Saturday, March 1, 2014

Yacht capsizes in surf at Spanish port of Zumaia

A Bavaria 38 yacht, with seven crew on board, enters the narrow channel leading to the port of Zumaia on the Basque coast of Spain this month with dramatic consequences.
'The swell is of medium size, the operation is dangerous, but passable' according to local photographer Gabi Aymat who shot this dramatic capsize video.

A huge wave sweeps on to the boat and rolls it over knocking some of its untethered crew over board.
The good news is that the crew survived and the boat is also safe, surviving its roll without any serious damage, according to Aymat.

Links :
  • This 10 shot sequence was captured at the small Spanish port of Zumaia on the Bay Of Biscay
    by David Rascon ( The Oceanis 46 made it past the breaking harbor
    entrance, however we are not sure if the crew shorts survived the e-ticket ride.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wandering in the footsteps of the polar bear with Google Maps

 Google Street View maps polar bear country

From Google LatLon

This guest post is from Krista Wright, the executive director of Polar Bears International.
We’ve partnered with PBI to share a fascinating look at polar bears in the wild using Google Maps. -Ed.

In Inuit poetry, the polar bear is known as Pihoqahiak, the ever-wandering one.
Some of the most majestic and elusive creatures in the world, polar bears travel hundreds of miles every year, wandering the tundra and Arctic sea ice in search of food and mates.
Today, with the help of Street View, we’re celebrating International Polar Bear Day by sharing an intimate look at polar bears in their natural habitat.

The Street View Trekker, mounted on a Tundra Buggy, captures images of Churchill’s polar bears

We’ve joined forces with Google Maps to collect Street View imagery from a remote corner of Canada’s tundra: Churchill, Manitoba, home to one of the largest polar bear populations on the planet.

 This aerial view shows the geography Google Street View is exploring in Churchill.
(Google Street View)

With the help of outfitters Frontiers North, the Google Maps team mounted the Street View Trekker onto a specially designed “Tundra Buggy,” allowing us to travel across this fragile landscape without interfering with the polar bears or other native species.
Through October and November we collected Street View imagery from the shores of Hudson’s Bay as the polar bears waited for the sea ice to freeze over.

Modern cartography and polar bear conservation 

There’s more to this effort than images of cuddly bears, though.
PBI has been working in this region for more than 20 years, and we’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact of warmer temperatures and melting sea ice on the polar bear’s environment. Understanding global warming, and its impact on polar bear populations, requires both global and regional benchmarks.
Bringing Street View to Canada's tundra establishes a baseline record of imagery associated with specific geospatial data—information that’s critical if we’re to understand and communicate the impact of climate change on their sensitive ecosystem.
As we work to safeguard their habitat, PBI can add Street View imagery to the essential tools we use to assess and respond to the biggest threat facing polar bears today.

Polar Bear International’s Bear Tracker

We also use the Google Maps API to support our Bear Tracker, which illustrates the frozen odyssey these bears embark on every year.
As winter approaches and the sea ice freezes over, polar bears head out onto Hudson Bay to hunt for seals.
Bear Tracker uses of satellite monitors and an interactive Google Map to display their migration for a global audience.

Mapping the communities of Canada’s Arctic

Google’s trip north builds on work they’ve done in the Arctic communities of Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit.
In the town of Churchill, the Google Maps team conducted a community MapUp, which let participants use Map Maker to edit and add to the Google Map.
From the Town Centre Complex, which includes the local school, rink and movie theatre, to the bear holding facility used to keep polar bears who have wandered into town until their release can be planned, the citizens of the Churchill made sure Google Maps reflects the community that they know.

 The imagery isn't just a public outreach tool – it also has scientific value, says Krista Wright of Polar Bears International. She adds that the sea ice and surrounding ecosystem are changing drastically due to climate change. (Google Street View)

But building an accurate and comprehensive map of Canada’s north also means heading out of town to explore this country’s expansive tundra.
And thanks to this collaboration with Google Maps, people around the world now have the opportunity to virtually experience Canada’s spectacular landscape—and maybe take a few moments to wander in the footsteps of the polar bear.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rolls-Royce’s drone shipbots will rule tomorrow’s oceans, shipping containers

Drone ships would be safer, cheaper and less polluting for the $375 billion shipping industry that carries 90 percent of world trade, Rolls-Royce says

From TechCrunch by Darrell Etherington 

If you’re rooting for the drone team, then chalk up another win: Rolls-Royce is working on unmanned cargo ships that would roam the Earth’s oceans packed with crates of goods, controlled by captains safe on shore using virtual reality facilities to pilot their fleets.
In other words, tomorrow’s salty tales of ghost ships with no one left on board could be all too verifiable and hardly cause for alarm.

Bloomberg reports on the project, which aims to make the seafaring shipping industry safer, less expensive and easier on the environment.
The market is worth $375 billion annually, and despite our mastering of flight, we shill ship 90 percent of traded goods over the waves, according to the article.
These automated versions would aim to make that huge volume safer and more efficient, but of course it’ll have to contend with a variety of concerns first, including worries about safety and labour concerns from unions and workers.

 The schematics show vessels loaded with containers from front to back, without the bridge structure where the crew lives.

Stripping all those accommodations needed by fleshy human labor from the huge cargo liners would clear up even more room for cargo, according to Rolls-Royce’s early designs – while also making them 5 percent lighter, with 12 to 15 percent less fuel burn per trip.
Plus you’re saving up to $3,300 per day in crew costs, which currently make up 44 percent of the total overall operating expenses for manned ocean-bound shipping.

Before you get too excited there, Mr. Shipping Magnate, know that these things are currently probably at least a decade out from being anywhere near sea legal, and the largest union on the sea vocally opposes the idea outright, saying that drone ships are no replacement for human intellect and perception.
Plus, if these ever replace our current waterborne shipping mechanisms, future generations will never experience coming-of-age stories like the one depicted in David Mamet’s Lakeboat (warning: this contains all the cusses so watch the volume if you’re at work).

Despite all the cautioning, however, there’s no question that logistics companies are hungry for this kind of automation, since it means cheaper prices overall decades down the road, plus faster and more efficient delivery from warehouse to customer (especially important as more shopping moves online).
People will not accept the coming shipping bots readily, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still arrive eventually.
And the waves will be waiting.

Links :

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

North American scientists track incoming Fukushima plume

Models are used to forecast the likely progression of radionuclides from Fukushima
Fukushima radiation could reach Pacific coast by April.

From BBC

The likely scale of the radioactive plume of water from Fukushima due to hit the west coast of North America should be known in the next two months.

Only minute traces of pollution from the beleaguered Japanese power plant have so far been recorded in Canadian continental waters.
This will increase as contaminants disperse eastwards on Pacific currents.
But scientists stress that even the peak measurements will be well within the limits set by safety authorities.

 The background level of radiation in oceans and seas varies around the globe.
Credit: WHOI

Since the 2011 Fukushima accident, researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography have been sampling waters along a line running almost 2,000km due west of Vancouver, British Columbia.
And by June of last year, they were detecting quantities of radioactive caesium-137 and 134 along the sampling line’s entire length. 
Although the radioactivity concentrations remain extremely low – less than one becquerel per cubic metre of water – they have allowed the scientists to start to validate the two models that are being used to forecast the probable future progression of the plume.

Human sources of radiation released into the atmosphere over the past 60 years, although serious, pale in comparison to the radionuclides already naturally present in the ocean.
One of the most prevalent substances released through nuclear weapons testing, the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and now Fukushima, is cesium-137 (137Cs).
Total releases from Fukushima are currently above those at Three Mile Island, but below Chernobyl levels.
Among the dozens of radioactive substances naturally present in seawater (of which cesium-137 is one), uranium-238 and potassium-40 are the ones present in the greatest abundance.
Note: Ovals are not to scale. 1 Curie = 37 billion Becquerels.
(Illustration by Jack Cook, courtesy Coastal Ocean Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

One of these models anticipates a maximum concentration by mid-2015 of up to 27 becquerels per cubic metre of water; the other no more than about two becquerels per cubic metre of water.
Bedford’s Dr John Smith told BBC News that further measurements being taken in the ocean right now should give researchers a fair idea of which model is correct.
And he emphasised again: “These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water in Canada for caesium-137 of 10,000 becquerels per cubic metre of water – so, it’s clearly not an environmental or human-health radiological threat.”

Dr Smith was speaking at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
He was joined on a panel discussing Fukushima by Dr Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The Whoi scientist described the citizen science effort now under way to record radioactivity in beach waters of the western United States. (see video)
Members of the public are being recruited to regularly gather water samples from California to Washington State and in Alaska and Hawaii.

WHOI chemist Ken Buesseler discusses radiation in the ocean
and the impacts of Fukushima across the Pacific--from Japan to North America

No caesium-134 has yet been detected.
Caesium-137, which was also released by the damaged power plant, is in the environment already as a result of the A-bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.
However, Dr Buesseler expects a specific Fukushima signal from both radionuclides to be evident very shortly in US waters.

 Dr. Roger Gilbert collects seawater near Fort Bragg
in an effort to monitor for radiation contamination.

The sampling project, which is organised at the website, is having to be funded through private donation because no federal agency has picked up the monitoring responsibility.

 How radioactive is our ocean: current sample locations sampling project sampling project

“What we have to go by right now are models, and as John Smith showed these predict numbers as high as 30 of these becquerels per cubic metre of water,” he told reporters.
“It’s interesting: if this was of greater health concern, we’d be very worried about these factors of ten differences in the models. To my mind, this is not really acceptable. We need better studies and resources to do a better job, because there are many reactors on coasts and rivers and if we can’t predict within a factor of 10 what caesium or some other isotope is downstream - I think that’s a pretty poor job"

Links :
  • WHOI : FAQ: radiation from Fukushima
  • CSMonitor : Radioactive materials from Japan's Fukushima disaster reaches Canada, say scientists
  • LiveScience : Fukushima's radioactive ocean water arrives at West Coast
  • NYTimes : Worst spill in 6 months is reported at Fukushima
  • CNN : Did Fukushima disaster make U.S. sailors and Marines sick?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuna lover's dilemma: to eat or not to eat?

Markus Schmidt 'The Last Catch' movie
From fish yarn in the Mediterranean to tuna auction in Japan.
We travel around the world in 'The Last Catch', which sounds the depths of the (over)fishing industry -- a shady industry that is also desperately hard-pressed and experiencing corrupt growth, and which is threatening to destroy several species.
On the one side of patchy legislation we follow two groups of fishermen from the southern French coastal town of S├ęte.
Strong traditions characterise the two fishing groups, and while one of the family businesses is struggling to survive as a result of the stricter requirements of tuna fishing, the other is benefiting from a legal loophole.
A loophole, which allows otherwise illegal fishing in an area off the Libyan coast.
On the other side we join the environmental analyst Robert Mielgo, who is on an eternal mission to track overfishing in the many nooks and crannies of the Mediterranean and to make sure that there is no illegal fishing.
The fact that Mielgo himself started his career in the shady part of the industry and was one of the first people to fish off the Libyan coast just gives the story an extra twist.
Mielgo decided to switch sides from cynical fishing desperado to dedicated caretaker of environmental interests to make use of his knowledge of the industry in a race against time before the net closes in -- not least on the bluefin tuna, which might soon be extinct as a result of the headless overfishing in the world's oceans.

From National Geographic

In 1950, when tuna usually ended up in sandwiches and casseroles, the worldwide catch totaled an estimated 660,000 tons (600,000 metric tons).
Today that annual number has grown to more than 7 million tons (6.6 million metric tons) as the fish has gone gourmet and demand has soared.
The tuna boom has led to a host of concerns about the global fishing business, the state of our oceans, and the health impact of consuming an apex predator.

Which kind of tuna is best to buy is a complicated question because it involves a number of conflicting factors
"There are health concerns and culinary needs as well as choices based on sustainability," says Valerie Craig, who manages the National Geographic Seafood Decision Guide.
"How can you know about all those issues for every species?"

The first thing to know is that what we call tuna is actually several different kinds of fish.
Each has been affected by the fish's boom in popularity, but some are suffering drastic declines in population.
Bluefin tuna, for instance—featured in the March issue of National Geographic magazine—have been so overfished that they can't reproduce fast enough to replace what's caught. If you care about sustainability, they should be on your do-not-eat list.

How fish are caught also affects their sustainability.
Longlining can be especially devastating because it involves one line that can have 3,000 baited hooks and stretch for up to 50 miles (80.5 kilometers).
The hooks dangle at a depth between 328 feet (100 meters) and 492 feet (150 meters), where the largest tuna—such as the threatened bluefin—tend to swim.
The hooks also catch more than 80 kinds of nontargeted creatures, including endangered sea turtles, which often die on the line before the fishing vessel reels in the catch.

Going after the biggest fish also serves up health concerns to the people who eat them.
Big tunas like bluefin feed high on the food chain, so they ingest all the mercury that their prey and their prey's prey have taken in.
The U.S. government offers guidelines for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and small children, but other consumers are also concerned about how to balance the health benefits of eating fish against the adverse effects of mercury.
A good general rule: The bigger and older the fish, the bigger the risk.

The best advice is to study up before you go to the supermarket or a restaurant.
A good guide outlines the kinds of tuna, where they're fished, and what kinds of gear are used to catch them in different parts of the world.
It may also make suggestions about the greenest and healthiest choices.
In addition to the National Geographic guide, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch offers printable regional pocket guides as well as a smartphone app, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fishwatch website offers a list of seafood profiles that include tuna. These three sources are the best at keeping up with the latest changes in the tuna business.

Ultimatuna, the reproductive orgy of the tuna

To help sort through the issues, here's a basic rundown of the fish sold at supermarkets and restaurants in the U.S.:

In Cans or Pouches

Tuna labeled "light meat" is most likely skipjack, classified biologically as a cousin of true tunas.
Skipjack makes up about 70 percent of the canned or pouched tuna.
It's plentiful, so sustainability isn't an issue.
And it's cheap.
It's also a small, fast-maturing fish that's relatively low on the food chain, so the level of mercury in its flesh is low.
The downside to canned skipjack is that the texture is often mushy, and the taste can be aggressively fishy.
Albacore has a mild taste and produces firm chunks of meat.
It's labeled "white meat," and accounts for about 30 percent of the canned-tuna market.
Many albacore are now caught by longlining, so sustainability and mercury content may be issues.

At a Restaurant

With a firm texture and mild flavor, yellowfin tuna often appears on restaurant menus. It may be called "ahi," a Hawaiian word for tuna.
The term "ahi" is also used for bigeye, which may occasionally land on a menu when available.
More about them below.
A number of yellowfin populations are overfished now, so only pole-caught fish are considered a good choice for sustainability.
Mercury is a concern for those caught by longline.
At the Sushi Bar

The menu may not give much of a clue about the kind of tuna that's being served.
It may just say maguro—Japanese for tuna.
"The restaurant may be posting a standard menu and then serving whatever tuna they're able to get that day," says Craig.
In the U.S. that's often high-grade yellowfin.
Other words on the menu refer to the part of the fish the meat comes from.
A cut called "toro" was traditionally taken from the buttery soft belly of the bluefin tuna.
More specifically, otoro comes from the belly close to the head, while chutoro comes from the middle or back of the belly and is less fatty than otoro.
Click here to see a sushi diagram of the whole fish.
Bluefin is so rare these days that its price has soared.
A single bite-size piece of otoro could now set you back $25. So if your local sushi hangout offers two pieces of toro sushi for $10, that's not bluefin.
It may be bigeye, which is generally a better option in terms of sustainability.
It reproduces and matures quickly, and though some of its populations are declining, they're not as devastated worldwide as some others.
But bigeye tuna has a downside: Each fish can grow to more than 400 pounds (181 kilograms), so mercury can be a concern, depending on where and how they're caught.
Pole-caught bigeye tend to be younger, so the mercury level is likely to be lower.

Be Informed

Even if you've studied the tuna guides before you go out to eat, how do you know what's being prepared in the kitchen? Ask.
The servers may know about the kind of tuna or its place of origin; if not, they can check with the chef.
If the answer sounds fishy, maybe you should go for chicken instead of the chicken of the seas.

Links :
  • National Geographic :  The Super Fish, unmatched for its athleticism and endurance, the bluefin tuna is equipped with an array of extraordinary adaptations.
  • CBS : the king of sushi in trouble
  • BBC : Tuna hearts 'affected by oil spill'

Monday, February 24, 2014

To the ends of the Earth - The first 40 years | Volvo Ocean Race

"If you are determined to be in the sailing game you have to do this Race" - Sir Peter Blake.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sperm whales sleeping

Until just a few years ago, it was thought that sperm whales, like other cetaceans, only allowed one side of their brain to rest at a time, "keeping one eye open," as it were, in order to do "important things that require physical activity, such as coming to the surface to breathe or avoid predators," explains Nature's Matt Kaplan
"They never fully let their guard down." 

But in 2008, a team of researchers off the coast of northern Chile happened upon a pod of vertically bobbing sperm whales that seemed completely oblivious to its presence.
Not a single whale responded to the team's boat until one of them was accidentally nudged, at which point it awoke and fled, along with the rest of the group.
The team's findings suggest that, unlike other cetaceans, sperm whales appear to enter short, but periodic, bouts of sleep throughout the day — an observation that Kaplan says could hint that sperm-whales are actually "the least sleep-dependent mammals known."