There are few creatures I find so fascinating as the narwhal. Like many tusked animals, this arctic whale has a majestic quality to it. In medieval times, its long, straight tusk was often given to royalty, passed off as a “unicorn horn.” In the 16th century, a narwhal tusk worth £10,000 was given to Queen Elizabeth. Today, the narwhal still holds our interest, and its tusk remains one of the most mysterious things about these creatures. Here’s what we know about them.
1. Its tusk is actually a tooth
While it might appear to be situated in the center of its head, the narwhal’s tusk is actually an exaggerated front left tooth that protrudes from the upper lip. The right front tooth is small, and usually remains in the mouth. Stranger still, while most teeth (including human teeth) have a hard exterior and a soft, sensitive interior, narwhal teeth are the opposite. “No big surprise. It's been opposite in every other way,” Martin Nweeia, a clinical instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, told NPR after making this discovery. “But to find a tooth that is soft on the outside and has its most dense part around the pulp was completely odd.”
Narwhal tusks grow throughout the animals’ entire lives and can reach incredible lengths. While the tusk as a whole is straight—the only straight tusk we know of, in fact—a closer look reveals that as it grows, it spirals to the left.
3. It can bend about a foot before breaking
Its tough core and soft outer layer result in a tusk that is both strong and flexible. It can bend significantly without cracking, which is important for a tusk as long as the narwhal’s.
History has numerous explanations for the narwhal’s massive tusk. One theory is that it can be used as a weapon, though this claim lacks sufficient evidence. Another suggests it is an accessory for finding mates and asserting dominance, much like peacock feathers or deer antlers. But the most recent theory, produced by Nweeia and his team, suggests it acts as a sort of environmental sensor. According Nweeia’s research, the tusk is porous and full of nerves, taking in external stimuli like water pressure, temperature, and salinity, and sending information back to the brain. To test this theory, Nweeia fitted narwhals with a kind of “jacket” that insulated the tusk from environmental factors. Then, researchers pumped the jacket full of water samples of varying salinity levels to mimic different kinds of sea ice. They found that different levels of salinity caused the narwhals’ heart rates to fluctuate, indicating they could sense the change and had a physical reaction to it. “But regardless of the reason, the results suggest that narwhals can funnel water into their tusks to measure its salt concentration,” Nweeia said.
In most tusked animals, the tusks appear in both males and females. However, in narwhals, only the males and about 15 percent of females have tusks. This is confusing to researchers. If indeed the narwhal tusk is a mechanism for sensing the environment, as recent studies suggest, why wouldn’t such an evolutionary trait be inherited by females as well? This perhaps lends more evidence to the theory that the tusk is mainly an accessory for garnering attention and establishing dominance among males.
6. Their skin is rich in vitamin C
In fact, there is roughly as much vitamin C in one ounce of narwhal skin as there is in one ounce of oranges. Narwhal skin is a primary source of vitamins for the Inuit people of the Arctic. According to the BBC, “without the narwhal it is doubtful whether the Inuit would have survived in some parts of the Arctic.”
Unlike their close relatives, beluga whales, narwhals do not thrive in captivity. In the '60s and '70s, several attempts at capturing and keeping narwhals resulted in all of the animals dying within several months. In fact, all narwhals kept in captivity have died. Some animals simply aren’t meant to be captured.
The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.
1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14
Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.
2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140
Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.
Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.
4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30
The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.
5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19
Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.
6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25
This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.
Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail.
What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.
Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.
Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.
Brian De Palma has never met a genre he can’t tackle. Throughout his 50-plus-year career in Hollywood, he has famously dabbled in action films (Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes), crime dramas (Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables), psychological thrillers (Raising Cain, Body Double), film noirs (Black Dahlia, Femme Fatale), and expletive-filled gangster movies (Scarface). But to this day, Carrie—his 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel—remains one of his most impressive achievements. And not just because it still manages to scare the bejesus out of audiences, even if they know what’s coming next. Here are 15 things you might not have known about the Oscar-nominated horror film.
1. Carrie was Stephen King's first big-screen adaptation.
Carrie marked a number of firsts for the soon-to-be bestselling author: In addition to being his first published novel, it was also the first of his stories to be made into a film. In the more than 40 years since the book’s release, King’s work has formed the basis for more than 100 movies, television movies, series, and episodes.
2. Stephen King was paid $2500 for the film rights to Carrie.
While speaking at a book event in Fort Myers, Florida, in 2010, King recalled that he was paid just $2500 for the movie rights to Carrie—which may seem like a pittance, but he has no regrets. “I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book,” King said.
3. Stephen King thought Brian De Palma handled Carrie in a "more artistic" way than he had.
Five years after the film’s release, King praised De Palma’s adaptation, noting that:
"De Palma's approach to the material was lighter and more deft than my own—and a good deal more artistic ... The book seems clear enough and truthful enough in terms of the characters and their actions, but it lacks the style of De Palma's film. The book attempts to look at the ant farm of high school society dead on; De Palma's examination of this 'High School Confidential' world is more oblique ... and more cutting.”
More than a quarter-century later, in a 2007 interview with Nightline, King seemed slightly less enthusiastic when he said that, "Carrie is a good movie. It hasn't aged as well as some of the other ones. But it's still pretty good."
4. Stephen King's name was misspelled in the Carrie trailer.
King was such a newcomer at the time of Carrie's release his first name was actually misspelled in the movie's trailer (it was written as Steven, not Stephen).
5. The stars of Carrie could have been the stars of Star Wars.
Brian De Palma ended up casting for Carrie at the same time his good friend George Lucas was doing the same for a little sci-fi film he was making called Star Wars. So the two made the rather unorthodox decision to hold joint auditions, which ended up becoming a bit confusing. De Palma liked Amy Irving for the lead in Carrie, but she was also considered for Princess Leia in Star Wars. William Katt also auditioned for Star Wars, alongside Kurt Russell.
6. Carrie stars Amy Irving and William Katt had dated in real life.
Before being cast as Sue Snell and Tommy Ross, Bates High School’s golden couple, Irving and Katt had actually dated. “It was like a year before we tested for Carrie," Irving explained. "We were only together for a short time and then we became friends. Suddenly, we were tested for this film together. We tested with a scene that wasn't in the film, one of our big scenes that was cut out. It was in the back seat of a car and it was very physical. We were lucky because we'd been through that; we were very comfortable with each other, it was easy. We didn't end up having much together in the final print."
There was another personal connection within the film for Irving: her character’s mother in the film was played by her actual mom, Priscilla Pointer.
7. Brian De Palma didn't see Sissy Spacek as Carrie.
Though De Palma was a fan of Spacek’s work, he was convinced that he had already found his Carrie in another actress. His decision to let Spacek audition at all was mostly out of courtesy to her husband, Jack Fisk, the film’s art director. "He told me that if I wanted to, I could try out for the part of Carrie White,” Spacek recounted to Rolling Stone. "There was another girl that he was set on and unless he was really surprised, she was the one. I hung up and decided to go for it."
Spacek showed up at her audition in an old dress she hadn’t worn since grade school and with her hair slicked back with Vaseline. When she was done, she waited in the parking lot while her husband reviewed her audition with the rest of the production team. After Fisk came out to tell her that the part was hers, “We sped off before anybody could change his mind,” Spacek said.
8. Carrie was John Travolta's first movie.
Travolta’s star was on the rise because of his role in Welcome Back, Kotter, but Carrie marked his big-screen debut.
9. Piper Laurie thought Carrie was a satire.
Piper Laurie, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Carrie’s fanatical mother, was all but retired when she agreed to play Margaret White (her last feature had been The Hustler in 1961). But her interpretation of the script was quite different than De Palma’s intention—which she didn’t realize until filming began.
"Once De Palma revealed that he didn’t want a satirical approach and said, ‘You’re going to get a laugh if you do that,’ I realized that he didn’t want laughs, at least not in our conscious performing,” Laurie told HollywoodChicago.com in 2011. "I just fully embraced the reality of what I was playing. I must say that I enjoyed having the childlike freedom to play act and be the evil witch. It was very freeing and fun to do."
Nancy Allen, who played mean girl Chris Hargensen, also believed that she and Travolta were there as a sort of comic relief; it wasn’t until she saw the final cut that she realized they were actually the villains.
10. Sissy Spacek kept in character as Carrie by keeping to herself.
In order to fully embrace the alienation her character faces, Spacek spent most of the production isolated from the rest of the cast. In a 2013 interview with Vulture, co-star P.J. Soles recalled how on "the first or second day, Sissy came over to a group of us, maybe at lunch, I don’t remember, and said, ‘I love you guys, we’re going to have a great shoot, I’m very excited to be working on this. But I just want to let you guys know, I’m going to alienate myself from you. I want to feel that alienation. But I really like you and afterwards we’ll party and we’ll have a great time. But don’t take it personally. I just want to let you know I’m doing it on purpose because I want to get into the part.’ We all really respected her for that, and that made us even more eager and able to be as mean as we could to her, because we knew it was going to help her."
11. Spissy Spacek was a high school homecoming queen.
Okay, so maybe “Prom Queen” holds more clout. But somewhere in Spacek’s teenage possessions is the glitzy headgear she sported when she was crowned homecoming queen at Quitman High School in Texas.
12. Sissy Spacek was adamant that her own hand appear in the final scene of Carrie.
13. Sissy Spacek loved to witness moviegoers' reactions to Carrie's ending.
“When I was in New York, and Carrie came out, I would go to theaters just for the last five minutes of the film to watch everyone jump out of their chairs,” Spacek recalled. “People are all relaxed. The music is really beautiful and relaxing, and all of a sudden that comes up, and people just go crazy.”
14. Carrie contains nods to Psycho.
Though De Palma had hoped to convince Bernard Herrmann to score the film, the legendary composer—who was best known for his collaborations with Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock—passed away in 1975, before Carrie went into production. But his influence is still felt throughout the film.
"When we originally put temporary music tracks on the film, we used a lot of Herrmann's music,” De Palma toldCinefantastique. "In the end, we used a very famous Italian piece of music for the processional walk to the grave—Albinoni I think it was … The flexing sound is very Psycho. I put in a temporary track and for all the flexes I put in a Psycho violin. We couldn't find the right sound, but anyway, it worked. Bernard came up with it, and Bernard, I'm glad we used it again!"
Carrie’s school, Bates High School, is yet another nod to Hitchock’s 1960 classic.
15. Stephen King would have loved to see Lindsay Lohan play Carrie.
When word first spread in 2011 that a remake of Carrie was in the works, King was surprised: “Why, when the original was so good? I mean, not Casablanca, or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book.” But when it came to recasting the lead and choosing a new director, King had some ideas—specifically, “Lindsay Lohan as Carrie White… hmmm. It would certainly be fun to cast. I guess I could get behind it if they turned the project over to one of the Davids: Lynch or Cronenberg."