Destination & General Interest Talks Presented

DESTINATION TALKS PRESENTED

 

The Panama Canal: Past, Present, and Future.  The potential for a shorter sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific through Panama was recognized several hundred years ago.  A failed French attempt to build a sea-level canal was followed by American success with a lock-canal which opened in 1914.  Today, the canal is a vital artery of international trade, with nearly 14,000 ships travelling through every year.  A major expansion to handle very large ships is currently under construction.  The Panama Canal represents one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time.

 

The Ancient City of Ephesus.  Humans inhabited Ephesus from the Stone Age until about 500 years ago.  For most of that time (about 1500 years) it was a thriving Greek city and its buildings and temples were among the wonders of the ancient world.  During the Roman Period Ephesus grew rapidly into one of the largest and most important centers of the Mediterranean – second only to Rome. Ephesus was also an important center for Early Christianity.  Today Ephesus remains as a well-preserved archeological site.  It includes a large Roman amphitheater, a gladiators' graveyard, and the famed Library of Celsus.

 

Rome: The Eternal City.  From a small village located on the Tiber River in the 7th Century BC Rome grew to a population of 1.5 million, becoming the center of a great empire stretching from Britain to Egypt and from Spain to the Persian Gulf.  During the 15th and 16th Century Renaissance art and architecture flourished in Rome.  In the 19th Century Rome became the capital of a unified Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II.  Today, with numerous Parks, piazzas, fountains, museums, magnificent buildings of the former Empire, and great restaurants and shops – Rome is a fascinating and indeed Eternal City.

 

Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence was established as a Roman outpost in 80 BC, grew to become a major commercial center, survived floods and the plague, and from the 14th to 18th centuries was a great crucible of the Renaissance.  Today, Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses some of the most magnificent buildings and works of art of any city in the world.  

 

Marseille: Past and Present.  Marseille is the oldest and second largest city in France.  It was founded in 600 BC as a Greek trading colony and later became an important city in the Roman Empire.  In the 14th century plague killed almost half the population.  In the 17th to 19th centuries Marseille grew to become a major military and commercial port.  During the Second World War the city was bombed and then occupied by German Forces.  The 21st Century has seen marked improvements in infrastructure.  Numerous scenic and historical sites and excellent shops and restaurants make it an important tourist destination.

 

Beautiful Venice:  History and What to Do and See.  Venice has a long and varied history.  From a tiny settlement in the 10th century BC Venice grew to become the capital of The Republic of Venice and a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  It was a staging area for the Crusades and the Battles against the Ottoman Turks, as well as a very important center of commerce and art in the 13th to 17th centuries.  Venice played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music.  Venice, Queen of the Adriatic or City of Water, has been called “the most beautiful city built by man”.  Tourism has been a major sector of Venetian industry since the 18th century.  Today, with its celebrated art and architecture Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world drawing about 3 million visitors each year.  Main sites include St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco, but there are many others. 

 

Istanbul:  Vibrant Crossroad between Europe and Asia.  Istanbul, with a population of over 14 million, straddles the Bosporus with the historical and commercial center in Europe and about 1/3 of its population in Asia.  It was founded around 660 BC as Byzantium.  After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires.  Istanbul is the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world, with more than 11 million visitors each year.  The city's historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Highlights include Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace.  Across the city's natural harbor, the Golden Horn, lies the Beyoğlu district – the city’s commercial, cultural and entertainment center.

 

Were Crete and Santorini the Center of an Ancient Superpower?  Europe’s first advanced civilization, the Minoans, emerged on Crete and Santorini 7,000 to 5,000 years ago.  The Minoans became a major maritime global power with colonies from the Middle East to Northern Europe, and possibly North America.  They disappeared suddenly about 1450 BC after the volcanic eruption of Thera.  Considerable evidence now suggests the Minoans were the source for the legend of Atlantis.  Today Crete and Santorini offer some of the most gorgeous scenery and most impressive archeological sites anywhere.

 

Lisbon: City of Light. Possibly the oldest city in Europe, Lisbon’s history includes Phoenician, Roman, Moorish, and Crusader periods.  Today, it serves as the political, economic, and cultural center of Portugal.  From hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, Lisbon offers gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums as part of the sun-lit white cityscape.

 

Cadiz: City Built by Silver.  Founded by Phoenician traders, Cádiz is generally considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in Europe.  From here Columbus sailed to the New World and Spanish treasure ships returned with unimaginable quantities of gold and silver.  The old town is characterized by narrow streets, connecting squares (plazas), city walls, beautiful beaches, and seafood restaurants. 

 

Gibraltar: Fortress between the Seas.  With its strategic location between the Mediterranean and Atlantic “The Rock” or “Pillars of Hercules” has a long, rich, and important place in world history.

 

Barcelona: The City of Gaudi.  With its rich history and cultural heritage, its unique architecture and art, its beautiful beaches, and its fine shops and restaurants – Barcelona shines as a gem of the Mediterranean.

 

Troy. With over 4,000 years of history Troy is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The first excavations at the site were undertaken by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. In scientific terms, its extensive remains are the most significant demonstration of the first contact between the civilizations of Anatolia and the Mediterranean world.  Moreover, the siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece in the 13th or 12th century B.C., immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, has inspired great creative artists throughout the world ever since.

 

Copenhagen: City of Spires .  Founded as a Viking fishing village in the 10th century, Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in the early 15th century. Through the centuries it survived strife, the plague, and two world wars.  Today the larger metropolitan area has a population of almost 2 million.  The amusement park of Tivoli Gardens, outstanding museums, and one of the largest and oldest pedestrian shopping streets (the Strøget) make Copenhagen a beautiful and exciting destination.

 

Saint Petersburg: A Turbulent History.  This is the story of one of the world’s most magnificent cities.  Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, it has both a tragic and a triumphant history.  From the 18th to the 19th centuries it grew and became the capital of a great empire and the largest nation on Earth.  It survived a 20th century marked by famine, disease, and three devastating wars – the last of which killed 14% of the entire Russian population.  It gave birth to a world-changing political revolution.  Today St Petersburg shines like a magnificent gem overlooking the Neva River and the Baltic Sea.

 

Saint Petersburg Today.  St Petersburg (population about 4.8 million) is one of the most beautiful and historic cities of Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Beautiful canals and waterways have given it the name “The Venice of the North.”  Seventeenth to nineteenth century architectural wonders including ornate palaces, both within the city and nearby, are unmatched in their grandeur.  Incredible art museums house some of the largest and finest collections in the world.  Historical monuments and sculptures everywhere remind one of the rich history of the city.  Enjoy the natural beauty, history, art, and magnificent architecture St Petersburg!

 

Helsinki: The Enlightened City.  Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550.  The plague of 1710 killed the greater part of the inhabitants of Helsinki.  Finland endured tumultuousness times during the first half of the 20th century, but continued its steady development.  Learn why Helsinki is consistently voted one of the most livable cities in the world, why it was chosen as the World Design Capital, and why Finland’s achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework.

 

Stockholm: Beauty by the Water.  Stockholm, with over a million people, is the thriving cultural, political, and economic capital of Sweden. The city was founded in the 13th century; was under Danish control during the 15th century; was liberated by Gustav Vasa in the 16th century; and was at Sweden’s center as it became a world power in the 17th Century.  It suffered from wars and economic depression from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century.  But, from the last half of the 19th century until now Sweden, and Stockholm in particular, have prospered.  Today, Stockholm offers many outstanding attractions for the visitor including beautiful waterways, bridges, sidewalk cafes, and great castles and museums.

 

GENERAL INTEREST TALKS PRESENTED

 

Tales From My Years Exploring the Underwater World.  At the age of 13, Dr. Jack Hardy read a recently published book called “The Silent World” by Jacques Cousteau.  Totally enthralled by the possibilities of underwater exploration, he purchased one of the first commercially available “Aqua Lungs” and began his diving career.   This talk describes Jack’s many experiences as a diver, underwater photographer, ocean explorer, and award-winning globally-recognized marine research scientist.

 

Ancient Shipwrecks and Sunken Cities: The Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea.  The sea floor of the Mediterranean and Black Seas harbors valuable clues about several ancient civilizations.  Modern technology allows underwater archeologists to locate and map shipwrecks and submerged cities and document the rise and fall of early civilizations.

 

Marine Life of the Mediterranean.  The Mediterranean Sea provides a wide range of habitats for a rich variety of marine species.  Since ancient times, people have harvested these plants and animals for food, medicine, and a variety of other uses.  Human activities now threaten this unique ecosystem, however conservation efforts are underway.

 

Marine Biology of the Black Sea. The Black Sea is an enclosed fairly shallow sea with a unique environment.  It formerly supported a rich variety of plants and animals, but the ecosystem has been drastically altered by a variety of human impacts.  Nutrient enrichment has caused massive blooms of plankton ultimately resulting in oxygen-depleted areas unable to support fish and shellfish.

 

Ottomans: Rise and Fall of a Great Sea Power.  From the time of the crusades through the 19thth century, European States were locked in a crucial contest with the Ottoman Empire to control the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Decisive clashes of naval forces often determined the shifts of power between these two civilizations.

 

Wildlife of the Mississippi Delta.  Wildlife, from exotic birds to crocodiles, exists outside the city of New Orleans in the delta of the great river that has been called the “Nile of the new world.”

 

Exploring the Underwater Caves (Cenotes) of Mexico.  Mexico houses the world’s most extensive network of underwater caves. Diving explorations are leading to new understandings of how these caves were formed and the important role they played in early Mayan Civilization. These ancient caves also contain very unusual life forms.  Exploration of these unique environments has only just begun.

 

Strange Creatures of the Caribbean Sea.  From the seahorse to the puffer fish, scorpion fish, or sea turtle, marine creatures of the Caribbean utilize unique physical adaptations and behaviors in the struggle for survival.

 

Daredevils: Underwater Longer and Deeper.  From ancient Greeks to modern deep-sea robots, humans have dared to risk their lives to salvage treasure, explore and research marine life, and wage war in the underwater world.  This lecture traces the historical development of technologies which have allowed humans to dive deeper and stay down longer in the "silent world".

 

Mexico’s Pacific Marine Life.   The Pacific Coast of Mexico, spanning more than 16 degrees of latitude (over 1100 miles), includes a wide range of climatic conditions, ocean currents, and coastal geology.  These environments provide a rich variety of habitats for some of the most diverse and abundant communities of marine animals on Earth.  Thousands of species inhabit these waters, from tiny (one inch) colorful tube worms to giant 98 foot blue whales.  This talk describes just some of these creatures and the unique roles they play in the ecosystem of Pacific Mexico.

 

Central America’s Pacific Marine Life.  The Pacific Coast of Central America, spanning about 1800 km north-south, includes many different marine environments.  These environments provide a rich variety of habitats which support some of the world’s most diverse and abundant communities of marine life. This talk describes some of these creatures and the unique roles they play in the marine ecosystems of Central America.

 

 Sea Monsters: Imaginary or Real?  Tales of sea monsters appear very early in recorded human history and continue to the present day.  Some of the creatures described bear a striking resemblance to fossilized specimens believed to be long extinct.  Modern deep-sea explorations are uncovering some very strange creatures which still live today.

 

Global greenhouse warming: what we know and don’t know.  Scientific assessments conclude that the earth’s climate is already warming and will continue to warm in response to human activities.  Recent research is narrowing the uncertainty surrounding the magnitude of this change and the resultant effects on ecosystems and humans.

 

Marine Biology of the Bay of Biscay.  The Bay of Biscay is a vast inlet of the Atlantic Ocean bounded on the north and east by France and on the south by Spain.  It is one of Europe's last great wildernesses - a fertile marine habitat with a great variety and abundance of marine life.  Abundant plankton populations make it a rich feeding ground for young larvae of anchovy, sardine, and mackerel.  The Bay supports rich populations of fish, invertebrates, sea birds, and almost every whale and dolphin species found in the North Atlantic.  Recently, dolphins have mysteriously declined in numbers.  These and other species may be threatened by human activities, but protection measures are underway.

 

Henry the Navigator and 15th Century Portugal.  In the 15th Century, Prince Henrique, Duke of Viseu rose to become an important figure within the Portuguese Empire. In 1415 he led the conquest of the Muslim stronghold of Ceuta on the North African coast.  Henry was fascinated with Africa and saw the great opportunities for opening of new Portuguese trade routes.  His expeditions and discoveries had profound consequences for the beginning of worldwide European exploration and trade.  He is remembered today as a popular explorer - “Henry the Navigator”.  However, recent historical research also reveals his exploitation and participation in the slave

 

The Barbary Pirates.  From the time of the crusades until the 19th century, pirates operating from North Africa raided European ships and coastal cities in the Western Mediterranean and as far away as Iceland.  Piracy grew following the Spanish conquest of Granada in 1492 which led the Moors to retaliate against Christian cities along the Spanish coast.  Over several centuries more than a million Europeans were captured and sold into slavery in North Africa.  From 1606 to 1616 England lost 466 merchant ships to Barbary pirates.  Piracy along the Barbary Coast finally came to an end with the French conquest of Algiers in 1830.

 

Sinbad:  Ancient Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean and Beyond.  Maritime trade between the Middle East and India began in the 3rd millennium BC and in flourished in Greco-Roman Times.  By the 8th century AD Arabs were regularly sailing to and trading with China.  However, after the 878 AD Chinese rebellion ships from West and East generally met in Southeast Asia to trade.  After 1498 Arab trade with the Far East declined as European ships began to dominate trade in the Indian Ocean and Far East.

 

Marine Life and Fisheries of the Red Sea.  The Red Sea Environment is characterized by low rainfall and runoff leading to clear waters.  Important coastal ecosystems include mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds.  Sea turtles, marine mammals and numerous fish species are abundant.  Commercial fishing in the Red Sea brings in more than $130 million dollars U.S. per year.  The economic and biologic value of these marine communities is becoming increasingly recognized and protected. 

 

 The Amazing Coral Reef.  Coral reefs are the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems.  Individual coral animals containing symbiotic algae grow into unique colonies.   Many colonies then combine to form several characteristic large reef structures.

 

Strange Creatures of the Red Sea.  Marine creatures of the Red Sea utilize unique physical adaptations and behaviors in the struggle for survival.  Many strange and unique life forms inhabit the sea surface, the water column, and the bottom down to thousands of meters.  Research will continue to reveal details of the life history of these creatures, and many new species will yet be discovered.

 

Marine Biology of Portugal, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.  The waters and coasts of Portugal, the Canary Islands, and Morocco are one of the world’s most fertile marine habitats.  This area is home to a great variety and abundance of marine life.  Upwelling currents bring cold nutrient-rich waters from the depths to the surface.  The resulting blooms of plankton make it an ideal feeding ground for young larvae of anchovy, sardine, and mackerel.  The coastal areas support abundant populations of fish, invertebrates, sea birds, and almost every whale and dolphin species found in the North Atlantic.  Recently, dolphins have mysteriously declined in numbers.  These and other species are threatened by human activities, but protection measures are underway.

 

Shrinking Glaciers and Threatened Wildlife:  Climate Change in Alaska and the Arctic.  The world’s climate undergoes natural cycles of warming and cooling over periods of tens of thousands of years. Human activities have almost doubled the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past 160 years. The rapid rate of warming during the past 100 years far exceeds that of any period in the Earth’s history. Alaska and the Arctic are warming twice as fast as the Earth as a whole.  Decreases in arctic ice cover, glacier mass, permafrost, and flora and fauna are dramatic.  Long-term damage can be mitigated if a variety of actions are undertaken very soon.

 

Charismatic Mega-Fauna: Marine Mammals of Alaska.  Alaskan waters support at least 70 species of marine mammals.  They include Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus), and Fissipeds (polar bears, and sea otters).  Populations often number in the tens of thousands for Cetaceans and hundreds of thousands for Pinnipeds. Populations are being monitored closely with an eye to long term sustainability.

 

Bears of Alaska.  Black bears, brown bears, and polar bears each have their own unique, but sometimes overlapping habitats and ranges. Encounters between bears and humans (both positive and lethal) are on the rise. Conservation of bears (especially polar bears) is a contested political issue in Alaska.  In general, bear populations in Alaska continue to thrive.

 

Danger and Dollars:  Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries.  Alaska supports one of the most productive commercial fishing economies in the world.  It directly earns over $1 billion annually and provides over half the seafood consumed in the United States.  Important types of boats and equipment include gillnetters, long-liners, purse seiners, trawlers, trollers, and crabbers.  The most economically important fisheries include various species of salmon, ground-fish, and crab.  Commercial fishing in Alaska is considered the deadliest occupation in the United States with a mortality rate 26 times the national average.  New safety regulations and training are beginning to reduce the dangers of this commercial fishery.

 

Pirates:  Ancient Egypt to Modern Somalia.  Since the beginning of sea travel and maritime trade pirates have roamed the seven seas.  Piracy thrived in the Mediterranean in ancient times, in the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in Somalia in the 21st century.  What are the common factors which lead to the emergence and success of piracy?   

 

The Baltic: Oceanography, Marine Biology, and Fisheries.  The Baltic Sea is unique.  Many major rivers empty into the Baltic, resulting in a sea which is much less saline than most of the world’s ocean.  The fish fauna is a mixture of marine and freshwater species.  Human activities have greatly altered the ecology of the Baltic.  About one quarter of the Baltic’s seafloor is a dead zone.  Conservation efforts are underway.

 

The Viking Age.  From the late 8th to the mid-11th century Scandinavian explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic.  During this period, commonly known as the “Viking Age”, the Norse used their famed long ships to travel as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, and as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and North America.  This cultural Diaspora left its traces from Byzantium to Newfoundland.  What factors led to the rise and then the fall of the Vikings and what is their legacy today?

 

The Tropical Pacific: Oceanography and Marine Ecology.  The Pacific Ocean covers almost 1/3 of the Earth’s surface, has over 20,000 Islands, and is surrounded by the volcanic “ring of fire”.   Ecosystems range from virtual deserts in open waters to some of the world’s richest systems in areas of upwelling currents or coral reefs.

 

The Incredible Mangrove.  Mangroves are terrestrial plants with unique adaptations allowing them to thrive in saltwater.  They stabilize coastlines, provide a habitat for a rich diversity of species, and have many direct human uses. 

 

Amazon: World’s Greatest River.  The Amazon Drainage Basin occupies about 40% of South America - an area the size of the United States, with a tropical humid climate and rainfall generally more than 200 cm (79 inches) per year.  The Amazon River is the World’s greatest in length, navigability, and volume.  The river carries huge amounts of sediment, as well as 20% of the Earth’s freshwater, into the Atlantic Ocean.  Indigenous tribes have lived in the Amazon Basin for at least 20,000 years.  In the 16th to 18th centuries Europeans explored and settled Amazonia and African slaves became an important part of the new economy.  Following Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1824, the Amazon River became increasingly important as a major highway for trade, growth, and development.  Today, the Northern Region of Amazonia has only about 11% of Brazil’s total population and half of that lives in the city of Manaus. Large infrastructure and industrial projects compete with nature and conservation in this magnificent area.

 

Amazon: World’s Greatest Ecosystem.  The Amazon Basin contains the world’s largest tropical rainforest.  It is home to perhaps 30% of all the worlds’ species, including some of the most beautiful and exotic creatures known.  Human impacts, if continued, could lead to loss of the entire rainforest and most of its species within 40 years.  Climate change is threatening the rainforest.  Human destruction of the rainforest is exacerbating global climate change.  Brazil is greatly expanding the number and size of rainforest protected areas.  Controversy and conflict between conservationists, government, indigenous people, and developers continues.

 

Captain Cook’s Secret Voyages: The South Pacific.  In 1768 the South Pacific remained a mysterious and unknown region with rumors of a “Great Southern Continent” with untold riches.  British Lieutenant James Cook discovered and charted many new islands, created a detailed chart of New Zealand, and was the first to map the east coast of Australia.  Cook’s first two voyages made a monumental contribution to Europe’s understanding of the Pacific and its people.

 

Captain Cook’s Secret Voyages: The North Pacific.   In July, 1776 British Captain James Cook set out to return to Tahiti and explore other areas of the South Pacific.  After accomplishing this, Cook revealed to his crew a secret and perhaps more important geographic target.  If located it would be a valuable prize for which all the European powers were competing. 

 

Who Discovered America?  For millions of years humans inhabited Africa, Asia, and Europe, but were absent in the Americas.  There are many theories about who first “discovered” America.  Proposed discoverers include Pacific and Atlantic stone-age people, Minoans, Egyptians, Vikings, Irish Monks, Chinese, Portuguese, and Christopher Columbus.  Evidence suggests that the answer may include many of these and perhaps others. 

 

Climate Change: The North Atlantic and Arctic.  In the past the world’s climate underwent natural cycles of warming and cooling over periods of tens of thousands of years.  John (Jack) Hardy, author of the book Climate Change: Causes, Effects, and Solutions, describes how the earth’s climate today is warming at an unprecedented rate in response to human activities.  In the North Atlantic region changes in ocean circulation and heat transfer, ice cover, glacial mass, permafrost, and flora and fauna are already well underway.  Long-term damage can be minimized if a variety of actions are undertaken very soon.

 

Strange and Dangerous Marine Creatures of South Asia.  Marine creatures of the Indian Ocean and SE Asia utilize unique physical adaptations and behaviors in the struggle for survival.  Many strange and unique life forms inhabit the sea surface, the water column, and the bottom down to thousands of meters.  Research will continue to reveal details of the life history of these creatures, and many new species will yet be discovered.