Manta Ray


Manta rays (technically eagle rays of the genus Manta) are very impressive creatures.  Especially if you are introduced to one right up close.  They can grow to a prodigious 23 feet in width and weigh as much as 2,980 pounds.  That’s a big animal!

Atlanta is home to the world’s largest salt-water aquarium, where I shot this manta.  in the aquarium you can find whale sharks, let alone, manta rays.  If you are fortunate enough to be below water in the large viewing room during the time that they feed the mantas, it is very interesting to watch!  These behemoths don’t eat fish and other large things: they eat krill.  So, in order to feed them, the animal care givers load baskets with the stuff, attach the basket to a rope, toss it out into the middle of the aquarium and slowly drag it back across the water.  The mantas respond virtually instantly.  They start to follow behind the bucket with their front “fins” formed in a shape to help funnel the krill into their mouths that are on the front of their head.

But they’re not dumb: they have one of the largest brain-to-body-mass ratios of all fish and they can live to the age of 50.  Some members of the species can dive 400 meters, while one of their relatives can reach depths of 2000 meters.

It is amazing how things like huge whales and mantas eat some of the smallest living things in the ocean and yet grow to such prodigious size.  Humm…makes me wonder if I’m part manta, too, the way I can put on weight if I’m not careful!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1955, at 5:45 PM, 24-year-old actor James Dean was killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he was driving hit a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured; Dean’s passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was badly injured but survived. Only one of Dean’s movies, “East of Eden,” had been released at the time of his death (“Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to super-stardom–and the crash made him a legend.

James Dean loved racing cars, and in fact he and his brand-new, $7000 Porsche Spyder convertible were on their way to a race in Salinas, 90 miles south of San Francisco. Witnesses maintained that Dean hadn’t been speeding at the time of the accident–in fact, Turnupseed had made a left turn right into the Spyder’s path–but some people point out that he must have been driving awfully fast: he’d gotten a speeding ticket in Bakersfield, 150 miles from the crash site, at 3:30 p.m. and then had stopped at a diner for a Coke, which meant that he’d covered quite a distance in a relatively short period of time. Still, the gathering twilight and the glare from the setting sun would have made it impossible for Turnupseed to see the Porsche coming no matter how fast it was going.

Rumor has it that Dean’s car, which he’d nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. After the accident, the car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed the legs of a mechanic standing nearby. Later, after a used-car dealer sold its parts to buyers all over the country, the strange incidents multiplied: The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and haven’t been seen since.

Wütherich, whose feelings of guilt after the car accident never abated, tried to commit suicide twice during the 1960s–and in 1967, he stabbed his wife 14 times with a kitchen knife in a failed murder/suicide–and he died in a drunk-driving accident in 1981. Turnupseed died of lung cancer in 1981.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  It takes just four to six minutes after cardiac arrest before a person experiences brain death and then complete death. The survival rate outside a hospital is less than 1-2%.


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