Saturday, September 14, 2019

We want to live underwater (but how??)

During 4 months, we are settling down in Moorea, French Polynesia, for an expedition of unprecedented scale for Under The Pole.
In this first episode, we are presenting to you the Capsule, an underwater observatory that we have invented to allow the divers to live under the ocean for several days! 

Plongee-infos : "Précontinent operation" (1962-1965)
Launched in the 1960s, the Precontinent project aimed to colonize the underwater continental shelf, which represents 5% of the world's surface, more than Asia.
But life inside this "sunless world" has turned out to be much less easy than expected.

SEALAB I, II, and III were experimental underwater habitats developed by the United States Navy in the 1960s to prove the viability of saturation diving and humans living in isolation for extended periods of time.
The knowledge gained from the SeaLab expeditions helped advance the science of deep sea diving and rescue, and contributed to the understanding of the psychological and physiological strains humans can endure.

Links :

Friday, September 13, 2019

Canada (CHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

67 nautical raster charts have been updated & 1 new chart added

Meet Jeanne Socrates: the woman who sailed around the world in 340 days (aged 77)

Britain's Jeanne Socrates arrives in Victoria Harbour, Vancouver Island after a record breaking journey that will see her name go down as the oldest person to circumnavigate the globe, unassisted and non stop. The 77 year old is greeted by a crowd of cheering supporters.

From The Times by Michael Odell

She set sail to scatter her husband’s ashes — and then kept going.
She talks about the adversity she faced on her record-breaking feats

When 77-year-old Jeanne Socrates tells people what she has been doing for the past 11 months they call her “plucky”, “feisty” or “brave”.
She doesn’t like those epithets.
She prefers “crazy”.
“I do think at my age you to have to be a bit crazy,” she says.
“It helps fend off the perfectly rational reasons why you shouldn’t be doing certain things.”

Last Saturday morning Socrates sailed into the port of Victoria in British Columbia to become the oldest person to sail non-stop, unassisted around the world.
A flotilla of 30 boats from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club blew their horns, but before the champagne could be uncorked, an official “finisher” boarded her 38ft yacht Nereida to check that her motor had not been used — one of the strict rules governing unassisted circumnavigation.

Jeanne Socrates has just completed a record-breaking voyage around the globe
Darren Stone / Times Colonist

With her record-breaking voyage certified after 340 days at sea, a local hotel invited Socrates to lunch, a welcome change after almost a year of tinned food, many onions and a surfeit of potatoes.
“I was quite ready for something other than my own onion soup,” she says.
“And the welcome I got just made me think how lovely human beings are.”

This short (12 minute) documentary was shot in the weeks before 76-year-old Jeanne Socrates' October 2018 departure on a non-stop, unassisted, solo circumnavigation.
Jeanne is currently (Dec 2018) the oldest woman to have completed a non-stop solo circumnavigation.
When she completes this voyage, she will be the oldest person to have completed a non-stop solo circumnavigation.
Film student and friend of Good Old Boat magazine Cavan Lyons traveled to Victoria to record Jeanne as she readied herself and her boat.

Socrates doesn’t gush.
She’s happy enough, but also grounded and analytical, as though still assessing whether a whale or an oil tanker might loom up on her port side and ruin her celebrations.
Her record-breaking circumnavigation was nowhere near as fast as the one in 2013, when she whizzed round in 258 days.

“But overall I suppose I am proud for the fact I am not a typical wealthy sailor,” she says.
“I was in an orphanage aged five to nine. There have been some tough times. I think I’ve earned the chance to sail. My motto has long been ‘You’re alive, make the most of it’.”

Socrates is not from seafaring blood.
Born to a 16-year-old mother during the Second World War, she never knew her father, an Australian airman, and ended up in an orphanage in Stepney, east London.
Eventually reunited with her mother and her new husband, Socrates got herself to university and became a maths teacher.

She only took up sailing by chance aged 48 while working at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, west London.
One summer in the late 1980s, in the lull after exams, she was asked to lead her pupils in a non-academic pursuit.
She chose birdwatching.
After two years someone suggested she take the pupils on a sailing course at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
“I just absolutely loved it,” she says.
“They couldn’t get me off the boat.”

She introduced her husband, George, a lecturer in materials science at Brunel University to the pastime.
Together they became quite proficient, although tragically it wasn’t to last.
In 2001, while cruising off Grenada in the Caribbean, he complained of a bad back.
A local GP examined him and told the couple to go home.
Back in the UK, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Nevertheless, the couple resumed sailing; Socrates even learnt how to inject her husband with his hormone treatment at sea.

Jeanne Socrates route to sail around the world, unassisted and non-stop

By November 2002 they were sailing off the coast of Venezuela when he really began to struggle.
Within four months he was dead.
“He was only 65. He’d taken early retirement to enjoy life. I felt he had been cheated out of something he had earned,” she says.

Anger and grief drove Socrates’s determination.
After the funeral she sold the family home in Ealing, west London.
Then she sailed back to scatter George’s ashes and captain’s cap off Bonaire, an island off the coast of Venezuela near where his final voyage had ended.
After that, she just kept going.
“There is no way I would have tried to circumnavigate solo if George were alive,” she says.
“We loved cruising and stopping off to visit places, but...the boat became my home and I just kept taking on bigger challenges.”

She wasn’t the only one to find it challenging.
When she reached Fiji locals were so shocked to see a lone woman step off a boat they insisted on trying to find her a husband.
“It didn’t make me cross. They just couldn’t cope with it and it was actually quite funny. The best response I felt was to invite them on board and offer them a cup of tea.”

There were several attempts to circumnavigate unassisted between 2007 and 2012 that ended in frustration.
Either she was driven back by weather or her instruments failed.
In 2008 she was just 60 miles short of a 27,500-mile circumnavigation when her autopilot malfunctioned as she slept.
She woke up upside down on the beach in Acapulco.
“The surfers were very kind to me, although one of them made a hole in my boat so no one would steal it, which was distressing,” she recalls.

Socrates finally circumnavigated non-stop and unassisted in 2013 and became the oldest woman to accomplish the feat.
However, an older man had done it — the Japanese sailor Minoru Saito, who had claimed the record in 2005, aged 71.
Annoyingly, Socrates was only two months younger than him.
She’s a mathematician.
Surely she hadn’t miscalculated?
“Not exactly. I knew about Minoru and I shrugged — you can’t delay your trip because there’s an optimum window and I wanted to do it anyway. But after I got back a few boater friends suggested I should’ve gone a year later and claimed both records. That left me with the feeling... I’m not getting any younger, could I do it again?”

 Jeanne Socrates’ 38ft yacht Nereida
South West News Service

Socrates says that she is not spiritual or superstitious.
When she sees an albatross in the Southern Ocean she doesn’t get the jitters.
Given what happened next, it’s probably good that she’s not easily shaken by bad omens.

She decided to go for the record in 2016 (by then she was 74), but had to turn back after a 60-knot storm damaged her boat.
She tried again a few months later, but this time was foiled by problems with her “gooseneck” (the swivel joint by which the boom is attached to the mast).

Undeterred, the record attempt was rescheduled for October 2017, but, a week before her departure, Socrates fell off a ladder while hefting stores on board the Nereida, which was in dry dock.
Falling from deck height to the concrete below, she broke eight ribs, two neck vertebrae and her nose, and badly damaged her right elbow.
She was in hospital for three months.
“You deal with what is in front of you,” she says.
“I admit I was certainly not in the best physical condition, but you must understand I couldn’t give up. The boat is my home and she is my friend. I often say, ‘We did this,’ and people ask me, ‘Who’s we?’ and I explain, ‘It is the boat.’ We’d be together anyway. And like I say, if you have your health, then live your life. These chances aren’t there for ever.”

Last October she was still limping from the accident when she finally set off from Victoria.
Use of the yacht’s motor is forbidden and sails cannot be unfurled in the harbour, so a whale-watching boat towed her out to sea.

On board she had food for nine months: a lot of potatoes and onions (fresh onions are not as good as those with a dry outer skin, which keep better) and plenty of eggs (turning them daily keeps the inner membrane moist, meaning bacteria doesn’t penetrate and they can stay fresh for up to four months).
Occasionally as a special lunchtime treat she would open a tin of tuna or salmon.
“There is something slightly ironic about eating tinned tuna in the middle of the Pacific,” she admits.

Circumnavigating unassisted means not accepting help.
However, the rules are unclear about what happens when a squid jumps on to the deck of your boat.
“Oh yes, that happened a few times.
Strip off the black outer skin, fry in a bit of olive oil and you have the freshest calamari imaginable.”

She tried twice to sail the world solo, failing both times.
Came back and completed it in 2013.
Last year during prep she broke her neck and ribs.
This year, she again sailed the world solo as the oldest person by *6 years*

Sometimes the sea’s bounty was almost too generous.
One day a shoal of more than 50 flying fish dropped out of the sky.
“The ones I ate were a bit bony and soft, but quite palatable,” she says coolly.

Socrates was never lonely.
There were whales and dolphins to look at, not to mention different types of albatross as well as petrels and shearwaters.
With her SSB (single-sideband radio, which can communicate over vast distances) and computer she was chatting, blogging and emailing.
Occasionally she would find time to read, including Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander and Tracy Edwards’s Maiden, an account of the British yachtswoman’s 1990 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race experience as skipper of an all-female crew.

“I’m 77 years old. For some women that means being offered a seat on the bus. But in the Southern Ocean I felt so amazing being alone — thousands of miles away from anyone — I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive.”

Being on your own doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an active social life.
When Socrates crossed the meridian, rounded one of the great capes or it was her birthday — she turned 77 while at sea last month — she threw a party.

“One can’t dress up, but I might put something dry on from my vacuum pack. For music, we put on Acker Bilk or Abba and have a glass of rum punch with some olives or hummus. It’s important to mark milestones and have fun when you can,” she says.
“Me and the boat.”

After days of very rough seas Jeanne's Remote Wind indicator stops working in very bad over night weather. She is 177 miles from Cape Horn.

In May there was near-disaster off New Zealand’s South Island when Socrates suffered a “knockdown” — a sailing term for when sea conditions tilt a boat so far over the mast touches the water or even becomes submerged.
The sea, she says, was “lively”, meaning the wind was at 45 knots and there were 24ft waves.
Even so, she never gets seasick.
She huddled below deck and tried to write her daily blog.
“I sat on the port settee and, next thing I know, a huge wave hit the boat like a slab of concrete.”
It smashed a hole in the cabin roof and washed the solar panels off the boat.
A blade from her wind generator was shorn off, the radar was damaged and the mainsail torn.
“You don’t get frightened as such, you just prioritise urgent scenarios,” she says.
“It would have been very difficult to contemplate abandoning the voyage. I’m pretty determined when things go wrong.”

In accordance with the “unassisted” rules Socrates stopped in Timaru harbour on the South Island and, without touching land or accepting assistance, made her repairs.
“I do like a challenge,” she says jauntily.
“That’s what they are. Not problems. Challenges.”

Her children, Ann-Zoe, 52, and Nicholas, 50, are not sailors, even though Nicholas, a pupil at Latymer when his mother taught there, went on that fateful sailing course.
Before she set sail last autumn they told her that they were worried they might never see her again.
“Of course there are risks, but I assured them that I know what I’m doing,” she says briskly.

Is she often accused of conduct unbecoming of a grandma?
“Well, lots of people wrongly think I dye my hair because it hasn’t gone grey,” she says, chuckling.
“Generally, people are very supportive. I think older women certainly like to see proof that, in life, you have choices. There is no reason to fade away if you’re fit and healthy. In America it’s far more sexist. They assume any man on the boat is the captain and they allow the woman the ceremonial title admiral.”

Socrates says that she won’t attempt another circumnavigation — much to her children’s relief, no doubt — but she is already planning her next expedition.
She would like to meet some of the friendly voices she spoke to on her radio face to face.
And she has also made contact with relatives of the father she never knew.
“I’ll be heading to Australia to meet them in the new year,” she says.
“But I’ll be doing that in a camper van".

Links :

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The hidden fight to stop illegal fishing from destroying our oceans

One in five fish are now caught illegally.
Chinese crawlers tie up to a 'reefer' – the refuelling and offloading vessels that service the long-distance fleets

From Wired by Olive Heffernan

When trawlers turn off their transponders, they "go dark", allowing them to hide illicit activity such as illegal fishing and modern slavery.
Now, a team of ocean experts is using satellite data to light them back up

One Wednesday in March, 2019, a small group of ocean experts gathered in a conference room in Panama City’s Waldorf Astoria, ready to take the stage.
Outside, the weather was hot and muggy and the streets dirty with rubble from nearby roadworks.
Inside the cool, marbled interior of one of the city’s glitziest hotels, government officials from Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica sat on cream chairs in neat rows, listening intently.
First came the usual formalities: welcome addresses and statements of intentions to collaborate.
About halfway through the morning’s proceedings, it was Bjorn Bergman’s turn.

Bergman was sharply dressed for the occasion and looked serious as he addressed the delegates in effortless Spanish.
He was a data analyst at Global Fishing Watch (GFW), an environmental non-profit that, in 2016, started using satellites to track vessels at sea.
Ships of a gross tonnage of 300 or over are required, in international waters, to carry the Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder, to avoid collisions.
Picked up by satellite, these communications can also be used to detect a ship’s movements.
Using this data, GFW mapped global fishing patterns for the first time, working out that around 55 per cent of the ocean is being fished.

With this same method, it has been able to visualise approximately 80 per cent of boats fishing international waters.
The other 20 per cent have been untraceable – in part because some nations, such as Canada, don’t insist on fishing vessel owners using an AIS at all, and most small boats (such as 90 per cent of the Indonesian artisanal fleet) aren't required to carry AIS.
However, some fishers simply turn off their transponders if they don’t want to be seen – a practice known as "going dark".

Fishers often cite competition as a reason for wanting to keep their location secret, but, in such cases, going dark is only a temporary measure.
The invisible fleet – also called "dark targets" – are vessels that are untraceable for long periods, maybe weeks or months at a time, and are presumed to be avoiding detection.
“We knew there was a dark fleet – that a lot of fishing in the world is not very easily trackable,” says David Kroodsma, head of research at GFW.
“The oceans are a common resource and when it's really difficult to track who's fishing, people are going to take advantage.”

Bergman had been hunting these dark targets relentlessly for several years.
However, one particular fleet of around 300 vessels – mostly Chinese squid trawlers – kept evading him.
Centred in a remote part of the South Pacific, beyond national waters, the fleet was hiding dark targets, which Bergman suspected were operating illegally.
As part of the fleet there were large refrigerated cargo boats – known as reefers – used for refuelling and offloading catch.
While that in itself is perfectly legal, "transhipment" of a boat’s catch is often an indicator of crime.
For a start, it’s an easy way of hiding poached fish, and other contraband, among legal catch.
Furthermore, it allows for ships to spend long periods away from land, hinting at the use of slave labour, something that is rife in long-distance fishing fleets.
The reefers enabled this fleet, with around 6,000 men, to stay at sea for a year or more.

Bergman knew that many of these reefers were carrying the Panama flag.
Under international law, all merchant ships must have a "flag state" or a country to which they are registered.
For a fee, Panama allows any ship to fly its flag, regardless of where it was built, or the country in which its owner – or indeed any crew member – lives: this is called a "flag of convenience".
The advantages of this include low (or no) income tax, access to cheaper labour, and obscuring the true ownership of a vessel or fleet.
Bergman’s message was simple: they needed Panama, a renowned secrecy jurisdiction, to share private data from its register, allowing Panama-flagged fishing vessels to be tracked across the global ocean.
Among these vessels were possible dark targets – vessels that were off-the-radar, avoiding detection and presumed to be acting criminally.
If Panama could share its data, GFW could expose pirate vessels.
As Bergman explained, it could also help Panama to stop piracy in its own waters.

Bjorn Bergman on the trail of 'dark targets'
credit : Simon Ager
There are numerous ways in which trawlers take illicit catch – intentionally playing down its value, targeting waters where no quotas have been set, or pillaging directly from protected waters, for example.
With one in five fish now caught illegally, and with 93 per cent of commercial stocks now fully- or over-exploited, the drive to end pirate fishing has never been greater.
“It's no secret that we have this massive overfishing problem.
And illegal fishing is a large part of that, so it seems pretty clear that this is something we should try to eliminate,” says Peter Hammarstedt, a conservationist and boat captain with Sea Shepherd, a non-profit ocean conservation organisation (with a track record in direct action) based in Washington state, in the US, and Melbourne, Australia.

Pirate fishing also points to human rights crimes such as slavery, brutality and forced labour.
China is acuused of being the worst offender by the NGO Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.
In recent years, Chinese reefers have been caught illegally trans-shipping catch, such as sharks, in the Pacific.
In 2019, four dead crew were offloaded from Chinese and Taiwanese trawlers at the Port of Montevideo in Uruguay.
Two of the vessels are repeat offenders.
China’s distant-water fleet dwarfs all others, outsizing the US fleet by a factor of ten.
Having emptied its own coastal fisheries, China has turned to other national waters and the high seas, targeting high-value tuna, sharks and squid.
Its squid jiggers focus on two species – Humboldt and Argentine shortfin – regarded as among the most heavily fished in the world.

“It’s only relatively recently that they started doing this, and so we have no idea of the implications of hundreds of ships fishing squid this intensively,” says Bergman.
One worry is that it will deplete the squid stocks that South Americans depend on for food and work.
And that may be why, for Bergman, the quest to find and stop dark targets is a personal one.

As a child, Bergman lived for a number of years with his family in Peru, a country that is bearing the brunt of China’s aggressive overseas fishing policy.
Later, in secondary school, he visited for summer holidays with his father, who was a National Geographic-funded researcher investigating agriculture in the high Andes.
Bergman recently returned to live there, after many years in the US and Sweden.

After college, he moved to Alaska to work as a fisheries observer.
“It’s a job that you could start out in; they needed to recruit people because they had really high attrition.
So they're always trying to bring people into the programme,” he says.
The job was varied; at times he’d join family-run operations for trips of three to four days from Kodiak Island, which he really enjoyed.
But he also went on longer trips, of a month or so, on large industrial boats, working some of the ocean’s most dangerous fisheries.
“It was just a really difficult experience,” recalls Bergman.
By most accounts, working as an observer can be gruelling.
Since 2007, at least nine fisheries observers, including four Americans, have died on the job.
Foul play is suspected in at least two of these cases.
Many observers experience intimidation and bribery; others witness horrendous abuse.

After several years, Bergman was done.
He thought about going into academia – having by then completed a Master’s in cell biology – but he saw that environmental non-profit SkyTruth was recruiting analysts to work with fisheries data and decided to apply.
SkyTruth was founded by geologist John Amos with the idea of using satellite imagery to improve environmental accountability.

By 2014, Amos and Paul Woods, SkyTruth’s Chief Technology Officer – friends and neighbours from Shepherdstown, West Virginia – had made huge headway tracking the visible impacts of industry from space.
In 2010, they had gained acclaim as the first to challenge BP’s reports of the extent of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon blow out, the largest accidental oil spill in history.
But one area they’d made little progress in was fishing.
Amos and Woods realised there was untapped value in an existing data set – the satellite detections of boats that use AIS.
At that point, maps of global fishing were notoriously unreliable, largely based on where biologists had found particular species.
The AIS system filled that gap.
Designed as a means for captains to relay their position to other vessels, AIS could be co-opted to track a ship’s movements, shining a light on global fishing patterns.

“We realised there was this huge data source of satellite AIS that covered the globe.
In the same way that we could measure features on land and see a change in land use, we looked at this and immediately knew we could use it to measure how people are using the ocean,” says Woods.
The simplicity of this approach was that AIS data was not only global but freely available, unlike the data from VMS (Vessel Monitoring System), a comparable satellite-based system for routinely logging a ship’s position, name and call sign.
Most nations mandate their larger domestic vessels carry VMS on board, but the system is expensive and the data usually proprietary, held by governments such as Panama's.

In 2014, Amos and Woods teamed up with Google and the marine conservation organisation Oceana to found Global Fishing Watch.
The following year, they hired Kroodsma, an experienced ocean scientist, to lead their research programme.
For data analysis, they brought in Bergman.

Despite having spent years on boats, it turned out that Bergman, a quiet, unassuming character, was deeply interested in the intellectual challenge of digging into the data.
And he was very good at it, possessing a natural ability to see patterns and anomalies.
GFW had more than 60 million data points per day on AIS vessel locations from satellites.
From their configurations, Bergman could simply look at the ship tracks on AIS and tell whether the boat was in transit or fishing – and if it was fishing, whether it was trawling, longlining (a trailing line with baited hooks at regular intervals) or purse seining (creating a net "cage" around the fish).
“Bjorn, having been on fishing vessels out in the Bering Sea, was able to look at those data and say ‘Hey, I know what they’re doing right now’,” says Amos.

In January 2016, of the 120,000 vessels at sea, Bergman noticed six that looked suspicious.
They were Chinese longliners fishing a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, close to the search site for the lost Malaysian passenger plane MH370.
It wasn’t an obvious location for a fishing fleet, and “they were moving in a way that I wasn’t familiar with,” says Bergman, who noticed an unusually high number of AIS signals coming from the area.
“When I looked closer, I could see them laying out a long string of AIS beacons and then reeling them in”, he says.
Bergman contacted the local fisheries registries, but none of them recognised the vessels.
That was enough to raise the alarm.
From SkyTruth’s office in West Virginia, Bergman wrote a blog post detailing the suspect behaviour.

Over in Perth, Australia, Sea Shepherd captain Sid Chakravarty read Bergman’s blog and immediately launched a patrol mission.
What he discovered was shocking – the entire fleet was using banned drift nets laid out over kilometres of ocean, ensnaring species such as tuna, sharks, turtles and dolphins.
The trawlers were attaching AIS beacons to the nets so as not to lose them, which explained the pattern Bergman had noticed from his landlocked position in the US.

The activists intercepted the fleet, hauled in some of their nets and videoed them.
After that, the ships scattered and went dark.
But a month later, one boat turned on its transponder again, allowing Bergman to relay an updated position to Sea Shepherd.
The team ended up chasing the vessel for 8,000km across the ocean to the Chinese port of Zhuhai, where the entire fleet was eventually detained and suspended.
The fleet owner was fined nearly a million dollars (£800,000) by the Chinese authorities.
“It’s tremendously valuable to have a witness on the ocean,” says Bergman.
“We have a lot of data sources, but we need to corroborate some of what we are seeing, so that we can be sure we are drawing the right conclusions.”

Bergman had also learnt to identify other suspicious behaviours, such as unusual fishing locations, and to chart a ship’s most likely course from satellite data, in a way that most analysts were simply unable to.
In August 2017, for example, Bergman got a call to say that the Ecuadorian navy had just intercepted a vessel near the Galapagos islands.
A Chinese-flagged reefer, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, had repeatedly refused to respond to radio calls from the navy, and so a helicopter and coast guard boat were dispatched to take a closer look.
On boarding the vessel, the officers were stunned to find more than 6,000 dead sharks – the largest seizure of sharks in the history of Galapagos.

Despite the arrest, it wasn’t known where the sharks – some of which were endangered – were caught, or what other boats the trawlers had liaised with.
“Just having sharks on a boat in Galapagos is illegal, but they also wanted to know how they got them,” explains Bergman, who set about retracing the movements of the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999.
During his trial in Ecuador, the captain named two Taiwanese vessels as the source of the sharks.
But Bergman could see from the data that the reefer had a rendezvous with four Chinese longliners to the west of Galapagos.
“He clearly gave false testimony at the trial,” says Bergman.
The ship’s owner was fined US$5.9 million and the captain sentenced to four years in prison.
Last year, a crew member from one of the Chinese longliners confirmed that Bergman was right; they had offloaded their catch on to the Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999.

 credit : Simon Ager

As a detective of the seas, Bergman seemed to be able to solve pretty much all cases that were presented to him.
Except for one.
He first noticed the fleet of Chinese squid jiggers in 2014.
The vessels were fishing along the boundary of Peru’s national waters, but suddenly, in 2017, the entire fleet unexpectedly shifted to a position in the South Pacific.

Some of the ships were not broadcasting AIS, making it impossible to know just how large the fleet was and what it was doing.
This case was different, and – from an analysts’ perspective – especially exciting.
Ordinarily, with dark targets, Bergman has to rely on vessels switching on their transponders to gauge their whereabouts.
But with the squid jiggers, which use lights to attract squid to the boat, there was another possibility.

In 2017, a research scientist named Chris Elvidge, who leads Earth observations at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of the US research agencies, approached GFW with an idea: he had been developing a system to detect sources of light from space at night, making use of a satellite sensor called Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).
He now wanted to see whether the lights used for squid jigging could help pick out some of the dark targets in Indonesian waters.

To test his idea, Elvidge needed Indonesian VMS data.
At that stage, GFW had just signed an agreement with Indonesia that would make its VMS data public.
The agreement was the first of its kind and would add 5,000 vessels to the team’s global fishing map.
It was a huge win in the team’s fight for transparency and was largely made possible by Indonesia’s minister for fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, who has taken a hard line against illegal fishing.
“The release of Indonesia’s VMS data was a big deal. That kind of broke a glass ceiling,” says Woods, who is now CTO with GFW.
Since taking office in 2014, Susi Pudjiastuti has seized and destroyed more than 300 illegal vessels found fishing in Indonesian waters.
(She’s also become known for her viral videos, which show her drinking coffee while paddle boarding, and dancing on board a naval vessel.)

Woods persuaded the Indonesians to hand Elvidge their VMS data, which NOAA then matched to its VIIRS vessel detections.
In 2018, GFW rolled out VIIRS data over the ocean, allowing Bergman and the rest of the team to see many boats that had, up to this point, been entirely dark.
Unlike AIS and VMS, VIIRS can’t tell the identity of a boat; it can just pick up a light signal which can then be compared against AIS or VMS data to see if the ship is broadcasting.
For the first time, Bergman was able to detect some of the dark Chinese squid fleet.

However, that still wasn’t enough to track all the vessels.
At this point, Bergman had no alternative: he was going to have to hunt them on the high seas.

On September 12, 2018, Bergman joined the MR Brigitte Bardot – a vessel operated by Sea Shepherd.
Travelling with Bergman was Eloy Aroni, a Peruvian researcher who was just finishing his thesis on tracking the squid fleet using VIIRS.
Looking ahead, Bergman and Aroni could see that some boats were visible on VIIRS, but not on AIS.
They still, however, had several days of travel before they reached their targets.

On September 19, they rounded the north cape of the island of Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos, and headed west into a vast stretch of the open Pacific.
Ahead of them, the nearest landfall was the Marquesas islands of Polynesia, some 3,000 nautical miles away.
They were venturing into one of the most remote parts of the planet on a voyage that would ultimately bring Bergman into contact with one of the world’s darkest fishing fleets.

But in a fleet 300-strong, like the one fishing the South Pacific, not all boats are squid jiggers.
Some are reefers, whose job it is to restock the fishing boats and to transship the catch.
To identify the reefers, Bergman had to use another data source: Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery.
Usually acquired from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 system, the advantage of radar imagery is that it can pick out large objects with metal hulls, such as medium-size trawlers, that are neither broadcasting their position nor displaying visible lights from space.
There are some downsides, however: SAR data is hugely expensive and users have to weed out other objects that, on radar, look just the same as boats, such as wind farms, oil and gas rigs, and icebergs.

Before heading out to the high seas, Bergman had snagged a couple of rare radar images of the fleet, taken from Canada’s RADARSAT-2 satellite.
This meant he had three data sources - AIS, VIIRS night imagery and radar – which he could use to find dark targets.
Beyond these, there’s also optical imagery, a term for forensic-level satellite photography, such as from Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 satellite.
These images are expensive, but a superior way of identifying a specific target at an exact location.
“You can do some work by association,” says Kroodsma.
“Say you see a fleet of several hundred boats going somewhere on radar, then you look at the AIS and only you see 30 or 50, right? You can often infer from those what the other ones are doing. You have to be smart about it, but you can kind of piece it together from different sources of information – AIS or VMS, VIIRS, SAR and optical. Using those, you can put together the whole story about what's happening in a region.”

As they steamed west from the Galapagos, Bergman considered how many people they might encounter, densely packed together around one relatively small spot in the expanse of the ocean.
By night, the boat’s deck was now offering shelter for dozens of squid that, on approaching the surface, were disoriented by the lights on the Brigitte Bardot, and needed a resting place.
Then, one afternoon, the first vessel appeared on the radar, displaying the signal BZZ5K – a callsign not registered to any authorised vessel.
As it came into sight, Bergman noted a Chinese flag flying above the wheelhouse and what looked like a tattered black sail at the boat’s stern.
The hull was covered in rust and soot, obscuring any clear markings.
As they approached they could make out the name Hua Ying 819.
It was a squid jigger, and it was legal.

They ploughed on, disheartened but undeterred.
Waiting until nightfall, the captain Chris Holt manoeuvred the patrol vessel closer to the fleet.
Suddenly Bergman found himself on the edge of a city on the high seas, filled with white lights, but also vibrant greens and dim yellows.
Illuminated at night, these were the squid jiggers that Bergman and Aroni had seen on the VIIRS map.
They made their way through the fleet, trying to spot any suspicious activity, but their efforts were thwarted by limited satellite reception.
This meant that the AIS broadcasts of each vessel were unlikely to be reliable.

By then, Bergman and the crew were running out of time and fuel.
They decided to return to shore to consider their next move.
Bergman's trip hadn’t revealed any pirate boats, but maybe he could still find them – from back home in Peru.
And for that he was going to need the help of the Panamanian authorities.

Simon Ager
Sea Sheperd's interceptor vessel Brigitte Bardot on patrol
In March 2019, after Bergman’s intervention at the Waldorf Astoria, Panama agreed to make its daily VMS data public through GFW’s platform.
Bergman and the team were delighted.
“Even though it’s a small country, as far as the ocean is concerned, Panama has a huge presence because of the flag of convenience,” says Bergman.
He will now be able to re-examine the Chinese squid-jigger fleet's movements around the Galapagos in more detail, with the hope of identifying suspicious rendezvous – such as transshipments – at sea.

“This gives us another chunk of the fleet that we have really solid data on,” says Woods, who planned to make the Panama data publicly available in summer 2019.
Already, Indonesia and Peru have added their VMS data to the GFW map.
In May, Chile agreed to release its VMS data, making yet another 1,100 vessels publicly trackable.
Costa Rica has committed to doing the same in 2019, and GFW is now in discussions with Ecuador.

Currently, GFW employs around 30 experts in data analysis, machine learning, fisheries research and maritime surveillance, located around the globe.
As well as nurturing new projects and developing its machine learning capabilities, a large part of GFW’s focus is now on persuading governments to release their VMS data.
While continuing to work on locating specific targets, Bergman’s brief has also widened to GFW regional manager for Central and South America.
Much of this involves the sort of diplomacy on show in Panama, talking to government officials about the quid pro quo of having a more transparent fishing fleet.
“Once we know who is fishing and where, we’ll be one step closer to sustainably managing fisheries throughout the ocean,” says Kroodsma.

Though Bergman didn’t catch sight of any pirate squid fishers on the high seas, he’s had some success in tracking them down.
Late last year, shortly after his return from the South Pacific, a Chinese squid jigger, RUN DA 608, ducked inside Peru’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coast.
The authorities intercepted the vessel and found 19 tonnes of squid.
At that stage, Aroni set to work on retracing the vessel’s fishing track.
“The freshness of the squid didn’t match their purported fishing location”, says Bergman, “so we tracked the vessel in reverse and we identified a detour.” In the night, the vessel had slowed for three to four hours, presumably starting to fish in Peru’s waters.
“We had the vessel and the fish seized,” he says.
“Before GFW, we did not have the data to do this.”

The team hopes that within a decade, all VMS data will be public, and that improved satellite coverage of the world's oceans – thanks to companies such as Planet Labs, which now has 170 miniature satellites in orbit – will bring more frequent and more reliable AIS detections.
“The constellations that are going up right now will cover the whole ocean for the first time.
Using different technologies, we'll really have the possibility of detecting all these vessels,” says Woods.
“It’s more cost-effective than wandering around a big chunk of the ocean and hoping to run into something. And it’s much more targeted.”
Bergman agrees: “Once we can monitor the dark fleet, the crime that's happening in the ocean will be pushed out into the open. They'll have nowhere to hide.”

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Victor Vescovo: Adventurer reaches deepest ocean locations

Watch Victor Vescovo touch bottom in the Malloy Trench

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

US adventurer Victor Vescovo has become the first person to visit the deepest points in every ocean.

His fifth and final dive in a prototype submersible was made to the bottom of the Arctic's Molloy Trench, some 5.5km (3.4 miles) below the sea surface.

 Molloy Deep with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical chart)

This followed dives during the past 10 months to the floor of the Pacific, Indian, Southern and Atlantic oceans.

The millionaire financier's team also visited the wreck of the Titanic.

All Mr Vescovo's dives were made using the 12-tonne Deep Sea Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor, launched and recovered from a dedicated support ship, the DSSV Pressure Drop, ironically a one-time navy submarine hunter.

The last leg of the "Five Deeps Expedition" was concluded on 24 August when the explorer reached a spot known as the Molloy Hole, which is about 275km (170 miles) west of Norway's Svalbard archipelago.
The recorded depth on the solo dive was 5,550m, plus or minus 14m.
It is the first time any human has been to this location.

Mr Vescovo spoke of his elation and deep gratitude to the people who had worked with him.
"These things need to be done," he told BBC News.
"I come from a philosophy that says we're put here not just to survive, or even just to be comfortable - but to contribute in some way.
And the path I chose was to have some adventure whilst also doing something that could move us forward as a species."

The former US Navy reservist's wealth and drive have previously led him to ski to both poles and to climb the highest mountains on every continent.
But it's evident when you talk to him that he is utterly absorbed by the science he's facilitated.

Over the course of the worldwide tour, researchers deployed more than 100 landers.
These are instrumented frames that sink to the seafloor and record what they see and sense on the way down, and at the seabed.

The VSSV Pressure Drop has collected a large amount of bathymetric (depth) data

The Five Deeps science team says it has discovered upwards of 40 new species in the process.
A large catalogue of biological and water samples awaits analysis in the lab, including a unique set of bottom-water samples retrieved at every one of the five deeps visited.

Dr Alan Jamieson is the expedition's chief scientist.
He highlighted the measurements of salinity, temperature and depth that were made by the sub and the landers.
"You cast on the way down and on the way up, and if you add up the metres we measured - it works out at 1.5 million metres of water," he said.
This will help researchers better understand ocean circulation, which is needed to improve the computer models that project future climate scenarios.
"We have so few measurements from the deepest parts of the oceans, from below 6,000m," the Newcastle University, UK, marine biologist added.

 credit : 5 Deeps Expedition

The DSSV Pressure Drop mapped the seafloor as it traversed the five oceans.
This bathymetric (depth) data covers roughly 300,000 sq km - an area equivalent to Italy.
This is being donated to the international project (GEBCO) that seeks to chart the entire global ocean floor by 2030.
Currently, less than 20% has been mapped to an acceptable resolution.

But the Five Deeps Expedition has also fundamentally demonstrated the capability of the latest deep-sea technology.

Victor Vescovo: "I thought it needed to be done"

The hope is that the DSV Limiting Factor will now be followed by many more such vehicles.
"I think what Victor has done is remarkable and others are going to want to continue what he's started by going back to some of these places and spending more time there," said Patrick Lahey, co-founder of Triton Submarines which built the Limiting Factor.
"You're starting to see more privately funded marine research being conducted by wealthy individuals who bought subs they thought they would use recreationally but are now using to complete scientific expeditions, to give people like Al Jamieson a platform to work from."

It is no surprise to learn that Victor Vescovo has set his sights on going into space; he's actively talking to those who might help him get there.

However, he's far from done with ocean research and expects next year to conduct further dives in previously unexplored trenches around the Pacific rim.

The American oceanographer Don Walsh made history in 1960 when he joined Jacques Piccard in making the first crewed dive to the deepest point on Earth - the Challenger Deep, part of the Pacific's Mariana Trench.
Mr Walsh marvels at the latest technology.
"What you have here is a system - the ship, the sub and the landers.
They interact and cooperate, and when you see them working together it's like a ballet," Mr Walsh told BBC News.
"What's impressive is the repeatability - being able to dive time and time again."

Atlantic Productions is making a five-part documentary about the Five Deeps Expedition for the Discovery Channel.
It's likely to air early next year.

Links :

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Weather4D Android future

GeoGarage access for W4D Android users

From Weather 4D

A 64-bit requirement for Weather4D Android

Two years ago Google announced that apps using native code must provide a 64-bit version (in addition to the 32-bit version).
Earlier this year, they provided detailed information and timelines.

What’s the impact on Weather4D Android future?

 Weather4D Android is a 32 bit application in support mode as we have been focusing on the iOS platform. It was therefore questionable to convert it to 64 bit application.
With that in mind Weather4D Android will be phased out progressively.
Google will eventually remove it automatically from the Play Store in August 2021.
For those of you who use Weather4D Android, we recommend 2 things:
  1. Do not renew your models subscription and make sure it is not set to auto-renew.  Here is how:
  2. Start using SailGrib once your Weather4D Android subscription expires
For those of you who use an Android device and are looking for the most complete Sailing App on Google Play, visit

 SailGrib for Android

What about the Android platform?

 The end goal is to provide a cross platform solution for all our users.
Weather4D and SailGrib complete each other.
So we started a partnership with SailGrib. SailGrib WR provides weather forecasting, weather routing and navigation instruments for Android devices.
Weather4D Routing & Navigation does the same for iPads and iPhones.
Joining forces was simply common sense from a business point of view and most importantly for our respective users.
This partnership allowed also to unify our backend services and to introduce AIS sharing for Weather4D and SailGrib users.

Support or questions?

Weather4D Android:

One company’s plan to forecast extreme weather

Hurricane Dorian, as seen from the International Space Station on Sept. 2, 2019. 
Spire uses radio occultation profiles to attempt to augment the accuracy of weather forecasts.NASA

From Forbes by Elizabeth Howell

As the Atlantic region deals with the effects and aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, space-to-cloud-analytics company Spire Global outlined its work to increase the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent as the Earth warms, providing more fuel for hurricanes, flooding and other phenomena that threaten infrastructure and ecosystems.
Spire announced it is collecting 5,000 radio occultation profiles daily in an effort to predict when and where such events occur.

Kleos Space is preparing to launch four cubesats to fly in formation and geolocate radio frequency signals.

The technology of radio occultation is a way of remote sensing that can measure the physical properties of the atmosphere.
Spire's daily mark of 5,000 profiles triples the amount of this kind of data available worldwide, the company said.
Notably, Spire's satellites use signals from the European Union's space-based Galileo navigation system to enhance their predictions.

A visualization of Spire Global's Weather Model

“I believe this to be a milestone not just for Spire and the global weather enterprise, but for New Space,” said CEO Peter Platzer in an exclusive statement, referring to the rise of private space companies that provide commercial products for customers.
(Traditionally, space used to be only accessible by governments.)

“Here is a type of data that is well known for its accuracy and value to a global public safety concern, weather, one that is increasing of daily importance when talking about extreme weather events like hurricanes. Spire, as a New Space company, is contributing a higher quantity of this data, providing crucial data of exceptional new quality,” he added.

Spire provides a worldview for ship and aircraft tracking when AIS is switched off

The San Francisco-based company is also known for monitoring the movements of maritime vessels from space, and in this area they have been generating a number of agreements in 2019.
In the last few months, Spire announced it would create a "data lake" with the Luxembourg Space Agency (allowing participants to use raw data from Spire satellites) and it also announced an agreement with Luxembourg-based data-as-a-service company Kleos Space S.A.

The company has more than 100 small satellites in orbit that collect data in radio wavelengths.
The privately held firm discloses its revenues in part, saying that revenues are in the eight-figure range and growing year-over-year in triple digits.
Spire was founded in 2013 and subsequently received Series A, B and C funding rounds.

Links :

Monday, September 9, 2019

New Zealand (Linz) update in the GeoGarage platform

8 nautical charts update & 1 chart replaced

The perils of the Arctic

Evacuation of the Maxim Gorkiy off Svalbard, 1989 (courtesy Earl of Cruise / file)

From The Maritime Executive by Christina Benjaminsen and Åse Dragland

On a light June night in 1989 the Russian cruise ship Maxim Gorkiy glides peacefully along the coast of Svalbard.
Suddenly there is a loud impact and alarm bells ring all over the ship.
Just like Titanic, the ship carrying 973 German passengers has hit an iceberg.
It takes on water and begins to sink immediately.

Fortunately a rescue helicopter is stationed on Bjørnøya, and the Norwegian Coast Guard ship Senja is on patrol not far away.
When Senja comes to the rescue three hours later, the cruise ship’s bow is already submerged to the level of the main deck.
However, the coast guard crew manages to prevent Maxim Gorkiy from going down.

The passengers, many of them dressed in nightclothes, are evacuated from the ice floes around the ship using helicopters, lifeboats and life rafts.
They are then transported to Svalbard.
Luckily, no lives are lost.

Increased activity

Russian cruise ships are not the only vessels sailing around Svalbard.
Every year about 65 000 tourists come here, half of them on foreign cruise ships, and shipping activity off the coast is considerable.

 Svalbard with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical chart)

The northern polar countries of Norway, Canada and Russia have begun to take a serious interest in the Arctic.
One-quarter of the world’s oil and gas resources are thought to be found here, and the Norwegian authorities believe that the area will become Europe’s most important petroleum province.
Many people believe that shipping will increase because of the melting of ice in the Arctic, resulting in a reorganization of global shipping routes.
Others believe that navigating through the Northwest Passage will be too expensive and that traffic between America and Asia will continue as at present.

A study carried out by the CICERO Centre for Climate Research in Oslo, Det Norske Veritas and Statistics Norway concludes that there will be no major increase in oil and gas production in the region.
However, they maintain that the melting ice cap will enable far more production offshore than at present, which in turn will result in a large increase in shipping activity.
With activity throughout the area increasing, the risk of accidents will also increase.

Are you reading me? Over

A stone’s throw from the offices of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation at Tyholt in Trondheim, Beate Kvamstad is conducting research on radio signals and satellite systems.
Her special area of interest is the range of the various communications systems in the northern-most parts of the planet.
Now, like the state broadcaster in the neighbouring building, she wants to broadcast her message.
This is, to put it simply: “It’s not good enough.” The clear findings of Kvamstad and her colleagues at MARINTEK (part of SINTEF) are that the communications systems in use in the northern regions are not in a healthy state.

“As we travel north of 70-75 degrees, we see that the satellite communications systems normally in use are very unstable,” she says.
She points out that the Internet network that we take for granted almost wherever we are in the world is unavailable in areas that are not well served by satellites or land-based providers.
The only exceptions are on oil and gas platforms that have good Internet connections thanks to fibre optic cables from the coast.

Kvamstad has good evidence for her claim: Research scientists at MARINTEK are working on six different research programmes connected to the Arctic.
Mapping of available communications systems has been and remains an important element of all of them.

These systems comprise important infrastructure for all activities in the Arctic, where it is simply not practical to operate without good communications.
Communications systems are the key to everything from safety to efficiency, logistics and general operations.
It isn’t difficult to envisage a catastrophic situation resulting from inadequate communication.
Cruise ship traffic around Svalbard is on the increase, with ships that often carry up to 3 000 passengers.

“If there is an accident, you cannot rely on the Coast Guard just happening to be nearby.
Who is responsible for ensuring that emergency signals are received, and who is responsible for distributing information during a rescue operation?” asks Kvamstad.
“It has been suggested that the ships should travel in pairs, but since part of the point for many tourists is the feeling of being alone, this won’t happen.”

One-to-one communication

In the Marsafe North project, recently completed after three years’ work, research scientists from MARINTEK and a cluster of industrial partners from Norway and abroad collaborated closely to expose the various safety shortcomings affecting marine operations in the Arctic.
The project resulted in 28 safety-related recomendations.
At the top of the list of things needing improvement was “Communications, Monitoring and Tracking”.
The element “Conting-ency, Search and Rescue and rescue equipment” was close behind.

Beate Kvamstad says many people think of the radio systems that have supported seafar-ers for decades when they think of communications problems at sea.
“There are a number of possible radio frequencies, but these are channels which function best in connection with voice transmission,” she points out.
The researchers have also studied the range of such transmissions and found that most of the available frequencies have large “holes” in their coverage in Arctic regions.
“Users report that radio connections can be lost for short or long periods.
This is a critical factor,” Kvamstad says.

Another weakness, according to Kvamstad, is that it is impossible to transmit large data volumes using radio signals.
However, this is exactly what is necessary to satisfy the information requirements for a rescue operation, for example.
What is needed are broadband systems with sufficient capacity to handle large amounts of data transmission.

Satellite communications

Researchers have therefore directed their attention to the network of satellites orbiting the Earth.
The problem is that most of these orbit at latitudes close to the equator.
The signals from these satellites become increasingly attenuated the further north one goes, because the angle between the receiver systems and the satellite sending the signal becomes too small.

An alternative is satellites that pass closely over the poles at from 200 to 2000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, called Low Earth Orbit (LEO) systems.
However, these have proved to be unstable.
One reason is that their velocity is very high because their orbits are relatively close to the Earth.
“The faster a target is moving, the more difficult it is to hit it,” says Kvamstad.

Fortunately, there are other solutions, such as high-elliptical satellites, which travel in oval orbits at high altitude as they cross the poles.
Canada is now planning to develop the Polar Communication and Weather system (PCW), which is based on these kinds of satellites.
If this is relized, the north will have access to a stable system with good bandwidth, which the Canadians will also open up for commercial services.
“Until now this system has proved to be the most promising one for good, stable communications in the Arctic,” adds Kvamstad.

Ad hoc systems

However, since satellite communication is unlikely to be adequate to cover the entire Arctic marine area, scientists believe that they will have to develop hybrid systems.
These are communications systems that make use of information from both satellites and land-based systems already located in coastal areas.

It will also be necessary to establish ad hoc systems.
Instead of relying on satellites, it is possible to build networks between ships in the area.
These have antennas installed on board that receive signals and relay them on.
In other words, there is a wealth of possible solutions.
The challenge is to find out which of them function best and where – and then to get them to communicate with each other.
“They all have their strengths and weaknesses, so we need to find the perfect combination of different systems,” says Kvamstad.

Collision risk

However, it will take more than just good communications systems before safety is good enough in the polar marine regions.
The forecasting of winds, storms, precipitation, fog and severe cold has consider-able shortcomings, and the enormous ice masses in the ocean are constantly changing shape and size.
The problem is quite simply that everything is always changing, from the sea ice to the seabed and the weather.

Kay Fjørtoft, a research manager at MARINTEK, recently landed in Trondheim after about a week in Svalbard.
One of the things he studies there is the ice – and its movements.
“One of the most important factors in accidents in the Arctic is the collision risk associated with icebergs.
Therefore it is important to map the migration routes of the ice.
We need to know where it drifts, what that will mean when new oilfields are to be developed, and what the migration pattern is in the event of an accident,” he says.

The Marsafe North project recently mapped the movements of ice fields east of Greenland.
Using satellite monitoring of the movements of six buoys erected on an ice shelf 20 kilometres northeast of Kong Karls Land in Svalbard, Fjørtoft and his colleagues have discovered that the almost 0.7-kilometre-thick ice moves at a rate of about 0.18 metres per second.
“The ice travelled at a rate of 113 nautical miles in 14 days, depending on tides, location, currents and weather conditions,” Fjørtoft says.
To the surprise of the team, one of the buoys actually drifted all the way around Svalbard and was retrieved in Isfjorden, not far from Longyearbyen.

 Svalbard Archipelago seen in 1st image from the Earth-observation satellite Sentinel 1B

Icing problems

At the Meteorological Institute in Tromsø, physicist Frode Dinessen studies a satellite photo showing the ice masses around Svalbard.
Every working day the ice service at the institute receives and analyses a large number of satellite images covering the area between East Greenland and Novaya Zemlya.
These images come from various satellites, each of which has limitations, so the resulting ice maps may contain sources of error, which can be critical for operators close to the ice edge or further in on the ice cap.

“The most important satellite we use is equipped with an active radar instrument that sends out a signal obliquely to the Earth’s surface and measures the signal reflected back to the satellite.
If the signal meets a calm sea surface, little is reflected, but when the satellite passes over ice, the surface is normally more uneven, and the reflected signal is stronger.
In this way we obtain valuable knowledge of where and when it is safe for ships in the area to travel,” says Dinessen.

Beautiful cloud streets today along the coast of Svalbard due to land-ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions.
These parallel bands of cumulus clouds form as colder air moves over warmer ocean waters. MODIS Aqua satellite from NASA Earth Data
The problem is that wind can cause the sea surface to reflect the signal, leading the satellite to believe that it is above ice and not choppy water.
Hence the images need to be interpreted by sharp-eyed scientists.
There is, in fact, no way of automating the image interpretation, and unfortunately the Meteorological Institute does not have the staffing to make this a round-the-clock service.

Sensors on the seabed

Research scientists envisage various types of systems for monitoring ice – from measuring equipment on the ice that would transmit its position at regular intervals, to the use of unmanned aircraft and sensors on the seabed that could measure ice thickness.

Odd Kristen Østern Pettersen at SINTEF ICT can tell us more about the last of these alternatives.
His department has been allocated funds to develop a system for monitoring ice using sensors on the seabed, in collaboration with the Nortek company.
Statoil and Kongsberg Maritime are also involved in the project.

“We are talking about wireless sensors that will be located on the seabed to detect ice migration and thickness.
At present a single sensor is deployed, which stores data until it is retrieved, perhaps several months later.
We intend to create a live system that covers a large area and that will be more relevant to shipping and to operations in the ice field.
The system will consist of a number of wireless sensors distributed over a large area, communicating with a base station on the seabed that transmits data to an ice-breaker or a petroleum platform.
The plan is to deploy this kind of system in critical areas or in connection with critical operations,” says Pettersen.

 Ship traffic and ship traffic emissions of greenhouse gases.

Monitoring systems

Many institutions currently collect data about conditions at sea.
The Norwegian Marine Research Institute acquires data about fishery resources, the Meteorological Institute deals with weather and oceanographic conditions, and the Coastal Administration studies shipping movements.
The problem is that each institution focuses on its own areas of interest so that the data are only to a limited extent made available to other parties.
This makes it difficult to create an integrated picture of the situation.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration is managing the development of a system that will correct this problem.
In May, a pilot project began on an integrated monitoring and information system for the marine and coastal areas in northern latitudes, known as BarentsWatch.
To make it work, all participating partners have to provide data to enable the study of weather conditions, polar fronts, shipping, ice conditions and vulnerable areas.
Services will then be developed that combine the various data to provide new and important information about conditions at sea.

BarentsWatch will be developed in several phases.
The first phase involves the establishment of an open information portal for the coastal and marine areas.
In parallel with the gradual development of services in the open system, work is in progress to develop a closed, operational system that will provide a common, improved picture of the situation to government authorities with maritime responsibilities.
A NGA nautical chart covering the waters between Greenland and the Kara Sea, including Iceland and part of the Svalbard archipelago.

Marine charts and shoals

When icebergs move around in shallow waters, not only does the risk of collision increase, they may also change the topography of the seabed, with the result that navigation conditions are often different from those shown on marine charts.
Norvald Kjerstad, a senior lecturer at Ålesund University College and a professor specializing in Arctic navigation at the University of Tromsø, has a passionate interest in marine charts.
He has sailed aboard Russian icebreakers and travelled through the Northeast Passage several times.
His experiences have led him to believe that the Barents Sea is a dangerous marine area, due to inadequate charts, frequent shoals and the prevalence of drift ice in large parts of the Norwegian zone.
The same applies to areas around Greenland and Arctic Canada.
The waters offshore Siberia are also characterized by extensive shallows in the delta areas where several major Russian rivers enter the ocean.

“There is a pressing need to generate new marine charts for the northern regions.
The prevalence of shallow marine areas represents a risk.
However, making marine charts is expensive and time-consuming.
First of all, one has to be in the area while it is ice-free.
Then one must systematically survey the area using multibeam echo sounder equipment, rather like ploughing a field.
In this connection it is important to consider cost in relation to usefulness, based on how many ships travel in the area,” Kjerstad says.

2011 Dec 18, Russia’s drilling platform, named Kolskaya, capsized due to fierce storms and sank off the coast of Sakhalin Island, forcing dozens of workers into icy waters.
Of the 67 men aboard, 4 died from hypothermia while 14 were licked after the accident immediately by the supply vessel.
The search continued for other 49 crew members.
The reason for the accident was stated as rolling over in heavy storm while being towed.​

200 metres from land

In December 2011, the Kolskaja platform was being towed towards the coast from the Kamchatka Peninsula in northern Russia.
The rig workers had not been picked up by ships, but stood on deck while the towing was in progress.
Two hundred metres from land, the platform capsized.
Valves had been disabled by ice and waves, and the platform began to take on water.
The crew waited to be evacuated by helicopter, but the platform sank before they were able to get aboard the lifeboats.
The wind in the area was strong and the temperature was minus 17°C.

Two of the platform’s four lifeboats were found with nobody aboard and rescue work was extremely difficult...

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