The Bamboo Shark

The Bamboo Shark

Chiloscyllium punctatum                                      Bamboo Shark

This is one of my favourite sharks, and one that many think is okay for a reef aquarium—yet how wrong they are! Also because of its relative small size, many try to keep them in 6 ft long tanks, again not a good situation for the aquarist or the shark. This arises because of the relative availability of the shark eggs.

Most people would want to hatch a shark in their aquarium, trouble then follows, a typical example being:

The egg is purchased, if it is exposed to air or floats then leave it allow, for the entrance of air to the egg can kill it, a floating egg indicates a build up of gas inside, indicating a dead egg. If your egg sinks then it is good, back home to your reef and then you wait and wait and wait up to 160 days before the egg starts to move around, one day you come downstairs from a good night sleep and there it is, now the trouble begins.

It will survive on the egg yolk for 5 days then you have to initiate a feeding response. Carefully place a small piece of fish under it’s snout with tongs, if it dose not feed leave it alone do not stress it. Leave it alone for one hour and try again, and try again and again until it snatches at the food. Hey presto—it’s feeding.

In one year your small shark has grown 30 cm now we have a big fish in a reef aquarium, the length is getting too much but what most people forget is the girth of the fish which is causing problems as it knocks off corals and tumbles rockwork. Your shrimp population has been eradicated with the loss of the cleaners and huge biological load on the system the reef is now suffering from rapidly deteriating water quality. The only place you can turn to are the public aquariums then you have to strip down your aquarium to get it out. A lovely reef destroyed for one egg, was it worth it?

This is a fantastic shark but only for fish only aquariums at least 3m x 1m x 1m, if you have such a system then they are great fun if given strong rock work and plenty of open sand to crawl over, peaceful tank mates, and what better conversation piece then to drop in the fact you have a shark at home.


Chiloscyllium punctatum
Western Pacific
Vitamin enriched meaty foods,
Reef Compatibility:
not recommended
Tank Mates:  
peaceful companions
up to 40 cm
Easy but needs a big home

Sun Coral

Sun Coral

Tubastrea faulkneri                          Sun Coral

The one thing that the majority of reef keepers have in common is the desire to introduce an array of vivid colours into their reefs. Let’s face it: the majority of corals that you will see on display are various shades of brown and fawn colour. Fantastic they are, but you lot out there want vivid colouration, and why not indeed?

The downside to this is that the vivid corals often carry a much higher price tag, enter the sun coral. This little beauty fills a nice little neich, fantastic colours, amazing polyps which are a wondrous sight to behold in the aquarium when the whole colony is out, and to cap it all off a price tag of between £18 and £25 depending on the size of the piece. This all sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch?

Well, it does not like light and has to be hand fed, when I tell this people it never ceases to amaze me when I get, “Oh I can’t be bothered with all that work.” Well, if that’s your attitude you don’t deserve such a beauty because feeding is not work, it should be pleasure! Ok, so now I have vented my spleen lets see what exactly what this coral requires.

In the wild, they are found mainly under overhangs, and cave mouths. It is crepuscular in behaviour, that is active the most at dusk and dawn, and relies totally on prey capture for nutrition normally feasting on planktonic animals, but large polyps can consume small fish. So place the coral within a cave mouth, glue it upside down to an overhang and supply it with moderate water flow, this will provide it with a natural habitat. Now to the bone of contention, feeding. These corals can be stubborn little sods in that they can remain retracted within their calcium house, so we have to encourage a feeding response. De-frost frozen plankton in aquarium water and then using a syringe gently and I mean gently, squirt some juices over the coral. if the polyps do not expand in 30 minutes, repeat. Once expanded, squirt the larger pieces of food over the desperate polyps, and that’s it. Feed each individual polyp as they are not connected. Doing this ‘work’ you will be rewarded with a stunning, healthy coral. One tip when purchasing avoid pieces with the orange colour missing between the polyps, not a healthy beast.

CV  —  Phylum Cnidaria
Tubastrea faulkneri
Indo-Pacific, close relatives global tropical distribution
Target feeding with suspension food
Up to 30cm across in wild normally 5 – 7 cm in shops
Water Flow:   
Likes the shade, keep out of direct light
An easy hard coral to keep, but as always water quality has to be high

Fathead Anthius

Fathead Anthius

Serranocirrhitus latus                         Fathead Anthias   /   Sunburst Basslet

Anthias oh my dear Anthias, what beauty abounds our coral reefs non more so than in the sub family Anthiinae… for here lie the coral perches, without a shadow of doubt the most beautiful, delicate, gob smacking fish. No artist alive could create such vivid beauty. But slam on the breaks—do not go out and purchase just yet.

There are a few aspects to consider when looking at this group of fish. Forget about the colour, the reef compatibility, etc.—and let’s look at their other traits. First and foremost is their diet. In the wild they hover around coral heads picking off small planktonic animals as they pass by. You will have to feed at least twice per day, the more feedings the better or they will stress out and quickly die. They also exhibit great shoaling behaviour, one that must be met in the aquarium, no less than five, and ten is better. This will take up quite a bit of stocking space and pressure on the pocket.

Another unusual fact like the clown fish they can change sex, if the large male dies then the largest female changes sex, in large groups, scientists removed all the males at once, the exact number of females then started to change sex.

I have chosen the fathead because they are the more hardy of all the family even though they are not the most colourful, yet gob-smacking in their own right. Also these will live happily on their own or in small groups of less than five. They shimmer in the light and are a fantastic sight to behold in any aquarium.

You will have to feed at least twice a day with small meaty foods such as brine shrimp, mysis, chopped cockle and mussel, and don’t forget those vitamins to enhance vitality and coloration. Live brine shrimp once or twice a week will be gratefully received.

They originate from deeper down the reef slope so are not used to intense lighting. When acclimating to your aquarium turn off the lights, and leave them off for the rest of the day. In the morning you will have a de-stressed fish, that will live without light stress for the rest of their days.

The more hardy of this clan will still need a very high level of water quality, with total oxygen saturation, so they are only fish for the more experienced, and expect to pay around £30 – £40.00 each. If you decide to keep them it is a good idea to order as they are not common and you could wait a while for your dealer to acquire them for you.

You wont be disappointed with this beast, I personally would sell my body for one, but there are not many blind dealers around…

Family                         Serranidae

Name                           Serranocirrhitus latus

Location                      Indo Pacific

Size                              9 cm

Feeding                       Small meaty vitamin enriched foods, at least twice per day

Reef Compatibility     Great reef fish

Difficulty                      Medium/Hard, for the more dedicated aquarist

A Child of the Stars

A Child of the Stars

So the question are – How old are you, and how were you made?

Simple: Mummy and Daddy, birds and the bees, evolution, DNA, a one Mr. Charles Darwin, reproduction, genetics—we all know the story. We all have a birthday to remind us, and we all tend to try and forget our birthday as we proceed through our time line called life. It’s a date set to remind us of when and where we were made but again we are all wrong, depending on your train of thought of course.

So I am going to be very precise and talk about you, yes that’s right—you!—my beloved reader, where you were made, and most importantly when.

To answer this simple yet far reaching question, we have to look up into the night sky and travel back in time, billions of years, well about 6 billion years, to be precise, give or take a few years of course. Here, if you were looking into our galaxy the Milky Way you would be witness to an amazing and most beautiful event in the universe, sadly the death of a once bright star. Here the dying star had been fusing heavy elements together, right up to iron, the heaviest element that allows fusion to take place. Then quite simply in its final moment the star throws out all of the elements it had been creating for billions of years, it spews its guts out—far out—into space, an immense cloud of dust and gas called a nebular.

Let’s rewind again about another 4.5 billion years 10.5 from our present date, and we see our star that has just died, in its full brightness, shining brilliantly and doing what stars do best – nuclear fusion. Here at its core, hydrogen atoms are under so much pressure and heat that as they touch each other they fuse together, and make helium atoms and release heat energy, that’s nuclear fusion for you. Fast forward 3.5 billion years and the helium is now fusing to form other elements such carbon and oxygen and so on right up to iron. So we can say stars are where the elements are created or atoms made. They are atomic factories.

Now back to our dead ancient star and the cloud of dust and gas it has left behind. It is a cloud that contains all the elements required to build a nice solar system, which if we think about it was fortunate for us all. A 100 million years has passed and the dust has organised itself into giant spheres all spinning around one enormous giant sphere spinning in on itself. Confused let’s just look at the sphere of dust that was the third one out from the centre, gravity is slowly acting on this area pulling all the dust and gas together. The dust clumps to form grains, the grains clump to form stones, stones form rocks, rocks join to form asteroids, asteroids clash together and over an immense amount of time our earth is formed along with the planets, we nearly have a solar system.

In the centre, the gravity is so immense that hydrogen atoms are slowly rubbing together, this friction is generating heat, and then this interplay of pressure, hydrogen and heat causes one of the wonders of the universe, the star, our sun simply switches on, this shock wave causes all of the unused dust and gas from the nebular to be pushed out to the edge of the solar system, leaving behind an ordered arrangement of planets and other stuff, our solar system.

So you are made mostly of carbon atoms, there is also oxygen, nitrogen magnesium and many others all joined in chemical arrangements that allows life to proceed, and where were they made. The atoms that make up your body were made in a star that died about 6 billion years ago, so you are at least 6 billion years old, happy birthday and good luck on blowing out those candles on your cosmic cake.

Sex in the Sea (City)

Sex in the Sea (City)

Bump and grind, baby—bump and grind!

This is what we are talking about. 50 shades of what!? Let me tell you, you humans are funny things, funny things indeed. Sex for fun? What a waste of time and energy.

For us beasts in the oceans, we don’t have to enjoy it, we just do it, and let me tell you, we do it well.

Please allow me to introduce you to a few friends of mine who have taken the art of reproduction to some extremes. It isn’t 50 shades down here, more like 5000!

Let me take you on a dive down to the depths, in fact around 850m. The deep ocean is the world’s largest ecosystem, and it has never seen natural light since the earth has had water. Here we find my mate Simon. He is a ferocious male, a deep sea angler fish, over to you Simon.

What a life I have. How would you like to take your love making to a new height? Well, once I find my mate that’s all I do 24 hours a day: make love.

So let me tell you some more…

My life is short. In fact—I am short! I am one of the smallest vertebrates known to man. I know of some smaller but you have to discover them yet. However I digress. Here in the dark depths finding a mate is not easy, the distances are huge, mind blowing, its dark, its full of things trying to eat me, so if and it’s a big IF I find a mate I want her, I need her and I won’t let her go. My darling is huge, compared to me, in fact we have the biggest size difference between sexes, and she’s 500,000 times bigger.

Oh there she is. My darling, I am ready for you now my front two teeth have developed into pincers and I am ready, swimming, faster and faster, closer and closer, snap and my jaws lock on, attached and I am ready to undergo a mating like no other. Soon my mouth parts have fused with her body, she passes me nutrients to keep me alive via her blood stream, yet sadly our eyes never meet! My body slowly closes down and transforms into basically one big sperm producing blob. Here I stay being fed, and in return I produce sperm to fertilise her eggs. Eventually it’s all too much for me and I sadly succumb to the relentless pressures I cannot produce any more, totally spent, my love stops feeding me, why oh why I gave you everything, I drop off, to die alone on the sea floor, making love has finally killed me, but before I go, let me pass you back to my friend.

A sad tale we have heard but it’s true: love making finally killed my little friend, totally devoted yet eventually thrown away only for another to find that fiend of a female, and she is one control freak. Yet another I find, one who just cannot make up his or her mind. Shot to fame in the film Finding Nemo, here he is, now he has grown up.

Well after making that film I had it all, the reef was mine, the fame and fortune, the wild anemone parties, all night we rocked around the coral, zooplankton juice flowed and great times were had by all. After a while the phone stopped ringing, the fish stopped calling, the shrimps stayed away, and I realised that it was all over, I was alone, I had urges, suppressed by that juice, but now I had urges, bloody hell I needed a mate!

So off I went, searching looking, most of the anemone real estate was taken, big bullish females with her smaller male or indeed males attending her, I couldn’t get a look in, even my low celebratory status could not help. Then came the call – we need a C-List celebrity for a new reality show – “Which sex are you today?” — it wasn’t my proudest moment but hey I needed the cash.

The anemone was everything I had dreamed of, and my new female friend, well she was gorgeous, we both forgot where we were and fell deeply in love, away from the cameras we mated and tended to our eggs, then it happened the day I will never forget. We were dancing in and out of the tentacles, fins entwined as we moved then suddenly she shivered, I longingly looked into her eyes, she looked back as her light slowly faded, saying goodbye, her fins lost her grip as she slowly slipped away off the side of our rock, I could not look, my love was gone.

A new male was introduced by the crew, a small but pugnacious chap he was, I remember he had a hit song a few years ago, he started to swim around me, brushing up flicking his fins, was he after me I thought. Then something strange started to happen, my body was changing I had no idea why, within a few days I had quite simply changed sex, I was now the big female. The largest male around it was me who changed because my larger size will allow more eggs to be produced and my oh my I can produce them. So one minute a male fertilising eggs and the next a whole new world opens up as a female laying the eggs. I took the cash, swam away and purchased my own anemone and here we both reside in retirement, until my time is up and my mate turns into me!

So there we have it a huge domineering demanding deep sea female, a clown fish who not only changes sex but can reproduce in both areas too. Sex in the sea can indeed be strange to you humans but wait there let me introduce you to someone who really has taken things in hand.

Brian the Barnacle here, a bullish chap I am strongly protected inside my calcium house, which I built, it has to be strong for there are a lot of animals out there for whom barnacle surprise is high on the menu. So I have a problem, I live inside a house I don’t want to be on the menu but I am also agoraphobic, scared of exposed places, and I want to feel the love of a good barnacle, well hey we all do, don’t we!

So my problem… alone, and in a fixed position, exposed by the tide 8 hours a day, what on earth a self-respecting healthy barnacle with one huge sex drive is going to do? Let’s concentrate on the huge here! I am to say quite proud as well, for I mate randomly, I cannot get emotionally involved with someone I will never see, I just want to mate, I love it, I have got to do it, so how do I do it?

I have evolved the largest male organ in relation to body size in the animal kingdom, a round of applause please, yes proud I am for my member is quite a size at 15 times my body length. This allows me to open up the top of my house and quite simply flick it out to prod around the surrounding rock surface looking for a neighbour who’s wanting a good time. Now if that wasn’t enough, I say with a very smug smile indeed, not only am I armed with that wonderful appendage, but I have up to 15 of them as well! A huge sex drive driven by huge appendages a barnacle life is for me!

Well I am quite speechless at my friend’s attitude a barnacle he may be but I think he needs to learn some manners. So as you see sex in the sea can be quite strange, but how about ensuring only the fittest survive after the act has been done. Let’s go and investigate the unborn babies in my friend’s body.

Hello there, I have no name, I cannot see but I can feel, and I can sense my surroundings very well indeed, in fact my very life depends on it, even though I have not yet been born. My farther mated with my mother 8 months ago, my siblings’ eggs were fertilized and then we resided inside my mother. I hope I never see my dad. Why? Because he will eat me! In fact, after birth I have to get away quickly or my mum may be tempted. It is eat or be eaten, and never did such a philosophy ensure my species survival and success, for I am a sand tiger shark.

I did love my egg yolk, oh it was good and fat, which was good for me as I am the biggest of my brood, and mum does not feed me, she just protects us. I have no feelings, I am a cold hearted unborn king of the uterus. Seven of us started inside, now only 2 remain, well a man’s got to eat hasn’t he! And they tasted good, every bit of them. Listen, this strategy ensures that only the fittest survive and I will be stronger when I am born, increasing my survival chances. The last of my brothers and sisters is giving off signals: It’s eat or be eaten even in here, sorry but it won’t be me! Tasty that was, I bit messy but good and even the guts made for some great eating. I am totally safe now, no competition, my mum will look after me, time for a sleep, until it’s time to introduce myself to the world.

Well my friends what a strategy they use to forward the species, that’s what is all about down here in the sea, I have only introduced you to four of my mates and there are hundreds more, all with different sex lives all make yours look dull and boring, no wonder you are the only species to do it for fun! Compared to us you need all the practice you can get.

SAR11 – the most abundant marine organism

SAR11 – the most abundant marine organism

What’s the most important marine lifeform?

Well that’s a question isn’t it. What do you think, whales and dolphins will spring to mind for so many people, but I did not ask what the most intelligent marine lifeform is, so what is it. Are they corals for without them reefs would not exist and our landmass would look totally different, are they the algae’s the basis of 99% of life in the oceans, well it could be, but another organism is in contention as well. One that possibly has more effect on carbon dioxide levels in the ocean than anything else – so now it is hugely important.

This beast collectively has a direct impact on the world’s oceans pH levels, it is important hugely important in the carbon cycling of the ocean and is a major player in the production of oceanic methane, a greenhouse gas 20 x more effective than carbon dioxide. Our beast has no name—it’s only known as SAR11 the most abundant marine organism known.

Their combined weight will exceed all of the fish in the ocean, think of that, yet a single millilitre could contain 500,000 individuals, we have the smallest marine bacteria discovered, yet the most abundant marine lifeform known.

So we have a saturated sea of floating bacteria, the simplest bacteria known, yet they all need food and in doing so take in carbon compounds and convert them to other organic compounds and CO2 as waste, so we can see how hugely important these are in the maintaining of the carbon cycle.

However they don’t just need carbon to function they also need phosphorus and when this is in a low concentration they turn to a compound called methylphosphonic acid. The breaking down of the compound produces methane gas which is now in a saturated state in many areas of the world’s surface waters.

So our beast is the most abundant lifeform in the oceans (and we can’t see it!). It is the most important player in the cycling of carbon, its importance in methane production is only just being uncovered, yet it is being destroyed at an incredible rate. No no no—for once we humans might not be to blame, but the bacteria’s age old nemesis, the killer virus, it latches onto the cell, infects the cell, kills the cell, which then splits and sinks to the abyssal depths taking all that carbon with it, – more carbon cycling to understand! One great thing here is that the bacteria are always one step ahead, every time the virus mutates to get more effective the bacteria develop another defence to stay ahead.

So the most biologically important beast in the sea could be the simplest bacterial cell known to man, it exists in mind boggling numbers that it outweighs all the fish, it is in a constant battle for survival in a biological war for supremacy of the microbiological world. The next time you accidently take a sip or mouthful of sea water think of how many SAP11 bacteria you have just taken out of the equation!

The Chocolate Chip Starfish

The Chocolate Chip Starfish

A magnificent starfish in both behaviour and looks, and a definite trap that is lurking for the unsuspecting budding aquarist. It is a trap that can be easily avoided and one that raises its ugly head every day in hobby. How easy it must be to go along to your local dealer, fall in love with and purchase this fantastic predator. Yes, it is a big, beautiful, eating machine that will go through your reef with delight, and before you realize it is the starfish and not something else lurking in the rockwork it is too late as half your stock has been consumed.

In the wild, it lives on the sea grass beds consuming shellfish, sponges, worms and most invertebrates unable to escape it’s speed and deadly intentions. So in a reef tank it is totally in an unnatural environment but will adapt readily and also change it’s diet and consume corals, fish, and others with ease. However in the large fish only aquarium, it will do a great job in cleaning up the detritus and uneaten food as long as it is fed some meaty foods such as cockle or mussel daily. It is a hardy animal but must not be exposed to air as this can cause damage to the water vascular system that works the tube feet, the damage will cause the death of the animal.

So to our trap, and whose fault is it? Yes, the age old trap of being sold an animal that is unsuitable for your aquarium. There is no excuse at all for the dealer, the animal should be labeled as not reef safe, or the dealer should ask what aquarium you have. Some experienced aquarists accuse the hobbyist of not researching and so claim that the hobbyist is as much to blame as the dealer. But the experienced should always remember that they too were once new to the hobby and made the same mistakes, oh yes they did. So the blame firmly rests on the retailer making a quick profit not only on the starfish but also the replaced stock which is purchased to repopulate the damaged aquarium.

It is a fantastic starfish, it is hardy and robust, beautiful coloration a real conversation piece and a great pet but only in the correct aquarium, as always ask in the shop or other hobbyists if you are unsure of any animals compatibility.



Phylum               Echinodermata

Name                  Protoreaster nodosus

Location             Indo Pacific

Feeding              Good range of animal meaty based foods

Size                      Commonly 6 – 12 cm but up to 25cm

Water Flow        Moderate is best

Lighting              None required

Difficulty            Hardy as always very good water quality.

The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

There’s one film that stands out as a great with immortality and that’s ‘Highlander’ (you have to be of a certain age). If you haven’t seen it then please do so, it’s better than great. However the question is would we or wouldn’t we if we got the choice, be immortal!?

Well there is one animal that in theory is, if it isn’t consumed or if it doesn’t catch a deadly disease then our baby indeed cheats death and is truly immortal.

Enter Turritopsis nutricula or commonly known as the immortal jellyfish, yes immortal and to understand this we have to know about phenoptosis which is the name given to the process which causes the death of an organism.

By understanding the mechanisms of slow phenoptosis we may be able to halt or even reverse the processes that cause our aging and eventual deaths. Well, our baby the jellyfish has done this brilliantly. Not only does it recognise this but also has an amazing way to stop it, reverse it, and if this was not enough it has also drunk the waters of the fountain of youth.

So our baby, a small beast only 4.5 cm across and happily inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea until it was sucked up by some ocean liner in ballast water, then transported across the world, and duly discharged from the ship and thus they now inhabit waters off Panama and Japan, and doing very well indeed, thank you very much!

A jellyfish, to begin with starts life as a planktonic animal drifting until it settles out as a simple polyp, a jelly like organism that resembles a sea anemone, a small body attached to a rock with a ring of tentacles surrounding a central mouth. Here it feeds and matures until it starts to bud off and releases what are called medusa into the waters, each medusa is in fact a juvenile jellyfish, and off it goes to become an adult.

Back to our immortal one – when the adult has quite simply had enough – it’s stressed, it’s unwell, it’s starving, it has had a bad experience like nearly being eaten, it simply drops out of the water column and sticks to the rocky surface. Here it undergoes one of the wonders of nature. Its cells simply undergo a process known as transdifferentiation. Here the cells of our animal transform into different types of cells, so muscle cells can become sperm or eggs, or nerve cells can change into muscle cells, and the end result is the opposite of a caterpillar pupa becoming an adult butterfly.

The adult jellyfish transforms quite simply into a juvenile polyp again, it has drunk from the fountain of youth, the mature adult becomes a polyp, where it feeds, and develops to become another juvenile jellyfish. This juvenile grows and matures and then quite simply settles out again to form another polyp, immortality indeed, only one thing in the way here, – predators.


The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon

You want the strange, you want the unusual, you want the deadly? Well you won’t be disappointed with this beast and a true monster it is. Disguised to us humans by a truly beautiful body form and amazing colouration. Just looking at the animal, you have would admire it, even fall in love with it, and at a few centimetres long what a lovely baby you have found indeed… that is until you touched it!

Let me introduce you to Glaucus atlanticus or the blue dragon.

Rarely seen by us – the dragon is only evident if we get a prevailing wind for a week or so, blowing the surface waters in one direction, for the dragon is a true wanderer of the oceans, a member of the planktonic community (plankton – drifting life) unable to swim against the currents it goes where the sea and currents take it. The species is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures being equally at home in the tropics as it is in the temperate seas, circumnavigating the entire globe.

A floater! Our dragon spends its entire life floating on the surface of the sea, with no effort at all as the air sac next to its stomach keeps it afloat, which is where it wants to be for we have an active hunter on our hands. It’s feather like cerata which extend out from the body act as great paddles when prey is in sight. The prey doomed, it too a member of the plankton can only drift so the dragon soon catches up, latches on and devours the helpless Portuguese man o’ war, not a jellyfish but a colony of individual animals suspended beneath the float. The dragon feeds and feeds engulfing the prey but also selecting body parts for a new job.

It’s well known the man o’ war packs a powerful punch in the form of painful stings, this is venom contained in a nematocyst the sting cell, with a harpoon contained under hydrostatic pressure. Touch the hair on the cell and out fires the deadly venom filled harpoon. Yet somehow the trigger is not activated, the cell is passed through the stomach of the dragon and relocated to the extremities of the cerata where it confers protection to our beast. This is why you should be aware if you are lucky enough to see one floating past, touch and the pain, well you won’t forget it.

Evolution has allowed our baby to be beautiful in shape but also coloration, the amazing blue underside which always points upwards as our baby floats upside down, is a fantastic predator avoidance colour as birds would find it hard to see. The sliver/grey true dorsal side floating down into the abyss will blend in nicely with the sea surface avoiding being a silhouette and picked off by fish.

Our dragon the small perfect predator, the prey cannot escape, body parts utilised in the predator’s defence, perfect colouration, a very beautiful yet deadly beast indeed. I am just glad it’s only 4 – 5 cm long and not a big animal.


Nuclear Power: How It Works, Part 2

Nuclear Power: How It Works, Part 2

Last time we looked at nuclear power and how we get electricity from splitting the atom, this time we shall look at what happens when the chain reaction is allowed to proceed in an uncontrolled manner. The first example we shall look at is when a nuclear bomb explodes, and we should never forget why they should never be used. It is not nice reading, but some things should never be forgotten: what happens when a nuclear bomb explodes.

So, then. What does happen?


When a nuclear weapon explodes, the center of a nuclear explosion reaches a temperature of several million degrees centigrade. Over the immediate area the heat flash literally vaporizes all human tissue even teeth are turned to gas. When the Hiroshima bomb exploded, all that remained of most of the people caught in the open were their shadows burnt into stone.


All people caught in the open will be killed by the heat and blast waves. People inside buildings will be indirectly killed by the blast and heat effects as buildings collapse and all inflammable materials burst into flames. Gas pipes rupture and turn into flame throwers. The fires join to produce a fire storm, which are so large they create their own powerful winds and people just aren’t fast enough to out run them. The fires are so huge they suck oxygen from the area. People who don’t burn simply suffocate. People will also die from their burns, will be blinded and die from falling debris as buildings are destroyed. Medical services would also be destroyed so many perish from untreated injuries.

Short Term

Survivors – either uninjured or with survivable injuries, – will be affected within a matter of days by radioactive fall-out. The deadly molecules falling from the sky. The symptoms of radiation sickness include hair loss, bleeding from the mouth and gums, internal bleeding and hemorrhagic diarrhea, gangrenous ulcers, vomiting, and fever. There is no effective treatment and death follows in a matter of days. Pregnant women are highly likely to miscarry or have a child with a range of disabilities. Healing from injuries is often slow, also damage to the immune system is probable.

Long Term

Radiation-induced cancers will affect many survivors, often twenty or more years later. Certain cancers such as thyroid cancer in children are particularly associated with exposure to radiation. There are statistically higher than normal birth abnormalities and leukemia rates in the children of exposed survivors. There will also be significant environmental damage.


Next let’s look at when we have an accident in a nuclear power station, again it really is disturbing reading, but these are facts we should never forget. The accident that occurred in the Russian power station – Chernobyl.

On April 26, 1986, a power output surged during a systems test, which led to an explosion. Further explosions and a fire released highly radioactive material into the atmosphere. The release of nuclear fallout at Chernobyl was 400 hundred times higher than that of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Large quantities of radioactive materials were released into the air for 10 days.

At the time of the disaster, 49,400 people lived in Pripyat a state of the art city built to house the nuclear plant workers and their families. More than 24 hours after the first explosion, residents were ordered to evacuate, but by this time, many had already suffered varying degrees of radiation poisoning.

By May 14, about 116,000 people, who lived within a 19-mile radius of the nuclear plant had been relocated. By July 1986, there were 28 deaths due to radiation exposure. In following years, 220,000 more people moved into less contaminated areas and a 19-mile zone of alienation was established.

The 200 tons of hardened nuclear fuel and debris remains so radioactive that even today scientists cannot approach it. The total area contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster — 15,000 square miles — will be affected for the next 300 years.

A report confirms that 28 emergency workers died from acute radiation syndrome, and 15 patients later died from thyroid cancer. The report also estimates that cancer deaths directly resulting from the incident may reach a total of 4,000 among the 600,000 workers who received the greatest exposure while cleaning up the disaster. In addition, there have been 4,000 reported cases of thyroid cancer, mainly from people who were children living in the area at the time of the accident. Scientists believe the children were affected by drinking milk from contaminated cows.


The atom contains such power of life and death, and we take for granted the power it supplies us and let’s not forget it is essential to life.

Let’s hope that we never have another accident, though we nearly did in Japan a few years ago.

To finish, let’s hope within our life time we see an end to nuclear power in favour of more environmentally friendly and above all 100% safe sources of power.