Saturday, September 22, 2012

On the Wings of the Albatross

On the Wings of the Albatross
by Carl Safina
An albatross is the grandest living flying machine on Earth. An albatross is bone, feathers, muscle, and the wind. An albatross is its own taut longbow, the breeze its bowstring, propelling its projectile body. An albatross is an art deco bird, striking of pattern, clean of line, epic in travels, heroically faithful. A parent albatross may fly more than 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) to deliver one meal to its chick. Wielding the longest wings in nature—up to eleven and a half feet (3.5 meters)—albatrosses can glide hundreds of miles without flapping, crossing ocean basins, circumnavigating the globe. A 50-year-old albatross has flown, at least, 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers).
If you could travel millions of miles fueled by clean, self-renewing, zero-emissions energy, you’d be an albatross. Strictly speaking, albatrosses are mediocre fliers—but excellent gliders. They can lock their wings in the open position like switchblades, the bird merely piloting the glider it inhabits. Catching the wind in their wings and sailing upward, then harnessing gravity while planing seaward, they travel in long undulations. Most birds struggle to overcome wind; albatrosses exploit it…
(read more: National Geo)          (Photograph by Frans Lanting)

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