Saturday, January 20, 2018

Norway NHS layer update in the GeoGarage platform

148 nautical raster charts updated

World's first life saver drone : a drone saves two swimmers in Australia

A drone dropped a “rescue pod” into waters south of Brisbane, saving two swimmers in distress.

From NYTimes by Isabella Kwai

A practice session for Australian lifeguards who were testing a new drone turned into a real rescue when the drone helped save two swimmers at a beach in New South Wales.

On Thursday morning, Jai Sheridan, a lifeguard supervisor who was operating the drone, was alerted to two young men caught in turbulent surf with 10-foot swells.
Mr. Sheridan then steered the drone toward the swimmers.

In video of the incident taken from the drone, it can be seen releasing a yellow “rescue pod” that inflates in the water.
The two swimmers grabbed the pod, and with its support they made their way to shore.
They were fatigued, but not hurt, Surf Life Saving New South Wales, a volunteer organization, said in a statement.
The rescue took just 70 seconds. “On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer,” Mr. Sheridan said.

Little Ripper Lifesaver drones use world first algorithm technology to spot sharks for public safety at beaches.
Fitted with onboard sirens and voice messages in multiple languages they also warn people of any danger.
The lifesaving drones have multiple deployable automatically inflating rescue tubes capable of supporting up to 4 people in a rescue situation.

The drone used for the rescue, known as a Little Ripper unmanned aerial vehicle, is also part of a shark-spotting program being rolled out across Australian beaches this summer.
It uses an algorithm to automatically recognize sharks.
“The applications in the water are just phenomenal,” said Michael Blumenstein, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney who oversaw the team that developed the shark-spotting software. “The amount of payload that these drones carry enable them to be really be versatile.”

Drones and AI Take On Killer Sharks Down Under in Australia.
Whether or not shark attacks are a major problem in Australia, the Australian government has devoted an enormous amount of resources into trying to mitigate the risk of sharks near popular beaches.
They've tried nets to keep the sharks out, they've tried electronic gadgets to dissuade them, and they've tried lots of different ways of killing them, without much in the way of evidence that any of it is particularly effective.
After six months of trials, the latest and most robot-y idea is about to be implemented: drones will start patrolling some Australian beaches next month, using cameras and some AI-backed image analysis software to spot lurking sharks much better than humans can.
Humans aren't particularly good at identifying sharks on aerial imagery.
We can manage a 20-30 percent accuracy rate, which means both identifying other things as sharks (kinda bad) and misidentifying sharks as other things (way worse).
As with many tasks of this kind, a machine learning system does much better: once it's been trained on labeled aerial videos of sharks, whales, dolphins, surfers, swimmers, boats, and whatever else, the software is 90 percent accurate at telling humans to panic because there's a shark somewhere.
And when implemented on a drone, the system really does tell people to panic, using a loudspeaker to warn them that there's a shark in the water.
The drones come from an Australian company called Westpac Little Ripper, which modifies a few different kinds of commercial drones for tasks like shark spotting as well as general life-saving operations, such as dropping beacons and even rafts.
The larger Little Ripper drones are gas powered and can fly for hours, which is nice, but they somehow cost up to US $250,000 each.

In cases involving rough surf, remote locations or natural disasters, where conditions may be hazardous and time is a factor, Professor Blumenstein said, drones are able to help operators assess a situation without endangering human lives.
Farmers have also found practical applications for drones, using them to efficiently assess the health of their crops, for example.
But in crowded urban areas, Professor Blumenstein said, security concerns may still be an issue. “People are still, I think, wary of low-hanging hovering objects, and rightfully so,” he said.

A lifesaving example of the power of AI in edge devices is demonstrated using a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and the Intel® Movidius™ Neural Compute Stick.
The Little Ripper Lifesaver UAV is currently using cloud-based AI to monitor the Australian coastline. 
n Intel proof-of-concept using Intel Movidius technology shows that AI processing could be done directly on the device, allowing for more immediate danger detection and response time.

In December, the state government of New South Wales announced that it would invest 430,000 Australian dollars, or $345,000, into drone technology as part of a trial on the state’s North Coast.
John Barilaro, deputy premier of New South Wales, said after Thursday’s rescue that the investment had already paid off.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device, been used to rescue swimmers like this,” Mr. Barilaro said.

 Australia is testing out a drone with shark-spotting software
to keep swimmers and sharks out of danger.

The software developed by Professor Blumenstein’s team could soon become a vital tool for lifeguards.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t use it to automatically detect people in the water,” he said.

Links :

Friday, January 19, 2018

115 years ago, this Arctic expedition ended in disaster

From National Geographic by Nina Stochlic

On the 130th anniversary of National Geographic’s founding, see what happened during an attempt to reach the North Pole.

Pacing sled dogs, bundled explorers, and meandering ice floes could be scenes from any early Arctic expedition.
But the 23 minutes of footage captured near the North Pole 116 years ago isn’t just the earliest film in National Geographic's archives—it’s a peek into a pair of wildly disastrous scientific adventures.

 Members of the second Ziegler Polar Expedition set out for the Franz Josef Land archipelago in 1903.
The following year, the ship seen in the background sunk, leaving them stranded.

At the turn of the 20th century, America was in a polar frenzy.
During the 1890s, a Swedish balloon expedition, two Norwegians on skis, and an Italian Duke on a steam whaler all failed to reach the North Pole.
Meanwhile, famous authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe set their characters against the mysterious and stark Arctic, and reputable sources theorized that a lost race of giants resided on the top of the Earth.
In his 1885 book, “Paradise Found: The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole,” the president of Boston University proposed that Atlantis, King Arthur’s Avalon, and the Garden Eden were all located in the North Pole.
“These ideas were taken very seriously and no one could refute them because no one had ever been there,” says PJ Capelotti, an anthropology professor and associate of The Polar Center at Penn State University.
Whoever became the first to reach the unknown arctic landscape was guaranteed fame and fortune stretching beyond their lifetime.
Fueled by wealthy financiers and public fascination, the “polar dash” kicked into high gear in the 1900s.

The first Ziegler Polar Expedition brough along photographer Anthony Fiala, who took this picture in 1901.
He logged it as "Alger Island showing snowcapped peak." 

Evelyn Baldwin had more Arctic interest than experience until businessman William Ziegler, known as the “baking soda king,” chose him to lead an ambitious expedition to the North Pole.
Convinced by a dramatized version of an attempt to make a forward base camp in the northern islands of Franz Josef Land, Ziegler put his trust and unlimited funds in the hands of a man whose entire resume was either “outright fabrication or exaggeration,” says Capelotti.
“I do not want to see any but an American win the honor of the discovery of the North Pole, when so many of our brave country­men have sacrificed their lives in the effort to attain it,” Baldwin recounted Ziegler telling him in an announcement of the expedition in McClure’s Magazine.

In 1901, the expedition landed on Alger Island to set up a camp sight.
Evelyn Baldwin, the leader, carries an American flag.

Baldwin was confident this attempt “to determine the secrets so jealously guarded by the Ice Sphinx of the North” would succeed where others had failed.
In 1901, Baldwin’s 42-man team set off for Franz Josef Land, the world’s northernmost archipelago.
On board was Anthony Fiala, a budding photographer who left his day job as a newspaper sketch artist and engraver to join the expedition.
Over the next year, Fiala produced what is “very likely the earliest footage of any expedition to the Arctic,” according to Capelotti, whose book, “The Greatest Show in the Arctic,” chronicles their attempt.

A photograph from September 8, 1901, shows a glacier
between the islands that comprise Franz Josef Land.
Twenty-three minutes of surviving footage, likely taken during the spring of 1902, show roving dogs, balloon launches, and disassembled camps.
It was donated to National Geographic in 1986 by Fiala’s grandson, Ronald Fiala, and is the oldest film in our archives.

Seaman D.S. Mackiernan and First Assistant Scientist Russell Porter return to camp with their sled dogs in the spring of 1905.

Fiala later described his tactics for working in the -30-degree tundra without overexposing or cracking the film.
He used a bioscope—a motion camera—to “secure views of men, dogs and ponies moving over the ice-fields,” he wrote in a 1907 article for National Geographic, along with “the advance of the America [ship] through the ice, and, if possible, a bear fight.”
To prevent the film from becoming brittle as he worked he’d wrap the camera in warm blankets.

The expedition had been stranded for two years by the time a rescue ship reached them.
Anthony Fiala is pictured at the time the lost explorers first met their rescuers. 

The trip was a failure.
Baldwin’s team hardly progressed north, his leadership skills were sparse, and he was later described by Ziegler as a guy who stood around smoking cigarettes and eating pie, says Capelotti.
When they returned empty handed in 1902, Baldwin was fired.

A carcass of a polar bear is hauled aboard the ship of the second Ziegler Polar Expedition.

But Ziegler still longed for his namesake expedition to reach the North Pole, and quickly launched a second attempt with Fiala at the helm.
Before departing, the pair met with Alexander Graham Bell, National Geographic’s then-president, and Gilbert H.
Grosvenor, its editor, who solidified support for the mission.
Grosvenor’s wife designed a special flag with the Society’s name for the expedition to take with them.
(This flag still accompanies National Geographic explorers around the world.)

"Observations were made on the floating ice for longitude and for magnetic declination," wrote Ziegler of his team's scientific work.

The second trip was even more disastrous.
Fiala struck out for the Arctic in 1903, but his ship sank, leaving the expedition stranded on an island in the Franz Josef Archipelago for two years.
“They were two very different expeditions in composition and leadership, but united in one thing: their incompetence,” says Capelotti.
Amazingly, all but one man survived, thanks to a steady supply of polar bear and walrus meat and the discovery of a vein of coal.
They were found by a rescue ship and returned to America in 1905.
Unfortunately, Ziegler had died earlier that year, likely assuming the worst.

Members of the second Ziegler Polar Expedition dig in to their dinners.
Despite being stranded for two years they managed to hunt enough to stay well fed. 

A few scientific findings did come out of the expedition: A book by Chief Scientist William J.
Peters—comprising meteorology and topography of the Arctic—was published by National Geographic in 1907, which included First Assistant Scientist Russell Porter’s maps, and Fiala’s photography.

“What he did had not been done by anyone before and has not been done much since,” says Capelotti about Fiala.
“It's a glimpse of who we thought we were and what we thought we were doing.
The motion footage allows us to look at it through their eyes.”

In 1909, both Robert Peary and Frederick Cook claimed competing titles of the the first to reach the North Pole.
Whether either really did has since been disputed.
The first verified team to reach the North Pole overland didn’t get there until 1968.

Fiala’s next trip took him to the jungle, as he followed Theodore Roosevelt’s so-called “River of Doubt” expedition down an Amazon tributary.
He left after six months and launched Fiala Outfits, an expedition supply company selling everything from elephant rifles to dog sledges in New York City.

The islands of the Franz Josef Land archipelago are almost entirely covered by glacier ice and sparse vegetation.
Baldwin never went on another expedition.
He worked as a Navy clerk and died after being hit by a car in the 1930s.
But he had a final taste of polar glory—on the gravestone he likely commissioned hails him as an arctic explorer.
“He's buried under his own arctic myth in the middle of Kansas,” says Capelotti.

Capelotti himself got a starring role in the lore that still surrounds the North Pole.
After an expedition to Franz Josef Land in 2006, he was the center of an Internet conspiracy theory claiming he’d discovered a race of giants and covered it up for the government.
“The idea that there's a biblical or extraterrestrial thing up there that's unexplainable is really persistent in our culture,” he says, laughing.

But there are other similarities between the gilded age missions to the North Pole and 21st century dreams of exploration: “You've got millionaires planning trips to the moon.”

Franz Josef Land with the GeoGarage (NHS nautical chart)

Wherever future explorers go, they’ll return with images and video to share with the masses, even if cameras no longer need to be swaddled in blankets like Fiala’s.
In his 1907 article he imagined the potential this held: “There is still land to be conquered; and it is good to know that when these unknown places are found and the flags of discovery are planted, that with the help of the sun and modern chemistry, we will all be able to view with the explorer what had once been forbidden and mysterious territory.”

Links :

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Robot subs are uncovering what makes underwater volcanoes blow

Havre seamount with the GeoGarage platform
(Linz nautical charts overlaid on Google Maps)

From Wired by Sian Bradley

In 2012, the Havre Seamount was the site of the largest underwater eruption of the century.
Now, high-resolution mapping of the ocean floor has revealed previously unknown behaviours of undersea volcanoes.

The remotely operated vehicle Jason (which is about the size of a large car), landing on the seafloor at Havre submarine volcano at 900 meters below sea level
University of Tasmania, Australia.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

A pair of autonomous underwater vehicles have helped uncover details of the biggest undersea eruption of the century.
The daring mission is helping to unlock the mysteries of a rarely-seen event and shed further light on underwater volcanism.
Guided by top volcanologists from the University of Tasmania, Australia, the vehicles plunged 650 meters below sea level to map the ocean floor, shedding light on a an eruption that occurred in 2002.
That eruption, of the Havre Seamount off the coast of New Zealand, released 400 square kilometres of porous volcanic rock, some of which floated to the surface.
Satellite imagery indicates that this sort of event happens about four times every 100 years – but is something that we rarely spot.
Now, volcanologists have delved beneath the surface, and answered questions that cameras above the ocean could not.

The Havre submarine volcano 650 meters below sea level, which was the site of the largest underwater eruption of the past century
University of Tasmania, Australia.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

“When we used the submersible vehicles to go down to the seafloor in 2015, we were able to see a vast array of new volcanic products, such as 14 different lava flows at depths of between 1,220 and 650 metres beneath sea level,” says Rebecca Carey, lead researcher on the study, which has been published in the journal Science Advances.
They were able to determine, for the first time, when the eruption happened and the volcanic processes that move magma from the crust to the surface.

Water pressure is so high at those depths that magma loses some of its energy during eruption.
“Hydrostatic pressure of the eruption column probably suppressed most of the explosivity that would have occurred if the volcano were on land,” Carey says.
“The eruption produced lava rather than a massive jet and eruption column that we see for land eruptions of this magnitude – such as Mount St.
Helens in 1980, or Chaiten volcano in 2008.” Their mapping has shown that around 80 per cent of the volcanic rock was dispersed into the Pacific Ocean, landing on Micronesian island beaches and the east Australian seaboard.

High resolution seafloor map of the Havre undersea volcano caldera with lava that erupted in 2012 lavas shown in red
University of Tasmania, Australia.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Volcanic eruptions on the seafloor are not unusual; around 80 per cent of Earth’s volcanism occurs below the waves.
Detecting them, however, is very tricky indeed.
To notice this type of eruption you need just the right conditions that enabled volcanic rock to accumulate on the sea surface in 2012.
"Being such a unique event, we knew it had the possibility to strongly contribute to the fundamental yet outstanding questions of how submarine volcanism works,” Carey says.

This is why the researchers sent the autonomous vehicle Sentry and the remotely operated vehicle Jason to the depths of the ocean in 2015.
Jason had various sampling equipment on board, to collect rocks or fragmental deposits.
Sentry was key for navigating a steep and rocky ocean floor.
"Sentry can manoeuvre in all directions, whereas other AUVs (Autonomous underwater vehicles) can only go in the forward direction,” Carey says.
Importantly, Sentry provided them with a high resolution map of the seafloor which revealed that underwater volcanoes are as complex as they are on land.

(l-r) Images of ship-based mapping compared with Sentry mapping
University of Tasmania, Australia

"What is really interesting in that the lava flows look exactly like how they would if they were on land,” Carey says.
The discovery also opens up further research into how marine life copes with a gigantic volcanic eruption.
"Havre's eruption produced a blanket of fragmental pumice and ash.
That ash blanket has destroyed most of the life on the volcano," Carey says.
"There were some species recolonising the volcano after just 3 years… the biologists are very interested in what species they are and whether they are local recruits or exotic species."

Links :

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Australia AHS layer update in the GeoGarage platform

10 nautical raster charts updated & 2 new charts added
see GeoGarage news

 The “Complete” Map Of The Southern Continent, 1767

New Zealand Linz update in the GeoGarage platform

3 nautical raster charts updated

A fantastical ship has set out to seek Malaysian Airlines flight 370

Norwegian research vessel Seabed Constructor
is one of the most advanced civilian exploration vessel on earth.

From The Economist 

A swarm of submarine drones will scour the depths for the plane

On January 2nd, at 8pm local time, a strange vessel cast off and sailed out of the Port of Durban, in South Africa, heading east.
Her hull was orange.
Her superstructure bristled with antennae—some long and pointy, some sleek, white and domed.
Her stern sported a crane and also a strange gantry, known to her crew as the “stinger”.
Her bow looked so huge and ungainly as to be on the point of tipping her, nose first, into the depths.
And below deck, invisible to those on shore, she carried eight autonomous submarines called HUGINs, each six metres long, weighing 1,800kg, and containing a titanium sphere to protect the sensitive electronics therein from the pressure of the ocean’s depths.

A flaperon from MH370 (foreground) with a Boeing 777 flaperon used for drift modelling research on the MH370 search operation (background).
Image from CSIRO.

The strange ship’s name is Seabed Constructor.
She is a Norwegian research vessel, built in 2014 and owned by Swire Seabed, a dredging and surveying firm in Bergen.
At the moment, though, she is leased to Ocean Infinity, a company based in Houston, Texas.
And the task Ocean Infinity has hired her for is a hard one: to find whatever is left of flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER that left Kuala Lumpur on March 8th 2014 with 239 people on board and vanished over the Indian Ocean.

The disappearance of MH370 is one of the great mysteries of modern civil aviation.
The aircraft was bound for Beijing, but changed course suddenly over the South China Sea and broke off radio contact.
It was last detected by radar near the northern tip of Sumatra, heading west-north-west into the open ocean.
Subsequent transmissions to a communications satellite suggested that it crashed somewhere along an arc between 1,500km and 2,700km west of Australia.

The search that followed was the largest in aviation history.
It was mounted by Fugro, a Dutch firm, and paid for by the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian governments.
Over the course of three years Fugro managed to scan 120,000 square kilometres of seabed.
But it found nothing.
The plan is for Ocean Infinity’s search to be paid for, on a “no find, no fee” basis, by Malaysia alone.
Contracts have yet to be signed, but Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s boss, has decided to go ahead anyway, to take advantage of the window of good weather that opens in the southern Indian Ocean in January and February.

 Increased-resolution Bathymetry in the Southeast Indian Ocean

Ocean Infinity aims to cover the ground much faster than Fugro did.
In prior cruises in the Atlantic, the firm has, according to Josh Broussard, its technical director, managed to scan 890 square kilometres a day using six autonomous submarines.
With eight, Mr Broussard thinks that the new mission will be able to manage 1,200 a day—enough to have covered the original search area in just 100 days.

The new search area, 25,000 square kilometres of sea floor chosen by investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), is just north of the old one (see map).
Fugro could infer MH370’s crash site only from its final, rather shaky, satellite signals.
Ocean Infinity’s effort has been guided as well by wreckage washed ashore on the coasts of Africa and several islands in the Indian Ocean—hence the more northerly starting point.
Seabed Constructor will reach that starting-point, which is about 35°S, and 2,200km off the coast of Western Australia, on or about January 17th, her crew having conducted a few final tests and calibrations of the HUGIN system en route, using remote-controlled robots to place dummy debris on the sea floor in order to see if the subs can find it.
If searching the patch of ocean designated by the ATSB reveals nothing, then the ship will head farther north, towards the 30th parallel, which some independent experts believe is a better bet.

An ocean of interest

Fugro’s search used but a single autonomous submarine, and this was unable to dive below 4,000 metres, meaning it was not always close to the seabed.
The HUGINs carried by Seabed Constructor can, however, go as deep as 6,000 metres.
That permits them to reach most of the sea floor comfortably.
And the fact that there are eight of them means different areas can be searched in parallel, and that some submarines will always be at sea.

The HUGINs will be launched by the stinger, which extends out over the ship’s stern.
Once underwater, the robot craft will communicate with the ship using an acoustic modem.
The ship’s own modem, which will receive these signals, is fixed to the end of a long pole that extends down through her hull into the water.

Each HUGIN comes with a 300kg lithium-polymer battery pack, good for a tour of duty lasting up to 60 hours.
A downward-pointing sonar will map the contours of the seabed beneath the craft, but most of the searching will be done by side-mounted sonars scanning the bed on either side of the craft.
These send out pings and measure the intensity with which they are reflected.
Sand reflects less sound than metal does, meaning metal objects such as aircraft debris are easy to distinguish.
And if something apparently metallic is detected, its nature can be confirmed using an on-board magnetometer.

 Video describing the capabilities of the Kongsberg Maritime Hugin Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

The HUGINs’ search patterns are set by people, but the craft will actually navigate with little reference to their mother ship.
Every so often, the ship will send out a corrective ping to keep them on course.
Mostly, however, they will employ dead reckoning, based on data from accelerometers, to steer themselves autonomously.
They are also capable of picking their way without assistance over sheer underwater cliffs and mountains, and past crevices and gullies, using on-board cameras and machine-vision software.

After its tour of duty, a HUGIN will be lifted back on-board ship and the data it has collected (up to two terabytes, recorded on a waterproof hard drive) downloaded into the ship’s data centre and turned into human-readable maps, a process that takes six hours.
The HUGIN’s battery will be replaced with a fully charged one, any necessary repairs made, and the craft then sent back out into the ocean.

 Video describing the launch and recovery system of the Kongsberg Maritime Hugin Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
A team of geologists and hydrographers will then pore over the maps, looking for signs of the missing plane.
Surprisingly, for such a high-tech operation, this stage of the search will be entirely manual.
Every block of sea floor that the HUGINs map will be examined by three sets of human eyes.
Together, this survey team will come up with a list of possible targets, ranked from “E” to “A” (“nothing” to “that’s it”), to present to their bosses.
If the data look good, a HUGIN will be sent down for a second, closer look, cameras at the ready.

What happens next, if Ocean Infinity does locate what is left of the missing aircraft, is unclear.
Friends and relatives of those aboard it will doubtless derive relief from knowing where the flight ended up.
But merely finding the wreckage will not explain what happened on board the plane.
That will require the discovery of the aircraft’s flight recorder.

A rendering of the Seabed Constructor, and HUGIN ‘fre flying’ AUVs.
Image supplied from Ocean Infinity.

That object is therefore Ocean Infinity’s ultimate target.
If it is found on this mission, Mr Broussard says the firm plans to bring it to the surface and then deliver it for analysis to the Australian authorities, who have the technical competence to assess it.
A follow-up trip to examine the wreckage, and even bring it to the surface, would require further authorisation from the Malaysian government.

Seabed Constructor is the most advanced civilian survey vessel on the planet today.
If its array of technology cannot find MH370, then it is likely that nothing will, and that the mystery of MH370 will remain unsolved.
Either way, though, the advance of technology may mean that it is the last such mystery.
As the oceans are watched with ever closer scrutiny, from space and the depths, it is increasingly difficult for anything to get lost in the first place.

Links :

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Huge oil spill spreads in East China Sea, stirring environmental fears

A collision involving the Sanchi — shown being doused at right before it sank — created what appeared to be the largest tanker oil spill since 1991.
Environmentalists and marine experts are concerned about the oil slick’s threat to sea and bird life in the East China Sea.
CreditTransport Ministry of China, via European Pressphoto Agency

From NYTimes by Gerry Mullany

An oil spill from an Iranian tanker that sank in the East China Sea is rapidly spreading, officials said Tuesday, alarming environmentalists about the threat to sea and bird life in the waterway.

The tanker, the Sanchi, was carrying 136,000 tons of highly flammable fuel oil when it crashed into a freighter on Jan. 6.
On Sunday, the Sanchi sank after a huge blast sent up a great plume of black smoke and set the surface of the water on fire, China Central Television said.

The bodies of three crew members have been recovered, and the remaining 29 were presumed dead, the Iranian government said.
Thirty Iranians and two Bangladeshis were believed to have died.

 The burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi is seen partially sunk in the East China Sea
off the eastern coast of China on January 14.

The oil slicks from the sunken tanker were growing in size, China’s State Oceanic Administration said Tuesday.
There are now two huge slicks covering 52 square miles, compared with just four square miles the previous day.
Strong winds were pushing the spill toward Japan, away from China, and it was now less than 200 miles from Naha, Japan.

One concern is that, since the Sanchi sank, marine life will be endangered by the fuel oil’s spreading instead of burning off.
And experts are further concerned that the even dirtier bunker fuel powering the tanker will be released into the sea, exposing delicate marine life to the extremely toxic substance.

Greenpeace expressed alarm about the threat to the marine ecosystem in the East China Sea, which is one of the world’s most heavily trafficked waterways, saying the disaster occurred in “an important spawning ground” for fish.
“At this time of year the area is used as wintering ground by common edible species such as hairtail, yellow croaker, chub mackerel and blue crab,” Greenpeace said.
“The area is also on the migratory pathway of many marine mammals, such as humpback whale, right whale and gray whale.”

The tanker was carrying more than one million barrels of condensate, an extremely light crude oil, to South Korea when it collided with the freighter.
When spilled, the condensate can produce a deep underwater plume damaging to marine life.

File photo shows a rescue ship sailing near the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi
photo AP

The Japanese Coast Guard said the fire on the surface of the sea was extinguished early Monday.

The Sanchi disaster appears to be the largest tanker spill since 1991, when an unexplained detonation caused the ABT tanker to leak 260,000 tons of oil off the coast of Angola.

Rick Steiner, a marine conservation specialist formerly with the University of Alaska, told The Associated Press that 60,000 to 90,000 tons was likely to have spilled into the sea, calling it “enormous” and “as large as the official estimate of the Exxon Valdez disaster” off the coast of Alaska in 1989.
He also suggested that the Chinese government was likely to be understating the magnitude of the spill.
Hiroshi Takahashi, a fisheries official in Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan, said the government was “monitoring the direction” of the spill because of fears it “could direct towards Kagoshima.”

The deaths of the Iranian crew members on the tanker prompted Iran’s government to declare a day of national mourning on Monday to honor “the brave mariners who died in the course of their mission.”

Eshaq Jahangiri, Iran’s first vice president, said that efforts to recover the bodies of 29 crew members ceased when the tanker sank off the China’s coast on Sunday.

Because of the release of toxic gases in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, there was little hope that the crew members survived, but efforts to recover their bodies had continued, Mr. Jahangiri said.
“Unfortunately, the ship sank and we could not access their bodies.”

 A computer-generated scenario of where the slick will spread.
(Image: National Oceanography Centre)

Officials still don’t know the cause of the collision between the Sanchi and the CF Crystal, a Chinese freighter that was carrying grain.

Links :

Monday, January 15, 2018

US NOAA layer update in the GeoGarage platform

3 nautical raster charts updated

Is fishing with electricity less destructive than digging up the seabed with beam trawlers?

The pulse trawl: electrodes in the two direction of the gear cause an electric field above the seabed, which stimulate the flatfish so that come up and end up in the net

From The Conversation by Michel Kaiser

While many people may be interested in the sustainability and welfare of the fish they eat, or the health of the environment, fewer probably worry about the effect that trawl fishing – which accounts for 20% of landings – has on the ocean.

For a long time researchers and the industry have been trying to improve trawl fishing practices.
Things have moved on from practices such as beam trawling – where a large net is dragged across the ocean floor – to potentially less invasive and newer methods like electric pulse trawling.
This sees electrical pulses being sent into the seawater to flush out bottom-dwelling fish like plaice and sole, causing them to swim into the path of trawl nets.

Beam trawls have been the focus of environmental concern for decades, as it causes a substantial reduction in the abundance of animals living on the seabed.
These effects can be long lasting if the fishing occurs in areas which are inhabited by long-lived seabed dwelling species such as oysters and sponges.
Beam trawls are also associated with high amounts of bycatch – unwanted fish and other organisms – although the industry and researchers are working on ways to reduce this.

However, the relatively newer electric pulse fishing is not necessarily a perfect solution either.
Though it does not dig into the seabed to the same extent as traditional beam trawling, research has found it can fatally injure other species which may not be the target catch.

So why use this method if it still has its faults?
High fuel costs and EU legislation which has reduced the discarding fish at sea, have renewed interest in the use of electricity in fishing.
Across the world, millions are fed by the fish caught by trawlers so it is unrealistic for trawling to just be stopped altogether, but the variety of negative impacts on the marine ecosystem remain a cause for concern.

 courtesy of WUR / illustration Justin Tiand

For and against

The UK government recently announced an review into the use of electric pulses by foreign trawlers in British waters due to concerns about its potential effects on the environment and bycatch.
Campaign groups have also called on the EU to reinstate a ban on the electrical pulse method, calling it “destructive”.

The current pulse trawls are fine-tuned to catch larger fish (the spine of the fish acts as a conductor), so that bigger fish respond more strongly to the electric stimulus and are more likely to be caught in the nets.
This reduces catch of unwanted species that are less likely to respond to the electric pulse, and also reduces contact with the seabed.

Traditional beam trawls, on the other hand, are fitted with heavy “tickler chains” – horizontal chains strung across the mouth of the trawl – designed to “dig” fish like Dover sole out of the seabed.
Soles curl into a “c” shape in response to the electric stimulation used by pulse trawls, so they can be caught without the use of these “tickler chains”.

 courtesy of Pulse Fishing

Dispensing with the chains means that the gear is lighter, creates less disruption of the seabed, and substantially reduces the amount of other seabed organisms caught – by 75-80% per unit area of the seabed fished.
By not catching the unwanted species, this improves the quality of landed catch too, because skin abrasion is reduced in the net.
Together, improved catch quality and the reduced fuel consumption means greater profitability for the fishermen.

Electric pulse seems like a good idea from this perspective, but studies of its effects on other species of fish – that are not the intended catch – show that larger cod in particular are prone to spinal fractures when in contact with the electric pulses.
Small cod appear to be unaffected.
Cod typically have a low survival rate if they are unintentionally caught in most trawls, so this issue of spinal fracture may be irrelevant if they are caught using either method.

Additionally, though fewer seabed organisms end up in the trawl net when using electricity compared to traditional beam trawling, it is too early to tell whether the creatures remaining on the seabed are affected negatively by contact with the electric stimuli.
Aquarium experiments, have shown that worms and shrimps, for example, recover within seconds following the application of an electric shock.
However, these controlled laboratory experiments take place without natural predators – that may take advantage of a shocked creature – present.

The issues here are not solely environmental.
The pulse trawl fleet has encroached on grounds that historically were fished by fishermen using low impact netting methods, leading to some resentment and conflict with others in the fishing community.

Societal acceptance of any food production method is vital, and at present – for pulse trawling – this is a greater challenge than answering the ecological questions.
This issue could be resolved by more formal zoning of the sea so that pulse trawling is restricted to areas that do not impinge upon traditional low impact fisheries – initiatives which are currently in negotiation.

Taking both society and environment into account, electric pulse trawling may not be an infallible solution, but it might a better way of trawling than the use of traditional forms of beam trawling.

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