started for me at 5 am as usual. My youngest daughter, Skye,
woke me up with a questioning, "quah?" or, "is
anyone there? It is Skye's birthday today. She is one year
old. We had been planning a big party for this weekend months
ago. In Hawai'i a baby's first birthday is a very big event.
Everyone you know, and more, is invited for a baby luau.
But, instead I am off on an expedition to a remote set of
are part of our human history. What is your ancestry? Were
your predecessors Chinese, Polynesian, African, or Northern
European? Scratch just below the surface and you will find
adventurers, migrations and expeditions there. Sometimes
these expeditions were woven into the fabric of life; the
Vikings come to mind here. My own Scottish ancestors left
Scotland for Canada and then ended up in North Dakota looking
for a better life. Now, here I am, one thread of that ancestry
that has made it all the way to Hawai'i. Where has your
ancestry taken you, around the block or across the world?
expedition we have set out on today is one of biological
discovery. These also have a long history. We travel today
in luxury. Our boat, the Rapture, has staterooms, heated
showers, and fresh fruit and vegetables to eat. In the past,
biological expeditions were risky affairs. They sometimes
took years to complete, boats were cramped, food was certainly
not fresh and entering on such a journey was far from safe.
one Danish expedition of the 1700's, for example, five men
set out, but only one returned alive. The naturalist perished
of malaria in Egypt. Only his notebooks made it back. This
is not the sort of odds most of us modern explorers really
want to go with. Still, one of the results of that expedition
was the rather important naming of a group of small tropical
fish, the Sergeant majors. These pugnacious damselfish often
have bars (like the stripes of a military sergeant) on their
sides. The scientific name for these fish comes from the
Danish expedition. Their scientific name is Abudefduf.
A name that is most entertaining and enjoyable to say. "Abu",
like the name, and "def duf". Try it.
you ever meet one of one of these fish, greet by name. Say,
"hi, Abudefduf." And think of the history
of that name - of the nature of humans to explore and discover,
of risks, failures and ultimate success; all of this, in
the naming of a little fish.