2017 was a year that produced some awesome images and videos that were both inspirational and heartbreaking. Millions of viewers shared these viral ocean videos. Here is our selection of ten videos, if you know of others pass them on to us.
In Richard Attenborough’s new TV series Blue Planet II, he captures a scene of heart-wrenching, universal, emotional drama. A Pilot Whale clings to her dead calf, not wanting to let go.
“It is dead. She is reluctant to let it go and has been carrying it around for many days. …and plastic could be part of the problem” narrates Sir Richard. “Pilot Whales have big brains and they can certainly experience emotions…the loss of the infant has effected the entire family. “
This is What Climate Change Looks Like!
National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklin was filming on Somerset Island near Canada’s Baffin Island when he encountered a severely, emaciated polar bear. No longer strong enough to hunt, the starving animal was rummaging an Inuit garbage bin.
“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” the photographer recalled. When Nicklin’s images went viral with the claim that the polar bear’s condition was a result of climate change, critics jumped, saying that the bear was diseased, not starving.
Nicklin countered, “we don’t know if this bear died of climate change but this is what a starving polar bear looks like” and this is the future for polar bears in a warming environment.
Sparkling Sea Off Tasmania
A very different reaction was elicited by a video that captured a transcendent moment in the sea off George Town, Tasmania. Beach goers were delighted to experience the natural phenomenon of Noctiluca scintillans, commonly called Sea Sparkle. The bio-luminescent algae flashes when disturbed, leading scientists to believe that it is a defensive mechanism to scare off predators.
The Sea Unicorn’s Tusk!
Known to ancient mariners as the sea unicorn, Narwhals have long been admired, and hunted for their spectacular, spiraling tusk. For just as long, the function of the tusk has been debated. Some thought it might be used to poke holes in the sea ice; or play a role in courtship or social rank. Scientist have known that the tusk, which in fact is an elongated tooth, contains millions of nerve endings, making it an echolocator and allowing the Narwhal to navigate in dark waters at night or under the ice.
Now new video has shown another possible use for the Narwhal’s famous tusk. Captured by drones over Trembley Sound, Nunavat in Canadian waters, the video shows a narwhal using his tusk to strike an arctic cod, stunning it and making it easier to capture. See Narwhal News for more.
Awash in a Sea of Plastic!
For a decade we have been aware of the enormous mass of debris floating in the Pacific Ocean, called the North Pacific Gyre or more commonly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Pacific Gyre is the largest of five similar gyres found in all of the world’s oceans. Now add another, this one, closer to home, in the Caribbean, off the coast of Honduras. Dubbed “the floating island of Roatan” it was discovered this year by divers searching for an underwater island, reputedly to be “unspoiled by humans”. Ironically, they found a floating, island of plastic trash instead.
Kayaking the World’s Most Polluted River!
In August, as part of our continuing coverage of the world’s plastic pollution problem, we reported on two brothers that were kayaking down the Citarum River in Indonesia. Considered to be the world’s most polluted river the Citarum is choked with industrial and human waste, much of it plastic debris. The Bencheghib brothers, Gary and Sam videotaped their trip and the videos went viral, causing an international uproar and a government promising to take action to curb pollution, see our post.
Really Rare Ruby Sea Dragon!
Researchers from the Western Australian Museum and Scripps Oceanography have made the first-ever sighting in nature, of a newly discovered third species of seadragon. For nearly thirty minutes two Ruby Sea Dragons were captured on video, enabling the scientists to discover new details about their anatomy, habitat, and behavior.
Sewage Surfer Goes Viral!
Another image that tells the story of pollution in Indonesian waters was captured by Justin Hofman, causing him to be nominated for International Wildlife Photographer of the Year. “Sewage Surfer” captured a tiny seahorse with its tail wrapped around a cotton bud, twice its size. The image was both beautiful and appalling.
“Why it resonates with people so much, is because it’s a known object… we know how big they are, we have them in our houses… it has universal appeal, it does not need a caption. What we do in one country can have an impact in another…We can all effect what happens in the oceans” Hofman said.
North Atlantic Right Whales dying in record numbers
This image of a dead North Atlantic Right Whale went viral in 2017, a year that has been disastrous for the endangered species. The right whales had appeared to be recovering from their endangered status, before being hit with a string of 17 deaths this year. Injuries from strikes by passing ships, entrapment in fishing nets and disease have all contributed to the whale’s plight. Researchers say that there are just 100 breeding females, a number that may not ensure survival of the species. See: 2017: A Bad Year for Whales
One of the World’s Largest Icebergs!
In June an enormous iceberg 5,000 sq km in size, an area equal to the state of Delaware, calved off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. The iceberg represented about 10% of the entire Larsen ice shelf and is the third and largest piece to break away since 1995 and may reflect the impact of warmer ocean temperatures.
Scientists using ground-penetrating radar are attempting to determine if this event destabilized the remaining intact Larsen ice shelf. As the new iceberg, which is 1000 feet thick, breaks apart it can become a massive hazard for shipping. However, researchers are also on the ice for the unique opportunity to study newly revealed ecosystems that have laid hidden under the ice for up to 120,000 years.
Remembering Rob Stewart
Finally, a very sad story that went viral in February of 2018 was the death of Rob Stewart while filming off Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
Rob was the producer of two award winning films; Sharkwater and Revolution and was working on the sequel to Sharkwater when he died. We all miss this friend and passionate conservationist.
“We have the greatest opportunity in history to do something right, to right the wrongs, to be a hero, to save ecosystems, to create a world that’s beautiful.” ~ Rob Stewart
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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