Dolphin strandings and rescue caught on viral video

First, it was the report of mass strandings and deaths of short-beaked common dolphins on the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (HW 2/17/12). Then news came of more than 250 dead bottlenosed dolphins washing up on the sandy shores of Chiclayo, Peru (HW 2/28/12).

Now, at last, some good news about these loved sea creatures. At eight o’clock on the morning of March 5, some 30 dolphins beached themselves on the shores of Arraial do Cabo, Brazil, just north of Rio de Janeiro–and were promptly rescued by a group of locals and tourists.  

The moving event was captured by Gerd Traue in the video above, which has gone viral on the Web. It is dramatic to see the dolphins’ humped, finned backs suddenly start to appear on the flat sea horizon, then watch as an entire pod of dolphins swims up to the shore and struggles in the sand. The beachgoers work swiftly to pull the dolphins back into the ocean by their tails or push their bodies into deeper water. Finally, all the animals are returned to their element, as the happy humans hoot and applaud. 

Experts still have no explanations for the unusual dolphin events in any of the three locations. On March 7, the Boston Globe reported that about a dozen more dolphins had beached themselves in Cape Cod since the original, record-breaking mass strandings reported on February 14. Michael Booth, spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare–which has led the Cape Cod rescue efforts–said, “We run a lot of tests. We draw blood from these dolphins, we do an auditory examination to make sure their hearing is fine, take measurements…. We note down everything.” 

According to Boston Globe correspondent Colin A. Young:

The [IFAW] has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy to investigate an array of possible causes. Booth said the group is not ruling anything out and continues to learn more about the dolphins through lab results and necropsies.

“We’ve looked into many, many reasons. A lot of them have been weather-related; and sonar was one we looked into,” he said. “With these lab tests, we’re looking into any disease-related patterns. We can’t really discard any reasons outright, so we have to do as much as we can to go through the list.”

Booth says that discovering the causes of the Cape Cod strandings could take months. Meanwhile, in Peru, the Oceanic Institute (Imarpe) ordered samples from the dead dolphins found at Chiclayo to be sent to Lima for analysis and to determine the cause of their deaths.

Video embedded from 
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Join an international water symposium on U.N. World Water Day, March 22

More than 50 scientists, artists and other professionals will be featured in an international symposium titled “Water Issues Relating to Environmental Landscape Sustainability” on March 22, 2012, designated as International Water Day by the United Nations. Presentations will be made at Sousse University in Tunisia and at the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, but anyone can connect in and participate online for free. The general line of inquiry will be interdisciplinary, exploring points of contact between the arts, sciences and technology.

The symposium is organized by the Landscape and Environment Research Unit of the Higher School of Agronomical Sciences of Chott Meriem, IRESA, Sousse University, Tunisia, in partnership with Waterwheel, a highly creative interactive Web platform dedicated to exploring water “as a topic and metaphor.” The free event will be introduced online by the prominent social scientist and water activist Riccardo Petrella, author of The Water Manifesto: Arguments for a World Water Contract, and Ulay, a photographer, videographer, and activist who is best known for his avant-garde performance art with Marina Abramović.

The symposium will explore three themes:

1. Water and landscape construction of yesterday. What to do today?

2. Water and landscapes across disciplines.

3. Water and landscapes: issues of layout development and territorial scales.

According to a press release from Waterwheel,

Modern societies believed in the benefits of universal values shareable by humanity. Those which are succeeding continue to think that freedom of expression, religion, human dignity, citizenship, brotherhood, equality and access to basic resources are shared values for humanity. In this context, the overall thematic “Waters and landscaped questions” constitute a basis for theoretical and operational reflection and a major preoccupation for the conservation of ecosystem resources with different territorial scales.

Wondering how you can tap in? It’s all done through Waterwheel’s The TAP, a nifty online, real-time venue and forum, workshop and stage for live networked performance and presentation. The video above gives basic instructions on how to use The TAP. Audience members will be able to type their questions and comments right onto The TAP’s entry field on the bottom right of their screens.

For more information about the symposium, click here. To connect with The TAP, click here. For a good interview with Riccardo Petrella about “the Coca-Cola-isation of water” and other essential water issues, click here. For video of an Ulay-Marina Abramović 1978 performance art piece that has nothing to do with water but is fun to watch for its strangeness, click here.

And if you miss the symposium, no worries: the proceedings will be later published as a book and .pdf file.

Video embedded from
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Henri Matisse in Tahiti

"Océanie, la mer" ("Oceania, the Sea") by Henri Matisse

In 1930, at the ripe age of 60 and inspired by his love for the work of his compatriot Paul Gauguin, the French painter Henri Matisse boarded a steamer in San Francisco. He was bound for Tahiti because of the light. “I will go to the islands, under the tropics, to see the night and the dawn light that must have another density,” he said. “The Pacific light is a deep gold tumbler in which one looks. I remember that when I arrived, I was disappointed, but then, step by step, it was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!”

Matisse lived in Tahiti—primarily the Tuamotu islands—for two and a half months, drawing, photographing, taking notes, and observing the sea, sky, vegetation, and the Polynesians, whom he likened to sea gods. According to Paule Laudon’s 2001 book Matisse in Tahiti, the artist led a Robinson Crusoe–like existence, getting up at dawn, canoeing, swimming, and diving amid the coral and fish. Although he produced little finished artwork there, the Tahitian sojourn had a powerful influence on his later work.

One of these works—Océanie, la mer (“Oceania, the Sea”)—has just been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. A large-scale silkscreen printed on linen, the 1946 piece is a companion to Océanie, le ciel (“Oceania, the Sky”), which has been in the gallery’s permanent collection for 22 years. 

"Océanie, le ciel" ("Oceania, the Sky") by Henri Matisse

Featuring cutouts of creatures of the sea and air floating on a golden background, the two Océanie works are the result of a commission from the Czech-born Zika Ascher, who became an innovative leader in British textile design from the 1940s on. According to the website

In the summer of 1946 Zika Ascher went to Paris to try to convince French artists to design for his company. [Alexander Calder, Jean Cocteau, Sonia Delauney, and Henry Moore were among the 51 contemporary artists Ascher eventually convinced to create textile and scarf designs.] Zika had previously approached Matisse in the spring of 1946, but was not able to get a firm commitment from the artist. When Zika called on Matisse in his studio he was shocked to learn that not only had Matisse embraced the idea of the commission, but he had already laid out two wall panels, which were pinned directly onto the walls of his studio. The challenge was how to reproduce them. After failing to reproduce the compositions using photographic enlargements, the layouts were traced and the maquettes were unpinned and sent to London to make the silk screens. Matisse wanted to match the exact colour and texture of his apartment wall covering. With great difficulty the subtle shade of beige was matched. The panels were issued in a limited edition of 30, half of which were given to Matisse.

The piece newly unveiled by the National Gallery of Australia was acquired directly from the Matisse family. It is signed and dedicated by the artist to his son, Pierre.   

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More than 200 unexplained dolphin deaths off coast of Peru

On the heels of massive dolphin strandings on the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (HW 2/17/12), comes news that at least 264 dead bottlenosed dolphins have washed ashore over a 66-mile stretch of sandy beach in Chiclayo, Peru.

“We have taken samples to determine the cause of death,” said Edward Barriga, an official with Peru’s Oceanic Institute (Imarpe) in Lambayeque, after the dolphin deaths were reported on February 10. According to the Lima-based newspaper El Comercio Perú, Barriga ordered the samples to be sent to Lima for analysis. Barriga also said that enormous quantities of dead anchovies had been found on the beaches between San José and Palo Parado, in Mórrope.

According to Jorge Torres Cabrejos, head of Lambayeque’s Association of Maritime Growers, the anchovies appeared to have eaten plankton contaminated by heavy pollution. The dolphins might have consumed the contaminated plankton and become sick.

But Carlos Yaipen of ORCA, an NGO that helps marine creatures in the South Pacific, speculated that the dolphins may have been killed by the impact of offshore oil exploration and drilling in the region. He called the mass dolphin deaths a “very serious” issue.

Others wonder whether the deaths are connected to research by the U.S. military’s HAARP (High Frequency Auroral Research Program) in the area. (It should be noted, for the record, that HAARP is a favorite target of conspiracy theorists, who have blamed it for everything from the Haitiaan earthquake to government-sponsored radio-wave mind control attempts. I take no position on the matter–I am simply reporting what some people have speculated.) On the website Activist Post, writer Heather Callaghan posted a map showing possible HAARP locations, including one on the Peruvian coast, and a Google map of recorded animal deaths as of January 2011; the maps show some correspondences, although her source for the HAARP map is unclear. And on the blog Tutunui-Wananga (“The Personification of the Knowledge of Whales”), marine animal activist Jeff Phillips wrote:

The coastal area where the dead dolphins were found, Chiclayo, is on the southern edge of a major petroleum exploration basin called Block Z34. Chiclayo is even closer to a major off-shore natural gas field. 

The corporations that have been granted permits for exploration and drilling include London-based Gold Oil and the Peruvian corporation Petrotech, which is affiliated with BPZ and is believed to be owned now by the governments of South Korea and Colombia. BGP Geo-explorer has been performing ‘geophysical exploration’ activities in this area over the last year using its ‘research vessel’ the Pioneer.

The pattern in Peru is EXACTLY the same as what has been happening in New Zealand: anomalous earth-quake activity and unusual strandings of cetaceans in the presence of ‘seismic exploration’ vessels as well as ‘radio frequency installations’ or technologies that could easily be integrated into a ‘HAARP-based’ technetronic weapons network.

Video embedded from

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A walk in the clouds

These days I’m living with my head in the clouds–almost literally. I am spending the month of February in Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, a huge volcano-ringed lake so situation in the Mayan highlands that sometimes the airborne moisture gently clusters together and forms clouds around the mountain peaks just up the path from my casita. This, I learned when I first lived here in 2007, is what is known as a cloud forest–a phenomenon every bit as enchanting as the name implies.

And so I was fascinated when I heard about cummulus, a recent exhibition in Paris of gigantic crocheted clouds by the Argentine artist and architect Ciro Najle. Organized by Le Laboratoire (an experimental science/art center) and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, cummulus was the visual, three-dimensional outgrowth of Najle’s three years of work with scientists, engineers and water experts to design fog-collecting nets for the capture of fresh water in the Atacama desert region of Chile.

Kat Austen, the editor of New Scientist’s CultureLab blog, described the exhibition this way:

Lit from within and above, the swaths of crocheted white wool hang from the ceiling to just half a metre above the ground, casting familiar shadows on the gallery floor. The fluffy cashmilon wool chosen by the artist…works well for cumulus clouds–the puffy ones that can precede thunderstorms, and are precursors to the godfather of clouds, the cumulonimbus.

Though there are many types of cumulus cloud, they are all united by their fractal nature, which prompted Najle to turn to crochet to capture their complex, cauliflower-like topology. Najle says crochet is the perfect medium for representing fractal structures because its surfaces can be subdivided again and again by varying the length of neighbouring crochet lines.

A team of 30 crochet craftswomen in Buenos Aires created the individual squares that were sewn together to make the large sections of the installation. The squares were based on 1664 diagrams mathematically generated by Najle to describe the knotted intersections that gave shape to the overall structures. As someone who once went through a crocheting craze lasting several years, I can well imagine the feel of the soft cashmilon yarn being looped through 30 women’s crochet needles, the precise pattern of each square that was destined to be joined to thousands of others to form great, billowing forms.

Le Laboratoire’s interest in exploring innovative design solutions to global water issues goes beyond the Najle exhibition. Alongside Najle’s clouds Le Laboratoire showed

works under development by teams of designers and students from the 2010 ArtScience Labs international creative program. These include a novel, easy to operate, and portable water filter; materials that mimic African fog-collecting insects; and an initiative to support the sustained development of fog collection through the distribution and sale of “fog water.”

Fog water! As delicious as the idea of a cloud forest! Najle’s cummulus installation was up through January 2012 at Le Laboratoire and had previously been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. But I need only look up to the sky on particularly moist days to be reminded of the innovative work he and other designers are doing to engage creatively with problems of water availability around the world.

Video by Florent Déchard for Le Laboratoire and is embedded from
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One of the largest common dolphin strandings on records continues to mystify marine experts

Marine experts continue to be baffled by a rash of dolphin strandings on the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where 179 short-beaked common dolphins have been beached since January 12—almost five times the average number of dolphins that have been stranded annually over the past 12 years. One hundred twenty-four of them have died. Workers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an organization that rescues animals, protects animal populations and preserves habitats, have led the rescue efforts. According to an Associated Press story on February 16,

…necropsies have been done on dead dolphins, and a Congressional briefing was held early this month in the push for answers. But researchers can offer only theories about things such as changes in weather, water temperature or behavior of the dolphins’ prey.

Dolphins and other marine mammals have been found stranded on Cape Cod beaches for centuries; an average of 228 dolphins, whales, porpoises, seals and other sea mammals are beached here during a normal year. But experts are mystified by the sheer numbers in a single month, and also by the unusual fact that they are of one species. As Jenny Marder reported on the PBS NewsHour blog The Rundown:

“All [179] are common dolphins,” said Katie Moore, manager of the marine mammal rescue effort for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the group leading the effort. “Which is what’s scary. If I look over the last 13 years, the average number of common dolphins we see [stranded] in a year is 38. This is an enormous event.”

Dolphins are social, tending to travel in large groups, which helps them forage and fend off predators—but which also can leave them stranded in large numbers. Moreover, the Cape is shaped like a craggy hook, which tends to channel the animals inland, where they can remain trapped and beached during low tide.

Still, experts have no explanation for the unusually high numbers of stranded animals. “There are no indications that tidal patterns have changed and no signs of disease in the 10 dolphins that have undergone detailed necropsies,” according to the PBS blog.

Reporter Jay Lindsay of the Associated Press hung out with the dedicated dolphin rescuers as they attempted to herd the wild mammals back into deep waters:

One drifts off to the left, where he could beach again. The manager of the stranding team, Katie Moore, slides over, grabs its dorsal fin, and gives it a push in the right direction.

“You’re going the wrong way, buddy,” she says.

The inlet continues to fill and the dolphins break into waters that are deeper than the rescuers can follow, but they’re in two groups. The IFAW’s boat eventually follows one pod and the Wellfleet harbormaster takes another. The noise from the motors pushes the dolphins ahead. So do acoustic pingers, devices that make a sound that annoys the dolphins.

Moore, visibly exhausted from the ongoing rescue efforts, later told Lindsay, “We just don’t know when it’s going to end anymore. That wears on people.” But she has been inspired by IFAW’s success in returning the dolphins to the sea. “I think that as humans we have such a huge impact on the ocean environment, and on these animals in other ways, that this is our opportunity to do the right thing.”

Video is by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and is embedded from
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Dia de los cariños

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Here in Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, where I lived for most of 2007 and where am staying for the month of February 2012, Valentine’s Day is called El Dia de los Cariños–The Day of the Tendernesses, or Caresses, or Love. And it is not reserved exclusively for grownup couples (or those who wish they were, or feel bad that they’re not), but is a holiday for one and all, especially children, who make tarjetitas out of colored paper and magazine cutouts and paint and glitter and glue and give them to the people they care about.

And so, as this Dia de los Cariños was approaching, I was thinking a lot about children who are important to me. Some are my blood, most are not, but each has her or his own special nook or cranny, decorated in just the way that child might most like, inside the chambers of my heart.

As a way of honoring and feeding the lifeblood of my connections with these children, I decided to do a simple, strong prayer ceremony for all of them. You can do this, too, if you feel so called.


1. Make a list of the children who hold a special place in your heart. Keep it private; prayers are more potent when you hold the energy close, rather than dissipating it (by, for example, blabbing about what you’re doing, which after all only serves your ego).

2. Set aside time when you can do your ceremony unrushed and undisturbed. If you have any special objects you might like to use to create your sacred space–incense or a sage bundle, a special rattle or drum, a crystal, a significant toy, anything at all–pack it in a pouch and bring it with you.

3. Go to a place in nature where there is some water, a lake or a stream or a sea. Water is regarded as our Holy Mother, our primordial Source, in so many cultures–from Ganga Ma in India to Mami Wata in parts of Africa to Yemonja in Brazil, and so many, many more. Take a walk in this place. Breathe deeply. Feel your feet on the ground, the moist air on your skin. As you walk, look for stones or shells, flowers or leaves to pick up and take with you–one for each child you are honoring.

4. After a while, you’ll come to a quiet spot that calls for you to stop. You will know. (If there is another human around, make yourself invisible and wait with patience. He or she will eventually leave. When I found my special spot alongside el lago, a local boatman who arrived there at the same moment rustled around for a while as I kept a respectful distance, then took up his cayuko and paddled away.)

5. Make an altarcito, a little altar, out of the objects you’ve gathered and any you brought with you. Make this with tenderness and beauty. The spirits will love you all the more.

6. If you have a way you like to use for calling in the spirits, do so. I like to make an offering of sacred tobacco or sage smoke as I call in the guardians of the East, West, North, and South, the As Above and the So Below, and the sacred Void, the center from which all comes and to which all returns. But do anything that feels like a good way to open your sacred space for prayer. (And don’t be afraid to be silly. The spirits love to laugh.)

7. Look at the sacred objects you’ve gathered. Hold one up to your heart as you make a sincere prayer for the first child’s specific needs. You know what these are. Imagine your heart imbuing this object with energy. Then toss the object into the water. Give away your prayer. 

8. Repeat until you have made an individual prayer for each child.

9. Close the ceremony by making an offering to the spirits: your words, a chant, a great rattling or drumming, tobacco, flowers, sacred smoke, your silence–whatever feels right and true. Ask them to carry your prayers to Source.

9. Walk back the way you came, holding good intent in your heart for these special children. Take your sweet, loving time.

Photos of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, are © 2012 by Diana Rico and may be reprinted noncommercially under a Creative Commons license.
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Guest artist: Charles Christopher, revisited

"Ponte Marcello" by Charles Christopher

A year ago I learned that my Los Angeles colleague, the photographer Charles Christopher, was making a wintertime pilgrimage to Venice, Italy, to fulfill a longtime dream of living in a stone house that he’d first seen and been captivated by as a fourteen-year-old boy. Charles’s subsequent journey of the soul resulted in an essay and a large portfolio of photographs, some of which were featured on HOLY WATERS (HW Guest Artist 3/11/11).

Recently I was excited to discover that Charles is now compiling a book of his Venetian images. And he shared on his own blog, The Eyes of Charles Christopher, that Nicolas Roeg, the renowned director of the 1973 Julie Christie-Donald Sutherland thriller Don’t Look Now–which takes place in a spooky, confusing Venice–had seen and commented on Charles’s work.  Roeg wrote:

The images of Venice capture the heart and sad reality of an extraordinary and unique city. Venice is so well-known and so many of the views of it have been reproduced, but usually just emphasizing the grandeur of some of the glorious buildings, bridges and piazzas. The result is a city frozen in time, with its living identity kept secret and unseen by the casual visitor or tourist. Your very moving and original images remind me of the time I spent there. Far more movingly and personally than any perfect composition featuring a famous landmark, shot to death by guided tour groups.

On his blog Charles wrote: “I was very moved to receive these encouraging words from the visionary filmmaker whose dark and stirring 1973 thriller, Don’t Look Now, made an indelible impact on me when I first saw it as a boy. The film and the city have stayed with me ever since.” Kudos to Charles–I can’t wait for your book. And to see a bit of Roeg’s vision of Venice, here is the English trailer for Don’t Look Now:

“Ponte Marcello” © 2011 by Charles Christopher; for permission to reuse, contact the artist at charleschristopherphoto [AT] gmail [DOT] com. “Don’t Look Now” trailer is embedded from
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“One single drop of this compassionate water…”

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow;
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless;
And may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion,
And live believing in the equality of all that lives.

~ Traditional Buddhist prayer

“The End of Suffering” is directed by visionary artist Adéla Stefanov and is embedded from The voice you hear is that of the Most Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh, the renowned Vietnamese monk, author, teacher, and peace activist. The traditional Buddhist prayer above is a version of the statements used in Metta, a practice for cultivating lovingkindness. 
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Guest artist: Robert McDowell

"Mars and Venus" by crackoala

If Only Men Truly Listened

If only men truly listened
To everything their women say.

I said, if only men truly listened
To everything their women say,

Maybe they’d be liberated
From the heartbreaking way

Their fathers distanced
Themselves from a woman’s eye

That watched and waited
Patiently with hardly a sigh

For any sign that he’d awakened
To her power and majesty,

Like falling to his knees, humbled,
Then looking up at her to pray.

Robert McDowell‘s most recent book is “The More We Get Together: The Sexual and Spiritual Language of Love” (Poiêsis Press, 2011). He is the author of 11 other books, including Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions. He is a teacher, speaker and workshop leader living in Ashland, Oregon. 
“Mars and Venus” by crackoala is from the website and is used under a Creative Commons license
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