Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Major breakthrough in research on decompression sickness : may be caused by faulty immune response

From Norwegian Scitec News by Anne Sliper Midling

An NTNU researcher has discovered what happens in the genes of divers with decompression sickness.
The breakthrough is gaining international attention after more than a century of searching for the causes of divers’ disease.

It is infinitely beautiful below the ocean’s surface.
So beautiful that every year some divers are tempted to go a little too deep and stay there a little too long.

Decompression sickness (DCS) has been a known condition for more than a century.
The disease – sometimes referred to as the bends – occurs when a diver returns to the surface too fast.
“It’s beautiful underwater, but it’s also dangerously tempting to go a little too deep and stay a little too long,” says Ingrid Eftedal, a senior scientist at NTNU.

Gas bubbles form in the blood and tissues due to decreasing water pressure in the ascent.
Some divers become paralyzed for life.
Others get skin rashes or a little pain in their joints.
The condition can be fatal.

No medical test is available that can reveal whether you have the disease or not.
Until now.
The discovery is the first step in developing a blood test that can make it easier to check if someone has DCS.
Strikes adventurous recreational divers

To date, diagnosis and treatment are based only on symptoms.
No one really knows when the treatment is good enough.
“Decompression sickness often occurs in adventurous recreational divers,” says Ingrid Eftedal, a senior scientist at NTNU’s Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging.

She is one of Norway’s few experts on what happens to the human body under water.
Until now, researchers haven’t managed to describe in detail the biological changes that occur in DCS.

Now Eftedal and a team from Malta have made a major breakthrough.
“DCS is simply the immune system going crazy and causing an inflammatory condition in the body,” says Eftedal.

Examined genetic changes

The team’s findings have been published in Frontiers in Physiology, and their study is the first to describe all the changes in genetic activity in the blood of divers with the condition.

A major finding was that the white blood cell activity of the innate immune system became strongly activated.
These blood cells are the first line of defence in the body’s immune system, and their activation causes inflammation in divers who are afflicted.

The finding could make it possible to develop a blood test that can diagnose the disease.
“Then we’ll be able to catch people who have a mild variant of DCS, and we’ll also be able to check when they’ve completed treatment,” says Eftedal.

Today, only a few Norwegian hospitals have solid DCS expertise.
If you become ill in Trondheim, for example, you would need to be flown to Bergen to receive treatment in a pressure chamber where you breathe oxygen at high pressure.

A blood test would make it easier to make a definite diagnosis early.
Want to explore beautiful wrecks

Over the years, scuba divers have learned to reduce the risk of DCS with controlled ascents from the depths.

Very few people are diagnosed with DCS in Norway.
Approximately five people each year in Central Norway receive treatment in a pressure chamber.
The unreported numbers are probably much larger.

The low number means has made it difficult to study the condition. 
t is almost impossible to know where and when a patient is admitted with the condition, and thus equally impossible to obtain a large enough number of samples taken at the same time.

Decompression sickness occurs when you come up too fast from a dive.
Gas bubbles form in the blood and tissues due to the reduced pressure.
The white dots in the image are gas bubbles in the heart.
Photo: Andreas Møllerløkken / NTNU

The solution lay in Malta.
High numbers of recreational divers come here every year to explore the beautiful wrecks from the country’s long history of European and Arab conquests.

The same thing happens every year: 50 to 100 divers go a little too deep, and stay there a little too long.
Doctors in Malta have a lot of experience with DCS and were very interested in collaborating with Eftedal and the research team at the University of Malta.

Measured gene expression in white blood cells

Together, the team took blood samples from divers who had been diagnosed with DCS and divers who had completed a dive without developing the condition.

The researchers took the blood samples at two different times: within eight hours after the divers came out of the water and 48 hours afterwards, when the divers with DCS had undergone treatment in a pressure chamber.
They performed RNA sequencing analysis to measure changes in the gene expression in white blood cells.

The study showed that DCS activates some of the most primitive body defence mechanisms carried out by certain white blood cells.

“In the case of decompression sickness, something happens that’s reminiscent of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. The immune system misunderstands. It’s conceivable that future treatment could also involve immunoregulatory drugs,” says Eftedal.

An earlier survey by Eftedal of healthy, experienced divers who regularly do recreational diving likewise showed changes in the activity of white blood cells during diving, even when the divers did not feel any discomfort or show symptoms of DCS.

Links :

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

How nuclear subs could transform Australia, its alliance and Asia

HMS Talent, one of the Royal Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines: the UK and US have agreed to support Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines (Ministry of Defence)

From LowyInstitute by Sam Roggeveen 

First thoughts on the consequences of a truly momentous decision.
Australia is about to join an exclusive group of nations operating one of the most lethal military platforms ever conceived – nuclear-powered submarines.
My initial thoughts on this extraordinary announcement are below.
These are subject to revision as I think through the implications of what is a truly historic announcement:
Only six nations currently operate nuclear-power submarines (SSNs), and all six have civilian nuclear power industries and nuclear weapons programs.
Australia joining this club marks a dramatic break with this historic norm (although for some years Brazil has had a research program aimed at eventually fielding an indigenous SSN).
It is impossible to read this as anything other than a response to China’s rise, and a significant escalation of American commitment to that challenge.

The United States has only ever shared this technology with the United Kingdom, so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge.
I have been sceptical of the idea that the United States really wanted to enter a Cold War with China, but this announcement is significant evidence that it is indeed prepared to take such a momentous step.
It is wise to assume that the scale of this agreement, and the close strategic and operational links it implies, will create expectations from Washington.
Australia cannot have this capability while assuming that it does not come with heightened expectations that Australia will take America’s side in any dispute with China.
The U.S. is forming an Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia that will allow for greater sharing of defense resources - including nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
The move could worsen the U.S. rift with China.
courtesy of HI Sutton

It is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny.
That is the real long-term significance of the deal ­– even more than the agreement to base Marines in Darwin, this deal signals that Australia is betting on the United States as a long-term partner in its region as China’s rise continues.
Australia is gambling that, over the decades-long lifespan of these submarines, the United States will remain committed to its defence and to maintaining a regional presence in the face of the largest economic and strategic challenge in American history.
The single best piece of news to come out of this announcement is that Australia will cancel the Attack-class submarine program with France’s Naval Group.
This is unquestionably a good thing.
The project was going to deliver submarines too late and at eye-watering cost.
The announcement of a trilateral “AUKUS” partnership this morning by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden was notable for different points of emphasis.
Morrison and Biden explicitly framed this agreement geographically (security in the Indo-Pacific).
Johnson did not, instead emphasising the defence-industrial benefits for Britain and historic links with Australia.
The United Kingdom has made some efforts in recent years to develop its naval presence in Asia, but that is not how Johnson chose to view this new agreement. 
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the launch of the AUKUS Partnership (Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street/Flickr)

It is extraordinary that this momentous decision could be made without parliamentary or public scrutiny.
The 18-month consultation process that Morrison has announced will focus on how the submarine agreement will be implemented, and not whether it is a good idea.
Many will now begin to consider the implications of this agreement for the wider region, even beyond how China will respond.
South Korea is already edging towards the development of an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, and it would now be no shock to see Japan take the same course.
There are still many unknowns, including relating to reports that emerged late yesterday that as an interim measure, Australia would host US nuclear submarines in Western Australia until acquiring its own.

The idea that Australia would outsource its submarine capability to the US Navy for an interim period is extraordinary in itself.

Does Australia actually need nuclear-powered submarines?
It depends on what you want to achieve.

They would certainly be important assets in any allied effort to deter war with China or to defeat China if deterrence failed.
SSNs have the range and endurance needed for long-range operations together with the United States.
But because they are expensive, Australia can’t have very many, and given the sea approaches to Australia are vast and with many choke points that need to be patrolled, they are less useful for the defence of the continent.
So, if Australia believes it needs the capability to defend the Australian continent alone, then this is the wrong decision.
As already mentioned, this decision is a long-term bet on the endurance of the alliance, and on the likelihood that the US has the resolve to stay in Asia.
It is also worth saying that these submarines will be largely dependent on US and UK nuclear know how.
All the talk of recent years about Australia acquiring “sovereign” capabilities that can operate independently has gone out the window.
We had better hope that our defence and foreign policy priorities remain closely aligned with these two partners.

Links :

Monday, September 20, 2021

Hole in the ozone layer that develops annually is 'rather larger than usual' this year - and is currently bigger than Antarctica, scientists say

The 2021 ozone hole evolution appears to be similar to last year’s size, currently around 23 million sq km – reaching an extent larger than Antarctica.
According to CAMS, the 2021 ozone hole has considerably grown in the last two weeks and is now larger than 75% of ozone holes at that stage in the season since 1979.
This map is centered on the Antarctic region.
Areas coloured yellow, orange and red depict high ozone values, whereas green and blue areas show low values.
Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF

From CNN by Jevan Ravindran

The hole in the ozone that forms every year over the South Pole is now larger than Antarctica, scientists from the European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said Thursday.

The ozone depletes and forms a hole over the Antarctic in the Southern Hemisphere's spring, which is from August to October.
It typically reaches its largest size between mid-September and mid-October, according to Copernicus.

After growing "considerably" in the past week, the hole is now larger than 75% of previous years' ozone holes at the same stage of the season since 1979 and is now bigger that the continent it looms over.

"This year, the ozone hole developed as expected at the start of the season," Vincent-Henri Peuch, Copernicus director, said in a statement.

 The 2021 ozone hole evolution appears to be similar to last year’s size, currently around 23 million sq km – reaching an extent larger than Antarctica.
Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by DLR
"Now our forecasts show that this year´s hole has evolved into a rather larger than usual one."
Last year's hole also began unexceptionally in September, but then turned into "one of the longest-lasting ozone holes in our data record," according to Copernicus.
The ozone layer, which sits between 9 and 22 miles above the Earth, protects the planet from ultraviolet radiation.

The hole in the Southern Hemisphere is typically caused by chemicals, such as chlorine and bromine migrating into the stratosphere, creating catalytic reactions during Antarctic winter.
The ozone hole is related to the Antarctic polar vortex, a band of swirling cold air that moves around the Earth.
When temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise in the late spring, ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and finally breaks down, and by December, ozone levels usually return to normal.
This ends the isolation of air created by the polar vortex that forms during Antarctic winter, enabling chemicals such as chlorine and bromine to deplete the ozone layer, according to Copernicus and NASA.
Ozone levels are usually restored to normal levels by December.

Copernicus monitors the ozone layer using computer modeling and satellite observations, and although the ozone layer is showing signs of recovery, Copernicus says it would not completely recover until the 2060s or 2070s.

This is because it will take time to see the effects of the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which deplete the ozone layer.
The chemicals were first regulated by the Montreal Protocol -- first signed in 1987.
They are expected to be phased out by 2030, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A study published in the Nature journal last month said the world would be on course for an additional 2.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures and a collapse of the ozone layer if CFCs had not been banned by the protocol.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Veracruz old map (1580)

A 1580 map of Tlacotalpa, a small river village in the southeast of the state of Veracruz, Mexico.
Drawn by Sevillian navigator, explorer, cosmographer and cartographer, Francisco Gali, it is one of the first examples of local nautical cartography in Hispanic America.
Current nautical map from SEMAR in the GeoGarage platform

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Canada (CHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

39 nautical raster charts updated (12 insets added)

Image of the week : Surface ocean currents around Antarctica

@ECMWF ORAS5. Used power scaling to bring out the slower currents < 1m/s.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Humans will always have oxygen to breathe, but we can’t say the same for ocean life

The surface layer of the ocean is teeming with photosynthetic plankton.
Though they're invisible to the naked eye, they produce more oxygen than the largest redwoods.

From The Conversation by Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Carlos M. Duarte, Fortuna Joos & Laurent Bopp

There is nothing more fundamental to humans than the availability of oxygen.
We give little thought to the oxygen we need, we just breathe, but where does it come from?

To shed light on this, statements such as “the ocean provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe”, or its equivalent, “every second breath we breathe comes from the ocean”, have become common mantras to highlight human dependence on the ocean and the risk of lower oxygen supply due to climate change and environmental degradation.

These mantras are repeated by high-profile politicians, including US climate envoy John Kerry and French president Emmanuel Macron, international organisations such as Unesco and the European Commission, and even prominent reports from the IPCC and other reputable scientific institutions.

While they may be good fodder for speeches, these claims misrepresent where the oxygen we breathe actually comes from, and in doing so, mislead the public as to why we should step up our role as ocean custodians.

Where do we get our oxygen?

The Earth’s atmosphere has not always been as rich in oxygen as it is today.
The atmosphere is now made up of 21% oxygen, but it accounted for just 0.001% of today’s levels during the first 2 billion years of Earth’s history.

It is the advent of microscopic ocean bacteria and plants (phytoplankton) and, later, larger plants on land which caused the staggering increase of oxygen in our atmosphere.
This oxygen is derived from photosynthesis – the process by which plants turn carbon dioxide and water into organic matter and oxygen.

Oxygen has been relatively stable at a high level for the past 500 million years.
Today, roughly half of photosynthesis takes place in the ocean and half on land.

So yes, the ocean is responsible for about 50% of the oxygen produced on the planet.
But it’s not responsible for 50% of the air we humans breathe.
Most of the oxygen produced by the ocean is directly consumed by the microbes and animals that live there, or as plant and animal products fall to the seafloor.
In fact, the net production of oxygen in the ocean is close to 0.
Oxygen produced by photosynthesis ( primary production) in the upper ocean is roughly consumed by respiration within the water column, except for a small excess production of 0.002 Pmol O2 per year which corresponds to burial in the ocean floor.
Redrawn from Grégoire et al., 2019, Fourni par l'auteur

A tiny fraction of the primary production, roughly 0.1%, escapes degradation and is stored as organic carbon in marine sediments – a process referred to as the biological carbon pump.
This organic carbon may eventually turn into fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
The tiny amount of oxygen which had been generated to produce this carbon store can later be released to the atmosphere.
A similar process occurs on land too, with some carbon stored in soils.

Therefore, the oxygen we currently breathe comes from the slow accumulation of O₂ in the atmosphere supported by the burial of organic matter over very long time-scales – hundreds of millions of years – and not from the contemporary production by either the land or ocean biosphere.

Fossil fuels and the air we breathe

How about future trends of atmospheric oxygen? As early as 1970, the prominent geochemist Wally S Broecker recognised that if we were to burn all known fossil fuel reserves, we would use up less than 3% of our oxygen reservoir.

If we were to cut or burn all forests and oxidise all organic carbon stored in vegetation and top soils worldwide, it would only lead to a small depletion in atmospheric oxygen.
If photosynthesis in the ocean and on land stopped producing oxygen, we could continue breathing for millennia, though we would certainly have other problems.

The projected decline in atmospheric oxygen, even in the worst-case scenarios with massive fossil fuel burning and deforestation, will be very small relative to the very large atmospheric reservoir.
Models show that the content of oxygen in the atmosphere will experience a minute change over the next 100,000 years in response to fossil fuel use.
So while there are many things to worry about in our climate future, the availability of oxygen for air-breathing organisms (including humans) isn’t one of them.

Oxygen decline in the ocean

There are significant causes for concern regarding the content of oxygen in the ocean, however.
The ocean’s O₂ reservoir is vulnerable because it holds less than 1% of the oxygen stored in the atmosphere.
In particular, ocean regions with very low or absent oxygen, referred to as oxygen minimum zones, expand as the planet warms, making new regions inhabitable for breathing organisms like fish.

The open ocean lost 0.5 to 3.3% of its oxygen stock in the top 1000 metres from 1970-2010, and the volume of oxygen minimum zones has increased by 3-8%.

This oxygen loss is primarily due to increasing ocean stratification.
In this process, the mixing of the surface ocean, which becomes warmer and lighter, with the deeper and denser ocean layers is less efficient, restricting the penetration of oxygen.
The activity of enzymes, including those involved in respiration, also generally increases with temperature.
So, oxygen consumption by ocean creatures increases as the ocean warms.
Most of the oxygen produced by the ocean is directly consumed by the microbes and animals that live there.
Sean Doran, CC BY-NC-ND

A recent study found that oxygen minimum zones in the open ocean have expanded by several million square kilometres and hundreds of coastal sites now have oxygen concentrations low enough to limit animal populations and alter the cycling of important nutrients.
The volume of low-oxygen areas is projected to grow by about 7% by 2100 under a scenario of high-CO₂ emissions.

Deoxygenation of this kind affects biodiversity and food webs; and negatively affects food security and livelihoods of the people who depend on it.

The facts

So where does this leave our mantra?

While it is incorrect to say that the ocean provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe, it is correct to say that, over geological time scales, the ocean has provided a large fraction of the oxygen we take in today.
It is also perfectly correct to say that the ocean is responsible for 50% of primary production on Earth, sustaining our food system.

And while we should not worry about the future supply of oxygen for humans to breathe in the future, we should worry about fish being increasingly displaced from expanding ocean areas that are depleted in oxygen.

Links :

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The ‘longest sediment avalanche ever measured’ tore up underwater seabed cables In West Africa

Congo Canyon with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO raster chart)

Satellite image of Congo Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, where the largest sediment flow ever recorded occurred. Image: Wikimedia Commons
From Inertia by Alexandro Haro

On January 14, 2020, a swollen river full of sediment hit the Atlantic Ocean.
Some of that sediment started flowing down an underwater hill off the coast of West Africa.
Within hours, that flow had turned into what scientists believe is the “longest sediment avalanche ever measured.
It continued for two straight days, moving some 700 miles across the floor of the Atlantic, finally slowing to a halt on January 16.
Before it stopped, it was measured moving at speeds up to 26 feet per second.

source : Britannica

An international team of researchers reported that the avalanche started from the mouth of the Congo River and moved into the Congo Canyon, one of the largest submarine canyons in the world.
When all was said and done, the avalanche reached down to a depth of nearly three miles.

The massive flow broke two telecommunications cables that ran along the seabed: the SAT-3 (South Atlantic 3) and WACs (West Africa Cable System).
Mooring locations in the Congo Canyon. (A) Map of the Congo Canyon showing study area (rectangle), with bathymetric contours in meters. (B) Map showing the location of the two moorings deployed in 2013 (6, 57). (C) Map showing location of 2010 mooring (5). (D) Cross-canyon profile showing ADCP suspended 85 m above the canyon floor. Location of cross section indicated in (C).
source : ResearchGate

“We had a series of oceanographic moorings that were hit by the event, which broke them from their seafloor anchors so that they popped up to send us an email,” Durham University’s Professor Peter Talling told BBC News.
“This thing gradually got faster and faster. Because it erodes the seabed as it goes, it picks up sand and mud, which makes the flow denser and even quicker. So, it has this positive feedback where it can build and build and build.”

According to IFLScience, one of the reasons behind the enormous slide could be flooding. “December 2019 saw a major flood of the Congo river, something described as a one-in-50-years event,” Dr. Alfredo Carpineti explained
“In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the river was at its highest since 1963, with a discharge of 72 million liters (19 million gallons).”

How a turbidity current works. Image: NOAA/Wikipedia

That flooding hit the Congo estuary at the end of December, 2019.
Two weeks later, a turbidity current formed. A turbidity current is when a large amount of sediment increases the density of the water and it begins to flow downhill at a rapid rate.
Ten weeks after the first one formed, a second was created.
That happened to coincide with strong spring tides, and the team of researchers that looked into the event believe that may have been the spark that lit the proverbial dynamite.
Links :

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

BMT unveils highly autonomous warship technologies project

From Shephardmedia by Harry Lye

BMT Highly Autonomous Warship Technologies illustration. (Photo: BMT)
Design and engineering consultancy BMT has lifted the lid on its 'Highly Autonomous Warship Technologies' project, which is designed to help bridge the gap between current vessels and future lean-crewed autonomous warships.

BMT revealed its Highly Autonomous Warship Technology thought leadership programme at DSEI 2021 in London.

The programme aims to understand and enable philosophies behind future lean crewed warships enabled by autonomy.

While not a physical product, the project offers a view of how AI and intelligent systems can be integrated into the design of naval vessels and process ever-increasing quantities of data.

Jake Rigby, R&D lead for defence and security at BMT, said: 'It's not a concept design, but a thought leadership for a project about creating the vision of what a warship that is not completely uncrewed but has some very lean crewing onboard could look like in the future.'

Speaking to Shephard ahead of DSEI, he added: 'We're not saying that the future of naval warfare is completely unmanned; we're saying actually in this highly autonomous warship, you have a very small number of people that's enabled by autonomy, but you've still got some key functions onboard.'

The project looks ahead to a 2040 vision of a lean crewed warship designed in line with the UK government's upcoming 30-year shipbuilding strategy.

BMT wants to gain a sense of when certain enabling technologies will be matured and inserted into future vessels, producing a gradual pathway to more autonomous ships.

The vision of a highly autonomous vessel in 2040 does not necessarily mean an operationally deployed ship but rather one featuring a full range of mature autonomous capabilities.

Technical experts at BMT identified seven areas for the Highly Autonomous Warship Technology programme: navigation, warfare, recoverability, logistics and maintenance, platform systems, human factors and cyber security.

The thought leadership programme includes one whitepaper and seven individual technical papers.

As autonomous, lean-crewed ships increase over the next few decades, BMT anticipates a mix of vessels at sea operating different levels of autonomy.

Essential to the thought leadership work is promoting safety considerations around autonomous control and human factors. 

BMT Highly Autonomous Warship Technologies control room illustration. (Photo: BMT)

BMT chief engineer Ian Savage said: 'Over the next twenty years, BMT expects to see the increased adoption of offboard systems, coupled with higher levels of automation and high trust systems onboard naval vessels.

'However, human interaction will still be required to perform certain operational and decision-making functions due to ethical or operational complexity reasons. To support this, highly autonomous naval vessels will need to enable a small number of personnel to conduct operations and make key safety decisions while the vessel itself will largely operate autonomously with minimum operator interaction.'

Rigby told Shephard that another critical consideration of the work was the idea of a 'tipping point' in terms of developments on the road from traditionally crewed vessels to either fully autonomous or highly autonomous warships.

Rigby explained: 'To get to that point, you could incrementally increase autonomy in different systems. [In] The next class, you could make sure that all the pumps are operated autonomously, so you don't have to go around and manually check those every time. And then in the next class after that, you're bringing an extra level of autonomy to different features,'

'The kind of thing that we've been exploring is, is there a tipping point where you can't keep on doing those incremental changes as those changes on their own right, create such a big change in the overall platform design that you need a completely new vessel to embrace it.'

Asked which autonomous capabilities identified by BMT were the most mature, Rigby said they differ significantly depending on their purpose.

Using the example of recoverability, Rigby cited how firefighting systems were already commonplace in buildings on land but, while talked about, had not seen much integration in the maritime sector.

On the flipside, damage control also constitutes a part of a ships recoverability and is a capability that is hard to provide autonomously. Rigby said developing autonomous damage control solutions was one of the most complicated areas. He added it would be a struggle to establish a realistic capability in this area by 2040.

With its Highly Autonomous Warship Technologies programme, BMT wants to understand when certain enabling technologies will be matured and inserted into future vessels, producing a gradual pathway to more autonomous ships. (Photo: BMT)

Asked how BMT was taking the principles of the thought leadership programme into bids for potential future MoD work, Rigby said he could not discuss individual projects for commercial reasons.

However, he added that the company was not looking to turn the work into a design that could be bought immediately but instead utilising and providing a technological roadmap of developments.

Rigby said: 'The main core of the paper has a technology roadmap in it, which identifies across these seven development areas, what are the key enabling technologies that will enable you to have high autonomy in this area.

'What we're looking to do is looking at timelines then when things kick in when we are looking at these future programmes, future projects, we can look at that timeline and see this is looking to be built in this time period. Therefore, we are expecting these developments to be made at that point, and we would hope to see those aspects of autonomy integrated into the design.'

Work in the UK's shipbuilding pipeline includes the Fleet Solid Support Ship programme. BMT has bid for the work as part of a team alongside Infrastrata and Navantia.

Among other opportunities are programmes for up to five Type 32 frigates towards the end of the decade or early 2030s and up to six Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) designed to support littoral strike and maritime special operations, also in the 2030s.
Links :

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Who needs GPS? Rower uses his SAS skills to cross Atlantic

Ian Rivers set off from New York on May 31 and arrived in the Isles of Scilly yesterday
Press Association

From TheTimes by Will Humphries

Army veteran who escaped kidnappers plots his course guided by the sun, stars and a compass

As an SAS veteran who escaped kidnappers in the Syrian desert, Ian Rivers is used to keeping a cool head in tough conditions.

When he found himself alone in the North Atlantic, more than 500 miles from the nearest land, neck-deep in the flooding cabin of his capsized rowing boat, he had to draw on all his reserves of courage and fortitude.

After coming through a force-10 storm with concussion, broken ribs, a battered boat and destroyed nautical charts, he still managed to navigate his way to the Isles of Scilly to become the first person to row across the Atlantic solo and unsupported, using only the sun and stars to guide him.

Rivers spent 21 years in the SAS and was captured during an ambush in 2012 while working as a private security adviser to an American news network

Rivers, 55, from Hereford, landed in St Mary’s harbour after leaving New York on May 31 and rowing 3,100 nautical miles. He used only a sextant and a compass in Sentinel, his 27ft rowing boat, to chart his way across the featureless ocean.

“Surprisingly wobbly,” was his verdict after climbing on to the quayside after 85 days at sea. “I hadn’t anticipated this. It was a struggle getting up those steps. I can hardly stand up now.”

His decision to forgo satellite navigation systems was born out of his escape from Syrian kidnappers, when he had nothing but natural indicators to guide him to safety.

Rivers, who spent 21 years in the SAS, was captured during an ambush in December 2012 when he was working as a private security adviser to an American news network.

When he managed to escape his captors he relied on navigational clues, such as the way trees leant towards the sun and the growth of moss on rocks, to work out which way was north to enable him to head to safety in Turkey.

During his voyage he used his sextant to measure the angle between the sun and the horizon, which coupled with the time of day, was used to calculate his position on a nautical chart.

Ian Rivers capsized three times and suffered broken ribs after being caught in a storm
Press Association

“That was my only way of knowing where I was,” Rivers said. 
“That and my compass, but you pretty much know which direction to go from New York to the Isles of Scilly.”

During the trip he capsized on three occasions and during a force-10 storm on August 5 he was trapped upside down with the cabin filling with water, which he described as “brutal”.

“I knew the worst of the storm was going to come through at night,” he said. 
“I was asleep the first time I capsized that night and woke up on the roof of the cabin.
“I was checking what was going on outside when the next wave hit us. It was like going back into the 60s and 70s when there weren’t any seatbelts and you’re slammed into the side.
“It wasn’t a slow motion affair, one minute you’re the right way up and the next you’re not.”

Rivers found himself in pitch darkness, upside down and with water up to his neck.

“The rowing boat is designed to right itself and for 15 seconds I was wishing Sentinel would roll back over.”

For the next 40 minutes he was baling out the front cabin in readiness for the next onslaught.

Much of his kit and navigational charts were broken or destroyed and his emergency alarm system was ruined, meaning the vast container ships wouldn’t know if he was in their path.

The coastguard had to put out a 50-mile notice to shipping to stop them running him over.

The former special forces soldier’s decision to forgo satellite navigation systems was born out of his escape from Syrian kidnappers

Asked whether he feared his voyage had ended, he said: “At the time I was working through the problem.”

After enduring a hellish 48 hours he managed to repair his boat’s broken steering system and began to row through the pain of his broken ribs.

Rivers has so far raised more than £85,000 of his £500,000 target in aid of the SAS Regimental Association’s Sentinels programme, a mental health initiative, and St Michael’s Hospice in Herefordshire.

He said the highlights of his journey were his encounters with the whales who would come alongside to inspect his boat bobbing on the waves.

After finishing the mammoth row, he has ruled out tackling the Pacific. 
“I’m completely done with ocean rowing,” he said. 
“This adventure was of such intensity that I have got my ocean rowing fix done.”

Monday, September 13, 2021

NYK tests AI system to automatically identify navigation hazards

Cameras and AI identify navigation hazards that might be missed by the human eye (NYK)
From Maritime Executive  

Efforts are continuing to explore the use of automation, artificial intelligence, and image recognition to improve the navigation and safety of ship operations.
Earlier this year, Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines demonstrated its efforts are using augmented reality (AR) technology to enhance navigational awareness and now NYK announced that it has begun a trial on the system that can monitor the horizon to recognize dangerous objects that might be within a ship’s range.

NYK working with its strategic research and development subsidiary MTI Co. installed the Automatic Ship Target recognition System developed in Israel by Orca AI on one of NYK’s vessels.
The goal is to verify the detection capability and the contribution the system can make to the role of the lookout on a ship’s bridge.
Working with Orca, NYK also plans to improve the target detection algorithm through the use of data collection and machine learning on the Israeli company’s servers.
During the trial, they are also looking to enhance the recognition rate so that the system could be used to enhance efforts to develop autonomous shipping.
Orca’s AI navigation and collision avoidance system is engineered to help create a new lookout support system for vessels by providing improved visibility in difficult conditions, preventing human error, and helping crews make informed decisions.
While research has been ongoing on automatic identification by image analysis, according to NYK earlier systems were limited by the ability of cameras to receiving images both at day and night especially with ships exposed the natural elements including rain and wind.
Also, they said that no system could measure the distance from the captured image to the target with a certain degree of accuracy.

The new system NYK explained uses a camera unit that can shoot day and night to automatically recognize ships and targets and measure the distance to them.
Information obtained from navigational equipment, including vessel names, distance, and time when the ship is closest to the target, can be superimposed and displayed in an integrated manner to a tablet or touch-panel monitor display.

Using infrared cameras the system creates nighttime images (NYK)

Orca AI notes that nearly 4,000 maritime accidents occur annually and are caused they believe by low situational awareness in congested areas, lack of office visibility regarding misses and risk patterns, and insufficient data available for handling potential incidents.

The system is designed to automatically recognizing dangerous objects and other vessels that may be overlooked by the human eye, especially at night and in congested waters.
NYK is seeking to verify this capability noting that the system could be revolutionary in its capabilities to independently recognize small fishing boats and small markers that are not captured by radar and not equipped with AIS.
The system measures the distance to these targets and notifies the person on duty of collision danger.

The videos you are about to see were taken from real ships that sailed during the winter with Orca AI
The test vessel is equipped with three cameras and three infrared cameras to make nighttime imaging possible.
The system has an angle of view of 120 degrees.
With the video images and data also being relayed to Orca AI’s servers, NYK notes it is possible to monitor the movement of the ship from shore.

In addition, in joint research conducted by NYK and MTI with Orca AI, the system was also installed on domestic vessels to collect information on the Japanese coast, as well as fishing boats, fishing gear, and buoys peculiar to Japan.
This will be used in support of NYK’s efforts with autonomous shipping.

Links :

Sunday, September 12, 2021

New Zealand (Linz) update in the GeoGarage platform

9 nautical raster charts updated

Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 : an impressive spectacle

The 49th edition of Rolex Fastnet Race started from Cowes, England, on 8 August, with over 300 yachts setting off into the teeth of a strong westerly.
First held in 1925, the demanding offshore classic has a legendary status in sport. Organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the race has been partnered by Rolex since 2001 and demands the very best in skill, determination and teamwork to succeed.
Divided into seven starting groups, the fleet crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron line and headed west down The Solent, before entering the English Channel.
Competitors are a mix of professional and Corinthians, experienced and newcomers, young and old. With the race finishing in Cherbourg, France for the very first time, the crews face a new twist to the near 100-year-old challenge.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Image of the week :largest island in the North Sea bay of Kattegat, Denmark

Amazing layers of turbid waters surrounding and moving around the island which is the largest in the North Sea bay of Kattegat, northern Denmark Læsø ("Isle of Hlér") 
@CopernicusEU Sentinel2  2021-08-30
courtesy of Iban Amestoy
Læsø island with the GeoGarage platform

Friday, September 10, 2021

Arctic’s ‘last ice area’ may be less resistant to global warming

The German research icebreaker Polarstern heading toward the North Pole through thin ice last August.

From NYTimes by Henri Fountain

The region, which could provide a last refuge for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife that depends on ice, is not as stable as previously thought, according to a new study.

Last August, scientists aboard an icebreaker that had been drifting with the ice across the Arctic Ocean in a yearlong research expedition decided to take a detour to the North Pole.

They needed to get there quickly, so they used satellite data to find a route where the concentration of sea ice was low enough for the icebreaker, the Polarstern, to push through easily.
They found it in an unlikely place, the Wandel Sea, just north of Greenland.

“This area used to be one that was chock-full of this old, thick sea ice,” said Melinda Webster, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who was on board for this part of the Mosaic expedition. 
“It’s not what we encountered when we went through there.”
Instead, the ice was thin and there was plenty of open water, Dr. Webster said.

Scientists have now shown why ice conditions in the Wandel Sea were vastly different last summer.
The warming Arctic climate thinned the ice, they say, and an unusual shift in winds pushed much of it out of the sea.

“As it is typically with extreme events, there’s an underlying climate change component,” said Axel J. Schweiger, a climate scientist at the University of Washington and the lead author of a paper describing the research published Thursday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

The findings have potentially troubling implications for the Wandel Sea and nearby waters north of Canada, a region often referred to as the “last ice area.”
Because a circular ocean current, the Beaufort Gyre, tends to keep ice trapped there, climate models have predicted that it will likely retain ice as warming causes the rest of the Arctic Ocean to become ice-free in summers, perhaps in the next few decades.

If this region does remain full of ice, it may provide a last summer refuge for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife that is dependent on sea ice.
But the new research suggests the area may be less resilient to warming, and that similar periods of low ice concentrations are to be expected.

“This region is not as stable as we used to think,” said Luisa von Albedyll, an ice-dynamics researcher with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, who also was aboard the Polarstern when the route was chosen. Neither she nor Dr. Webster was involved in the new research.

Dr. Schweiger and other researchers had seen and studied thinning ice in the Wandel Sea in recent years, including a time in 2018 when a large area of open water, called a polynya, had opened.
The experience of the Polarstern also piqued Dr. Schweiger’s interest.
The route “normally wouldn’t be the first choice for an icebreaker captain,” he said.

Using satellite images and computer models that simulated sea ice, he and his colleagues showed that most of the effect on the ice in the Wandel in 2020 could be linked to natural variability in the winds in the area.

Those winds normally blow from the north and, with the Greenland and Canadian coasts to the south, tend to keep the ice in place.
In August 2020 they shifted so they were blowing in the opposite direction, causing much of the ice to leave the sea and drift elsewhere.

But the simulations also showed that climate change played a role by melting and thinning the ice, as it has elsewhere in the Arctic Ocean in recent decades.
While the world overall is warming as a result of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, the Arctic is warming about two and a half times faster than average, much faster than other regions.

The researchers also looked at what might have occurred in previous years under the same wind conditions that existed last summer, using data beginning in 1979, when modern satellite imagery of the Arctic began.

The analysis showed that if the same shifting winds had occurred in 2018 and 2019, similar low-ice conditions would have resulted.
“But the likelihood that this would have happened with ice from 1979 is a lot smaller,” Dr. Schweiger said, because the region had not warmed as much at that point and the ice was thicker.

Dr. Webster said the study provided a “very reasonable explanation” for what occurred last summer. And it illustrated an important point about the effects of climate change in the Arctic, she said.

“As sea ice thins and as it becomes more seasonal, it becomes more sensitive to what’s happening in the atmosphere and ocean,” she said. 
“So windy conditions will play a larger role.”

“What we experienced last summer was unprecedented,” Dr. Webster added.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

This barnacle-inspired glue seals bleeding organs in seconds

If you want to solve a problem, you can probably find an animal that’s already evolved to solve it.
Photograph: Paul Maguire/Getty Images
From Wired by  Max G. Levy
EXCESSIVE BLEEDING IS, in some sense, an engineering problem.

“For us, everything is a machine, even a human body,” says Hyunwoo Yuk, a research scientist in mechanical engineering at MIT.
“They are malfunctioning and breaking, and we have some mechanical way to solve it.”

About 1.9 million people die every year from blood loss, sometimes from trauma, sometimes on the operating table.
Bleeding bodies are wet, prone to infection, and need urgent care.
Yet it’s hard to create a seal on wet tissue, and most commercial products used to stop dangerous bleeding rely on coagulants which take minutes to work.
Some people don’t have minutes.

For the last seven years, Yuk’s team has been developing an entirely different approach to stopping bleeding: glue.
More specifically, glue inspired by barnacles.
Yuk says barnacles hold an evolutionary solution to the problem of sticking to surfaces that are resistant to getting stuck.
In a study published this month in Nature Biomedical Engineering, his team demonstrated how this arthropod-like glue can stop bleeding in seconds.

In the experiment, Yuk treated rats with bleeding heart and liver injuries with products typically used by surgeons.
No dice—the bleeding continued.
On others, he squeezed on the lab’s oily paste.
“Exactly the same injury could be sealed in just 10 seconds or so,” he says.

The rats survived thanks to the glue, and so did pigs that were tested by Yuk’s collaborators at the Mayo Clinic.
Their evidence, although still preliminary, bodes particularly well for human surgical patients with blood, heart, and liver disorders.
“My overall impression of this material is that it's incredible,” says Hanjay Wang, a resident in Stanford University’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Department who was not involved in the study.
“It definitely fills a need, especially in the emergency setting, when you need to just get control.”

THE TEAM OF engineers knew they might find inspiration in the animal world.
“The driving force for nature's evolution is survival,” Yuk says.
If you want to solve a problem, you can probably find an animal that’s already evolved to solve it.
Barnacles caught their attention, he says, because they are annoyingly sticky: “It's sticking on rock, sticking on rusted steel, it’s sticking on slimy surfaces like whales and turtles.”

Barnacles cling thanks to a cement of proteins secreted from glands along each animal’s “forehead.” But the secret sauce—well, more of an oil—is a cocktail of lipids that first sweep contaminants away from surfaces so the proteins can do their thing.
“So basically they are terraforming the target substrate,” Yuk says, priming it for a fast, strong seal.

And it turns out that you need a similar superpower when trying to seal up bleeding animal tissue.
In a way, says Yuk, blood is a “contaminated fluid” because it’s not a homogeneous liquid—it’s filled with blood cells.
For an adhesive to work, you’ve got to shove those cells out of the way.

Instead of using actual barnacle proteins for their test glue, Yuk’s team referred to it as a kind of chemical rubric for devising a high-pressure physical barrier.
In place of sticky protein particles, they repurposed a previous lab invention: biocompatible adhesive sheets made from a cocktail of organic molecules, water, and chitosan—a sugar found in hard shellfish exoskeletons.
(Barnacles use a similar compound called chitin, and chitosan is already used widely in wound dressings.)
Then they tossed the sheets into a cryogenic grinder that pulverized them until they turned into shards roughly one hundredth of a millimeter across.

As the blood-repelling agent, they used silicone oil, which is already used in medicine as an inert lubricant for surgical tools, and as a substitute for vitreous fluid after retinal detachments.
The microparticles and oil mixed to create a glue with the look and feel of a cloudy white toothpaste.

Barnacles use similar contaminant-repelling oils in order to stick to ships and whales. 
Photograph: Hyunwoo Yuk
The paste passed through a gauntlet of mechanical tests to record how tightly—and quickly—it could seal issue samples.
Yuk squeezed the paste from a syringe onto a sliver of pig heart, then pressed a tiny metal spatula against it.
Under that pressure, the silicon oil cleared away debris and fluid.
At the same time, the mass of sticky microparticles congealed with the edges of proteins jutting from the tissue’s surface.
A strong bond formed within seconds.

Yuk then compared the barnacle glue to products used by surgeons, sealant pastes like Surgiflo and a coagulation patch called TachoSil.
In comparison, the barnacle glue formed a bond that was eight times tougher.
And when tested on an isolated pig aorta for its “burst pressure”—the limit before a seal ruptures—Yuk’s glue held firm at up to twice the expected pressure from blood flow.

Encouraged, the team was ready to test their invention on live animals.
Anesthetized rats bleeding from 2-millimeter knicks in their heart chamber muscles received either the barnacle glue or one of two commercial alternatives: Surgicel and CoSeal.
But only the glue overcame the pressure produced by the beating heart to form a seal—the bleeding stopped in seconds.
(You can see the video here, but be warned, it’s graphic.) 
“It was very visually shocking,” Yuk says.

The team repeated similar tests on rats’ livers, an important region for bleeding studies, since it’s the body’s most vascularized organ.
Again, the glue stopped the bleeding in seconds.
And two weeks later, the holes in the hearts and livers remained sealed up tight.
“That rat could wake up and recover.
We could cuddle her while we were in the husbandry room,” Yuk says.

The barnacle-inspired glue is made from a mixture of sticky microparticles and silicone oil, which repels blood away from tissue.
Photograph: Hyunwoo Yuk

Then came the pigs.
Yuk looped in a team at the Mayo Clinic that was better equipped to operate on large animals.
The team wanted to avoid relying on the blood’s natural coagulation ability, since many people undergoing surgery have clotting issues themselves.
So, before any experiments, the three test pigs received heparin, a blood thinner.
The researchers cut three holes, 1 centimeter wide and 1 centimeter deep, in each of the animals’ livers, then treated the nine injuries with either the paste or a TachoSil patch.

Tiffany Sarrafian, one of the team’s veterinary surgeons, says she’s never seen anything work like this glue.
“We just put the paste on, and we're counting” for a few seconds, Sarrafian says, recalling the procedure.
“You take your hand off and you're like, ‘Hang on, there's no blood!’ It was pretty amazing.”

Sarrafian had planned that if the comparison commercial patch didn’t work after three minutes, she would reverse the anticoagulant in order to keep the pigs alive, and then allow them to clot and heal naturally.
But she added another step to stop the bleeding faster: plopping on a pea-sized squeeze of the experimental glue.
“It kind of is miraculous, in a way,” she says.

To be fair, coagulant patches like TachoSil aren't designed to stop heavy streams of blood from tissue with unclottable injuries.
But, in medicine, that’s an unmet need, says Christoph Nabzdyk, a cardiac anesthesiologist and critical care physician on the Mayo team.
“With aging populations, you have more and more patients that have either acquired bleeding disorders or are ultimately on blood thinners,” he says.
“The problem of bleeding, and bleeding control is substantial.”

He and Saraffian add that having an inexpensive glue that stops major bleeding andgoes on already-wet surfaces would be potentially lifesaving for patients, and it would be particularly useful in places without a lot of surgical resources, like in wilderness areas, combat zones, or less developed countries.

“Nothing in the material there is totally new, but this concept is really cool and unconventional,” says Shrike Zhang, a biomedical engineer who leads a lab at Harvard Medical School.
While materials like silicone oil and the adhesive ingredients are commonplace, their combination makes for something exciting.
”It's pretty early, but the animal data are pretty strong,” he continues.

But, says Wang, the Stanford cardiothoracic surgery resident, there are still elements that need to be optimized before the adhesive could be used in humans.
A glob of glue that seals damaged tissue in an emergency, or sticks to surrounding healthy tissue, could complicate any surgeries that follow.
“The question is, will you be able to operate in that area?” he asks.

Yuk’s team devised a solution to reverse this type of adhesive seal, and preliminary results in rats are promising.

They also want to know how long that seal lasts; ideally, it should not dissolve until after the tissue has healed on its own, but it also shouldn’t last forever.
The new study shows that the paste dissolves noticeably within 12 weeks, based on microscope images in a separate experiment using rats.
Depending on the injury and healing response, that may be plenty.

Another challenge is that other types of sealants are known to kill tissue over time.
Wang—and Yuk—note that a long-term study will be essential.
So far, their longest observation on bleeding organs is about one month after the glue’s application, using the pigs from the Mayo Clinic test.

And while it may still be many years before a sealant paste replaces the trusty suture, both surgeons and mechanical engineers would welcome the ability to glue patients back together quickly, to make bodies once again run like well-oiled machines.