Nemo – He is Found!

Just when I was starting to get a little worried about meeting people here… along comes Jaime the latte boy 🙂

I headed to the Starbucks around the corner for a caramel machiatto to start my day this morning (ok yesterday morning, but I struggled with the videos below for long enough that now it’s the next day), and chatted with a very friendly young Englishman who, as he was making my coffee, outlined his theory of accents, courtesy of years spent living with Australians… apparently, if you hear what sounds like an Aussie accent, but it sounds nicer, it’s Kiwi. And similarly, if you hear what sounds like an American accent, but it sounds nicer, it’s Canadian. I told him I can deal with that. Next time I’ll be sure to ask if he’s seen Flight of the Conchords. And now I’ve got a reason to keep buying the only coffee I’ve ever tasted that I actually like!

My day certainly was off to a good start as I walked through Camden Town toward Regent’s Park, “Obla Di Obla Da” blasting through my iPod, and I came across this remarkable estate agent’s, apparently a widespread chain:

A shiny 50p piece to the first person who knows why the name of this place is AWESOME 🙂

But the real highlight of today was the London Zoo… The wonderful thing about this place, run as it is by the Zoological Society of London, is its emphasis on conservation. Every ticket includes a voluntary donation (you could opt out, but really, who would?) to the zoo’s conservation initiatives, and the place is covered with information and activities – much of it geared at children – about international issues surrounding bio-diversity and the destruction of species and habitat. This includes a little chart on each and every exhibit label that explains just how endangered the species is, as well as exhibits about traditional animal tracking in Africa and informational displays about CO2 levels and how they affect animals’ lives as well as our own.

an informational poster about CO2… 350 parts per million is the upper limit for safe living conditions… and we’re already in the 370s.

THE AQUARIUM

[all of the videos I’ve been taking on this trip will be hosted on YouTube… if they won’t play here, click on them a second time and they’ll take you to the original video]

My favourite bit by far was the Aquarium, otherwise known as the live action Finding Nemo. My absolute favourite Pixar flick – and almost all of the characters were represented, thanks to large sections of the aquarium dedicated to Australian marine life and coral reef habitats. Here’s a clownfish – a little angrier looking even than Marlon, I think…

And another, this one brushing himself on his anemone home… “Do you want this anemone to sting you? Do you?

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, what do we do we swim, swim…” And here’s Dory, otherwise known as the Regal Tang, native to the Indo-Pacific and thankfully not yet endangered. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Remember the little guy in the dentist’s tank who was all neurotically obsessed with the bubbles? He’s an Orange Blotch Surgeonfish, native to the Pacific and not yet endangered. And he does look sort of neurotic here…

And finally, rounding out the cast is the White Blotched River Stingray – Mr. Ray! Hanging around his tank was good for some entertainment… I heard one very British dad convince his daughters that the thing was called a “Spotty Ray” – and heard another kid ask his dad if the ray could really carry other fish on its back!

The reef

And finally, not a Hollywood star but awesome nonethelss, the Tub Gunard. Fish with legs are fascinating – I always get this Cambrian chill, thinking about the fact that once that’s all we all were, a twinkle in the eye of a crawling fish… I think perhaps it’s also the combination of two modes of transport that we think of as very separate, swimming and walking, coexisting in one animal. Poor Ariel – if only she’d been born a few thousand millenia earlier. These guys swim as well, but here’s one ambling creepily along… and if you’ve ever see the all-time worst Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Threshold”, wherein Janeway and Paris reach the transwarp barrier and “superevolve” into giant versions of this very creature, well, let’s just say – the creep factor for you will reach a different level entirely.

Despite the fact that this was the first really wet day I’ve spent in London (scored a heavy duty golf umbrella for £2.99 today! A find, considering the usual prices around here), there was plenty else to see at the zoo:

I missed the penguin feeding, but loved the sign!

Me in the Aquarium.

A little Canadian content... Winnie the Pooh spent some time here while her owner was at war, so Manitoba presented the zoo with this plaque and statue...

The most terrifying part of the day, by far...

Komodo Dragon! He lives in there alone, by the way... To prove he was actually moving, I took this shot with his eyes open...

...and this one as he blinked!

Just like in Harry Potter, though the Burmese Python was nowhere to be seen today...

...some lingering racial tension is evident in many of the outback-themed exhibits...

...the Rhinocerous Iguana, native to Haiti and the Dominican. Some still live in the wild, but they are increasingly vulnerable.

This one amazed me - the Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle. See how its neck extends and is flexible like a snake? It's native to just one island in Indonesia, and is critically vulnerable at the moment. The ones in captivity here and elsewhere are serving as a safety net for the species.

The beautiful Rio Fuerte Beaded Lizard of Mexico and Guatemala's dry forests. At the safe end of the vulnerable scale, for now.

Zoological Society Fellow David Attenborough

On such a rainy day, the cats were a bit of a disappointment...

…but they were more than made up for by the antics of these monkeys (I can’t recall the exact species). I always feel a little uncomfortable photographing gorillas – they’re just so human – and that’s why there are no pics of them here, though I did see them. But these guys were made for the camera, and it loves them right back:

So that was it for the Zoo – though I’d love to go back on a sunny day and see more of the outdoor animals; apparently they have lots of Cats, giraffes, kangaroos… definitely worth a second trip. Oh, wait – one more thing, just for you Elena:

...even across the ocean, you cannot escape it!!! Mwahahaha!!!

A quick glance at what I’m fairly sure was the River Cam – where it’s never a good idea to be taking a stroll under the influence of post-hypnotic suggestion – and it was back into the City.

Don't know why I took this picture? Read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. You'll be glad you did.

Didn’t make it to Baker Street like I’d hoped – the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Beatles Store (hey, I need to decorate my new room a little) will have to wait. I did, however, attend the first of the many free lectures I plan to see during my time here… this place is as much an academic hub as it is a cultural one. It was fascinating to sit in such a beautiful church (St. Mary Aldermary, 900 years old and recently refurbished, which sits in the shadow of St. Paul’s in Cheapside), and awe-inspiring to get a glimpse into an academic tradition that goes back far beyond the founding of Canada’s first universities. Anything that old is fascinating… the streets around the church, lined with modern office buildings and Starbucks though they are, are still named things like “Bread Street”, “Milk Stree” and “Honey Street” … I could almost imagine CMOT Dibbler coming round the corner with a trayful of inedible sausages (20p for anyone who picks that one up – Jesse, Andrew, I’m looking at you!).

However, the lecture itself was something of a disappointment. It was part of the Robert Boyle Memorial series, originally begun in the 1700s and recently revived. It covered what could have easily been a fascinating subject – and certainly a very topical one – the relationship between science and religion. But the lecturers, in true English don fashion, spent far too much time congratulating each other and explaining to the audience who Boyle was, rattling off titles and dates and making jokes about the Earl of Cork (the seat of Boyle’s family) and singer Susan Boyle. Some of their comments about Boyle’s (Robert, that is) personal philosophy – he once said “I like to speak of people with civility, but of things with freedom” – as well as his contributions to the development of experiment-based science were illuminating, but somewhat abortive. With the divide between the religious and atheist communities as wide today as it has ever been without coming to actual blows, it’s too bad the lecturers didn’t take this opportunity to expound the sort of cooperation and civil dialogue Boyle promoted (although, in their defense, this probably would have involved a lot more detail about his anti- Muslim and -Jewish views… apparently he was afraid of Jews coming into England because he thought they would too easily win converts with their superior theological arguments). And also disappointing was the fact that they glossed quickly over the problem of Boyle’s “natural theology” having come over a century before Darwin’s theory of evolution. Sort of an important distinction – makes a lot of Boyle’s attempts to reconcile the physical world with divine design, such as the perfect suitedness of our eyes to the way we go about our lives, seem quaint or even moot, since Darwin clearly states that the eyes grew around the tasks, evolving to fill a necessary function, rather than being placed into our skulls fully formed and tailor made.

St. Paul's

Nighttime in Cheapside

So it was an enchanting experience, but I think I’ll be choosing a little more carefully from now on. Poetry, Mathematics, and Myth at the BM on Thursday sounds more up to speed. And of course I have no doubt that, being in Douglas’s name, this year’s Save the Rhino lecture will be relevant as well as both informative and entertaining.

Chatted with the flatmates a bit tonight… Candace met a couple of the guys from Muse at a work event the other night! Anyhow – lots to do – I’m headed into the City to do some wandering and pick up some maps for my wall. Thanks for reading! ❤

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marley on February 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    SAM ❤
    I think you should be a travel journalist, your posts are amazing! I want to chat with you on the interwebs soon.
    Lots of Love – M

    Reply

  2. Posted by Elena on February 20, 2010 at 3:13 am

    oh lord their schleich rack is so orginized and neat, how do you even prononce that?
    next time I’m hungry I’m going to say I’m feeling like a peckish pengiun.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Boffo on February 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    What an amazing trip to the Zoo and the videos worked fine…loved them all……cant wait for the next entry…I agree with the writer above…you should be a travel writer…..so full if info and easy to read….reader friendly….

    Reply

  4. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, watch south park online

    Reply

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