This photo captures an unusual view of Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, where soccer’s most prestigious event, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, takes place today. If you’re still feeling fuzzy on World Cup details, here’s a quick primer: Today’s event is the culmination of 64 matches that began June 14, with 32 men’s national teams battling for the sport’s top honors. Previous World Cup champs France face off against Croatia in today’s game. Croatia’s team is the ‘Cinderella’ of the match, as they’ve come through with some unexpected victories. Congrats to both teams for making it this far!
Our Shark Awareness Day celebrity is a blue shark swimming in the cold waters off Cork, Ireland. The inspiration for its name comes from the blue shark’s back color, not its mood. It’s currently listed as ‘near threatened’—a status all too common for sharks today. Why celebrate an apex predator that most humans associate with horror movies? Because without sharks acting as population control on other marine life, the world’s oceans would be a very different place. Blue sharks eat a lot of squid and fish, and like land predators, help to keep their prey from overpopulation. Mother Nature keeps us in a delicate balance, so it’s important that we don’t accidentally remove a vital member of that system… even if that creature seems scary to most of us.
By mid-July and into August, an Atlantic puffin chick will have matured enough to leave the cliffside burrow where it was born, clumsily making its perilous way to the sea, where it will spend the next two or three years before ever returning to land. The chick’s parents will follow, leaving separately and then flying over the surf to migrate and search for fishing spots, or diving into the water to gobble up fish. In spring or early summer they’ll return to shore to nest, reunite with their mate, and with any luck, raise another chick or two. Puffins can dig their own burrows, as they prefer to build nests underground atop seaside cliffs. But if there are empty rabbit warrens available, the puffins have no problem moving in. They’re not even above kicking a rabbit out to take over.
Lavender season is in full swing in Provence, and tourists are flocking to destinations like Sénanque Abbey to see the sweet-smelling spectacle of fields painted purple. The monks here at Sénanque cultivate lavender for their livelihood. These days the herb is in demand mostly for its essential oil, which lends a soothing scent to cosmetics, cleaning products, and even food. Lavender ice cream, lemonade, and cakes are popping up on menus around the globe.
‘Big Ben’ is the name commonly used to describe the tower, the clock, and the bell of this London landmark. But technically, Big Ben refers only to the tower’s Great Bell, which Londoners first heard chime on this day in 1859. Ordinarily, four quarter bells chime at 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour and again just before Big Ben tolls on the hour. However, Big Ben is silent for today’s anniversary. It stopped tolling in 2017 to undergo significant renovations that are expected to last through 2021. Eager tourists can still visit the tower, which was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.