aren’t many places you can still enjoy the beauty of an undisturbed place like Loxahatchee. I love turtles and birds and want my granddaughter to be able to go there with me and enjoy the beauty. Please continue to co-manage this beautiful place with USFW for our children and their children. Thank you.”    Lara Beard, Elizabethtown KY

“It was working!”    Maureen Wheeler, Silver Spring MD

“Loxahatchee was part of the January term course . . . I often found wildlife there that students saw nowhere else during the trips.  It was an important educational resource.”    Vinnedge Lawrence, West Baldwin ME

“Hopefully, Florida will make good decisions about its environment and wildlife; and, hopefully, we will continue to visit Florida often to enjoy your natural resources and bring our vacation dollars to you.”    Annie McCombs, Kalamazoo MI

“I know and cherish the Loxahatchee. Please do not let it be degraded.”    Skip Lazell, Jackson MS

“Why would you give this up? Once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back and we need wild areas, desperately! We need to all step up to the plate to try to save our Earth. NASA isn’t going to magically figure out how to colonize somewhere else, you know.”  Susan Harrie, Grand Forks ND

“It includes a critical cypress stand habitat for hundreds of species including two species of rare turtles.”    Terry Forrest, Bristol TN

“It is very important to protect wildlife.  A wildlife refuge is an excellent way to help preserve and protect wildlife. Please support the continuation of the collaborative management of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Thank you.”  Salme Armijo, Blue Diamond NE

“I have been a resident of Florida and still have many family members who live in the state.   Florida has been ravaged by weather, the rising ocean level, and diseases.  CAN WE AT LEAST NOT DELIBERATELY destroy the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge?”  Jeanne Bradbury, Flemington NJ

“Protect Florida wildlife by working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the wildlife within.  The Refuge is a Florida treasure which you, as governor, should value and protect. Thank you.”  Susan Selbin, Albuquerque NM

“River of the Turtles, River of Promises, of Agreements and Collaborative Management.  Your governorship too was a promise to the people and the people do not exist separate from the land, the water, from Nature.  Neither people nor Nature are objects or abstraction.  Thank you for reflecting on your responsibility and promises and Please honor them.”  Edythe Ann Quinn, Unadilla NY

“Florida has a most unusual climate and ecosystem.  When endangered as it is from invasive flora and fauna extra efforts to contain and eradicate these threats must be taken, or you will lose it all.”  Lam Weisman, Oklahoma City OK

“Florida should not only preserve its unique treasures like this for ethical and moral grounds, it is also a money-maker and the principal reason that many of us visit the state.  We have nice sandy beaches here in New England, too, but we do not have the natural features of Loxahatchee Refuge, the Everglades, and the Keys.”  John Burridge, East Providence RI

“Please help save our National Wildlife areas of Florida. Please help control invasive plants in Loxahatchee , the River of Turtles. Please protect our last areas of wildlife and ecosystems.”  Linda Heagy, Arlington TX

“This is the only way that the natural treasure, the Great Florida Birding Trail of the Loxahatchee NWR, can be preserved!”   James Hadden, Grafton VA

“I visit FL almost once a year and the Loxahatchee Nat’l Wildlife Refuge has been a stop for me several times.  I am asking you to protect this place and all the animals that it contains. It is a jewel that Florida has. Please be strong in its protections and do not waver.”   Diane Clark, Woolwine VA

“We need these precious creatures to continue.”  Jennifer Planeta, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

“The loss of the Loxahatchee National Refuge means the death of the turtles dwelling there, and spells the death of hope for the Turtle River wildlife. Please let our common hope live on.”  Mai Hermann, Mercer Island WA

“We need to save what little land we have left, especially critical habitats such as the Loxahatchee.”  Angela Mayle, Fairview WV

“Please figure out other ways to manage the city’s waste water. Preserve the Loxahatchee for recreation and wildlife!”  Thomas Turiano, Wilson WY



Please make a $5 donation to help us spread the word, raise more voices and for the Governor and media to hear what we are saying before it is too late.  Click here http://bit.ly/TurtleRiverChampions 

Give for turtles not forgotten.