Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Miles deep trailer

Syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey is best known for his daily comic strip “Sherman’s Lagoon,” which explores themes ranging from pop culture to ocean conservation through the eyes of a cast of sea creatures living in an imaginary lagoon.
In June of 2014, Jim was invited by the Duke University Marine Lab to be a “cartoonist-in-residence” aboard the famed deep submersible vehicle Alvin.
“Two Miles Deep” is an account of his dive to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
In this 27-minute film, we discover, from the perspective of a cartoonist, through video and animation, that the deep ocean is a world full of beauty and complexity.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cape Horn discovered 400 years ago

Cabo de Hornos with the GeoGarage platform (SHN Argentina chart)

From Maritime Executive by Niek Boot

On January 29 2016, it is exactly 400 years ago that a Dutch merchant ship, the Eendracht, sailed by Cape Horn, the southern-most point of South America.
When Fernando Magallanes discovered and sailed the Strait of Magellan in 1520 it was still assumed that Tierra del Fuego, the southern bank of the Strait, was part of Terra Australis, the unknown continent. Maps of the era show no passage south of the Strait of Magellan.
Some 80 years later, in 1602, the Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and granted it a monopoly to trade with the “Spice Islands” east of Cape of Good Hope and west of the Strait of Magellan.

 NGA chart with the GeoGarage platform

One of the founders and the first president of the VOC was Isaac Le Maire.
He soon fell out with the board and was expelled in 1605 with the prohibition never to trade in VOC territory.
For a number of years he complied, but then the temptation became too great and he got permission to establish an “Australische Compagnie” or “South Company” and to launch an expedition to investigate the possibility of trade with the unknown Southern Continent.
His intention, from the start, was to find a new way to the East Indies, bypassing the exclusive routes of the VOC.
He purchased two vessels, the Eendracht (about 40m (130 feet) long with a crew of 65) and the Hoorn (about 30m (98 feet) long with a crew of 22) and had them fitted out by Captain Willem Schouten.

 Jacob Le Maire 

Le Maire appointed his son Jacob as leader of the expedition.
They sailed from the city of Hoorn, which was an important investor in the adventure, in June 1615. After calling at Cape Verde and Sierra Leone in Africa to replenish stores, water in particular, they arrived at what is today Puerto Deseado in the South of Argentina early December.
It is a protected inlet with a tidal range of over five meters, ideal to ground the vessels and clean their hulls of molluscs and other growth.
The cleaning was done by scratching the hulls with burning grass and scrubs.
During this work the Hoorn caught fire, and when the flames reached the gunpowder room, the vessel exploded and was irretrievably lost.
All of the crew survived and they then spent some weeks recovering was could be saved to put it on board Eendracht.

Beagle canal (SHN nautical charts)

On January 13, 1616, they set sail on the next leg of the trip.
They continued south past the latitude of the Strait of Magellan.
Here the coast of Tierra del Fuego forced them to sail eastbound in bad and cold weather.
Captain Schouten was tempted to abandon the search and set sail for Cape of Good Hope, unconvinced of the existence of a passage to the east and less secure without the assistance of his support vessel Hoorn. 
Jacob Le Maire insisted, and they continued.
On January 24, they found an opening and against current, waves and wind they managed to sail through.
Isla de los Estados with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)
To the west was Tierra del Fuego, to the east there was land which they called Staten Land, not knowing it was an island.
Today it is called Staten Island, just like the island at the entrance of the Hudson River in New York, both named in honor of the General Staten of Holland, the Dutch government at the time.

 1633 map of Strait of Magellan, showing Strait Le Maire at the right, marked Fretum le Maire (Latin) and Straet Le Maire (Dutch)

They called the passage “Strait Lemaire.”
Continuing south, they sailed by various islands, some of which still today carry the names they were given then.
On the afternoon of January 29, 1616, they came by a cape which they realized was the southernmost of all and called it Kaap Hoorn in honor of the city they had sailed from.
They crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived in Djakarta on the island of Java at the end of October 1616.
Instead of congratulating them with their discovery, the VOC-appointed governor did not believe their story and confiscated their ship and the goods on board.
Le Maire, Schouten and some of the crew were shipped to Holland as criminals for having infringed the monopoly of the VOC.
Jacob Le Maire died on board at the end of December.
The others arrived in Holland by July 1617. Isaac Le Maire was of course most distressed for having lost his son and his ships.
He claimed against the VOC for the confiscated vessel.
He won the case and recovered 65,000 florins.
But in the meantime the Dutch set up a new company, the West India Company, which they granted the monopoly of trading with the Americas, including the route via Cape Horn.
As a result Le Maire could not take advantage of his son’s discovery.
He died a bitter man in 1624, but his name lives on, 400 years later.

Links :

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why we’ve been hugely underestimating the overfishing of the oceans

What if everything we know about the amount of fish in the ocean isn't true?

What if the quantity of fish we catch is much higher than we realize?
What if we're heading for a global fishing catastrophe that could trigger a food crisis for millions?
In a multi-year investigation, an international team of scientists led by Dr. Daniel Pauly has set out to challenge dangerous assumptions about the amount of fish we remove from the oceans.

Dr. Pauly contends that as governments and regulators report on commercial fishing, and claim the oceans can handle the huge catches - they're wrong.
The official data fails to account for entire categories of fishing, including small-scale, recreational, and illegal fishing (collectively known in the industry as IUU fishing).
If we don't know how many fish we catch?

How can we know that there are enough left?
The fate of one of humanity's most important food sources depends on convincing governments and industry to finally take stock of the missing fish.
"The Missing Fish" film will follow the journey of Dr. Daniel Pauly and his team as they gather information to calculate the world’s total fish catch.

The film is scheduled for release later this year.

From WashingtonPost by Chelsea Harvey

The state of the world’s fish stocks may be in worse shape than official reports indicate, according to new data — a possibility with worrying consequences for both international food security and marine ecosystems.
A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that the national data many countries have submitted to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has not always accurately reflected the amount of fish actually caught over the past six decades.
And the paper indicates that global fishing practices may have been even less sustainable over the past few decades than scientists previously thought.

The FAO’s official data report that global marine fisheries catches peaked in 1996 at 86 million metric tons and have since slightly declined.
But a collaborative effort from more than 50 institutions around the world has produced data that tell a different story altogether.
The new data suggest that global catches actually peaked at 130 metric tons in 1996 and have declined sharply — on average, by about 1.2 million metric tons every year — ever since.

 In this April 27, 2011 photo, Atlantic bluefin tuna are corralled by fishing nets during the opening of the season for tuna fishing off the coast of Barbate, Cadiz province, southern Spain.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The effort was led by researchers Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project.
The two were interested investigating the extent to which data submitted to the FAO was misrepresented or underreported.
Scientists had previously noticed, for instance, that when nations recorded “no data” for a given region or fishing sector, that value would be translated into a zero in FAO records — not always an accurate reflection of the actual catches that were made.
Additionally, recreational fishing, discarded bycatch (that is, fish that are caught and then thrown away for various reasons) and illegal fishing have often gone unreported by various nations, said Pauly during a Monday teleconference.
“The result of this is that the catch is underestimated,” he said.

So the researchers teamed up with partners all over the world to help them examine the official FAO data, identify areas where data might be missing or misrepresented and consult both existing literature and local experts and agencies to compile more accurate data.
This is a method known as “catch reconstruction,” and the researchers used it to examine all catches between 1950 and 2010.  
Ultimately, they estimated that global catches during this time period were 50 percent higher than the FAO reported, peaking in the mid-1990s at 130 million metric tons, rather than the officially reported 86 million.
As of 2010, the reconstructed data suggest that global catches amount to nearly 109 million metric tons, while the official data only report 77 million metric tons.

Overfishing causing global catches to fall 3X faster than estimated

This news can be interpreted as both good and bad news.
On the one hand, “it means that fisheries are more important than we think,” Pauly said — in other words, when catches were at their highest, they were producing more food for the world than scientists previously thought.
This is a plus for global food security in the authors’ eyes.
Overfishing and the subsequent decline of the world’s fish stocks can be a threat to the food security of cultures that rely heavily on fish — but Pauly suggests that if we implement better management techniques in the future that allow these stocks to replenish themselves, we may be able to feed more people than we thought, as the new data suggest.

On the other hand, the higher catch numbers also suggest that fishing has been even more unsustainable in the past than scientists thought.
And the world is now suffering the consequences, as the authors point out.

Their second major finding was that fish catches have been sharply declining from the 1990s up through 2010 — much more severely than the FAO has reported.
At first, the authors thought that these declines might be due to increased restrictions by certain countries on fishing quotas in recent years.
But when the researchers removed those countries from their calculations, they found that the catch data was still caught up in a downward trend.
“Our results indicate that the declining is very strong and the declining is not due to countries fishing less,” Pauly said during the teleconference.
“It is due to the countries fishing too much and having exhausted one fish after the other.”
The data indicate that the largest of these declines come from the industrial fishing sector.
To be clear, the research is not meant to assess the state of the world’s fisheries, Pauly added — but, nonetheless, the study does raise some important questions about fisheries management moving forward. 

Russia saw the giant ships drains tons of fish in the coast of Morocco Dakhla

The authors suggest that, in the future, the FAO might consider requiring nations to submit catch statistics separately for both large-scale and small-scale fisheries in order to ensure that small-scale fisheries don’t fly under the radar.
They also point out the importance of stock rebuilding — that is, enacting fishing quotas to cut down on overfishing and allow fish stocks to replenish themselves.
Such action may become even more important in the future, as additional factors — most notably, the effects of climate change — place even more pressure on global fish stocks, Pauly noted.
“In the future there will be another mechanism that will begin to play a role [in catch declines] — that is global warming — and it will be very difficult to separate from the effects of fishing,” he said. 

So while a few countries have already implemented fishing caps, he predicted that the world will continue to see a sharp and continual decline in catch until better practices are enacted worldwide.
And this will be important to consider, not only for the health of the oceans, but for the health of the millions of people worldwide who depend on fish for their food and their livelihoods.
With good management, though, there’s room for optimism, Pauly suggested.
“The fact that we catch far more than we thought is, if you like, a positive thing,” he said during the teleconference.
“If we rebuild stocks, we can rebuild to more than we thought before. Basically, the oceans are more productive than we thought before.”

-> FAO’s response to the Nature Communications article “Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining"

Links :

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Henry Worsley’s journey wasn’t foolhardy – it was tremendous

Cold, bleak and deadly: Antarctica is little changed since the days of Scott and Shackleton
Photo: Global Book Publishing Photo Library

From The Telegraph by Paul Rose (Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years)

In Antarctica, making the slightest mistake can put your life at risk.
It is an unforgiving place.
Colder than cold, bleak, a vast wasteland of iciness, its deadliness stretches for thousands of miles.
True, it has been explored and mapped.
Yet the minute you step out of your modern base, regardless of all your hi-tech equipment, you’re in exactly the same Antarctica that Scott and Shackleton travelled in.
It’s remote and it is hostile.

That’s why Henry Worsley’s attempt to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps and travel across the Antarctic alone, pulling his own supplies, was so impressive.
He was a formidable explorer: well-organised, determined and incredibly powerful – not one of those people who just goes off with a dream and not much of a plan.
His was a good expedition, and I followed him all the way.
It looked as if he was cruising it and sometimes he was even going like the clappers.

 Antarctica from space (NASA)

But you’ve got to remember those conditions.
Even walking outside at minus 40 degrees when you’re well-rested is a very, very cold, potentially deadly experience.
For Henry to face those conditions alone every day would have been incredibly tough.

 Pulling a sledge full of supplies is brutal  Photo: PA
The former Army officer turned explorer died just 30 miles short of his attempt to become the first person to cross the Antarctic alone

The final expedition:
A solo 943 mile coast-to-coast trek across the Antarctic, pulling a sledge with everything he needed. He collapsed 71 days into the anticipated 80 day journey, and later died of organ failure
Bear in mind that he had to carry everything he needed.
He couldn’t take anything that would add unnecessary weight – such as a spare pair of gloves.
And everything you do in those bitter conditions takes effort.
Say you’re thirsty and want to get some water out of your bag.
You’ve got to get the bag off the sledge and unzip it.
But you’re wearing thick mittens for travelling – warmer than gloves, but offering less dexterity – and you’ve got to take the outer mitten off to reach the zip.
Where do you put that outer mitten to make sure it doesn’t blow away?
Even the simplest task can be fraught with danger, and the only way to stay alive is with a severe amount of discipline.

 His lifelong hero was Ernest Shackleton and it was his journey across the Antarctic that Henry Worlsley was trying to recreate - with the huge, added challenge that Worsley was entirely alone.
Like Shackleton, his bravery and his willingness to endure endless, uncharted terrain led him into a desperate race for survival that ended in his death
The British explorer died of organ failure - tragically - when the end of the mission was almost in sight - just 30 miles remained of his 1,000 mile journey.

It’s bloody hard at the end of a long day spent pulling that sledge.
All you want to do is get the tent up, get in and have a warm drink.
But the tent doesn’t go up by magic.
First you’ve got to secure the sledge, skis and poles so they don’t blow away.
You also have to bear in mind that the moment you stop you are instantly cold, so you have to put on a thicker, insulating down layer.
Then you find the tent and secure it – but it’s still just a shelter and minus 40 inside.
So you put the sleeping bag in, find the stove and melt some snow.
From stopping to getting a cup of instant soup takes an hour and a half.
Mornings are the worst, as you lie there, very hungry, tired and cold and have to force yourself to get up and start the routine over again: melt snow, make food, load sledge.
You love the sledge – because all that equipment is keeping you alive – but you are also beginning to hate the thing, the feeling of it rubbing on your hips as you struggle to put one foot in front of the other.

For all its harshness, though, Antarctica has something we love.Frank Wild, Shackleton’s right-hand man said that it calls you back with little white voices, and he was spot on.
Once you’ve worked there, it’s hard to resist its siren call.
Some people may say that Henry’s journey was foolhardy.
But it wasn’t.
For me it is only natural that we should want to explore new ground, no matter the dangers.
It is good for us to discover the “ground truth” of the planet for ourselves.
Henry’s was a tremendous journey and he very nearly made it.
For that, I salute him.

Links :

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Were Portuguese explorers the first Europeans to find Australia?

Is this the first map of Australia?
Jave La Grande's east coast: from Nicholas Vallard's atlas, 1547.
This is part of an 1856 copy of one of the Dieppe Maps.
Copy held by the National Library of Australia
(Photo: Wikipedia)

From Atlas Obscura by Eric Grundhauser

Did a secret search for Marco Polo’s islands of gold lead Portuguese explorers to be the first Europeans to discover Australia?
According to some theories, the Dieppe maps, a series of artful 16th century maps say yes.
Operating in the mid-1500s, the Dieppe mapmakers created elaborate, hand-made world maps for wealthy patrons and royals.
The French artists who created the maps were just that, leaving the actual exploration to others and simply translating more utilitarian nautical charts into things of beauty.
The surviving maps are beautifully rendered, although their exact cartographic sources seem to have been lost to time.
This becomes most problematic in the case of "Java la Grande", a giant landmass unique to the maps that was drawn between Antarctica and what we would today consider to be Indonesia.
According to some modern researchers, this mystery island is actually the first record of Europeans seeing Australia.

 The map has been inverted to represent the modern view, but Java la Grande can be found where Australia would be.
World map of Nicolas Desliens, 1566.
(Photo: Wikipedia)

The maps, with their fancy compass roses and detailed illustrations, were intended to be pieces of art, rather than navigational aids, but their information had to come from somewhere.
The names and script on the charts are written out in a mix of French and Portuguese, giving rise to the theory, which was popularized in Kenneth McIntyre's 1977 book, The Secret Discovery of Australia, that the mapmakers of Dieppe were getting their view of the world, at least in part, from Portuguese expeditions.
In particular, one of the maps that came out of Dieppe, (and is survived by a faithful recreation) depicts the east coast of the fabled Java la Grande with place names almost exclusively in Portuguese.
Given the vagaries of the Dieppe map sources, this has led to the theory that it was the Portuguese who were the first Europeans to spy the Australian coast.
In addition to the general location of Java la Grande on the maps, there are certain features that adherents to the theory claim are unmistakably bits of Australia, such as an inlet that looks like Botany Bay and the Abrolhos island chain.

 Java la Grande was thought to be so big the map was awkwardly extended. 
World map, by Guillaume Brouscon, 1543
(Photo: Wikipedia)

As to what expedition could have seen the coast, it is suggested by McIntyre that it was a search for Marco Polo’s fabled Isles of Gold that led to the discovery.
Wealthy Portuguese explorer Cristóvão de Mendonça is recorded as having been tasked by King Manuel with sailing out in search of Polo’s treasure islands, but actual record of this voyage has been lost, if there ever was one.
Manuel was notoriously secretive about the findings of his exploration teams.
According to popular history, Australia was first visited by Europeans when Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon “discovered” the continent in the early 17th century, and later fully explored by Captain Cook.

On the left, first Portuguese chart designed in Dieppe by Jean Rotz in 1542.
On the right, Australia seen by Dutch in 1628...

While no direct evidence of Portuguese discovery exists, there have been other findings that seem to support the theory of their early Australian discovery.
Various ruins, cannons, and other archeological artifacts have been found on the Australian continent that believers say point to Portuguese discovery, but the Dieppe maps remains the prime source of speculation.

Links : 

Monday, January 25, 2016

France SHOM update in the GeoGarage platform

12 nautical charts updated

Opinion: Were US sailors 'spoofed' into Iranian waters?

A riverine patrol boat from Costal Riverine Squadron 2 escorts the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) while in the Arabia Gulf in this November 15, 2014 handout photo, provided by the U.S. Navy, January 12, 2016.
Ten sailors aboard two U.S. Navy riverine patrol boats were seized by Iran in the Gulf on Tuesday, and Tehran told the United State the crew members would be promptly returned, according to U.S. Officials.
REUTERS/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class LaTunya Howard/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

From CSMonitor by Dana A. Goward

In 2011, Iran spoofed – or faked – Global Positioning System signals to send a CIA drone off course.

Did it do the same to trick Navy vessels into Iranian waters?

As images of captured American sailors competed with those of the President Obama during the State of the Union address Tuesday, viewers across the world asked: "How could this happen?"
The world’s most powerful nation with the most advanced navy had been embarrassed on the same day as the president's speech.

After a series of other implausible explanations, the Department of Defense settled on the explanation that the crews on both boats "misnavigated."
That in the middle of their trip between Kuwait and Bahrain the two boats accidentally went more than 50 miles out of their way to venture into Iranian waters.
But were they really that poorly trained and inattentive?
Is the navigation equipment in the world’s best navy that poor?
And was it just a coincidence it all happened on the day of the president’s address?
Or was something much more deliberate – and potentially troubling – to blame?

Iran has demonstrated in the past that it has the capability – and the will – to exploit a critical and broad vulnerability in our key navigation system – the Global Positioning System, or GPS.
In 2011, Iran manipulated GPS systems on a CIA surveillance drone to send it off course and capture it.

Now, at a time when elements in Iran are feeling their power and prestige diminish after Tehran agreed to the US-led pact to limit the country's nuclear program, the Islamic Republic could once again flex its muscles and show it has the wherewithal to toy with nearby Navy crews.
And, as the US government is well aware, the GPS network that both drivers and sailors rely on remains vulnerable to attacks.
Powered by solar panels and some 12,000 miles above the earth, GPS satellites broadcast very weak signals that are easy to block or jam.
Over the past few years, illegal jamming by criminals and terrorists trying to hide their whereabouts has become an increasing threat to those signals.
But perhaps more worrisome, GPS signals and receivers can also be spoofed, or faked.
This involves the spoofer sending a bogus signal that can fool GPS receivers, allowing the attacker to trick the device into thinking it's in another location.
Iran claims to have used that technique in 2011 to redirect a CIA surveillance drone from Afghanistan.
Their claim was credible at the time as they clearly had possession of the undamaged drone.

 Demonstration of a Remote Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Hijacking via GPS Spoofing
Military Global Positioning System (GPS) signals have long been encrypted to prevent counterfeiting and unauthorized use.
Civil GPS signals, on the other hand, were designed as an open standard, freely-accessible to all. These virtues have made civil GPS enormously popular, but the transparency and predictability of its signals give rise to a dangerous weakness: they can be easily counterfeited, or spoofed. Like Monopoly money, civil GPS signals have a detailed structure but no built-in protection against counterfeiting.
Civil GPS is the most popular unauthenticated protocol in the world.
The vulnerability of civil GPS to spoofing has serious implications for civil unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
This was demonstrated in June, 2012 by a dramatic remote hijacking of a UAV at White Sands Missile Range.
The demonstration was conducted by the University of Texas Radionavigation Laboratory at the invitation of the Department of Homeland Security.

It became much more credible several months later when Prof. Todd Humphreys and his students at the University of Texas showed how it was done.
In a live demonstration in 2013, they took over the navigation system of a large yacht in the Mediterranean.
Now, hackers are even selling spoofing kits.

For the 2015 DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas, a Chinese researcher sold equipment and published step-by-step instructions for building a spoofing device for about $300.
The loss of the CIA drone in 2011 should have been a wake-up call for the US military that GPS needs more safeguards.
That incident was yet another warning sign that's gone ignored.
But even presidential mandates meant to protect GPS have been ignored over the years.

In 1998, President Clinton became concerned about America’s growing reliance on GPS for navigation.
He directed the Department of Transportation to study the issue and make recommendations.
Those recommendations, which called for improving receivers, developing interference detection networks, and developing non-satellite navigation systems for use alongside GPS, came out just 12 days before 9/11.
Most of them, understandably, were tabled.

Then, in 2004, the Bush administration began to focus on GPS's other functions – providing highly precise timing signals for synchronizing telecommunications and IT networks, financial systems, and power grids.
President Bush issued a presidential directive that identified GPS services as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure, security, and economy.
Among its provisions to protect GPS, it directed acquisition of a "back-up system" to serve the nation in the event of a GPS disruption.
President Obama later reaffirmed that directive and has issued several additional presidential orders designed to make the nation’s critical infrastructure more resilient.
The Obama administration has also continued to voice significant concerns about GPS vulnerability. Department of Homeland Security officials have called GPS "a single point of failure for critical infrastructure."
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has said he wants to "unplug the military from GPS."

But plans to construct a land-based GPS backup system remain dormant.
Studies have shown that, for about $50 million a year, a system known as eLoran could provide a signal more than 1.3 million times stronger than GPS.
And, importantly, the signal is incredibly difficult to jam or spoof.
The deputy secretaries of both the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation have spoken out in favor of such a system.
Yet nothing has been done.
Similar systems are currently being used by Russia, China, South Korea,Britain, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

We may never know what truly led two Navy vessels into Iranian waters – the Iranians confiscated the boat’s GPS navigation suites before they were released.
But all the reasons that have been offered to the press seem unlikely.
Small Navy vessels like these have multiple and redundant systems, and usually travel in pairs or small groups specifically to avoid having a single point of failure threaten their mission.
But the incident is once again an important reminder that GPS as a single point of failure can cause significant problems for America, the least of which are minor embarrassments like this one.
Officials in the Obama administration have said they are going to act and address this problem.
Let’s hope that they – and the administration that comes next – follow through on presidential commitments and finally do something to safeguard GPS for everyone.

Links :

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Breathtaking manoeuvres in the harbour of Chios

Nissos Rodos, the ferry of Hellenic Seaways Island Rhodes evolves one "breath" from the ship Eleftherios Venizelos (ANEK Lines) at the port of Chios

 Harbour aerial view

 Khios harbour with the GeoGraage platform (NGA chart)