Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Zealand Linz layer update in the GeoGarage platform

12 nautical raster charts updated

How the beach benefits your brain, according to science

From Inc by Anne Gherini

There is something soothing about the sound of ocean waves, the smell of salt water, and the feeling of warm sand beneath your toes.
Having grown up near the beach, I always classified my happiness on the beach as no more than nostalgia.
Yet, recent studies prove that a beach-type environment can have a profound impact on our brains and mental health.

Although few people deny the importance of brain health, most of us don't focus as much effort on taking care of our brains as we do our bodies.
The misnomer that physical fitness trumps mental health is at our detriment.
The reality is that we need balance, both mentally and physically.

Numerous studies help us appreciate why the beach may be the premier destination for us to unwind and recharge our minds.

Listen to Crashing Waves

Several months ago I partook in a deprivation float (the practice that many superstars such as, Steph Curry swear by).
As my mind reached a meditative state, I could not help but hear a sound similar to that of waves crashing gently on the beach.
This repetitive sound that was created as a result of my rhythmic breaths and my ears being submerged in salt water instantly put me at ease.

"These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people," says Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University.
"It's like they're saying: "Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry."
The sound of waves can help you achieve a meditative state, which is proven to heal and strengthen your brain.

Remove the Blues

Studies have shown that different colors often produce different psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
The color blue, for instance, is often used in marketing material to convey a sense of calmness.
The Global Healing Center advises individuals to actually surround themselves in blue as a way to reduce stress.

According to Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist, he agrees that blue has a profound calming effect on people.
"Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves' frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state," says Shuster.

Smell the Ocean Mist

When you first step out on the sand and allow your lungs to be filled with salty misty air, your brain may be receiving instant benefits.
The negative ions (oxygen ions with an extra electron attached, produced via water molecules) in the ocean air can actually help calm your brain.

Negative ions have been shown to have a pronounced anti-depressant effect as well.
As early as 1932, American research engineer Dr. Clarence Hansell noticed that the mood of one of his colleagues fluctuated in response to the type of ions - cheerful when subjected to positive ions and gloomy when subjected to negative ones.

Subsequent studies have found that the act of negatively ionized air -- the kind you receive when you get outside for a gulp of fresh air -- can alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

 It's a proven fact, living by the sea has many health benefits, here are a few of them.
After watching this you too will want to relocate closer to the ocean.
All video taken in the Maldives.

Feel the Sand Between Your Toes

Grounding, otherwise known as walking barefoot, has been proven to have a number of stimulating benefits to our bodies and minds.
The reason is that our feet contain a rich network of nerves and acupuncture points.
Our feet are able to absorb free ions on the earth surface in much the same way that our lungs are able to absorb ions in the air.

A report in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shed some more light on these benefits.
The earth is negatively charged, so when you walk barefoot, you're connecting your body to a negatively charged supply of energy.
The result is one that many of us feel as soon as we kick off our shoes.
Walking barefoot on the beach can trigger tingling warm sensations produced as a result of us "grounding" to earth.

"There are all these cognitive and emotional benefits that we derive every time we spend time by water" said Wallace J.
Nichols, a marine biologist and best-selling author of the Blue Mind.
"Once you get into it, you realize that it's chemistry, it's biology, it's physiology.
It's deeply personal but it's also strong science."

In 2012, a University of Exeter study found that simply living within close proximity to a beach improves one's health and wellbeing.
While it may be unreasonable for some of us to uproot and move to a beach town, prioritizing getting outdoors and connecting with the earth will still help you stay mentally fit.

Friday, July 20, 2018

US NOAA layer update in the GeoGarage platform

8 nautical raster charts updated

Dive under the ice with the brave robots of Antarctica

An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), known as SeaBED, providing the first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. The new technology provides accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access.

From Wired by Matt Simon

The lava fields of Hawaii.
The peaks of the Himalayas.
The crowds of a Justin Bieber concert.
These are among the most perilous of environments on planet Earth, places where few humans dare tread.
They ain’t got nothin’, though, on waters of our planet’s polar regions, where frigid temperatures and considerable pressures would snuff a puny human like you in a heartbeat.

Robots, though?
This is the stuff their tough-as-hell bodies were made for.
This is the domain of Seabed, the sensor-packed machine that dives over a mile deep into the polar seas—autonomously—collecting invaluable data.
But it comes at a price: Getting the bot back to its icebreaking boat alive can be more challenging than communicating with a Mars rover millions of miles away.

 This graphic shows how self-driving Seagliders and floats will track conditions below an Antarctic ice shelf. Inside these caves, warmer saltwater flows in on the bottom, carrying heat that may eat away at the ice, and fresher glacial meltwater flows out above.
(University of Washington)

Seabed doesn’t swim like your typical autonomous underwater vehicle.
Most are shaped like torpedoes, which allows them to efficiently cut through the water like jets.
Seabed instead can use its propellers to hover in the water column like a helicopter.
This allows it to hang over the seafloor and map it with sonar, or cozy up next to ice to measure its thickness.

The robot can’t be tethered for hardwired communication, on account of the ice, and radio waves don’t work underwater.
So instead, Seabed sends signals of sound (like MIT’s hypnotic fish robot).
Even then, the robot isn’t always a reliable communicator.
“If we are lucky, we get a 256 byte packet once every minute,” says Northeastern University roboticist Hanumant Singh, who developed Seabed.
“And there are no guarantees that we can get it.” Compare that to how NASA scientists communicate with Mars rovers: The signal takes an average of 20 minutes to get from the robots to Earth, but at least it’s consistent.
If Singh needs to ping Seabed, the signal might not get there.

To account for the dropped signals, Singh gives the robot a course to, say, run along a particular stretch of the seafloor and map it with sonar.
If something appears to be going awry, like colder weather blows in and starts freezing over the ice hole Seabed’s supposed to surface in, Singh can send a signal to cut the mission short.
Ideally, it reaches the recipient quickly.
(He’s only lost one of these robots, by the way, not because of a communication breakdown but because an intense current swept it away.)

If Seabed comes up in the wrong spot under thick ice, there’s also no guarantee its operators can get it out of the water.
It may come up near the icebreaker, like on one mission in 2010.
You can’t go breaking ice willy-nilly near a $500,000 robot, so the researchers had to dig a small hole in the ice.
This gave them access to the vehicle, to which they attached weights to sink it a bit, but also a float to keep it from plummeting to the bottom of the sea.
Then the ship could crack open up the ice further—carefully still, of course—and pull the robot out.
On another nearly ill-fated mission, the researchers had to deploy a smaller tethered ROV to grab Seabed and tow it safely to open water.

Generally, though, Seabed returns to within just a few meters of where operators expect it to surface.
Again, if the robot weren’t reliably autonomous, this environment would eat it alive.

And once Seabed is in the water, it’s happy as a fish in … water.
It’s sealed up nice and tight to keep freezing water from infiltrating the electronics.
So if you bring it out of a warm ship hangar and drop it in the sea quickly, it’ll be alright.
Where things get problematic is when you have to pull the robot out of the water, then expect to use it again right away.

“You put the vehicle in the water and you're doing a test and you realize, oh, we forgot something,” says Singh.
The water itself is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the air drops to zero degrees.
“You bring the vehicle back up and now it's completely encased in ice.”

But enough about problems.
Seabed is one tenacious science machine, whose job is more important than ever in these times of climate change.
In addition to mapping the seafloor with sonar, it can do the same with ice to measure its thickness.

Which, sure, you could do by drilling lots of holes and dropping tape measures through.
But sea ice turns out to be beautifully complicated.
“In the Arctic and the Antarctic, ice isn't just sitting there and thickening as it freezes on a lake,” says sea ice physicist Ted Maksym of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has worked with Seabed.
“It's moving around and all the flows are crashing into each other, and when they do they form these huge piles of ice.”

These features develop not only above the surface, but as much as 60 feet deep, which Seabed can map with sonar, swimming back and forth across the face of the ice.
“It's just like mowing your lawn from below,” says Maksym.

What Maksym wants to understand is how ice thickens and thins in polar regions.
In the arctic, for instance, old ice is disappearing, and ice in general is becoming more seasonal.
“So understanding how the processes that govern the thickness of ice change as the arctic changes helps us understand how the arctic is going to respond to climate change,” says Maksym.

That means putting Seabed in danger, sure, but also means taking human divers out of danger.
The robot may get stuck under the ice from time to time, but the data it’s gathering is vital to science’s understanding of Earth’s most brutal environments not affiliated with Justin Bieber.

Links :

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Google’s first private trans-Atlantic subsea cable will connect the U.S. and France in 2020

 Many major internet companies are investing in subsea cable projects too — last year, SoftBank, Facebook, and Amazon teamed up for a 8,700-mile transpacific cable system, which is expected to launch in the next couple of years.
Do you believe that owning their subsea cables instead of going through a consortium of companies will make non-telecom companies like Google more efficient in providing data services to its customers?

From 9to5Google by Abner Li 

Google Cloud is rapidly expanding its infrastructure from new cloud regions to investing in three consortium subsea cables this year alone.
The latest move involves building its first private trans-Atlantic cable to further expand its network.

Map of the submarine telegraph between America and Europe,
with its various communications on the two continents (1857)

Map showing the telegraph lines in 1871 in operation, under contract, and contemplated,
to complete the circuit of the globe

Google announces its first private transatlantic subsea cable,
stretching from Virginia to France
What about sovereignty and neutrality for the Internet ?
Google Cloud cable systems
Image Credit: Google

Subsea cables are expensive endeavors and usually involve consortiums of major players with similar needs partnering to build and cover the cost.
Alternately, companies can simply purchase capacity from existing cables.
However, earlier this year, Google announced that it was building a private intercontinental cable from Chile to Los Angeles called Curie.

Today’s newest cable will connect Virginia Beach — specifically the GCP North Virginia region — to the French west coast and GCP Belgium.

Dunant adds network capacity across the Atlantic, supplementing one of the busiest routes on the internet, and supporting the growth of Google Cloud.
We’re working with TE SubCom to design, manufacture and lay the cable for Dunant, which will bring well-provisioned, high-bandwidth, low-latency, highly secure cloud connections between the U.S. and Europe.

It will be alphabetically named after Henri Dunant — the founder of the Red Cross and the first Nobel Peace Prize winner — following the first cable in honor of Marie Curie. According to Google, it will be ready to serve Cloud customers in late 2020.

The subsea cables include: Curie, a private cable connecting Chile to Los Angeles; Havfrue, a consortium cable connecting the United States to Denmark and Ireland; and Hong Kong-Guam Cable system, a consortium cable interconnecting major subsea communication hubs in Asia

Like in other areas of technology, there are distinct advantages to controlling the entire design, construction, and deployment process.
  • Performance and latency: Cables are often built to serve a very specific route. When we build privately, we can choose this route based on what will provide the lowest latency for the largest segment of customers. In this case, we wanted connectivity across the Atlantic that was close to certain data centers.
  • Capacity: The bandwidth that we want to deliver can vary widely, depending on what already exists and where our customers need more, now and in the future. Our capacity planning includes estimates of Google’s and our customers’ needs for years to come.
  • Guaranteed bandwidth for the lifetime of the cable: The life of a cable can vary from 15 to 25 years, but as with many infrastructure projects, they sometimes continue to serve the route beyond their initial projected lifespan. Our ability to guarantee our customers a certain level of connectivity helps them confidently plan for their businesses going forward.

Links :

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The killing of a blue whale reveals how disconnected we are from nature

Big as a bus: A massive whale, believed to be a blue whale, that was slaughtered in Iceland.

From The Guardian by

We need a better story than the pathetic one played out by beautiful animals that we haul into the sea of our ignorance

They might as well have shot a giant panda.
This week an Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, caused uproar when it was revealed that it had killed a blue whale.
Hvalur has killed hundreds of fin whales – mostly destined as meat for export to Japan.
It resumed its hunt in June, after a three-year hiatus.
But no blue whale – a highly endangered cetacean – has been deliberately killed for 40 years.
“We have never caught a blue whale in our waters since they were protected,” Kristj√°n Loftsson, the managing director of Hvalur told CNN.
“We see them in the ocean. When you approach a blue whale, it’s so distinct that you leave it alone."

Hvalur claims that the whale was a blue-fin whale hybrid.
But experts agree the slumped leviathan on the Icelandic killing slope shows all the features of the largest animal that has ever existed on Earth.
The mottled blue skin, the black baleen, the relatively tiny, hooked dorsal fin – all point to a pure blue whale (as if its purity actually mattered).
Having seen many blue whales at close quarters, I can attest to this identification.
As Peter Wilson, a whale expert and tour guide to Iceland, notes in his blog: “Whether they thought it was a blue or had someone out there who doesn’t know the difference, it shows complete disregard for any idea of expertise and a scientifically supported sense of sustainability”.

Surely the killing of such an animal should raise a furore as great as the one that met the shooting of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist in 2015?
Yet the (potentially very painful) death of this blue whale follows a under-reported story in May that Japan had killed 122 pregnant minke whales in its 2018 whaling season (sorry, “field survey”).
It all starts to look like a sadly familiar game.
Who can offend the most?
Can they get away with it?

The heart of this issue lies in appropriation.
Who owns a whale?
When a sperm whale died off the coast of the Netherlands two weeks ago, it was towed back to land and lifted on to a quayside, where a necropsy was performed to determine cause of death (pneumonia) and ascertain how to deal with live strandings – a vital question on the shores of the shallow North Sea, where there has been a spate of such incidents in recent years.
Unlike Hvalur, the organisations involved were behaving absolutely honourably.
But as usual, the public was told to keep away, for reasons of “health and safety”.
Sometimes science can get in the way of the very thing it tries to understand.
By removing a whale from public sight – as if it is somehow shameful – don’t we increase the same sense of disconnection that can allow an Icelandic whaler to kill a blue whale, or Japanese whalers to slay hundreds of minkes?

“Charismatic megafauna” – whales, elephants, rhinos, lions, polar bears – have become the ammunition at the front line of ecopolitics.
They’re media-friendly memes in the polarised debate over the animate “resources” of our planet.
Both sides use animals to further their aims.
The animals lose out, twice over.
Their right to selfdom is denied, and the distance between us – what the art critic John Berger called “the narrow abyss of miscomprehension” – increases.

This spring, Cape Cod’s Center for Coastal Studies announced that the North Atlantic right whale, of which fewer than 430 remain, faces extinction by 2050.
In the past 12 months, 18 individuals have been killed by ship strikes or by being caught in fishing gear.
Not a single new calf has been observed this year.
These whales haven’t been hunted by Icelandic or Japanese whalers.
They die within sight of US shores, in the purview of the richest, most powerful democracy on Earth.
Ordinary people are left feeling powerless.
It is the monolithic leviathan of state that Hobbes critiqued, versus the exquisite yet fragile leviathan of the sea.

Ever since it began, the environmental movement has used the weighty issue of whaling as a Manichean struggle of good and evil.
But given the urgency of this situation, we need new ways to think about ourselves and animals – as a continuum, not a demarcation.
There is no “them” and “us”.
The radical contemporary philosopher Tim Morton has defined a “dark ecology”, as an expression of “irony, ugliness, and horror”.

Are we doomed to re-enact these narratives, playing hopelessly with archetypes while animals die, over and over again?
Or can we find a better story than the pathetic one told by that deflated, beautiful animal, hauled out of the infinite sea and into our sea of ignorance?

Links :

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The race to send robots to mine the ocean floor

Maersk Launcher conducting offshore campaign

in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean.

From Wired by Eric Niiler

When the 300-foot Maersk Launcher docked in San Diego early Monday morning, it unloaded a cargo of hardened black blobs scooped from the bottom of the sea.
The blobs are not rocks, but naturally-occurring metallic nodules that could one day yield metal deposits of cobalt, manganese, and nickel—not to mention scarce rare earth minerals.

As worldwide demand rises for electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, along with next generation technologies and weapon systems, demand for these metals has taken off.
And the seabed is a prime target for those mining operations.
Of course, it's no small feat to bring these potato-sized nodules from the bottom of the remote Pacific Ocean, and then sail them to a processing plant where the metals can be extracted.

 Seafloor polymetallic nodules recovered from NORI’s exploration license area.
photo : Deep Green

But leaders of Canada-based mining company DeepGreen Metals and its subsidiary NORI (Nauru Ocean Resources Inc.) think they have figured out how to harvest the nodules without wrecking the deep ocean habitat—and make a profit at the same time.

“Nature created this abundant resource filled with all the metals we need for our future,” says Deep Green CEO Gerard Barron, a former advertising technology entrepreneur from Australia who says he has plowed $8 million of his own money into the undersea mining enterprise.
“It’s the new oil. Everything you need to build an EV battery is contained in our nodules.”

A team of more than 70 DeepGreen technicians, researchers, and scientists just completed a seven-week voyage aboard the Maersk Launcher to the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a 1.7 million square mile hunk of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico where much of the world’s supply of these nodules exist.

 Deployment of box core to collect seafloor polymetallic nodules

Researchers aboard the ship dropped box-shaped coring devices 12,000 feet to the seafloor to sample the nodules as well as bring up sediments and mud from the seafloor.
Roving autonomous underwater vehicles filmed the operation, provided directions, and collected water quality data.
The mission is the first of several that are required as part of an environmental impact statement that DeepGreen must complete before getting a final permit from the International Seabed Authority.
The authority regulates exploration and mining activity in the Clipperton zone and has partitioned mining rights to various nations, including DeepGreen's partner, the island nation of Nauru.

courtesy of ISA

DeepGreen says it wants to do the right thing when it comes to the seafloor habitat.
It recently hired Greg Stone, a former chief scientist for Conservation International, to help it make a plan for low-impact seafloor mining and the bottom habitat.
“This is the first time that we’ve sat back prior to launching mineral extraction thought about it,” Stone says.
He notes that DeepGreen is also relying on data from previous efforts to scoop up these mineral-laden deposits.
That includes the infamous Glomar Explorer that turned out to be a clandestine effort by the CIA to recover a sunken Soviet submarine

“We are relying on decades of policy development and years of research to characterize the seafloor and build models of the deep sea so we understand how the currents flow, what animals live there, and what changes there will be,” Stone says.

 illustration Deep Green

DeepGreen says it is designing a harvester running on treads that it hopes to test within the next year or two.
The idea is to drive the autonomous device across the seabed, scooping up just a few inches of the seabed.
The scoop will be attached to a vacuum-line that sucks the nodules up to the ship on the surface.
The enclosed-loop system will return the cold ocean water to the bottom rather than dumping it into the warmer surface layers to minimize environmental impacts, Stone says.

They also want to make sure the seabed isn’t left a mess.
One way to do that is by harvesting in a checkerboard pattern of squares.
The idea would be to allow untouched areas where deep sea animals and plants could either find shelter or recolonize.
“We will be applying the best practices and principles, cataloging all the species that live down there to find out if there are any discongruities on the seafloor,” Stone says.
“If we find an area that has a unique species clustered around several hundred square kilometers or square meters, we would give that a pass.
If we find the whole seafloor is the same, we will make sure our work down there is done in a patchwork fashion so we don’t go through an area and wipe it out.”

Despite these precautions, some marine scientists believe it is difficult to leave the seabed untouched.
Andrea Koschinsky-Fritsche of Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, has been studying the potential impacts of mining on various deep sea habitats.
She compares mining to the impacts of fishing trawl nets that are dragged across the seafloor.
“The effect on the bottom sediment is quite similar, but recovery of deep sea is much slower than bottom trawling areas,” Koschinsky-Fritsche says.
“The continental shelf has more food than the deep sea ecosystem.”
She says that scientists still don’t know much about the diversity and population of the worms, mollusks, fish, and other inhabitants of the dark world at the seafloor.

Of course, these uncertainties aren’t stopping mining companies like DeepGreen or London-based UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin, which are planning more tests and pilot projects before full-scale operations could begin in the next few years.
In April, Japanese researchers announced they found a trove of similar black nodules that contain hundreds of years worth of rare-earth metals just 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo.
It appears the slow-motion race to to undersea riches has just kicked up a notch.

Links :

Monday, July 16, 2018

An 11-million-ton iceberg is threatening a tiny village in Greenland

photo : Ritzau Scanpix / Karl Petersen / via Reuters
see YouTube

From The Washington Post by Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

An 11-million-ton iceberg is parked precariously close to the tiny village of Innaarsuit — a glacial faceoff that pits 169 residents of Greenland against the biggest iceberg many have ever seen.

Their fate could be entirely dependent on the weather forecast.

If a strong enough wind blows at the right time, the berg could be dislodged from the spot where it has grounded, and float harmlessly into Baffin Bay.
Crisis over.

But if Mother Nature brings enough rain, the relatively warm precipitation could further destabilize the iceberg, potentially sending a chunk of it into the ocean and creating a tsunami that could wash away part of the town.
“We are very concerned and are afraid,” Karl Petersen, chair for the local council in Innaarsuit, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
So far, 33 people have been moved to safer places inland.
Others have been encouraged to move their boats away from the iceberg.

Innaarsuit on the West coats of Greenland (DGA nautical chart with the GeoGarage platform)

Innaarsuit is about 600 miles north of Nuuk, the country's capital.
The village's residents are mostly hunters and fishermen in an isolated area most easily reached by boat or helicopter.

The iceberg is 650 feet wide — nearly the length of two football fields — and rises 300 feet above sea level, according to the New York Times.
In terrifying pictures, it literally casts a shadow on a hilly outcropping of Innaarsuit, dwarfing boats, homes and businesses.

 Sentinel-2 09-07-2018

Residents don't need lengthy memories to know the effect even a small tsunami could have on the country that doubles as the world's biggest island.

Last June, according to Quartz, a landslide caused by a 4.1-magnitude earthquake that struck 17 miles north of the village of Nuugaatsiaq partly triggered a tsunami that washed away 11 homes and killed four people.
Video posted online showed villagers sprinting away from approaching waves washing over seaside homes.

Tsunamis caused by landslides in bays can rise to incredible heights, travel at devastating speeds, and cause massive destruction, according to Quartz.
A similar giant wave was thought to have destroyed the city of Geneva in 563 AD, the Economist wrote.

Of course, even if there isn't some giant city-destroying Hollywood-style tsunami, there are other dangers from rising water.
Nearby rivers could overflow their banks, for example, threatening homes and other buildings that don't face the sea.
And Innaarsuit's power plant is also on the coast, meaning flooding in a very specific place could send Innaarsuit into the Dark Ages.

A Danish Royal Navy ship is standing by, according to the CBC, in case the situation sours.
“We can feel the concern among the residents,” Susanna Eliasson, a member of the village council, told CBC.
“We are used to big icebergs, but we haven’t seen such a big one before.”

For now, the residents of Innaarsuit are watching the weather.
The area will see relatively sedate winds for the next week.
And on Sunday, July 22, it's supposed to rain.

Links :

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Back to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

After the closest ever edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, here's everything you need to know about sport's toughest test of a team – and why winning it is an obsession for the world's best sailors