Saturday, August 28, 2010

New microbe discovered eating oil spill in Gulf

Bioremediation: Hope / Hype for Environmental Cleanup

From Randolph E. Schmid, AP Science Writer

A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe is suddenly flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf following the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

And the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers led by Terry Hazen at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., reported Tuesday in the online journal Sciencexpress.

"Our findings, which provide the first data ever on microbial activity from a deepwater dispersed oil plume, suggest" a great potential for bacteria to help dispose of oil plumes in the deep-sea, Hazen said in a statement.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the giant oil spill and the underwater plume of dispersed oil, particularly its potential effects on sea life.
A report just last week described a 22-mile long underwater mist of tiny oil droplets.
"Our findings show that the influx of oil profoundly altered the microbial community by significantly stimulating deep-sea" cold temperature bacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degrading microbes, Hazen reported.

Their findings are based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2. They found that the dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales.

This microbe thrives in cold water, with temperatures in the deep recorded at 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit).
Hazen suggested that the bacteria may have adapted over time due to periodic leaks and natural seeps of oil in the Gulf.

Scientists also had been concerned that oil-eating activity by microbes would consume large amounts of oxygen in the water, creating a "dead zone" dangerous to other life.
But the new study found that oxygen saturation outside the oil plume was 67-percent while within the plume it was 59-percent.

The research was supported by an existing grant with the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.
Other support came from the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Oklahoma Research Foundation.

Links :
  • Wired : Oil-gobbling bug discovery raises Gulf hopes — for now
  • TheBayCitizen: Deepwater Horizon spill detergents could make bad situation worse

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sea Shepherd confirms the non-existence of Pingvin Island

Pingvin Island on chart AUS452 Australian Antarctic Territory
Cape Rundingen to Cape Filchner overlayed on satellite imagery

From Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

While the Japanese whaling fleet pretends to be doing research, the
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society indulged in a little research of our own today.

We noticed that we would be sailing past the position of an island marked on nautical charts with the notation that there was a lack of confirmation on the existence of the island. Coincidently the path the fleeing Japanese whaling ship
Nisshin Maru took the Sea Shepherd ships, Steve Irwin and Bob Barker, was a course directly to that position where the island is supposed to exist.
The island would be within
Australian Antarctic Territorial waters if confirmed.

Pingvin Island appears on the Australian nautical chart #452 (Cape Rundingen to Cape Filhner). According to the chart, Pingvin Island is three miles long (as measured on the chart) and is situated at 65 Degrees 47 Minutes South and 81 Degrees 55 Minutes East.
The chart depicts the island with an “unconfirmed” status.
We can now say with 100% accuracy that the island depicted on the chart does not exist at the location indicated on the chart.
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin passed right over top of the location without any noticeable readings on the depth sounder indicating a sunken island or a seamount.

British Antarctic pilot book has the island situated in a slightly different location a few miles away at 65 Degrees 45 Minutes South and 81 Degrees and 48 Minutes East.
We can now say with 100% accuracy that Pingvin Island does not exist at the location stated in the Australian Antarctic Pilot book.
The island does not appear on U.S. Nautical charts

Pingvin Island is depicted on :
  • Australian Chart #452 (Cape Rundinggen to Cape Filhner)
  • Australian Chart #4074 (Cape Darnley to Tasmania)
  • International Chart #72 (Cape Darnley to Tasmania) --> correction INT#74
There are numerous icebergs in the area, and none of which can be mistaken for an island.
The Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker did a radar, depth sounder, and visual survey at 1200 Hours on Sunday, February 21st, 2010.
Photographs were taken with a GPS in the picture of the location indicated on the chart.

Dr. Bonny Schumaker, on the Bob Barker, confirmed the observations of Captain Paul Watson and 1st Officer Lockhart MacLean on the Steve Irwin.

Notes from the Bob Barker from observations by Dr. Bonny Schumaker:

According to our chart on the Bob Barker (AUS452, INT903), Pingvin Island is centered on about 65deg 48'S, 081deg51'E.

--> Position on the Marine GeoGarage (65°47.5'S/81°55'E)

At 1215 (UTC+0800) today, 2010 Feb 21, we passed an iceberg at 65deg 46'S, & 081deg 51.9'E, a position approximately 1.2 nm NW of where the chart indicates Pingvin Island, and at that time we saw nothing else in the vicinity except for this iceberg.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has informed the Australian Hydrographic Service of the observation.

One explanation could be the Antarctic sea ice has expanded over the past 30 years.
(see Links below)

Links :
  • MySailing : All you've ever wanted to ask the Australian Hydrographic Service
  • National Geographic : Why Antarctic sea ice is growing in a warmer world
  • Wired : Global warming protects Antarctic sea ice — But not for long

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Australia, a new chart layer in the Marine GeoGarage

AHS (Australian Hydrographic Service) gives us its agreement (license no 2829SL) to display their nautical raster charts (a set of 437 charts -725 including sub-charts-) in the Marine GeoGarage.

Some charts (21 charts originally in Clarke 1858 datum) have not been included in the Marine GeoGarage because no rigourous transformation between Clarke 1858 to WGS84 datum is possible.

Note : other charts (for example 38 charts in Australian Geodetic 1966 datum) have been transformed to match Google Maps viewer datum.

So Marine GeoGarage is able right now to display 3411 charts coming from 7 international Hydrographic Services.

--- END-USER RESPONSIBILITY ----------------------
Certain material in this product is reproduced under license by permission of The Australian Hydrographic Service.
©Commonwealth of Australia 2010. All rights reserved.

This information may not be copied, reproduced, translated, or reduced to any medium or machine readable form, in whole or part, without the prior written consent of the Australian Hydrographic Service.

Mariners should keep Australian nautical charts up-to-date by consulting the Notices to Mariners.

So with the Premium Chart subscription (9.9 € / month), you have access today to :
UKHO, SHN, CHS & AHS nautical charts private layers.

 James Cook's Map of the East Coast of "New South Wales", 1770

Freycinet Map of 1811 – The first full map of Australia to be published

Divers swim and play with white beluga whales under the Arctic ice in the White Sea, Russia

A diver gets up close with two white beluga whales under the ice in the White Sea, Russia.
The two grab the diver's arms and appear to be helping him swim (other pictures)

From TheTelegraph

These wild whales are not yet on the endangered list, but are considered to be under threat from pollution and loss of habitat.

Pictured here at a special whale sanctuary designed and built by Marine Biologists from St Petersburg University in 2006, the beluga is thriving.

The "natural farm" acts as a nursery for breeding whales, as well as acting as a rehabilitation centre for former performing animals before they are set into the wild.

The natural bay under the ice means that the whales are protected from the strong currents of the wider ocean and left to breed in peace, while also leaving them free to roam as they wish.
Occasionally, guests at the local dive centre can swim with the whales, and get close enough to touch.

Franco Banfi, an Arctic diver and photographer, who took the pictures, said: “When a whale comes up to us and swims by, it looks you right in the eyes. Obviously we don’t know what they think, but they are very curious creatures.
“Sometimes, I'm sure they're trying to figure out what we are and where we came from.
“As a photographer, I’ve always been driven to bring photographs of animals one hardly ever sees to a printed page."

But while the beluga, or white whale, is built for these harsh surroundings, the diving team face extremely tough conditions to get close to the gentle creatures.
Before each dive the team have to create holes in the three-foot-deep ice using a hand saw, just to get through to the sea below.
Once they’re in they have to swim around in heavy layers of clothes in the -10°C waters.
But the short straw is for the volunteer who gets to stay above ground in -30°C winds, making sure the ice hole doesn’t freeze over and trap the group.

“Photographing a story in very cold water can turn into a logistical nightmare, “ says Mr Banfi, 58.
“But, if we are well trained, the underwater part of things is not really as harsh as you might think."
"When we come out on land, temperatures can get down to – 10°C or -20°C and things will instantly freeze, so we can barely move.
“Cold itself will not hurt the equipment, but it may slow down some of its functions as well as our own.
“Because of the ice-layer and snow cover, there is not sufficient light to shoot with ambient light and batteries lose their charge more quickly in cold weather.”

Mr Banfi said he was keen to show the beauty of the undersea world to those who can’t face the icy deep themselves.
“As photographer, I’ve always been driven to bring photographs of animals one hardly ever sees," he said.
"I want to see these amazing animals in a way that only a few people have seen and I want to share it with others.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Paul Lutus : confessions of a long-distance sailor

From Wikipedia

Paul Lutus is a computer programmer from the hey-days of the home computer (read: late 70s and early 80s) who sailed around the world in a tiny boat and wrote about it.

As a a thinker he put an interesting spin on sailing and man's relationship with the sea.
It's a interesting read which could inspire you to get out there and do some long distance sailing.

Before becoming a software author, Lutus designed electronics for the NASA Space Shuttle
and created a mathematical model of the solar system that was used by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the Viking Mars mission.

After working for NASA, in 1976 Lutus moved to a remote location in rural Oregon and started living in a cottage in complete isolation.
There, he started writing computer programs on his first personal computer, an Apple II. In the 80's, he would eventually program Apple Writer, an international best-seller for the Apple II, plus some programming environments.

In 1983, Lutus received Reed College's Vollum award for contributions to science and technology, and was named Scientist of the Year by the Oregon Academy of Science in 1986.

Between 1988 and 1991 Lutus sailed solo around the world in a 31-foot sailboat.
His book about the sail, Confessions of a Long-Distance Sailor is free on his website.

One of Lutus's latest software projects is Arachnophilia, a Java Web development workshop available free on his website. The program is released under Lutus's own version of the Careware license.

Links :

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rare ocean sunfish drifts through area eating its weight in jellyfish

Marine biologist Tierney Thys asks us to step into the water
to visit the world of the Mola mola, or giant ocean sunfish

From TCPalm

As a youngster growing up in Miami, Ed Rice said his grandfather would share tales of his life as yacht captain, including one Rice says he will never forget — that of seeing an odd-looking ocean sunfish for the first time.

Sunfish look like a huge swimming fish head, as if a predator took its body behind the dorsal fin. But that’s the body these gentle giants are born with and sunfish spend their lives drifting slowly in the ocean’s currents feeding primarily on jellyfish.

Rice, of Palm City, got a first-hand look at a sunfish himself last Friday while returning to the St. Lucie Inlet after a offshore fishing trip aboard his boat, Scooter 2, with his son Daniel and friend Steven Trull.

“I guess I saw its fin break the surface of the water,” Rice said of the commotion in the water due east of the House of Refuge. “We made our way closer and could clearly see this odd fish as it swam next to the boat.”

Rice, 55, said he went online to research the sunfish, which revealed the estimated 4-foot across, 400-pounder he had witnessed was small. According to the website, the largest sunfish ever recorded was 10 feet from nose to tail, 14 feet from tip of dorsal to tip of anal fin and weighed 4,927 pounds.

It takes a lot of jellyfish to reach that size, said Mark Perry, director of Florida Oceanographic Society on Hutchinson Island in Stuart.

“They’re very rare around here, but once in a while we’ll hear of one seen by a fisherman,” Perry said. “They’re native to temperate and tropical seas. Sometimes they can be seen swimming near the surface as they eat jellyfish or sun themselves.”

For Rice, it was an encounter he won’t soon forget.

“I had never seen one in some 40 years of fishing in South Florida,” Rice said. “Now my son has seen one, too, and one day he can share that with his kids.”

The recent influx of several species of jellyfish in Treasure Coast ocean waters has produced a number of stings for beachgoers. Offshore anglers working waters south of Fort Pierce have reported seeing millions of jellyfish out 4 to 5 miles from shore.

The dense population of jellyfish has also produced numerous turtle sightings along the coast, as turtles are also known to prefer jellyfish as a favorite food.

  • Slow-moving, drifts in oceans currents
  • Can grow to more than 4,000 pounds, but most sightings report a diameter of about 6 feet
  • Eats jellyfish, Portuguese man-of-war, squids, sponges and other bottom dwellers
  • Close relative of trigger fish, porcupine fish and puffer fish
  • Is the world’s largest bony fish
  • Are preyed upon by sea lions and orcas

Researchers with request that when boaters encounter a mola mola to please report it online at

Links :

Monday, August 23, 2010

Location and the Atlantic cod

From VectorOne

Few fish are as well-known and rich in his­tory as the cod. For cen­turies the species has played a unique role in trade through­out the world. Places like Penob­scot Bay, La Rochelle, Southamp­ton, New­found­land, Dutch West Indies, Ice­land and Nor­way have all been affected by the cod fishery.

The Basque region were unique among cod fish­ery, report­edly fish­ing the Atlantic far and wide, avoid­ing British ships cen­turies ago as the Basques main­tained secrecy about the rich loca­tions where abun­dant fish could be found. These peo­ple, along with the Por­tugese, have even been reported to have dis­cov­ered regions of east­ern Canada, long before Jacques Cartier of France dis­cov­ered the region — along with John Cabot.

New Englander’s owe much of their flour­ish­ing trade in ear­lier times to the cod fish­ery, where the lengths of these fish were equal to the size of man at one time. Spawn­ing nearly 10 mil­lion eggs per fish in some cases, salt-laden cod ships filled the ports of Ply­mouth and Southamp­ton, later to be traded through­out the Mediter­ranean. Indeed, those places on a UK map today bear­ing an end­ing ‘wich’ — lit­er­ally mean­ing place of salt, were known for their salted cod. Though north­ern­ers and those of Scot­land may have pre­ferred had­dock in its place when it come to ‘fish and chips’ — similar to the Nova Scotians.

The French and the British wagered cod trade and barter along the east coast of North Amer­ica, finally result­ing in the French being left with the islands of San Pierre and Miquelon in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that remains to this day. And no less than George Wash­ing­ton him­self included cod as part of his elec­tion cam­paign funding.

Found through the Atlantic Ocean, fish­er­men from Ice­land ven­tured to Green­land in search of cod, mak­ing maps of the fjords there — Gud­bran­dur Thor­laks­son mak­ing maps in 1606. A vast North Euro­pean net­work once formed, called the Hanseatic League, who con­trolled the salt fish trade — later los­ing strength due to the vast rich­ness of the North Amer­i­can fish trade.

The ocean tem­per­a­tures at which the species eggs hatch impacts sur­vival rates and the loca­tions of spawn­ing fish. Today, spec­u­la­tion con­tin­ues on their declin­ing pop­u­la­tion, includ­ing ocean tem­per­a­tures, over-fishing and ecosys­tem changes.

The story of the cod pro­vides valu­able insight into how impor­tant food is to trade and the move­ment of peo­ple and their sur­vival. After all, even the Pil­grims arrived in North Amer­ica inca­pable of fish­ing and know­ing lit­tle about farm pro­duc­tion. Worse, they did not like native foods. Ulti­mately, they returned to Eng­land to learn cod fish­ing before once again sail­ing to North Amer­ica to begin liv­ing more per­ma­nently — and successfully.

Links :

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Need a mood lift? Grab your surfboard

From LiveScience

Catching a wave can do more than give you a paddling workout.
It also boosts mood, according to a new study.

The results show going surfing for 30 minutes is associated with an increase in positive, upbeat feelings and a decrease in negative feelings as well as fatigue.

While the study was conducted on a general surfing population, the findings were true regardless of how frequently people surfed, how old they were and what their skill level was.

The results might not come as a surprise to those who surf.

"If you ask any surfer, he or she guaranteed will tell you, 'Oh man I feel a lot better after I get out,'" said study researcher Ryan Pittsinger, a doctoral student at the University of Iowa and a surfer himself.

Previous research has shown physical activity, such as running and cycling, can have a positive effect on mood, in some cases reducing depression and anxiety.
However, most studies involve college-age participants and none had focused on surfing to see if the same held true.

"This study really puts surfing on the map as far as a sport that has beneficial psychological effects," said Pittsinger, who conducted the work while at California State University in Long Beach, Calif.

The study was presented Thursday in a poster session at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Study surfers

Pittsinger and his colleagues recruited 107 participants — identified by the fact that they were carrying a surfboard — from the shores of Manhattan Beach, Calif. Ages ranged from 18 to 58, and 85 percent were male.

They completed a questionnaire asking them to rate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how strongly they were feeling a particular emotion, represented by words such as "angry," "miserable," "upbeat," and "enthusiastic." After surfing for half an hour, participants again completed the survey.

Surfing not only put subjects in a better mood, it also increased their feelings of tranquility or calmness.
"Because you are out there alone, it's just you, it's really an activity where it allows you to clear your head," Pittsinger told LiveScience.

Ocean therapy

Pittsinger has found surfing to be a way to relieve stress in his own life.
"It's something that has really been an outlet for me, when I'm having a tough time, or if there's something on my mind, I can jump in the water and feel a little bit cleansed."

Pittsinger is currently conducting a study at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., to see if surfing can be used as a therapeutic tool for wounded U.S. Marines diagnosed with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The program, known as "ocean therapy," teaches participants how to surf and to apply skills acquired from surfing and group discussion sessions, including trust, devotion and confidence, to their everyday lives, Pittsinger said.
While the data has yet to be analyzed, anecdotal reports have been very positive, Pittsinger said.
The ocean therapy program is carried out by the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation.