Thousands of people gathered at Mont Saint-Michel in northern France on Saturday to watch what is being called "the high tide of the century".
The exceptionally high spring tide, swollen by a "supermoon" effect linked to the solar eclipse on Friday, was predicted to cut off the picturesque island from the mainland with a wall of water as high as a four-storey building.
Friday’s tidal surge was not as high as the 46 feet predicted, and a tiny sliver of causeway no more than a few metres wide resisted the surge of water pushed by the moon's huge gravitational pull on the sea.
However, Saturday's tide on the long, sloping estuary of the River Couesnon could yet go higher, although scientists said low air pressure may have lessened the phenomenon.
As the surge began to make its way along the coast and tidal estuaries surfers took to the water in Pontaubault and waves crashed onto seawalls.
MareeInfo : Tide in Saint Malo today Exceptional High Spring Tide at Saint Malo (height:13.35m 43.8ft), the highest spring tides in Europe The moon acts as a magnet on the oceans. Its force of attractions is twice as strong as that of the sun. The sea advances and retreats twice a day with a time shift of 50 minutes each day. When the moon is above the sea, it attracts the water towards it and so the sea level rises and the tide comes in. Six hours later, the moon is no longer above the sea and the force of attraction disappears. The tide then goes out. The power of the force varies depending on the positions of the sun and moon respectively in relation to the earth. When the three are aligned the attraction is at its peak. This is the time of the high tide : during this period the sea advances and retreats the farthest.
Police had difficulty holding back the 10,000-strong crowd eager to get pictures of the scene in the final minutes before the surge on Friday evening, with the tourist hotspot lit up as night fell with 60 spotlights for the occasion.
Mont Saint-Michel, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, is situated one kilometre off the coast of Normandy.
The rocky outcrop is home to the famous Norman Benedictine Abbey of St-Michel.
Michael Dodds, the director of the regional tourism committee, said: "This natural phenomenon is an incredible opportunity for tourism in Brittany at this time of year."
Highest tides at Mont Saint-Michel seen by drone from FLY HD. On February 21 the tidal coefficient reached 117. The Mont Saint-Michel 11th century abbey is expected to be entirely surrounded by the English Channel with waters rising by a staggering 14 metres. "The eclipse and the tide are linked" said Kevin Horsburgh, head of the Marine Physics and Ocean Climate research group at Britain's National Oceanography Centre (NOC). "For an eclipse to take place, the sun, the Earth and the moon need to be in a straight line, which is also an essential condition for high tides," he added.
The bay on the coast of Normandy has some of the strongest tides in the world.
Eleven departements along the coast of northern France are on alert for fear of flooding and residents have been told to stay away from beaches and coastal areas.
Similar surges are predicted along the coast of Britain and the Netherlands over the weekend.
The last ‘tide of the century’ was on March 10, 1997 and the next will be on March 3, 2033, making the description something of a misnomer.
The predictions are based on the tide coefficients used by scientists to forecast wave size.
With 120 being the highest, they project a 119 on Saturday.
Until 1879 Mont Saint-Michel was cut off from the mainland during each high tide.
That year a permanent causeway was built to prevent the tide from scouring the silt around the island.
The coastal flats were reclaimed for pastureland, reducing the distance between the shore and the island.
The effect was to encourage the silting-up of the bay.
In 2009 work began on building a hydraulic dam using the waters of the river Couesnon and the tides to help remove the accumulated silt, and make Mont Saint-Michel an island again.
Last year a new 2,500ft bridge was opened to the public.
The bridge allows the waters to flow freely below and around the island at high tide.
Parts of the world will witness a solar eclipse on Friday – a rare
phenomenon in which the sun is completely obscured by the moon.
everything you need to know about the background of the solar eclipse,
where to view it and how.
A history of eclipses
Records show that the Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were able
to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 BC, but it was a phenomenon
that confounded ancient civilisations for centuries.
The Greeks believed that the solar eclipse was a sign that the gods
were angry and death and destruction were on their way.
In fact, eclipse
comes from ekleipsis, an ancient Greek word that means
obscured, or abandoned.
A fragment of a lost poem by Archilochus
(c680–645 BCE) depicted a solar eclipse as such: “Nothing there is beyond hope, nothing that can be sworn impossible, nothing wonderful, since Zeus, father of the Olympians, made night from midday, hiding the light of the shining sun, and sore fear came upon men.”
In ancient China, the eclipse was seen to foretell the future of the
More than 4,000 years ago, two Chinese astrologers were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse.
The Chinese people would get together during an eclipse to bang pots and pans to scare away any demons.
A variety of cultures thought the eclipse was a result of entities
devouring the sun.
In Vietnam, it was thought that a giant frog was
eating it, while the Vikings thought it was the fault of wolves.
Meanwhile, according to ancient Hindu mythology, the eclipse happened
when the deity Rahu was beheaded by the gods for drinking ambrosia.
Rahu’s head was said to have flown into the sky, where it swallowed the
Superstitions surrounding solar eclipses still exist today.
Many believe that solar eclipses can be a dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn child – a claim that scientists have debunked.
In parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse because they
believe that any food cooked during the time will be poisonous, and in
Italy it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are
more colourful than those planted at other times of the year.
How often does a solar eclipse take place?
A solar eclipse can only happen at new moon, when the moon directly
blocks sight of the sun from certain places in the world.
It can take
place up to five times a year, though according to Nasa, only 25 years
in the past 5,000 have had five solar eclipses.
In the last 500 years there have only been eight total solar eclipses
that could be seen from the UK.
The last one was in 1999, when
thousands of people travelled to Devon and Cornwall to see it.
The UK will not see another eclipse until 2090.
This animation (DailyMail) is designed to appear from the 'point of view' of the
eclipse as it will occur on March 20.
It shows the shadow being cast
over the UK, Greenland, Europe and into Russia
Where can you see it?
The solar eclipse will take place at around 8.45am GMT and is due to
last for a few hours.
Most of it will go unnoticed because its path
falls over the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
It will start in
Greenland and move counterclockwise towards the northeast, passing over
Iceland and the UK.
Phases of the eclipse will be visible from everywhere in Europe,
most of northern Africa, western Asia and parts of the Middle East.
Saint John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, will also see a small bit of the
eclipse at sunrise, but the rest of North America will not be able to
The sun will be completely blocked out on the Norwegian islands of Svalbard, where some hotels have been booked out for the event since 2008.
One of the best places to view the eclipse will be the Faroe Isles,
200 miles (321km) off the north coast of Scotland, where the moon will
cover about 98% of the sun.
In the UK, the sun will be about 98% covered
on the Isle of Lewis and about 97% on Shetland.
In London, the eclipse will be at its deepest at about 9.30am, in
Manchester at 9.32am and in Edinburgh at 9.35am, though this is subject
to weather conditions.
The eclipse time for cities in Europe is
available on eclipsewise.com, complete with a map of times and locations.
Stay safe when viewing the eclipse
Observers must take care when taking photos of the eclipse on digital
devices, as eye experts have warned that doing so could cause
Skygazers have been told to not look directly at the sun when
they take selfies and other photographs, as doing so can lead to burns
at the back of the eye, even with the use of dark sunglasses.
Though looking at the eclipse on a screen is not dangerous in itself,
it might lead to inadvertently looking at it in the process of trying
to capture the perfect shot.
When viewing the eclipse, you can use a homemade pinhole camera and face away from the sun.
Londoners can also go to the Royal observatory in Greenwich from 8am,
where they can join expert astronomers.
Other places setting up special
equipment for viewing include the Flamsteed Astronomy Society, the
Royal Astronomical Society, Baker Street Irregular Astronomers, the
Hampstead Scientific Society and Northolt Branch Astro.
Alternatively, the eclipse can be witnessed from your home, as it
will be broadcast live online through the Slooh Community Observatory’s
website, slooh.com, from 8.30am.
In 1851, the first photograph of the sun’s corona was taken by the Prussian photographer Berkowski during a solar eclipse.
An eclipse also led to the discovery of helium in 1868 by the French astronomer Pierre Janssen and the British scientist Norman Lockyer, which is why it is named after the Greek word for the sun – helios.
And in 1919, a solar eclipse was used by the British astronomer and mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington to prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
For the latest eclipse, hundreds of astronomers are already stationed on Svalbard.
Solar eclipses provide a unique opportunity to study the sun’s atmosphere – the corona – which is much easier to observe with most of the sun’s light blotted out.
One of the biggest mysteries in astronomy is why the corona is so
While the surface of the sun is only about 6,000C (a few times
hotter than a blast furnace), the corona reaches 1-2mC.
The heat is not
coming from the surface and scientists are working on a plausible
explanation for what causes its astonishing heat.
One explanation is
that twisting magnetic field lines could cause heating, but more
observational evidence is needed.
The Solar Eclipse In Varanasi - Wonders of the Solar System -
Risk of power failure
The UK has 5GW of installed solar capacity, the equivalent of eight
to 10 very large coal power plants.
If skies are clear on Friday
morning, the European grid will suddenly lose all this power.
since the event is known about in advance, electricity grids are
expected to cope well and no power blackouts are expected.
Other celestial events on Friday
In addition to the solar eclipse, Friday is set to see a supermoon
and a spring equinox.
A supermoon refers to the moment the moon orbits
at its closest to the Earth, making it look bigger than it normally
The spring equinox is the time of the year when night and day are
of equal length, mid-way between the longest and shortest days of the
It is a sign that the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s
Some Christian ministers have viewed the rare collision of three celestial events as the beginning of the end of the world.
WSJ : Solar eclipse coincides with other rare celestial events
British Prime Minister David Cameron's government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve on Wednesday, setting aside 322,000 square miles (830,000 square kilometers) around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific for special protection.
The new reserve is nearly three and a half times bigger than the
landmass of the United Kingdom—larger than the state of California—and
is home to a stunning array of sharks, fish, corals, and other marine
life, says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who led a five-week Pristine Seas expedition to the island group in March 2012 that helped establish a scientific case for the reserve.
The Titan triggerfish, a voracious predator, being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. Photograph by Enric Sala, National Geographic
Announced via the government's 2015 budget, the reserve represents a bid by the U.K. to thwart the illegal fishing that threatens the species in its territorial waters.
No fishing or seafloor mining will be allowed in the reserve, except for traditional fishing around the island
of Pitcairn by the local population, says Sala.
The reserve's creation is dependent on partnerships with
non-governmental organizations and satellite monitoring resources,
according to the budget.
Those resources are already in place, says
Thirty percent of the U.K.’s waters around the world are now
protected, the highest percentage of any country’s waters on Earth.
Although the new reserve will become the largest single marine protected
area anywhere, the network of reserves
created around the Pacific remote islands by the U.S. in September is
bigger in total, at nearly 490,000 square miles (1,270,000 square
(Learn about how large marine reserves are protected.)
In 2012 National Geographic's Pristine Seas project went on an
expedition to the Pitcairn Islands—a legendary and remote archipelago in
the middle of the Pacific Ocean—and returned with footage of incredible
natural wonders underwater and on land. The expedition led to the
historic announcement that the British government has created the
largest contiguous marine reserve in the world, protecting this
Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve
The Pitcairn Islands are some of the most
remote on Earth.
The surrounding waters contain intact deep-sea
ecosystems, and their coral reefs harbor abundant sharks and large
In March 2015 the U.K. government established the area as a
no-take marine reserve—the largest single reserve in the world.
“People know Pitcairn because of the Mutiny on the Bounty, but their real bounty is the rich marine life underwater,” says Sala.
About 60 people live on Pitcairn Island, most of them descendants of
the Bounty mutineers from 1790 and their Tahitian companions.
September 2012, in response to the expedition, the Pitcairn Council
voted unanimously to create a marine protected area in their entire
economic zone, which extends 200 miles (322 kilometers) out from their
four islands, three of which are uninhabited. Since the islands are
administered by the U.K. as a territory, the new reserve required the
support of the British government.
“Pitcairn’s waters contain some of the few pristine coral reefs
left on the planet,” says Sala. “They also contain intact seamounts
[submerged mountains] and deep-sea habitats that have not been touched
by trawling and which harbor many species yet to be discovered by
On the 2012 expedition, Sala and his team discovered several new
species of fish by dropping cameras into deep water. A larger effort is
likely to discover hundreds of new animals there, he says.
“The Pitcairn Islands have some of the cleanest waters in the world,”
Sala says. “And Ducie Atoll is as pristine as it gets,” he added,
referring to the most remote of the islands.
Sala's dive team could see for 250 feet (75 meters) and spied many
sharks and a vast garden of pale blue coral that looked like giant
Pitcairn’s residents asked the U.K. government to create the reserve to thwart illegal fishing
from foreign fleets, which have been encroaching on their territory. Around the neighboring islands of French Polynesia, many of the sharks
have been fished out. By protecting its natural resources, Pitcairn
islanders also hope to attract higher numbers of tourists. (Learn how drones fight illegal fishing.)
Sala calls Pitcairn “one of the best-kept secrets of the U.K.” To get
there from Washington, D.C., takes five days on boats and airplanes. “That’s longer than it takes to get to the moon, but it was worth the
trip,” he says.
Pristine Seas Project
Completed expeditions (in blue) / Protected areas(in green)
Only about one percent of the world’s ocean is
protected in reserves that ban fishing. “There is an urgent need," Sala
says, "to protect such representative examples of ocean ecosystems.” Links :
BBC : Budget 2015: Pitcairn Islands get huge marine reserve
The Guardian : Pitcairn Islands to get world's largest single marine reserve
The Telegraph : Why will nobody move to Pitcairn, the Pacific island with free land?
The Pew : Pew, National Geographic applaud creation of Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve
Coordinating with Coast Guard for safe shipping route from Unimark Pass through Bering Strait
As commercial shipping traffic increases in the Arctic,
NOAA is taking major steps to update nautical charts in the region.
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey will use data collected by two of its own ships, Rainier and Fairweather, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy
and a private sector hydrographic contractor to cover nearly 12,000
nautical miles in the Arctic for use in updating its navigational
The NOAA-led Arctic marine corridor project will
work with the Coast Guard to asses the safety of a potential Arctic
shipping route from Unimak Island, the largest of the Aleutian Islands,
through the Bering Strait to the Chukchi Sea, as proposed in the USCG Port Access Route Study for the region. The Coast Guard will continue to take public comments prior to making a final decision on the proposed route.
“Much of our charting data in this corridor is from
surveys conducted a hundred years ago,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang,
director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.
“So right now, we need to
conduct reconnaissance of the seafloor in high traffic areas to make
sure they are safe for navigation.”
Over the past several years, Healy has been
collecting multibeam echo sounder depth data while travelling to and
from its Arctic research projects.
NOAA has reviewed the data, archived
at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, and has found they are reliable and can support nautical charting.
Last year, Healy worked with Coast Survey to take
depth measurements as “tracklines”-- straight paths of transit -- while
The survey is basing its new work on Healy’s 2014 trackline, along with data collected from 16 transits by the three ships and contractor vessel in 2015, using multibeam sonar.
The ships will survey depths in lines that are about a thousand meters
apart and a thousand meters wide, as they travel back and forth to major
project areas around the Bering Strait and the Arctic.
Altogether, the ships will collect about 12,000
nautical miles of data along the four nautical mile wide corridor.
addition to measuring depths, they will search for seamounts and other
underwater dangers to navigation.
Although Healy’s primary mission is
not hydrography, Coast Survey can use Healy’s data to identify
significant differences from current nautical charts, and prioritize
future NOAA hydrographic surveying efforts.
Other work planned for this summer includes joint hydrographic surveys by Rainier and Fairweather in the largely uncharted areas of Kotzebue Sound.
In addition, Rainier
will survey off Point Hope, Alaska, to evaluate a potential shoal area
discovered by NOAA cartographers and researchers using commercial
satellite imagery. Fairweather is scheduled to survey Port Clarence, a key Bering Strait location that is of potential interest as an Arctic deepwater port.
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, originally formed by
President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, maintains the nation’s nautical
charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to national maritime
emergencies, and searches for underwater obstructions and wreckage.
NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier
are part of the NOAA fleet of research ships operated, managed, and
maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which
includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the seven
uniformed services of the United States, and civilian wage mariners.
People in the Pacific Marshall Islands and Kiribati are facing oblivion
as the sea around them rises, and they are already suffering from food
shortages, droughts and floods. Karl Mathiesen reports from the
frontline of climate crisis
In 1946 an American commodore gathered Lirok Joash and her people
together and asked them to temporarily leave their homes on Bikini
The US needed somewhere to test its atomic bombs.
It would be,
said the navy man, “for the good of mankind and to end all world wars”.
Eight years later US scientists detonated Castle Bravo,
the massive, bungled hydrogen bomb that would gouge a crater more than
half a mile wide and make Bikini uninhabitable for decades, perhaps
A calculating error created a blast equivalent to detonating
15 megatonnes of TNT, the bomb was the largest ever detonated by the
United States – about 1,000 times larger than the bombs dropped on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the second world war.
In 1954 the US detonated Castle Bravo - the most powerful nuclear device
ever detonated by the US – on Bikini Atoll.
Photograph: US Air Force -
digital version c/US Air Force
Joash was 20-years-old when she left Bikini.
She has been forced to
relocate by radiation or unsuitable living conditions five times –
including a brief and disastrous return to a still radioactive Bikini in
Now, at 89, she is the oldest of the Bikini population
forced to move by the nuclear tests.
Her memories of the atoll have now
“I don’t think she’ll make it until the next return,” says Joash’s
grandson Alson Kelen, a former mayor of the Bikinian council-in-exile.
“I don’t think I’ll make it. I don’t think my children or my
grandchildren will make it. The dream that we would return already faded
away a few years ago.”
High tide completely surrounds Eita, South Tarawa.
If the seas continue
to rise at the current rate, it won’t be long before the villagers will
have to relocate, as many have already done.
Photograph: Rémi Chauvin
for The Guardian
The Bikinians, most of whom will never see Bikini, live scattered across the Marshall Islands,
a collection of 24 atolls in the Western Pacific.
Joash, Kelen and 200
of their people now live on Ejit, a tiny low-lying islet set aside for
the Bikinians near the Marshall Islands’ capital atoll Majuro.
“We’ve been kicked around for a while, for the last almost 70 years,”
“And until now living in these tight communities here is
the best we can get. And it’s so sad. It’s so sad. Because every time we
look at this we feel like we’re sailors on a voyage, we’re still right
in the middle of the ocean.”
And the ocean, driven by climate change, is rising.
Across the Pacific, the subtle, unremitting first impacts of the climate crisis are already strangling lives. Later this year in Paris, the world’s leaders will attempt to produce an agreement that will secure the global climate.
But secure for whom?
Floods washed over Ejit three times in 2014.
Kelen fears that before long, his people will be moving again.
“It’s the same story. Nuclear time, we were relocated. Climate change, we will be relocated. It’s the same harshness affecting us,” he says.
In the Marshall Islands almost everyone lives within a few hundred
metres of the sea and less than three metres above it.
destroyed homes and crops.
Droughts of extraordinary intensity and
length have necessitated food and water drops.
Fresh water grows
People are trying to defend their land by planting mangroves, and
Sisyphean sea walls are built and rebuilt.
But people’s thoughts are
turning from adaptation and resilience toward a climate exodus.
Scientists predict that in 30 years, life here will be so uncomfortable
most people will leave.
A notion the Marshallese abhor.
calamity serves as a national warning that homelands, once lost, cannot
“If the land doesn’t exist, what happens to these people for whom the
land is the most integral thing? For the answer, just look at the
Bikinians,” says Jack Niedenthal, the liason officer for the Bikini
Mangrove plantations are one of the methods used in the attempt to
protect the land from the ocean.
Their extensive root systems help build
up sand and act as a buffer against storm surges.
Chauvin for the Guardian
Marshallese foreign minister Tony de Brum, who has emerged as a champion of the global climate movement, says:“Displacement
is not an option we relish or cherish and we will not operate on that
basis. We will operate on the basis that we can in fact help to prevent
this from happening.”
But politics and atmospheric physics are running away from the
In March 2014 almost 100 homes on the capital atoll Majuro
were destroyed by a combination of high tide and big swell.
900 people were placed in shelters.
Families have since returned to live
in homes half collapsed into the sea.
“I can tell you right now that all of those [inundation] events that
have occurred in the Marshall Islands can be attributed to sea level
rise,” says Reginald White, the director of the Marshall Islands
National Weather Service.
On the pancake flat atolls, three centimetres
of sea level rise will cause a flood to spread inland a further 30
Reginald White, director of the Marshall Islands National Weather
Service on the effects of sea level rise, with a timelapse of rising
tides on Kiribati.
Videos: Guardian/Rémi Chauvin
The higher sea level combines with seasonal high tides (known as king
tides), large swells and high winds to push water on to the land.
La Niña years (part of the couple of ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that
affects weather globally and includes El Niño) the seas can rise up to
30cm above normal.
The last decade of predominantly La Niña conditions
has offered a bleak curtain raiser for things to come.
“We are seeing more extreme events today than we used to see in the
60s, 70s and 80s. Even without La Niña we still receive inundations,”
says White. Some scientists predict
climate change will cause more intense and more frequent El Niño and La
Niña events – although this is less certain than sea level rise.
Niño events are typically followed by dry periods in the Marshall
During 2013, after a very weak El Niño, the northern atolls
were hit by a severe drought.
Food and water were delivered to desperate communities.
Production of coconut oil, one of the countries only exports, fell by
almost a third, a loss of close to US$2.5m (£1.6m) or 1.5% of GDP.
“If there is another drought then the industry will be gone. That
will really effect everything here,” says Mison Levai, the marketing
manager of the national coconut oil producer Tobolar.
This will not only
be bad news for the 70 employees of Tobolar’s refinery in Majuro.
the 20,000 people who live on the rural coconut-growing ‘outer atolls’
the equation is simple.
No coconuts, no income.
On the outer atoll of Arno, families work together every day, six
days a week, collecting fallen drupes, removing the husks, skilfully
shucking the flesh (called copra) and drying it in makeshift ovens.
is then shipped to Majuro to be turned into oil and exported.
Torrak Anton, a copra farmer, uses a stick to scratch the arithmetic
of his poverty in the dirt of the road.
After food, rent and
contributions to the copra dealer and island chief, he is left with $34 a
week for the seven people in his household.
During times of drought the
coconuts shrink and the money for clothing, housing and education
Without copra, outer islanders will be reduced to a subsistence
survival, eked from the land, supplemented by fishing and likely made
impossible by tidal inundations.
Already 1,200-1,400 people are reported
to have moved from rural atolls to district centres – exacerbating
overcrowding and making flooding in the capital Majuro more damaging.
Depending on how sharply the world cuts carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts the global mean sea level will rise by 26-82cm between now and 2100.
The IPCC concluded in 2013 that even if the increasingly
quixotic-looking “safe” limit of 2C of global warming were somehow
achieved by the Paris talks, the sea would continue to wash over Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.
What the rest of the world considers acceptable climate change is, quite simply, a disaster for atoll dwellers.
In spite of De Brum’s refusal to countenance a national evacuation,
White says the Marshall Islands are likely to become unliveable for all
but a hardy few before the midway point of this century.
“What is the exact definition of habitable? It gets to a point where
the extreme events become so frequent that it becomes very uncomfortable
to make a good living,” he says.
The people of Kiribati (pronounced Ki-ri-bas) are the Marshall
Islands’ fellows on the low road to climate oblivion.
The capital atoll Tarawa is overcrowded and underdeveloped, even compared to Majuro.
Kaimwata, a 27-year-old mother of two (soon to be three), lives in a
home of driftwood, salvaged timber and palm thatching.
Her tiny block
of land in the village of Temwaiku is separated from the Pacific Ocean
by a thin dirt road and a hump of sand less than a metre high.
Like many Tarawans, the Kaimwata’s access to food and fresh water is
Their diet of rice and fish is supplemented by whatever
vegetables they can grow.
Every second day, for one hour, the government
pumps treated drinking water and the family fill up a small tank.
precious water must be kept for keeping hydrated in the punishing
For bathing, dishes, clothes and watering vegetables there is a well
that taps the thin layer of fresh water (called a lens) a couple of
metres below the ground.
But last year (and again a few months ago) the
sea swept over the road, through the Kaimwata’s home, across their
cabbages and into the well.
Now nothing grows.
Kiribati islander Tokeman Tekaakau’s house is threatened by the rising tides.
Set against scientific warnings of a future of catastrophic climate change events (such as typhoon Haiyan and hurricane Sandy)
the loss of a vegetable patch seems insignificant.
But for Kaimwata’s
children the link between food, water and rising sea levels is profound
and the margin between life and death could be as fine as the ability to
grow a few cabbages.
Kaimwata, like many residents (called i-Kiribati), giggles to hide
“I laugh because sometimes we believe that in 20 or 30 years
our country will be gone forever. But it’s not funny.”
Devoid of rock
and substantial natural defences, this is among the most marginal of all
regular human habitats.
Nearly a decade of regular inundations has caused parts of Tarawa’s
already thin and polluted water lens to turn salty. Clean water is
Crops have died.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number
of malnourished multiplied eight times.
In September, an outbreak of rotavirus from bad water infected 2,513 children under five years old. Seven were killed.
Kaimwata looks around at her children and her neighbours’ children:
“Only the children get sick. Many children die in Kiribati when they get
More than a third of i-Kiribati are under 15.
The water situation is desperate.
Water is being drawn from the
freshwater lens 20% faster than rain replaces it.
Bacteria from open
defecation (there are few toilets), industrial and domestic chemicals
and seawater contaminate all water sources – including the government
Only 60% of the atoll’s population receive rations of ‘clean’
The other 23,000 rely solely on well water that
Tarawa’s director of public health Patrick Timeon describes as “grossly
“The enormity of water-associated disease and death has not been
fully assessed,” says Timeon, but the direct and indirect impacts are
He begs for assistance to raise just £70,000 for two
desalination plants that could provide safe water to the entire
Building a sea wall on Kiribati.
Kiribati’s president Anote Tong is frank.
Years of failed talks and
prevarication by industrialised countries have shaken his belief in the
The land, homes and futures of his people (like the
Bikinians before them) have been deemed the price of doing business, the
acceptable cost of delaying the end of the carbon economy.
to De Brum, he is already working on encouraging his people to leave.
“If what will happen in Paris will deal with the case of the most
vulnerable countries like us, then maybe we have some guarantee that we
will be able to stay. But if we don’t, I’m not going to put the future
of my country on the outcome and the whims and wishes of those countries
to decide. We’ve got to plan ahead. The old saying wish for the best
but plan for the worst,” he says.
The countries’ contrary rhetoric on climate change is partly informed
by their differing migration opportunities.
The Marshallese have a
compact of free association with the US, meaning they can resettle as
But the i-Kiribati have few avenues of emigration.
despairing statements are partly designed to goad Kiribati’s major donor
countries Australia and New Zealand to open their borders to his
His plan for the worst, encourages young people to learn a profession
and ‘migrate with dignity’.
“We have to relocate people because the
landmass is going to decline. That’s common sense. Simple common sense …
I can say that I refuse to move, but that’s being stupid isn’t it?
Because it will not be me that will be affected. It will be my
grandchildren,” he says.
Even now, it is not difficult to find the suffering grandchildren of
Between Tong’s modest parliament and Kaimwata’s home is
The overloaded facility desperately needs
modernisation and expansion.
People sleep on the floor or outside on the
Cats roam the wards and ants swarm around dripping taps.
corner of the paediatrics wing, panting slowly in the heat, lies
one-year-old Atanimatang Atanimatang.
He fell sick during the rotavirus outbreak in September and his
little body has wrestled against the diarrhoea and fever caused by the
virus for four months.
He shows signs of kwashiorkor,
a type of malnutrition commonly found in regions hit by famine.
mother Katewea Atanimatang watches her son’s febrile sleep.
government water, she says, but when it is not available they are
forced to drink from the well. She looks exhausted and sad.
When I contacted one of his nurses in the days before publication,
Atanimatang had recovered slightly.
He may yet live long enough to go to
school, attend church, marry and have children - like most other
i-Kiribati and Marshallese.
But if he does, it’s likely he’ll also live
to see his homeland evacuated.
The elders are distraught that this loss is being committed to their
The Reverend Eria Maerierie is an old man.
He won’t live to see
his country’s loss.
But he has a long enough memory to know that things
have changed. If the tide is high on a Sunday he now conducts services
in a church surrounded by water.
And he rages against the apathy behind
the rising sea.
“We are suffering in this part of the world from what those people in
the rich world are working with gases. And its consequences fell on us
in the Pacific. They have been selfish, thinking of what they can
achieve with gas. What can we do? We just live with that dying feeling
in our hearts. Our voice is nothing to them.”
A young girl crosses the lagoon at high tide to get some water for her
family, who live on a thin strip of sand that gets cut off from the main
island every high tide.
Photograph: Rémi Chauvin for the Guardian
Will the atolls disappear?
The most widely-reported and possibly most misleading ‘effect of
climate change’ in atoll nations is erosion.
It’s a striking,
media-friendly narrative, climate change we can see.
Homes undermined by
rising seas, beaches scoured back to the coral shelf and coconut trees
felled by salt poisoning.
But the evidence showing a clear link between
the last century of sea level rise and erosion is far from conclusive.
Research on the erosion of atolls really only began in 2011. The University of Aukland’s Murray Ford has compared aerial photography
from the second world war with current satellite images and the results
may surprise some.
Despite a small but significant sea level rise of
20cm last century, Ford found that the last half of the century saw a
general (although not uniform) trend of accretion across 100 Pacific
The islands are getting bigger.
“All the research that’s come out in the last few years has shown
that the islands aren’t eroding away. It’s kind of counter intuitive,”
“The conventional models show that they should be eroding,
but the current observations show that they aren’t.”
Rather than being the indisputable first effects of climate change,
all the photos of dead palms and disappearing beaches attest to the
extreme fragility of these landforms to change.
It is likely that on densely-populated Tarawa and Majuro, causeways,
shoreline developments and dredging have much more influence on local
erosion than sea level.
Confirmation bias also plays a part in both the
islanders’ perceptions and the reporting from these islands.
isn’t drawn so easily to the places where the sand is piling up.
erosion is accepted as proof of the climate change narrative.
But just because the islands are growing now, doesn’t mean they won’t
suddenly begin eroding when the sea reaches a certain height.
moment though, the disappearance of land is less of a threat than the
loss of habitable land, says Ford.
“The inundation risk continues to rise and it’s highly likely that
they’ll be frequently inundated well before they are eroded away,” he
The new imagery includes both underwater and land photos of the UNESCO-protected islands, which tourists can only access in limited groups.
On Fernando de Noronha, a group of islands in the Atlantic some 220 miles offshore form the Brazilian coast, you'll find some of the most beautiful surf spots in the world, as well as some amazing beaches and interesting rock formations.
The Atol das Rocas is situated around 50 miles to the east of Fernando de Noronha.
It also offers some spectacular beaches, but the real thrills are located underneath the ocean's surface.
In the new Street View imagery, you can see dolphins swimming through the Canal de Sela Gineta (below) and sea turtles swimming at Buraco das Cabras.
As aid began trickling into the devastated island community,
Vanuatu’s president Baldwin Lonsdale told gathered reporters that his
country – among the poorest in the world – would have to “start over” as
previous development had been “wiped out” by Cyclone Pam.
NASA's Terra satellite captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Pam showing her eye in the South Pacific Ocean on March 11 at 22:50 UTC.
Mr Lonsdale laid blame for the disaster, which has claimed at least six lives and injured more than 30, on “climate change.”
see the level of sea rise … the cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain,
all this is affected … This year we have more than in any year …
yes, climate change is contributing to this,” he told reporters.
He was backed by the president of fellow South Pacific nation Kiribati,
Anote Tong, who claimed: “For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the
hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is
a catastrophe that impinges on our rights … and our survival into the
future. There will be a time when the waters will not recede.”
Global sea surface temperatures, showing an area of extremely warm water
near Vanuatu and Australia.
Image : NOAA/ESRL
Although the storm has passed over the islands, travelling in the
direction of New Zealand, officials are struggling to access the full
extent of the damage after winds of up to 168mph tore over the land,
home to 267,000 people, on Saturday.
"This is a very devastating
cyclone in Vanuatu. I term it as a monster, a monster," Mr Lonsdale said
from Sendai, Japan, where he had been attending a UN disaster
conference when the cyclone struck. He will return to his country today.
a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu. After all
the development that has taken place, all this development has been
Officials have been unable to contact outlying islands as
communications have fallen making a proper assessment of Vanuata’s 65
"We do not know if our families are safe or
not. As the leader of the nation, my whole heart is for the people, the
nation," the president said, adding he had been unable to discover if
his own family was safe.
There have been reports of entire
An Australian Red Cross official claimed:
"Virtually every building that is not concrete has been flattened."
Today, the coordinator of Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management
Office Paolo Malatu said he plans to send what little light aircraft
possessed by the government to fly over the outer islands.
damage to homes and infrastructure is severe," Mr Malatu said.
priority at the moment is to get people water, food and shelter."
UK and France, previous rulers of the tiny nation until 1980, have
Australia has promised A$5 million and also sent medical
experts, emergency supplies and a search and rescue team.
Mashable: Vanuatu's president makes a leap in tying Cyclone Pam to climate change
The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean Sea is spiralling
out of control. Thousands of people lost their lives during 2014 while
attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa. There is a risk
of further catastrophic losses of life as more desperate people attempt
this dangerous sea crossing.
– the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated, ‘At least 218,000
people, including migrants and refugees, crossed the Mediterranean by
irregular routes in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue in 2015.
About 3,500 boat people lost their lives trying to cross to Europe in
That is approximately one in every 60 people.
EU Member States must act urgently to prevent the loss of thousands
more lives, as hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees seek to
escape to Europe in boats that are unfit for purpose and which are
largely operated by people smugglers.
This is the key message which the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS),
the principal global trade association for ship operators, delivered to
a high-level United Nations inter-agency meeting on the crisis, hosted
by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London on 4th March.
Image: MOAS (the Migrant Offshore Aid Station)
Merchant ships rescued around 40,000 people during 2014, according to
But this number is predicted to increase dramatically during
2015 if the political situation in Africa and the Middle East further
ICS says that the burden of responsibility placed on ships and their
crews to rescue migrants in distress has been further increased by the
replacement of Italy’s humanitarian ‘Mare Nostrum’ operation with the EU
funded ‘Triton’ operation, whose primary mandate is border protection
and which operates with very limited resources.
The shipping industry’s
concern is that, following the end of Mare Nostrum, other governments
are increasingly relying on merchant ships to undertake more and more
ICS says it is also concerned by the more recent
phenomenon of ships full of migrants being left to navigate in congested
waters without qualified persons in charge, presenting a danger to
seafarers in other ships as well as the migrants themselves.
Coastal States have Search and Rescue (SAR) obligations under
international law but as the situation gets worse, ICS believes that
unless concerted action is taken to prevent criminals from using unsafe
craft to transport migrants there must be a massive increase in State
funded resources for SAR operations to meet the growing need in the
In practice, says ICS, this means that other EU Member
States need to share the burden in order to help prevent thousands more
The international shipping industry fully accepts its legal obligations
to come to the assistance of anyone in distress at sea.
ships have had to rescue as many as 500 people at a time, with serious
implications for the welfare of ships’ crews given the health and
security issues involved in dealing with such large numbers.
While far more needs to be done to prevent the boats used by people
smugglers from being able to depart in the first place, the lawless
situation in nations such as Libya and Syria makes this very difficult.
ICS therefore believes there is an urgent need for European States and
the international community to develop a political solution.
In the short term, however, ICS insists that EU Member States need to
do far more to support the Italian Search and Rescue operation, as well
as nations such as Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Turkey which are also on
the front line of this problem.
The very large number of rescues being
conducted by merchant ships is a situation which ICS says is becoming
ICS has published new Guidance on Large Scale
Rescue Operations at Sea, which can be downloaded free of charge via the
In 2014 merchant ships were tasked 882 times to rescue migrants
According to the UK based International Maritime Rescue Federation
(IMRF) this pressure on merchant vessels is unsustainable and coastal
States, and States responsible for search and rescue (SAR) in the
regions where the rescues takes place, must do much more to help.
The IMRF said the SAR community had major concerns considering that the
number needed to be rescued in this year is expected to escalate to
400,000. Funding of SAR services is reducing, meaning merchant ships had
to save 42,000 people during 254 rescues. Already this year 7500
people have been rescued.
Following the United Nations inter-agency meeting on the crisis, hosted
by the IMO in London on 4th March, IMRF CEO Bruce Reid said, ‘This was
never the purpose of the International Convention for the Safety of Life
at Sea (SOLAS) agreement and is of major concern to all our
We fully appreciate the difficulties of the shipping
industry in this matter.
Ships’ masters are required, by international
maritime agreements and regulations, to rescue people in distress if
It does not – and must not – matter who those people are or
where they have come from.
That is the law and tradition of the sea, and
we must ensure that it is maintained, for there are many circumstances
in which only ships in the area will be able to carry out a rescue.
here we have a situation in which people are deliberately being placed
in a position of distress, to trigger a rescue response.
places ships’ masters in an invidious position.
The IMRF supports our
colleagues in the shipping industry in their call for these issues to be
Mediterranean SAR operation seeks crowdfunding to save lives
As part of a rapid response to the situation in the Med an independent
Search and Rescue operation MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) has been
created with private funds to assist naval, commercial and private
mariners to carry out rescue and life saving at sea.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station is a registered Foundation (VO/0939)
based in Malta.
MOAS was founded in 2013 by Christopher Catrambone (from
New Orleans, USA) and Regina Catrambone (from Reggio Calabria, Italy)
following the loss at sea of hundreds of migrants off the Italian island
MOAS is headed by Brigadier (Retired) Martin Xuereb, who
was Malta's Chief of Defence until 2014.
He coordinates a team of
seafarers and SAR professionals.
The organisation is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by
providing assistance, coordination and support to maritime rescue
During just 60 days in 2014 MOAS provided life-saving rescue
and medical assistance to 3000 people at sea.
MOAS have no political affiliation or agenda other than the
professional saving of lives at sea.
Their mantra is ‘no one deserves to
die at sea’.
MOAS is a NGO (Non Government Organisation) funded by
Contributions show that many private individuals and
organisations want to be part of the solution to the humanitarian crisis
in the Med.
Depending on the level of public donations MOAS plans to
spend six months at sea in 2015.
MOAS is equipped with a 40 metre (130 feet) vessel 'Phoenix', two
Remote Piloted Aircraft (Schiebel camcopters) and two RHIBs, plus an
experienced team of rescuers and paramedics.
MOAS supports search and
rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea by locating vessels in distress.
First the appropriate official Rescue Coordination Centre is informed,
MOAS then assists as directed or as required by the situation.
All seafarers transiting the Mediterranean will be affected by the
numbers of refugees crossing from Libya to Italy.
said, ‘due to the sheer number of migrant boats and the lack of EU
assets to intercept them, commercial vessels have become the first line
of defence in rescues.
But cargo ships and private sailors are
unprepared for this kind of overwhelming emergency situation.’
Catrambone continued, ‘They do not have medical personnel so they are
unfamiliar on how to take care of the people involved. And this is a big
part of the process, not only rescuing them but taking care of them
after they’ve been rescued which can be critical to their lives, as
we’ve learned in Lampedusa.
300 migrants drowned and died of hypothermia in February
MOAS has launched an urgent appeal for funds following the February
2015 tragedies in which 300 migrants drowned and more died of
hypothermia after being rescued in the Mediterranean between North
Africa and Southern Italy.
According to reports, in February 2015 three rubber dinghies crammed
beyond capacity by smugglers with hundreds of migrants left Libya.
first responder was a small tug boat which waited some two hours for
naval help from Operation Triton, by which time many were already dead
After around 100 people were rescued, at least 29 died from
hypothermia on their way to the island of Lampedusa.
Brigadier Xuereb said, ‘the weather was cold, the sea was rough, there
was wind chill and it had rained. It is also very likely that these
people had been out at sea already for a considerable amount of time.
Hypothermia will have kicked in very fast under these conditions when
people were exposed without any cover.’
MOAS Schiebel camcopter (first flight 25/08/2014)
High technology and preventing loss of life at sea
During May to October 2015, MOAS intends to position the vessel
‘Phoenix’ in major migrant shipping lanes.
Using Remote Piloted Aircraft
with sonar, thermal, and night imaging the crew will monitor the area
to locate migrant vessels in distress.
The appropriate Rescue
Coordination Centre will then be informed.
The MOAS crew will then assess the migrants’ needs using two
RHIBs stocked with water, non-perishable food, life jackets, blankets
and medical supplies.
If they encounter someone who needs urgent medical
care, or a vessel in danger of sinking, they will stabilize the person
or vessel until public authorities arrive and better care becomes
MOAS consists of international humanitarians, security professionals,
medical staff, and experienced maritime officers who have come together
to help prevent further catastrophes at sea.
They are passionate about
the plight of those seeking a better life, despite the dangers they face
MOAS acts as an aid station to support vessels in need of assistance,
coordinating its efforts with other search and rescue authorities around
The ultimate aim is to mitigate loss of life at sea.
It will not act as a migrant ferry and it will not rescue migrants
exclusively, but it will use all its resources to assist appropriate
official Rescue Coordination Centres to locate and help reduce the
suffering of human beings and save lives where possible.
Separating politics from search and rescue
MOAS operates in full compliance with relevant EU law, including the
Charter of Fundamental Rights, and relevant international law.
Xuereb said, ‘What we would like as a foundation is for this to be a
realisation, for politicians and the EU to put search and rescue at the
top of their agenda and really come to terms with the fact that this is a
crisis. We need to have more assets out there to save and render
assistance to people in distress.’
Brigadier Xuereb added, ‘I think it’s very important to remove the
politics out of search-and-rescue and try and see the issue from the
perspective of those people who feel compelled to do the crossing. Last
year we saved family units and pensioners who would never have left
their homes unless they really had to. People leave because the push
factors are so great.’
Christopher Catrambone concluded, ‘If migrants are out there, taking
these journeys in this degree of weather, they are extremely desperate.
If they had any ability to stay, they would have stayed until there was
better weather, but they have taken this perilous journey irrespective
of the weather conditions.’
A mariners perspective
From the mariner’s perspective there are basic survival and
humanitarian issues at sea level.
There clearly are significant
political and regional security viewpoints that also need to be
There are parallels with maritime piracy, where many
different views from land are relevant, but at the end of the day action
has to be taken by captains and their crews at sea.
Any mariner transiting the Mediterranean in any size of vessel
including tankers, cruise ships, super yachts and even small private
boats could get caught up in this situation.
Rapid response is essential
to rescue people at sea and captains will be faced with hard decisions.
They are going to have to consider whether they take people onboard or
stand by to wait for professional rescuers, while still maintaining the
safety of their crew, plus the security of their vessel and cargo.
Mariners will need a clear course of action in their standard operating
procedures and a clearly defined SAR, coast guard or naval contact for
assistance in each sea area of The Mediterranean.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has stated, ‘The Mediterranean is
one of the busiest seaways in the world, as well as a dangerous sea
frontier for migrants and asylum seekers en route to Europe.In view of
the perils UNHCR again calls on all vessels at sea to be on alert for
migrants and refugees in need of rescue. We also renew our call to all
shipmasters in the Mediterranean to remain vigilant and to carry out
their duty of rescuing vessels in distress.’
NYCDFF 2015 DRONIE WINNER: FLOATING from NYCDFF It’s all about discovering. Isn’t it always about that? In this video we might think that we see everything at the beginning, but as we get closer there is a little detail which we didn’t see at first and which we can get very close to.