Saturday, November 12, 2016

Solo the Americas : Matt Rutherford solo sailing

Once labeled a “youth-at-risk,” 30-year old Matt Rutherford risked it all in an attempt to become the first person to sail alone, nonstop around North and South America. 

In June 2011, Matt departed on an incredible, death-defying voyage to sail nonstop around the Americas. On St Brendan, Albin Vega #1147, an old, scrappy 27-foot sailboat he spent the next 309 days alone at sea.
He braved the icebergs of the Arctic and the treacherous waters off Cape Horn.

Red Dot on the Ocean is the story of Matt's death-defying voyage
and the childhood odyssey that shaped him

Friday, November 11, 2016

Image of the week : Offshore wind farms make wakes

acquired June 30, 2015

From NASA (Landsat)

For at least the past decade, satellites have spotted white dots cropping up in the North Sea.
If viewed from Earth’s surface, you would see that these dots are actually wind turbines—huge arrays of towers rising from the sea and topped with electricity-generating rotors.

 Kentish Flat wind farm with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)

But they’re doing more than harvesting the wind.
They appear to also be giving rise to sediment plumes.

 acquired June 30, 2015

Some of the North Sea’s most expansive arrays are visible in these images, acquired on Jun 30, 2015, with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite.
When these images were acquired, there were 84 offshore wind farms in Europe (including some under construction).
The North Sea accounts for the most offshore wind capacity—69 percent—in European seas, followed by the Irish Sea and Baltic Sea.

 acquired June 30, 2015

The turbines were built to take advantage of high winds blowing over the North Sea’s surface.
The London Array, visible in the first detailed image, spans 100 square kilometers (40 square miles). The wind farm, which first became operational in 2013, sits on two natural sandbanks in water as deep as 25 meters (80 feet).
The site was chosen because of its proximity to onshore electric power infrastructure and because it is beyond the main shipping lanes through the area.

 Thanet wind farm with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)

Other significant wind farms, Thanet and the northern half of Greater Gabbard, are shown in the second and third detailed images.
Thanet spans 35 square kilometers (14 square miles) and sits in water measuring 20 to 25 meters deep; the entirety of Greater Gabbard spans 147 square kilometers (57 square miles) and sits in water 24 to 34 meters deep.

 acquired June 30, 2015

 Greater Gabbard wind farm with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)

But the environment below the water’s surface can also feel the presence of the turbines.
The detailed views reveal light-brown plumes of suspended sediments extending from each tower.
In a 2014 paper, researchers analyzed satellite imagery and found that the wakes (and plumes) can measure anywhere from 30 to 150 meters wide and up to several kilometers long.
“The fact that the wakes are browner than the surrounding waters shows that they contain more suspended sediments,” said Quinten Vanhellemont, a researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and lead author of the 2014 paper.
“This shows that the installation of the wind turbines not only modifies the wind field above the sea surface (which is expected as they are extracting wind energy), but that they also modify the currents and sediment transport in the water.”

 London array wind farm with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)

Vanhellemont explained that the wakes are generated by the tidal current moving around the foundation of the turbine.
The direction and curvature in the wakes are related to the general direction of the current.
For example, the image of the London Array was acquired during flood tide, so the wakes follow the northward current.
But the tide in this area reverses every six hours, Vanhellemont said, “so the wakes are quite dynamic over the day.”
It’s not yet clear how these changes in sediment transport could affect the relatively shallow underwater environment, which is known to be an important fish nursery.
According to Vanhellemont, researchers at the University of Hull are currently studying the wakes in greater detail by investigating their 3D structure.

Links :

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Seabirds eat floating plastic debris because it smells like food, study finds

Birds and other marine creatures ingest plastic and this can lead to damage to internal organs, gut blockages or chemical build-ups in tissues.
Photograph: Dan Clark/USFWS/AP

From The Guardian by Hannah Devlin

Algae on drifting plastic waste gives off a sulfur compound which smells similar to the krill many marine birds feed on, researchers have discovered

Seabirds are enticed into eating plastic debris because it smells like their food, according to scientists.
The study found that drifting plastic waste accumulates algae and gives off a smell very similar to the krill that many marine birds feed on.

The findings could explain why certain birds - including albatrosses and shearwaters - which rely on their sense of smell for hunting, are particularly vulnerable to swallowing plastic.
Matthew Savoca, the study’s lead author at the University of California Davis, said: “Animals usually have a reason for the decisions they make.
If we want to truly understand why animals are eating plastic in the ocean, we have to think about how animals find food.”

 CNN gained rare access to Midway Atoll to see the shocking amounts of plastic that makes its way across the Pacific Ocean and into our food chain.

The rate of plastic pollution is steadily increasing worldwide, with one study last year estimating that about eight million metric tons of plastic - enough to cover every foot of coastline in the world - is enters the oceans annually.
It is known that birds and other marine creatures, including turtles and fish, ingest plastic.
This can lead to damage to internal organs, gut blockages or build-ups of chemicals from the plastics in the animals’ tissues.
Previous studies have shown that some birds feed their young bits of waste - presumably mistaking it for food.
To investigate what attracts birds to debris, the scientists put beads made from the three most common types of plastic - high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene - into the ocean at Monterey Bay and Bodega Bay, off the California coast.
The beads were sewn into mesh bags and tied to buoys to avoid any of them being eaten by wildlife.
Three weeks later, the beads were collected and the smell they gave off was analysed at the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, where scientists normal focus on the chemistry behind the flavour and fragrance of wines.
The plastic was found to give off a sulfur compound, dimethyl sulfide (DMS), linked to the algae which coated the floating plastic.
The same team had previously shown that DMS is the chemical cue that triggers certain seabirds to forage for krill - or as the scientists put it “the birds’ version of a dinner bell”.
It is this cue that is being hijacked by the plastics.

 The world ocean's food chain is being polluted with plastics.
This program has won the Ocean Film Festival Award of Excellence at the NOAA sponsored Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary film festival.

In a second piece of analysis, using data from 55 studies and 13,315 birds, the scientists showed that seabirds that track the scent of DMS to find prey - a group known as tube-nosed seabirds and which includes albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters - are nearly six times more likely to eat plastic than other birds.

Birds could be better protected in future, the scientists argue, by creating plastics that do not accumulate algae as readily in the sea.
Berry Mulligan, international marine programme officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: “While research such as this is raising the alarm about plastics in our oceans, it is hard to realistically estimate the magnitude of the problem for seabirds at a global level.
Seabirds are one of most threatened groups of birds in the world, but untangling the effects of multiple threats to seabirds is a challenge, one which underlines the importance of ongoing research such as this which helps determine vulnerability of different species.”
The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

Links :

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why President Donald Trump is an even bigger disaster than you thought

Mr Trump has previously described climate change as 'fictional' and 'created by the Chinese'
A new study by Lux Research projects that Trump would reverse eight years of declining emissions under the Obama administration.

From The Independant by Adam Withnall

World's most influential climate champion elects man who does not believe in the science behind man-made climate change, and has threatened to 'cancel' the Paris Agreement

Climate experts who have been nervously watching the US election from the UN summit in Marrakech will now go into crisis mode at the news that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

Many attendees stayed up through the night to find out whether a man who has previously described “the concept of global warming” as being “created by and for the Chinese” will be named the most powerful leader in the world.

The Morocco summit has seen representatives from around the world gather to discuss how last year’s groundbreaking Paris Agreement will be implemented in practice.

But Mr Trump has previously stated that he wants to dismantle the accord, which aims to limit global warming to within 2C, suggesting the US should not waste "financial resources” on tacking the issue.

What Trump has said about climate change

The new US President has tweeted dozens of times about how he does not accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that man-made climate change is real.

Asked about his views on ScienceDebate, he said: "There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of 'climate change. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.”

The issue of climate change came up only once in the three live US presidential debates between Mr Trump and his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton.

Ms Clinton said she wanted to make America “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century”, and added: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real… I think science is real.”

The Republican denied the content of his tweet, saying: “I did not. I did not. I do not say that.”

Whether this gives hope to climate experts that Mr Trump could change his position, or concern that the new US President would say something evidently untrue on live TV, remains to be seen.

How will President Trump impact the climate?

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s top climate official, said last month that there was “no plan B” for the event of a Trump presidency.

Donald Trump said he would "cancel" the climate-rescue Paris Agreement if elected
(AFP Photo/Derek Blair)

Speaking to Climate Home, she admitted the US election result would have serious “implications” for how the world tackles dangerous climate change.

But climate officials have also been bullish since the start of the COP22 summit, saying there is no going back on the Paris Agreement.
“I think everyone in the world is following the election process because of the implications, and we are vigilant, but it’s important to bear in mind the Paris Agreement has an incredible amount of legitimacy,” Ms Espinosa said.
“It remains a treaty that is in force. What we will do is be vigilant and attentive.”

In a report released at the summit on Tuesday, experts warned that the global climate had shown an "increasingly visible human footprint” in the last five years.
The World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s weather agency, said 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record, and that many extreme events during the period were made more likely as a result of man-made climate change.
"The evidence is overwhelming," said Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
"The new report from WMO is a clarion call for embracing and going beyond the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

How possible that is, with Donald Trump as US President, remains to be seen.

Links :

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

These maps show the epic quest for a Northwest Passage

U.S. Naval officer Silas Bent used this 1872 map to claim that the Gulf Stream and other warm currents fed an open sea around the North Pole.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 

From National Geographic by Greg Miller

Once just a figment of the imagination, a navigable sea route through the Arctic is becoming reality due to climate change.

This 1563 map by Giovanni Ramusio and Giacomo Gastaldi was the first accurate map of the Americas sold commercially, but the blank areas at the poles reflect the lack of geographical knowledge at the time.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 
It had to be there: an ocean at the top of the world.
The ancient Greeks drew it on their maps, and for centuries, the rest of Europe did too.
Beginning in the 1500s, countless men died trying to find it, hoping for a maritime shortcut across the Arctic that would open up new trade routes to Asia.
Now, thanks to a warming planet, the long-sought Northwest Passage actually exists … at least for part of the year.

 Sea creatures abound in this 1598 map by the Dutch explorer Willem Barents.
He drew it while stuck in sea ice on his third trip to the Arctic.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 

A new exhibit at the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine chronicles this storied quest through centuries of treacherous exploration to the increasingly open Arctic waters of today (the maps in this post come from the exhibit).

This scene from the Illustrated London News, published in 1875, depicts a giant iceberg seen by a British expedition to the Arctic.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library

The idea of a northern ocean passage dates back at least to the second century A.D. Ptolemy and the ancient Greeks believed that Earth had four habitable zones balanced by two uninhabitable frigid zones—often thought to be water—at the top and bottom of the globe.
But it wasn’t until the early 16th century, after the voyages of Columbus, that the idea of a Northwest Passage really took hold in the popular imagination of Europeans, says Ian Fowler, the library’s director. Columbus, after all, had sailed west looking for a sea route to the East.
Instead, he found a continent blocking the way.

 This 1633 map by Gerhard Mercator depicts the North Pole as a massive rock surrounded by water.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 

The Northwest Passage would be a way around this continent.
“After the Spanish and Portuguese took control of the trade routes in the south, along the coasts of Africa and South America, it once again becomes a very popular idea as a way for the Dutch and the French and the English to get access to the East and the riches they believed to be there,” Fowler says.

 This 1645 map by Willem Blaeu incorporates new information from exploratory expeditions, but its depiction of Greenland connected to mainland North America runs counter to the idea of a Northwest Passage.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 

Maps from this period are filled with the wild imaginings and wishful thinking of mapmakers, from nonexistent bays and islands to sea monsters (you can see some of these figments of the imagination in the gallery at the top of this post).

This 1558 map, supposedly based on the travels of the Zeno brothers of Venice, was widely copied.
Photograph courtesy Osher Map Library 
There was also a lot of gamesmanship and outright deception in the maps.
The map above comes from a book published in 1558 to describe the travels of two Venetian brothers in 1380.
The story is almost certainly bogus, Fowler says, made up in an attempt to retroactively claim the discovery of the New World for Venice.
Even so, the map was widely copied and may have led some expeditions astray.
“It’s dangerous,” Fowler says.
“It shows Greenland connected to Europe, which is obviously not true. South of Iceland, there’s a number of fictitious islands. And to the west of Greenland there’s a nice open sea, which at this time would have been unnavigable because of pack ice.”

 Colored clouds represent the northern lights near the center of this 1709 map by Jacques Peeters, which, unlike many maps of its time, includes only geographical features that were confirmed by explorers.

 This detail from Peeters’ map (previous image) includes notes on parts of the Greenland coast surveyed by different explorers, as well as a dotted line (on the coast, near the center) to indicate an area of geographic uncertainty.

Early explorers also occasionally played fast and loose with the facts.
The Englishman Martin Frobisher made three voyages in search of the Northwest Passage in the late 1500s.
He didn’t find it.
“He discovered some straits, pretended to find a lot more,” Fowler says.
On one trip, he returned to England with tons of what he claimed was gold-containing ore.
It was enough to convince his backers to fund another trip, but it ultimately turned out to be pyrite—fool's gold.

 This 1713 map by Jean-Dominique Cassini was the most scientific map of the world in its day.
It draws on the observations and measurements of many explorers and depicts two possible routes for a Northwest Passage.

With time, and additional exploration, the maps got better.

 This detail showing the Bering Strait comes from a 1784 map by Captain James Cook that was the first printed map to accurately depict the west coast of North America (on the right side).
In contrast to a Russian map printed the same year (further down in this post), it has relatively little detail of the Siberian coast (on the left).

The map below, published in Russia in 1784, was the first to show details gleaned from a large and highly organized survey of the Arctic coast of Siberia.
It depicts a possible Northwest Passage: On the far right side, "R. de l'Quest” connects Hudson Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
Notice the level of detail on the Asian side of the Pacific compared to the North American side—the situation is reversed in a map published the same year based on Captain James Cook’s exploration of the coast of Alaska (see slide nine in the gallery above).

 This map, published in Russia in 1784, depicts a possible Northwest Passage: on the far right side, "R. de l'Quest” connects Hudson Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

 Perhaps the most famous attempt to find the Northwest Passage was the expedition led by Sir John Franklin in 1845.
Franklin was an officer in the British Navy who had led two previous expeditions to the Arctic.
But this time the expedition didn’t return on schedule, and Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane, began pressing the British government to send a search party, which they did in 1848.
The search grew to include more ships over the coming years, and newspaper reports on the hunt for the missing expedition gripped the British public.
Ultimately, though, all the searchers found were several graves of men who’d died early on and a few scattered notes and other relics.
The two boats in the expedition had become trapped in ice, and all 129 men, including Franklin, perished.
The second of his two boats, the H.M.S. Terror, was finally located only a few weeks ago.
Unbeknownst to Franklin and other explorers, their expeditions coincided with what scientists call the Little Ice Age, a period of several centuries of unusual cold in the Arctic.

 Published in 1868, this German map portrays a (nonexistent) land bridge stretching across the Arctic from Greenland.
The red line coming up from the bottom is the mapmaker’s suggested route for an expedition.

As temperatures began to climb toward the end of the 19th century, the long-sought Northwest Passage finally opened up.
The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen completed the first journey entirely by boat through the Northwest Passage in 1906.
It took three years and two winters on the ice.
More recently, it’s been getting easier.
As polar ice has melted, the route has become more accessible.
Last month a cruise ship carrying 1,700 people became the first passenger liner to complete the passage.
The melting of Arctic sea ice has raised the possibility of new trade routes and energy production, as well as the potential for territorial conflicts and environmental damage to a relatively untouched part of the Earth.
For better or worse, a new chapter in the storied history of the Arctic is just beginning.

This 2004 map from the Canadian Hydrographic Service
represents a more modern look at the Arctic.

Links :

Monday, November 7, 2016

Canada military probes mysterious Arctic pinging noise

 The sound appears to come from the sea floor in Hecla and Fury Strait. Northeast of Igloolik is Steensby Inlet, where Quassa says Baffinland, owner of the Mary River mine, has been doing sonar surveys.
The company says it has no equipment in the water.

From CBC by Jimmy Thomson

Hunters in a remote community in Nunavut are concerned about a mysterious sound that appears to be coming from the sea floor.
The "pinging" sound, sometimes also described as a "hum" or "beep," has been heard in Fury and Hecla Strait — roughly 120 kilometres northwest of the hamlet of Igloolik — throughout the summer.
Paul Quassa, a member of the legislative assembly, says whatever the cause, it's scaring the animals away.
"That's one of the major hunting areas in the summer and winter because it's a polynya," an area of open water surrounded by ice that's abundant with sea mammals, he said.
"And this time around, this summer, there were hardly any. And this became a suspicious thing."
The noise is "emanating from the sea floor," according to remarks Quassa made last month in the Nunavut legislature.

Another area MLA, George Qulaut, said he visited the site after hearing the reports. Though he wasn't able to hear the sound — he says years of hunting have left him nearly deaf, especially to high-pitched sounds — he did notice the lack of wildlife.
"That passage is a migratory route for bowhead whales, and also bearded seals and ringed seals. There would be so many in that particular area," he told CBC News, recalling his own days of hunting there.
"This summer there was none."
Boaters aboard a private yacht passing through the area also say they heard the mysterious sound, and described it during an appearance on a community radio show upon their arrival in Igloolik. A number of people called in to say they'd also heard it.
The noise can apparently be heard through the hulls of boats. CBC News has not heard the noise and did not speak to anyone who claims to have heard it.

 Hunters pack their boat from the shore in Igloolik.
The mysterious sound has been noted by hunters in the area of Hecla and Fury Strait, a rich hunting ground that they say was empty this year.
(Nick Murray/CBC)

Theories abound

Nobody seems to know where the sound comes from, but theories — from environmental activists to mining — abound.
One theory blames Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation.
The company has previously conducted sonar surveys of nearby Steensby Inlet in conjunction with its Mary River mine southwest of Pond Inlet.
But the company told CBC News it is not conducting any surveys in the area, and has no equipment in the water.

Quassa says no territorial permits have been issued for work — such as construction, blasting or hydrography — in the area that could explain the noise.
He also says some of his constituents suspect the sound is being generated on purpose by Greenpeace to scare wildlife away from the rich hunting ground.
The organization has a tense past with Inuit stemming from its opposition to the seal hunt in the 1970s and 1980s.
"We've heard in the past of groups like Greenpeace putting in some kinds of sonars in the seabed to get the sea mammals out of the way so Inuit won't be able to hunt them," Quassa said.
These rumours, though persistent, have never been substantiated.
"Nobody has ever seen any type of ship or anything going through that area and putting something down," Quassa said.
Greenpeace denies the assertion.
"Not only would we not do anything to harm marine life, but we very much respect the right of Inuit to hunt and would definitely not want to impact that in any way," Farrah Khan, a spokeswoman for the organization, said from Toronto.

Military investigating

The military is also aware of the noise, and says it is looking into it.
Internal correspondence between sources in the Department of National Defence, obtained by CBC News, suggest submarines were not immediately ruled out, but were also not considered a likely cause.
A spokesperson told CBC News the armed forces are investigating.
"The Department of National Defence has been informed of the strange noises emanating in the Fury and Hecla Strait area, and the Canadian Armed Forces are taking the appropriate steps to actively investigate the situation," a spokesperson wrote in a statement.
Igloolik is about 70 kilometres north of Hall Beach, an active military site that was once part of the now-defunct DEW line of radar stations.
In the meantime, Qulaut is worried about the sound's impact on game animals that have been feeding in the area for centuries.
For now, the community has no answers about the sound, its origins, or what it might be doing to the animals.
"As of today, we're still working on it,"  he said.
"We don't have a single clue."

Links :

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Vendée Globe 2016-2017 : D-day

Best of luck, fair winds and following seas to all Vendée Globe skippers as they depart today!

Foiling new generation, off belle-Ile training before VG2016 (Safran)

29 men from 10 countries sailing alone around the world, without any stop.

VG 2012