Monday, December 31, 2018

The top ten ocean stories of 2018

Highlights from, the Ocean Wise story-telling platform dedicating to telling ocean stories, and highlighting ocean issues.

From Smithsonian Mag by Danielle Hall & Emily Frost

From the most ancient animal known to a newly defined ocean zone, the world’s watery places never cease to amaze

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back on the studies, expeditions and stories that carried forward our knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans—the lifeblood of the planet.
It was a year filled with triumphs, from the first successful revival of coral larvae following cryofreezing, to an optimistic progress report for the Chesapeake Bay’s restoration, to global awareness about single-use plastic straws.
It was also a year of discovery.
We learned of a shark that chows on greens, an entire new ocean zone teeming with life, and one of the earliest animals to ever live here on Earth.

The year also had its moments of grief and distress in the seas.
Noxious red tides, right whale populations that continue to decline, and the passing of a coral reef science legend are also on our minds as we look back at the oceans of 2018.
The following list of the year’s top ten ocean stories—the unique, troubling, perplexing and optimistic—was curated by the National Museum of Natural History’s Ocean Portal team.

An Odorous Stench 

Red tide algae blooms on the coast of Florida.

For those living in or visiting Florida this year, you may have noticed a particularly noxious stench lingering in the air.
This year the coastal waters of Florida are experiencing one of the worst red tides in recent history.
The tide is caused by a bloom of algae that feed on nutrient-rich runoff from farms and fertilized lawns.
Over 300 sea turtles, 100 manatees, innumerable fish and many dolphins have been killed by the noxious chemicals expelled by the algae.
Humans, too, can feel the effect of the fumes that waft onto the land, and beaches have closed because of hazardous conditions.
Many see this as a wake-up call for better management of the chemicals and nutrients that fuel the harmful algae’s growth.

Evolutionary Steps

Researchers first discovered Dickinsonia fossils back in 1946.

Evolution produces some wonderous marvels.
Scientists determined that the creature called Dickinsonia, a flat, mushroom-top-shaped creature that roamed the ocean floor roughly 580 million years ago, is the earliest known animal.
Examining the mummified fat of a particular fossil, the scientists were able to show that the fat was animal-like, rather than plant-like or fungi-like, thus earning it the animal designation.
We also learned that baleen whales may have evolved from a toothless ancestor that vacuumed its prey in the prehistoric oceans of 30 to 33 million years ago.

Today, evolution is still at work, and the adaptability of life continues to amaze.
A study of the Bajau “Sea Nomad” people’s DNA show that a life at sea has changed their DNA.
This group of people, who can spend over five hours underwater per day, have alterations in their genetics that help them stay submerged for longer.

Marvels in Plain Sight

Up to 1,000 octopus moms care for their brood.
(Phil Torres / Geoff Wheat)

Once again, we were reminded that as land dwelling creatures, humans miss out on many of the ocean’s everyday wonders.
Although we know from museum specimens that the male anglerfish latches onto the female like a parasite and sucks nutrients from her blood, the infamous duo has never been caught in the act—until now.
This year, a video was released showing the male anglerfish paired with his lady counterpart.

And though sharks are known for their carnivorous appetites, a new study shows even these marine predators will eat leafy greens.
About 60 percent of the bonnethead shark’s diet consists of seagrass, upending the idea that all sharks are primarily carnivores.

Also, scientists discovered not one, but two, mass octopus nurseries of up to 1,000 octopus moms deep underwater.
The second discovery assuaged doubts that the initial discovery was a case of confused octomoms, as octopuses are known to be solitary creatures.
Now, scientists are determining if volcanic activity on the seafloor provides some benefit to the developing brood.

Futuristic Resurrection

Adult Mushroom Coral (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

The field of coral reef biology has weathered some hard times these past years, and while this year saw the unfortunate death of a coral reef conservation legend, Dr.
Ruth Gates, it also brought us a glimmer of hope.
For the first time, scientists were able to revive coral larvae that were flash frozen—a breakthrough that may enable the preservation of endangered corals in the face of global climate change.
Previously, the formation of harmful ice crystals destroyed the larvae’s cells during the warming process, but now the team has devised a method that uses both lasers and an antifreeze solution infused with gold particles to rapidly heat the frozen larvae and avoid crystal formation.
Soon after thawing, the larvae are able to happily swim about.
We now live in a world where oceans frequently spike to temperatures too hot for corals, and scientists hope that preserving them may buy time to help corals adapt to the rapidly changing environment.

The Impacts of Ocean Warming

Rising temperatures and diminishing oxygen levels in the oceans are a threat to all kinds of marine life.

Just this month a study showed that the mass die off of species at the end of the Permian period, over 250 million years ago, was caused by a rapid increase in temperature and subsequent loss of oxygen in the ocean.
The oxygen deprivation caused an astounding 96 percent of ocean creatures to suffocate.
The cause of this extinction event had been long-debated, but this recent research indicates just how impactful our current climate change trajectory could be—the ocean has already lost 2 percent of its oxygen in the last 50 years.

Plastic Straws Make the News

States and companies alike take steps to reduce the use of plastic straws.

Straws make up an estimated 4 percent of plastic waste in the ocean, and though only a sliver of our plastic problem, the single use items are now a hot issue.
A shocking video that featured the removal of a straw from the nose of an Olive Ridley sea turtle seemed the catalyst for a straw revolution this year.
Despite the video being several years old (the original was posted in 2015), it helped spark pledges from a number of companies like Starbucks and American Airlines to eliminate single-use plastic straws.
Even cities, states and countries are talking about banning the ubiquitous pieces of plastic—California was the first state to enact such a rule in September, requiring that plastic straws only be provided when requested by a customer.
By not banning them outright, those with disabilities who require a straw can still enjoy their favorite drinks.

Hope for the Chesapeake Bay

An effort to restore eelgrass beds along Virginia's Eastern Shore began in 2000 with a few seeds from the York River.
Today, these seagrass meadows have grown to 6,195 acres.

It’s not all bad news—especially for the Chesapeake Bay, an estuarine system that spans the states of Maryland and Virginia and is an important ecosystem for all of the mid-Atlantic region.
After decades of decline for seagrass, the vital plants are staging a comeback.
Reductions of nitrogen and phosphorous have brought seagrasses cover back to an area that is four times larger than what’s been found in the region since 1984.

Seagrass is vital to the life cycle of the economically significant blue crab, which has been threatened for years but currently has a healthy population despite some setbacks.
Groups are also working to return ten billion oysters to the bay, and tiny oyster spat seem to be thriving despite the danger of recent freshwater influxes.
The recovery could even be a model for similar ecosystems in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

A New Ocean Zone

Curasub owner Adriaan Schrier and lead DROP scientist Carole Baldwin aboard the custom-built submersible.
(Barry Brown)

Just like the layers of the atmosphere, scientists describe layers of the ocean based on the animals who live there and how much light is present.
This year, there was a new addition thanks to work from Dr.
Carole Baldwin, a research zoologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Her team conceived of the rariphotic zone when they realized that the fish found there were not the same as those in the shallower mesophotic zone.

The newly recognized rariphotic zone ranges from 130 meters to at least 309 meters deep (427-1,014 feet).
It is too deep for corals with photosynthetic algae to grow, and it is also too deep to reach with the specialized SCUBA equipment used to explore mesophotic reefs.
Submersibles and remotely operated vehicles can explore the region, but they are expensive and generally used to scope out even deeper depths of the ocean.
As a result, most reef researchers rarely make it to the rariphotic zone.
Baldwin manages to visit it often with the help of a deep-sea submersible, the Curasub, through the Deep Reef Observation Project based at the National Museum of Natural History.

No Calves for North Atlantic Right Whales 

North Atlantic right whales are in peril, but changes to shipping routes and lobster trap design could help the large marine mammals make a comeback.
(Public Domain)

With just over 400 individuals remaining in the North Atlantic right whale population, this endangered species is on the brink.
Early in 2018 scientists announced that there had been no right whale calves sighted after the winter breeding season.
Changes to shipping lanes and speed limits over the past decade have helped reduce ship strikes, but entanglement in fishing gear has remained a problem—17 right whale deaths in 2017 were caused by entanglement.
But scientists still have hope.
There were only three recorded deaths in 2018, and the whales are now making their way back into North Atlantic waters.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a baby boom in 2019.

A Twitter Moment

1971 International Conference on the Biology of Whales.

Social media has its downsides, with distractions and in-fighting, but it can also produce some pretty magical moments.
We watched in real time in March of this year as the search unfolded for an unidentified young woman in a photo from the International Conference on the Biology of Whales held in 1971.
An illustrator in the midst of writing a book about the Marine Mammal Protection Act, legislation from 1972 that protects marine mammal species from harm and harassment, came across the image with one African American female attendee who was practically hidden and had no name listed in the caption.
Who was this pioneer in a field dominated by white men?

The illustrator took to Twitter for help and the search was on.
Unfolding over several days, leads came and went, and the woman was eventually identified as Sheila Minor (formerly Sheila Jones) who at the time of the photo was a biological technician at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Even as scientists continue to make astounding discoveries in the watery depths of the world, some of our most important findings have been right here with us all along.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The first underwater film is stranger than fiction: "The Terrors of the Deep"

PopSci found the lost and forgotten first underwater film.
It's a story too strange and horrifying to be fiction (and, yes, it involves a shark and a horse).
Also, it's the first footage of a shark ever recorded. 
In 1916, the silent film adaptation of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" marked the first time the world saw below the ocean's surface in motion pictures... 
Except, actually, it was the second time.
The first movie filmed underwater was made by J.E. Williamson-thanks in large part to his invention, the photosphere.
See the lost film footage for the first time in decades, and hear the story of the making of "The Terrors of the Deep."
This video is part three of Experimentals : Nautiluses
Watch the full episode here 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

IMO : shaping maritime safety and security

Over the years, the International Maritime Organization has shaped the way international shipping operates.
From codes, conventions and guidelines touching upon safety of life at sea, life-saving appliance, safety of ships in polar waters, guidelines on fatigue, maritime autonomous surface ships and more, IMO has been enhancing the safety of international shipping for decades and is ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

Friday, December 28, 2018

US explorer Colin O'Brady completes first unaided solo trek of Antarctica

Colin O’Brady with black tape on his nose and cheeks, used for insulation when frostnip sets in. Photograph: Colin O’Brady/AP

From The Guardian by Emma Graham-Harrison

Endurance athlete took 54 days to walk 932 miles across frozen continent, dragging a 170kg sled

An American explorer has made the first solo unsupported trek across Antarctica, an epic feat of endurance that took nearly two months and ended with an extraordinary sprint.

Colin O’Brady covered the final 77.54 miles over 32 hours without sleep, a trek he described as an Antarctic ultramarathon, then called his family to tell them tearfully, “I did it!”.

“Something overcame me,” O’Brady said in a telephone interview with the New York Times.
“I didn’t listen to any music – just locked in, like I’m going until I’m done.
It was profound, it was beautiful and it was an amazing way to finish.”

He had spent 54 days in conditions that pushed his body to its limit, battling hunger, cold and solitude, often trekking almost blind through driving snow, struggling over treacherous terrain and pulling weeks’ worth of supplies on a sled.
The total journey was 932 miles.

O’Brady, 33, had called his trek “the impossible first”.
In 2016, Briton Henry Worsley died after calling off the same trek only 30 miles from the end.
Another explorer gave up the quest at the south pole last year.

Adding to the pressure, O’Brady was racing Briton Louis Rudd – a friend of Worsley – across Antarctica, in a competition with echoes of the famous contest to reach the south pole more than a century ago.
The two men set off together, with Rudd taking an early lead, but by Christmas Day he was more than 80 miles behind his American rival.

O’Brady decided to make a final push for the finish line on Christmas Day.
He finally stopped near midnight – but took only 90 minutes to boil water and eat a double ration of dinner.
He told Jenna Besaw, his wife and expedition manager, that he wanted to keep moving.
She and other close relatives questioned O’Brady to check that exhaustion and hunger were not affecting his mind.
“We had an open and honest and smart conversation with him,” Besaw told the New York Times.
“And he totally delivered.” He set off again into the light of an Antarctic midsummer, and reached the edge of the landmass – buried beneath ice but clearly marked – on Boxing Day.

Colin O’Brady drags his belongings across the snow. Personally tailored nutrition bars made up about 50% of his diet.
Photograph: Colin O’Brady/AP

One of the biggest problems for the two men was dragging enough food to keep themselves warm, and moving.
They expected to get through about 10,000 calories a day, and the length of the trip meant it was hard for them to drag enough food at the start.

O’Brady took 280 personally tailored “Colin bars”, drawn up after tests by a nutrition company looking for the smallest allergies, that supplied more than 1,100 calories each, Outside magazine reported.
They made up half his daily diet, but even so, O’Brady began wasting away, he reported on Instagram.
“I’ve lost a ton of weight,” he wrote, six weeks in.
“So much so that I am afraid to take a close look at my body.
My calves feel more like the size of my arms at this point.
My watch is starting to slide around on my wrist and I’ve had to tighten the strap.”

The cold also bit more as he got weaker; later photos show O’Brady with black tape on his nose and cheeks, used for insulation when frostnip – a warning of more dangerous frostbite – set in.

Both men also had to resist temptation when they reached the south pole, where there is a small scientific station.
If they had gone inside, or accepted even a cup of tea from the team working there, their trip would no longer have been considered unsupported.

Other explorers have made the journey across Antarctica alone, but using food supplies dropped along the route for them to collect, or with giant kites that helped them harness the power of the polar winds to cross the continent.

O’Brady lugged his supplies on a sled as he skied in bone-chilling temperatures.
Photograph: Colin O’Brady/AP

O’Brady was the first to make the journey using only the power of his muscles; Rudd, if he completes the trip, will be the second.

For all the intense hardships, O’Brady also celebrated moments of joy and beauty, including sightings of a circular rainbow “glistening overhead”, he wrote.
“It was stunning. I’ve only ever seen this phenomenon in Antarctica and I’m curious why it happens.”

  Colin O’Brady speaks on the phone in Antarctica.
He covered the final 77.54 miles of his trek over 32 hours without sleep.
Photograph: Colin O’Brady/AP

He also got a call from the American musician Paul Simon, who had heard that his album Graceland was helping O’Brady make it through the long days and shared his number with the explorer’s support team.

The two men talked about creativity and commitment.
“Though his expression is music and mine endurance sport, we both could relate so much on the mindset required to attempt to perform at that level,” O’Brady wrote.

With his trip finished, he was looking forward to sleeping.
He plans to wait until Rudd catches up with him so the two men can fly out together.
“I’m delirious writing this as I haven’t slept yet,” O’Brady wrote in a final post.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Links :

Thursday, December 27, 2018

These amazing maps greet aliens, aid spies, reveal seafloors

The new book All Over the Map gathers together maps of all types, including this one of plants and animals found in the Pacific region.
It was created by Miguel Covarrubias as part of his Pageant of the Pacific atlas—six enormous, themed maps that he painted as murals for the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair.
Courtesy of Rumsey and Covarrubias
From National Geographic by Simon Worrall

Maps offer much more than directions.
They tell of incredible scientific achievement, bravery, and superhuman precision.

In the age of Google and Waze, maps may seem redundant.
But Betsy Mason, co-author with Greg Miller of All Over the Map, published by National Geographic Books, explains that maps can do much more than help us avoid a traffic jam or find the next Starbucks.
They can map poverty, bring to life the beauty of the Grand Canyon, or record war damage.

London’s Waterloo and Elephant and Castle neighborhoods suffered a lot of damage from German bombs during World War II, as shown on this map that was hand colored to indicate the severity of the destruction as damage reports came in.
Courtesy of London Metropolitan archives

When National Geographic caught up with her in California, Mason explained how a woman named Marie Tharp was one of the first people to chart the ocean floor; how 3-D models created by a top-secret military unit helped plan D-Day; and why extraterrestrials could one day use information carried by the Voyager spacecraft to find us.

The first maps date to ancient Babylon.
Give us a brief history and explain the many different uses maps have been put to.

The lava that flowed from 28 eruptions of Mount Vesuvius between 1631 and 1831 is recorded on this map, with the flows from each eruption marked in a different color.
The oldest eruption recorded on the map (colored pink) was also the largest.
Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University

Our book is not a history of cartography, and it’s not an academic work on cartography.
We like to think of it as a book of stories that happen to be about maps.
When we were choosing maps for this book, our goal was that they should be visually appealing because it’s a large-format coffee table-style book.
But we also wanted to make sure that every map we put in there had an interesting story, either about the map, the making of the map, the map maker, how the map influenced history, or how it elucidates things that you wouldn’t be able to see any other way.
The oldest map is from the third century; it’s a tile of a map of Rome.
We have maps that are still being worked on and maps that were finished just barely in time for our deadline in March.

Profiles of famous landmarks like the Hagia Sophia are recognizable on this groundbreaking 16th-century map of Istanbul by Matrakçı Nasuh.
The painting was a two-page illustration in a written history of the Ottoman Empire.
Courtesy of Istanbul University Library of rare books

One of the most famous maps in the United States is Bradford Washburn’s map of the Grand Canyon.
Tell us about how it was made, and the man behind it.

This is one of my favorite maps ever!
Bradford Washburn was an amazing man.
He was a National Geographic explorer for decades.
He was the first to reach the top of more than a dozen peaks in Alaska and led tens of expeditions, a lot of them in Alaska, starting when he was just 24 years old.

He was also the director of the Boston Museum of Science and wanted to put rock from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in its rock garden.
So he and his wife, Barbara, went to the Grand Canyon.
When they got there they looked for good maps of the area and found that there were none.
His response to this was, “I guess I’m going to have to make a better map myself.”

This 1947 Japanese military map shows the area around Pyongyang, the current capital of North Korea.
Courtesy of Standford University Libraries

He spent eight years making his beautiful map, which involved almost 150 days of field work, and over 700 helicopter landings getting them to various hard-to-reach places in the canyon.
After they finished the fieldwork, he was focused on portraying the canyon in a spectacularly beautiful way.
So he used National Geographic’s own Swiss-trained cartographer to do the relief painting with an airbrush.
What you get is this beautiful, colored map of the Grand Canyon with all the different reds and browns and the green area on the outside showing some of the vegetation that grows near the top of the canyon.
It’s extremely accurate and incredibly beautiful.

The first time I saw it was at an exhibit at the Harvard Map Library and it stopped me in my tracks! As I was researching it, the National Geographic librarian, Michael Fry, contacted me and said, “Hey, we have a bunch of boxes in the archives that are full of materials related to the making of this map.” That’s how I learned how the map was made.
It was this trove of correspondence from Washburn and everybody else who was involved: internal Geographic memos, receipts, and itemized lists of everything that was used.
So it was fun going through it and piecing together the story.
Sorry, I could talk all day about this one! [laughs]

The landscape of Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort has been subtly altered on this map by artist Jim Niehues to let skiers see all the slopes in one easily understandable view.
Courtesy of James Niehaus

By the mid 20th century most of the earth had been mapped, but the ocean floor was still a blank slate.
A redoubtable woman named Marie Tharp changed that, didn’t she?

She was amazing but sadly she was not recognized for her work until much later, though fortunately before she died.
She was one of the few female geologists trained in the early 20th century.
One of the reasons she was even able to go to graduate school was because of the Second World War.
There weren’t as many male candidates to fill geology departments, so a few of them opened their doors to women.
She got a job as an assistant, doing drafting work.
At one point she was paired with another geologist named Bruce Heezen, who was specializing in gathering data on the depths of the sea floor by using sonar on ships.
He was getting these profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor and, eventually, the rest of the ocean.
She took those profiles, studied them, and started to visualize what was there in the ocean.

 Atlantic Ocean Floor by Heinrich Berann

She used this technique called physiographic diagrams, where she was drawing, almost in 3D, structures on the ocean floor.
This had never been done before.
Most of the public thought of the ocean floor as this flat, featureless plane, so it was the first time that people had a chance to visualize what it really looked like.
National Geographic paired her and Bruce Heezen with an incredible landscape panoramist from Austria named Heinrich Berann.
He used her physiographic maps to make absolutely stunning portrayals of the ocean floor, as people had never seen it before.

During the Blitz in World War II, the Luftwaffe dropped millions of bombs on London.
A team of cartographers and surveyors kept a real-time record of the destruction.
Tell us about these amazing maps and the circumstances they were made in.

These were truly incredible.
There was a team of architects and surveyors in London who, as the bombs were falling—pretty much as soon as they had landed—would rush out to survey the damage.
They would first take part in trying to rescue as many people as they could.
They would be the ones deciding whether the building was about to collapse and the rescuers had to get out or not, then they would decide whether the building was damaged beyond repair, completely destroyed, or if it was repairable or the damage was just light.
For each of those categories, they put on a map of the city the corresponding color on every single building that suffered any damage.

What you get is this amazing set of 110 maps that cover what is now known as Inner London.
They’re really beautiful, which is a little bit disconcerting because of the destruction and misery that they’re actually portraying.
The surveying team itself lost 54 people in the bombings.

 Omaha beach - East

Maps were also crucial for D-Day.
Describe the incredibly detailed scale models of the Normandy beaches made by the British and Americans, and the effect they had.

This was another amazing, and largely unknown, mapping effort.
There was this small, secret group of American and British military personnel that was tasked with making three-dimensional terrain models of every important battlefield in the war.
These turned out to be extremely useful for planning the attack and for briefing troops who were about to head into the field, because many of them didn’t understand how to read a topographic map or interpret aerial photographs.

The people in this map-making group, which was called V Section, took the accuracy of these models extremely seriously because mistakes could cost lives.
They used the shadows cast on aerial photos to determine exactly how tall buildings should be and developed all kinds of new ways to portray different structures.
They had a machine, which was sort of like a cake icer, to build the hedgerows that are so common in the Normandy countryside.
One man said he even clipped hairs from his moustache to use as the tiny masts for boats that they had put in a harbor.

These maps are credited with saving countless lives and were critical for the planning and execution of D-Day.
The Library of Congress has one of the few surviving examples of these maps, of Utah Beach.
When I saw that I thought, Wow, what is that?

If aliens want to find us, they will probably need maps.
So we’ve sent one up into the heavens with Voyager 1, haven’t we? How was it created?

NASA wanted to send some information out into space on a spacecraft that would help explain what Earth is like.
They tasked astronomer Frank Drake along with Carl Sagan to craft some sort of message to whatever intelligent aliens might encounter this spacecraft, Voyager, as it traveled out of our solar system into interstellar space, which was the plan for the end of its mission.
Frank Drake worked for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence—also known as the SETI Institute—so he had spent a lot of time thinking about what other intelligent organisms might have in common with us, how they might see the world, so he wanted to make a map that would show them where our solar system is.
He decided that the best way to do this was to use these things called pulsars, which had been discovered just a few years earlier.
They are the remnants of supernova explosions.
The reason pulsars were appealing is because they’re rotating and they still have some light emanating from them.
These beams of light as they rotate make a very specific pattern of light pulses that you can see through a telescope.
Each one has a signature pulse pattern so you could identify specific pulsars.

Drake felt that any intelligent being that was able to intercept our spacecraft in interstellar space after it left our galaxy would certainly understand what a pulsar was and would be able to understand how to locate our solar system using this map.

People sometimes get a little freaked out by this because they think we’ve sent information to help extraterrestrials come and destroy our way of life.

But, as Carl Sagan said, “Because space is very empty, there is essentially no chance that Voyager will enter the planetary system of another star.”
He still felt that this project was a very hopeful gesture by humans.
The whole project was more about us trying to understand our place in the universe than actually contacting another intelligent species.

Many people of my son’s generation—he’s in his thirties—no longer know how to read a map.
They just use Google.
Is there a danger that in the age of satellites and GPS cartographers that maps will soon join the dodo and become extinct?

[Laughs] I get that question a lot but I don’t personally think there’s much of a risk of that because maps do so much more than just help us navigate.
You can’t use your iPhone screen or Google Maps to understand where pockets of poverty are, or what the geology is beneath the landscape.
That’s the aspect of maps that made me fall in love with them, and that’s the kind of thing that we have tried to select in this book.

We have maps that show things about the human condition, like poverty in London in the 19th century or the first ethnographic atlas, which shows where the origin of the different people of the world was thought to be at the time.
Then we’ve got maps that were used for science.
Sometimes they are just beautiful ways to display the data.
So I hope that people like your son, who don’t have much experience reading maps, might find this book and be delighted by the different stories and all the things that maps can actually do.

Links :

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What caused the tsunami in Indonesia and why was there no warning?

An eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano the day before the deadly tsunami was caught on camera by a team from Indonesia's Natural Resources Conservancy Agency.
The sound of explosions can be heard as the volcano emits smoke and lava.
The volcano lies in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, linking the Indian Ocean and Java Sea. Scientists said Sunday's tsunami could have been caused by volcanic landslides

From The Guardian by Lisa Martin

Underwater landslide may have triggered deadly wave but scientists won’t know exact answer for some time

What happened?

Search-and-rescue efforts were continuing in Indonesia following a deadly tsunami in the Sunda Strait which claimed more than 280 lives.
More than 1,000 people were injured and 11,600 people displaced.
The district of Pandeglang, on the western tip of the island of Java was worst hit, with 207 killed and 755 injured.

It was caused by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano.
A 64-hectare (138-acre) section collapsed into the ocean and this triggered an underwater landslide, officials confirmed on Monday.

Copernicus source

Images captured by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite showed that a large portion of the southern flank of the volcano had slid off into the ocean, scientists said.

Why wasn’t there a warning system?

In the case of tsunamis caused by earthquakes, the shaking earth can act as a warning but it’s much trickier to anticipate tsunamis from volcanic eruptions.

“There’s usually a big draw down in water below low tide levels, so you if you’re on the coast you’ve got a matter of minutes to get to high ground,” Kennedy said.

Sunda Strait tsunami is latest in a series of Indonesian disasters in 2018

Kennedy said if a buoy network had been in place around Anak Krakatau, a one-to-two minute warning of a pending wave was the most anyone could expect.
“The expense of doing that everywhere is just impossible,” he said.

Indonesia has 147 volcanoes and 76 are considered active.

Kennedy said population growth on coastlines and popularity of beach resorts exposed more people to the risk of tsunamis.

Krakatau’s history

Krakatau is part of the Pacific Rim of Fire.
The Australian-Indonesian plate is going back down into the earth underneath the Eurasian plate.

“As the plate goes down into the mantle it actually starts melting, so what you get are volcanoes that sit on top of that,” Kennedy said adding they have a high level of silica which traps the gases as well as water.
“They tend to be really viscous, really sticky volcanoes and they produce massive eruptions. That’s because it’s remixing all the old ocean floor,” he said.

 Localization with the GeoGarage platform (NGA chart)

In 1883, eruptions at Krakatau caused tsunami waves that reached 36.6 meters and wiped out an estimated 36,000 people.
The entire island of Krakatau was vaporised and volcanic gas, ash and rocks spewed 80km high.
The eruptions, turbo charged by steam, were one of the loudest noises heard by human beings in modern in history, Kennedy said.
“There were reports they heard the sound in Darwin and some reports said they heard it as far south as Perth,” he said.
He said the ash clouds from Krakatau cooled the global temperature by over a degree for many years.

Krakatau was quiet until late 1927, when a new eruption began on the seafloor.
The following year a rising cone burst through the ocean.
Two years later it became an island called Anak Krakatau “Child of Krakatau”.

Kennedy said minor eruptions over the years had been slowly building up the edifice of Anak Krakatau.
“You’ve got more magma and lava coming up underneath,” he said.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

France & misc. (SHOM) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

230 nautical raster charts updated & 3 new charts added

Sydney to Hobart yacht race 2018 ultimate guide - Start time, competitors, forecast

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is one of the most famous yacht races in the world.
Starting each year on 26 December, it is an examination of the preparedness and resilience of man and machine.
Organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, in collaboration with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the 628 nautical mile offshore race stretches physical and mental resources to their limits.
The overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart receives the Tattersall Cup together with a coveted Rolex timepiece, the recognised reward for excellence and a deserved prize for those that overcome not just their opponents, but nature too.
2018 marks the 74rd edition with over 90 yachts entered, including 13 from overseas.

From Nine by WWOS staff & AAP

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has become an enduring icon of Australia’s summer.
Renowned the world over, the Sydney to Hobart pits the world’s best sailors against each other over 630 nautical miles down the coast of New South Wales, past Cape Howe and around the eastern coast of Tasmania.
The race has been fiercely contested by a host of local and international entrants, with the two-day race asking the best from its competitors and their yachts.

5 Days before the start to the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race the World on Water talks to the owner of Super Maxi Comanche on thwir preparations, hopes and team.

Where and When

The 73rd Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race will be held on Boxing Day, December 26th, starting from Sydney Harbour at 1:00pm.

Ones to watch

Of the 11 international entries this year, three come from the United States.
American boats have taken line honours on 11 occasions in the race, but just three times on handicap, the most-recent time in the latter category coming in 2007 through Rosebud.

Another American yacht Joyride also has good recent form, taking overall honours in the 2017 Van Isle 360 and 2018 Vic Maui races, both of which had taken more than 10 days to complete.
Rather than returning home after the latter race concluded in July, it sailed to Australia via a stop in Fiji, as owner John Murkowski decided to tick the Sydney to Hobart off his bucket list, after thinking about contesting the race for a long time.

One of the most-fancied overseas contenders is French boat Teasing Machine, the overall winner of the 2017 RORC Transatlantic race and third on handicap in the Middle Sea race, also last year.
Owner Eric Der Turckheim's previous Teasing Machine was on course to take overall honours in the 2015 Sydney-Hobart before falling victim to the notorious lack of early-morning breeze on the Derwent River, where she was parked for the best part of five hours.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2017 – Film – The Spirit of Yachting 
The Rolex Spirit of Yachting film series presents the 73rd Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The behind-the-scenes footage in this 25-minute documentary covers the peak moments of this 628-nautical-mile offshore adventure from Sydney Harbour to Hobart, Tasmania.
After a phenomenal contest between Jim Cooney’s LDV Comanche and the Oatley family’s Wild Oats XI, the line honours title for first to finish was eventually attributed to LDV Comanche.
The winners of the coveted Rolex timepieces in honour of excellence on the water were awarded to Jim Cooney, who took home the Illingworth Trophy and set a new race record of 1 day, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, and to Matt Allen, who won the Tattersall Cup for overall win aboard Ichi Ban.
Weather conditions

InfoTrack owner Christian Beck is the one supermaxi boss disappointed by the latest weather forecast for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race starting on Boxing Day.

 Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator on 'Teasing Machine' ready with pre-routing

The forecast is for light winds at the start with north to north easterly breezes of about 15 to 25 knots for most of the first couple of days and no heavy weather for the fleet of 85, which includes five supermaxis.
"I think a big heavy boat like InfoTrack, we really need a lot of wind, so it's a bit disappointing for us, really," Beck said.
"We can sort of bash through the really heavy stuff but there is nothing to bash through in this forecast.”

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Wall Street trader reaches bottom of Atlantic in bid to conquer five oceans

Victor Vescovo says: ‘It felt great to get to the true bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in history.’ Photograph: Richard Varcoe - Special Project Six
From The Guardian by Rupert Neate

A multimillionaire Wall Street trader has become the first person to reach the deepest point of the Atlantic Ocean as part of an extreme mission to dive to the depths of the world’s five oceans.

Victor Vescovo, 53, the founder of US private equity firm Insight Equity Holdings, on Friday piloted a $48m (£38m) submarine 8,376 metres (almost five miles) beneath the ocean surface to the bottom of the Puerto Rico trench.

“It felt great to get to the true bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in history,” Vescovo said.
“Our depth of ignorance about the oceans is quite dramatic. Four of the oceans have never even had a human being go to their bottom. In fact, we don’t even know with great certainty where the bottom of the four are.”

Vescovo has already climbed to the highest peak of each of the world’s seven continents and trekked to both the north and south poles.
But he is not alone in that feat.
At least 62 other people have also completed the so-called explorers’ grand slam.

The project is due to commence later this week with a dive down 8,648m to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean’s Puerto Rico Trench and all going well it will continue throughout 2019.
Later journeys in the two-person submersible will descend to the South Sandwich Trench (8,428m/27,651ft below the surface of the Southern Ocean); the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean (7,725m/25,344ft); Marina Trench/Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean (10,898m/35,755ft); and Malloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean (5,669m/18599ft).
Five Deeps Expedition

Desperate to prove himself as the world’s “ultimate explorer”, Vescovo set himself a fresh challenge: to dive to the deepest point of each of Earth’s five oceans.

He will now head to the South Sandwich trench in the Southern Ocean, about 100km east of the South Sandwich Islands.
That trench, 8,428 metres below the surface, is unnamed and Vescovo hopes his dive there in February will grant him naming rights.
Getting to the bottom of the ocean is not easy, or cheap.
The pressure is more than 16,000 psi (pounds per square inch) – more than 1,000 times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.
In order to withstand it safely, Vescovo ordered his specially built submarine at a cost of $48m.

 Victor Vescovo will now head to the South Sandwich trench in the Southern Ocean.
Photograph: Caladan Oceanic

The 11.2-ton Triton submarine, named Limiting Factor, has a 9cm-thick titanium hull built using advanced forging techniques and tested in Russia to conditions equivalent to 13,198 metres, or 20% greater than the ocean’s deepest point.

Vescovo is able to sit back and relax in the vessel’s leather armchairs as it descends to 10,950 metres in less than two-and-a-half hours.
Pilots can explore the ocean using four cameras or look out into the dark depths through three acrylic viewports.

Vescovo, who will be followed on his adventure by cameras from the Discovery Channel, said: “I’ve always loved a great physical and technical challenge and, like those currently attempting to push space technology to the limit, I thought it would be a great goal to push the absolute limits of marine technology.

After the Southern Ocean, Vescovo will dive 7,725 metres to the Java trench in the Indian Ocean.
The fourth dive will be the deepest – 10,925 metres to the Mariana trench, the deepest point in the world.

Twelve people have walked on the moon but only three have ventured to the Mariana trench’s Challenger Deep.
Two explorers – Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard – reached it in 1960 and the Titanic film director, James Cameron, went there in 2012.

The fifth dive will be in the near-freezing waters of the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.
“We sincerely hope to make history, both technically and scientifically, on this expedition,” Vescovo said.

From Atlantic Productions and coming soon to the Discovery Channel, Deep Planet follows The Five Deeps Expedition. 
This three-minute trailer follows the team during the final stages of testing of the Limiting Factor manned submersible that will journey to the deepest point in each of the world's five oceans.

He is travelling with Alan Jamieson, a marine biology lecturer at Newcastle University, who has embarked on 50 deep-sea exploration missions and hopes to make fresh discoveries about life at the very depth of the world’s oceans.

“Currently, we know more about the intricacies of the lunar surface than we do about the depths of our oceans,” Jamieson said.
“The discoveries made on this expedition promise a world of new scientific innovation in almost every area of biological, geological and oceanographic study.”

 The ship Pressure Drop will be the service vessel for the Five Deeps mission
The Limiting Factor will be transported from one remote location to another aboard a ship named Pressure Drop, which has been adapted especially for this mission. 

Vescovo has always been a high achiever.
He was in the top 5% of his MBA class at Harvard business school, picked up a master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a double major degree in economics and political science from Stanford University.

He started mountain climbing in 1998 and last year became the 12th American to complete the explorers’ grand slam.
Only 17 people, including one woman and two Britons, have completed the “true” explorers’ grand slam to reach both the North and South Pole and climb the seven summits.
A further 46 people, including Vescovo, have completed the slightly easier “last degree” of the explorers’ grand slam, which requires travelling to within one degree of the poles and not to the exact point.

When all Vescovo’s dives – which will include additional trips to locations including a possible site of the MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing in 2014 – are complete, the submarine and its support ship will be available for another super-rich adventurer to buy – for a cool $48.2m.

Links :

    Saturday, December 22, 2018

    Image of the week : an island disappears

    September 11, 2018

    October 13, 2018

    From NASA by Kasha Patel

    It’s not often that an island disappears off the map, but that’s just what happened in October 2018.
    A remote but ecologically important island was lost to the sea in the wake of one of the most intense hurricanes on record for the North Pacific.

    Around October 3, Hurricane Walaka passed the Hawaiian Islands, including an archipelago about 900 kilometers (550 miles) northwest of Honolulu known as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
    Strong surges from Walaka inundated the shallow islets, one of which has been almost completely reclaimed by the ocean.

    The Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured these natural-color images of East Island on September 11 (left) and October 13, 2018 (right).
    The storm washed away the 11-acre strip of sand and gravel, and only two slivers of land have re-emerged since the hurricane struck.
    Storm surges also deposited sand and debris across Tern Island, which is northwest of East Island.

     Localization of East Island with the GeoGarage platform
    (satellite image from Google imagery still showing the island)

    East Island is part of the French Frigate Shoals, one of the most significant coral reef systems in Papahānaumokuākea.
    The archipelago formed millions of years ago when a deep-sea “hotspot” created underwater volcanoes, which eventually rose to the ocean’s surface to became islands.

    While East Island was uninhabited by people, it provided nesting grounds for the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles and pupping grounds for endangered monk seals, of which there are only 1,400 in the world.
    Scientists believe many of the animals had already left the island before the hurricane hit because it was the end of turtle and seal breeding season.
    However, unhatched turtle nests were likely affected. Researchers must wait until next year to return to the islets for a more extensive survey of the impact on wildlife.

    In the meantime, a marine debris team worked within the Monument zone in early November to remove more than 160,000 pounds of lost or abandoned fishing nets and plastic that could endanger marine animals.

    East Island is not the first island to disappear from the French Frigate Shoals.
    Whale-Skate Islet was lost to erosion in the 1990s, while Trig Island eroded earlier in 2018—a common occurrence in sand-dominated ecosystems.
    Scientists believe the mammals adapted to the ecosystem changes at Whale-Skate and Trig by finding new breeding locations, so they expect the same to happen now that East Island is gone.

    Links :

    Friday, December 21, 2018

    Huge reserves protect underwater mountains, endangered sea life

    NGM maps
    source : Administracio de Parques Nacionales de Argentina

    From National Geographic by Sarah Gibbens

    Argentina's government has voted to create two new marine parks that cover an area the size of Hungary.

    TWO NEW MARINE parks that together make up an area the size of Hungary have been created in the South Atlantic Ocean.

    One is called Yaganes and is located just off the southern tip of Argentina—a spot nicknamed “the end of the world.”
    The other, Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II, is in the South Atlantic. Together, they make up 37,000 square miles of marine protected areas (MPAs) teeming with sea creatures, many of which are classified as threatened species.

    Portions of these new MPAs have remained pristine by default of their remoteness, and the Argentine government’s decision to protect them ensures that the marine ecosystems will stay that way. Conservationists are hoping this move signals a shift toward stronger conservation measures in the country.
    Not only because the decision designates more protected territory, but also because it comes with a legal framework to enforce the new restrictions.

    “It's much more than creating two national parks,” says Sofia Heinonen, president of Fundación Flora y Fauna Argentina, an environmental group that led a campaign in favor of the new marine parks. “This also creates the basis for the next one.”

    Sea conservation timeline for Argentina

    Why is this part of the sea so special?

    Previously, Argentina's marine parks were managed by the same government department that manages its fisheries, which are open to commercial interests.
    This left little funding to stop illegal activity in the parks that could undermine bans on extractive activities like fishing there.
    An earlier Argentine MPA called Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank I, created in 2013, had weak oversight.
    A legal framework to manage the park wasn’t passed until 2015, and Argentina’s National Parks Administration didn’t gain control until 2017.

    At the same time, according to local media outlets, fishing pressure has increased immediately south of Argentina in recent years.
    So in an attempt to protect Argentina’s waters, the National Geographic Society partnered with the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and local governments to survey the region.
    The goal was to assess the health of the marine ecosystems known for their impressive biodiversity.

    “We wrote very comprehensive scientific reports that supported the immense ecological value of this area and the need for protection,” says Alex Muñoz, the leader of the Latin American arm of National Geographic's Pristine Seas program.
    And earlier this year, Fundación Flora y Fauna Argentina and the National Geographic Society received part of a record $1 billion donation made by the conservation-focused Wyss Foundation to groups working to create natural reserves like marine protected areas and national parks.

    Yaganes y Burdwood2 new MPAs

    During National Geographic’s recent exploration of Yaganes and Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank, researchers and photographers maneuvered cameras more than 6,000 feet below the surface.
    They found underwater mountain ranges and deep-sea canyons home to an impressive array of diversity. Many of the species identified can only be found in this part of the world.

    So, too, with marine mammals. Yaganes was once a lucrative spot for hunting whales—an activity that severely impacted southern right whale populations.
    But since this hunting activity ended in Argentina after the country joined the International Whaling Commission in 1960, populations have slowly begun to rebound.

    Reaching an ocean conservation goal

    With the creation of these two new marine protected areas, 8 percent of Argentina’s waters are now protected, bringing the country closer to its goal of protecting 10 percent of its national waters by 2020.

    MPAs are a popular tool used by governments to meet the United Nations’ larger goal of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020.
    By closing regions to activities like fishing, MPAs can allow fish stocks to recover, which then spill out to commercial areas.
    In a previous interview with National Geographic, former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco likened MPAs to a shot of vitamin C before the onset of a cold.

    A March study, partially supported by Pristine Seas, found that many declared protected areas around the globe are not effectively enforced.
    And even with countries’ self-reported conservation declarations, the U.N. is predicted to fall short of it goal.
    But countries like Argentina aren’t giving up.

    “Argentina is catching up on marine conservation,” Muñoz says.
    “Now it's becoming a world leader in world conservation.”

    Heinonen says her organization’s future conservation work will involve talks with Chile, a country that also shares close proximity to Antarctica.
    They hope to create joint protected areas in the South Atlantic Ocean.

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