Saturday, May 2, 2015


This movie was shot during our 20 days trip to Antarctica in December 2014 to January 2015.

We started from Ushuaia in Argentina and went to Port Williams in Chile, rounded Cape Horn and crossed the Drake Passage towards the Melchior Islands in Antarctica.
We spent 16 days in the Antarctic and got to experience the most amazing scenery and wildlife before we returned back to Ushuaia.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves

A short film about plankton written, produced and directed by Dr Richard Kirby (Marine Institute Research Fellow, Plymouth University) with a narration by Sir David Attenborough and music by Richard Grassby-Lewis.

 See how plankton influence Earth's climate over millenia

Drawing upon Richard Kirby's plankton imagery, Ocean Drifters reveals how the plankton have shaped life on Earth and continue to influence our lives in ways that most of us never imagine. Further information about the plankton can be found at the Ocean Drifters website and in the popular book about plankton also titled "Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves".

Links :

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mystery of island visited by 15th Century Chinese explorer Zheng He now solved

 The imperially sponsored maritime expeditions led by Zheng He in the early fifteenth century AD projected Ming Chinese power as far as Java, Sri Lanka and the East African coast.
The Indian Ocean voyages are well documented in Chinese and Islamic historical accounts and by the nautical charts of Zheng He's journeys.
Less clear has been the exact location of ancient Hormuz, the destination of Zheng He's voyages in the Persian Gulf.
Recent re-analysis of ceramics from coastal southern Iran provides a solution.
Archaeological evidence for Ming ceramics on present-day Hormuz Island and jewellery and gemstones of Iranian origin in southern China suggest that ancient Hormuz and Hormuz Island are one and the same.

From AncientOrigins by Liz Leafloor

The 15th century voyages of Chinese maritime admiral and diplomat Zheng He have been well documented by historical accounts.
Zheng He, highly influential in Ming emperor Yongle’s court, was instrumental in widening Chinese trade and influence through voyages to Southeast Asia, India, Arabia, Persia and East Africa.
However, one of Zheng He’s destinations has largely remained a mystery to researchers, until now.

 Section of the Mao Kun map showing Hormuz

‘Zheng He’s voyages to Hormuz: the archaeological evidence’, a recent article published in the archaeological journal Antiquity, notes that historical accounts and nautical maps mention Muslim-born Zheng He visited an ancient island in the Persian Gulf — but which island it was specifically has been under scholarly debate.
Some say it was Hormuz Island and others cite the larger Qeshm Island.

 Explorer: Chinese Admiral Zheng He is known to have sailed the to Europe and Africa with a massive fleet of ships.

By examining artifacts found in the region, researchers now conclude that Zheng He visited and traded with the kingdom of Hormuz, and Hormuz Island specifically, which played a key role in an economic boom in the Gulf in the 15th century.
Study authors Lin Meicun of the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University in China, and Ran Zhang of the Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK, explain:
“Less clear has been the exact location of ancient Hormuz, the destination of Zheng He’s voyages in the Persian Gulf. Recent re-analysis of ceramics from coastal southern Iran provides a solution. Archaeological evidence for Ming ceramics on present-day Hormuz Island and jewellery and gemstones of Iranian origin in southern China suggest that ancient Hormuz and Hormuz Island are one and the same.”

 Kangnido map (1402) created in  Korea depicts the general form of the Old World
 from Africa and Europe in the west to Japan in the east.

Although, overall, it is less geographically accurate than its Chinese cousin, most obviously in the depiction of rivers and small islands, it does feature some improvements (particularly the depictions of Korea and Japan, and a less cramped version of Africa).

Hormuz Island, off modern-day Iran in the Persian Gulf, was an important regional port, and considered a center of world trade was visited several times by Zheng He’s fleet.

The rocks and sandy beaches of Hormuz Island, Persian Gulf, Iran.

In ‘Zheng He’s voyages to Hormuz’ Meicun and Zhang establish that the kingdom of Hormuz and Ming China were tied by trade routes.
The two cultures were revealed and enhanced through trade and communication, and flourished during the Ming Dynasty.
This era saw a significant period of growth.
It is historically recorded that China brought rich products, silks and fabrics, and in exchange received luxuries of pearls, gold, silver, gemstones and ceramics.
The kingdom of Hormuz also gifted wild animals, such as lions, war horses, leopards and giraffes (the giraffes were believed to have magical qualities in China as they were thought to resemble the mythical Qilin).

 The pet giraffe of the Sultan of Bengal, brought from Medieval Somalia,
and later taken to China in the twelfth year of Yongle (1415).

According to the study, archaeological surveys and excavations across approximately 900 sites revealed Chinese ceramic materials, “Approximately 300 shards of Chinese ceramics, including Qingbai stoneware, blue and white porcelain, and Longquan celadon, that have been dated to between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries were found on Hormuz Island.”
Analysis of the artifacts revealed a direct connection between the finds and Zheng He’s voyages.

The controversial Chinese map argued by some to be from 1418.
Mr Menzies believes that this portion of the map depicts the Chinese mapping of North and South America in 1418 - showing major rivers.

One researcher controversially theorizes that Zheng He went farther than official history records, and may have discovered the New World 70 years before Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
In his book, titled ‘Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas’, amateur historian Gavin Menzies claims a Chinese map dated 1418 supports his contention that the Chinese were exploring the Americas in 1421.
The map charted by Admiral Zheng He appears to show North American rivers and coasts as well as the continent of South America in some detail.
Menzies also writes that DNA markers proves some Native Americans are the descendants of several waves of Asian settlers.

Links :

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Image of the week : Iceberg B-34 makes its debut off Antarctica


On March 6, 2015, the U.S. National Ice Center (NIC) discovered a new iceberg adrift off the coast of Antarctica. Measuring 27 kilometers (17 miles) long, iceberg B-34 meets the 19-kilometer minimum required for tracking by the NIC.

The berg appears to have fractured from West Antarctica’s Getz Ice Shelf and moved out into in the Amundsen Sea sometime in mid- to late-February 2015.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites acquired these images spanning the calving event.
The first image (left) shows the iceberg on February 16, when it was still attached to the ice shelf.
By February 28 (middle), it appears to have separated somewhat.
By March 5 (right), it is floating freely.

B-34 is the 34th iceberg from the “B” quadrant of Antarctica (located between 90 degrees East and 180 degrees) to be tracked by the NIC.
The new berg is still smaller, however, than the much older B-15T—a fragment of B-15 that initially broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000.
Large icebergs can have large-scale impacts on the Southern Ocean.
For example, as the bergs melt, the addition of cold, fresh water to the saltwater ocean can affect ocean currents and circulation.
Researchers have shown, however, that even more fresh water comes from the melting of smaller and much more numerous bergs.

Links :
  • DailyMail : The birth of a monster: Nasa captures 17 MILE-long iceberg as it breaks away from West Antarctica's Getz ice shelf

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hunters of the South Seas: lessons from filming the Bajau Laut sea nomads

Hunters of the South Seas Season 1 Epidode 1 "The Bajau"

From The Guardian by Will Millard

Will Millard spent a month living in Indonesia while filming a documentary for BBC2, where spear fishing, hunting for sperm whales and sleeping in a stilt village is still part of daily life

I have never visited a community with a closer relationship to the sea than the Bajau Laut sea nomads of Indonesia.
Their entire lives are focused on Ibu Laut – Mother Ocean.
They are amazingly adapted physically for harvesting the sea and they live in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the richest marine environment on Earth.
The guys I stayed with were incredibly efficient at catching fish, holding their breath for minutes at a time to hunt.
In the film I describe their movement as underwater ballet – but it’s so practical.
They seem to intuitively know how the fish will move before they spear them.

 On the South coast of Lembata, the village of Lamalera is known for its whale hunting
Marine GeoGarage (NGA chart)

I spent a month living with a family in a stilt village out at sea for the BBC’s Hunters of the South Seas.
I got very close to Lobu, the eldest son.
He is a very charismatic child, with a physical disability – maybe muscular dystrophy.
The community’s reaction to Lobu deconstructed the romanticism of living with the Bajau.
They define themselves by their ability to fish – Lobu couldn’t fish or even swim, so they believed he was cursed and shunned him.
That was heartbreaking.
The irony is that overfishing may soon force the Bajau to seek alternative livelihoods.

 Commercial whaling was banned in 1986, but a remote Indonesian village is one of the few places still hunting whales using traditional methods.

The people of Lamalera island in eastern Indonesia are the only traditional whaling community left in the tropics.
They live on an infertile patch of volcano, but they just happen to have this incredible two-mile-deep oceanic trench right on their doorstep – it’s like a superhighway for sperm whales, dolphins, manta rays and sharks.
They hunt sperm whales to survive and the numbers they take doesn’t make a dent on global populations – but it was still hard for me to witness.
You never know when a whale is going to come; months can pass without a sighting.
We got lucky, if you could call it that.
We almost missed it: I just had time to grab a handicam and jump on the last boat heading out.
It was mayhem – a whale capsized one canoe and people scrambled on top of it.

 Hunters of the South Seas Season 1 Epidode 2 "The whale hunters of Lamalera"

Suddenly I realised the danger I was in.
Twice I saw an enormous whale tail rising in the air above me – the Hand of God, they call it.
The hunters had harpooned one whale and another came up to help.
Our captain tried to harpoon it – and missed.
Twelve metres and 25 tonnes of whale and he missed it!
Then a guy from another boat tore off his shirt, leapt off the bow and pierced its back.
After that the sea turned to blood as they stabbed it repeatedly.
It was terrifying, adrenaline-fuelled and, to me, tragic.
But there was still the sense of a deep respect for the animals.
It was all quite difficult to reconcile.

 Trobiand islands with the Marine GeoGarage

The Trobriand islands were much gentler.
I had heard of a group of islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea that maintain ties through “kula”, an intricate system of exchange involving shell necklaces and armbands that circulate across islands.
It is a currency, a social glue and a tool of political intrigue among the elite.
The Trobrianders have had a reputation for free love since anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski published The Sexual Life of Savages in 1929.
But it wasn’t what you might imagine.
I did keep seeing condom wrappers everywhere, but it turned out they were being used as fishing lures!
I was warned (despite insisting I had a girlfriend) that although a woman could spend the night, she must not be on my veranda by morning or we would be de facto married.
I don’t think there was much chance of that happening, though – we were referred to as “dim-dims” – pidgin for foreigner – and considered pitifully ugly.
I was amazed at the resilience of these communities in the face of great change, sticking to their traditions as the environment that supports them is degraded.
Part of me worried that we were making the last record of their lives – but then they have managed to endure this long, so who knows what may happen in the future?

Links :

Monday, April 27, 2015

US NOAA update in the Marine GeoGarage

As our public viewer is not yet available
(currently under construction, upgrading to a new viewer
as Google Maps API v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intended to our universal mobile application users
(Marine US iPhone-iPad on the Apple Store &
Weather 4D Android -App-in- on the PlayStore)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers
in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API

 NOAA raster chart coverage

15 charts have been updated in the Marine GeoGarage
(NOAA update April 2015, released April 13, 2015)

  • 12363 ed42 Long Island Sound Western Part
  • 13303 ed14 Approaches to Penobscot Bay
  • 13323 ed9 Bar Harbor Mount Desert Island
  • 16323 ed10 Bristol Bay-Kvichak Bay and approaches
  • 16343 ed9 Port Heiden
  • 16363 ed13 Port Moller and Herendeen Bay
  • 16450 ed3 Amchitka Island and Approaches (Metric)
  • 16501 ed8 Islands of Four Mountains
  • 16575 ed3 Dakavak Bay to Cape Unalishagvak;Alinchak Bay
  • 16597 ed10 Uganik and Uyak Bays
  • 16598 ed11 Cape Ikolik to Cape Kuliuk
  • 16705 ed21 Prince William Sound-western part
  • 16707 ed14 Prince William Sound-Valdez Arm and Port Valdez;Valdez Narrows;Valdez and Valdez Marine Terminal
  • 17370 ed12 Bay of Pillars and Rowan Bay. Chatham Strait;Washington Bay. Chatham Strait
  • 17382 ed18 Zarembo Island and approaches;Burnett Inlet. Etolin Island;Steamer Bay
Today 1026 NOAA raster charts (2236 including sub-charts) are included in the Marine GeoGarage viewer (see PDFs files)

How do you know if you need a new nautical chart?
See the changes in new chart editions.
NOAA chart dates of recent Print on Demand editions

Note : NOAA updates their nautical charts with corrections published in:
  • U.S. Coast Guard Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs),
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Notices to Mariners (NMs), and
  • Canadian Coast Guard Notices to Mariners (CNMs)
While information provided by this Web site is intended to provide updated nautical charts, it must not be used as a substitute for the United States Coast Guard, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or Canadian Coast Guard Notice to Mariner publications

Please visit the
NOAA's chart update service for more info or the online chart catalog

Happy 20th Anniversary, GPS!

From GPSWorld

The Global Positioning System marks its 20th year of operation on Monday, April 27.
Below is a timeline showing important milestones in the 20 years since the constellation reached full operational capability (FOC) on April 27, 1995.
FOC was formally announced on July 17, 1995. 

 ancient Satnav transit receiver

Before the GPS, the TRANSIT system, also known as NAVSAT (for Navy Navigation Satellite System), was the first satellite navigation system to be used operationally.
The system was primarily used by the U.S. Navy to provide accurate location information to its Polaris ballistic missile submarines, and it was also used as a navigation system by the Navy's surface ships, as well as for Hydrographic survey and geodetic surveying.
Transit provided continuous navigation satellite service from 1964, initially for Polaris submarines and later for civilian use as well.

Today, several satellite navigation systems with global coverage exist :

 Comparison of systems
source : wikipedia

Planet Earth gained five new navigation satellites in late March 2015, for four satellite systems.

Launched GNSS satellites 1978 to 2012

GPS. The U.S. Air Force’s ninth GPS Block IIF satellite (GPS IIF-9) launched on March 25 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The IIF-9 rode aboard a Delta IV rocket, the workhorse of the GPS fleet for successful launches.
The satellite was declared operational on April 21.
“Many thought the Delta IV and GPS days were long gone, but the recent questions concerning reliable and proven launch vehicles have brought them back online, so to speak,” said GPS World Defense Editor Don Jewell.
“The 20-year milestone for GPS space vehicles on orbit that occurred on April 27 translates to approximately 500 orbital years just for the IIR and IIF constellations alone. The IIAs may account for that many orbital hours as well.
“This is by far the most successful launch record ever put together by any nation or government. No other space-faring nation even comes close. The U.S. Air Force and all the players should be proud of all these records and more, plus we have one more GPS asset on orbit, providing GPS signals to the world and all they enable, courtesy of the USAF.”

Galileo. Two days later, March 27, a duo of Galileo satellites was successfully launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
The seventh and eighth Galileo satellites rode aboard a Soyuz ST-B rocket. Both are in their planned orbits.

IRNSS. The next day, March 28, the fourth satellite (IRNSS-1D) of  the IRNSS satellite navigation constellation was launched onboard PSLV-C27, and reached its orbital slot April 9.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast, in the 28th consecutive successful PSLV mission.

BeiDou. On March 30, China launched the first of a new generation of navigation satellites, BeiDou-3 M1, for its BeiDou constellation.
BeiDou-3 M1 is the first of 17 next-generation Beidou navigation satellites.
It will have a new navigation signal system with inter-satellite links and other tests to verify the satellite navigation system.
The new series of satellites is expected to mark an advancement in the completion of Beidou Phase III several years ahead of schedule, by as soon as 2017 rather than 2020.

GLONASS. Not making the March launch cut, GLONASS kept its hat in the orbit ring, so to speak, by issuing some far-sighted predictions.
Nicholas Testoyedov, CEO of Information Satellite Systems Reshetnev, said that the first GLONASS-K2 spacecraft will be launched into orbit in 2018.
“New code division (CDMA) signals will be emitted, so it will provide more accurate positioning for users.”
The GLONASS budget for 2015 will be cut by more than 5 billion rubles, a drop of more than 10 percent.
GLONASS is also suffering through an embezzlement scandal, related to construction of a new ground control center.

Quazi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). QZSS is a proposed three-satellite regional time transfer system and Satellite Based Augmentation System for the Global Positioning System, that would be receivable within Japan.

Links :

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Getting lost

This is somewhere in East Java where I had the opportunity to get lost for a few days with the great European surfers Tiago Pires and Aritz Aranburu during their break in the WCT Tour 2014.