Monday, December 31, 2012

Vendee Globe : Cape Horn and ice danger

A tour of Cape Horn with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Extracts from a magnificent one hour BBC 2 documentary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Skip Novak, owner of yacht Pelagic, sailing from the Beagle Channel to Cape Horn and then landing on the notorious rock. As crew he takes Sir Ranulph Fiennes and John Simpson

 >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

Cape Horn remains a maritime legend to this day, as sailing around this remote point and then through the Drake Passage was (and is) one of the most challenging nautical routes on the planet.
 The violent stretch of chaotic water between Antarctica and South America, one frequented by icebergs, huge waves and plagued by gale-force winds, is crossed by sailors with great trepidation.

Many still prefer to use the sheltered Strait of Magellan.
(photo in high resolution)

At this spot the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet, often in a confrontation.
No land to the east, none to the west—winds sweep all the way around the world from the west.
The closest arm of Antarctica, Graham Land of the Antarctic Peninsula, lies six hundred miles to the south across the roughest stretch of water known on the planet, Drake Passage.
Since its discovery by the Dutch mariners Jacob Le Maire and Willem Corneliszoon Schouten in 1616, Cape Horn has become known as the graveyard of ships.

Its precise geographical location is the southern headland of Horn Island, Chile, in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the bottom of South America.
As ships got larger, they could not navigate the Magellan Strait and had to risk “rounding the Horn,” a phrase that has acquired almost mythical status.
For most mariners, it means sailing windward, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, fighting winds, waves, and currents, for sailing with the wind is strategically simpler and carries no bragging rights.

Brian Hancock aboard Alaska Eagle Whitbread Race 81/82

Cape Horn lore is extensive, full of fear and fascination—summed up in the sailor’s motto “below 40 South there is no law, below 50 South there is no God.”
Over the past four hundred years, the Horn’s cold, tempestuous waters have claimed more than one thousand ships and fifteen thousand lives.

Description of the new route to the South of the Strait of Magellan discovered
and set in the year 1616 by Dutchman Willem Schouten from Hoorn (1619)

Even successful passage has often exacted a toll.
For example, British Admiral George Anson’s 1741 mission to attack Spanish possessions on the west coast of South America took three months to pass Cape Horn; of his six warships, two failed to round the Horn and went home, and one was wrecked on the coast of Chile.

Bounty rounds Cape Horn
As we gaze though nature’s sunny smile we see her teeth fully barred ... and, as any sailor will testify ‘to be at the mercy of the sea and to survive is to be born again.’
So is the purpose of this work using warm darks to indicate the infinite depths of the southern ocean - and warm greens show the hopelessness of the situation as the waves rush up to block the light. 
(John Hagan's classic 'Bounty' paintings)

Captain William Bligh on the HMS Bounty tried for a month in 1788 to round the Horn on his way to Tahiti, but adverse weather forced him to turn around and take the longer route east past Africa and India instead.
Since the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, there has been no need for most commercial ships to run the risk anymore, though adventuring sailors and yacht racing enthusiasts continue to test their luck.

zoom view with SHN chart
Cape Horn, Spanish Cabo de Hornos,  steep rocky headland on Hornos Island, Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, southern Chile.
Located off the southern tip of mainland South America, it was named Hoorn for the birthplace of the Dutch navigator Willem Corneliszoon Schouten, who rounded it in 1616.
False Cape Horn (Falso Cabo de Hornos), on Hoste Island, 35 miles (56 km) northwest, is sometimes mistaken for it.
Navigation in the rough waters around the cape is hazardous, with a windy and cold year-round climate.

Cabo de Hornos (SHOA detail map)

The lighthouse and sculpture viewed from the south - ie,e while rounding the Horn
(photo GrahamAndDairne)
 In 1992, on a hilltop at the East of Horn Island, a monument to the memory of the mariners lost in the waters off Cape Horn was erected, financed with both public and private funds from Chile and many other countries.
The interior outline of its facing steel sheets form the image of a wandering albatross in flight; a nearby marble plaque is inscribed with a Spanish poem by Chilean Sara Vial

Routes between Strait of Magellan (Estrecho de Magallanes) and Cabo de Hornos
(source Directmar)

Ice has been monitored well to the north and east of Drake’s Passage for much of December.
When the leaders are due to round there are expected to be 15 relatively small icebergs to the south and east of Cape Horn at a radius of about 50 miles.

 NGA 29002 (Antarctic Peninsula)
Is Cabo de Hornos the southernmost point of South America?
No, the  – Islas Diego Ramirez – approx. 60 miles southwest of Cape Horn,
is the southernmost point of South America.
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<
The southernmost point of the mainland lays several hundreds of miles north, 
on the peninsula Brunswick, near Punta Arenas.

Expected at Cape Horn on the first day of 2013 Tuesday January 1st,  the two Vendée Globe leaders Francois Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h might be able to look forward to relatively clement, settled weather for their passage but they will have another critical variable set to challenge them as they round the notorious point.

The ice is reckoned to be drifting away at a rate of around 20 miles per day which, suggests Race Director Denis Horeau, means the problem is most serious for the first boats.

Horeau told Vendée Globe LIVE :
“CLS our partner have seen by satellite that there is ice drifting in the south and east of Cape Horn, but of course the problem is that the satellites can only see some of the ice and not all of it. So far we can only see by satellite ice which is at least 100 metres long. And so long as we know that there is ice of 100 metres long approximately then you can be sure that there will be some smaller bergs around. So that is our problem.”
“ The choice is now with the skippers. We will inform them every day of the situation, what we can see with the satellites and what the drift is expected to be. So we will provide them with a report every day in order that they can understand the situation as well as we can see it. The problem is that we cant know the situation exactly.”
“ Putting an ice gate closer to the Cape could only be to the south if it but the ice is drifting to the east at a rate of something like 20 miles per day. So we think most will have passed to the East by the time the majority of skipper are arriving. We hope this problem will only be for the first boats. Putting a gate positioned for the first boats would be unfair for the others. So that is not the way to do it. We make the rules on the Vendée Globe for all the boats.”
“ We had ice in past editions. We have not had this amount of ice at Cape Horn before, we had ice in 2008, but it was to the west of Cape Horn and so we lifted the Pacific East gate north by 400 miles to the north. We had a lot of ice in the east of the Pacific this time. It is difficult to say if it is related to the warming of the planet, but what we do know is that we can see more than before.”

Photo courtesy of the Chilean Navy showing a drifting iceberg than 200 meters in diameter and ten feet high about 300 kilometers from Puerto Williams, in Cape Horn.
EFE / Armada de Chile (30 Nov 2012)

The bergs which are seen by the satellites are between 100m and 400m long, but the problem for the skippers is the smaller sections which almost certainly exist, some of which will be semi-submerged.
By comparison there were significant levels of ice in the East Pacific during the last edition in 2008-9, much of it well before the longitude of Cape Horn
Then, the Pacific East gate was moved more than 400 miles to the north to keep the fleet as clear of danger as possible.

Links :

Ocean wonderland

Ocean wonderland 3D is the first 3D Large Format underwater movie entirely shot using digital technology.
Thanks to this technology, the film was shot almost entirely with natural light, thus showing for the first time the underwater world as it exactly is.
This is the closest you can get to dive without being there!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Diving the labyrinth

Blue holes are time capsules providing scientist with unique information about ancient animals.
But for divers this means extreme danger and potential fatality.
Join a divers team to find well-preserved animal's bones and unknown diver remains who didn't make through...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ocean origins

A documentary that explores the natural world of the sea, from the single-celled organism to more complex forms of life, 'Ocean Origins' was originally filmed in the IMAX large format, which adds a crispness and clarity to the images.
This documentary film seeks to examine the process of evolution by looking at the many creatures of the sea that can illustrate the way multi-cellular life emerged over the course of four billion years.

'Ocean Origins' is a creative film that uses fascinating documentary footage to look at scientific theories and principles in an interesting manner.

Friday, December 28, 2012

NZ Linz update in the Marine GeoGarage

10 charts have been updated in the Marine GeoGarage
(Linz December published 20 December 2012 updates) 

  • NZ23 New Zealand, North Island
  • NZ25 New Zealand, South Island
  • NZ63 Kaikoura Peninsula to Banks Peninsula
  • NZ64 Banks Peninsula to Otago Peninsula
  • NZ632 Banks Peninsula
  • NZ5314 Mercury Islands
  • NZ5318 Great Mercury Island / Ahuahu to Otara Bay
  • NZ6321 Lyttelton Harbour / Whakaraupo: Port of Lyttelton
  • NZ14600 New Zealand including Norfolk and Campbell Island / Motu Ihupuku
  • NZ14601 Tasman Sea, New Zealand to S.E. Australia
      Today NZ Linz charts (178 charts / 340 including sub-charts) are displayed in the Marine GeoGarage.

      Note :  LINZ produces official nautical charts to aid safe navigation in New    Zealand waters and certain areas of Antarctica and the South-West    Pacific.

      Using charts safely involves keeping them up-to-date using Notices to Mariners

      Royal Navy 'does not keep sea monster sighting archive'

      The Carta marina (Latin "map of the sea" or "sea map"), created by Olaus Magnus in the 16th century, is the earliest map of the Nordic countries that gives details and placenames.
      It is about 500 years old, depicts the North of Europe and includes sea monsters.
      The monsters are seen attacking the ships and each other.

      (with zoom possibilities) 

      From TheTelegraph

      Sailors can note unusual sightings on the ocean waves in their ship's logs, the Navy said.
      But they are not required to do so and none of the information is assembled in a central archive devoted to sea monsters.
      Any sightings of strange marine animals reported to the Navy by the public are passed on to the UK Hydrographic Office, which provides charts and other navigational services for mariners.
      Details of the Navy's policy on giant creatures of the deep emerged in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

      Map of Canada (Pierre Desceliers' World Map 1550)

      A marine biologist inquired whether the Ministry of Defence held records about ''abnormally large or dangerous sea monsters hundreds of metres under the sea'' that had not been revealed to the public.
      In reply an official wrote: ''The RN (Royal Navy), and MoD in general, does not maintain any form of central repository of information purely devoted to sea monsters.

       Sebastian Munster's Famous Chart of Sea Monsters
      Remarkable chart of mythical land and sea monsters and other creatures, from Munster's Cosmographia, one of the most influential works of the 16th Century.
      Munster's plate of mythical creatures is taken from Olaus Magnus' Carta Marina of 1539 and includes abundant tusks, horns and twin-spouts.
      One vignette shows a galleon trying to outrun one monster by throwing their cargo overboard, while one sailor takes sight with a musket. 
      Ortelius also adapted many of the monsters for use on his map of Iceland in 1587.
      One of the most sought-after of all 16th Century curiosities. 

      ''Personnel might be inclined to record unusual sightings in ship's logs but there is, as far as we know, no actual requirement for them to do so, and it would be beyond the resource constraints of an FOI request to check every line of every RN log book for any such references since 2005.
      ''However, the RN does invite people to report sightings of marine mammals, and it's possible this could include unusual sightings.
      ''These are forwarded to the UK Hydrographic Office at Taunton.''
      The MoD's stance on sea monsters contrasts with the policy on UFOs it maintained for more than 50 years.
      Thousands of reports of strange sights in the skies were recorded by the military's UFO investigation unit until it was shut down on December 1 2009.

      The "Great Sea Serpent" according to Hans Egede. (1734 illustration)

      Old maps often included illustrations of fearsome sea dragons and serpents and there are many tales of mariners' encounters with weird creatures.
      Dr David Clarke, an expert in unexplained phenomena, said the Navy showed an interest in sea monsters in the 19th century.
      The National Archives in Kew, west London, contain several historic Royal Navy files about strange sightings on the oceans, he said.

      These include an 1830 report sent to the Admiralty in London by the captain of the ship Rob Roy about a ''great thundering big sea snake'' measuring about 129ft long seen by his crew in the waters near the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

      The documentation at issue details the remarkable encounter with a sea-serpent that was seen on May 9, 1830 by the crew of the Rob Roy: a British Royal Navy ship that was homeward bound after a lengthy sea-journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
      As the ship sailed by the island of St. Helena, something remarkable occurred, as the Rob Roy’s captain, James Stockdale, recorded in his official log the following:
      “About five p.m. all at once while I was walking on the poop my attention was drawn to the water on the port bow by a scuffling noise. Likewise all the watch on deck were drawn to it. Judge my amazement when what should stare us all in the face as if not knowing whether to come over the deck or to go around the stern – but the great big sea snake! Now I have heard of the fellow before – and I have killed snakes twenty-four feet long in the straits of Malacca, but they would go in his mouth.
      “I think he must have been asleep for we were going along very softly two knots an hour, and he seemed as much alarmed as we were – and all taken aback for about fifteen seconds. But he soon was underway and, when fairly off, his head was square with our topsail and his tail was square with the foremast.”
      Captain Stockdale continued: “My ship is 171 feet long overall – and the foremast is 42 feet from the stern which would make the monster about 129 feet long. If I had not seen it I could not have believed it but there was no mistake or doubt of its length – for the brute was so close I could even smell his nasty fishy smell.
      “When underway he carried his head about six feet out of water – with a fin between the shoulders about two feet long. I think he was swimming about five miles an hour – for I watched him from the topsail yard till I lost sight of him in about fifty minutes. I hope never to see him more. It is enough to frighten the strong at heart.”

      Another file records how Commander George Harrington, captain of the Castilian, saw ''a monster of extraordinary length'' rear its head out of the sea, again near St Helena, in 1857.

      A second report of a sea-monster sighting has been declassified at an official level by the British Government and describes an extraordinary December 13, 1857 encounter that also occurred in the vicinity of the island of St. Helena.
      A statement prepared by Commander George Henry Harrington revealed the facts:
      “While myself and officers were standing on the lee side of the poop – looking toward the island – we were startled by the sight of a huge marine animal which reared its head out of the water within twenty yards of the ship – when it suddenly disappeared for about half a minute and then made a reappearance in the same manner again – showing us its neck and head about ten or twenty feet out of the water.
      “Its head was shaped like a long buoy – and I should suppose the diameter to have been seven or eight feet in the largest part with a kind of scroll or ruff encircling it about two feet from the top. The water was discolored for several hundred feet from the head, so much so that on its first appearance my impression was that the ship was in broken waters, produced, as I supposed, by some volcanic agency, since I passed the island before.”
      And Captain Harrington had far more to impart:
      “But the second appearance completely dispelled those fears and assured us that it was a monster of extraordinary length and appeared to be moving slowly towards the land. The ship was going too fast to enable us to reach the masthead in time to form a correct estimate of this extreme length – but from what we saw from the deck we conclude that he must have been over two hundred feet long. The Boatswain and several of the crew, who observed it from the forecastle, state that it was more than double the length of the ship, in which case it must have been five hundred feet.”
      The captain concluded in his official report: “I am convinced that it belonged to the serpent tribe.”

      Dr Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: ''At this time they were exploring areas of the world where they thought there may well have been such creatures living.
      ''I have looked at some of the ship's logs in the National Archives, and there are instructions about what people should record.
      ''Any unusual observations of any kind should be recorded in the ship's log.''

      He said the MoD would argue that it was only funded for defence and not to investigate strange phenomena.
      ''They should be recording those kind of things, but I don't think anybody is recording them,'' he said.
      ''It's short-sightedness – but that's bureaucracy.''

      Links :

      Thursday, December 27, 2012

      Vendee Globe : round-world yachtsman declines help

      situation 08:00 UTC

      >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<
      The skipper is now anchored close to the secluded beach north of Dunedin’s Tairoa Head and has light winds, partial sunshine with the threat of some light rain, but temperatures are in the 20’s. 

      Stricken sailor forced to Dunedin for repairs

      >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<
      Bernard left Kaikai Bay at 2:00 local to move to the South East of the small island of Wharekakahu facing Allans Beach.
      This new shelter will offer better protection against the winds blowing northwest in this area.

       From Otago Daily Times

      A stricken yacht has anchored off the coast of Dunedin to make emergency repairs after being damaged during one of the world's most gruelling round-the-world solo yacht races.
      Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm first attempted to make repairs to the hydro-generator and the central winch column on his yacht Cheminees Poujoulat in the Auckland Islands last week while racing towards Cape Horn, South America.

      But finding a suitable place to anchor in a sheltered bay away from kelp beds and other seaweed proved too difficult.
      So he headed for New Zealand, and anchored near Murdering Beach yesterday.

       Swiss yachtsman Bernard Stamm stands on the stern of Cheminees Poujoulat off Murdering Beach, near Dunedin, waiting for the swell to subside so he can make repairs to his hydro-generator before returning to the Vendee Globe 2012 round-the-world yacht race.

      The vessel's 19m-long, 6m-wide hull could not be sailed into Otago Harbour because it needs deep keel clearance.

      Mr Stamm was interviewed and photographed from a small boat yesterday afternoon after a friend emailed the Otago Daily Times about his plight.
      He said the long sail north was a major detour in his bid to win the Vendee Globe 2012 round-the-world yacht race.
      The non-stop race, known as the ''Everest of the Seas'', begins in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, and heads east via the capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn before heading back to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne.

       Kaikai's Beach, Murdering Beach
      The bay south of Whare ake ake is called Kaikai after a Ngati Mamoe man dwelling there in a cave in the early days.
      The proper name is Takeratawhai.
      The cave belonging to Kaikai is now used as a sheep pen.
      A heavy "tapu" rested on Murdering Beach until it was lifted by a North Island tohunga at the request of the Purakaunui Maoris.
      The three bays south of Purakaunui have been the happy hunting-grounds of curio collectors, alas many not venerating the burial-places.
      It has been estimated that 3½ tons of worked greenstone has been recovered.

      Mr Stamm said he was leading the race when one of the brackets securing the hydro-generator on the hull failed.

      The system uses motion through water to generate electricity, and without it, he does not have enough energy to power appliances such as lights, pumps, computers, navigation and automatic piloting equipment.

      Mr Stamm said he was taking care to avoid physical contact with any other vessels for fear of breaking race rules, which state competitors will be disqualified if they receive help or equipment during the race.

       photo : Sophie Luther

      While in the Auckland Islands, a Russian ship came alongside and offered fuel, but he rejected the offer because he was determined to continue the race.

      He said it was a difficult choice, but he was guided by his ''sense of responsibility''.

      Allans beach & Wharekakahu Island

      Wharekakahu Island, near Cape Saunders on Otago Peninsula, with colony of Stewart Island shags visible near right-hand end of crest. The island is a predator-free nature reserve.
      It reputedly has a colony of green-backed skinks (Oligosoma chloronoton)
      photo : Tony Jewell

      Mr Stamm said he had been at sea since November 10, and at an average speed of 14 knots, he still had about 40 days to go before he crossed the finish line.

      When asked if he had had a shower since his departure, he shook his head and pointed to the sea before making scrubbing motions.
      He often dreamed of having a cold beer.
      He said: ''A beer would be nice now, but it would taste better at the end.''

      Being at sea alone was lonely at times, but he was grateful he could communicate via his laptop with his wife and two children.
      However, the damaged hydro-generator meant he has had to cut back on the amount of communication with his family.
      He was looking forward to finishing the repairs so he could make contact with them more often.
      He hoped to be back on the high seas some time today, he said.

      Although Mr Stamm was only about halfway through the race, he said he was now more than 3500km behind the race leader and it was unlikely he could still win.
      In his previous attempt at the Vendee Globe race, he had to retire due to damage, so this year's race was now more about getting to the finish, he said.

      Ocean oasis

      Ocean Oasis depicts the life, richness and beauty of nature in a part of the world which has not yet been ruined by men.
      It is a fascinating journey into the bountiful seas and pristine deserts of two remarkably different, but inextricably linked worlds — Mexico's Sea of Cortés and the Baja California desert.

      Wednesday, December 26, 2012

      Sydney Hobart : Wild Oats XI unveils secret weapons

      Sydney-Hobart in 2011

      From BrisbaneTimes

      A new sail the size of two tennis courts has been unveiled as Wild Oats XI's secret weapon as she tries to win Sydney to Hobart yacht race line honours for a sixth time.
      High-tech new keel "winglets" and a retractable bow centreboard have also recently been added to the 30-metre super maxi in a bid to make her much faster in light winds.
      Wild Oats XI is the overwhelming favourite for the 2012 blue water classic and has shown superb form in all the lead-up races - including setting a record in November's Cabbage Tree Island 180-nautical mile race.
      But she will face tough competition for line honours in the form of Ragamuffin Loyal - which pipped Wild Oats XI to victory in the 2011 Sydney-Hobart by just over three minutes - and the highly-fancied Wild Thing.

       >>> geolocalzation with the Marine GeoGarage <<<
      (The paddock is what locals call the north-eastern end of Bass Strait)

      "We're hurting from last year's result," Wild Oats XI sail trimmer Josh Whittaker said. "The new modifications are worth seconds to us every mile.
      "Last year, we lost by three minutes and, with these modifications, we could have been 12 minutes faster."

       'XI, WILD OATS XI, Sail No: 10001, Owner: Mark Richards,

      The new headsail measures 535 square metres and was ordered by Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley, 84, who said last year's defeat "hurt like hell".

      His skipper Mark Richards described the new sail as like "replacing a rifle with a cannon" and insisted Wild Oats XI could complete the 628-nautical mile run down to Hobart in less than 24 hours, given the right weather conditions.
      That would break the yacht's own race record of just over one day and 18 hours, which was set on the way to victory in 2005.

      Wild Oats XI sails past Tasmania's iconic Organ Pipes, off Cape Raoul
      (photo Carlo Borlenghi/ other photos of Carlo Borlenghi I / II)

      "We can't control the weather but we can go into the race knowing that we can do no more when it comes to having the fastest possible yacht," Richards said. "And that is the case this year."
      The new winglets operate on a similar principle to the wing tips on modern passenger aircraft and are designed to reduce drag.
      They were produced with help from Boeing and tested over two weeks in a hydrofoil tank in Tasmania.

      Calm TP52 yacht
      (photo Kurt Arrigo / other picture from Kurt Arrigo)

      Seventy-seven boats are registered for the 68th Sydney to Hobart yacht race, starting on Boxing Day, including four super maxis and six previous overall winners.

      Loki (photo Kurt Arrigo)

      Among the favourites for handicap honours is last year's overall winner Loki, the Reichel/Pugh class 63-footer.

       Ragamuffin Loyal
      (photo Kurt Arrigo)

      Ragamuffin Loyal competed under the name Investec Loyal in 2011 and, this year, is skippered by 85-year-old veteran Syd Fischer.
      The super maxi, which suffered rigging damage last Wednesday, will have her mast put back in on Tuesday and will have training runs on Thursday and Friday.
      The fleet dropped a boat on Monday following the withdrawal of the 52-foot Dodo.

      Peter Millard and John Honan's Lahana passing the Organ Pipes, during the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009.
      (photo Kurt Arrigo)

      Links :
      • Blog GeoGarage :  Sydney-Hobart 2011 : Investec Loyal's against-the-odds victory closest in 28 years
      • Sail World : Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012 - Are these the Serious Handicap Contenders?

      Tuesday, December 25, 2012

      The end of the map : why the World looks the way it does

      On the Maps by Simon Gardfield
      Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of Just My Type reveals the fascinating relationship between man and map.

      From WSJ

      Apple Maps stands at the end of a long line of cartographic catastrophes.
      Say goodbye to the Mountains of Kong and New South Greenland—the enchanting era of geographic gaffes is coming to a close.

      It's not often that maps make headlines, but they've been doing so with some regularity lately.
      Last week, tens of millions of iPhone users found that they could suddenly leave their homes again without getting either lost or cross.
      This was because Google finally released an app containing its own (fairly brilliant) mapping system. Google Maps had been sorely missed for several months, ever since Apple  booted it in favor of the company's own inadequate alternative—a cartographic dud blamed for everything from deleting Shakespeare's birthplace to stranding Australian travelers in a desolate national park 43 miles away from their actual destination.
      As one Twitter wag declared: "I wouldn't trade my Apple Maps for all the tea in Cuba."

      There was one potential bright spot, though: Among the many mistakes found in Apple Maps was a rather elegant solution to the continuing dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands. Japan controls them; China claims them.
      Apple Maps, when released, simply duplicated the islands, with two sets shown side-by-side—one for Japan, one for China.
      Win-win. (At least until the software update.)
      Call it diplomacy by digital dunderheadedness.

      As some may recall, it was not so long ago that we got around by using maps that folded. Occasionally, if we wanted a truly global picture of our place in the world, we would pull shoulder-dislocating atlases from shelves.
      The world was bigger back then.
      Experience and cheaper travel have rendered it small, but nothing has shrunk the world more than digital mapping.

      In medieval Christian Europe, Jerusalem was the center of the world, the ultimate end of a religious pilgrimage.
      If we lived in China, that focal point was Youzhou.
      Later, in the days of European empire, it might be Britain or France.
      Today, by contrast, each of us now stands as an individual at the center of our own map worlds.
      On our computers and phones, we plot a route not from A to B but from ourselves ("Allow current location") to anywhere of our choosing.
      Technology has enabled us to forget all about way-finding and geography.
      This is some change, and some loss.

      Maps have always related and realigned our history; increasingly, we're ceding control of that history to the cold precision of the computer.
      With this comes great responsibility.
      Leading mapmakers used to be scattered around the world, all lending their distinctive talents and interpretations.
      These days by far the most influential are concentrated in one place—Mountain View, Calif., home of the Googleplex.

      There is something disappointing about the austere potential perfection of the new maps.
      The satellites above us have seen all there is to see of the world; technically, they have mapped it all. But satellites know nothing of the beauty of hand-drawn maps, with their Spanish galleons and sea monsters, and they cannot comprehend wanderlust and the desire for discovery.
      Today we can locate the smallest hamlet in sub-Saharan Africa or the Yukon, but can we claim that we know them any better?
      Do the irregular and unpredictable fancies of the older maps more accurately reflect the strangeness of the world?

      The uncertainty that was once an unavoidable part or our relationship with maps has been replaced by a false sense of Wi-Fi-enabled omnipotence.
      Digital maps are the enemies of wonder.
      They suppress our urge to experiment and (usually) steer us from error—but what could be more irrepressibly human than those very things?

      There is something valuable about getting lost occasionally, even in our pixilated, endlessly interconnected world.
       Photo Illustration by Stephen Webster; Sebastiano del Piombo/Art Resource (painting)

      Among cartographic misfirings, the disaster of Apple Maps is rather minor, and may even have resulted in some happy accidents—in the same way that Christopher Columbus discovered America when he was aiming for somewhere more eastern and exotic.
      The history of cartography is nothing if not a catalog of hit-and-miss, a combination of good fortune and misdirection.

      The story starts at the Great Library of Alexandria around 330 B.C., the place where the study of geography really began.
      Its first scholars constructed an important proto-map of the world, based largely on the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus.
      His nine-volume "Researches" had been completed a century and a half earlier, but his description of the rise and fall of the Persian Empire and the Greco-Persian wars remained the most detailed source of information on the shape of the known world.

      These early scholars got a lot right—and inevitably a fair bit wrong.
      The map they constructed depicted the world as round, or at least roundish, which by the fourth century B.C. was commonly accepted (dismissing the Homeric view that if you sailed long enough you would eventually run out of sea and fall off the end).

       Eratosthenes of Cyrene (in modern-day Libya) was one of the first scholars to marshal the new geographical knowledge into the art of cartography.
      His world map was drawn in about 194 B.C.E., and the Victorian-era reconstruction of it (the original has long vanished) resembles a dinosaur skull.

      Eratosthenes of Cyrene (in modern-day Libya) was one of the first scholars to marshal the new geographical knowledge into the art of cartography, making fullest use of the Library of Alexandria's scrolls, the accounts of those who had swept through Europe and Persia in the previous century, and the pertaining views of the leading contemporary historians and astronomers.

      His world map was drawn in about 194 B.C., and the shape of the Victorian-era reconstruction of it (the original vanished long ago) resembles nothing so much as a dinosaur skull.
      There are three recognizable continents—Europe to the northeast, Africa (described as Libya and Arabia) beneath it and Asia occupying the eastern half of the map.
      The huge northern section of Asia is called Scythia, an area we would now regard as encompassing Eastern Europe, the Ukraine and southern Russia.

      The map is sparse but sophisticated, and noteworthy for its early use of parallels and meridians in a grid system (with, bizarre as it seems to us now, the island of Rhodes—then a major trading post—at the center of everything).
      The inhabited world (something the Romans would later call "the civilized world") was believed to occupy about one-third of the northern hemisphere and was wholly contained within it.

      The northernmost point, represented by the island of Thule (which may have been Shetland or Iceland), was the last outpost before the world became unbearably cold; the most southerly tip, labeled enticingly as Cinnamon Country (corresponding to Ethiopia/Somaliland) was the point beyond which the heat would burn your flesh.
      There are no poles, and the three continents appear purposely huddled together, as if the huge encroaching oceans and the vast areas of the unknown world are joining forces against them.
      There is no New World, of course, no China, and only a small section of Russia.

      In the second century, the work of Eratosthenes would be one of the templates used to produce what is traditionally regarded as the bridge between the ancient and the modern world: Claudius Ptolemy's "Geographia."
      This contained a vast list of names of cities and other locations, each with a coordinate, and if the maps in a modern-day atlas were described rather than drawn, they would look something like Ptolemy's work, a laborious and exhausting undertaking based on a simple grid system.
      He provided detailed descriptions for the construction of not just a world map but 26 smaller areas.

      Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia contained a vast list of names of cities and other locations, each with a coordinate.
      However, Ptolemy was prone to the biggest cartographic vice: when lacking precise information, he made things up.

      As one would expect, Ptolemy still held a skewed vision of the world, with distortions of Africa and India, and the Mediterranean much too wide.
      But his projection of the shape of the world is still something we would recognize today, and the placement of cities and countries within the Greco-Roman empire is highly accurate.
      He gives due credit to another key source, Marinus of Tyre, whose map was the first to include both China and the Antarctic.

      But Ptolemy was prone to the biggest and most contagious cartographic vice: Lacking precise information, he just made things up.
      Like nature itself, mapmakers have always abhorred a vacuum.
      White space on a map reveals ignorance, and for some this has always been too much to bear.
      Ptolemy could not resist filling blanks on his maps with theoretical conceptions, something that plagues exploration to this day.
      The Indian Ocean was displayed as a large sea surrounded by land, while many of his measurements of longitude (something that was very hard to measure accurately until John Harrison's timepiece won a famous competition in the 18th century) were way off beam.
      The biggest miscalculation of all, the longitudinal position of the Far East, would eventually suggest to Columbus that Japan could be reached by sailing West from Europe.
      But Ptolemy was at least attempting to map on scientific principles.

      Not so the wonderful mappae mundi, a collection of large conceptions of the world that filled our imaginations from the 11th century to the Renaissance.
      These maps, which primarily adorned the world's churches and other places of power and learning, succeeded in returning mapping to the dark ages, getting much wrong and gleefully so.
      Their goal was not navigation and accurate knowledge but rather religious instruction.
      The maps contained places we seldom see on modern charts these days—Paradise, for instance, and fiery Hell—and the sort of bestiary and mythical imagery one might expect to find in Tolkien's Middle-earth.
      We can marvel at the mythical bison-like Bonacon, for example, spreading his acidic bodily waste over Turkey, and the Sciapod, a people whose enormously swollen feet were said to make fine sun-shields.

      Gerardus Mercator famous projection map in 1569 forms the basis of schoolroom teaching and Google Maps.
      The projection provided a solution to the puzzle of how to represent the curved surface of the globe on a flat chart.

      The Renaissance and the golden age of exploration brought forth a stricter regime and hot-off-the-deck maps from Portuguese and Spanish explorers.
      Cumulatively, these resulted in the famous projection map of Gerardus Mercator in 1569, a plan of the world that still forms the basis of schoolroom teaching and Google Maps.
      The projection provided a solution to a puzzle that had troubled mapmakers since the world was recognized as a sphere: How does one represent the curved surface of the globe on a flat chart? Mercator's solution remains a boon to sailors to this day, even as it massively distorts the relative sizes of land masses such as Africa and Greenland.

      For more than two centuries, California was not attached to the West Coast mainland but was thought to be an island, drifting free in the Pacific.

      The catalog of cartographic inaccuracies goes on.
      Those living in California may be curious to know that for more than two centuries their homeland was not attached to the West Coast mainland but was thought to be an island, drifting free in the Pacific.
      This wasn't a radical act of political will, nor a single mistake (a slip of an engraver's hand, perhaps), but a sustained act of misjudgment.
      Stranger still, the error continued to appear on maps long after navigators had tried to sail entirely around it and—with what must have been a sense of utter bafflement—failed.
      Between its first appearance on a Spanish map in 1622 and its fond farewell in a Japanese publication of 1865, California appeared insular on at least 249 separate maps.
      Whom should we blame for this misjudgment?
      Step forward one Antonio de la Acensión, a Carmelite friar who noted the "island" in his journal after a sailing trip in 1602-03.

       The Mountains of Kong, shown in Africa on an 1839 American atlas, were 'discovered' by English cartographer James Rennell in 1798.
      Rennell based his map showing the fictional range on an erroneous account from a Scottish explorer.
      It persisted on maps for almost a century—until it was discovered not to exist.
      (courtesy of David Rumsey collection

      But my favorite cartographic error is the Mountains of Kong, a range that supposedly stretched like a belt from the west coast of Africa through half the continent.
      It featured on world maps and atlases for almost the entire 19th century.
      The mountains were first sketched in 1798 by the highly regarded English cartographer James Rennell, a man already famous for mapping large parts of India.
      The problem was, he had relied on erroneous reports from harried explorers and his own imagined distant sightings.
      The Mountains of Kong didn't actually exist, but like an unreliable Wikipedia entry that appears in a million college essays, the range was reproduced on maps by cartographers who should have known better.
      It was almost a century before an enterprising Frenchman actually traveled to the site in 1889 and found that there were hardly even any hills there.
      As late as 1890, the Mountains of Kong still featured in a Rand McNally map of Africa.

      And then there was the case of Benjamin Morrell, who had drifted around the southern hemisphere between 1822 and 1831 in search of treasure, seals, wealth and fame.
      Having found little of the first three, he apparently thought it amusing to invent a few islands en route.
      The published accounts of his travels were so popular that his findings—including Morrell Island (near Hawaii) and New South Greenland (near Antarctica)—were entered on naval charts and world atlases.

      The map here, from explorer Ernest Shackleton's account of his 1914-17 journey to the Antarctic, notes the purported location of 'New South Greenland' (highlighted).
      Described in 1823 by Capt. Benjamin Morrell, the island could not be located.
      (Project Gutenberg Australia)

      In 1875, a British naval captain named Sir Frederick Evans finally began crossing some of these phantoms out, removing no fewer than 123 fake islands from the British Admiralty Charts.
      It wasn't until Ernest Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition, however, that the matter of New South Greenland was put to rest.
      Shackleton found that the spot was in fact deep sea, with soundings up to 1,900 fathoms.
      Morrell Island came off maps not long after that.

      Benjamin Morrell, who had drifted around the southern hemisphere between 1822 and 1831 in search of treasure and fame, thought it amusing to invent a few islands en route.
      It wasn't until shortly after Ernest Shackleton's 1914-16 Endurance expedition that Morrell Island came off maps.
      But perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on the early mapmakers, these pioneers of error.
      I would argue that Morrell and his misguided fellow adventurers made the world a more exciting and romantic place in which to live.
      Haven't we lost something important as mapmaking has become a science of logarithms and apps and precisely calibrated directions?

      Though those who gratefully downloaded Google Maps on their smartphones last week might disagree, there is something valuable about getting lost occasionally, even in our pixilated, endlessly interconnected world.
      Children of the current generation will be poorer for it if they never get to linger over a vast paper map and then try in vain to fold it back into its original shape.
      They will miss discovering that the world on a map is nothing if not an invitation to dream.

      Links :
      • NYT : The unfolding story of maps: dragon warnings to smartphone screens
      • GeoGarage blog : Why modern maps put everyone at the centre of the world

      Monday, December 24, 2012

      NOAA warns large ships to avoid sanctuary

      >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

      " there is no place to land on from out of the grey water. For without are sharp crags, and round them the wave roars surging, and sheer the smooth rock rises, and the sea is deep thereby, so that in no wise may I find firm foothold and escape my bane, for as I fain would go ashore, the great wave may haply snatch and dash me on the jagged rock - and a wretched endeavour that would be."
      - Homer, The Odyssey

      The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking ships of 400 gross tons or greater to stay farther away voluntarily from part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary when traveling along the coast to protect the area from possible oil spills.

      The “area to be avoided,” known as an ATBA, extends as far as 25 nautical miles (28.7 miles) west of the coast from Tatoosh Island at the north to Pacific Beach State Park to the south.

      It was developed by NOAA and the Coast Guard when the sanctuary — which includes 2,408 square nautical miles (2,771 square miles) of marine waters off the Olympic Peninsula Pacific Coast — was established in 1994 to reduce the risk of a shipwreck and resulting pollution to the sanctuary.

      The ATBA has been marked on nautical charts since then, and vessels greater than 1,600 gross tons were asked to avoid the area.

      Since Dec. 1, smaller ships also have been asked to find another route to travel south in the Pacific Ocean from the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

      “The consequences of an oil spill can be devastating to the environment and regional economy, and the maritime industry recognizes that supporting such precautions is good for their business as well as the environment,” said Carol Bernthal, superintendent of NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which is based in Port Angeles.

      In the years since the ATBA was adopted, 99 percent of the nearly 9,000 ships that pass through the region annually have complied with the boundaries, said George Galasso, assistant sanctuary superintendent.

      Ships greater than 400 gross tons are required to prepare oil spill response plans because of the large amounts of fuel they carry, Galasso said.
      Most of that oil is for their own use, such as fuel oil for propulsion, but is enough to damage the sanctuary in the event of a wreck.

      According to the new rules, the voluntary avoidance area does not apply to fishing vessels, research vessels and naval ships that are taking part in activities allowed in the area.

      The International Maritime Organization adopted the revised ATBA for charts used by the international shipping industry, while the Coast Guard is working with NOAA to have these changes added to nautical charts and included in the U.S. Coast Pilot.

      Compliance with the ATBA will be monitored by the sanctuary and the U.S. and Canadian coast guards, which work together to manage the shipping lanes in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is dissected by the international border.

      The sanctuary, in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, will continue an education and outreach campaign to the maritime industry, distributing informational charts and informing ship owners when their vessels enter the area, Galasso said.

      Ocean men world champion freedivers

      Ocean Men is the fascinating story of two freedivers and their unique relationship to the sea.
      Their goal -- dive deeper than anyone has ever gone before on a single breath of air.
      For more than 10 years, world champion freedivers Pipin Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari have been diving for world records.

      Ocean Men takes you into the world of these two awe-inspiring freedivers through the use of breathtaking underwater photography, enchanting music, and insightful animation.
      Ultimately, the movie allows a glimpse into the souls of these extraordinary men with the hope of transferring the magic of freediving directly to the audience.

      Sunday, December 23, 2012

      Vendee Globe : Enderby island on Auckland island : shelter for Bernard Stamm

      Enderby island in the North of Auckland Island
      (Plans in the Auckland Islands: Enderby Island to Smith Harbour Linz NZ2862)
      >>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

      Lying in fifth place in the Vendee Globe Bernard Stamm has stopped Cheminees Poujoulat in the Auckland Islands to the south of New Zealand in order to effect repairs to his hydro generators.
      He then intends to continue.
      Stamm stopped on the sheltered side of island late afternoon yesterday (UTC).
      After struggling to find a protected spot, Stamm is ended up moored in Sandy Bay, on the side of south of Enderby Island, to the northeast of the main Auckland island. (Vendee Globe info)

       Worsley, Charles Nathaniel : Enderby Island, Ross Harbour, Auckland Islands. [Jan. 1902]

      This has offered him protection from the 25 knot northwest wind.
      He has reported sightings of whales and sea lions.
      The islands represented the last possibility of shelter before Cape Horn, 4,000 miles away.

       Hooker's Sealions - Sandy Bay, Enderby Island
      Upper Auckland Islands showing Sandy Bay breeding colony, Enderby Island
      and Dundas Island, the largest breeding area for NZ sea lions.
      by markfountain52

      (other photo of Graham Martin on Panoramio)

      Samuel Enderby & Sons was one of the most prominent English sealing and whaling firms, active in both the Arctic and Southern Oceans. 
      Also in 1830, Charles became a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).
      Charles encouraged masters of Enderby vessels to report geographical discoveries and had notable successes with John Biscoe and John Balleny, who between them discovered Enderby Land, Graham Land, the Balleny Islands and the Sabrina Coast.
      Another Enderby captain, Abraham Bristow, discovered the Auckland Islands in 1806, naming one of the islands Enderby Island.

      Shipwrecks have always been an unfortunate part of New Zealand’s maritime heritage.
      For the castaways marooned on offshore islands, particularly in the subantarctic, life was a very grim prospect.
      Apart from the trauma of shipwreck, once the basics of food, shelter and fire had been secured, and discipline and social organisation established, there was the dreadful prospect that castaways might never be rescued.
      New Zealand’s subantarctic island groups lie in a semicircle to the south and south-east, and many ships that strayed into their path have been wrecked.
      The islands lie on the Great Circle Route, which was used by sailing ships leaving the southern Australasian ports for Europe.
      The ships dropped down into the Southern Ocean to take advantage of the prevailing westerly winds, which blew uninterrupted on the way around Cape Horn.

      Wreckage and the figurehead of the 'Derry Castle' wrecked on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands. Photographed on 22nd March 1887 by an unidentified photographer; copy negative with inscription by David Alexander De Maus.
      The figurehead can now be viewed at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.
      The reef where she ran aground is called "Derry Castle Reef" and the bay this reef is in, is called "Bones Bay".

      The Derry Castle, on a voyage from Geelong to Falmouth, was wrecked on this rocky northern coast of Enderby Island on 20 March 1887.
      Fifteen drowned, but eight reached Enderby Island and eventually built a punt, which they sailed to Auckland Island and its provision depot. The survivors were rescued in June. (see link)

      This cover is from the 1880 edition of Wrecked on a reef (or Twenty months on the Auckland Islands)
      which was republished in New Zealand in 2003.
      François-Erdouard Raynal’s epic account of the wreck of the Grafton and the five castaways’ survival on Auckland Island
      helped make castaway stories important in maritime folklore.
      Raynal’s account, first published in French in 1870 and in English in 1874, was used by Jules Verne for his book Mysterious island.

      Links :