Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sea Biscuit

Hi Sea Fans!

How's the weather treating all the divers in the southern hemisphere?  Hmmm....rather chilly... and some big waves have been making their way around my side of the world.  A good partner for cold weather (and possibly rain) is a nice cup of hot chocolate with a biscuit or two, so I thought I'd do something different today and give you a yummy recipe that I found for biscuits that you can make into sea creatures.  Here goes:

Sea Biscuits

125 g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 t salt
125 g choc chips (optional but definitely recommended)
60 nut pieces (mixed nuts chopped finely taste yummy but this is also optional)
Decorating bits and pieces like hundreds and thousands, chocolate vermicelli, seeds etc.

  • Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla.
  • Add lightly beaten egg gradually, beating well after each addition.
  • Mix in sifted flour and salt.
  • Add chocolate chips and nuts - mix well.
  • Shape teaspoonfuls of mixture into sea creatures of your choice.  Decorate now if you aren't using icing.
  • Place on lightly greased baking tray (Very important: allow room for the biscuits to spread!!)
  • Bake in 180° C oven for 10 - 12 mins.
  • Decorate after cooling on a wire rack if you are using icing.
  • Enjoy!  (Try not to eat them all at once) : )
Have fun with these and enjoy snuggling up in this weather.  For those of you in the northern hemisphere - we're jealous of your warm weather, but we're having fun in the rain! : )

Have a great week Sea Fans.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cute and cuddly

Hi Sea Fans!

What's long, thin, slimy, has no stomach and 3 hearts?  A hagfish of course! 

Photo: Berkely University
Yes, it's not so cute and cuddly, but it's fascinating and I had such a laugh this last week so I just have to tell you about it.  One of our aquarists is writing a paper on the stress response of hagfish, so I went to check out what was happening.  I arrived at just the right time because he was about to weigh the hagfish. 

For those of you who don't know, hagfish give off slime when they get stressed...some can even give off a whole bucket of slime!!  I've seen it for myself!  So to prevent this from happening, while they get weighed, they need to get anaesthetised (they have to go to sleep for a bit or at least be a bit drowsy so that they don't get stressed easily).  The anaesthetic is put into the water and soon after, they become very relaxed.  This makes handling them a lot easier. 

Unfortunately, one of the hagfish was still quite wide awake so when it was picked up, it wriggled around so much that it managed to wriggle right out of the aquarist's hands and plopped straight into the bucket as if it had planned that all along!  I had to laugh at the look on the aquarist's face, he couldn't believe his eyes, and the amount of slime the hagfish gave off was unbelievable!!!  It gave off so much that we couldn't weigh it at first (We weigh them by putting them onto a scale in a bucket of water, of which we know the weight already).  The little guy obviously wasn't happy with being moved.  Luckily, the anaesthetic took effect quite quickly after that so we could remove all the slime and weigh him. 

I think the next step is to weigh the slime to see how much is given off and then they're also going to test the bloods for stress enzymes, but I needed to get to my dive feed in time so I had to rush off and couldn't stick around to watch more.  Amazing what you can learn from something that seems so simple!

Because of this event, I thought I'd quickly look up a few things about hagfish for you.  Did you know that:
  • Hagfish scavenge on dead or disabled fish - they're like the vultures of the sea - but they also eat invertebrates (the little things in the sea that don't have a backbone) like worms.
  • They can go for up to 7 months without eating.
  • They are almost blind, but they've got a good sense of touch and smell.
  • They have a rasp-like tongue that tears into the flesh of their prey.
  • Once they've given off slime and the danger has passed, they tie themselves into a knot to get the slime off themselves. (The one in this photo looks a bit like Houdini! : ))

    Photo: C Ortlepp
Don't have nightmares tonight Sea Fans, these little guys don't harm us.  Rather think of how much fun you could have if you could tie yourself in a knot like a hagfish!

Have a great week Sea Fans!
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Friday, June 10, 2011


Hi Sea Fans!

It's been a strange week, no bones about it!  Actually, there WERE bones involved, we found a whale bone on the beach a few days ago and I've just finished building a seal skeleton for display.  Bones, bones, bones, bones, bones, bones, bones, bones...

This is how we first found the whale bone - not so easy to spot what it is from a distance.  A day later, 

 it had washed up higher onto the beach and we could get a better look at it.  It's amazing what you can find just walking on the beach.  Next time you take your dog for a walk on the beach, why not see if you can find something unusual and send it to me at and I'll post it on the blog.

 Seal skeleton, you ask?  Well, it came about because we wanted to make a display and there were bones available (don't worry, nothing happened to our seals) so we jumped at the chance.  What a big job!  I knew there were lots of bones, but I didn't realize how long it would take to figure out exactly which bones matched with which - not quite like a puzzle with numbers or colours!!  Anyway, this is how it grew to become a seal:

The bones laid out ready to start assembling.

Spine - almost complete.

...and I'll show you the finished product on display another time. : )

Weird, I know, but I've found that bones can actually be quite interesting, they can tell you how big an animal is, what it eats (by looking at the teeth), whether it swims or walks on land, how old it is,how  the muscles attach and a whole lot more.  Next time you see a seal, have a look at its flipper and know this: there are LOTS of little bones that make up that flipper, it's not just one solid paddle like the oar you use on a boat.

I hope this hasn't grossed you out Sea Fans.
Have a great weekend.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Possible World First!

Hi Sea Fans!

Something so exciting has happened in the aquarium world!  Last month, some Ornate Ghost Pipefish were collected and put on display at the Steinhart Aquarium in America. 

Ornate Ghost Pipefish.   Photo: Steve Childs
The female gave birth this month and the babies may be the first captive-reared (meaning that they are brought up in captivity) Ornate Ghost Pipefish ever!  How cool is that?! 

Baby Ornate Ghost Pipefish.  Photo: Steve Childs

Let me tell you a little bit about these guys:

The Ornate Ghost Pipefish is a relative of the seahorse and pipefish, but instead of the male carrying the babies, the female is the one that carries the eggs in a special pouch.  They are usually found alone or in pairs hanging around corals, feather stars and floating weeds.  Their camouflage (disguise) is so good that they are quite difficult to spot!  They feed on tiny little "bugs" in the sea called mysids, and they grow to a maximum length of 12 cm.  Not very big, but they make up for their size with their beauty.

So what do you think Sea Fans, amazing little animals, right?!

Go to this link and you can see some video footage of the pipefish at Steinhart Aquarium:

Have a great week Sea Fans!
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