Posted on June 14 2021
Compiled by Ali Harford
Last August, researchers from the University of Auckland and Cawthorn Institute, in collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration started tracking six southern right whales (tohora) in New Zealand. Southern right whales were hunted nearly to extinction between 1790 and 1980 but have since been protected, and their populations started bouncing back in 2009. Researchers wanted to find out more about where the whales go in the summertime and how they get there, to better protect them. Eight months into the research, only one whale still had the tracker on, so the researchers released the data. Migration maps are always fascinating because the data they display is always so curious. I love seeing our knowledge on migration evolve, especially concerning the migration of endangered species.
On June 8, World Oceans Day, the National Geographic Society recognized the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean. This is a big deal because few other geographic organizations recognize the Southern Ocean—NOAA started recognizing it in February 2021, and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in 1999. The article discusses why Nat Geo decided to recognize the ocean. Ultimately, they concluded the Southern Ocean is unique enough to be its own ocean because it is defined by a current: the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. And “the change … aligns with the Society’s initiative to conserve the world’s oceans, focusing public awareness onto a region in particular need of a conservation spotlight,” according to the article. I’ll be interested to see who else changes their naming conventions to recognize the fifth ocean.
Speaking of geographic name changes, the Dirtbag Diaries podcast dove into the story of re-naming two mountains, in California and Nevada, which were originally named after the president of the Confederate States. The podcast has guests from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to explain the bureaucracy of a name change. But more than that, the podcast explores the reckoning that the outdoor industry is facing: there are a lot of outdoor destinations, trails, and climbing routes that have racist or offensive names. Something needs to be done to change that—and that process needs to be easier than it currently is.