Maybe colored lobsters aren’t so rare after all

When a 100-pound shipment of lobsters arrived at Bill Sarro’s seafood shop and restaurant last month, it contained a surprise — six orange crustaceans that have been said to be a 1-in-10-million oddity.

“My butcher was unloading them and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, boss, they sent us cooked dead lobsters,’” said Sarro, owner of Fresh Catch Seafood in Mansfield, Mass. “He then picked one up and it crawled up his arm.”

A bright orange, left, a bright blue, right, and a calico lobster at were available at New Meadows Lobster in Portland, Maine, recently.

Reports of odd-colored lobsters used to be rare in the lobster fishing grounds of New England and Atlantic Canada. Normal lobsters are a mottled greenish-brown.

But in recent years, accounts of bright blue, orange, yellow, calico, white and even split lobsters — one color on one side, another on the other — have jumped. It’s now common to hear several stories a month of a lobsterman bringing one of the quirky crustaceans to shore.

It’s anybody’s guess why more oddities are popping up in lobster traps, said Michael Tlusty, research director at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

It could be simply because advances in technology — cellphone cameras and social media — make it easier to spread the word about bizarre lobster sightings.

More lobsters: It’s also likely more weird lobsters are being caught because the overall harvest has soared. In Maine, the catch has grown fourfold in the past 20 years, to nearly 105 million pounds last year. If the yield has quadrupled, it would make sense to have four times as many unconventional lobsters being caught as well.

Although lobster is the No. 1 commercial fishery in the Northeast, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the bottom-dwelling creatures, he said.

“Are we seeing more because the Twitter sphere is active and people get excited about colorful lobsters?” Tlusty said. “Is it because we’re actually seeing an upswing in them? Is it just that we’re catching more lobsters so we have the opportunity to see more?

Why colors? Lobsters come in a variety of colors because of genetic variations.

It’s been written that the odds of catching a blue lobster are 1-in-2 million, while orange comes in at 1-in-10 million. Yellow and orange-and-black calico lobsters have been pegged at 1-in-30 million, split-colored varieties at 1-in-50 million, and white — the rarest of all — at 1-in-100 million.

But those are merely guesses, and nobody knows for sure.

Aside from their color, the lobsters are apparently normal in all other ways, said Bob Bayer, of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute.. They all turn red when they’re cooked, except for the white ones since they don’t have any pigment, and diners wouldn’t notice a difference.

“There’s no difference in taste,” he said.

Scientists say it’s possible the lobster population as a whole has a greater percentage of misfits than it did in years past.

Sticking out: The off-colored lobsters are more susceptible to predators because they stick out more on the ocean bottom, rather than blending in like normal ones, said Diane Cowan, executive director of The Lobster Conservancy in Friendship, Maine.

“But with the predator population down, notably cod, there might be greater survival rates among these color morphs that are visually easier to pick out,” she said.

Lobstermen have brought Cowan countless colorful lobsters over the years. The prettiest one, she said, was pink and purple.

Reported by CLARKE CANFIELD of the Associated Press from PORTLAND, Maine.

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Dive into some seafood with Kid Scoop

Could you out swim a tuna? Probably not. In fact, most human boats couldn't go faster than a tuna!


Today’s Kid Scoop takes a look at the seafood we eat. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that we’ve managed to catch anything at all in the ocean since it it’s so big.
If you’ve ever been to the beach or out on a ocean-going vessel, it’s actually quite rare to see a fish just by looking at the top of the water.
Sure, at the beach you can find shells. On a boat you might see an occasional fish leap out of the water, but it’s quite amazing to see some of the animals that live down there.
The tuna — the seafood that comes packed in those little cans — isn’t something the size of a goldfish. No, they’re huge animals, often bigger than you are and some can grow up to 15 feet long. They are so strong that they can swim at 70 mph.
How do we eat tuna? According to Wikipedia, 52 percent of all the canned tuna purchased in the United States goes to making sandwiches!

Here’s a video on one traditional tuna “hunt” in Italy. http://youtu.be/7au8lgWYguQ

One of our favorite seafood items are shrimp. We’ll  eat them batter fried or raw, in sandwiches or in a soup. Some countries call the same animal a “prawn.” Here in the U.S., most shrimp are fished with nets out of the Gulf of Mexico, and the oil rig explosion and spill two years ago in the gulf created a huge problem for the shrimp-fishing industry.

Shrimp are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal materials. They are even eat “detritus,” which is a fancy term for eating things that have been dead for a long time. Kind of gross, but that’s they way the world works.

In this video, a traveler learns about how “prawn” are raised on an aquaculture farm. http://youtu.be/DFIuBabdeiw

 

What is Kid Scoop? It’s a special page that appears every Monday in The York Dispatch and other local newspapers. Aside from its main feature and the Writing Corner, it includes games, puzzles and jokes.

Get your copy of Kid Scoop in today’s edition of The York Dispatch, and be sure to assemble your own Write On! entry and submit it to NIE@ync.com. We’ll run every entry here!

Of course, you can submit those entries, and anything else you want, for publication here on the Junior Dispatch. Send your JD items to juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com. Learn about what you can submit here.

Image via Flickr.com from MoToMo

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What sank the Titanic? New theories emerge

Scully, 6, last name not given, holds a model of the Titanic, as he poses for pictures with Lload Walsh, as they wait to greet the disembarking passengers of the MS Balmoral Titanic memorial cruise ship at its first stop in Cobh, Ireland, Monday, April 9, 2012. The cruise is one of the many events planned around the 100th anniversary since the boat sank. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

After an entire century that included government investigations and countless books and movies, we’re still debating what really caused the Titanic to hit an iceberg and sink on that crystal-clear chilly night.

Maybe there’s more to blame than human folly and belief in an “unsinkable” ship. Maybe we can fault freak atmospheric conditions that caused a mirage or an even rarer astronomical event that sent icebergs into shipping lanes. Those are two of the newer theories being proposed by a Titanic author and a team of astronomers.

Such theories are important “but at its most basic what happened is they failed to heed warnings and they hit the iceberg because they were going too fast,” said James Delgado at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The White Star company, which built the Titanic, advertised the ship in this poster.

With this week’s 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, the interest in all things Titanic is steaming faster than the doomed cruise ship on its maiden voyage.

Mirage? One of the novel new theories says Titanic could have been the victim of a mirage that is similar to what people see in the desert. It’s the brainchild of Tim Maltin, a historian who has written three books about Titanic. The latest, an titled “A Very Deceiving Night” emphasizes how the atmosphere may have tricked the Titanic crew on a cloudless night.

“This was not avoidable human error,” Maltin said in a telephone interview from London. “It’s just about air density difference.”

Reports from the time said it was a beautiful clear night when the Titanic sank. But something else strange was happening, Maltin said. For a couple of days there had been something weird going on in the air over the North Atlantic, and it was reported by all sorts of ships, including the crew on Titanic, Maltin said.

What was so strange? The unusually cold sea air caused light to bend abnormally downward, Maltin said. The Titanic’s first officer, William McMaster Murdoch, saw what he described as a “haze on the horizon, and that iceberg came right out of the haze,” Maltin said, quoting from the surviving second officer’s testimony.

Other ships, including those rescuing survivors, reported similar strange visuals and had trouble navigating around the icebergs, he said.

The Titanic departs Southampton, England, on its maiden Atlantic voyage on April 10, 1912. The boat sank a few days later after it hit an iceberg..

British meteorologists later monitored the site for those freaky thermal inversions and said 60 percent of the time they checked, the inversions were present, Maltin said.

The same inversions could have made the Titanic’s rescue rockets appear lower in the sky, giving a rescue ship the impression that the Titanic was smaller and farther away, Maltin said.

Blame the moon? Physicists Donald Olson and Russell Doescher at Texas State University have another theory that fits nicely with Maltin’s. Olson — who often comes up with astronomical quirks linked to historical events — said that a few months earlier, the moon, sun and Earth lined up in a way that added extra pull on Earth’s tides. The Earth was closer to the moon than it had been in 1,400 years.

They based their work on historical and astronomical records and research in 1978 by a federal expert in tides.

The unusual tides caused glaciers to break and drop icebergs into the ocean on the coast of Greenland. Those southbound icebergs got stuck near Labrador and Newfoundland but then slowly moved south again, floating into the shipping currents just in time to greet the Titanic, the astronomers theorized. Maltin said the icebergs also added a snaking river of super-cold water that magnified the mirage effect.

Tides and mirages may have happened, but blaming them for Titanic’s sinking “misses the boat,” said Lee Clarke, a Rutgers University disaster expert.

“The basic facts of Titanic are not in dispute: The boat was going too fast in dangerous waters,” Clarke said. If Titanic had stopped for the night because of ice like the British steamship Californian did, “tides and mirages wouldn’t have mattered.”

Warnings issued: On April 14, the day it hit the iceberg, the Titanic received seven heavy ice warnings, including one from the Californian less than an hour before the fateful collision. The message said: “We are stopped and surrounded by ice.” Titanic sent back a message that said “Shut up. We are busy.”

Clarke said people keep looking for additional causes “because if it’s nature or God, then we’re off the hook, morally and practically.”

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Reported by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press from WASHINGTON, D.C. He can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears

The New York Times carried news of the sinking of the Titanic on April 16, 1912.

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Buy a piece of the Titantic

Items as small as a hairpin and as big as a chunk of the Titanic’s hull are among 5,000 artifacts from the world’s most famous shipwreck that are to be auctioned in April, close to the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

This 1998 image provided by RMS Titanic, Inc., shows a 17-ton portion of the hull of the RMS Titanic as it is lifted to the surface during an expedition to the site of the tradegy. The piece along with 5,000 other artifacts will be auctioned as a single collection on April 11, 2012 100 years after the sinking of the ship. (AP Photo/RMS Titanic, Inc.)

Nearly a century after the April 15, 1912, sinking of the ocean liner that hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic, a New York City auction is being readied by Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers.

On April 11, all of the salvaged items are to be sold as one lot in what Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger describes as the most significant auction ever handled by that house.

“Who on this planet doesn’t know the story of the Titanic and isn’t fascinated by it?” he asked. “Could Hollywood have scripted a more tragic or goose-bump-raising story than what actually happened on that ship?”

“It is as poignant to my 12-year-old son as it is to me and generations before me. There’s no end to the fascination about it.”

The auction will be conducted 100 years plus a day after the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, embarking on the ill-fated maiden voyage that had New York as its destination.

The collection was appraised in 2007 at $189 million, including some intellectual property alongside the myriad items plucked by remote controlled probes from the pitch-black depths, some 2 and 1/2 miles below the ocean’s surface.

Those artifacts include the massive hull section called “The Big Piece” as well as personal belongings of passengers and crew, such as a mesh purse and eyeglasses. A bronze cherub that once adorned the Grand Staircase is also among the collection, as are fine china, table settings, bottles and ship fittings—even the stand upon which the ship’s wheel stood.

A porthole from the RMS Titanic which was recovered from the ocean floor during an expedition to the site of the tragedyis part of a collection of items up for auction. (AP Photo/RMS Titanic, Inc., a subsidiary of Premier Exhibitions, Inc.)

By court order, the items cannot be sold individually and must go to a buyer who agrees to properly maintain the collection and make it available for occasional public viewing. The sale is subject to court approval.

The planned sale also could include a trove of archaeological data and visuals of the wreck, as well as the only detailed map of the vast ocean floor where all the artifacts were scattered after the Titanic’s sinking.

The Titanic’s sinking claimed the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,228 passengers and crew. An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.

The research materials could be a road map to future salvage expeditions because of the new information they provide on the wreck site.

“We are opening the door of opportunity for the future of the Titanic,” said Brian Wainger, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions Inc., of which RMS Titanic is a division.

This hat, recovered from the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, is just one piece of a 5,000-part collection that will be auctioned on April 11, 2012, 100 years after the sinking of the ship. (AP Photo/RMS Titanic, Inc.)

But the clock is ticking on thousands of additional artifacts embedded in a 3-by-5-mile section of ocean floor around the wreck, an area subject to a century of extreme ocean conditions such as cold temperatures and treacherous currents.

“I think it’s fair to say that we have only touched the surface,” Wainger said.

The deteriorating hulk of the Titanic is off limits to salvage.

——— ———

Reported by STEVE SZKOTAK of the Associated Press from RICHMOND, Va. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap .

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Online: Guernsey’s: http://www.guernseys.com/

Premier Exhibitions Inc.: http://www.prxi.com/prxi.html

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Kid Scoop on good tips and bad tips

Today’s edition of Kid Scoop takes a look at the math involved in tipping and exploring the word “tip” and its multiple meanings.

In this “You Ought to Know” video, the rules of tipping are explained.

As we mentioned, the word “tip” can also mean other things, including “to knock something over” or “the end point” of an object. One of the most well-known “tip” phrases is “the tip of the iceberg,” which means that you only see or observe a very small part of a much larger thing.

The famous ship The Titanic was the literal victim of a “tip of the iceberg” when it ran into one, gashed its side on the rest of the iceberg, broke apart and sank into the Atlantic Ocean.

Watch this video to see how the Titanic sank:

What is Kid Scoop? It’s a special page that appears every Monday in The York Dispatch and other local newspapers. Aside from its main feature and the Writing Corner, it includes games, puzzles and jokes.

Get your copy of Kid Scoop in today’s edition of The York Dispatch, and be sure to assemble your own Write On! entry and submit it to NIE@ync.com. We’ll run every entry here!

Of course, you can submit those entries, and anything else you want, for publication here on the Junior Dispatch. Send your JD items to juniordispatch@yorkdispatch.com. Learn about what you can submit here.

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A whale of a journey

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON — It remains a mystery why a female humpback whale swam thousands of miles from the reefs of Brazil to the African island of Madagascar, which researchers believe is the longest single trip ever undertaken by a mammal — humans excluded.

While humpbacks normally migrate along a north-to-south axis to feed and mate, this one — affectionately called AHWC No. 1363 — made the unusual decision to check out a new continent thousands of miles to the east.

Marine ecologist Peter Stevick said Wednesday it probably wasn’t love that motivated her — whales meet their partners at breeding sites, so it’s unlikely that this one was following a potential mate.

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