Elsewhere: morning newsfeed and echoes of my other life

by Sarah Lake Upton in

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning, first cup of coffee in hand. Came across the following stories (among many others, but these stood out):

A new species of whale has been discovered - which is just nuts. Anytime it feels like we’ve discovered it all and filmed it for iMax, just remember, we are still discovering new species of giant mammals. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the only new species of whales that have been recently discovered. There was a new beaked whale in 2016, and there may be another new species in Antartica. Also in Antartica, a new (to science) type of killer whale.

On a far less good note, a cruise ship is experiencing my worst nightmare off the coast of Norway. The BBC posted cellphone video footage taken by passengers. The roll they take looks pretty scary because nothing is stowed for sea, but that much roll is also pretty normal underway in a storm. The actual problem is that the engines aren’t working and the ship was drifting towards rocks, but while the engineers are working madly to fix that, the hotel crew is no doubt working just as madly to keep unprepared passengers from getting hurt. The cruise ship industry has done such a good job building enormous floating hotels and marketing family vacations that people seem to have forgotten that they are going to sea. Ships seem so stable in flat water that it is impossible to imagine what they will be like if things get rough, and how difficult and exhausting and scary it can be to simply exist on a ship once it starts to roll. Compounding this is the effects of any sea sickness medications that people have taken. My heart goes out to the crew, and especially to the engineers.

And since my mostly yarn blog has been hijacked by whales and cruise ships this week:

A friend of mine (and former co-worker) is currently working on a research cruise aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer to Thwaites Glacier. Also aboard, a writer for Rolling Stone. Articles here.

And I just happened to read a great article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about an accident in Glacier Bay National Park. It’s actually a meditation on life and chaos and luck, but there is a whale and a Coast Guard rescue and it happened in a part of the world that I miss greatly.

And a weird connection to my first paragraph about recently discovered whale species; one of the very few skeletons of a beaked whale that we have, and the only know skeleton of a Baird’s beaked whale on display, can be found sitting out on the carpet of the second floor of the Glacier Bay Ranger station.


The world is a strange and wonderful place.