Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surfer rides 90 foot wave (World Record)

The Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara breaks the world record for the largest wave ever surfed navigating this 27-metre (90ft) wall of watery death. (in Nazaré Beach, in Portugal) other video
The previous record—77 feet monster at Cortez Bank in 2008—was set by Mike Parsons (the previous unofficial record for the biggest wave ever surfed was held by Ken Bradshaw who rode an 85-footer in Hawaii’s Waimea Bay in 1998.)
According to, the biggest wave ever recorded was the result of a 1958 earthquake in Alaska and was estimated to be 1,720 feet.
The Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara catches the wave of a lifetime while tackling the Nazare Canyon off Portugal.
The 3-mile deep underwater canyon – which stretches for 105 miles – acts likes a funnel when it receives Atlantic swells, creating huge waves.

From SurfBang

The current official world record for largest wave ever surfed is held by Mike Parsons who tackled a 77 foot wave at Cortes Bank back in 2008.

Hawaiian big wave surfer, Garrett McNamara is looking to take that record from Parsons with, what is said to be, a 90 foot wave he rode last week in Portugal.

On November 1st, Garrett McNamara was out tow surfing with Al Mennie and Andrew Cotton in the waters off a small fishing town in Portugal. McNamara was in Portugal as part of the ZON North Canyon Project which was created by the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute to better understand the gigantic waves that are formed by the deep water canyons off the coast of Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal.

“I feel so blessed and honored to have been invited to explore this canyon and its special town. The waves here are such a mystery,” said McNamara.

Al Mennie who was sitting in the channel watching Garrett on this monster wave had this to say, “Everything was perfect, the weather, the waves. Cotty and I surfed two big waves of about 60 feet and then, when Garrett was ready, came a canyon wave of over 90 feet.”

“The jet ski was the best place to see him riding the biggest wave I’ve ever seen. It was amazing. Most people would be scared, but Garrett was controlling everything in the critical part of the wave. It was an inspiring ride by an inspiring surfer.”

Riding a wave of this size and magnitude is something that Garrett is never going to forget.

“As I rode this wave, it seemed pretty massive, but I couldn’t quite tell how big it was,” he said. “When I got to the bottom and turned and got around the wave and went to kick out, it landed on me and it felt like a ton of bricks. Probably one of the most powerful waves to ever land on me at the shoulder. It was pretty amazing.”

Jackson Chadwick doing some towing on the Outer Reefs

Links :
  • YouTube : Shane Dorian had an amazing ride with a 57-feet bomb at Jaws.
  • YouTube : Giant wave 64 ft,Mike Parsons final part I Billabong Odyssey (part II)
  • Wunderground meteorologist Jeff Masters describes the atmospheric setup: approaching cold front extending southwards from a low pressure system centered just south of Iceland generated strong winds off the coast of Portugal, and a west-northwest swell of 8 meters (26’). The canyon generated three big waves in excess of 60 feet that day, and McNamara was able to catch the tallest, 90-foot wave.
  • SurfayToday : Garrett McNamara rides the biggest wave of all time in Nazaré
  • SurferVillage : North Canyon tow-in trials to roll in Nazaré...
  • ABCNews : Hawaiian daredevil surfer survives 90-foot wave

Friday, November 11, 2011

East coast tsunami risk investigated with sonar

Idealized diagram of a continental margin, showing the shelf, slope, and rise.

From OurAmazingPlanet

The East Coast of the United States isn't the first place that comes to mind as being at risk of tsunamis, but new sonar maps are now helping to show that these risks do exist.

For about the past five years, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, along with other governmental and academic partners, have been gauging the potential for tsunamis generated by landslides in submarine canyons in the mid-Atlantic to strike the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.

The investigation was requested by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is concerned about the potential impact tsunamis might have on new and existing nuclear power plants, especially in light of the devastating tsunami in Japan in March that sparked the greatest nuclear disaster in years.

The research identified landslides along the submerged margin of the North American continent as the leading potential source of dangerous tsunamis to the East Coast.
These landslides either originate in submarine canyons or on the continental slope.
Multibeam bathymetric data collected during the June 2011 Nancy Foster cruise (except for area around upper Norfolk Canyon, surrounded by dashed red line, where data are courtesy of Rod Mather, University of Rhode Island).
The gray shaded-relief data were compiled from existing bathymetric datasets produced by the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center.

Mapping mission

Investigators set out to map key areas of the Atlantic continental margin in high resolution, work that could uncover more about these hazards.
Although this is one of the best-mapped continental margins in the world, significant gaps still remain along the upper slope and shelf where potentially dangerous submarine landslides might occur.

"Given the immense size of the regions in which we are working, it has taken many years of data collection and integration of existing data sets in order to produce seafloor maps with the resolution needed to identify all the features we are interested in," said U.S. Geological Survey research marine geologist Jason Chaytor.

A sonar mapping cruise taken in June to the Baltimore, Washington and Norfolk Canyons and selected regions of the continental shelf between the canyons marked the first field effort of the multiyear Deep-Water Mid-Atlantic Canyons Project.
Using echosounders installed on the hull of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Nancy Foster, the science team mapped canyons and shelf regions at high resolution over more than 380 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of seafloor from south of Cape Hatteras to Baltimore Canyon, which runs from offshore North Carolina to the eastern tip of Long Island.

"Probably the biggest challenge we faced was avoiding the ever-present fishing gear deployed around the canyons while still collecting enough data to not leave any gaps in the final maps," Chaytor told OurAmazingPlanet.

High-resolution multibeam bathymetry collected in and between Baltimore and Accomac Canyons during the June 2011 cruise.
Color key at left shows depths (in meters).

Submarine canyons and landslides

The science team's preliminary analysis of these new data revealed the presence of steep, sharp, stepped escarpments, or slopes, rimming the upper parts of each of the mapped canyons.
These may be submerged ancient shorelines cut during times of lower sea level, "the most recent of which occurred during the last glacial period, which ended about 19,000 years ago," Chaytor said.
Although the researchers do not at this time feel there is any connection between these features and tsunami hazards, "they may provide important insights into the development of the canyons and help us understand the role of changing sea level in the evolution of the Atlantic coast," he said.

A number of submarine landslides, some previously unknown, were either partly or completely mapped.

"Having accurate information on the number of submarine landslides, in addition to their characteristics such as their size and the water depth they occur in, the style in which they fail, and the properties of the soil and rock involved in the landslide, are important in determining whether or not they might have generated a tsunami," Chaytor said.
"This information is often used in numerical modeling of landslide-generated tsunami waves."

The scientists have recently begun the difficult task of collecting long core samples of sediment from the sites of large landslides, a critical step in determining when they happened and how often they and their associated tsunamis are likely to occur.

"The evaluation of submarine landslides as potential tsunami sources along the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico and the investigation of submarine canyon systems in the Atlantic are ongoing projects," Chaytor said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the September/October issue of the U.S. Geological Survey newsletter Sound Waves.
They will present additional information at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco in December.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birth of an Iceberg

In October, 2011, NASA's Operation IceBridge discovered a major rift in the Pine Island Glacier in western Antarctica.
This crack, which extends at least 18 miles and is 50 meters deep, could produce an iceberg more than 800 square kilometers in size.
IceBridge scientists returned soon after to make the first-ever detailed airborne measurements of a major iceberg calving in progress.
These photographs show the rift on October 26, 2011, when scientists returned to survey the glacier in greater detail.
The Digital Mapping System records the video, looking straight down from the belly of the DC-8.


Flying over Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a DC-8 research plane, scientists participating in NASA’s IceBridge mission made a startling discovery on October 14, 2011: a massive crack running about 29 kilometers (18 miles) across the glacier’s floating tongue.
The rift was 80 meters (260 feet) wide on average, and 50 to 60 meters (165 to 195 feet) deep.
It marks the moment of creation for a new iceberg that should eventually span about 880 square kilometers (340 square miles) once it breaks loose from the glacier.

photo taken by a passenger on the jet

Birthing large icebergs is nothing new for the Pine Island Glacier.
Among the fastest moving glaciers in Antarctica, Pine Island drains about 79 cubic kilometers (19 cubic miles) of ice per year from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The end of the glacier stretched about 48 kilometers (30 miles) past the edge of land, floating on the ocean.
As more ice flows toward the water, the tongue grows longer.
Eventually, a piece will break off, forming a large iceberg.
The last calving event occurred in late 2001 and resulted in an iceberg that measured 42 kilometers by 17 kilometers (26 by 11 miles).
That event, too, was preceded by a large crack that was observed in satellite imagery in late 2000.

While satellites have tracked the formation of new icebergs, this is the first detailed airborne survey of such an event.
"We are actually now witnessing how it happens,” said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger.
“It’s part of a natural process, but it’s pretty exciting to be here and actually observe it while it happens.”

IceBridge scientists were surveying the Pine Island Glacier to learn how the glacier is changing and why.
In the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice, the airplanes of Operation IceBridge carry an array of instruments to measure the ice from top to bottom.
The research team is gathering data about how thick the ice is (about 500 meters or 1,640 feet in the region of the crack); what the ground beneath it looks like; and how the glacier has changed over time.

All of this information will help scientists understand why the Pine Island Glacier drains so much ice to the ocean and how much it could contribute to sea level rise in the future.
"IceBridge exists because we need to understand how much ice the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will contribute to sea level rise over the next couple of decades,” says Studinger in a new feature article on the Earth Observatory.
“In order to do this, we need to measure how much the ice surface elevation is changing from year to year.“
As a primary outlet for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections.

Operation IceBridge is now in the third of six annual field campaigns to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile. “A lot of times when you’re in science, you don’t get a chance to catch the big stories as they happen because you’re not there at the right place at the right time,” said John Sonntag, Instrument Team Lead for Operation IceBridge. “But this time we were.”

More photos and a video of the crack in the glacier are available on the IceBridge web site and on the NASA Ice photostream.

To read more about the airborne campaign, see IceBridge: Buiding a record of Earth’s changing ice, one flight at a time on the Earth Observatory.

Links :

  • BBC : Huge iceberg forms in Antarctica

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Powerful storm moving toward coastal Alaska

Alaska Region NOAA GOES (updated) / NASA GOES West
This storm could be historic for Alaska and is comparable to the November 11-12, 1974, Bering Sea storm that remains the most severe in Nome in 113 years of record keeping.
Major differences between the 1974 storm and this upcoming storm include the fact that tides were much greater in the 1974 storm.
However, sea ice extent is currently much lower than it was in 1974, thus providing no protection along the coast and greater fetch.

From AP

An unusual Bering Sea storm packing hurricane-force winds and 35-foot waves — a type of storm not seen for decades in Alaska — moved rapidly Tuesday toward the western Alaska coastline.

The storm was traveling at 60 mph and had reached the western Aleutian Islands, said Andy Brown, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Anchorage. (area forecast discussion)
It could reach the beachfront city of Nome by late Tuesday, with winds hitting 85 mph.

The wind and waves had started picking up by late morning, said Scott Johnson, 28, a Nome banker, prompting some people to evacuate inland to stay with friends or family in case predictions for a big ocean wave surge prove to be true.
"The waves are starting to go up against our seawall," he said from his second-story apartment that sits on the ocean.
Johnson said he loaded a couple of bags into his truck and got gas so he's ready to go.
"If there are 30-foot waves, A, they might be coming over the sea and B, they might be coming into my apartment," he said.

Stores are still pretty well stocked, but some businesses closed early.
"The general view out here is we get storms like this on a fairly regular basis," Johnson said.
"We kind of shrug it off. But when the National Weather Service is trying to sound an alarm with 30-foot seas and this is a rare storm, take it seriously. I think they're taking it seriously with a grain of salt."

The bigger concern will be for Alaska Natives in the 18 villages in the region, where the brunt of the storm was supposed to hit, he said.
"They're going to get hit more and have less infrastructure than we do," Johnson said.
The storm was expected to produce at least a 10-foot surge, forcing dozens of coastal communities to make emergency preparations.
Brown advised Bering Sea mariners and people living in coastal communities from Wales to Unalakleet to "prepare for a really nasty storm."
"It is very dangerous," Brown said. "Everybody is spreading the word to let them know this is a major storm."
The storm, described by Brown as "big, deep, low," was taking an unusual path through the northern and eastern Bering Sea.
The windows were boarded up Tuesday morning at the Polar Café, a popular restaurant that faces the ocean in Nome.
Items stored in the basement had been carried upstairs and were in one of the hotel rooms, said waitress Andrea Surina.
Plans were being made to move the propane tanks to a safer spot, she said.
"It is blowing sideways snow. The water hasn't really come up much yet but it is starting to," Surina said.
The approaching storm, however, wasn't keeping the regulars away. They were sitting at their usual table, talking about the storm, she said.
"It is heading right for us," Surina said. "Nobody misses a good storm."

The last time forecasters saw something similar was in November 1974, when Nome also took the brunt of the storm.
That surge measured more than 13 feet, pushing beach driftwood above the level of the previous storm of its type in 1913.
Winds from the current storm were expected to push large amounts of water into Norton Sound, raising sea levels 10 feet above normal through Wednesday.
That will cause beach erosion and flooding and may push Norton Bay ice on shore, forecasters said.

Seas were expected to begin rising along the coastline Tuesday afternoon and gain height rapidly at night before cresting in Nome on Wednesday.
"It will wash pretty far up the beach," said Ted Fathauer, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.
Some low-lying areas and a road that runs along the Nome beachfront could experience flooding, he said.

First responders and emergency managers in the communities likely to be affected by the storm were in contact with the State Emergency Coordination Center in Anchorage, which was working with federal and state agencies on storm response plans, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
"They are aware of the situation and are taking steps in each of those communities to respond," he said.
Smaller communities that are vulnerable to storm erosion were of particular concern, especially the village of Kivalina, already one of the state's most threatened communities because of erosion.
Zidek said Kivalina has emergency operations plans in place.
Brown said the state emergency coordination center and the National Weather Service were in contact with emergency personnel in numerous communities. Another conference call was planned for Tuesday afternoon.
"Everybody is aware that the storm is coming," he said.

Links :

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Open Sailing

From OpenSailing

Open_Sailing is currently working on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill recovery methods.
Together with several other groups, Open_Sailing is developing Protei, an oil spill cleaning sailing robot.

Protei presentation video

The oceans covers more than 71% of the surface of the earth.
The annual budget for space exploration is more than a thousand times the ocean exploration budget, yet there is so much to learn from the oceans and to do there.
Life started in water, the majority of humans live at less than 150 km from the coast.
We urgently need a new generation of semi-permanent affordable and sustainable architecture to explore and study the oceans, understand biodiversity, monitor climate change, address marine pollution, invent new modes of sustainable aquaculture, create data mesh networks, produce renewable energies, for navigation safety purposes and much more.

Open_Sailing is an international community trying to develop the International_Ocean_Station as an open-source project, developing hardware and software to enable intelligent human activities at sea.
The project started as an apocalyptic design response unit, but has evolved into a voluntary exploration community of passionate amateurs, inventors and scientists.
We believe that in a matter of months and with a modest budget, we can challenge the civilization symbol of the International Space Station that produces today semi-secret data, that costs more than 150 billion $ to tax payers and was developed over decades by a closed group of rocket scientists.
We can do it.
It is not a utopian project we are working on it everyday.

Open_Sailing is divided into several labs investigating novel technologies :

  • Protei : an ocean cleaning sailing robot
  • Instinctive_Architecture : an architecture that behaves like a super-organism, reacting to the weather conditions and other variables, reconfiguring itself
  • Energy_Animal : an independent module that generates energy from the waves, wind and sun, providing continuously off-grid energy and being a node for environment and data mesh networking.
  • Nomadic_Ecosystem : engineering a mobile aquaculture to sustain human long term life at sea.
  • : forum to formulate a global standard for a purely civilian internet, an internet moderated by its users, not by the governments nor the industries nor the militaries.
  • Life_Cable : a simpler unified standard for energy, water, waste, information in a complex built structure.
  • Swarm_Operating_System : a customizable decision assisting software, using real-time data about global threats or personal interests.
  • Ocean_Cookbook : making the experience at sea not of a survival quality but a truly yummy experience.
We are welcoming oceanographers, maritime, mechanical, telecommunication engineers and architects, biotechnologist, sea farmers, physicists and chemists, sailors, fishermen, kite surfers, dietitians, divers, programers, mathematicians, philosophers, lawyers, accountants, craftsmen, designers of any level of qualification and age, contact us.

We are inviting you to join our labs or create your own within Open_Sa
iling, host your research on this soon to be built structure.

Links :
  • CSMonitor : 'Glider' robots now prowling Gulf Oil Spill

Monday, November 7, 2011

Viking sunstone guided ships in cloudy weather

Romancing the sunstone.
Physicists think Vikings could have used calcite crystals in a device like this to navigate on cloudy days.
Credit: Guy Ropars

From SciencesNow

To avoid getting lost on their voyages across the North Atlantic 1000 years ago, Vikings relied on the sun to determine their heading.
(This was long before magnetic compasses were available in Europe.)

But cloudy days could have sent their ships dangerously off course, especially during the all-day summer sun at those far-north latitudes.
The Norse sagas mention a mysterious "sunstone" used for navigation.
Now a team of scientists claims that the sunstones could have been calcite crystals and that Vikings could have used them to get highly accurate compass readings even when the sun was hidden.

The trick for locating the position of the hidden sun is to detect polarization, the orientation of light waves along their path.
Even on a cloudy day, the sky still forms a pattern of concentric rings of polarized light with the sun at its center.
If you have a crystal that depolarizes light, you can determine the location of the rings around the hidden sun.

Ancient-day sat nav: The refractive properties of calcite crystal - otherwise known as Iceland spar - were used to pinpoint the sun through clouds

Calcite is such a crystal.
It has a property called birefringence: Light passing through calcite is split along two paths, forming a double image on the far side.
The brightness of the two images relative to each other depends on the polarization of the light.
By passing light from the sky through calcite and changing the crystal's orientation until the projections of the split beams are equally bright, it is theoretically possible to detect the concentric rings of polarization and thus the location of the sun.

Theory is one thing, practice is another.
To see if calcite is accurate enough for navigation, a team led by Guy Ropars, a physicist at the University of Rennes 1 in France, built a sunstone.
They used a chunk of calcite from Iceland spar, a rock familiar to the Vikings, and locked it into a wooden device that beams light from the sky onto the crystal through a hole and projects the double image onto a surface for comparison.
They then used it over the course of a completely overcast day.
They took the measurements from a point on land where they knew the sun's exact trajectory.

If the Vikings were clever enough to use calcite as a sunstone, it would have enabled them to navigate on cloudy days, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Their sunstone came within 1% of the true location of the sun even after it had dipped below the horizon.
Ropars cautions that archaeologists have yet to find a sunstone among Viking shipwrecks or settlements.

The study reveals "an ingenious solution to the problem of open-sea navigation," says John Phillips, a biologist who studies animal navigation at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, adding that birds may also use polarization to navigate.
But even if it is possible, using such a sunstone on a rolling Viking ship at sea would have been a challenge, he says.
"Perhaps [they used it] when the Viking sailors encountered islands or ice packs during their travels."

Links :
  • TheGuardian : Sunstones may have helped Vikings navigate from Norway to America

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Song of a spindle

Song Of the Spindle from Drew Christie

brings to life the similarities between whales and humans