Sunday, November 21, 2010

Miranda Davit and the Ptotally Pterrible Pterodactyls

I'm getting a feeling that the blog is a little too cute and cuddly. So to take a stride from the softer side of Sears, back in the chainsaws and lawn tractors, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Miranda and the Pterrible Pterodactyls.
Miranda Davit is a fancy lassie not afraid to do some serious heavy lifting. I can say without hesitation that upon first sight, I knew I'd never seen her equal in both form and function. She's an elegant assembly of steel and hydraulics. Effectively, the Miranda is nothing more than a metal sled attached to a crane, but she is so well designed that at cruising speed of 8 knots (9.2 mph) and seas state up to 6 (9–13 ft seas and a stiff breeze), she can lift a small boat and crew safely up and onto the deck. She sits high above the waterline, and via a single set of controls lowers and retrieves a small boat down the side of the ship on a track. Functionally, there is only one point of contact from the small boat to the Miranda. This does give some more safety conscious users a bit of a start. What if that single connection breaks? Well yes, then you're in the drink, so to speak. But on the other hand, there are not a load of lines and chains and cables to get fouled up in. This single connect really allows for quick deployment and recover of a small vessel (...and honestly, what other multi-point crane contraption wouldn't also dump you into the drink if any single connection broke!?). The connection is operated from the small boat, so there is little option of being dropped from too high, or lifted without a proper hook secured. Modern Marvels!!
Miranda in action!

For more information - check out the link HERE.

PS> Sea Sheppard should look into buying one of these puppies!! Check out the complete idiocy, (they're really lucky no one was killed!): http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=2607

In other news - we stopped to pick up a USFWS biologist at Laysan Island today; home of the endemic Laysan finch and Laysan duck (the rarest duck in the world!!). Laysan is also home to thriving populations of pterodactyls (AKA Frigate birds) and Brown Boobies (not the ones you see on vacation in the French Riviera).

Frigate birds are AWESOME!! If I wasn't a whale biologist, I might study frigate birds. These guys are almost entirely pelagic, and absolutely entirely aerial. They physically cannot land on the water, and cannot take of from any flat surface. Although their toes are slightly webbed (probably a throwback from evolutionary past because they share this feature with their pelican relatives) their skin doesn't produce oil, so if they were to fall into the ocean, they would be sunk!! They have the largest wingspan to body-size ratio of any bird, making them AMAZING fliers, but absolutely worthless on the ground. Even more interesting than that, these guys are the Winona Ryders of the sea bird world: they're kleptomaniacs! Technically they're called kleptoparasitic, which means to obtain your nutrients by stealing it from someone else (more like Biff Tannen the lunchroom bully than Winona Ryder). The huge acrobatic birds (wingspans up to 7.5 feet) occasionally forage by stealing other seabird's meals: either by out maneuvering the birds to the recently killed item, or by harassing the other bird until they either drop the fish or... get this... toss their cookies! The frigate then scoops "up the chuck" and flies off before "up-chuck" even hits the water!! Impressive? Yes! Disgusting DEFINITELY!!Don't they look like pterodactyls?

5 comments:

Phaedra said...

those frigate birds might do well following NOAA ships in bad weather (will scientists' upchuck do?). and so how do they take off if not from flat ground? can you tell us more?

matt.s.leslie said...

Good thought about being kleptoparasitic of the NOAA ship because its seems that just when a scientist gets his sea legs is when the galley's cooking goes from bad to "upchuck"-worthy (then again frigate birds might have more distinguished taste than to eat NOAA food)! Great question about how they take off, because my statement was misleading. I guess technically a high flat surface (like the ledge of an apartment building above 5th Avenue) would work, because they basically have to start with a fall. Because of the crazy high wing area to body mass ratio, they can't get enough lift by just flapping, or even flapping and running like an Albatross. The flat ground or water is out of the question for these guys! Great thoughts! Keep the comments coming!

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