Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where Skates, Rays and Chimeras Fit Into the World

Dark on the beach on Friday. It was so gray and dim that I kept thinking that dark patch of sand over there, those cobbles in the hollow, that blackish cut end of driftwood, anything might be oiled. Not. I even sniffed the end of the log. No oil smell, of course not. The oil has not come this way. As usual, there were no beached birds at all. Nothing there but beauty, a dark undistinguished beauty.

Looking North from Ellen Creek (Click for larger image.)
James Island from Rialto Jetty, February 11, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

What I think of as the Raymond Carver point, where(ever) on the beach that Ellen Creek comes together with the Pacific Ocean, had shifted back south again from its temporary northward position last month. A couple of eagles flew by just there, very vocal, and landed in a tree a little ways behind the beach along the course of the creek. They went on talking to each other for a few minutes. Gulls. A few seastars washed up in the surf line as the tide came in. A skate carcass behind a log; images: (1)(2).

Ellen Creek on February 11, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

I just wasted at least an hour trying to make clear to myself where skates fit into the world; who could resist 'skates, rays and chimeras'? I'll spare you all but this (since you probably don't care):
          Class Osteichthyes (bony fish)
               + Subclass Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
               + Subclass Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish)
          Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
               o Subclass: Elasmobranchii (sharks, skates, and rays)
                     * Superorder: Batoidea (skates and rays)
                     * Superorder : Selachimorpha (sharks)
                o Subclass: Holocephali (chimaeras)

It didn't rain until I was reaching for my notebook to record the end time of the second survey. My pen was missing and I looked down in case I'd dropped it right in that thought moment; there were raindrops on the cobbles. For the record, since this was a COASST survey, I will mention that the last time I found a beached bird was two large immature gulls on September 5, 2010; and before that, not since the end of the wreck, on 11/14/09.

And yes, this was the day that Egypt's revolution had its climax. I left home very late, because I was watching AlJazeera English online. And they were on my mind all day, those millions of people who went to the streets and turned the world upside down almost entirely peaceably. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, millions of Egyptians. Thank you, Egypt.

1 comment:

James said...

Due to solar activity on Sunday, 13 February, intense aurora borealis is expected to be observable where skies are clear in Northern latitudes. This evening at 10:30.