Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year of the drone: new underwater drone developed by U.S. military will be in service by 2014

From IBTimes

It’s likely that you have heard about the drones patrolling the war-torn skies of Afghanistan, and maybe you’ve read about the drones that Amazon and Domino’s plan to use by 2015 for delivering products directly to your door, but have you heard about the Navy’s new underwater drone?

In 2014, a year before the Federal Aviation Authority allows drone use in American skies, the Navy plans to launch the fruits of its five year, $56 million underwater drone project: the “Slocum Glider."

These incredible machines will not require fuel but will instead use a process called “hydraulic buoyancy,” which allows the drone to move up and down and in and out of underwater currents that will help it move at a speed of about one mile per hour.

Its slowness is not a problem, since the drone’s primary use won’t be for attacking enemy submarines or ships, but instead to stealthily move around under water, sending information to other military vessels.

Currently the drones are being used to supplement sonar in collecting data, but it is hoped that they will eventually be able to assist in the detection and disarming of underwater mines and enemy submarines.
“For mine countermeasures and other tasks important to expeditionary warfare ... ultimately reducing or eliminating the need for sailors and Marines to enter the dangerous shallow waters just off shore in order to clear mines in preparation for expeditionary operations.”

This underwater drone is expected to be in service by 2014
Ben Allsup, Teledyne Webb Research

The Navy has recently enlisted the help of Teledyne Webb Research to help maximize the potential of the drones in carrying weaponry and more advanced sonars.

“Carrying a wide variety of sensors, they can be programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, surfacing to transmit their data to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals, realizing a substantial cost savings compared to traditional surface ships,” reads the Slocum Glider page on Teledyne’s website.

Deployed from the submerged submarine USS Providence, the NRL developed XFC unmanned aircraft is vertically launched from a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle (bottom right).
The folding wing UAS autonomously deploys its X-wing airfoil and after achieving a marginal altitude, assumes horizontal flight configuration.

Earlier this month, the Navy successfully launched a drone from a submerged submarine.
Using the torpedo tubes to launch a buoy to the service, the drone then launches from a floating position within a canister.

Links :

Monday, December 30, 2013

Endangered Species Act turns 40


This year we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
President Nixon signed the ESA into law on December 28, 1973.
Congress understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct.

There are approximately 2,100 total species listed under the ESA.
Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.
Species diversity and environment health are part of the natural legacy we leave for future generations.
Each plant, animal, and their physical environment are part of a much more complex web of life, where the removal of a single species could cause a series of negative events affecting many others. Endangered species serve as a sentinel, indicating larger ecological problems that could alter ecosystem functions.
The ESA is both a mechanism to help guide our conservation efforts and a reminder that future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy the same great benefits from the natural world.

We Will Continue the Work We Started

Today the ocean is a very different place than it was 40 years ago.
Thanks to the ESA, we now understand many of the threats faced by marine and anadromous species and are bringing them under control.
The populations of many listed species are increasing, aided by our recovery efforts and time.
Still, the populations of many species continue to decline and many more species are being listed. NOAA Fisheries scientists are developing the next generation of ocean observing systems, which will give us Increased awareness of what's going on in the ocean, adapt our management, and respond to challenges of a changing climate.
We will continue developing new technologies and management approaches, and our work with national and international partners, to ensure the ESA remains effective in an interdependent, rapidly-changing world.

ESA Turns 40: What’s Your Legacy?

In its 40 year existence, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has helped recover over 30 species, including the Eastern Steller sea lion, and saved numerous other species from extinction.
Today, the Act protects over 2,140 listed species.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Shore Up

Here's the trailer for Shored Up, our new documentary about the barrier islands of the U.S., featuring Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
Surfers, scientists, politicians and residents help bring us a birds' eye view of the beauty and danger of the living in these low-lying communities on our ocean's edge.
Look for our Kickstarter campaign in October, or visit our website at www.shoredupmovie.com.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Keepong Polynesian voyaging culture alive

The Vaka Taumako Project is trying to perserve a way of life.
Located in Taumako, a village in the eastern Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, this community is arguably the last in the world to keep the traditional wayfinding and open ocean voyaging canoe tradition alive.
They have launched an Indigogo with the help of an anthropologist to build another canoe and keep their knowledge alive.

The vessel in the video is a traditional vaka, a voyaging canoe built by hand using only sustainable local natural materials.
Using precise navigational skills based on a comprehensive system of wind, waves and stars, these vaka are sailed for great distances without the use of any modern technology.
The maritime knowledge of Taumako Polynesians is quite possibly the only fully authentic Polynesian voyaging tradition still alive in the entire Pacific Island community, according to their Indigogo web page.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The first color image of the Earth

How Astronauts Nearly Missed Taking the Iconic Earthrise Photo on Christmas Eve, 1968


On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were coming around from the far side of the Moon on their fourth orbit.
Borman began to roll the spacecraft, and as he did, the Earth rose into view over the Moon’s limb. Anders, photographing the Moon from the right side window, caught sight of the view, and exclaimed: “Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!”

 Apollo 8 photo acquired December 24, 1968

He snapped a black and white photo (top), capturing humanity’s first view of Earth from another planetary body.
A few minutes later, Anders put color film in the camera and took the iconic color photographs of a half Earth hanging over the lunar horizon.

While the astronauts were absorbed in this view of home, a second camera mounted to the front-facing window continued to photograph the Moon every 20 seconds on an automatic timer.
By matching that series of photographs to a high resolution model of the lunar terrain as observed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA scientists and visualizers have now identified exactly when the Apollo spacecraft turned and where and when each Earthrise photograph was taken. This allowed them to re-create the Earthrise experience in a new video (above).

 LRO Re-creation acquired December 20, 2013

The second image above is a still from that re-created Earthrise.
The surface of the Moon is based on LRO data.
Earth’s cloud patterns are based on the Environmental Science Services Administration 7 satellite as it observed our planet on December 24, 1968
The land surface is based on the Earth Observatory’s Terra MODIS Blue Marble.
This high-fidelity re-creation shows the rising Earth as it must have looked to Anders, Borman, and Lovell 45 years ago.
The western coast of Africa is visible along the lower part of the globe, with Antarctica in the upper left and South America along the top.
The new analysis revealed a few little-known details about the circumstances in which the photos were taken.
Earthrise had occurred on each of the previous three orbits, but none of Apollo’s windows were looking that way.
It was only during and after the roll that the event was visible to the astronauts on their fourth orbit.
Experience Earthrise by watching the new video below, with views matched to the onboard flight recording of the astronauts and additional narration by Andrew Chaikin.

45 years ago on this day Nasa astronauts took the "Earthrise" iconic photo

Then watch the Google Hangout with Chaikin, LRO project scientist John Keller, and producer/visualizer Ernie Wright, in which they discuss how the video was made and what new insights it provides.
  1. References

  2. NASA (2004) Apollo flight journal. Accessed December 20, 2013.
  3. NASA (2013, December 20) NASA releases new Earthrise simulation video. Accessed December 20, 2013.
  4. NASA Goddard (2013, December 20) NASA’s LRO Earthrise 45th anniversary hangout. Accessed December 20, 2013.
  5. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (2013, December 20) Earthrise: The 45th anniversary. Accessed December 20, 2013.
NASA Apollo 8 photo by Bill Anders, data visualization courtesy Ernie Wright, NASA Scientific Visualization Studio. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Links :

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: Against all elements

From The age

Mark Richards says he has never felt afraid in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in which he has won line honours on Wild Oats XI as her skipper six times, but does he get nervous?
''Of course I do … very. It's half the fun.''

Such is the fine line between embracing the dangers of the 628-nautical-mile Bluewater Classic, or letting them get the better of you.
However, for Richards and most skippers, if not all their crews in the 94-strong fleet in this year's 69th edition, the nerves are not just triggered by rough and tumble conditions at sea.
The nerves will be rattling in the pits of their stomachs well before they sail out of Sydney Harbour and head south.
For many, the anxiety will have kicked in the night before; but if not, it will on Boxing Day morning when they realise the comfort they felt in their bed was the last they will enjoy for two to six days, depending on the type and size of their boat.

Wild Oats
photo : Daniel Forster

And there is no shortage of variety this year in the fleet that will be vying for the Tattersall's Cup for first on corrected time - or on handicap - and the J.H. Illingworth Trophy for line honours.
Included are four racing maxis - Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal, Wild Thing and Ragamuffin, the fancied Botin 80 Beau Geste, two Volvo 70s in Black Jack and Giacomo, 12 Clipper Round the World Race 70 footers , a bevy of middle-range boats such as the new 60-foot Ichi Ban and performing 55-footer Wedgetail, a host of 40 and 38-footers and the two smallest yachts at 34 feet, Wilparina and Illusion.
Add to that the pressure brought on from the uncertainty of speculative forecasts that Richards and line honours rival, Perpetual Loyal owner and skipper Anthony Bell, have downplayed believing that what really matters are the conditions on the day.

 Perpetual Loyal

''The weather is the weather,'' says Richards, 45, and an 11 times veteran of the Sydney to Hobart. ''You can predict it as much as you like, but when it comes to race time and the five-minute gun, you have to make sure you have the right sails up and are prepared for whatever you've got.''
Bell, 38, who has raced three Hobarts and beat Wild Oats XI for line honours in 2011 on his old boat Investec Loyal, says even the latest forecast on race day can be wrong.

Analysis 26th December 6:00 UTC (BOM)

''Go back to Big Boat Race day and we only left the dock an hour before the gun and we were told it is going to be six to eight knots and it was 26 - and that's in Sydney Harbour,'' he said.
''There is a lot of talk about the forecast and you can get weighed down in that.
''We have done a couple of studies on exactly what sails we will be carrying in the first part of the race, but that keeps changing - just so the guys can start their planning and get our playbook ready at least for the start.''
For Adrienne Cahalan, who was Wild Oats XI's long-time navigator but has not been selected this year, her 22nd Hobart race on Bill Wild's handicap honours contender Wedgetail, offers a new challenge.

''The forecast which is so uncertain is really going to put a lot of pressure on a lot of teams … how people handle that pressure and how they work out the strategy and keep calm,'' she said.
Cahalan predicts a close fight between Wild Oats XI and Perpetual Loyal for line honours, but won't rule out Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin, nor the Volvo 70s of which her reference reminds her of 2001 when a line honours victory slipped by. Cahalan crewed on the 80-foot Nicorette that took back the lead on her last day after being hit by a water spout on the first night.
But when winds abated, Nicorette became parked in Storm Bay where the Volvo 60 Assa Abloy steered out to sea after seeing Nicorette to take line honours by minutes.
''There are just enough pot-holes in this race that that could happen again,'' she said.
''That's the great thing about this race, you never know.''


Major Sydney-Hobart players and their weapons for trek south 



Wild Oats: Built in 2005 for immediate success and now owner of six line honours wins in this race along with two overall victories. Race record holder. History says she is the one to beat. Her crew includes the likes of skipper Mark Richards and America's Cup skipper Iain Murray.

Perpetual Loyal: The rebuilt speed boat when named Rambler lost her keel and capsized in the 2011 Fastnet race in UK. Unproven here except in a short harbour race where she was actually ahead of Wild Oats when a sail exploded. Big and powerful and looks the boat to beat in reaching condition. Crew includes round the world sailor Jessica Watson with her skipper Anthony Bell.

Ragamuffin: Won two years ago as Investec Loyal and under the guidance of veteran Syd Fischer. Done more racing than her rivals this year and has had water ballast installed to increase her downwind speed. A danger boat more than capable of bumping her rivals from the spotlight. Her crew includes round the world racers and well-known Sydney helmsman and 18-foot skiff skipper David Witt.

Wild Thing: The lightest of the supermaxis and fast in running conditions. More than capable of an upset if her conditions prevail. Skipper Grant Wharington has won with her before. But the boat has a chequered past. As Skandia Wild Thing, lost her keel in the 2007 race. Last year an issue with paperwork left her high and dry just hours before the race south.

Beau Geste

Dark horse

Beau Geste: This 80-footer is brand new and in her maiden Hobart. An almighty 20-foot shorter than her rivals in a race where waterline matters. But it is rumoured this boat, if delivered her conditions, could produce something very special. Owned by Hong Kong businessman Karl Kwok who has previously won the Sydney to Hobart overall with a smaller yacht of the same name and skippered by top New Zealander Gavin Brady


Midnight Rambler
: A Sydney yacht which has been making a big impression in the lead up to the Sydney to Hobart. Sailed by a proven team headed by Ed Psaltis. Traditionally good in the wind, a new set of sails has also made her formidable in the light.

Patrice: The new 46-footer from experienced skipper Tony Kirby, but untested in the Sydney to Hobart. Has tasted success in numerous lead-up races to the race south this year. Has an excellent crew on-board which also includes Gail Harland, one of the most experienced female sailors in the Sydney to Hobart with 18 races under her belt.

Wild Thing: If it's a big-boat race, this is likely to be the 100-footer to beat. Recently claimed the overall honours in a lead-up race and rates better than her fellow supermaxis. Wild Oats has twice won the race overall and Wild Thing could be the next big boat to claim the coveted overall honours.

Wild Rose: Skipper Rogers Hickman has done more than 35 Sydney to Hobart races and is a former overall winner. This 43-footer is a former member of Bob Oatley's (owner of Wild Oats) stable and will be very well campaigned to Hobart. Regularly features on the podium in offshore racing.

Dark horse

Beau Geste: The foreign raider. Sight unseen in Australian waters but still boasting a fearsome reputation. She will be campaigned by an excellent crew, including several America's Cup sailors from New Zealand. Brand new and boasting all the new gadgets and technology.

Links :

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mad men? The perils of sailing solo around the world

Vendee Globe 2012 Promo

From CNN

It was on a platform of the Paris Metro that Michel Desjoyeaux realized he finally had to snap out of it.
He was just back from nearly 100 days sailing around the globe with no sighting of another human being, his only contact to the outside world a satellite phone.
His body was, in essence, still on red alert for any obstacle in his midst.
"Waiting for the train, a guy was in the way of the doors and I just yanked him out of the way," recalls the 48-year-old, who just days earlier had returned to France victorious from the grueling Vendee Globe race.
"I was still in that mindset of not letting anything get in my way. It was unhealthy. It was then I said to myself, 'Michel, the race is over now.' But it's hard as solo racing just takes over your body and mind."
It is 45 years since British yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston became the first man to perform a singlehanded, nonstop circumnavigation of the globe, achieving the feat in 312 days.
He was the only person to finish of the eight-man field in the Golden Globe Race, during which one competitor Donald Crowhurst died -- having committed suicide after attempting to fake the details of his own round-the-world attempt.
So what makes someone decide to take on such a daunting challenge?
To spend months away from family and friends, coping on a mere four hours of sleep a night -- most of that broken -- while tackling monster waves on the world's most challenging waters?
For Knox-Johnston, also the oldest person to sail around the planet solo, aged 68 back in 2007, the lure of such a perilous challenge is obvious.
"It's what I do -- I do the sea," he says unapologetically.
"To people it may seem dangerous, foolish even but, for me, it's not a strange environment. It's not alien to me, it's where I'm happiest.
"As for circumnavigating the globe that first time, I didn't want to get to 90 years old and think what I could have done. It was dangerous, particularly as no-one had done it before, so you couldn't read up on it, and frequently you feel in danger. Having 27 meters crashing down on your boat will make you feel that way."
Back in 1968, there was none of the communications enjoyed by today's sailors, requiring instinct more than anything else.
So how did Knox-Johnston's voyage compare nearly four decades on?

Sir William Robert Patrick "Robin" Knox-Johnston, CBE, RD and bar (born 17 March 1939) is an English sailor.
He was the first man to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe and was the second winner of the Jules Verne Trophy (together with Sir Peter Blake).
For this he was awarded with Blake the ISAF Yachtsman of the Year award
 In 2006 he became at 67 the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race.

"You realize that round-the-world sailing is a young man's game," he says.
Desjoyeaux is one of the best modern-day exponents of solo sailing -- the only two-time winner of the prestigious Vendee Globe, in 2001 and 2009 -- and he was born into the sailing fraternity.
His father, who served in the Resistance during World War Two, founded Glenans Sailing School -- which teaches 15,000 trainees each year.
Nicknamed "The Professor," Desjoyeaux is more than just a sailor, he is also an innovator.
He writes software for the auto-pilot systems used by many sailors, and has also been integral in developing boating equipment, including the introduction of a sideways-swinging keel 11 years ago.
Despite his wide-ranging proficiency, he is no stranger to adversity on the open seas.
Just last month, his yacht dismasted while leading the two-handed Trans-Atlantic race from Le Havre in France to Itajai in Brazil, just 140 miles (260 kilometers) from the finishing line.

 Michel Desjoyeaux / photo Gilles Martin-Raget

Speaking by satellite phone to CNN just hours before that moment on board his vessel MACIF, he explained why he first set out on the solo voyages.
"First, your life is too short to do something you don't want to do," he says.
"Second, you will not be efficient because you don't want to do it, and third the most important one is if you don't want to do it then you will make mistakes and then not be efficient.
"In safety terms, that's when things go wrong. Before anything else, you have to want to do it, otherwise that's it, no point."
Desjoyeaux says the all-consuming nature of the racing ("24 hours of the day, you're just trying to optimize everything") means it is a completely different way of life, hence his personal struggles to get back into everyday norms on land.
He says the Vendee Globe, a three-month ordeal held every four years, is "the most complete and perfect race you can imagine.
"So when I finished the first time, I was sure I'd come back - it was still something I wanted to do."
It is common to see sharks and dolphins in the water, as well as whales -- although the large mammals are to be avoided at all costs because of the damage they can do to a vessel, which is often battling treacherous seas.
"I don't think there is too much danger as safety on the boat is always No. 1," says Desjoyeaux.
"I don't take too many risks. If it's dangerous, I slow down and do it properly. I want to keep my life."
Traveling around the world in a vessel is not just about being a master sailor, a tactician or mentally strong.
It is also about being a businessman and raising the funds required to get such an expedition off the ground.
Budgets for the 2008-9 Vendee Globe were around €10 million ($13.8 million) for the very top boats, each of the leading boats costing about €3.5 million ($4.8 million).
Such numbers makes British racer Steve White's achievement at that race all the more impressive.
He arrived on the start line not knowing if he even had enough funds to compete.
Under competition rules, all boats taking part having to be in the harbor at Les Sables-d'Olonne three weeks before the start date.
Just to get to that point, he had remortgaged his and his wife's house four times in order to buy the boat on which he aimed to compete.
He had two weeks in which to raise £200,000 ($328,000) to fund the trip, a big sum but small fry in global sailing terms.
"I had this green energy company all set to sponsor me to the tune of £100,000, as well as another businessman to another £100,000," he recalls.
"The green energy company were on board, they just needed things to be signed off in one final meeting. But then they went quiet and finally I got word that they weren't going ahead.
"So I went back to the guy (the businessman, who to this day has asked to remain nameless) and said I couldn't match his £100,000 so I didn't expect him to fulfill his side of the bargain. So I thought I'd have to face the embarrassment of sailing away before the start in front of everyone.
"He just said, 'I'll get back to you.' I carried on but felt sick and didn't hear back. I was struggling with phone reception but got a snippet about four o'clock one morning from my wife to say, 'We've got the money.'
"When I finally spoke to her, it transpired this guy had stumped up the entire money. In a flash, I'd gone from suicidal to being in tears. He'd essentially sorted me out for the rest of my life by enabling me to do this."
In the end, the trip cost £245,000, which White part-funded by being paid his €20,000 prize money for finishing eighth in advance.
But it was a race against the clock just to get ready, as he and his team worked through the night to get the boat prepared.
By the time he set off for his 109 days at sea, he was already shattered.
Almost immediately, terrible weather hit in the Bay of Biscay, breaking up the much more expensive boats of his rivals.
In all, just 11 of the 30-strong fleet finished.
"I enjoy being alone at sea, and in a weird sort of way love testing myself and seeing if I pass the test," White says.
"But it's an odd test. As something breaks, you're like 'good grief' and it feels like torture. But then a moment later the weather changes, as quickly as your mood, dolphins are jumping in front of the boat and there's the most amazing sun -- it's just a very serene, meditative experience."
White is not done with solo sailing.
His next challenge is another solo nonstop circumnavigation, but this time the wrong way -- against the prevailing winds and currents -- before returning for another shot at the Vendee Globe in 2016.
For White, the appeal of such journeys is hard to explain.
"I remember (fellow sailor) Mike Golding saying, 'You can't really understand it if you've not done it.' I didn't really get that until I did it. Unless you do, you won't either."

Heavy weather for Thomas Coville 

The record for a solo nonstop circumnavigation is a formidable 57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes set by Francis Joyon in 2008 -- the fastest Vendee Globe completion, by comparison, was at the 2012-13 staging when Francois Gabart came home in 78 days, two hours and 16 minutes.
Yet another Frenchman, Thomas Coville, is now seeking to beat Joyon's milestone -- having aborted his fourth attempt last month, he is back on the water trying again in his 31-meter maxi-trimaran.
Will he break it?
"It's a phenomenal record," says Knox-Johnston, "but Thomas is a very experienced sailor, and is certainly a guy capable of doing it. The target's tough right now but that's the joy of records -- they're there to be broken."
If he does so, what next for Coville and the rest of the world's solo sailors?
If you have to ask, it would seem, you clearly don't understand.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Shipping Forecast: From Britain's seas into its soul

From NPR (by Philip Reeves)

It is a bizarre nightly ritual that is deeply embedded in the British way of life.
You switch off the TV, lock up the house, slip into bed, turn on your radio, and begin to listen to a mantra, delivered by a soothing, soporific voice.
"Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger ...." says the voice.
You are aware — vaguely — that these delicious words are names, and that those names refer to big blocks of sea around your island nation, stretching all the way up to Iceland and down to North Africa.

The BBC's beloved Shipping Forecast bulletin covers 31 sea areas, the names of which have inspired poets, artists and singers and become embedded into the national psyche.

Your mind begins to swoop across the landscape, sleepily checking the shorelines, from the gray waters of the English Channel to the steely turbulence of the Atlantic.
Somewhere, deep in your memory, stir echoes of British history — of invasions from across the sea by Vikings, Romans and Normans; of battles with Napoleon's galleons and Hitler's U-boats.
Finally, as the BBCs Shipping Forecast bulletin draws to a close, you nod off, complacent in the knowledge that whatever storms are blasting away on the oceans out there, you're in your pajamas, sensibly tucked up at home.
The fact that you know nothing much about the sea, and cannot tell a freighter from a futtock (part of a wooden hull), is beside the point.
For you, listening to the BBC's Shipping Forecast every night is about something else entirely.
You're paying homage to an institution that is as much part of the jigsaw that makes up Britain's national culture as drizzle and warm beer.

Why does the Shipping Forecast mean so much to so many in the U.K.?
For one, the weather still actually matters for many coastal communities, such as the tiny island of Lundy off the Southwest of England, home to 28 people.
There's the Tyne in the Northeast — one of the 31 sea areas that feature in the forecast — once a maritime hub for Britain's mighty coal and shipbuilding industries where the "Geordies" are now striving to find a new role for their community.
And in the ancient southern seaside town of Hastings, the same families have been fishing for centuries.

More In The Series

This is "Sailing By" composed by Ronald Binge in 1963, and performed by the Alan Perry/William Gardner Orchestra, and is the version used by the BBC for its late night shipping forecast.
Sailing By is played every night on BBC Radio 4 at around 00:45hrs before the late Shipping Forecast. Its tune is repetitive, assisting in its role of serving as a signal for sailors tuning in to be able to easily identify the radio station.
It also functions as a buffer — depending on when the final programme before closedown finishes, Sailing By (or part of it) is played as a 'filler' as the shipping forecast starts at 00:48hrs precisely.
The initial reason for its introduction was because of the indeterminate finish time for the preceding Midnight News, leading to filling music being played until the Shipping Forecast was due to start. Sailing By was added to allow for a clear break between the end of the music and the start of the forecast

But for many Britons, the Shipping Forecast is much more significant than a weather bulletin for the fishermen and sailors who make their living from the oceans.
A very large number of regular listeners are landlubbers.
They are, however, fiercely loyal.
BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the Shipping Forecast four times a day, but the late-night bulletin — shortly before 1 a.m. — possesses a particular mystique.
It's not uncommon for listeners to ask for the music that introduces it — "Sailing By" — to be played at their funerals.
A few years back, when someone suggested changing the bulletin's timing by just 12 minutes, there were angry speeches in Parliament and indignant newspaper editorials.
Listeners brandishing banners demonstrated outside the BBC's London headquarters.
The idea was eventually abandoned. 

A Mysterious, And Inspiring, Appeal

Exactly why the Shipping Forecast is held in such affectionate esteem by the British public is a topic of considerable discussion in the U.K.
Many people compare the forecast with listening to poetry.
The BBC's Arlene Fleming is one of the presenters of the forecast: "It is poetry! ...
There is a natural rhythm to it," she says, "just like the sea."
This may help explain why the Shipping Forecast has enthused so many artists over the years.
It has inspired poetry by neighboring Ireland's late, great Seamus Heaney and also Britain's Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy.
It arises in art; it's referenced in TV shows, movies and songs — such as Blur's "This is a Low," and Thomas Dolby's "Windpower," which actually ends with a sample from a broadcast.
A snippet from the bulletin cropped up in Danny Boyle's widely acclaimed opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Comedians aplenty have tried their hands at parodies of the forecast.
Peter Jefferson presented the Shipping Forecast on the BBC's airwaves for 40 years.
In his book And Now The Shipping Forecast, Jefferson offers this explanation: "There is something in many of us that likes the certainties of life and is averse to change.
"The Shipping Forecast is a comfort, a given, a sign that maybe, just maybe, everything is alright with the world after all — until the next day dawns, anyway — but that's a few hours of delicious sleep away! Time for the febrile mind to repair itself, rest, chill out, relax and take gentle stock of things."

Links :
  • CNN : The voice that launched a nation's dreams: Magic of the shipping forecast

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shackleton: death or glory

Navigation with sextant
Getting to grips with old methods of navigation is proving to be really tricky.
If the team miss South Georgia then they will be blown out into 3000 miles of open ocean.

Rough seas The team have a relentless battle to try and stay on course.
Battered by the wind and rough seas can the complete their mission or just get lost at sea?

Snow built up

Snow starts to fall as the temperature drops to below zero, it could mean trouble for the crew if the sails become too bogged down with the weight.

Links :

Friday, December 20, 2013

Brazil DHN update in the Marine GeoGarage

As our public viewer is not yet available (currently under construction, upgrading to Google Maps API v3 as v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intended to our Phone/iPad universal mobile application users (Marine Brazil on the App Store)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API.

13 charts have been updated since the last update + 1 new chart (PLANO4418 Plano Rio Trombetas)

DHN update December 19, 2013


Today 434 charts (482 including sub-charts) from DHN are displayed in the Marine GeoGarage
Don't forget to visit the NtM Notices to Mariners (Avisos aos Navegantes)

Has the Great Barrier Reef just been approved for destruction by the Australian government?

From The Guardian (by Alex White)

One of the natural wonders of the world is about to have 3 million cubic metres of seabed dumped on top of it.

Who could forget, back in 2009, the launch of the "Best Job in the World"?
The campaign by Tourism Queensland generated global interest in the Sunshine State and the role of park ranger and "caretaker" of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
Ben Southall was the inaugural winner, a Brit by birth and native of Hampshire, he beat 35,000 applicants for the coveted role.
Ben spent a year promoting the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.
In the first four days, he visited the pristine Whitehaven Beach, stopped for lunch at Hayman Island, went on a tour of the Coral Sea and Daydream Island and ended up at the Seaworld adventure park and a game of Aussie Rules (Richmond vs Adelaide - Go Crows!).
Four days into his year-long stint in the Best Job in the World, Ben said: "My stay on the Gold Coast has been nothing short of spectacular; there really is something for everybody."

Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands.
The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world's largest coal ports.
The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point.
The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed.
The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

To give you an idea of the scale of this dredging, if all of the spoil was put into dump trucks, there would be 150,000 of them lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne.
This expansion is further proof that the Abbott government is hell-bent on turning Australia into a reckless charco-state that solely represents the interests of fossil fuel and coal companies.
Just around the corner from the port is a beach that is the nesting place for endangered green and flat back turtles.
Fun facts about the flat back turtle: they're officially classified as "vulnerable" by the Australian Government, and nest only in northern Australia.
They have the smallest migratory range of any marine turtle, so when their home in Queensland is destroyed, they've really got nowhere else to go.
Also in the spoil-dumping area are sea-grass beds, which are the home to dugongs.
The "sea cows" may not be the sexiest of marine animals, but they are at risk of extinction, and most of the world's remaining population lives in the Great Barrier Reef.

 Landsat picture

 Pleiades - Great Barrier Reef coverage. The Great Barrier Reef (100 km wide) ...

This is one of the reasons that the Reef has World Heritage listing.
An independent government report from August this year found that dredging sediment travelled a lot further than previously thought.
The risks include sediment being disturbed by severe weather.
Even a cursory look at Queensland's weather patterns near the Reef over the past decade would show that severe weather, including tropical cyclones and flooding, is a regular occurrence, even if you disregard massively destructive events like Cyclone Yasi.

The Great Barrier Reef generated around 69,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and boosted our economy by 5.68 billion in 2011/12, according to recent research.
Most of this is through tourism and reef-dependent industries like fishing.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has mischievously claimed that "Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have been placed on these projects".
This is mischievous because, obviously, massively increasing coal exports at this time will do irreparable damage to our climate.

Worryingly, Greg Hunt's briefing and decision, released on the 11th of December, is based on the assurance of the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, the state-owned corporation that owns the project, that "the project area (dredging area) is not a notable or significant biodiversity site in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area" and "the potential impact area in the dumping ground (which is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) is considerably small".
The brief also says that the "habitats were recorded to recover from similar events".
You are obviously free to come to your own views about Hunt's strange cognitive dissonance, where on the one hand there are the "strictest conditions" on the dredging, but on the other hand the "dredging area is not a notable... site" in the Reef.
Perhaps someone could leave a comment that explains why Hunt has required strict conditions if the area is not a significant site.
Unless of course, Hunt is simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
You be the judge.

The very real problems are not just the vast and untold damage that dredging will do to the Great Barrier Reef, or the risk of damage to the reef by the substantial increase in shipping through the World Heritage Area.
The Abbot Point development has been green-lit to funnel vast amounts of coal out of Australia.
The coal ports currently proposed, including Abbot Point and new coal terminals proposed at Wiggins Island, Raglan Creek, Balaclava Island, Dudgeon Point, and Cape York, would increase total coal tonnage by more than six-fold, from 156 Mt in 2011 to a capacity of 944 Mt by the end of the decade.
Australia's coal is one of the globe's fourteen carbon bombs.
Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
The urgent goal of Tony Abbott's government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.
Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.

Links :
  • SydneyMorningHerald : Mining dwarfs farming as threat to health of Great Barrier Reef, marine scientist warns

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NZ Linz nautical charts to be more accessible

As our public viewer is not yet available (currently under construction, upgrading to Google Maps API v3 as v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intented to our iPhone/iPad universal mobile application users (Marine NZ on the App Store)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API.

From Scoop

From 22 November 2013, Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson announced mariners can now access free online navigational charts in a new, and more widely accessible, format as the government continues to make more publicly held information available for reuse.

Land Information New Zealand today made its Raster Navigational Charts available in an unencrypted BSB (.kap) format that’s more widely supported by software manufacturers.

“This is great news for recreational boaters, who are much more likely to have on board systems that support the new format.  The change also removes the need for special licensing or permits,” Mr Williamson says.

Charts will also be available to software developers to use in creating apps and other types of value added products.
“LINZ maritime information is already being used to create apps for mariners, and this latest initiative only opens up even more possibilities for developers.
“Making Raster Navigational Charts accessible is another example of the work the government is doing to make non-personal data easier for people to discover, use and share,” Mr Williamson says.

Regarding the GeoGarage, the quality of the display for the Linz charts both on the web or on the Marine NZ iPhone/iPad universal application is right now improved as the resolution of the BSB material (254 dpi) is better than the unencrypted previous format HCRF (127 dpi) used in previous digital charts material.

181 charts (318 including sub-charts) available in the GeoGarage (catalogue).

Note : the 11 following charts are not available (Fathom charts) in the NZMariner catalogue of NZHA (New Zealand Hydrographic Authority) :
  • 82    Tonga
  • 822    Vava’u Group
  • 827    Approaches to Tongatapu including ‘Eua
  • 861    Plans in Samoa
  • 1414    Asau Harbour
  • 8235    Ofolanga Island and Anchorage
  • 8247    Ha’apai Group - northern portion
  • 8248    Ha’apai Group - southern portion
  • 8259    Nomuka Group
  • 8266    Anchorages in Tonga
  • 8685    Islands in American Samoa

The Whale: the terrifying real voyage that inspired Moby-Dick

From The Telegraph (By

Moby-Dick is the story of a captain driven mad in his pursuit of a whale.
But, as a new BBC drama reveals, the events that inspired Herman Melville were even more terrifying

Two thousand miles from the nearest land, the crew of the Essex watched in horror as the enormous bull whale headed for their mother ship.
Marooned in small, open boats the 20 men stood, powerless, as the creature struck their vessel at full speed.
Wood splintered, the whole structure of the ship shook.
Then, after swimming off to leeward, the whale gathered its strength and came thundering towards the Essex again, even faster than before.
As the crew floundered in the middle of the Pacific they knew their lives were in danger.
None, though, was prepared for the appalling choices they were going to have to make in the days and weeks that followed.

  Essex being struck by a whale on November 20, 1820 (sketched by Thomas Nickerson)
Credit: Nantucket Historical Association.

The story of the Essex and the lengths to which its crew went in order to survive is part of maritime lore and the subject of a new BBC film, dramatising the real-life voyage that inspired Herman Melville to write his novel Moby-Dick.
Starring Jonas Armstrong, best known for playing Robin Hood in the BBC series of the same name, The Whale promises to be both an action-packed drama and a disturbing portrayal of the human response to extreme hunger.
Also woven within the story will be a vivid depiction of the whaling industry.
In the early 19th century, whaling was probably the most unpleasant, dangerous and least rewarded of all occupations.
A whaler’s life was mired in blood and blubber, stalled by immense periods of boredom and often abruptly curtailed by violent death.
Signing on for a whaling voyage could mean up to five years away from home, and a journey to the other end of the Earth, in order to do battle with the great leviathan of the seas – the sperm whale.

 Illustration from an early edition (1892) of Moby-Dick (C. H. Simonds Co)
Author : A. Burnham Shute
Ever since 1712, when they had first set out from Nantucket, Yankee whalers had supplied the Western world with whale oil.
The streets of London, New York, Berlin and Paris were lit by it; the mills and machinery of the Industrial Revolution ran on the same stuff.
Whaleships were the equivalent of modern oil tankers, earning millions of dollars for the new republic and exporting its influence around the world.

It was this heroic, filthy, abusive and highly lucrative (for its shipowners) business that Melville recorded in Moby-Dick.
Published in 1851, his book was wildly digressive; 135 chapters filled with everything he knew about whales and whaling – a result of his own whaling voyages in the 1840s.
But much more than that, Moby-Dick became a kind of modern American myth, woven around the legendary battle between man and whale, incarnate in the figure of Captain Ahab.
The monomaniacal commander of the Pequod goes in search of the fantastical White Whale which had “dismasted” him, biting off his leg.
Now Ahab scours the South Seas, seeking revenge on the gigantic creature.
To land-bound readers of Moby-Dick, it must have seemed a far-fetched, if thrilling, tale.
Could a whale really attack and sink a great ship, as Moby Dick does in the final, apocalyptic chapters of Melville’s book?
The astonishing answer was yes.
And not only that, the gruesome details of the true story exceeded any fictional account.

The Whale: Trailer

Indeed, such is its resonant power, that the BBC drama is to be followed by another film version, In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard and based on the book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick.
Even now, the story seems unbelievable. But for a first-hand account of those events, we can turn to the words of the men who lived through them – and survived to tell the tale.
On August 12 1819, the Essex, an 87ft, 238-ton whaleship, set sail from Nantucket.
The captain was George Pollard, a man whose subsequent experiences were destined to haunt him as much as his fictional counterpart Ahab, while his first mate, Owen Chase, became the role model for Ahab’s first mate, Starbuck (although better known now for the global chain of coffee shops named after him).

By November 1820, the Essex had reached the Pacific equator, 2,000 miles from the South American coast.
The voyage had been uneventful – until now.
That morning, November 20, the weather was fine and clear.
A pod of whales was sighted by the lookout.
The men set to with gusto – whales meant dollars, after all.
The slender, fast, clinker-built whaleboats, built to ride high in the water, were lowered from the sides of the ship, and the hunters set off in pursuit of their prey.

 The Voyage of the Pequod from the book Moby Dick by Herman Melville; one of a series of 12 literary maps based on British and American literature, produced by the Harris-Seybold Company of Cleveland between 1953 and 1964.
source : LOC

The sperm whale is no mean adversary.
It is the largest predator that ever lived, and although modern sperm whales grow to only 65ft, Melville and his fellow whalers recorded whales 80 or even 100ft long.
(Scientists think intensive hunting in the 19th century reduced the number of very large bull sperm whales, thereby affecting the overall size of the population, genetically. Hunting has also reduced the world population from 1.6 million to fewer than 360,000.)

Armed with a lower jaw studded with 42 teeth, it’s a formidable opponent if driven to defend itself. Its tail, as broad as a house, could dash a flimsy whaleboat to smithereens, and often did.
The sperm whale is also the only cetacean that can swallow a human being, and, again, has done so, albeit by accident, in the melee of a hunt.
(It’s not a nice way to go: its gastric juices are so acidic that sailors cut out of whales have been bleached white by the process.)

Modern Moby Dick : Documentary on White Sperm Whales

Yet this mammal is also highly social, sentient and communicative – it posseses the largest brain in nature.
And despite its size and power, it is extraordinarily placid, timid, even.
I’ve made a special study of the whale, in the writing of my books, Leviathan and The Sea Inside, and can attest to its overwhelmingly pacific nature.
But then, I’ve never come at one with a harpoon.

The crew of the Essex set upon the pod.
Owen Chase, at the prow of the whaleboat, threw his weapon into a whale.
“Feeling the harpoon in him, he threw himself, in agony, over towards the boat and, giving a severe blow with his tail, struck the boat,” Chase wrote in an account published in 1821.
Realising that if he didn’t act quickly, the whale might drag them down, Chase took an axe and cut the line.
At the same time, Captain Pollard was in his whaleboat, attempting to harpoon another large whale.
But then, to his amazement, Chase saw, much closer in, “a very large spermaceti whale about 85ft in length” heading directly at their mother ship, “as if fired with revenge” for the sufferings of its fellow whales.

Chase watched, horrified, as the whale “came down upon us at full speed, and struck the ship with his head, just forward of the fore-chains; he gave us such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.
The ship brought up as suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock, and trembled for a few seconds like a leaf.
”Even the whale appeared to have been dazed by the blow.
It lay motionless, briefly, before making off to leeward.
But then it “started off with great velocity”, Chase reported, “coming down apparently with twice his ordinary speed, and with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect”.
Its jaws were snapping together, and the surf flew as it thrashed the water with its tail.

I’ve seen sperm whales snap their jaws this way – it’s usually a sign of stress.
I’ve also been warned off from getting too close by the thundering slap of their muscular tails, usually because they were protecting a young calf.
Indeed, contemporary whale scientist Prof Hal Whitehead has speculated that the whale that attacked the Essex was defending its own young – it was a characteristic, cruel tactic of whalers to harpoon calves, in order to bring the more valuable adults within range.
Having said this, there are few incidents of sperm whales attacking ships; one of the only other recorded incidents was the one on the whaleship Ann Alexander in 1851, 31 years after the attack on the Essex.
Whatever the motive of this seeming monster, it rammed the ship with its head for a second time. This sickening blow was fatal for the vessel – with the sea gushing in its side, it was clear that the Essex was sinking.
Pollard, who had now returned to his stricken vessel, cried, “My God, Mr Chase, what is the matter?” “We have been stove by a whale,” came the answer.

 from Salariya

Hurriedly, the crew, all 20 of them, took to the three remaining whaleboats.
As the Essex sank, they rescued what they could: 6lb of hard bread; three casks of water; a musket, powder, tools; “and a few turtles”.
Chase also managed to salvage his sea chest – and with it, precious paper and pencil with which he would record their ordeal.

They also saved navigational materials – but it was in using these that Pollard and Chase made their great mistake.
They found that the nearest inhabited islands were the Marquesas, to the west.
But they feared that their natives were cannibals, and so decided to try the longer route, eastwards, to Chile.
It was a terrible irony, given what happened next.

Having fashioned sails, they set off in three boats.
They were at the mercy of currents and winds; often they drifted, lost on the infinite sea.
Chase calculated that their food would last 60 days – but the bread got soaked and, once dried, its saltiness merely increased the men’s thirst.
At night the boats would drift apart in the darkness, desperately signalling to each other with lanterns.
Suddenly, on December 20, a month after they had been wrecked, they sighted land, “a blessed vision like a basking paradise before our longing eyes”, as Chase put it.

But Henderson Island was no tropical paradise.
It contained little fresh water and they had soon killed all the birds they found, so on December 26 they decided to try to reach South America – now 3,000 miles distant.
Three men decided to stay on the island and take their chances there.
 Illustration (1902) of the final chase of Moby-Dick

Their fellow sailors were soon far out at sea.
Burnt by the blazing sun during the day, at night sharks swam about the boat, snapping as if to “devour the very wood”.
With only three days’ food left, extreme hunger was depriving the men of their “speech and reason”, wrote Chase.
They reconciled themselves to the inevitable.
“The black man, Richard Paterson, was perfectly ready to die.”
He did so of his own accord: six of the Essex’s crew were African-American, and none would survive.
But as Paterson’s body was committed to the deep, Chase realised that they couldn’t afford to jettison such a source of sustenance again.
As the next man, Isaac Cole, succumbed to madness and death – dying “in the most horrible and frightful convulsions I have ever witnessed” – the decision was made to eat him.
Cole’s body was dismembered, the flesh cut from his bones.
They sliced open his trunk and took out his heart.

“We now commenced to satisfy the immediate cravings of nature from the heart, which we eagerly devoured, and then ate sparingly of a few pieces of the flesh,” Chase wrote.
The rest they cut into strips and hung up to dry for future consumption.
They even roasted their victim’s organs on a fire made on a stone at the bottom of the boat.
Chase and the remaining crew had been reduced to savages, ironically more than any Pacific islander they had sought to avoid.
Their boat had become a charnel house: “We knew not then to whose lot it would fall next, either to die or be shot, and eaten like the poor wretch we had just dispatched.”
With morbid practicality, Chase worked out a gruesome formula: three men could live for seven days off one human corpse.

By now, the three boats had become separated.
One drifted off and was never heard of again.
In Captain Pollard’s boat three men died; all were eaten; all were black.
After this, the white men began drawing lots and Pollard was forced to watch as his own young nephew, Owen Coffin, drew the black dot.
Bowing to his fate, Coffin lay down his head on the gunwale, was shot, and consumed.

Cannibalism had saved the Essex’s survivors.
But at a price.
On February 18, after almost three months at sea, Chase’s boat sighted a sail – a London brig, the Indian.
Their rescuers were shocked at what they found, said Chase: “Our cadaverous countenances...with the ragged remains of clothes stuck about our sun-burnt bodies, must have produced an appearance affecting and revolting in the highest degree.”

Five days later, Pollard and the only other survivor in his boat, Charles Ramsdale, were rescued by the Nantucket whaleship the Dauphin.
It was claimed they were, “found sucking the bones of their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part with”.
They too were taken back to Valparaiso, from where a ship was sent to rescue the three men from Henderson Island.
They’d managed to survive on the scant water they’d found, fish, and a few birds.

Just eight of the Essex’s crew had survived.
All went back to sea but, amazingly, Pollard was shipwrecked a second time and never took command of another ship, “for all will say I am an unlucky man”.
Instead, he became a nightwatchman in Nantucket, wandering the island, haunted by his ordeal. When a writer asked him about his experiences, Pollard replied, “I can tell you no more – my head is on fire at the recollection.”
(A more macabre story also went around: that when asked if he’d known Owen Coffin, Pollard would answer, “Know him? Why, I et [sic] him!”)

Chase too was a guilt-ridden man.
His ghostwritten account was published in an attempt to capitalise on the story – or, perhaps, to set aright the more sensationalist versions.
Later, Thomas Nickerson, the 14-year-old cabin boy, produced his own account, claiming they had not eaten Cole.
Perhaps he sought to erase the memory by denial.

Chase could not forget, however.
As he aged, he stored supplies of food in his attic, as if he believed he might once more face starvation – and that terrible dilemma
 Plagued by headaches, he would cry, “Oh my head, my head”, and by the time he died in 1869 he had been declared insane.

Today the island of Nantucket is a quiet, reserved place.
The whalers have long since left its cobbled streets, though the mansions that the shipowners built from their bloody profits still stand.
Their blank, silent windows look out to sea, testament to the extraordinary horrors that those men of the Essex suffered, out on the infinite deep.

Links :