Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hermit crab migration

The Caribbean is known for its beautiful beaches.
Just don't go on a day like this one.
Watch as "millions and millions" of hermit crabs journey on their annual migration and take over a beach in this remarkable video.

Videographer Steve Simonsen was on the scene to document this incredible sight. As he describes it, "[My friend] Pam told me it was a migration of soldier crabs also called hermit crabs and there were millions and millions of them she likened it to the migrations of Serengeti. I didn't need to hear anymore, I loaded my car with cameras and was out the door. Pam told me that this began this morning at sunrise at Nanny point near Concordia."

This stunning migration took place last week on St. John Island, part of the Virgin Islands.
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Spot 6 satellite picture

Bora Bora island picture taken 3 days after the satellite launching 
-zoom- picture in high resolution (41Mb, 6236 px × 6791 px)
compared to Pleiades (GeoGarage blog)
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

 Bora Bora is an island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean.
The island, located about 230 km northwest of Papeete, is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef.

SPOT 6, designed and built by Astrium, has been placed in orbit on 9th Sept. 2012 by an Indian PSLV rocket from the Sriharikota launch base.

SPOT 6 is a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite.
Like its twin SPOT 7, which is slated for launch in 2014, SPOT 6 has a 60-km swath width and produce imagery products with a resolution down to 1.5 metres (2.5 meters for SPOT 5).
SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 both be operated by Astrium Services will ensure service continuity from the SPOT 4 and SPOT 5 satellites, which have been operating since 1998 and 2002 respectively.

Links :

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NASA voyage set to explore link between sea saltiness and climate

Nasa's mission will study salt levels in the north Atlantic and create the first 3D map of salt levels as they flow around the ocean


A NASA-sponsored expedition is set to sail to the North Atlantic's saltiest spot to get a detailed, 3-D picture of how salt content fluctuates in the ocean's upper layers and how these variations are related to shifts in rainfall patterns around the planet.

The research voyage is part of a multi-year mission, dubbed the Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS), which will deploy multiple instruments in different regions of the ocean.
The new data also will help calibrate the salinity measurements NASA's Aquarius instrument has been collecting from space since August 2011.

 How it will work: Nasa plans to employ a variety of sensors and underwater floats to collect data for the project

SPURS scientists aboard the research vessel Knorr leave Sept. 6 from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., and head toward a spot known as the Atlantic surface salinity maximum, located halfway between the Bahamas and the western coast of North Africa.
The expedition also is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.

The researchers will spend about three weeks on site deploying instruments and taking salinity, temperature and other measurements, before sailing to the Azores to complete the voyage on Oct. 9.
They will return with new data to aid in understanding one of the most worrisome effects of climate change -- the acceleration of Earth's water cycle.

 As global temperatures go up, evaporation increases, altering the frequency, strength, and distribution of rainfall around the planet, with far-reaching implications for life on Earth.
"What if the drought in the U.S. Midwest became permanent? To understand whether that could happen we must understand the water cycle and how it will change as the climate continues to warm," said Raymond Schmitt, a physical oceanographer at Woods Hole and principal investigator for SPURS.
"Getting that right is going to involve understanding the ocean, because the ocean is the source of most of the water."

Oceanographers believe the ocean retains a better record of changes in precipitation than land, and translates these changes into variations in the salt concentration of its surface waters.
Scientists studying the salinity records of the past 50 years say they already see the footprint of an increase in the speed of the water cycle.
The places in the ocean where evaporation has increased and rain has become scarcer have turned saltier over time, while the spots that now receive more rain have become fresher.
This acceleration ultimately may exacerbate droughts and floods around the planet.
Some climate models, however, predict less dramatic changes in the global water cycle.

"With SPURS we hope to find out why these climate models do not track our observations of changing salinities," said Eric Lindstrom, physical oceanography program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"We will investigate to what extent the observed salinity trends are a signature of a change in evaporation and precipitation over the ocean versus the ocean's own processes, such as the mixing of salty surface waters with deeper and fresher waters or the sideways transport of salt."

To learn more about what drives salinity, the SPURS researchers will deploy an array of instruments and platforms, including autonomous gliders, sensor-laden buoys and unmanned underwater vehicles.
Some will be collected before the research vessel heads to the Azores, but others will remain in place for a year or more, providing scientists with data on seasonal variations of salinity.

NASA's new Aquarius instrument has produced its first global map of the salinity of the ocean surface, providing an early glimpse of the mission's anticipated discoveries.

Some of the devices used during SPURS to explore the Atlantic's saltiest spot will focus on the outer edges of the study area, traveling for hundreds of miles and studying the broadest salinity features.
Other instruments will explore smaller areas nested inside the research site, focusing on smaller fluxes of salt in the waters.
The suite of ocean instruments will complement data from NASA's salinity-sensing instrument aboard the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas-D) observatory, and be integrated into real-time computer models that will help guide researchers to the most interesting phenomena in the cruise area.

"We'll be able to look at lots of different scales of salinity variability in the ocean, some of which can be seen from space, from a sensor like Aquarius," said David Fratantoni, a physical oceanographer with Woods Hole and a member of the SPURS expedition.
"But we're also trying to see variations in the ocean that can't be resolved by current satellite technology."

The 2012 SPURS measurements in the North Atlantic will help scientists understand the behavior of other high-salinity regions around the world.
A second SPURS expedition in 2015 will investigate low-salinity regions where there is a high input of fresh water, such as the mouth of a large river or the rainy belts near the equator.

Links :

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Liquid Robotics to usher era of smart oceans with autonomous robots

What if self powering robots could gather sophisticated data on everything from salinity and currents, to sniffing for oil leaks and monitoring marine protected areas?
That’s what Lu, chief of innovative applications at Liquid Robotics, is trying to figure out.
See him pitch the Wave Glider at this recent TEDx talk

From Forbes

When Liquid RoboticsEd Lu dreams, he sees thousands of his firm’s Wave Gliders blanketing the sea—a smart grid for the ocean. It may yet be a dream, but Lu’s vision isn’t terribly far fetched.
The firm’s Wave Glider robots have logged 100,000 miles, braved 20 foot seas, and faced gale force winds.
One of its gliders, G2, survived and transmitted data 60 miles from the eye of Hurricane Isaac.
Proof of concept? Check. 
The next challenge for Liquid Robotics is convincing their target market to give the tech a try.
But beyond scientists, just who exactly is their market?
You may remember how the Wave Glider works from our first Liquid Robotics article, but here’s a refresher.
On the surface, it’s a surfboard (the float) about seven feet long and loaded with solar panels and a customizable sensor array.
Below the surface, the glider converts wave motion into forward thrust to tow the float—no fuel, no fuss.

Lu is no stranger to tough problems and innovative solutions.
He’s an electrical engineer, astrophysicist, and ex-astronaut.
Now at Liquid Robotics, he sees a wide assortment of applications—commercial, government, and research.

A brief description of how Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider works

Continuous, real-time ocean data would make ocean commerce safer.
Nations could better guard exclusive economic zones.
The craft could gather intelligence data for defense purposes—it has no radar cross-section and makes no noise.

The best argument in favor of the tech is its combination of mobility and low cost.
We already have ocean sensors, but they’re expensive.
Ships cost $10,000 to $100,000 a day to operate.
Moored deep water buoys are cheaper but still run $200,000 to $1 million a year.
Clients can buy a Wave Glider outright for $200,000 or lease glider time at $1,000 to $3,000 a day.

The glider is more mobile than a buoy and can stay out longer than a ship (in any weather) for a fraction of the cost.

At the moment, 50% of Liquid Robotics clients lease data, so many of the gliders are piloted from the firm’s headquarters in Sunnyvale.
“All [clients] have to do is define their business problem, and we provide them with the data they need.”
The last few years have been a flurry of financing, engineering, testing, and publicity—including recent articles in the New York Times, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.

In 2011, the firm received $22 million in venture financing from VantagePoint Capital partners.
Later in the year, they embarked on a 300 day, 2.25 million data point, cross Pacific journey.
The gliders made it from California to Hawaii intact and have since embarked on the second leg of their trip, two to Japan and two to Australia.

In all, Liquid Robotics “has deployed more than 100 of the robots around the world on missions for climate scientists, the oil industry, and the US military.”
But now their tech is proven, they are looking to expand that number dramatically.

In June, the firm signed onto a joint venture, Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas, with energy giant Schlumberger.
The gliders will be used for seismic monitoring, measuring currents for rig building, and detecting oil seepage from drilling. The new venture should significantly raise the number of operational units in the field.

In August, the firm started Liquid Robotics Federal—a wholly owned subsidiary led by Beltway veteran Grant Palmer—to pursue federal defense contracts in need of “cost-effective solutions to persistent surveillance, monitoring, and communications on the seas and coastlines.”

Researchers are warming up to the technology too. NOAA is testing a Wave Glider named Alex in the ocean north of Puerto Rico this fall, hoping to gather crucial hurricane data to improve forecasting.
Meanwhile, the Ocean Tracking Network is using gliders to track fish—a difficult task.
Unlike aquatic animals that breathe, fish don’t surface often (maybe never) to ping tracking satellites.

All told, prospects look good for these autonomous ocean going robots.
But how Alex does in hurricane season will be a key test in the harshest conditions.
Glider G2 performed well in a Category 1 hurricane.
What about in rougher weather?
Will the tether hold?
Might the system get flipped and tangled in the milieu?

Also, they’re not deal breakers, but the gliders do have some weaknesses.

Wildlife encounters are likely to increase as they get more machines in the water—a shark already damaged one glider.
Further, they aren’t the most powerful vehicles.
The top speed is just two knots.
“If there’s a hellish current coming, we could be cutting through the water rapidly, but going backwards.”

There may also be a latitudinal limit to the technology.
Operating in the Arctic Circle could sap the batteries during long cloudy stretches—without power, there’s no way to steer.
And being constrained to forward motion could prove troublesome in icy seas.

That said, Liquid Robotics isn’t standing still.
The next generation of gliders are already under development at the firm’s Kona laboratories.

Liquid Robotics Co-Founder and CTO, Roger Hine, was named one of the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers for 2013.
In this brief video he talks about the Wave Glider's disruptive technology and the implications it has for the future of ocean research.

Roger Hine notes they are focusing on “knots, watts, and carrying capacity.”
Clients may currently choose from 65 sensors, but the lab is testing 152 more.
CEO Bill Vass says, “We’re working on putting a mass spectrometer on it” and “a full genetics lab that will suck in salt water and count the microbes and break d0wn their DNA in real time.” Ambitious!
Whatever the ultimate configuration, the technology is proving viable and useful.

Maybe one day in the not-too-distant future Ed Lu’s dream will come true.
He says, “You manage what you measure. Well, if you don’t know what’s going on out in the oceans, how can you manage it?”

A smart grid is great, but we might soon have a smart ocean.

Links :

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Circumnavigate the globe without instruments?

In that context, the accomplishment of Dr. Marvin Creamer is infinitely more admirable.
Creamer and the crew of his 36' boat Globe Star circumnavigated the globe without navigational instruments, not even a compass or watch (Wikipedia).

The amazing aspect of Creamer's circumnavigation voyage was he used traditional methods of navigation, similar to the method employed by Polynesian navigators in the Pacific.

A house fly brought the news: land was near!
On May 13, 1984, after 510 days at sea, Marvin Creamer ’43 neared the end of a voyage which had begun as a fantasy in his teenage mind while reading avidly about oceangoing sailboats.
For half a century, Creamer dreamed of sailing ’round the world in a small boat.
On the second of his eight Atlantic crossings, he began to consider the possibility of a voyage around the globe without the use of navigational instruments.
Now, the appearance of the house fly was a good indication that he was about to become the first person in recorded history to complete such a feat.

 The Globe Star sailed down the Delaware to the Atlantic Ocean : 
this would be the 67-year-old Creamer's home for the next 18 months

His 36-foot vessel, The Globe Star, was almost home.
Four days after the fly’s visit, following a night of “wrestling with heavy sails,” the exhausted skipper had just crawled into his bunk when he was awakened by repeated shouts.
Overhead, a U.S. Coast Guard chopper circled the Globe Star. Off the starboard bow, Creamer spotted a red marker, the “F” marker just 15 miles south of Cape May. At 1 p.m. on May 17, the Globe Star entered Cape May harbor having logged 30,000 miles and 17 months at sea
It had been a “jolly romp” on the ocean, Creamer writes in his record of the journey.
Using only environmental clues, Creamer and his crew sailed around the globe in a record-breaking feat of grand proportions.
They relied on stars, waves and water color, bird life, cloud formations, the sun and planets, the horizon and identifiable landmarks.
With their sextant, clock, compass and radio sealed in a locker below deck, the crew of the Globe Star proved what Creamer had always believed—that it is possible to navigate the globe in a small boat without instruments.

 No navigation instruments allowed, not even a clock!
A specially made hour glass measured the watches for crew members

The soft-spoken 68-year-old retired geography professor became an American hero much admired by those he met during his adventure.
Creamer and his crew docked at Capetown, South Africa; Hobart and Sydney, Australia; Whangora, New Zealand; and Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Christmas 1983 was spent in the Falklands where they had unknowingly made port at a top secret British military installation.
“We were the talk of the Royal Air Force,” Creamer writes.
“They treated us like kings, but they thought we were crazy.”
“What we demonstrated,” he concludes, “is that information taken from the sea and sky can be used for fairly safe navigation.

How far pre-Columbians sailed on the world’s ocean we do not know; however, it is my hope that the Globe Star voyage will provide researchers with a basis for assuming that long-distance navigation without instruments is not only possible, but could have been done with a fair degree of confidence and accuracy.”

Creamer has always been a doer as well as a dreamer.
As a Glassboro State undergraduate, he founded and published The Half-Whit, parody and competition for the official student paper, The Whit.
From 1948 to 1977 he served his alma mater as a professor, and also held posts as director of public relations, president of the Faculty Association and chair of the Social Studies Department.
Named Outstanding Professor by The Whit in 1964 and Distinguished Alumnus by fellow alums in 1980, Creamer won additional awards after the voyage: Cruising World appointed him to the Sailing Hall of Fame, and in 1986 the Cruising Club of America awarded him sailing’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal.

Today, Creamer and his wife, Blanche Layton Creamer ’42, reside in Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.,
where they plan to stay on dry land. 

Links :
  • FurledSails podcast : part I / part II

Monday, September 10, 2012

Exhibition : Charting the Land on the Ocean : Pacific Exploration, 1520-1876

Telluris Theoria Sacra or The Theory of the Earth
First published in Latin in 1681, Burnet’s Telluris Theoria Sacra or The Theory of the Earth recounts the theoretical formation of the Earth from prior to the Great Deluge to its supposed ending in conflagration.
This map, printed some 150 years after the Ribeiro map on display, clearly shows America almost in its entirety, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the land to the very south still Incognita.
Burnet says in the volume ‘here [is] added a Map or Draught of the Earth, according to the Natural face of it, as it would appear from the Moon...’.

From University of Otago Library

When: 22 June to 14 September 2012.
Where: de Beer Gallery, Special Collections, University of Otago Library

On 28 November 1520, Magellan weaved through the straits that would bear his name into the great expansive waters he dubbed 'Mar Pacifico'.
His venture, representing the first of many Spanish-Portuguese rivalries over the control of the Spice Route, opened up the exploration of the southern seas, a vast tract of water with an endless horizon and numerous islands dotted about, most uncharted.

  Terra Australis Cognita contains a significant portion of the journal of Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) who, on entering the strait on ‘All Saints’ Day’, 1 November 1520, named it Estrecho de Todos los Santos (Strait of All Saints).
After days of weaving in and out of the 570 kilometre straits, he entered a great ocean which he called ‘Mar Pacifico’.
This event signalled the beginnings of South Seas exploration.
From the map on display, it is not hard to imagine the hazards involved in sailing through the straits which now bear his name.

Politically and commercially-driven expeditions began which slowly put shape to continents and the (re-) discovery of these islands.
Notable among the first explorers were Mendaña de Neira, Sir Francis Drake, Willem Schouten, Abel Tasman, William Dampier, Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret; the latter two discovering Tahiti and Pitcairn respectively.

  Drawn in 1788 by Giovanni Maria Cassini (ca. 1745-1824), an Italian engraver, cartographer and globe-maker, this Western Hemisphere map shows all Captain Cook’s voyages.
It also marks Cook’s death in the Sandwich Islands on his third voyage.
Cassini produced a three-volume world atlas and some of the South Pacific maps included were based on those originally drawn by Cook himself.
The cartouche drawing is meant to represent America as a young woman surrounded by native animals.

Scientific expeditions began with Bougainville and Cook, each aided by the improvements in navigational equipment, and institutional backing (French institutes; the Royal Society) that funded a full contingent of artists, draughtsmen and botanists to help record and collect.

A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas
 Even without the ability to determine longitude on his first voyage (Cook had no chronometer), this map of New Zealand is extraordinarily precise.
Cook managed to capture the outline of New Zealand very well but there are some anomalies.
The middle of the South Island appears a little ‘pinched’ as Cook had no idea how far the Canterbury Plains extended; Banks Peninsula appears as an island; and Stewart Island seems to be connected to the mainland. Note the Southern Alps and Cape Saunders on the Otago Peninsula. 

Cook travelled hundreds of miles throughout the Pacific, visiting New Zealand, parts of Australia, Tahiti, towards Southern reaches (thereby disposing of the notion of an imagined southern continent), Easter Island, the Marquesas, Tonga, New Caledonia, and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, and the North Pacific, vainly searching for a northwest passage.
By the time of his death in 1779, the map of the Pacific was practically as it is now.
It is no wonder that La Pérouse (1785) once said: 'Cook had left me nothing but to admire'

Other voyages of exploration followed.
They included Malaspina (1789), d’Entrecasteaux (1791), von Krusenstern (1803-06), Kotzebue (1815-18; 1825-26), Freycinet (1817-20), Duperrey and Dumont d'Urville, and later The United States Exploring Expedition (under Charles Wilkes), and the Challenger (1872-76).

The exhibition 'Charting the Land on the Ocean: Pacific Exploration, 1520-1876' features rare books and maps from the Hocken Collections, the Science Library, Special Collections, University of Otago, and the Heritage Collection, Dunedin Public Library.
Riches do abound in this field, and realistically, not all the material available can be displayed.

Although the exhibition is by necessity selective, three goals are paramount:
  • to highlight through their publications the brave endeavours of these explorers (with all their concomitant pleasures and vicissitudes);
  • to reveal the slow and steady charting of the Pacific;
  • and to remind students, scholars, and the wider community that these resources do exist, and can viewed, touched, read, and enjoyed.
Sketch of Dusky Bay in New Zealand, 1773 (Resolution Island)
 Sketch No. XIII in James Cook's A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World…in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775. Vol. 1, facing p. 92.
>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage and modern Linz map <<<

Particular highlights include first editions of Cook's voyages, tapa cloth specimens collected by Cook, a wonderful Duperrey Atlas, and an original Rose Freycinet letter, courtesy of the Heritage Collection, Dunedin Public Library.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Night run on the Houston Ship Channel

A time lapse video assembled in Quicktime from 2000 still images in the "interval timer" mode taken by Louis Vest, ship pilot in Houston, Texas.
The camera was fastened to an outside rail and set to take a photo every six seconds.
Quicktime then assembled the photos into a .mov file that plays back at 12 frames per second.
So, one minute of movie time represents 72 minutes of trip time on the channel.

The video begins just below the Port of Houston Authority Turning Basin (the very end of the channel) and continues down to the head of Galveston Bay.
From there we still have 31.5 miles of channel across the bay to the pilot station outside the Galveston jetties.
Houston is the busiest port in the US for ship traffic.

>>> geolocalization with the Marine GeoGarage <<<

It looks incredibly fast, but we were actually only making 5-6 knots in the first half and no more than 10 knots in the open areas of the second half.
This was a Panamax ship, 106 feet wide, and about 600 feet long with 32 feet of draft.

Night Run III

This other sequence begins at Morgan's Point at the head of Galveston Bay, about 30 miles from the sea.
The trip continues for another 22 miles to the Port of Houston Turning Basin about three hours later - three minutes in this video.