Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Power of the SEA: tsunamis, storm surges, rogue waves, and our quest to predict disasters

The new book "The Power of the Sea" by Bruce Parker tells the story of our struggle to predict when the sea will unleash its power against us. It interweaves thrilling stories of unpredicted natural disasters with stories of scientific discoveries.

"The Power of the SEA: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters" a fascinating and compelling new popular ocean science/history book from Palgrave Macmillan written by Bruce Parker, former Chief Scientist of the NOAA's National Ocean Service.

When the sea turns its enormous power against us, our best defense is to get out of its way.
But to do that we must first be able to predict when and where the sea will strike.
If the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004 could have been predicted, 300,000 lives would not have been lost.
If the 30-foot storm surges that have ravaged the coasts of Bangladesh and India over the centuries could have been predicted, millions would not have perished.
If we could have predicted when and where 100-foot rogue waves would suddenly appear, thousands of ships would not have been lost at sea.
If the two strong El Niños at the end of the nineteenth century could have been predicted, millions would not have died in Asia from the resulting droughts and famines.

"Mixes hair-raising descriptions of disasters with efforts to understand them... a lucid, original contribution to popular science writing."- Kirkus Reviews

"Riveting readers with analyses of catastrophes such the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Parker delivers science in dramatic and digestible form." - Booklist

"Whether you love history, science, or just want to know how the world shapes our lives, this is both an informative and enjoyable read." -- Margaret Davidson, Director, Coastal Services Center

"Compelling personal stories ... make the book immensely readable ... Be warned, you may never look at the ocean the same way again." - John Kretschmer, Sailing magazine

"An engaging and essential history of science. It's also a terrific account of survival on our wild blue planet." - David Helvarg, author of Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish

"Rarely does a book written by a practicing scientist grab you like this one. Intelligent, accurate, and accessible ... read Bruce Parker's wonderful book." - Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean

"The Power of the Sea is the best book I have ever read about tsunamis, storm surges, or rogue waves." - Jerry Schubel, President, The Aquarium of the Pacific

"You will come away with a better understanding of why the sea will leave us in awe till the end of time." - Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel

The Power of the Sea tells the story of our long struggle to understand the physics of the sea so we can use that knowledge to predict when the sea will unleash its power against us (so we can get out of its way and survive).
It interweaves compelling stories of unpredicted marine disasters with fascinating stories of scientific discoveries, beginning with ancient mankind's strange ideas about the sea and working up to our latest technological advances in predicting the sea's moments of destruction.
Besides the three phenomena highlighted in the book's subtitle, the book also vividly describes how we learned to predict the tides, El Nino, and certain aspects of climate change.

In addition to helping us escape natural catastrophes, marine prediction has also been critical for other purposes, as is dramatically illustrated by several World War II stories, including the (first-ever-told) story of the tide predictions for D-Day, and the story behind the surf forecasting used by the Allies in amphibious landings on the beaches of North Africa and Normandy.
And there are also some lighter stories.
How did Benjamin Franklin "magically" make ocean waves disappear (and how did this help him understand how wind waves were generated - 200 years ahead of his time)?
How did a perigean spring tide almost ruin the Boston Tea Party?
How do elephants "hear" a tsunami coming?
Did the parting of the Red Sea begin with a tide prediction by Moses?
How did a rogue wave begin the myth of the Bermuda triangle?
Could the story of Noah's flood have been inspired by a huge storm surge from a very rare tropical cyclone in the Persian Gulf?

Written for a general audience, The Power of the Sea is a history of marine prediction that dramatically shows how the oceans (and marine science) impact all our lives.
It is entertaining while also clearly explaining the science behind the ocean's most powerful phenomena.

For more information and pictures from the book see the the book's
Facebook page, where many stories are posted, or go to the book's page on Amazon.

Links :

Friday, July 22, 2011

Capt. James Cook raised an ocean of knowledge

“A General Chart: Exhibiting the Discoveries Made by Captn. James Cook in This and His Two Preceeding Voyages,
with Tracks of the Ships under His Command.”
Copperplate map, 36 × 57 cm. From the atlas volume of Cook’s A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean . . . (London, 1784). [Rare Books Division]
Cook’s legacy: a revealed world. His world map was the most accurate at its time.
During his life, he had explored farther north (70°44′ N) and farther south (71°10′ S)
in the Pacific than any previous human being.

From TheInvestors

When the sailing ship Endeavor ran aground near Australia in 1770, the experience threatened to sink
James Cook's career.

The event took place two years after Cook departed England on his first voyage as an expedition leader to advance the country's knowledge of astronomy, geography, vegetation and navigation.

His crew fixed leaks and avoided disaster, Cook wrote in his journal:
"This was an alarming and I may say terrible circumstance, and threatened immediate destruction to us as soon as the ship was afloat."

Capt. Cook (1728-79) had survived to sail another day.
In a three-decade career, he sailed more than 200,000 miles — the equivalent of traveling to the moon — and navigated his ships and crew through such hazards as rough seas, icebergs, disease and Indian tribes bent on cannibalism.

Cook's explorations led to the discovery of islands, plants and Indian tribes nearly 100 years before English naturalist Charles Darwin launched his own expeditions.
Others had crossed the Pacific.
But two centuries later, he's recognized as the first to map the area accurately, Frank McLynn, author of "Captain Cook: Master of the Seas," told IBD:
"No one had put the whole thing together and made sense of it; they charted islands in the wrong place or they reported all kinds of continents and things like that, so here is a person who showed where everything was and how all of the currents and winds operated. He was the greatest explorer by sea in history."

James Cook grew up on an English farm before crossing the Atlantic and Pacific on the way to surveying Newfoundland and New Zealand.

Historians describe Cook as cool, courageous, vigilant and patient.Sweating It Out

He achieved so much through hard work and perseverance, wrote Richard Hough in his book "Captain James Cook":
"In his navigation, in his surveying work, in his observation of the eclipse of the sun in 1766 and in his intense reading and desire for self-improvement, Cook had touched the edge of 18th-century science. What he achieved virtually without formal education, without close association with the scientists of the time, was remarkable."

Cook was born in Marton, a village in northern England.
His father was a farm laborer, and by age 8 the son was helping in the fields.
Eight years later, Cook became an apprentice in a grocery and drapery shop in Staithes, a fishing village.
He fell in love with the salt air and bustling sounds of ship traffic.

Taking trips around the bay with fishermen, the boy was hooked, wrote Hough:
"The sea might be harsh and dangerous, but the comradeship and excitement in handling a fishing boat were in sharp contrast with the drudgery and subservience of working in a shop."
After 18 months of minding the store, Cook landed a three-year apprenticeship with John Walker, a shipbuilder and mariner who was a friend of the storekeeper.
Cook lived with Walker's family while learning navigation: latitude, longitude and chart reading.

Cook's first voyage in early 1747 was aboard a ship transporting 600 tons of coal to London.
The trip took nearly two months.
He finished his apprenticeship three years later and stayed on handling sails and other tasks. "The mere vocabulary of life at sea was like learning a foreign language," Hough wrote.
"Cook loved it."

In 1752, Cook passed his exams to become a seaman's mate, and three years later Walker offered him a ship of his own.
Cook turned him down. He wanted more than provincial sailing.
After reading about explorers, he longed to traverse the waters of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.
So he signed up for the royal navy.
By 1757 he was a master seaman aboard the Pembroke, a fourth-rate ship of the line, on which he crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

1812 - A new map of the world, with Captain Cook's tracks, his discoveries and those of the other circumnavigators

Cook consumed knowledge.
He saw the effects of scurvy, a sickness common among seamen, stemming from a vitamin C deficit from the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Upon reaching Nova Scotia, he came upon an army lieutenant surveying the shoreline of Louisbourg. Cook asked questions and borrowed some tools.
Soon he began his own surveying at Quebec's Gaspe Bay, relying on his background in spherical geometry and use of nautical charts.

His first survey work there was published in 1759.
By then, Cook was on the Northumberland, a larger ship, and found time to study geometry and astronomy.
He moved on to other ships, spending much of the 1760s surveying the 6,000-mile coastline of Newfoundland.

A chart of the Southern Hemisphere by James Cook 1777 published after Cook’s Second Voyage, which made clear there was no inhabitable southern continent.

Looking Up

In 1766 the Royal Society hired Cook to travel to the South Pacific Ocean to record the transit of the planet Venus across the sun.

That would contribute to a grasp of astronomy, crucial to navigation.

Before departing with the Endeavor two years later, he developed a stowage system to provide the crew with a proper diet to avoid scurvy, wrote Vanessa Collingridge in "Captain Cook: A Legacy Under Fire": "Ever the scientist, he did everything in his power to keep his crew healthy."
During the trek, Cook mapped New Zealand's eastern coastline.

Chart of part of the South Sea, shewing the tracts & discoveries made by His Majestys ships Dolphin, Commodore Byron & Tamer, Capn. Mouat, 1765, Dolphin, Capn. Wallis, & Swallow, Capn. Carteret, 1767, and Endeavour, Lieutenant Cooke, 1769
by William Whitchurch (1770)

By 1770, his expedition had reached Australia's eastern coast, the first time European explorers saw that part of the continent.
The ship's botanists retrieved plants never seen by Europeans.
The crew also had a unique take on the continent's Aboriginal tribe.
Needing seven weeks of repair after running aground, the Endeavor sailed on to more islands before arriving back in England in 1771.

The following year, Cook left on his second voyage, this time as commander of the sloop Resolution.
A second ship, the barque Adventure, followed as a backup.
The trip was again sponsored by the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.
The trip's primary purpose was to find what other explorers dubbed the "great southern continent." Cook proved it didn't exist.
He crossed the Antarctic Circle charting and surveying South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands.
Conditions weren't the only danger.
After his two ships got separated, cannibalistic Indians killed members of the Adventure.

 James Cook's map of New Zealand - One of the most important maps in New Zealand's history and the first complete map of the two island's coastlines. Made during Cook's first voyage it shows the track of the Endeavour with dates [1769-1770]

On Course

Cook kept his men on course and became one of the first to leverage advances in chronometer technology, says McLynn.
"The chronometer enabled him to go almost anywhere because he could determine his longitude easily," he said.
"Beforehand, you could know your latitude but you couldn't know your latitude, so (sailing was) a risky business."

Captain Cook's 1777 Chart of the Southern Hemisphere
with zoom
When Cook reached home in 1775, he was promoted to captain.
The next year he was sailing again on the Resolution, backed up by the eight-gun vessel Discovery.
That third and last voyage proved bittersweet.
The trip included exploring and mapping the California and Oregon coasts up to Vancouver Island and parts of Alaska.
He tried to cross the Bering Strait between Asia and Alaska.
But the threat of huge icebergs made the passage impossible.

During the voyage, Cook became the first to discover what is now known as the Hawaiian Islands.
He landed there three times — the last time to repair a damaged foremast on the Resolution.
It was one stop too many.
The natives assumed their usual tact of stealing from the ships, but went too far by taking iron tools for making daggers from the Discovery.
That led to a fight on the shore on Feb. 14, 1779, in which Cook and four members of the expedition were killed, as were 17 natives.

Links :

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Swimming from Cuba to Key West without leaving the water

From NYTimes

Any day now, Diana Nyad will set out to do something no athlete has ever done: swim all day and all night, then all day and all night, then all day again.

She will swim about 60 hours in the churning sea, 103 miles across the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West.
Every hour and a half, she will stop to tread water for a few minutes as she swallows a liquid mixture of predigested protein and eats an occasional bit of banana or dollop of peanut butter.
She will most likely hallucinate and endure the stings of countless

Along the way, sea salt will swell her tongue to cartoonish proportions and rub her skin raw.
“She is up against the most outlandish, outrageous, unbelievable physical endurance activity of, certainly, my lifetime,” said
Steven Munatones, a champion open-water swimmer who runs the organization Open Water Source and will serve as an independent observer during Ms. Nyad’s swim.
“I can’t imagine being in the ocean for 60 hours. I can’t imagine doing anything for 60 hours. It is inconceivable. It simply is.”“Especially,” he added, “at her age.
Her age is 61.
Ms. Nyad attempted this swim once before, unsuccessfully, in 1978 at the age of 28.
She swam inside a shark cage for 41 hours 49 minutes until the raucous weather and powerful current pushed her far off course and she was forced to give up.
She had traveled only 50 miles.
(One year later, she swam 102 miles from Bimini, in the Bahamas, to Jupiter, Fla., without a shark cage. She still holds the record for the world’s longest ocean swim.)

This time, armed with better technology and a battered but tough body, she is certain she will make it.
“Physically, I am much stronger than I was before, although I was faster in my 20s,” said Ms. Nyad, who looks sturdy enough to defy a linebacker.
“I feel strong, powerful, and endurance-wise, I’m fit.”
Dr. Michael J. Joyner, a professor of anesthesiology and exercise research at the Mayo Clinic, agrees that older athletes, particularly superb ones, do well in endurance sports, because experience and training can offset the need for speed.

At 52,
Jeannie Longo still ranks as a top competitive cyclist.
Gordie Howe played hockey into his 50s, and
Jack LaLanne was 60 when he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf, in San Francisco, for a second time, handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.

Swimming is particularly technique-driven, which will help Ms. Nyad tremendously.
“There are a ton of examples of people in their late 50s and early 60s doing all sorts of wild things,” Dr. Joyner said.
“If the logistics work out, barring bad storms or currents, it is doable. It’s not a sure thing. But it wouldn’t be a sure thing if it were Michael Phelps.”

If Ms. Nyad makes it from Cuba to Key West, she will be the first person to have done so without a shark cage.
In 1997, an Australian woman completed the swim inside a shark cage.
But with a boat pulling the cage, the swim is easier and faster; the woman completed it in less than 24 hours.
“I’m in uncharted territory,” Ms. Nyad said.
This time around, Ms. Nyad, an accomplished marathon swimmer and sportscaster, is taking no chances.
She has trained harder — for a year and a half — and changed her regimen.
Rather than swim every day, she swims every other day.
Last year, she completed a 24-hour swim in Mexico.
To help her succeed, she has organized an armada of people — 22 in all — to serve as her support team.
All of them will travel to Cuba, visas in hand, and will try to arrive within three days of her swim. (An effort last year was called off because of visa difficulties.)

“That’s the part that really interests me about Diana,” Mr. Munatones said.
“It’s not just the swimming part.
There are people who can swim this. But they don’t have the organizational, political and passionate oratorical skills she has.
”She also has technology on her side: satellites, global positioning systems, advanced navigation software, even shark shields, none of which were available in 1978.
The cost for all this is $500,000.
She has raised money and depleted her own bank account, but she is still $150,000 short.

Ms. Nyad, a commentator for the Los Angeles-based public radio station KCRW, shrugs it off.
“If I wind up $150,000 in debt, I won’t lose sleep over it,” she said.
At the moment, four experts are looking seven days ahead to pinpoint the ideal weather for her to travel to Cuba and wade into the ocean: a satellite oceanographer and meteorologist trained in the vagaries of the Gulf Stream; another meteorologist who works for CNN; and two officials at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
They are all hoping for the beginning of a low-pressure system that could create the doldrums, a waveless sea, for a few days.

To stay on course, her seasoned navigator, David Marchand, relies on his laptop, with navigational tools so precise they can alert him immediately if she drifts off course.
Any major deviation would destroy her chances.
“Day 1 and Day 2, we want flat calm,” said Mr. Marchand.
“By Day 3, well, it’s hard to get three days of flat calm. But even in a flat sea, you can get a squall — rain, thunder for 15 minutes to an hour, and then calm again. You can’t dodge them. And it’s almost an impossible swim as it is. You have to keep in a straight line.”

Two men in kayaks will follow Ms. Nyad’s every stroke.
They will hold a shark shield — neoprene rods that emit electrical waves to zap sharks that come too close.
The waters between Cuba and Key West are a notorious shark playground.
But the shield is not foolproof.
Just in case it fails, as it did last year in the Caribbean when another woman was on a marathon swim, four shark divers with spears will be onboard, ready to jump.

Some contraptions are decidedly low-tech.
As Ms. Nyad swam recently off the shore of Key West at a pace of two miles an hour for nine hours, she followed a white streamer beneath her, like a line in a pool.
Keeping her eye on the boat had been difficult, and she would often veer off course.
Crew members found that if they attached a streamer to a long pole and dropped it into the ocean, she could see it underwater.
Problem solved.

Another advantage Ms. Nyad has, three decades after her first attempt to cross the straits, is the emphasis on sports nutrition.
In 1978, Gatorade stood mostly alone in the field, and even then it was a niche drink.
Now Ms. Nyad has her predigested proteins to drink and gel blocks of electrolytes to suck on to keep her calorie intake high and her body hydrated and balanced.
Still, her doctor worries about hydration, starvation and keeping her body warm in the water.
The ocean must be at least 86 degrees, which sounds warm unless a person is in it for 60 hours.
“The big concerns are, can she stay awake, focused and hydrated,” said her physician for the swim, Dr. Michael S. Broder, an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.
Some days her long swims have made her sick and other days they have not. “Because nobody else has ever done this, it’s not clear what causes all the things she has experienced,” Dr. Broder said.The mental game, too, could doom her.

Conditions in the ocean are nothing if not hostile.
There will be no gorgeous sunset she can watch to buck up her spirits, as there would be if she were running or cycling.
No music playing or conversation to distract her from her pain.
Instead, Ms. Nyad sings songs — Neil Young, the Beatles, Janis Joplin — seemingly thousands of times a day to ward off monotony and stay in the moment.
She likes songs that have a cadence to match her stroke, like “Ticket to Ride.”
“That’s 7,929,” she said, announcing a typical tally for that song.
“And here we go again: ‘I think I’m going to be sad. I think it’s today, yeah.’ ” Ms. Nyad added,
“Swimming is the ultimate form of sensory deprivation,” a fact that carries a particularly harsh sting for a speed talker like her.
“You are left alone with your thoughts in a much more severe way.”

LONG-TERM GOAL Diana Nyad, a marathon swimmer,
hopes to be the first person to cross from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage.

But why go through this agony again?
Ms. Nyad pinned the reason on her gallop toward 60; it unsettled her greatly.
She needed a fresh, powerful target to stir up her energy and ambition.
And although she had given up swimming abruptly in 1979, a casualty of burnout, her mind seized on her unsuccessful swim to Key West.

“This is what I need to remedy my
malaise,” Ms. Nyad said.
“I need commitment to take over. That level of commitment has such a high. There is no thinking about regrets or what will I do with the rest of my life. I’m immersed in the everyday, full tilt. It’s so energizing.”
Ms. Nyad no longer swims in anger, as she did in her youth, when she was working through the sexual abuse she said she suffered as a teenager.
Now, she said, she swims in awe of the world around her.
There is ego involved, of course.
But her swim has helped her turn a corner, she said, adding that she hopes it will empower others her age.
“I hope a couple will say, ‘I want to live life like that at this age,’ ” Ms. Nyad said
“I want the candle to burn bright. We have changed a lot. Our parents’ generation, at 60, they considered that old age. I’m in the middle of middle age.”

Links :
  • YouTube : Diana Nyad's Extreme Dream - The dream swim from Cuba to Florida

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wild video: woman feeds great white shark by hand

Valerie Taylor handfeeds a great white shark
in this clip from Shadow of the Shark © Australian Geographic TV

From LifeLittleMysteries

Circling the Web is an incredible video showing
Valerie Taylor, a world-renowned shark expert, hand-feeding a great white shark off the side of a boat.
After placing a fish into the fearsome creature's mouth, she even leans down and pats it on the nose.

"I think the shark and I had an understanding," Taylor says in a voiceover of the footage, which aired in a TV documentary called "
Shadow of the Shark." "This one, I had a feeling for."

Great white sharks, according to Yannis Papastamatiou, a research biologist in the
Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, are intelligent and good learners.
Despite the great white's reputation as a vicious hunter, like many wild animals, with enough practice and patience (and fish), researchers can condition them to take handouts from research vessels.
It isn't unheard of, Papastamatiou said, for researchers to hand-feed them.

In the video, Taylor does just that, first coaxing the shark progressively closer to the boat using line baited with fish before finally feeding the shark by hand.

While this footage might be hair-raising to most of us, it's all in a day's work for Taylor, who, along with husband Ron, has worked in
close quarters with great white sharks for decades.
She even once swam among great whites with tuna filets stuffed in her chainmail diving suit just to learn more about the way they bite and feed.

"I love it. It's a real thrill to sit down there and have a wild animal trying to chew your arm off. And you're looking into his eye and he's chomping away there and getting nowhere," she said of the incident in an Australian radio interview.

Taylor might seem especially blasé after a lifetime of working with great whites, but in fact the sharks aren't nearly as dangerous as people think.

"This idea that they are very aggressive predators always out to attack humans is totally false," Papastamatiou told Life's Little Mysteries.

The misunderstood hunter

Clearly, the shark in this video is much more interested in the fish handouts than it is in the hand doing the handing. "It seems we are not a preferable food item," Papastamatiou said.
"When you look at [great white] attack statistics the actual number of victims who are eaten or consumed is very low. Normally, it's a case of the victim being bitten and then left alone."
Some researchers have speculated that
humans may be too bony for sharks to easily digest.

According to George Burgess at the Florida Program for Shark Research, there have been 182 nonfatal and 65 fatal unprovoked great white shark attacks worldwide in all of recorded history.

No one is quite sure why great whites attack humans when they do, but the prevailing theory is that they are taking "test bites."

"It might be a case of the shark simply investigating a potential prey item it sees on the surface," Papastamatiou explained.
"How do you investigate? Well, you have to take a bite out of it. Once it has taken a bite it realizes it's not what it wants, and goes away."

Shark attacks are much rarer than the public perceives them to be, but they are still dangerous animals, Papastamatiou said, and you shouldn't try to replicate the events in this video during your next Australian vacation.
"Every time you try and touch an animal of that size you are taking a risk, not because it's a great white specifically, but simply because it's a giant wild animal."

When studying sharks is your life's work, perhaps you can't worry so much about the risks involved. "There's no time for fear," Taylor once said.

Links :
  • TheGuardian / CapeTimes : Great white shark jumps from sea into research boat
  • YouTube : Great white invasion, paddling with a shark
  • YouTube : The shark whisperer of Cuba and his lap shark
  • MSN : Attack a shark? What was that dog thinking ?
  • Discovery : Skark week

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

EU revamps fishing policy to save depleted stocks

From BBC

Every year it is claimed tens of thousands of tonnes of dead fish are thrown back into the sea.
The European Commission has unveiled major plans to reform the EU's fishing industry and stop catches being wasted.

The proposal, due to take effect from 2013, would give fleets quota shares guaranteed for at least 15 years.
"Discards" will be phased out - the practice whereby up to half the catch of some fish is thrown back into the sea to avoid going above the quota.

The environmental group Oceana said the plan had "some positive" aspects but stronger measures were needed.
It called the plan "an incomplete work that does not provide the urgently needed strong solutions to restore European seas and ensure the long-term sustainability of fishing".

The Common Fisheries Policy has been in effect for 28 years, but Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki says it has been a failure.
"There is overfishing; we have 75% overfishing of our stocks and comparing ourselves to other countries we cannot be happy," Ms Damanaki told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.
"So we have to change. Let me put it straight - we cannot afford business as usual any more because the stocks are really collapsing."

There will be hard bargaining by the European Parliament and EU member states' governments before the
new policy is adopted.

Restoring stocks

The Commission says that in the Mediterranean 82% of fish stocks are overfished, while in the Atlantic the figure is 63%.

Under the new scheme, boats are expected to land all the fish caught, and the whole catch would count against quotas.
This would apply to species including mackerel, herring and tuna from the beginning of 2014.
Cod, hake and sole would follow a year later, with virtually every other commercial species coming under the regulation from 2016.

The reform also includes plans to restore fish stocks over the long term and allow EU member states to set incentives for the use of selective fishing gear.
The Commission says too many detailed decisions on fisheries have been made by Brussels.
It now says it wants to hand back more decision-making powers to member states, so that the industry tailors its actions to local conditions.

"Today, by virtue of the co-decision procedure, even the most detailed technical decisions... have to be taken at the highest political level in the European machinery," Ms Damanaki complained.
Outlining the new policy, she said "I want to decentralise... the choice of instrument, or instruments' mix, is up to member states, co-operating at regional level".

The plan aims to:
  • ensure catches are within levels that can "produce the maximum sustainable yields" by 2015
  • implement an "ecosystem-based approach" to limit the impact of fishing
  • reduce fleet overcapacity through market measures rather than subsidies
  • promote the development of "aquaculture activities" to ensure food security and job opportunities
  • develop alternative types of fish management techniques.
There has been widespread public opposition to discards across the EU, with more than half a million people signing a petition publicized by UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon called the new commission proposals "a vital first step".
"Because our fisheries are so varied, I don't believe that a one size-fits-all approach... will work effectively. There has to be flexibility to work with the industry to introduce a range of tailored measures."

Catch limits

Bertie Armstrong, head of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the EU plan would mean a cut of at least 20% in the size of the Scottish fishing fleet and its crews.

The negotiations were "not going to be easy," said Markus Knigge, policy and research director for the Pew Environment Group's Brussels-based European Marine Programme.
"I do believe that most member states accept that we have to do something, but when it comes to solutions, that can be more difficult to discuss than the failures of the current policy," he told BBC News.

He said there were a number of nations unhappy about particular parts of the proposals, such as the role of scientific advice in the process of setting catch limits.

Links :
  • BBC / TheGuardian : Q&A: Reform of EU fishing policy
  • TheTelegraph : European Commission apologises for decades of disastrous fishing policy
  • FT : EU considers market-based ‘right to fish’ plan
  • NEF : Fish dependence
  • YouTube : Maria Damanaki, new rules to stop illegal fishing

Monday, July 18, 2011

The gas platform that will be the world's biggest 'ship'

From BBC

Shell has unveiled plans to build the world's first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) platform.
The 600,000-tonne behemoth - the world's biggest "ship" - will be sited off the coast of Australia.
But how will it work?
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

Deep beneath the world's oceans are huge reservoirs of natural gas.
Some are hundreds or thousands of miles from land, or from the nearest pipeline.

Tapping into these "stranded gas" resources has been impossible - until now.

At Samsung Heavy Industries' shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea, work is about to start on a "ship" that, when finished and fully loaded, will weigh 600,000 tonnes.
That is six times as much as the biggest US aircraft carrier.

By 2017 the vessel should be anchored off the north coast of Australia, where it will be used to harvest natural gas from Shell's Prelude field.

Once the gas is on board, it will be cooled it until it liquefies, and stored in vast tanks at -161C.
Every six or seven days a huge tanker will dock beside the platform and load up enough fuel to heat a city the size of London for a week.
The tankers will then sail to Japan, China, Korea or Thailand to offload their cargo.

"The traditional way of producing gas offshore was through pipelines.
You brought gas up to a platform and piped it to the 'beach'.
That is the way it's done in the North Sea," said Scotsman Neil Gilmour, Shell's general manager for FLNG.

'Cyclone alley'

But the Prelude gas field is 200km (124 miles) from Western Australia's Kimberley Coast and there are no pipelines there to be used.

Johan Hedstrom, an energy analyst in Australia with Southern Cross Equities, told the BBC: "The FLNG concept is an elegant solution because you don't need so much fixed infrastructure.
"You don't need the pipeline or the onshore refinery and when you run out of gas you can just pull up stumps and go to the next field."
Mr Gilmour said Shell had to overcome a "raft of technical challenges", ensuring for example that the vast amount of equipment on board would work in choppy seas.

The Prelude field is in the middle of what is known as "cyclone alley", an area prone to extremely stormy weather.
But Mr Gilmour said the vessel had been built to withstand category-five cyclones and even a "one-in-10,000-years' storm" producing 300km/h (185mph) gusts and 20m-high (65ft) waves.

The double-hulled vessel is designed to last 50 years.
When the Prelude field is exhausted, in 25 years' time, it will be completely refurbished and packed off to start work on another field off the coast of Australia, Angola, Venezuela or wherever.

A liquefied-natural-gas ship tanker arrives at a gas storage station in Japan
Mr Hedstrom said: "FLNG is a neat way of going forward. The way that energy prices are going it does look like a good industry to be in and I think they could make a lot of money out of it."

The price of LNG has risen markedly as demand has increased.

LNG currently sells for $14 per one million British thermal units in Japan, where the price was boosted by the tsunami, which cut the production of nuclear power.

The project, estimated to cost between $8bn (£5bn) and $15bn (£9.5bn), could provide 3.6 million tonnes of gas a year.

Flaring off

Nick Campbell, an energy analyst with Inenco, said Shell's move into FLNG was a "smart move".
"Shell are positioning themselves in an emerging market, not just in China - where gas usage has increased by 20% - but in India, which is also increasing its demand," he said.

The project is expected to generate 12 billion Australian dollars (£8bn) in tax revenues for the Australian federal government and could benefit their trade balance by 18 billion Australian dollars over the life of Prelude.

Australia's Minister for Resources and Energy has welcomed the Prelude project, drawing attention to the reduced environmental footprint as compared with a land-based scheme.

But there has been opposition from environmentalists.
Martin Pritchard from Environs Kimberley says he is concerned about the potential for "oil leaks and spills".
WWF Western Australia, meanwhile, argues that the underwater wellheads and pipelines will harm the tropical marine environment, and estimates the project will emit more than two million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

The gas raised from the seabed is purified during the process of liquefaction, and waste products will be flared off.
This week the Australian government said it would tax carbon emissions from major polluters at A$23 (£15) per tonne.

But Mr Gilmour says the Prelude project could be the first of several.
Shell has already identified the Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea as having potential for FLNG.

The ship, whose first section will be laid in 2012, has no name.
Shell normally refers to it merely as a "facility".
"There are only four or five dry docks globally which could have built this facility and there are certainly no yards in the UK large enough," says Mr Gilmour.

He has been to Geoje Island and, speaking in a broad Ayrshire accent, he said of Samsung's yard:
"It's an extraordinary place. It's just a phenomenal yard. Samsung is very hi-tech, world class. There are going to be some very spectacular images coming out of there during the building process."

Links :
  • Shell : Shell to set record with Prelude floating LNG structure
  • FT : Shell floats plan to harvest stranded gas

Sunday, July 17, 2011

First signs of a new swell


WAY OF THE OCEAN is a five part movie series exploring the world's oceans and the surf they provide.