Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Whalemeat again

At the weekend a story that has been around for many years... poked its head  above the parap... no, wrong metaphor in the circumstances... surfaced again: the Earth has a [proposed – not everyone agrees. although the arguments strike me as pretty sound] eighth continent.

The Independent seemed utterly convinced, going for the indicative (There is"):

Zealandia: There is a previously unknown, submerged continent around New Zealand, say scientists


The Guardian, not atypically, went for the mangled idiomatic phrase (here):

Zealandia – pieces finally falling together for continent we didn't know we had

Surely,  things "come together" or "fall into place". I wonder what falling together involves. The British National Corpus notes 13 instances (run the search here), but they are all just juxtapositions of a verb and a preposition – not a brand-new phrasal verb.
<digression>
Which reminds me – that song I was going to write about sentences changing horses in mid-stream
...I must go and give some thought to a song inspired by David Crystal's IATEFL keynote on 'blends' (or as he said, to give it the $10 word, anacoluthon). It is based on the song sung, but not written, by the Beatles – Anna; the lead-singer sings 'Ana-' and the backing singers join in, to move the tune to the relative minor, '-coluthon'.
It's still on the back-burner (a pretty crowded one).
</digression>

The good ol' Beeb (... and how DARE that clown [the incumbent, if that's the mot juste, of the Presidency; perhaps encumbrance ...] accuse them of inaccuracy?) took a more measured view, going for the question

Zealandia: Is there an eighth continent under New Zealand?

... although under is not quite right, unless Europe could be said to be under Switzerland.

Just a week earlier, a horribly sad drama had played out on New Zealand's Farewell Spit (which takes the unintended irony prize for nominal determinism). As that report says:
The reasons for beachings remain a mystery. Explanations range from marine noise pollution to suicides, and NASA is even investigating whether solar storms could mess with whales’ navigation. But geography could certainly be a factor, considering several known stranding blackspots share characteristics.
This site considers the possible interference of magnetism:
Animals are known to figure out direction over long distances from the Earth's magnetic field or the direction of the sun. For instance, researchers of tiger sharks and thresher sharks recently said cues from Earth's magnetic fields may [sic. "be", probably] what enables those sharks to orient themselves and travel spot-on toward a far target.
See more here
<digression type="amateur_forensic_typography"> 
Perhaps the author wrote the one word  "maybe", as I'm afraid many people do. The desk-editor marked it with a "/" to signify the word-break,  rather than use the standard symbol:

Then whoever edited the final text (in the old days it would have been a compositor, but now it's more probably an unpaid intern) misinterpreted the – perhaps slightly misplaced – "/" mark as a deletion.

(Reading it back for sense was above their pay-grade.)

</digression>
But this blog avers with unconvincing certainty that the problem is something to do with air pressure.
But whales [sic scientists will not [sic – oh now I get it, it's them durn "experts" again]  tell you that barotrauma in the air sinuses of mass stranded whales and dolphins causes echo-navigation system failure. They know for a fact [ !!! my emphasis  this is the unmistakable sign of a bar-room know-all ] that the air contained in odontoceti cranial air spaces serves underwater to bounce, channel, reflect, isolate, send, and otherwise direct the returning echoes these animals use to navigate and find their food.

Oh dear. With "writing" of this lamentable calibre, no wonder people are confused.  The "writer" must want people not to understand.
In other words, nobody knows. And I haven't found even speculative finger-pointing at, say, micro-waves or underwater cables or any other man-made techno-pollutant. Plastic waste is the the closest candidate, but there's nothing high-tech about simple suffocation Note, this is not an Official Rumour. I don't want to start well-meaning environmentalist fanatics demonstrating against the coastal siting of cell-towers or anything of the kind..

But certainly, to judge by the noise my computer makes when I get a text (SMS), it seems to me that it's at least worth considering the possibility that something man-made (not land forms or solar wind or any of those other inanimate scapegoats – Not me guv) might have something to do with it.

Meanwhile the horrific and pathetic regular beachings go on, with  well-intentioned volunteers working around the clock to keep stranded whales alive until they can be refloated, just to see the disoriented beasts turn round and beach themselves again.

So perhaps the new continent should continue to keep its head down, as it were.  Being out of the way of man-made interference seems to me like a reliable survival strategy.

Time for bed.

b


PS And here are a couple of clues, with a certain thematic coherence.
  • Herd, by the sound of it, of erzast wildebeest? Stuff and nonsense! (4, 4)
  • I'm Trump, starting to peter out, confusingly – totally unrehearsed. (9)

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