The ALBATROSS – genus Diomedea
Perhaps the most famous Albatross in literature is the Albatross in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s haunting poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The Albatross itself in the poem is a symbol, message or lesson that the Ancient Mariner himself takes from his killing of the Albatross:
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
But what is the real tweet-tweet on the Albatross in real-life? Here are a few little tidbits to pass along to your kids and grandkids to combine literature and life:
– The Albatross is a majestic glider whose long, narrow wings (wing span can reach 11 feet) allow it to stay aloft for hours with hardly a wing beat. Adults can fly up to 50 mph and roam distances of almost 600 miles per day. The Albatross is considered one of the world’s most well-traveled animals.
– The Albatross is known to follow ships in the Southern Ocean, flying high and swooping low over the ocean waves. Its wings lock into a gliding position.
– The largest and most famous Albatross is known as the wanderer.
– The Albatross is known to mate for life and generally begins its mating between the ages of 7 – 10 when it returns to the region where it was born. Females lay a single egg.
– The Albatross can live 50 years or so… and sometimes even up into its 80’s.
– Folklore tells us the the Albatross carries the souls of dead mariners.
– Also, according to folklore, a sailor who kills an Albatross is doomed to bad luck for the rest of his life.
– The Albatross was once hunted for its feathers and its bones. The feathers were used to make beds and clothing and its bones to make pipes. The feet of the Albatross were used as tobacco pouches.
– Today, extinction threatens 19 of the 22 species of the beautiful Albatross. The greatest threat is long-line commercial fishing, where baited fish such as swordfish and tuna attract birds in flight. The Albatross is one such bird that swoops for the bait, gets hooked… and, sadly, drowns.
– The Albatross is most famous as a good omen to sailors. It needs the wind to glide just as sailboats needed the wind to sail.
Ah. The Albatross in real-life. Combining literature and life makes reading so much more special.
Reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with your kids and grandkids, with knowledge of the Albatross as a real-life bird, gives you so much to discuss… and your kids so much to think about as they embrace the literature. The lesson to love all things, both great and small will surely hit home.
Tell your kids about the statue in Watchet… a seven-foot high effigy of the Mariner, designed and created by sculptor Alan B. Herriot. The harbor of Watchet is where Coleridge was inspired to write his poem.
Join me here each day in August for AUGUST TWEET-TWEETS on 365 Days of Literacy for Kids! A little fun, a little learning and a bit of “tweet-tweet”!