The View from a Small Island: Octopod Sailors – the life of Argonauts

“I don’t know. It is a mystery…” to quote the pharmacist in the 1998 film hit “Shakespeare in Love’. And so it has been a mystery with the life of Argonauts in their pelagic zone since the days of Aristotle around 300 BC.

I discovered the life of Argonauts in early 2020 when a ‘just-turned-five’ year-old introduced me to a series for children, The Octonauts. This series is a wonderful gift to children and to their parents and grandparents who perhaps missed out on scientific studies of sea life, Sea life, of course surrounds my small island and is very important to the entire Outer Banks coastline.

The series is well written and follows the ‘rules’ of good lesson plans and educational pedagogy. Plus, I love the singing (and dancing) in the ‘final lesson learned’ at the end of each episode. Graphics are good as is the animation. Engrossing is the word that comes to mind as I watched it with my house-bound five-year-old.

As we are facing more house-bound days, The Octonauts is tremendous for sharing time and each episode for learning new pelagic (science) related information. (For shame: I had to search the term, pelagic.)

Following is a brief description of The Octonauts and immediately following from The Scientist, Julian Finn, curator of marine invertebrates in Victoria, Australia

The Octonauts is a British children’s television series, produced by Silvergate Media for the BBC channel CBeebies, and based on the children’s books written by Vicki Wong and Michael C. Murphy.
The show follows an underwater exploring crew made up of stylized anthropomorphic animals, a team of eight adventurers who live in an undersea base, the Octopod, from which they go on undersea adventures with the help of a fleet of aquatic vehicles. Although its technology is fictional, the exotic creatures and locations that the crew encounter are based on real marine animals in their natural habitats. The show’s subject matter has been compared to that of Star Trek and Thunderbirds[1] blended with Jacques Cousteau.
The show was animated in Ireland by Brown Bag Films for its first four series.[2] The show was renewed for a fifth series in 2018, with Canada’s Mainframe Studios taking over animation work.[3][4].
Two new “movies” have been available on Netflix only since October 2020.

Read more about the lore surrounding argonauts (octopuses) since the days of Aristotle from an experiment off Shimane Peninsula in the Sea of Japan. Julian Finn attempted to put to rest an ancient mystery about the argonauts. Did he succeed? Read on:

https://www.the-scientist.com/foundations/octopod-sailors-300-bcpresent-68069

With thanks to Julian Finn of Museums Victoria and to the original artist, William Daniell (William Wood’s 1807 natural history text Zoography, ‘a paper nautilus’).

[Editor’s note: Next week we revisit the topic of the pandemic and loneliness: how social isolation affects the brain. We have been in the quarantine mode sufficiently long so research data is now published that you will find interesting, particularly suggestions to avoid long-term issues such as dementia, senility — even (humorously) threatening your housemate/partner/spouse.]

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