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Friday, April 19, 2019

Sea Creatures Part 2 – Animals of the Pelagic


Introduction

In Shark Station, most of the novel takes place deep beneath the waves, but there is a small portion that takes place near the surface. Due to many of the creatures encountered at the surface already being highlighted in previous blog posts (humpback whales, sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, etc.), there will be only two animals highlighted in this post. In a way, it is poignant because the pelagic zone is so void compared to the continental shelf and coral reef regions of the sea. Regardless, I hope you enjoy learning about these two sea creatures.  


Mola mola

Flickr user: Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten  https://www.flickr.com/photos/39891373@N07/ [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]


The silvery gray-colored ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is a unique creature of the sea. The most distinct feature is perhaps their shape. They have a flattened oval shape that contrasts with most fish species. Instead of a typical caudal fin, they have a truncated caudal fin fused to the body called a clavus that acts as a rudder to help them steer through the water(1). Elongated dorsal and anal fins are primarily used for locomotion. Their mouth is formed from two hard teeth plates that resemble a beak(2). All of these features lead to their nickname “swimming head”(1). Although their coloration is a silver to grayish-white color, they sometimes have gray spots on the posterior half of their body. Living for 8-10 years, they can grow to 2,268 kg (5,000lbs) and be up to 3m (10ft) long and 4.3 (14ft) tall(1)(3).

Distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical oceans, the ocean sunfish is often seen near the surface, but has also been recorded diving to depths and traveling long distances. It is thought that they dive deep to avoid predators. Predators of the ocean sunfish are killer whales, sea lions, and sharks(2). Ocean sunfish themselves prey upon algae, brittle stars, crustaceans, fish, jellyfish, squid, and zooplankton(1)(2). They have a mucous lining in their digestive tract to protect them from being stung by the jellyfish they eat(2).

Ocean sunfish are oviparous (meaning that they hatch from eggs). From larva to adult, they will grow 60 million times larger than the size in which they began(2). Mola molas have high fecundity. The females can produce up to 300 million eggs each breeding season; more than any other known vertebrate currently alive today. While the sunfish is still a larva, they have a tail and caudal fin, but eventually, in their second larval stage the tail absorbs and all the spines disappear. As juvenile ocean sunfish begin to grow, they can average up to almost 0.82kg (1.8lbs) a day in growth(4).

As for threats to their existence, humans in parts of Asia eat ocean sunfish and they are used in Chinese medicine(4). According to the IUCN red list, they are listed as vulnerable and their population is decreasing(3). Major threats besides human consumption are bycatch from drift nets and plastic debris such as plastic bags that they mistake for jellyfish(1).

An interesting fact about the ocean sunfish is that it’s the largest bony fish on the planet(1). They are related to pufferfish, but only exhibit spines during the second half of their larval stage(2).





Portuguese Man o’War

Rhalah [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]


Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER. [Public domain]


The Portuguese man o’war (Physalia physalis) are closely related to jellyfish, but they are not a jellyfish. Instead, it is a siphonophore, which is a colony of individuals working as one(5). The siphonophore colony is made up of identical individuals that are known as zooids or clones(6). They have four separate polyps. The floating part at the top is called the pneumatophore. It is typically 30cm (12in) long and around 12.7cm (5in) wide. The tentacles are the largest part of the polyps. On average, they are 9.1m (30ft) in length but can grow as long as 50m (165ft) long with nematocysts filled with venom everywhere on the tentacles. The third polyp is the gastrozooids, which are the digestive organisms. The last one is the polyp that functions as the reproductive organ(5).

Unable to move on their own, they drift on the currents or the wind in the pelagic zone. If a threat of surface predation occurs, they can deflate their bubble on the top and submerge for a time(5). The float at the top (pneumatophore) can be a variety of colors such as blue, pink, or violet. The Portuguese man o’war is named as such due to the float resembling old-style Portuguese warships. Like warships, they will often float together, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more. They feed on small fish and crustaceans(6). To feed, they use their feeding tentacles to stun prey and pull them up into their simple digestive tract. Due to their highly venomous nature, their only predators are sea turtles like loggerheads and the ocean sunfish (Mola mola)(7).

As for conservation, the Portuguese man o' war hasn’t been evaluated by the IUCN yet. Their populations could be thriving or declining, but as of now, scientists still do not know. Although their sting is known to be excruciatingly painful, rarely does it kill a human(1). However, if a  Portuguese man o' war does wash on shore, it can still sting you, even if its been there for weeks(2)!

I know this was the shortest creature feature yet but I hope you enjoyed it as much as the others. In two weeks, there will be another sea creature blog post—the last for Shark Station. Until then, you can check out the first sea creature feature for this novel if you missed it by clicking here. As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me at elizataye@gmail.com. I always love hearing from my readers!



References



Friday, April 5, 2019

Sea Creatures Part 1 - Sharks

Sea Creatures Part 1 – Sharks

Introduction

Shark Station gets its name from the sharks that live near and around it. So, I figured they deserved their own special blog post as far as the sea creatures in Shark Station go. Each shark species featured in the novel and also those that were merely mentioned will be getting their own section in this blog post. There will be two more sea creature posts to feature the rest of the animals in the novel. Like for Allie’s Return, any animals that are repeat visitors from previous novels will not have their own feature in these posts (with the exception of the great white shark which wasn’t thoroughly highlighted before). With that said, let’s learn some more about the shark species in Shark Station starting with the most obscure to the most iconic.


Frilled Shark
saname777 from Tokyo, Japan [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) is a deep-sea shark ranging from the pelagic to benthic zone in depths of 120-1570m (393.7-5,150.9ft)(1)(2). Rarely are they seen at the surface, but sometimes they can be found near the continental shelf(2). They are found worldwide from subpolar to tropical latitudes, with distributions in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans(1)(3). In the Pacific, they range from Japan to New South Wales and Australia. The females are typically larger than the males growing to a length of 2.0m (6.6ft), while the males only grow to 1.7m (5.6ft) long. Both sexes exhibit gray or darkish brown coloration on the dorsal surface with a lighter shade on the ventral side. Six gill slits lie just before the pectoral fins with the first gill slit closest to the mouth being elongated and wrapping underneath the chin(3). They swim using an eel-like motion, undulating their body through the water(1). Interestingly, their anal fins are actually longer than their dorsal fin, which differs compared to most other sharks(3).

Little is known about the frilled shark in the wild due to its rare sightings. However, they are thought to give birth to live young, which use yolk sacs for nutrition while in the womb(1). The estimated gestation period is thought to be the longest of any chordate (animal with a backbone) at up to 3 ½ years. Each pregnancy they give birth to 2-15 pups and frilled sharks are thought to live up to 25 years old (2)(3). Some distinguishing characteristics that differ from other sharks are that they have fins placed farther back on their body, creating the eel-like appearance and a mouth more towards the front of their snout than underneath it like many other shark species(1)(3). Their lateral lines are exposed to the surrounding water so the hair cells are actually “open” to the water(3).

As for their feeding ecology, frilled sharks feed mainly on squid, other cephalopods, and bony fishes, but have been known to eat other sharks as well (1)(3). Some scientists have proposed that they may be able to close their gill slits to create suction to pull in squid. Their needle-like teeth are thought to make it difficult for their prey to escape. They are capable of ingesting prey almost half of their size(3).

An interesting fact about them is that they have an expandable fold of skin along their ventral side thought to help their stomach expand for digestion. Another interesting fact is that a new subspecies was discovered in 2009 near South Africa, it was named C. Africana(3).

According to the IUCN Red List, frilled sharks are listed as least concern as of February 20, 2015(4).



Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)
Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria [CC BY 3.0 au (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en)]

The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is known for its expandable jaws that can extend to catch prey in a blink of an eye. However, there is still a lot to learn about this species. Only one was ever maintained in captivity and it only survived for a week (click here to see a video of it swimming in an aquarium at Tokai University in Japan)(7). In the wild, goblin sharks are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. Ranging from depths of 95m (311.7ft) to 1300m (4,265.1ft), they inhabit waters off seamounts and continental shelves(6)(7). There are some records that indicate they may be a pelagic species(7).

As for their physical appearance, goblin sharks range from a pinkish color to a grayish purple. Lining the edges of their fins is a bright blue coloration(5). They average between 3-4m (10-13ft) long. The largest caught goblin shark weighed 210kg (463lbs) and over 5.5m (18 ft) long(7). The gestation period is unknown, but the shark is thought to be ovoviviparous like many other large sharks(6). Goblin sharks lack the nictitating membranes that other shark species like the great white have(8).

From stomach contents, goblin sharks are known to eat small bony fish, cephalopods, and crab(8). Their diet consists of crustaceans, fish, and squid(5). To detect prey, they use their ampullae of Lorenzini, then capture the prey with their needle-like front-teeth and pharyngeal suction (7)(8). Their posterior teeth are shaped for crushing, which indicates that they may eat some hard-bodied organisms like crabs and shrimp(7).

As for conservation, the IUCN red list lists them as least concern since at least July 7th, 2017(9).  Threats to them include being commercially fished off of Japan, but usually only caught as by-catch elsewhere in the world(8).



Blue Shark


The blue shark (Prionace glauca) is one of the only truly pelagic shark species. They range from cold temperate waters to tropical waters and can dive as deep as 350m (1148.3ft) 15)(18). They are migratory and have been known to cross oceans. Their long pectoral fins are thought to be used to help them glide on currents as a part of energy conservation. They migrate in search of food and mates(15). The species exhibits sexual segregation, where the females tend to live at higher latitudes than the males and they only congregate to mate (16)(15). As a species, they range from 60° N to 50 ° S latitude(16). The gestation period lasts form 9-12 months and consists of a litter of pups ranging from 35-100 pups, although one litter of 135 was reported(15)(16). As adults, they can grow to 2.7-3m (9-10ft) long, although the largest reported one was 4m (13ft) long(16).

As for their diet, they are known to eat anchovies, hake, dogfish, squid, euphausiids, and mackerel, and seabirds(16).

The IUCN red list categorizes them as near threatened based on the last assessment on October 1, 2005. The major threats to their survival are longline fishing and sport fishing.



Shortfin Mako
Patrick Doll [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] 

The shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) is a pelagic (open ocean) shark that can grow to 3.7m (12ft) long and weigh 544.3kg (1200 lbs). They can swim at 45 miles an hour, making it the fastest shark in the sea(10).  They have a countercurrent exchanger which keeps their blood warm enough to maintain a body temperature up to 0.6°C higher than the water around it, which helps them to move quickly through the water (11)(10).

Spread throughout the Pacific Ocean, the shortfin mako ranges from as far north as the Aleutian Islands to as far south as New Zealand(12). They are wide-traveling sharks. Voyages of 2,092km (1,300mi) in a month have been known to occur(11). Adult shortfin makos aren’t known to have any predators, putting them at the top of the food web in the pelagic zone but the juveniles may be eaten by other shark species and perhaps even adult makos(10). Mainly, their diet consists of tunas and billfish, but also squid, blue sharks, sea turtles, mackerels, porpoises and dolphins(11). They’ve even been known to eat swordfish, one of the other fastest fish in the sea(12).

Like the other sharks in this blog post so far, the shortfin mako is ovoviviparous. When they are captured, female makos are known to abort embryos which means little is known about their reproduction. What is known is that they have a gestation period of 15-18 months and litters consist of 8-10 pups which are born during winter(11). The coloration of the mako is an indigo to rich purple color on the dorsal side and white to silver ventral surface with an obvious line of coloration between the two(11)(12). They are thought to live somewhere between 29-32 years(12).

An interesting fact is that the scientific name for shortfin mako name means “equal tail, sharp nose”. Isurus is Greek for equal tail, oxy for sharp and rynchus for nose. There are two species of makos, the longfin and the shortfin. The way to tell the difference between a longfin mako and a shortfin are by the elongated pectoral fins and larger eyes on the longfin mako(12).

As of November 5th, 2018, they are listed as Endangered by the IUCN red list (13). Major threats to them include being fished for commercially, for recreation, and accidentally captured(10).

If you would like to see a video with blue sharks and mako sharks interacting together in the pelagic zone just like in the book, click here



Great White Shark

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is the most iconic of all shark species. They are known for their size as the largest predatory fish in the ocean(21). They can detect prey movement via the lateral line from 250m away. In quick bursts of speed, great whites can swim at 35mph, but only maintain 15mph(23)(20). Ranging from 3.6-7.62m (11-25ft) in length, they can weigh up to 2,268 kg (5,000lbs) with the females being larger than the males (22)(21). The dorsal side is a dark gray to almost black coloration with a white ventral side, they use this countershading adaptation to keep prey from detecting them.

Found in all oceans except the Arctic and Southern Oceans, they range from cold to tropical latitudes from the coast to the pelagic zone and are known to dive deep in search of food. In the eastern Pacific, they are known to migrate from Mexico to Hawaii(21). They are found from 60°N to 60°S latitude. Some sharks have been known to travel across an entire ocean.  They have been reported as far north as the Aleutian Islands to as far south as Southern Mexico(22).

It is still unknown as to where great white sharks give birth or exactly what size they are at birth. The smallest recorded great white was 1.1m (3.6ft) long and only 16kg (35lbs). An ovoviviparous species, females give birth to live young. The pups hatch within the mother in egg capsules and then the female gives birth not long afterward. The gestation period is thought to be more than a year. Litters can be anywhere from 2-10 and even as large as 17 pups. At birth, they are expected to live up to 30 years(22). As the young grow into adults, they begin seeking larger prey than the small fishes they ate as juveniles, progressing up to large marine mammals(21). Juveniles don’t start eating marine mammals until there are at least 450kg(22).

The great white diet consists of a variety of animals including fish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, toothed whales, and even carrion (dead meat) (19)(20). They have 300 teeth used to grab and tear meat into bite-sized chunks(19). Group hunting has been seen in great whites where they work together to kill prey and then share the kill(23). To maintain their body heat, sharks have a countercurrent exchanger to help maintain a body temperature slightly higher than that of the surrounding water. It helps them to keep their brain and muscles warmer so they can think and move effectively even in colder waters(21).

Some interesting facts about great white sharks are that their only natural predator (outside of humans) is the orca (Orcinus orca). They have been known to kill and even consume sharks including the great white. Great whites also have an “ear stone” that allows it to orient itself in the water, to basically know if they are upside down or not. Specialized eyes with retinas divided into two sections allow them to see in the daytime and low-light. Although behavioral research is ongoing, they are thought to be intelligent and scientists have seen a variety of behaviors of great whites amongst each other from aggressive to non-aggressive(23).

Great white conservation is tricky but extremely important for many reasons. They are an apex predator and they influence the health of the ocean ecosystems in which they play a part. However, no reliable data exists on their populations, but scientists do know their numbers are decreasing(20).  According to the IUCN Red List, they have been listed as vulnerable based on the last assessment on October 1, 2005. Some of the threats against them are sport fishing for their fins and teeth and also as bycatch(19).



Megalodon
Mary Parrish, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History [Public domain]

The Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon), whose scientific name means big tooth, was a shark that lived millions of years ago. They are thought to have lived during the Miocene and Pliocene epoch (15.9-2.6 million years ago). Megalodon teeth have been found on every single continent instead of Antarctica(25). It lived during the Silurian period, 200 million years before the dinosaurs. Much of what we know about megalodons come from inferences based on their teeth, dermal scales, and calcified vertebrae(26). Due to the cartilaginous nature of shark skeletons, the only way to tell the size of the megalodon is by the size of its teeth. Based solely on that, it is estimated that they may have been as long as 18.3m (60 ft), while some think that they could have been as large as 24.4m (80ft) long. The largest tooth ever found was 17.8cm (7in) long, almost 3 times the length of great white teeth(25). Estimates of size put it at 45MT (50 tons)(26).  

Megalodon had 276 serrated teeth and was thought to have fed on whales and perhaps other sharks in the warm waters of the Pliocene epoch(25).

I shouldn’t have to state this, but megalodons are extinct. In fact, the most recent fossil was from 2.6 million years ago(25). The major thought behind their extinction was the warmer waters which would have made it difficult for them to survive, or as their prey adapted to colder waters, they starved because they couldn’t follow them into the colder waters(26).

This concludes the end of the sharks sea creatures blog post. In two weeks, they’ll be another sea creatures blog post, this time focusing on the animals of the pelagic zone. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com.

Reference

Friday, December 7, 2018

Inspiration for the Story: Shark Station

I was inspired to write this story by so many different things that it’s hard to list them all, but I’ll share the main ones. One was my love for sharks. I wanted to write a novel where I got to feature some shark species that aren’t as iconic as the great white. In Shark Station, there are five unique scenes with sharks and two additional sharks mentioned in the novel. I wanted to show the grace and beauty of sharks, while at the same time showing how they can be dangerous but aren’t actively seeking out humans to devour. Although as mentioned in my author’s note, I did take some liberties with the story as to where sharks of the deep sea can be found, I didn’t want to include the megalodon as a shark Allie and her friends encounter. I still wanted the book to be as factual as possible when it came to marine life and I felt that resurrecting the megalodon would push the story into a fantasy realm that didn’t fit in with the series. Still, you’ll find two mentions of the megalodon as a reoccurring joke for comic relief.

Yet another inspiration for the novel was partly from James Cameron’s dive to Challenger Deep, which yielded new scientific information about the deepest part of our accessible planet (I’m not including the core of the Earth, let’s be reasonable here). I also was inspired by several science fiction novels and films I’ve seen over the years. As much as I enjoy ocean-related science fiction, I do enjoy reading space science fiction as well. I began to toy with the idea of what it would be like for Allie and Dylan to be confined to a research station similar to a spaceship. What would it be like for them to have to live in close quarters with their friends and be on duty at all times? Would they be able to handle the pressure or crack under the stress? Writing Shark Station allowed me to delve into Allie and Dylan’s characters in a way I hadn’t been able to in the previous novels.

Not only a writer, I’m also a gamer. Earlier this year I purchased a VR headset and discovered the game Ocean Rift. It’s an ocean safari game where you can explore different habitats of the ocean. For the first time, I was able to experience a little of what Allie experiences exploring with the SCUBAPS. A few of the species I encountered on the game were ones I hadn’t thought of putting in the novels, but after experiencing the virtual reality game, I decided to feature them in Shark Station. I also referred back to the game several times while writing the novel to gain a deeper understanding of Allie’s emotions as she explored the deep.

Lastly, the other main inspiration for this story came from the amazing creatures that live in the deep. I wanted to highlight the differences in the hadal zone versus the bathypelagic where Oceania rests. The Mariana Trench served as the perfect location to explore, especially since so little about it is known. The Challenger Deep is the deepest part of the ocean, but I purposely didn’t choose it as the location for Shark Station because it is so often focused on. Instead, I decided on the second deepest part of the ocean—Sirena Deep. Every time I think of an interesting setting for the novel, I kick myself when it comes time to do research and I can’t find much information on the topics I wish to write about. The research I was able to conduct on the Sirena Deep amounted to a small paragraph. My first thought was what in the world am I going to do with such little information, then I realized it was a blessing because I could take more artistic liberties with the story such as including animals that may or may not live in the Sirena Deep. I enjoyed including rare fish like the snailfish—the world’s deepest known fish, barreleye fish, and the Dumbo octopus. I can’t wait to highlight them in my next blog post on the sea creatures in the novel. This time, the sea creatures will be categorized a little differently than in previous blog posts. You’ll have to wait until next month and see.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Subscribe to be notified of the next blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.






Friday, November 23, 2018

Deleted Scenes from Allie’s Return

Warning! This blog post will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t finished reading Allie’s Return yet. Skip this post if you haven’t finished reading the story.


Just like for Oceania: The Underwater City, I thought I’d share some of the deleted scenes I edited out of the final version of Allie’s Return. This will be the last post for Allie’s Return, so I hope you enjoy it!

Having the world of Oceania already developed made writing Allie’s Return easier, but I still had some doubts about how I wanted to depict certain scenes in the novel. One of those scenes was the city-wide announcement scene when Allie returns to city level after her deep-sea ecology class trip outside the city. At first, I considered gathering the entire city in Central so the mayor could address everyone at once. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a stupid idea. If four million people gathered in one location, it would be too much weight concentrated in one location of the city and could cause a structural catastrophe. So I decided to take the following paragraph out:

Feeling awkward walking around in a highly-sophisticated wetsuit, we joined a line of people boarding one of the trains that had switched from pink for the Art District to black for Central. Every seat was taken and I was lucky to find a spot where Rosa, Katrina, and I could sit together. None of us spoke on the way to Central. The heavy buzz of expectation resonated throughout the train car, keeping everyone quiet, but fidgety.
At the Central train station, people crowded in so closely that it was nearly impossible to walk. Every body pressed so closely to the body next to it, that we swayed nearly as one organism. I tried to keep in contact with Rosa and Katrina, but the three of us were pushed apart and lost amongst the crowd.
Although it appeared that Central wouldn’t be able to hold of the citizens of Oceania pressed together so tightly, bodies began to spill out into the concentric circles until everyone must have been preset.




Originally, Allie’s Return was shorter than it is in its final version. I felt like the story was long enough and had surpassed the size of Oceania: The Underwater City too much, so I hurried the ending. As I read the book again during editing for my second draft, I realized that the ending needed to be gradual enough that it gave the reader some closure and tied up a loose end I hadn’t realized I’d missed. So here is the original ending to Allie’s Return:

“What are your names?”
“I’m Dylan Baker and this is Allie Baker. We’re brother and sister.”
I glanced over at Dylan, wondering why he hadn’t given them my real name. He gave me an imperceptible shake of his head, which could have easily been interpreted as a nervous twitch.
The same guy spoke into a radio and soon we were allowed to get up. We were escorted to downtown. The entire city was dead, quarantined like Chicago, I assumed. When we reached the ICDP, they didn’t allow us inside but instead took the Myxine sp. from us outside.
“There’s an enzyme in the gut of these fish that hold the key to the plague cure. You’ll find that this enzyme is what has been keeping the elderly woman who’s the oldest surviving infected person with the plague alive. I have a file here with all of the explanations. I also have the pills that the woman was taking that helped her to withstand the viruses for so long.” Dylan handed everything over to the worker with the mask across her face.
“Thank you,” the woman muttered. “We’ll look into it right away.”
The door was shut to us and the military men ushered us away from it. They told us we were to wait outside in case they needed us again.
I looked over at Dylan. “Well, we did all that we could.”
Dylan nodded at me. “Yes, we did. Now it’s up to the Land Dwellers.”



This is it! You’ve just finished the last blog post regarding Allie’s Return. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog posts of the last few months. If you did, leave me a comment or send me a message at elizataye@gmail.com and let me know. If you didn’t like it, be sure to email me and let me know why. I always love hearing from my readers.


The next blog posts will be for Shark Station, book 3 of Oceania: The Underwater City. If you want to know more about the book’s release and when the blog posts for it will begin, visit https://elizataye.com/news/

Friday, November 16, 2018

Academic Focus Quiz

Every high schooler in Oceania has to choose an Academic Focus to lead them toward their future career in a discipline of their choice. If you lived in Oceania, what would your focus be? Take this quiz to find out.


(You don't have to enter your name if you don't want to. Just put anything in the blank and you can take the test.)


If the embedded quiz below doesn't work, you can access the direct link to the quiz here

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Guide to the Train Stripes Color Codes

In this blog post, I will be explaining the train stripe color codes and giving you a little summary of the main function of each district.

In Oceania, the train system is the chief mode of transportation for the residents of the city. The trains travel throughout the city, stopping at a variety of stops with no final destination. Instead, the trains weave through the maze of districts and residential sectors in a continuous loop. To indicate where a train is headed, a wide band on the side of the train sports a color that represents a specific district. Each district in the city has its own color code, while trains destined for residential sectors are white. 

Gray—Engineering District
The Engineering District is the headquarters for all things engineering except for robotics. Businesses and research operations involving engineering are headquartered in this district as well as a few residential areas for the workers. The color for the district pays homage to the color of construction materials of the past like steel and concrete.

Black—Central
Central contains all the headquarters for businesses in the city as well as governmental operations. The civics buildings, incarceration center, archives building, and other government buildings are located here. Headquarters for large businesses and the various departments for the city are located in Central. Not only a headquarters for the city, Central also contains architectural wonders, including the SPLRS that give the power of sunlight to the city. There are no residential areas in Central. The color for the stripe represents how Central is independent of the other districts since the color black comes from the absence of all other colors.

Green—Agriculture District
The Agriculture District is where some of the farming is done in Oceania. The majority of farming is conducted one of the sublevels, but some crops are grown at city level. All such crops are in the Agriculture District. Rows upon rows of fields beneath artificial domes create ideal growing conditions for the crops. Although most of the district is comprised of plants, some research facilities and other agricultural-related businesses are in this district. There are no residential areas in the agriculture district. The color comes from the green of the plants that grow there.

Blue—Science District
The Science District is overwhelmingly marine science. A large part of the district is dedicated to it even though one main skyscraper houses a lot of the laboratories. The district includes all the disciplines of marine science, geology, ecology, chemistry, genetics, physics, and more. The science district is the largest district in Oceania. It has several residential areas within the district and surrounding it. The color of the district comes from the ocean, which once again hints at the dominating presence of marine science in the district.

Orange—Entertainment District
The Entertainment District is where the focus of entertainment for the city is located. The Aquadome stadium for official games is located here, the OVRR, the largest immersion theater, a theater for performing arts, and more are also in this district. Live shows occur here and so do any city-wide festivals. There are no residential areas within the district. The color for the district comes from the energy it represents.

Yellow—Center of Knowledge
The Center of Knowledge is the district where Oceania University is located. Other research institutions and places of higher learning are located here. Everything about the Center of Knowledge is focused on learning more about anything there is to know. There is one residential area in this district. The color of the district comes from the light of the sun which represents enlightenment.

Red—Medical District
The Medical District contains the main hospital of the city as well as the BHT headquarters. Medical specialists of all disciplines have offices here and see most of their patients in this district. Although there are medical clinics and centers throughout the city, most doctors have ties to the medical district and rights to the main hospital. Research pertaining to the medical field is conducted in various locations throughout the city but is centered here. There are a few residential areas nearby, but only one within the district. The color for the district comes from the color of blood.

Purple—Robotic District
The Robotic District is where all the robotic manufacturing and design is located. The nanotech factories and other types of factories are located here. Robots go to this district to be repaired and maintained. There are no residential areas within the district. The color purple comes from the synthetic metal derived by Oceanian scientist to use in their manufacturing.

Rainbow—Art District
The Art District is where all of the art of the city is created. It includes architectural design offices and all sorts of artistic shops. There are a few residential sectors and many shops. Unlike most of the districts, the Art District is mostly self-supporting and those who live there rarely leave the district. The color for the district represents the variety of colors used in the Art District to beautify the city.

White—Residential Sectors
Residential areas outside of the districts are called sectors. Residential sectors are large blocks of apartment buildings and shops. Unlike the districts, they have few major places of work. Instead, most of the employees in residential sectors are robots. Residential sectors are residential communities that include a clinic, parks, schools, restaurants and the like. Trains traveling to residential sectors are indicated by a white stripe. To specify where the train is going, the white stripe may also show a sector number.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Check back next Friday for a new blog post or subscribe to be immediately notified. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Special Inventions in Allie’s Return

Introduction
In Allie’s Return, the reader gets to live in the underwater city with Allie as she discovers what it’s like to actually live in Oceania rather than simply visit it. To further build the world of Oceania, and specifically the scientific endeavors, I had to think of some additional special inventions to add to those in the first novel. Two of the inventions highlighted below relate to scientific research, while the other one relates to the city itself.



“I held up a specimen containment box with two Myxine sp. inside it. Only about six to eight inches long, the little gray things squirmed around inside the tank like worms.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

The Specimen Containment Boxes
I originally thought of the specimen containment boxes early on when I decided to write the novel. However, during researching for the novel, I discovered that scientists in our time are already creating similar deep-sea retrieval chambers. This both excited me and made me hopeful for the future expansion of deep-sea research.

The specimen containment boxes used in Allie’s Return are highly specialized. These boxes are designed to mimic the conditions of the deep-sea, meaning that the pressure of where the animal was caught can be maintained within the containment box until the specimen can be transported to a tank. Constructed of three layers, the outermost layer is solid durapane, the middle layer contains the pressure sensor technology, and the innermost layer is a smooth glass-like substance. The main function of the specimen containment boxes is to protect any deep-sea creature captured by researchers and maintain their safety until they can be deposited elsewhere.

Although the boxes can range in size, the typical size is 45.72cm (18in) long, by 45.72cm (18in) wide, by 145.72cm (18in) high. To capture the organism, the box comes apart into two halves that can then be pushed back together, trapping the organism inside. The user only has to apply pressure and a slight twisting motion to open it, but once the halves are pushed back together around a specimen, they can only be reopened by a UPC or a series of unlocking procedures to prevent accidental opening.

Take a look at the two videos below to see how specimen containment boxes break apart: 


How The Specimen Containment Box Detaches When Capturing a Specimen




How the Specimen Containment Box Breaks Apart in a UPC






“Katrina held open the door to the Underwater Pressure Chamber or UPC as she called it for short.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

Underwater Pressure Chamber (UPC) tank
Humans can’t survive under the same high pressures that deep-sea organisms can, so Oceania is pressurized close to one atmosphere. Most creatures of the deep would perish if subjected to the lack of pressure humans thrive in without protection, so a way to safely capture and study them needed to be developed. Enter the Underwater Pressure Chamber or UPC for short. The UPC is a sophisticated fish tank and digital diagnosis system in one. While a UPC can house an organism of the deep for a long period of time, its primary function is to aid in the research of their internal systems and behavior. UPCs can track the movements of the fish as they swim, monitor their vitals, create an image of their internal systems for the researcher to observe, and alter the conditions of the water. The UPC is a vital piece of technology for deep ocean research and pivotal in the discovery of how deep-sea organisms survive in the harsh conditions of their home.

Due to the small size of most deep-sea creatures, the Underwater Pressure Chambers used in Allie’s school isn’t very large. Although there are other UPCs in Oceania larger in size, the ones mentioned in the book are 1.5m (5ft) long, 1m (3.5ft) wide, 1.2m (4ft) feet high. Attached to the tank on the right side is a control panel and chute in which the specimen containment boxes can be placed into. Like all technology in Oceania, it can seamlessly be integrated with c-com devices so the researcher can remotely monitor their specimen day and night.




“A few jumped up to quickly sketch it on their digipads as it swam past.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

Digipad
The digipad is an essentially an accessory to the c-com. For individuals who prefer a writing or drawing tablet to the holographic projection of the c-com, they can use a digipad. Digipads are mostly used for drawing or when a physical medium is necessary. Similar to a modern-day tablet, the digipad differs in that it can project images and also create a 3D holographic replica of whatever is drawn on it. Digipads are most commonly used by scientists and artists in Oceania. The majority of Oceanians don’t have a need for it. 


You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Check back next Friday for a new blog post or subscribe to be immediately notified. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.