(originally published a couple of years ago to Bubblews writing site, now gone)
The carcass of a 16 foot long oarfish has been found by a snorkeler in 30 feet of water off the Californian coast. Jasmine Santana dragged the huge fish 25 yards before other staff of the Catalina Island Marine Institute assisted her to bring it to shore.
These mysteries of the deep swim from 20 yards to up to half a mile or more under the surface mainly in temperate and tropical ocean areas and are rarely seen alive or dead. They can grow up to 36 feet in length, making them the world’s longest bony fish, although there have been unconfirmed sightings up to 56 feet.
A live oarfish was first filmed in the deep in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine scientists and oil companies collaborating on a research project came across the giant at a depth of 1500 feet using a remotely operated vehicle. The video shows the fish propelling itself using its dorsal fin in an undulating motion while keeping its body straight.
Absolutely Apes, Balboa Park, California, Children’s Zoo, Giant Panda Discovery Center, Gorilla Tropics, Ituri Forest, Monkey Trails, Panda Research Station, Polar Bear Plunge, Reptile House, San Diego, San Diego Zoo, Sun Bear Forest, Tiger River, Wings of Australasia
(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone; written in 2009)
The San Diego Zoo has been one of the city’s most popular attractions since it opened in 1916. It is set on 100 acres at Balboa Park, just one and a half miles north of downtown San Diego. The zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals of 800 species or subspecies and over 700,000 plants from around the world.
The various exhibits recreate the native environments of the animals. Monkey Trails, opposite the zoo entrance, opened in 2005 and has over 30 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds set in a tropical forest. You can see the animals from the elevated walkway through the canopy. There are endangered monkey species such as Schmidt’s guenons, golden-bellied mangabeys, and mandrills who will stare right back at you. Look carefully for clouded leopard who are solitary and often well hidden. The pygmy hippopotamus might be hard to find too as they too are usually solitary.
Tiger River is another jungle environment, complete with mist, tropical trees, and vines. Look closely and you might see that tigers have five toes on their front paws and four on their back paws. The large front paws are used to bring down their prey. You will also see fresh water crocodiles from Australia, less dangerous than their larger salt water cousins. Fishing cats from Asia can be seen swimming as they hunt for fish and amphibians.
Ituri Forest replicates an equatorial rain forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here you will see different species play together. Watch as a swamp monkey grabs the tail of a spotted-neck otter, or rides on its back. The otters will climb low trees, perhaps mimicking the monkeys who watch on. An otter might bump a monkey, and then roll away when the monkey grabs at its tail. But the otter doesn’t retreat far, seemingly enticing the monkey to try again. Hippopotamus are also in Ituri forest and may come up to the underwater viewing window to check out the humans.
Another good example of how different species can get on well together can be seen at Absolutely Apes. Here orangutans and siamangs live together and get on quite well in a natural environment similar to their original habitats. The exhibit is full of trees, sway poles, and ropes. The viewing area allows visitors to get quite close. One of the orangutans, Karen, had open heart surgery in 1994.
An Asian tropical rain forest is replicated at Sun Bear Forest with its palms, ferns, ficus trees, bamboo, and ginger. Sun bears are the world’s smallest bear. They are very active and agile and like to sit high in the canopy. Two cubs were born on 24 October 2008. When five sun bears first moved into the zoo in 1989, they tore up their habitat within a month and even placed logs as bridges, with one escaping.
The Gorilla Tropics exhibit includes features native to the gorillas’ habitat, including waterfalls, rocks, and open meadow, making them feel very much at home. Young gorillas can be seen rolling down the grassy slope. One or two gorillas often watch the visitors in the viewing area. Baby Frank was born to Azizi on 4 September 2008 and can be seen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11am until closing. Other babies at the zoo include an anteater, and a giraffe born on 16 April 2009 who is six feet tall and weighs 156 pound.
You will get a clear view of four giant pandas from elevated viewing paths at the Panda Research Station. Bai Yun and Shi Shi are on loan from China. Bai Yun gave birth to Hua Mei in 1999, the first giant panda to be born in North America and survive to adulthood. Giant pandas are small at birth, weighing just 3-5 ounces. Adult pandas spend 12 hours a day eating 20-30 pounds of bamboo shoots. You can find out much more about them at the Giant Panda Discovery Center.
The polar bears have a cold environment created for them at Polar Bear Plunge where the water is kept at 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The viewing area allows you to see them underwater as they frolic in their 130,000 gallon pool. They are curious and sometimes come right up to the window. Diving ducks share the pool with the bears. Behind the polar bears are the Siberian reindeer. You will also see the Pallas’ cat, a small fluffy cat from central Asia which has round pupils and a coat that changes with the seasons.
Despite its name, there is something for everyone at the Children’s Zoo. It features over 30 exhibits. Kids can touch the sheep and goats. You will see spider monkeys from Central and South America. They have long and spindly limbs. Their tails are nearly twice as long as their bodies and have a hairless tip and skin grooves, serving as a fifth hand. Naked mole-rats from East Africa are neither mole nor rat. They are quite hairless and have pink and wrinkly skin that doesn’t feel pain. They are almost cold-blooded and are eusocial, with a number of generations living together. Only a few individual mole-rats reproduce.
At Reptile House, there are rattlesnakes, including some from San Diego County, as well as cobras, pythons, and boas. You will see Gila monster lizards, the world’s only venomous lizard. Reptile Mesa has Galapagos tortoises, the world’s largest tortoise, which can weigh over 600 pounds in the wild. Frogs, salamanders, and turtles can be found here too. The matamata turtle has a spiky shell covered with tubercules and flaps of skin, and has a horn-like growth on its snout.
If you want to see various animals and plants from Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea, visit the Wings of Australasia exhibit. You will see many animals unique to Australia, such as kangaroos and koalas. The aviaries have more than 100 birds from Australasia, including hornbills, lories, Micronesian kingfishers, and the raggiana bird of paradise which has deep red plumes and is Papua New Guinea’s national bird.
San Diego Zoo is at 2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park, close to the city center. It is easily accessible by car, bus, or train, and there is plenty of free parking. In early 2016, a one day pass is $50 for adults and $40 for children, and there are all sorts of other packages. The zoo is open from 9am to 5pm in winter, staying open until up to 9pm in the summer months.
59 Mile Scenic Drive, Balboa Park, Cabrillo Memorial, Cabrillo National Monument, California, Embarcadero, Gaslamp Quarter District, Giant Dipper, Harbor Drive, Harbor Island, Horton Plaza, Junipero Serra Museum, Kobey’s Swap Meet, Maritime Museum, Mission Bay Aquatic Park, Mission Beach, North Island Naval Air Station, Ocean Beach, Old Point Loma Light House, Old Town State Historic Park, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, San Diego, San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village, Shelter Island, Soledad Mountain, Spanish Landing, Stingaree District, Sunset Cliffs
(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)
The 59 Mile Scenic Drive in San Diego, California allows you to see as much of the spectacular scenery, history, and culture of the city as possible within the space of a few hours. You will need longer if you stop at many of the attractions along the way. The route is marked with blue and yellow signs with a white sea gull.
The journey starts at Embarcadero, near downtown San Diego. Along Harbor Drive, you will see the Maritime Museum and its three historical ships. The Star of India was built in 1863 and sailed around the world 27 times. The Berkeley ferried people to safety following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Medea served in World War II.
Take the exit to the man-made Harbor Island where you will hotels, restaurants, picnic spots, and walks. There are two golf courses on the island, including one that is part of the North Island Naval Air Station. Back on the mainland, you will pass Spanish Landing before driving onto Shelter Island.
Next, you head to Point Loma with its panoramic views and history. Hides and tallow were exported from here in the nineteenth century when cattle was the staple of San Diego’s economy. The hides were used as currency and were worth $1. You will see the Old Point Loma Light House built in 1855 and positioned 462 feet above sea level. It was found to be too high to guide ships on a foggy day, so another one was built in 1891 and is still used. Whales can be seen from the southern tip of the point in the winter months.
Cabrillo Memorial and Cabrillo National Monument are both in this area. Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo entered San Diego bay on 28 September 1542 and named it San Miguel after Archangel Saint Michael.
The scenic drive then takes you to Sunset Cliffs, a popular surfing spot, and Ocean Beach, noted for its fishing and frequented by a number of bird species. Not far from here is the 4,600 acre Mission Bay Aquatic Park with its 27 miles of beaches. There is a marine life park in the area where you could spend hours viewing dolphins, seals, penguins, otters, sharks, and whales. Nearby, there is another marine life and entertainment park, or you can stop and watch the catamarans and wind surfers.
From there, you drive up to Soledad Mountain with its panoramic views across much of San Diego County. The route then passes the San Diego campus of the University of California and the Salk Institute. Dr Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine. Next are the Birch Aquarium and La Jolla Cove Park and Cave.
You will then visit Pacific Beach, with its ocean front walk, and Mission Beach, with its 74 foot Giant Dipper historic landmark. Soon you will come to Kobey’s Swap Meet, an open air market with a multitude of bargains from Thursday to Sunday.
The route heads inland to the Old Town State Historic Park, a historic Spanish and Mexican area with shops, restaurants, and shops. Catch a free walking tour of the area at 2pm every day. It is well worth stopping at Junipero Serra Museum too. It has artifacts and photos of early San Diego plus great views across Mission Valley to Mission Bay.
Next you will come to Balboa Park, named after sixteenth century Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. At 1,400 acres, it is very large for a park so close to the downtown area of a major city. It includes many sporting facilities and museums. Within the park is the San Diego Zoo founded in 1916. It is home to thousands of animals and plants from around the world. Animals live in natural, shared environments, just as they would in the wild.
Heading back to downtown San Diego, you will pass the city’s financial district before coming to Seaport Village, a charming waterfront shopping center. Children can ride on the restored Broadway Flying Horses Carousel which dates to 1890. Nearby is the Convention Center and Embarcadero Marina Park where you can see the Coronado Bridge built is 1969. Before this, Juanita and Glorietta, known as the “nickel snatchers,” took people to Coronado by ferry.
Just up from here is the old Stingaree District where saloons, opium dens, and gambling halls did thriving business at the time of the California Gold Rush. You then come to the Gaslamp Quarter District. Alonzo Horton bought the land here in 1867 and it became the center of New Town, now the downtown area of San Diego. He made the street blocks short as corner blocks fetched a higher price. Examples of California and Victorian architecture are plentiful in this area.
Before returning to Embarcadero, you pass the Horton Plaza, renowned for its shopping and dining experiences, and as an entertainment area.
You can get more information on the 59 Mile Scenic Drive at the International Visitor Information Center at the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau on the corner of Harbor Drive and West Broadway. Also, a scenic drive map can be downloaded from a number of websites to help you navigate the route. There is a 31-track CD you can buy and play while you drive from place to place along the route. Each track tells you about the particular attraction you are passing or stopping at.
America, Australia, Benjamin Franklin, Britain, California, daylight saving, daylight saving time, electricity, energy, energy savings, Germany, Indiana, Japan, National Bureau of Standards, United Kingdom, United States, US Department of Energy, US Department of Transport, William Willett, World War I, World War II
(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)
One of the major reasons countries have daylight saving time is its potential to save energy. The main savings come from household lighting, which only uses 3-4 per cent of electricity consumed in the United States and Canada. From this low base, the amount of fuel saved by having domestic lights on for an hour less each day in the evening for half the year is small. A proportion of this savings is rubbed out as people use more artificial light in the morning.
The first study of how the better utilization of daylight would save energy was by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. His letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris was published under the title “An economical project for diminishing the cost of light”. He estimated that Parisians used 128 million candle hours a year unnecessarily. This used about 29,000 tons of wax and tallow, which cost 96 million livres tournois (or more than $200 million in today’s money), “an immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles”, Franklin exclaimed. But the savings were exaggerated as he assumed people used candles seven hours a night in summer months and got up at noon.
Over a century later, Englishman William Willett, who fought long and hard for the introduction of daylight saving, came up with a more rigorous analysis of the savings. In his booklet, “The Waste of Daylight”, which he published in 1907, he estimated the total energy savings his idea could be expected to generate for Great Britain and Ireland. He assumed the cost of artificial light was a tenth of a penny per head per hour. Under the scheme, the total amount of extra daylight in the evening was 210 hours a year. Using a population estimate of 43.66 million, gross savings equated to 3,820,250 pounds in a year. He then deducted a third of this “to meet all possible objections, including loss of profit to producers of artificial light”, arriving at net savings of 2,546,834 pounds.
Indeed the main reason daylight saving time was finally introduced, in 1916, was to save fuel for the war effort. Germany was the first country to start daylight saving time, with many other countries soon following, including the United Kingdom. When World War I finished in 1918, most countries stopped using it. They resumed it during World War II, again to save energy, some countries turning their clocks forward two hours in summer and leaving them one hour ahead in winter. Another rush to adopt daylight saving time took place during the energy crises of the mid 1970s to early 1980s. A number of countries have adopted daylight saving time when fuel costs have soared and stop using it when prices ease.
Studies over the years have indicated that daylight saving time doesn’t save a great amount of fuel. Like many countries, the United States had daylight saving time during World War II. However, in 1941, President Roosevelt could only claim that it saved about 700 million kilowatt hours of fuel for defense purposes. This equated to 0.5 per cent of power production or enough to run the 2.5 million refrigerators Americans bought in the first half of 1941.
A study by the US Department of Transport in 1975 estimated that daylight saving time lowers electricity use by 1 per cent in March and April. But the National Bureau of Standards reviewed the study and found negligible savings. More recent studies in the United States have shown similar findings. In 2007, an early start to daylight saving had little effect on California’s power usage. A three year study of electricity consumption in Indiana showed that usage was 1 per cent higher with daylight saving time, resulting in an extra $9 million added to household power costs. A US Department of Energy study found that the daylight saving time extension in 2007 only saved 0.5 per cent of fuel consumption.
Studies in other countries have given disappointing results too. In Australia in 2000, when daylight saving time started in late winter for the Sydney Olympic Games, electricity use increased in the mornings while overall consumption was unchanged. Western Australia is trialing daylight saving time for three years from 2006-07 to 2008-09, but found that electricity consumption rose 0.6 per cent in the first summer. In Japan, a study of residential energy use in Osaka estimated there would be virtually no difference in electricity consumption if daylight saving time was introduced. The slight saving in lighting was offset by a small increase in electricity for cooling as people got home earlier in the afternoon. Ironically, a study in the United Kingdom in 2007 found a 2 per cent saving in electricity usage if daylight saving time was used in winter!
Thus the ability of daylight saving time to save energy appears to be limited. Yet over the decades, apparent fuel savings have been the main reason most countries have adopted it. Most studies have found that a reduction in lighting in the evening is offset by greater usage in the morning and an increase in cooling.