Saturday, May 31, 2014

Guide to racing a Laser

Sailing can be seen as rather complicated, if you need some help understanding watch this video staring Shirley Robertson and Olympian Alison Young on Laser.

Shirley demonstrates and talks you through the perfect start, tacking and crossing, getting ahead at the top mark and priority at the bottom mark.

Friday, May 30, 2014

How oceans can solve our freshwater crisis

"Drinking from the sea", explore how and why sea water is desalinated

From CNN

It's been a cruel irony for ancient mariners and any thirsty person who has ever gazed upon a sparkling blue ocean: Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.
But imagine a coastal city of the future, say in 2035.
Along with basic infrastructure such as a port, roads, sewer lines and an electrical grid, it's increasingly likely this city by the sea will contain a newer feature.
A desalination plant.

Thanks to improved technology, turning ocean water into freshwater is becoming more economically feasible.
And a looming global water crisis may make it crucial to the planet's future.
The United Nations predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will suffer water shortages, especially in the developing world and the parched Middle East.
Scientists say climate change is making the problem worse.
Even in the United States, demand for water in drought-ravaged California and the desert Southwest is outpacing supply.

San Diego's billion-dollar water bet

This is why a huge desalination plant is under construction in Carlsbad, California, some 30 miles north of San Diego.
When completed in 2016, it will be the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere and create 50 million gallons of freshwater a day.
"Whenever a drought exacerbates freshwater supplies in California, people tend to look toward the ocean for an answer," said Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the California-based Water Education Foundation.
"It is, after all, a seemingly inexhaustible supply."

A growing trend

Most desalination technology follows one of two methods: distillation through thermal energy or the use of membranes to filter salt from water.

In the distillation process, saltwater is heated to produce water vapor, which is then condensed and collected as freshwater.
The other method employs reverse osmosis to pump seawater through semi-permeable membranes -- paper-like filters with microscopic holes -- that trap the salt while allowing freshwater molecules to pass through.
The remaining salty water is then pumped back into the ocean.

An Introduction to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant Project :
The Carlsbad Desalination Project will provide San Diego County with a locally-controlled, drought-proof supply of high-quality water that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards.
After ten years of planning and six years in the state's permitting process, the Carlsbad Desalination pipeline has now received final approvals from every required regulatory and permitting agency in the state, including the California Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and Regional Water Quality Control Board.
A 30 year Water Purchase Agreement is in place between the San Diego County Water Authority and Poseidon for the entire output from the plant.
Construction has already started and is expected to be complete in mid-2016.

Officials at the Carlsbad plant say they can covert two gallons of seawater into one gallon of freshwater by filtering out 99.9% of the salt.
There are some 16,000 desalination plants on the planet, and their numbers are rising.
The amount of desalted water produced around the world has more than tripled since 2000, according to the Center for Inland Desalination Systems at the University of Texas at El Paso.
"Desalination is growing in arid regions," said Tom Davis, director of the center.
"We are making progress in the USA, but the countries around the Persian Gulf are way ahead in the use of desalination, primarily because they have no alternative supplies of freshwater."

Israel, in an arid region with a coastline on the Mediterranean, meets half its freshwater needs through desalination.
Australia, Algeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also rely heavily on the ocean for their municipal water.
In the United States, desalination projects are concentrated in coastal states such as California, Florida and Texas.
Some environmentalists are wary of desalination, which consumes large amounts of energy, produces greenhouse gases and kills vital marine organisms that are sucked into intake pipes.
But proponents believe the technology offers a long-term, sustainable solution to the globe's water shortages.
One entrepreneur has even built an experimental solar desalination plant in California's San Joaquin Valley.
"When other freshwater sources are depleted, desalination will be our best choice," said Davis, a UTEP professor of engineering.

California dreaming

Within the United States, the water crisis is especially severe in California, which has been stricken by drought over the last three years.
California's biggest source of freshwater is the snow that falls in the Sierras and other mountains, where it slowly melts into creeks and makes its way into aquifers and reservoirs.
But if the planet continues to grow warmer, snow will increasingly fall as rain and will be harder to collect because it will swell creeks faster and create more flooding, said Bowles of the Water Education Foundation.

Seventeen desalination plants are being built or planned along the state's 840-mile coastline.
City officials in Santa Barbara recently voted to reactivate their desalination plant, which was built in 1991 but shut after heavy rains filled nearby reservoirs in the early 1990s.
Another $200 million facility has been proposed for the Bay Area, although construction won't likely begin for several years.
"The key question with ocean desalination is how much are you willing to pay for it? The amount of energy required to desalt ocean water can be daunting," said Bowles, adding that operating costs at the Santa Barbara plant alone are estimated at $5 million per year.

But advocates believe the price of desalination will continue to decrease as the process improves. This will be true of the massive Carlsbad plant, said Bob Yamada, water resources manager with the San Diego County Water Authority.
"The cost for this water will be about double what it costs us to import water into San Diego," Yamada said.
"However, over time we expect that the cost of desalinated water will equal, and be less than, the cost of imported water. That may take 15 or 20 years, but we expect that to occur."

Ultimately, experts say, municipalities will need to balance desalination projects with conservation and water from more traditional sources, such as rivers, reservoirs and recycled wastewater.
"You can't get all your water from one source and have that source be hundreds of miles away," said Peter MacLaggan, senior vice president at Poseidon Resources Corporation, which is leading development of the Carlsbad plant.
"When and if the drought does come, and you don't have enough snowpack in the Sierras -- after 12 dry years the Rockies are seeing the impact of that today -- you've got (water) sources here within the boundaries of San Diego County," he said.
"We have a $190 billion economy in this region. It's dependent on water to sustain that economy. So the question you need to consider, is 'What's the cost of not having enough water?'"

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Journey to Chile's wild islands

In February 2013, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala led a team of scientists and filmmakers to the Desventuradas Islands off the coast of Chile.
What they found there was an abundance of beautiful life and a place in need of protection.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

EU focuses on ‘Blue Economy’ plan to use oceans to drive growth and jobs

The oceans have long been the centre of economic activity.
People have been living near the sea, feeding themselves by fishing and making their livelihoods on the coast for thousands of years.
The challenge today is harnessing the potential of this Blue Economy.

From SiliconPublic

The European Commission has developed an Action Plan for Innovation in the ‘Blue Economy’ aimed at using ocean resources to sustainably drive growth and jobs in Europe.

The Commission pointed out this morning that with two-thirds of the planet covered by oceans and seas, managing them in a responsible manner can provide sources of food, medicine and energy, and can protect the environment for generations to come.

The EU's maritime or “blue economy” is vast, with more than 5m employees in sectors as diverse as fisheries, transport, marine biotech and offshore renewables.

Blue growth is a focus area in the new Horizon 2020 programme, with a specific €145m budget for 2014-2015 alone, and further opportunities across the programme.
Between 2007 and 2013, the European Commission contributed an average of €350m a year towards marine and maritime research through its seventh Framework Programme.
A substantial amount of marine research is also carried out through Member States' programmes (around €300m per year in France and Germany, for example).

“Today, we put the building blocks in place so that tomorrow's generation of Europeans will have the knowledge and skills to better manage our oceans and draw the full benefits they can provide us, while respecting the balance of the ecosystem of the sea,” European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said.
“For example, our initiative to create a digital map of the entire seabed of European waters will increase the predictability for businesses to invest, lowering costs and stimulating further innovation for sustainable blue growth.”

Action plan for the ‘Blue Economy’

The Commission identified a number of hurdles to be overcome: our limited knowledge about the sea, maritime research efforts between Member States that are not linked up, and a lack of engineers and scientists to apply new technologies in the marine environment.

“We probably know more about the surface of the moon and even Mars than we do about the deep sea floor,” European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said.
“Maritime innovation has enormous potential for our economy, and will help us meet challenges, such as climate change and food security. Blue Growth is therefore a focus area for Horizon 2020, our new research and innovation programme.”

The Action Plan includes efforts to deliver a digital map of the entire seabed of European waters by 2020.
It also aims to create an online information platform on marine research projects across the Horizon 2020 programme.

A Blue Economy Business and Science Forum will involve the private sector, scientists and NGOs to help shape the blue economy of the future and share ideas and results.
A first meeting will take place in the margins of the 2015 Maritime Day event in Piraeus, Greece.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Digital detection system aims to save swimmers - and sharks

Shark detection device under testing.

From SMH by Peter Hannam

Shark nets and aerial searches to protect the nation’s beachgoers may become costly relics of the past if digital technology able to detect the potentially menacing creatures succeeds.

Dubbed the “Clever Buoy”, the floats use sonar devices to search for objects of greater than two metres in length approaching within about 60 metres.
If confirmed as a shark, the device will send an alert via satellite to beach-based lifeguards who would then evacuate swimmers.

Shark Mitigation Services (SMS), which has tested the technology at the Sydney Aquarium and at the remote Abrolhos Islands off the WA coast, hopes to release commercial versions by the middle of next year.

Introducing Clever buoy

“It’s like face-recognition software,” said Hamish Jolly, a director of the company.
“We can teach the software to look for the unique characteristics that we see in large sharks swimming.”
If the WA experience is any guide, governments could do with more accurate methods to identify and respond to shark threats.
Bowing to public fears after a series of shark deaths off WA beaches, the WA government began culling sharks in January and is seeking a three-year extension from federal environment minister Greg Hunt.
The cull, though, failed to catch a single great white shark – its main target.
Many of the 172 sharks caught were tiger sharks, which have not been linked to recent human fatalities.

Clever buoy - Testing the sonar

An interest in shark conservation was one reason why telecoms provider Optus teamed with Mr Jolly’s company to provide satellite expertise for the buoys.
“We want to provide the environment that’s safe for beachgoers but also provides the opportunity to protect sharks long-term as well,” Nathan Rosenberg, head of Brand and Communications for Optus, said.
Shaun Collin, head of the University of WA's Oceans Institute - which has worked with SMS on other research - said the presence of a shark "certainly does not mean an attack is imminent".
The way forward is to quickly identify any potential risk, convey that to the public while also deploying a deterrent to ward them off, Professor Collin said.

World-leading shark scientists at the University of Western Australia now understand exactly how sharks see.
In collaboration with the university, SAMS has also translated the scientific data into a range of patented shark deterrent and repellent wetsuits, along with other products now available online.
Test footage was captured by National Geographic.

Worldwide options

The use of satellites rather than mobile phone networks would allow the buoys to be anchored off remote beaches in Australia and elsewhere.
“We want to be able to deploy this anywhere in the world,” Mr Jolly said, adding that Hawaii and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean were among possible markets.
The final cost of the buoys, developed using Google platforms, remains unclear.
Although sharks remain a tiny threat for most ocean swimmers - the number of unprovoked shark encounters a year has doubled since the 1960s to about 80 worldwide – local authorities are going to invest to reduce the risk, he said.
“At the moment, the alternatives are aerial spotting, netting and visual patrols from lifeguards,” Mr Jolly said.
“(The buoy) is going to have to fit into that cost array in order to be competitive.”

 Shark attacks in Australia : a timeline (Australaian Geographic)

A rise in deaths is understood to be largely down to more people entering shark space.
The recovery of whale numbers, such as humpbacks, is also likely to raise shark bite risk, according to a study out earlier this year by Peter Sprivulis, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of WA.
NSW has recorded 47 fatalities from sharks in the past 100 years, including the death of Christine Armstrong off Tathra in April, according to Taronga Zoo’s Shark Attack File.
For Victoria, the last death from sharks was in 1987 on the Mornington Peninsula, with four fatalities in the past century.
WA’s shark deaths total 19 during that time.
Tests now underway are to extend the operating life of the systems – batteries now need to be replaced each day – and to determine whether the most effective use involves lines of buoys creating a virtual perimeter fence.

Links :
  • WP : After shark attacks kill surfers in Australia, the government is killing sharks

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monstrous wind farm that will 'dwarf' the Isle of Wight

Nearly 200 towers, spanning an area larger than Manchester, are proposed just nine miles off Dorset's unique Jurassic Coast

From DailyMail

Britain's biggest offshore wind farm with turbines up to 650ft high will dwarf views of the Isle of Wight, the United Nations has warned.
Nearly 200 towers, spanning an area larger than Manchester, are proposed just nine miles off Dorset’s unique Jurassic Coast.

Windfarm area (Marine GeoGarage)

But in an explosive letter to the Government, the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has said the project would significantly affect the coastline and could threaten its status as England’s only natural World Heritage Site.

Unesco insists that the £3.5 billion French-Dutch Navitus Bay development – with up to 194 turbines, each the height of London’s ‘Gherkin’ building – will ‘dominate’ the area and change the seascape for ever. Local opponents to the plan say it will devastate tourism in the area.

 The impact of the proposed Navitus offshore windfarm near the Hampshire and Dorset coasts is now easier to judge, with a new interactive model produced by the developers.

Unesco director Kishore Rao wrote to the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) which is responsible for managing the World Heritage site along 95 miles of the stunning Dorset and Devon coastline.
Earlier this year, DCMS claimed to Unesco that the Government-backed wind farm would have little impact on the Jurassic Coast.
But Unesco has commissioned its own advisory study and in a strongly worded letter seen by the Mail on Sunday, Mr Rao said it ‘considers the project will have a significant impact on the natural setting of the property (the Jurassic Coast), in that it would adversely impact on important views’.
He went on: ‘The project would replace the Isle of Wight as the dominant feature on the horizon.
'This is likely to significantly impact on visitors’ experience and appreciation of the property which could compromise the long-term sustainability of the management of the property.
‘Any potential impacts on this natural property are in contradiction to the overarching principle of the World Heritage Convention... The property will change from being located in a natural setting largely free from human-made structures to one dominated by human-made structures.’

 Viewpoint from Bournemouth

Should the proposal be given the go-ahead, the developers expect the first turbines to come online in 2019 and provide power for 700,000 homes.
Dr Andrew Langley, of opposition group Challenge Navitus, said: ‘The Navitus Bay wind farm would completely change the character of views from Durlston Castle near Swanage.

‘The decision by the Crown Estate in 2009 to designate this zone so close to England’s only natural World Heritage Site, two areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a national park, was extremely surprising.’ 

Impact assessments carried out by Navitus Bay itself found that up to a third of visitors could be deterred from holidaying in the area during the construction phase.
And once the wind farm is in operation, 14 per cent of visitors said the loss of view would prevent them from returning.
Bournemouth council’s head of tourism Mark Smith said that could mean thousands of people losing their jobs.
‘We’re very concerned. If the figures that Navitus is using are right, it would devastate tourism and result in massive unemployment,’ he added.
Last night, Mike Unsworth, project director at Navitus Bay, said: ‘We are aware of the letter from Unesco  to the DCMS.
'We will be seeking  further clarification as the interim comments are not aligned with the independent impact assessment or the conclusion of DCMS.’