Our regular Science and the SeaTM radio program presents marine science topics in an engaging two-minute story format. Our script writers gather ideas for the radio program from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's researchers and from our very popular college class, Introduction to Oceanography, which we teach to hundreds of non-science majors at The University of Texas at Austin every year. Our radio programs are distributed at to commercial and public radio stations across the country.
In late 1942, the Queen Mary was carrying 15,000 American troops across the Atlantic to join the war in Europe. German U-boats couldn’t catch her, and even a stiff gale wasn’t a problem for the mammoth ocean liner.
But 700 miles off the coast of Scotland, a wall of water more than 90 feet tall broadsided the ship, almost knocking it on its side. Water poured onto the decks, and just a few more degrees of list would have capsized her. But the Queen slowly righted herself and delivered her passengers to the British Isles.
One of the most colorful creatures in the oceans can see colors better than just about any other animal. In fact, the mantis shrimp may have the most complicated eyes of any creature on Earth.
Many organisms have developed unusual eyes to help them see in the dark marine environment. Many of them can see wavelengths of light that are invisible to human eyes, for example. And they can detect the direction in which light waves move -- a handy tool for enhancing contrast and detecting subtle motion.
For the young -- and the young at heart -- the highlight of many a trip to the coast is a visit to a tide pool. Each little universe of life might hold starfish, crabs, shrimp, sponges, or many other colorful species. Birds and mammals wade in to grab lunch, while a coating of algae makes the whole thing as slippery as an ice-skating rink.
A deadly menace lurks on American beaches. It strikes without warning, and from 1990 through 2006, it killed at least 16 people. Yes, you’ve probably already guessed what it is: collapsing sand holes. Sharks, on the other hand, killed only 11 -- they just got more airtime.
People have been using sound to probe the ocean depths for decades. Navies track ships and submarines. Archaeologists hunt for sunken cities. Oceanographers measure ocean currents, and geologists map the ocean floor.
And in the decades to come, marine biologists may use sound to probe ocean life like never before. For example, scientists studying microscopic creatures in the upper layers of the oceans may be able to identify the different kinds without disturbing their subjects.
If the oarfish were human, it would probably get nicknames like “Beanpole,” “Stilt,” or “Slim.” That’s because it’s the longest bony fish in the ocean -- a skinny ribbon that can stretch 35 feet or longer.
For 5,000 years, the Nile River provided for the people of Egypt. Its annual flooding brought fertile soil to the fields and the Mediterranean Sea, bringing nutrients to both farms and fish.
After the river was dammed in 1965, though, fishing in the Nile Delta collapsed. Without the soil-rich floodwaters, there weren’t enough nutrients. But today, the fishery has rebounded in a dramatic way. It’s still fed by the Nile, but its nutrients are generated by people.
If the movie “Jaws” still makes you think twice before you get in the water, this will really give you the shivers: A shark that died out a couple of million years ago had jaws big enough to swallow an adult Great White in a single gulp.
It’s known as Megalodon -- a name that means “mega-tooth.” Scientists bestowed the name because about all that remains of the monster is its teeth. Instead of bone, a shark’s skeleton is made of cartilage, which doesn’t fossilize. But the teeth do, and Megalodon’s have been found around the world.
In the summer of 2007, bright searchlights were helping engineers get space shuttle Endeavour ready for its next trip to space. But just a few hundred yards away, the lights were bad news.
When a black coral known as Leiopathes took root near the island of Oahu, the great pyramids of Giza glistened fresh and new in the Egyptian sun, their flanks encased in smooth limestone.
Over the millennia, the pyramids have crumbled a bit. Their casing stones were stripped away, and the desert encroached on their flanks. But the coral colonies have continued to grow, covering thousands of square feet of sea floor. Today, at an age of more than 4,250 years, they’re among the oldest living organisms on the planet.