Saturday, August 31, 2019

Posidonia en las cartas nauticas de Formentera

A turquoise blue sea, white sand banks and the dark green of Posidonia Meadows are the colors with which Formentera receives the visitor.

Purity and Clarity of its waters, filtered by the largest and oldest living being in the world, The Oceanic Posidonia, with its 8 km of extension and 100,000 years of age, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, offers visitors unique beaches in the Mediterranean.

Posidonia seagrass symbols in rasterized ENC from IHM for the Formentera island
with the GeoGarage platform

IHM paper maps
St. Wd. info for Stones & Weed 

Campaign “to support” Posidonia
Help with anchorage in the Balearic islands

Friday, August 30, 2019

U.S. cyberattack hurt Iran’s ability to target oil tankers, officials say

The June 20 cyber attack on Iran took out a key database on tanker traffic and curbed,
at least for a time, Iran's ability to launch covert attacks.

From NYTimes by Julian E. Barnes

A secret cyberattack against Iran in June wiped out a critical database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against oil tankers and degraded Tehran’s ability to covertly target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, at least temporarily, according to senior American officials.

Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the June 20 attack and restart some of the computer systems — including military communications networks — taken offline, the officials said.

Senior officials discussed the results of the strike in part to quell doubts within the Trump administration about whether the benefits of the operation outweighed the cost — lost intelligence and lost access to a critical network used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s paramilitary forces.

The United States and Iran have long been involved in an undeclared cyberconflict, one carefully calibrated to remain in the gray zone between war and peace.
The June 20 strike was a critical attack in that ongoing battle, officials said, and it went forward even after President Trump called off a retaliatory airstrike that day after Iran shot down an American drone.

Defying U.S. Sanctions, China and Others Take Oil From 12 Iranian Tankers
The U.S. has been unable to halt Iranian oil exports

Iran has not escalated its attacks in response, continuing its cyberoperations against the United States government and American corporations at a steady rate, according to American government officials.

American cyberoperations are designed to change Iran’s behavior without initiating a broader conflict or prompting retaliation, said Norman Roule, a former senior intelligence official.
Because they are rarely acknowledged publicly, cyberstrikes are much like covert operations, he said.

“You need to ensure your adversary understands one message: The United States has enormous capabilities which they can never hope to match, and it would be best for all concerned if they simply stopped their offending actions,” Mr. Roule said.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrolling around a seized British tanker in Bandar Abbas, Iran, last month.
An American cyberattack in June took out a critical database used by the Revolutionary Guards.
Credit : CreditHasan Shirvani/Agence France-Presse 

Cyberoperations do not work exactly like other conventional warfare.
A cyberattack does not necessarily deter future aggression in the same way a traditional military strike would, current and former officials say.
That is in part because cyberoperations are hard to attribute and not always publicly acknowledged by either side, the senior defense official said.

Yet cyberoperations can demonstrate strength and show that the United States will respond to attacks or other hostile acts and impose costs, the official said.

Cyber Command has taken a more aggressive stance toward potential operations under the Trump administration, thanks to new congressional authorities and an executive order giving the Defense Department more leeway to plan and execute strikes.

The head of United States Cyber Command, Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, describes his strategy as “persistent engagement” against adversaries.
Operatives for the United States and for various adversaries are carrying out constant low-level digital attacks, said the senior defense official.
The American operations are calibrated to stay well below the threshold of war, the official added.

The strike on the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence group diminished Iran’s ability to conduct covert attacks, said a senior official.

The United States government obtained intelligence that officials said showed that the Revolutionary Guards were behind the limpet mine attacks that disabled oil tankers in the Gulf in attacks in May and June, although other governments did not directly blame Iran.
The military’s Central Command showed some of its evidence against Iran one day before the cyberstrike.

The White House judged the strike as a proportional response to the downing of the drone — and a way to penalize Tehran for destroying crewless aircraft.

The database targeted in the cyberattacks, according to the senior official, helped Tehran choose which tankers to target and where.
No tankers have been targeted in significant covert attacks since the June 20 cyberoperation, although Tehran did seize a British tanker in retaliation for the detention of one of its own vessels.

The US and Iran are engaged for a long time in an undeclared cyber-conflict, which is carefully remains within the gray zone between war and peace.

Though the effects of the June 20 cyberoperation were always designed to be temporary, they have lasted longer than expected and Iran is still trying to repair critical communications systems and has not recovered the data lost in the attack, officials said.

Officials have not publicly outlined details of the operation.
Air defense and missile systems were not targeted, the senior defense official said, calling media reports citing those targets inaccurate.

In the aftermath of the strike, some American officials have privately questioned its impact, saying they did not believe it was worth the cost.
Iran probably learned critical information about the United States Cyber Command’s capabilities from it, one midlevel official said.

Cyberweapons, unlike a conventional weapon, can be used only a few times, or sometimes even once.
Targets can find the vulnerability used to get access to their networks, then engineer a patch to block that opening.

“Iran is a sophisticated actor.
They will look at what happened,” said Mark Quantock, a retired major general who served as the director of intelligence for the United States Central Command, which oversees operations related to Iran.
“Russia, China, Iran and even North Korea would all be able to see how they were penetrated.”

Cyberstrikes also inevitably cut off access to intelligence that American operatives gained from exploiting that vulnerability, once the adversary discovers and fixes it.
Losing even some access to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Tehran’s paramilitary force that is deeply involved with proxy forces around the Middle East, is a high price to pay, according to some officials.

Military and intelligence agencies always weigh the costs of a cyberoperation and the risks of lost information ahead of a strike, according to former officials.
Intelligence officials have long been skeptical of some cyberoperations, worried that the benefits are not worth the costs.

“It can take a long time to obtain access, and that access is burned when you go into the system and delete something,” said Gary Brown, a professor at the National Defense University and former legal counsel for Cyber Command.
“But on the same token, you cannot just use that as an excuse not to act.
You can’t just stockpile access and never use it.”

Links :

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Belgium (Vlaamse) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

5 nautical raster charts updated

Russia confirms discovery of five more islands

Novaya Zemlya island with the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical chart)

From The Maritime Executive

The hydrographic group of Russia's Northern Fleet has confirmed the discovery of five islands in Vise Bay on the Kara coast of the Northern Novaya Zemlya island.
The islands range from 900 to 54,500 square meters in area.

Novaya Zemlya consists of two major islands, separated by the narrow Matochkin Strait, and a number of smaller islands.
The two main islands are Severny (Northern) and Yuzhny (Southern). Novaya Zemlya separates the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea.
The total area is about 90,650 square kilometers (35,000 square miles).

Christopher Michel / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Over the past few years, the hydrographic group have been monitoring coastline changes in the Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos, and over 30 new islands, capes and bays have been discovered as glacial ice retreats in the region.
Nine islands were discovered in 2015 when researchers on board the hydrographic ship Senezh explored the western part of Severny Island in the Barents Sea.

Vizir research vessel

The new islands confirmed this week were first discovered three years ago during the 2015-6 expedition of the hydrographic survey vessel Vizir.
Topographic surveys have now been conducted on the new islands as part of an expedition on the Altai.

Ever northward to Mare Glaciale, and the land of few toponyms and uncertain coastlines, otherwise known as "Nova Zemla," or Novaya Zemlya; where awe struck ships tack below "admirandi meteori," or heavenly sundogs. 
Blaeu's truly major Atlas Maior.

The region denotes the western end of the Northern Sea Route, and works began last year on a new port on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to service the world's northernmost mining operation - the Pavlovskoye project.
The port, to be built in Bezymyannaya Bay, will be owned by Rosatom, and the Pavlovskoye project to develop lead and zinc deposits on Novaya Zemlya is being run by the First Mining Company JSC. Construction is due to start in 2020, and operations are expected to commence in 2023.

Links :

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Subversive, queer and terrifyingly relevant: six reasons why Moby-Dick is the novel for our times

From The Guardian by Philip Hoare

The book features gay marriage, hits out at slavery and imperialism and predicts the climate crisis – 200 years after the birth of its author, Herman Melville, it has never been more important

Thursday marks the 200th birthday of Herman Melville – the author of the greatest unread novel in the English language.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen eyes glaze over when I ask people if they have conquered Moby-Dick.
It is the Mount Everest of literature: huge and apparently insurmountable, its snowy peak as elusive as the tail of the great white whale himself.

Having grown up loving whales as a boy – in the era of the Save the Whale campaigns of the 1970s – I was underwhelmed when I watched John Huston’s grandiose 1956 film, Moby Dick.
Perhaps it was because I saw it on a tiny black-and-white TV, but the whole story seemed impenetrable to me.
And there weren’t enough whales.
I would have been even less keen had I known that the whale footage Huston did include had been specially shot off Madeira, where they were still being hunted.
For the Hemingwayesque director, there was none of that final-credit nonsense: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” Because they very much were.

Forty years later, I saw my first whales in the wild, off Provincetown, a former whaling port on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
It was there, in New England, that I finally finished the book.
What had seemed to be a heroic tale of the high seas proved to be something much darker and more sublime.
I realised its secret.
Not only is it very funny and very subversive, but it maps out the modern world as if Melville had lived his life in the future and was only waiting for us to catch up.
I fell in love with Melville as much as I had fallen in love with the whales.
My own five-year-long voyage searching for these magnificent creatures produced my own book, Leviathan or, The Whale and a subsequent film, The Hunt for Moby-Dick.
But even now, having read it a dozen times, I’m still not sure I can tell you what Moby-Dick is all about.
Yes, it’s the tale of Captain Ahab, who sails his ship, the Pequod, in search of a white whale that had bitten off his leg.
But it’s also a wildly digressive attempt to comprehend the animals themselves.
And despite the author’s rather unhelpful conclusion, after 650 pages, about the whale, “I know him not, and never will”, here are some very good reasons why you need to read his crazily wonderful book.

 Philip Hoare: ‘I fell in love with Melville as much as I had fallen in love with the whales.’

It is adored by the great and the good

It is precisely Moby-Dick’s forbidding reputation that has inspired artists, writers, performers and film-makers from Frank Stella to Jackson Pollock, Led Zeppelin to Laurie Anderson, Orson Welles, Sylvia Plath, Stanley Kubrick and Lynne Ramsay, as well as the makers of Tom and Jerry, and even The Simpsons.
The musician Moby claims direct descent from Melville (although he admitted to me that he wasn’t so sure it was true at all).
There are many who hold it as one of their favourite books: Barack Obama, Joyce Carol Oates, Patti Smith, Nile Rodgers and Bob Dylan (who cribbed it for his Nobel speech), among them.

It has never been more relevant

It’s a tribute to Melville’s imagination that his book remains so strongly in ours.
He may have done for the whale what Peter Benchley’s Jaws did for the shark – recreating the animal as an icon of otherness.
He invests cetaceans with their own intrinsic beauty and in doing so, he pre-empted our conception of animals we know to be highly sentient and entirely matriarchal, expressing their own culture through their sonar clicks.

Equally, Melville’s reflections on our own species still reverberate.
Days after 9/11, the Palestinian-American writer Edward Said compared George W Bush’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden to Ahab’s obsessive hunt for the white whale.
The current tenant of the White House draws comparisons to Ahab’s crazed mission, too: Trump’s desire for a wall – an “unnecessary and expensive …vengeful folly”, according to Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun Times – is as irrational a pursuit as Ahab’s.

You might apply similar metaphors to the head of our own shaky ship of state.
When the prime minister’s cabinet was announced last week, I couldn’t help but think of Melville’s line: “Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge.”

But it is Moby-Dick’s premonitory brilliance that continues to make it relevant.
Melville predicts mass extinction and climate breakdown, and foresees a drowned planet from which the whale would “spout his frothed defiance to the skies”.
And in its worldwide pursuit of a finite resource, the whaling industry is an augury of our globalised state.
It’s no coincidence that the Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck, gave his name to a chain of coffee shops.

It’s a very queer book

Moby-Dick may be the first work of western fiction to feature a same-sex marriage: Ishmael, the loner narrator (famous for the most ambiguous opening line in literature) gets hitched – in bed – to the omni-tattooed Pacific islander, Queequeg: “He pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married.”
Other scenes are deeply homoerotic: sailors massage each others’ hands in a tub of sperm oil and there is an entire chapter devoted to foreskins (albeit of the whalish variety).

Indeed, the whole book is a love letter (sadly unreciprocated) from a besotted Melville to his hero, Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he wrote: “You have sunk your northern roots down into my southern soul.”

Faced with such unbridled flagrancy, the US establishment has never been keen to accept the idea that Melville may just possibly have been gay.
And it must have rankled to have the brilliance of his book pointed out to them by a bunch of British queer writers.
When a modest Everyman edition appeared in London 20 years after Melville’s death in 1891, DH Lawrence declared it a work of futurism before futurism had been invented; EM Forster and WH Auden extolled its queer nature.
Virginia Woolf read it three times, comparing it to Wuthering Heights in its strangeness, and noted in her 1926 diary that no biographer would believe her work was inspired by the vision of “a fin rising on a wide blank sea”.

It is genuinely subversive

The alluring figure of Queequeg is one of the first persons of colour in western fiction, and the Pequod carries a multicultural crew of Native Americans, African Americans and Asians (evocatively reflected in the paintings of the contemporary black American artist Ellen Gallagher).
It is a metaphor for a new republic already falling apart, with the pursuit of the white whale as a bitter analogy for the slave-owning states.
It is why, in 1952, the Trinidadian writer CLR James called Moby-Dick “the greatest portrayal of despair in literature”, seeing an indictment of imperialism in Ahab’s desire for revenge on the whale.
(In fact, Melville hints it wasn’t only his leg that was bitten off.
As Cerys Matthews asked me: “Shouldn’t it be called Moby-no-Dick?”)

Melville was born in Manhattan on 1 August 1819, in sight of the sea.
As a failed teacher, he signed up for a whaling voyage in New Bedford – then the richest city in the US, wealthy on the oil of whales.
He deserted the ship a year later, but on his return to the US became a glamorous figure, acclaimed for his sensual books about the “exotic” inhabitants of the Marquesas islands.
But by 1849, his output had become increasingly obscure, and that October, he arrived in London, seeking inspiration.
Installed in lodgings overlooking the Thames at Charing Cross, he spent his time visiting publishers and getting drunk.
Stumbling home, he saw whales swimming down Oxford Street.
It was if they were haunting him.

A month later, after a diversion to Paris, he returned to New York with a new book he had been given: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Its tale of perverted nature and overweening ambition fed into Moby-Dick.
The first version of the book was published in Britain in 1851, entitled The Whale.
It came out in the US later that year as Moby-Dick – and failed, miserably.
When Melville died 40 years later, he and his book were long forgotten.

It has never been easier (or cheaper) to get hold of

If the last 1,400 words haven’t convinced you (“Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!” as Melville complained), you don’t have to read the book at all.
The artist Angela Cockayne and I have curated the Moby-Dick Big Read for the University of Plymouth, featuring Tilda Swinton, David Attenborough, Fiona Shaw, Stephen Fry, John Waters, Benedict Cumberbatch and 130 others who will read it to you, chapter by chapter, for free.
The site has had 10m hits to date.

A word of caution, though.
Once you do read it, it’s hard to let it go.
I’m still haunted by Melville: this winter, staying alone in an 18th-century house that he visited on the island of Nantucket off Cape Cod, I started to think that he was coming up the stairs.
This side of the Atlantic, his anniversary ghost has conjured up some aptly eccentric events.
The Isle of Man, which lays claim to a crewman on the Pequod, has issued a set of commemorative Moby-Dick stamps, while a Yorkshire stately home is asking for the return of bones pilfered from the only whale mentioned in Moby-Dick that really did exist – a skeleton assembled at Burton Constable Hall in 1825, on whose jaws, Melville joked, the lord of the manor liked to swing.
And if you happen to be in Paris on Thursday, you can join us reading the book aloud in the bookshop Shakespeare & Co, close to where Melville stayed in 1849.
We are hoping for a bigger crowd than his book launch, when the party consisted of just him and Hawthorne.
Melville was defiant.
“I have written a blasphemous book,” he declared, “and I feel as spotless as the lamb.” The wickedness lives on.
Happy birthday, Herman.

Links :

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Old sailor logs show how frighteningly fast the Arctic is losing ice

An example of collaborations between historians and climate scientists. image : Flickr / NASA Goddard Flight Center

From Motherboard Vice by Maddie Stone

Using records from early 20th century ships, researchers are peering into the Arctic’s past to understand the present.

Arctic sea ice is in a death spiral thanks to climate change.
A team of researchers is now adding some historical context this alarming trend by drawing on an untapped source of intel: U.S. military vessel logs from the early 20th century.

When scientists report trends in Arctic sea ice, they tend to focus on the satellite era, or 1979 onwards.
Research published last month in the Journal of Climate is helping extend those records back to the early 20th century.
While it’s not the first attempt to do so, the study makes use of a novel dataset of ships’ logs that volunteers are digitizing from records held in the National Archives as part of the Old Weather project.

Results from the newly created 110-year record of Arctic sea ice volume show an unexplained slight decline (black line) in the early 20th century.
The current drop (red line), caused by warming temperatures due to climate change, is more than six times as steep.
Axel Schweiger/University of Washington

"These are unique historic observations that can help us to understand the rapid changes that are taking place in the Arctic today," said study co-author Kevin Wood, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, in a statement.

The modern trend of Arctic sea ice loss is one of the clearest signals of human-caused climate change.
Sea ice is dwindling at a rate of about 13 percent per decade, with the twelve lowest annual lows on record all occurring this century.
Last month, the Arctic lost 40,800 square miles of ice per day, placing 2019 on track to rival or eclipse the record minimum set in 2012 according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDIC).

But while the current trend is stark, it’s important to put it in context.
“One of the frustrations many of us have is we know things from ‘79 onwards,” Kent Moore, a sea ice researcher at the University of Toronto, told Motherboard.
“But when you go back further it becomes a lot murkier.”

A digitized version of a 1915 ship log from the US Coast Guard ship bear.
credit: US National Archives

To shed some light into the pre-satellite darkness, the new study uses a model that incorporates the behavior of the ice and ocean, coupled with a “hindcast” of atmospheric temperatures.
In particular, the study focuses on ice thickness during the so-called Early 20th Century Warming (ETCW) event between 1900 and the 1940s.

“That was a period where global temperatures increased, and so there was a question what happened with sea ice at that time,” lead study author Axel Schweiger, a sea ice researcher at the University of Washington, told Motherboard.
“There’s no comparison to the more recent period that was more strongly affected by global warming.”

Models fed with pre-satellite observations of sea ice concentrations provided one layer of data.
To spot-check the model results during that early part of the record, the researchers drew on more than 8,000 Old Weather observations indicating the presence or absence of sea ice.
That data comes from U.S. Navy and Fisheries Service ships as well as the Revenue Cutter Service, the precursor to the Coast Guard.

The ship logs and the models were largely in agreement that the ETCW’s impacts were confined to ice on the Atlantic side of the Arctic.
Models also showed that the rate of sea ice volume loss in the early 20th century was about a sixth what it’s been since 1979, reinforcing that today’s pan-Arctic ice declines are historically unprecedented.

The U.S. Revenue Cutter Thetis moored to sea ice near King Island, Alaska, in 1903
Courtesy of Coast Guard Museum Northwest

Julienne Stroeve, a sea ice researcher at the NSDIC, highlighted other attempts to reconstruct historical sea ice trends such as the Walsh dataset which draws on old sea ice charts and whaling ship logs.
But she said the new study’s model was “really the best means to try to reconstruct sea ice thickness at this point.”

What’s more, the ability of old ship logs to verify that reconstruction indicates they’re a valuable new pipeline of climate data.
Schweiger said there’s plenty more information that can be extracted from the logs, including sailors’ colorful descriptions of ice which scientists are trying to figure out how to quantify.

There’s also plenty more digitization work left to be done.

“There are warehouses full of ship logs we haven’t looked at yet,” Moore said.
“It’s a wonderful use of citizen science, and I think another way we can multiply our efforts to engage people who have a concern about the climate.”

Links :

Monday, August 26, 2019

Iceland (ICG-HD) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

7 nautical raster charts updated

Norway (NHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

95 nautical raster charts updated

Manhattan-sized horde of floating rocks travels across the ocean

Tonga Islands: new submarine volcanic eruption discovered near Fonualei Island

From Mashable by Mark Kaufman

Somewhere beneath the waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean, likely around the island of Tonga, a volcano recently erupted.

 Localization with the GeoGarage platform (Linz nautical chart)

The proof lies in a sprawling raft of extremely lightweight volcanic rock called pumice, which is so porous that it floats. NASA posted satellite images of the drifting mass on Aug. 23, though the geologic display was first spotted in mid-August.
"Many of the world’s volcanoes are shrouded by the waters of the oceans," wrote NASA.
"When they erupt, they can discolor the ocean surface with gases and debris. They also can spew masses of lava that are lighter than water."

NASA spotted a floating island, and a volcano is to blame

As of Aug. 13, the raft, in total, appeared larger than the island of Manhattan, which is about 23 square miles in size.
Pumice is created during explosive volcanic eruptions, wherein the gas trapped molten rock explodes out of the scorching material in a violent pressure release.

Adventuring sailors on a catamaran met the great pumice raft up close.
They encountered floating pumice ranging in size from marbles to basketballs, some of which jammed their rudders.
The team also noted the ominous smell of sulfur wafting through the air, and posted their experience on Facebook.

 On August 9, 2019 we sailed through a pumice field for 6-8 hours, much of the time there was no visible water.
It was like ploughing through a field.
We figured the pumice was at least 6” thick.

The oceans will incrementally disperse this fleeting geologic wonder, but it's common for some marine life to hitch a ride on the floating stones, and journey across the globe.

Links :

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sailing Legends : "At the time, no one thought it was possible" Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

What is Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's greatest fear at sea?
@deecaffari interviews @SirRKJ about his thoughts on fear & how he copes with a very real psychological challenge which impacts every sailor heading far offshore
What is the greatest fear of this legendary round the world sailor?
How do you pick yourself up when times get tough?
What huge surprise do we find out about Sir Robin which makes his Golden Globe win even more remarkable?

Links :