Saturday, August 22, 2020

“Camel finds water”

Trevor found the hull of an abandoned fishing boat in a field.
He brought it home and built it back to a sea-worthy state over the course of a summer.
Then, he took it on its maiden voyage to British Columbia in search of waves.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Garmin outage: how safe is online navigation?

Chartplotters could still be used as standalone devices during the Garmin outage, although charts could not be downloaded

From Yachting Monthly by Katy Stickland

July's Garmin outage left Navionics customers unable to access online services including downloading charts.
We talk to the cyber security firm Red Sky Alliance about the safety of online navigation systems

The Garmin outage in July caused disruption to many of its online services.
The firm was the victim of days-long cyber attack, which began on 23 July.
Navionics customers were unable to access the Navionics server via their log-ins.
The Navionics Boating app, Chart Installer, and Navionics Chart Viewer were all affected; products couldn’t be bought directly via the Navionics website.

 The days-long outage meant many Navionics online services couldn’t be used

Charts couldn’t be downloaded, although chart plotters using Navionics software could still be operated as a standalone device.
Garmin has said it had ‘no indication that any customer data was accessed, lost or stolen‘.

Jonathon Sweeney is a program manager with Red Sky Alliance, a cyber security partner of UK maritime security firm Dryad Global.
He spoke to Yachting Monthly about the safety of online navigation systems, and the steps sailors can take to protect themselves from a cyber attack.

Q. In light of the recent Garmin outage, how vulnerable is online navigation to a cyber-attack?

I cannot think of any online service that is NOT vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
Even devices that are ‘air-gapped’ (intentionally disconnected from a network for security) can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

GPS is made up of three parts – receivers, satellites, and ground stations.
Any one of these parts is vulnerable to an attack.

For example, if an attacker can tamper with a GPS receiver on a cell phone, they can trick the device into thinking it is in a different location, even if the satellites and ground stations are unaffected.

This would likely affect an individual user.

If an attacker is able to successfully activate ransomware on the systems which keep the ground station operating, that would likely interfere with GPS capabilities for multiple users, unless there are redundant ground stations available.

With the increase in Operational Technology (OT – hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies (the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet) and the increase in connected devices, these systems will only become more vulnerable.

Q. How vulnerable is the GPS network to attack, such as GPS spoofing?

This is not something ‘some teen in the basement’ is likely to target.
While it is possible, hacking a GPS network does require a relatively high skill level.

As demonstrated by University of Texas at Austin students in 2013, GPS spoofing can be done by overpowering the signals coming from satellites and replacing them with the attacker’s signal.

As we saw in the Garmin outage, it was a WastedLocker attack believed to be from a sophisticated group known as EvilCorp, not just some random person who got lucky.

The biggest vulnerability in this chain of systems is in the receiver.
Hacking a satellite and/or ground systems is possible, but targeting the receiver is much easier, and much less likely to raise intrusion alarms.

Q. How likely are the above scenarios?

In short, not likely.

There have been proofs of concept, but attackers do not seem to target these systems.

This is because there are other simpler/easier ways of earning a profit or damaging a company.

As targeting these systems becomes easier, attacks will become much more likely.
The highest likelihood scenario would be a hostile country spoofing a ship’s GPS to trick that ship into wandering into restricted territory.
They could then seize that ship for political, financial, or other reasons, by claiming it entered their waters illegally.

Or another scenario is where attackers target a ship with innocent civilians and interferes with GPS for notoriety/profit.
Again, the more companies which rely on connected systems for their GPS, the higher the likelihood of an attacker taking advantage of them.

Q. Is enough being done by the public and private sector to mitigate the threat of attack on online navigation networks?

Neither the public nor the private sector are doing enough to mitigate the threat to navigation systems.

If history is any indicator, it will take a much more significant event than the Garmin outage to trigger change in this field.

If a cruise ship were to be stranded in the middle of the ocean without any navigation systems because of a cyber-attack, that may trigger people to pay more attention.

But with everything going on in the world, many companies and public agencies are already strained.

If Garmin and others in the public sector were doing enough to secure their systems, there may still have been a cyber-attack, but the damage would not have resulted in an outage, let alone the Garmin outage which lasted days.

This is where having redundancy and backups comes into play (LORAN-C to eLORAN), but that costs time, money, and other resources are strained.

Governments are also not doing enough to go after attackers.

Groups like EvilCorp have been so successful because they are able to remain safe in their countries and they can commit attacks knowing that they are not going to be prosecuted or punished.

There is not nearly enough pressure on these safe-harbour countries to hand these attackers over to the proper authorities.

As with all aspects of navigation, following ‘best practice’ is the surest way to make sure you are passage planning…

Most of us navigate using MFDs, phones and tablets, or even drones.
But can electronic backups be a substitute for…

Q. Should recreational sailors be concerned about the threat of a cyber-attack and its impact on online navigation?

At this time, I would not be concerned as a skilled recreational sailor.

First of all, they are much less likely to be targeted because an attacker would not gain much from attacking an individual (unless the person is rich and/or famous).

Also, if a recreational sailor becomes stranded, they can call the Coast Guard or other public service to assist them.

If an attacker targets a Coast Guard vessel’s GPS, it becomes a much more complex situation.

Lastly, recreational sailors should already know how to operate their vessels if all electronics should fail, making them less appealing targets.

Q. How might a recreational sailor recognise that their online navigation has been compromised?

The short answer is that a recreational sailor probably would not know until it is too late (i.e.
they have reached the incorrect destination).

The problem with spoofing a receiver, is that the receiver ‘thinks’ it is still working properly so it may never display an alarm indicating something is wrong.

Things to look for include:
Systems operating abnormally (providing unusual data, making abnormal noises, displaying security alerts, etc.)
On-screen navigation is not matching up with visual navigation (Vessel path looks incorrect).
Damage to systems (hardware overheating, applications/software is not loading, etc.)

A ‘good’ sailor would always have navigation charts, a cell phone and a VHF radio on board their recreational vessel.

Q. What steps can recreational sailors take to mitigate against this?

The biggest step is to learn to navigate offline.

Use traditional navigation techniques (map and compass, celestial, etc.)

If a sailor can navigate without online systems, an attack becomes significantly less damaging.

Making sure you can navigate traditionally, without electronics, will help protect you from a cyber attack.
Credit: Graham Snook/YM

Purchase systems from vendors that have implemented some level of security in their systems.

Pay attention and be aware of common threats to these types of systems.

They are not a big target right now, but again, that is likely to change in the future.

Keep ALL online systems up to date with the newest updates and software patches.

This is often difficult for non-technical people, but many attackers take advantage of vulnerabilities that have been public for years.

Q. Can online navigation ever be really secure?

Secure? Yes.
Impregnable? No.

Nothing that is ‘online’ is ever invincible to cyber-attack, but there are ways to secure communications between the three systems, such as strong encryption.

Also removing default passwords on any navigation systems is a requirement.

Creating redundant backup systems and non-digital fail safes as often as possible is also critical.

Ironically, one way many companies are securing themselves is to pay someone to break into these systems and then tell the company how to prevent an attacker from doing the same (a.k.a.
a penetration test).

Links :
8 tips for digital navigation

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Netherlands (NLHO) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

14 nautical raster charts updated

Marvin Creamer, a mariner who sailed like the ancients, dies at 104

Marvin Creamer in an undated photo aboard the Globe Star, the 36-foot cutter he used to circumnavigate the globe.
He was guided by the wind, waves, the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night.
Ralph Harvey, via University Archives and Special Collections, Rowan University Libraries

From NYTimes by Margalit Fox

No GPS for him, not even a sextant; the sun and the stars did nicely.
He was the first recorded person to sail round the world without navigational instruments.

Had Marvin Creamer not been a geographer, he very likely would not have lived to be 104.

Professor Creamer, who died at that age on Wednesday, taught geography for many years at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, in Glassboro, N.J.

His expertise helped him become a history-making mariner, the first recorded person to sail round the world without navigational instruments.
His 30,000-mile odyssey, in a 36-foot cutter with a small crew, made headlines worldwide on its completion in 1984.

“I was considered to be crazy or stupid or just out of it,” Professor Creamer said in a 2015 interview with Rowan University.
“When I took off there were two people who believed I would come back.”

One was his wife Blanche.
The other, despite the welter of naysayers, was Professor Creamer himself.

It is daunting enough to circumnavigate the Earth with the aid of modern global positioning technology, much less with medieval and Renaissance tools like a mariner’s compass and sextant.

But Professor Creamer, in the grip of an obsession that had held him for years, shunned even those newfangled contrivances, as well as a radio, a clock and a wristwatch.He chose instead to rely on his deep knowledge of the planet and its vagaries, and be guided by nothing more than wind, waves, the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night.

Under cloud-massed skies, he could divine his location from the color and temperature of the water, the presence of particular birds and insects and even, on one occasion, the song of a squeaky hatch.

Skills like these, he long maintained, had let the master mariners of antiquity answer the seafarer’s ever-present, life-or-death question — Where am I? — and in so doing sail safely round the world.
Professor Creamer and his crew aboard the Globe Star, which set sail from Cape May, N.J., in late 1982.
The entire journey took 513 days.
Credit...Ralph Harvey, via University Archives and Special Collections, Rowan University Libraries

“From everything I’ve read, the ancients didn’t feel uncomfortable out there,” Professor Creamer told The New York Times in 1978.
“They didn’t have navigational tools, but they didn’t seem afraid to go to sea.
I felt they might have known what they were doing, that they might have made predictable landfalls and having once hit a coast could have returned there.”

The same skills, he had believed since his youth, would let him do likewise.

“I had taken oceanography and every geography course in the book,” he said in a 2013 interview with Rowan.
“I said to myself, ‘I think I’m the one to do this.’”

Nevertheless, when the 66-year-old Professor Creamer set sail from Cape May, N.J., in his cutter, the Globe Star, in late 1982, he was widely considered unhinged: No mariner in recorded history had traversed the globe without at least a compass, used by sailors since the 12th century if not before, or a sextant, introduced in the 18th.

His 513-day journey would entail nearly a year on the sea, plus time in ports for repairs and reprovisioning.
It would take the Globe Star to Capetown, South Africa; Hobart and Sydney, Australia; Whangara, New Zealand; and the Falkland Islands off Argentina before its triumphant return to Cape May on May 17, 1984 — an event that Professor Creamer gleefully described as “one small step back for mankind.”

Along the way, he and his crew braved lashing storms and long, directionless days with no wind; found themselves trapped in shipping lanes amid thick fog and the terrifying horns of oncoming tankers; had whales bear down on them like freight trains; rounded the treacherous waters of Cape Horn entirely blind; were at one point pitched nearly upside-down and at another arrested.

“A jolly romp,” Professor Creamer called the whole thing.

He knew he might meet his death on the trip, but he was far more confident, he said, of his safe return.
After all, he had been preparing for the voyage for years, making many Atlantic crossings, several without instruments, in the decades before.

He had been dreaming of the journey for far longer than that.
Stargazer From the Start

The third of four children of Sereno Todd Creamer and Grace (Parvin) Creamer, Marvin Charles Creamer was born on Jan.
24, 1916, on a farm near Vineland, N.J., about 50 miles south of Philadelphia.
His father grew potatoes and peppers but had by the mid-1920s, with a downturn in the produce market, become a carpenter and machinist.

From his earliest boyhood Marvin was transfixed by the stars and grew fascinated with the idea that once, long ago, mariners had steered by them.
By the time he was a teenager, fishing in small outboards on the Atlantic, he knew he would one day cross an ocean under sail.

“Once I got out there, I started wondering how the ancients did it,” Professor Creamer told The Times in 1980.

After graduating from Vineland High School at 16, he spent years doing what odd jobs he could, including selling life insurance, making concrete vaults for cemeteries and repairing car engines.
The last of these, at least, would stand him in good stead as a mariner.

“It was interesting how many of the things I did to keep alive in the Depression kept me afloat when I was at sea,” Professor Creamer, then 101, said in an interview for this obituary in 2017.

In 1943, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro, as Glassboro State was then known.
After working as a schoolteacher and principal in Alloway Township, N.J., he earned a master’s in educational administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

But his first love had always been geography.

“It is almost an obligation to know the planet one lives on,” Professor Creamer told The Daily Journal of Vineland in 2013.
“How awful to die and never know what’s over the hill.”

He earned a master’s in geography from the University of Wisconsin, followed by doctoral-level coursework in the field there.
A member of the Glassboro faculty since 1948, he helped found its geography department.

Professor Creamer arrived home in New Jersey to great fanfare after completing his round-the-world voyage in May 1984.
Credit...Rowan University

Professor Creamer had been an avid sailor since 1930s.
But it was not until the 1970s that he determined that sailing round the world without instruments would be possible.

“In 1974, I was on my way back from the Azores, headed for Cape May,” he recalled in 2017.
“There were two things that happened.
One is that the compass light, out in the saltwater spray, began to fail every single night.
Now, when you’re sailing without a compass light at night, you’re sailing without a compass.
The other thing was, we brushed through the side of a hurricane, and the heavy seas wrecked our self-steering gear.”

He completed that voyage anyway, steering by the stars.
And if it was possible to navigate without instruments by night, he reasoned, perhaps it was possible to do so by day.

“By the time I got back to shore two and a half weeks later, I had figured out that daytime steering was no problem at all,” he said.
“We would use the wind as a reference; we would use the waves as a reference.”

The prospect of doing so on a round-the-world journey would consume him for the next decade, despite a flood tide of naysayers.

“I talked to the Rotary Club in Woodbury, N.J., before I left: one of those luncheon things,” Professor Creamer said.
“And one of the members said, ‘Professor’ — it’s always ‘Professor’ when they’re poking you in the chest with their finger — ‘What do you think your chances are?’ And I said, ‘About 95 percent,’ and the whole room burst into laughter.”

He began training for the voyage in earnest after retiring from academia in 1977.
The next year, he sailed his 30-foot ketch, Scotia, from Ireland to Cape May without instruments.
Two years later, aboard the 39-foot cutter Navstar, he sailed from Dakar, Senegal, to New Jersey via the Cape Verde Islands and Bermuda, again with no instruments.

On Dec. 21, 1982, he sailed the Globe Star down the Delaware River toward Cape May and the first leg of his round-the-world voyage.

“When I had finally figured out that I could do it, it was far easier to go than to stay home and not try it,” Professor Creamer said.
“People talk to me about courage.
I don’t know anything about courage.
All I knew was I just had to go out there and try it.”

Partying in Tasmania

He carried ample provisions, including tinned meat and eggs coated in Vaseline to keep them fresh.
As a condition laid down by Mrs.
Creamer, he also carried a sextant, clock, compass and radio.
Those instruments, however, were kept in a sealed locker below deck, to be opened only in an emergency.
It never was.

It must be reported that Professor Creamer did have an hourglass on deck.
Its only function was to tell crew members keeping watch when to change shifts.

On March 30, 1983, the Globe Star arrived in Cape Town, where Professor Creamer found 22 letters from his wife waiting.

On Aug. 12, they arrived in Hobart, in Tasmania.
There, local fisherman were so awed by the crew’s achievements that they held six parties for them inside of a week — every week.
Professor Creamer and his mates stayed for six weeks and 36 parties.

On Dec. 13, a day of no visibility, the crew rounded Cape Horn without being sure that they had done so.
The next day’s entry in the ship’s log offers a masterly demonstration of how they worked out the fact:

“It is believed that we rounded the Horn at noon yesterday and have amended our longitude accordingly.
We were not able to sight any landmarks so have based our conclusion on (1) the presence of an extremely cold north wind of relatively short duration, and (2) the change of water color from blue to a fairly dark, transparent green to a lighter, less transparent green and back to a quite dark transparent green as we proceeded from west to east at an estimated latitude of 56°55’.”

On Dec. 22, working their way up the eastern edge of South America, the crew made port in the Falklands and were promptly arrested.
The islands were still on alert from the war there between Britain and Argentina the year before, and without realizing it, Professor Creamer had made landfall in a clandestine British military base.

He soon got things sorted, and was sent on his way with food, supplies and astonished good wishes from the Royal Air Force.

In some ways the most challenging times of all, Professor Creamer said, were the long, irritating stretches of calm, with neither wind nor waves to impart direction.

On one occasion they sat, becalmed, bothered and bewildered, until his geographer’s ears came to their aid.
As the wind started up again, a crew member happened to open a hatch.
It emitted a loud squeak.

That sound told Professor Creamer unequivocally in which direction the boat was facing: Only dry air from the Antarctic, he knew, would have caused it.
Moist air from the opposite direction would have lubricated the hatch, yielding a more congenial noise.

Professor Creamer taught geography for many years at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, in New Jersey, where a public art monument commemorates his historic voyage.
Credit...Rowan University

Through it all, he said in 2017, there was never a time when he thought they were done for.

“I had a cousin who married an undertaker whose name was Frank,” he said.
“And I used to say, when things got rough in the middle of the Indian Ocean: ‘Not yet, Frank! You’re not going to get me yet!’”

On May 13, 1984, as the Globe Star negotiated the Atlantic, the crew received a visit from a housefly.
They recognized it at once as a humble emissary from land.
Sure enough, they arrived back at Cape May four days later.

A longtime resident of Glassboro, Professor Creamer lived most recently in Raleigh, N.C.
His death, at a hospital there, was confirmed by his son, Kurt.
No cause was given, but the family said the death was not related to Covid-19.

Professor Creamer married Blanche Layton in 1946.
She died in 2005.
He married Elaine Gillam in 2010.
In addition to his son, his wife survives him, along with two daughters, Andra Creamer Hohler James and Lynn Creamer Borstelmann; a sister, Evelyn Creamer Daniels; eight grandchildren and step-grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

His many maritime awards include the Blue Water Medal, considered sailing’s highest honor, from the Cruising Club of America.

Professor Creamer continued sailing well into his 90s.
In later years, he owned a boat that came equipped with global positioning technology.

He did not know how to use the technology, he said, and had no intention of learning.

Links :

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

US (NOAA) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

14 nautical raster charts updated

The role of autonomous ships in a world wary of pandemics

Image Credit: Alejandra Sarmiento / VentureBeat

From Venture Beat by Paul Sawers

COVID-19 is accelerating technological advances across just about every industry, from robotic baristas that promote social distancing to AI and remote collaboration tools that help manual laborers get back to work.
The pandemic has had a direct impact on the transport realm, with social distancing measures calling traditional modes of travel into question.
Demand for ride-hailing services quickly plummeted with the advent of the pandemic, leading Uber to double down on food delivery and micromobility, while drone deliveries soared.
And while autonomous vehicle companies have faced significant obstacles to real-world testing, early signs suggest the crisis could hasten the adoption of driverless vehicles.

But automobiles, trucks, and drones are only part of the autonomous transport picture.
Ships and other seafaring vessels play a huge role in the global economy.
As lockdowns ease and the world adapts to a new paradigm, maritime automation could gain significant traction.

Not shipshape

According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), maritime vessels constitute around 90% of all international trade — making them, as ICS puts it, the “lifeblood” of the global economy.
But boats are also floating petri dishes.

In The Geography of Transport Systems (2020), Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue and coauthors drew correlations between transportation and pandemics, with specific reference to the Spanish Flu.
They highlighted one of the key reasons 100 million people died and 30% of the world’s population became ill:
One important factor why the Spanish Flu spread so quickly and so extensively was through modern transportation, which at the beginning of the 20th century offered global coverage.
The virus was spread around the world by infected crews and passengers of ships and trains, and severe epidemics occurred in shipyards and railway personnel.
In short, transportation plays a pivotal role in the spread of viruses, which is why airlines, trains, subways, taxi services, and boats saw such huge drops in usage following outbreaks of COVID-19.

Cargo and passenger ships around the world have been turned away from ports by local authorities, with as many as 300,000 merchant sailors stranded at sea for months, far beyond their contractual agreements.
In April, ICS and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued a joint call demanding governments “take urgent measures” to facilitate crew change flights.

While the implementation of autonomous technology is not yet widespread enough to turn the tide on COVID-19, many are already looking to the future.
And companies that have been working to bring automation to the shipping industry are now poised to enter a world wary of pandemics.


Tel Aviv-based Orca AI is developing a collision avoidance system that is currently being piloted by a number of shipping companies globally, CEO and cofounder Yarden Gross told VentureBeat.
The company applies its algorithms to data extracted from multiple sensors installed on a vessel, including thermal and low-light cameras, to detect and measure the distance to other vessels and objects in the water.
“We then provide [a] risk assessment of any detected object and vessel to enable the crew to be more aware of potentially dangerous situations,” Gross said.

Above: Orca AI

While radar and other systems have long been used at sea, they may require constant monitoring and can’t always alert crews to a hazard or issue actionable recommendations.
This problem becomes particularly pronounced when multiple vessels or obstacles are in close proximity.
Throw into the mix crowded or narrow waterways and low-light conditions and it’s easy to see why at least three-quarters of maritime accidents are caused by human error, at least according to liability claims data.

Orca AI is banking on technology to turn the tide.
“The shipping industry is one of the most conservative industries in the world, and the pandemic is creating an increased demand for digital tools, automation, and connectivity, in order to reduce the number of people involved in the whole process,” Gross said.

Above: Orca AI’s collision avoidance system at work

The transition to fully autonomous ships will take time, particularly for large vessels that travel thousands of miles between continents.
This shift could mirror the evolution of autonomous cars and trucks, beginning with semi-autonomous technologies, such as collision avoidance systems, and initially focusing on narrow use cases on predefined routes.

The vast majority of maritime accidents happen in ports, straits, and canals, which is where Orca AI is currently focused.
“This is where the existing equipment is lacking in efficiency and accuracy,” Gross said.
“Today, systems don’t take full control over vessels, but gradually there will be more autonomous capabilities.
It will be similar to aviation, where there is still a pilot, but most of the time the computer is controlling the plane and the pilot is supervising and doing other tasks.
In autonomous shipping, there will still be a crew, but there will be more and more tasks done autonomously.”

“Marine pilotage” is a term for specially trained mariners who board ships near the port to guide them through domestic waterways, often providing local knowledge of water-based thoroughfares that the captain doesn’t have.
This task is sometimes carried out “remotely,” particularly during adverse weather conditions, with pilots on smaller boats guiding a big ship to safety or offering instructions from a control center.
However, the COVID-19 crisis could be expediting such efforts, as a number of ports have been forced to embrace remote pilotage for ships or crew arriving from high-risk countries.

In late March, the Italian cruise ship Costa Diadema reported 65 cases of COVID-19 on board.
To pass through the Suez Canal without a pilot physically boarding the ship, a team on tug boats maneuvered it using radar and information from monitoring stations along the route.
Similarly, a U.K. fishing port in April introduced remote pilotage for vessels entering its harbor.

While remote pilotage might not entirely replace traditional methods, technology can make the work more efficient and safe.
Orca AI promises to help pilots do their work remotely by “streaming the data from the cameras and other sensors back to shore in real time,” Gross said.
“Orca is in discussion with a few ports regarding this.”

Going local

Norwegian chemical company Yara International and technology group Kongsberg have been working on the Yara Birkeland Autonomous Ship Project since 2017, with plans to put an electric, autonomous container ship into service.
This effort would span three ports and 12 nautical miles in southern Norway.

Above: Yara Birkeland’s proposed route in southern Norway

Above: Yara Birkeland

The ship, which sports various sensors, including radar, lidar, and infrared cameras, has an automatic mooring system — berthing and unberthing will be done without any human intervention.
Along the route, operation centers will be equipped to handle emergency situations remotely and support the onboard AI’s decision-making.

Above: Kongsberg’s operational control center for the Yara Birkeland

The Yara Birkeland will have a crew initially, and the transition to full autonomy will be done in stages, thanks in part to the development of a detachable bridge (command center).

“Even before the vessel starts its operation, there will be a level of automated capabilities for maneuvering, positioning, moorings, and supporting the crew,” An-Magritt Tinlund Ryste, product director for next-generation shipping at Kongsberg, told VentureBeat.
“We foresee that we will be required to implement new autonomous functionality gradually to verify the performance in real-life operational scenarios before we arrive at the final stages where the vessel, the connectivity solution, and the remote operation center are sufficiently tested to allow for unmanned operation.”

While the Yara Birkeland was scheduled to transition to full automation by 2022, the COVID-19 crisis has forced developers to “pause” work on the project.
Such setbacks are not ideal, but Ryste suggested the pandemic could accelerate the broader autonomous ship movement, as “ship owners and operators have an increased incentive to invest in new technology for the future, with a focus on support and surveillance from land.”

The Yara Birkeland represents part of Kongsberg’s wider effort to bring more autonomy to seafaring vessels.
The company has already developed and demonstrated autocrossing and autodocking technology, and the first “adaptive transit” passenger ferry service traveled from dock to dock earlier this year.
This was done through a collaboration between the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), shipping company Bastø Fosen, and Kongsberg.
The launch kick-started a six-month trial, during which Kongsberg’s system controlled the ferry’s journey from start to finish, with a captain overseeing the trip from inside the bridge.
The next step is to install an anti-collision system, and tests are scheduled for later this year.

Kongsberg partnered in 2018 with maritime industry group Wilhelmsen to launch a joint venture called Massterly, designing land-based operation centers to monitor and control autonomous ships in Norway and further afield.
This echoes what we’re seeing in the broader autonomous vehicle realm.
Sweden’s Einride recently showcased remote driving stations where teleoperators — many of them former truck drivers — can take control of Einride’s autonomous trucks when required, with an operator able to control multiple vehicles from a single station.

Above: Einride operators will be able to control multiple autonomous trucks from a single remote station

Einride demonstrates that while some jobs will be lost to AI and automation, new ones will be created.
For autonomous shipping, this could mean new roles for staff overseeing ships remotely.
This shift will also expand the talent pool to include people in new locations.

“Remote services are here to stay,” Ryste continued.
“We see it working well for people working from home, and with more sensors and connected vessels, the need for having a service engineer on board also decreases.
This gives you access to an expert in a time zone convenient for the vessel crew.”

The pandemic will likely accelerate efforts to incorporate autonomous technology in shipping.
“I think that what has happened during the COVID-19 crisis will strengthen the argument for the push toward autonomous ships,” Kongsberg research and innovation manager Jason McFarlane told VentureBeat.
“In particular, in relation to the restriction of people’s movement and the challenges with crew changes.
Autonomous shipping, especially for unmanned vessels, should allow freight and cargo to be transported internationally and across borders without being affected by restrictions on people’s movement.”

We’ve already seen similar activity in other industries — from the passage of laws to updated corporate work-from-home policies and the adoption of new technologies.
In the shipping industry, as with others, such changes could open the door to a more permanent shift.

“The focus has changed, and we see that even if restrictions are lifted temporarily, opening up for testing new solutions might just become a permanent solution as we adapt to new methods or technology,” Ryste added.

Research in motion

Later this year, IBM and Promare — a U.K.-based marine research and exploration organization — are scheduled to send a crewless ship across the Atlantic Ocean on the route the original Mayflower traveled exactly 400 years ago.

Above: Mayflower Autonomous Ship route map

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is propelled by a combination of solar- and wind-generated power, with a diesel generator on board as backup.
It also sports an onboard “AI Captain” and will leverage edge computing for its AI and navigational smarts.
All the data processing must be available on the ship because a vessel in the middle of the ocean can’t rely on satellites or cloud connectivity.

The team behind the new Mayflower has trained the ship’s AI models using millions of maritime images collected from cameras in the Plymouth Sound, among other open source data sets.
The Mayflower’s AI Captain is built to detect and identify ships and buoys — as well as other hazards — and to make decisions about what to do next.
An onboard automatic identification system (AIS) can also access specific information about any vessels ahead, including their class, weight, speed, and cargo type, while the AI Captain can accept and interpret radio broadcast warnings from a cargo ship.

Above: The Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s AI Captain in operation

This mission is mostly about showcasing how an autonomous research vessel can manage on its own for two weeks at sea, but it sets the stage for further use cases, from defense and commercial shipping to marine insurance.

“Right now, we are focused on increasing the reliability of our autonomous systems and developing an ecosystem of partners — from IBM to equipment manufacturers to telecoms providers to insurance providers — to figure out how to commercially deploy the systems we have on [the] Mayflower,” Mayflower Autonomous Ship director Brett Phaneuf said.
“What we are doing here is very much a research project for something much bigger than this one ship.”

AI and autonomy could certainly provide utility beyond cargo vessels.
Research ships may spend weeks or months at sea collecting data about the ocean, and removing crews would facilitate longer missions by taking food storage and personal well-being out of the equation.
In terms of the COVID-19 crisis, more automation could mean fewer people on board, which should help with social distancing efforts.

“We are already seeing the early examples of autonomous ferries, cargo ships, and research vessels like the Mayflower Autonomous Ship,” Phaneuf continued.
“But perhaps the greater, more immediate need for autonomy is on manned vessels.
This may sound counterintuitive, but there is an important role for autonomous systems on the manned ships of today, acting as a cocaptain, maintaining situational awareness, [and] providing recommendations and decision support to the human crew.”

We’re talking about “augmented intelligence,” as Phaneuf puts it, with machines helping people accomplish core tasks and reduce risks.

“A trusted autonomous system can reduce the stress on the bridge by consistently monitoring the overall navigational situation of the vessel,” Phaneuf added.
“This will allow humans to get their heads up and out of the computer screens and instead looking out the window and doing what humans do best — making complex decisions swiftly and accurately.”

It might not make sense for certain types of vessels to become completely autonomous, whether for logistical, regulatory, or financial reasons.
“This is not likely to be a zero-sum game, but more of a hybrid approach,” Phaneuf continued.
“For example, it may not make sense to replace the whole crew of a container ship with a fully autonomous system because the cost of the crew actually represents very little in the overall value of the ship and its cargo.
As such, there may not be an economic driver for this level of change.
However, there are other factors to take into consideration — such as the well-being of the crew and equipping people with the skills they need for the shipping industry jobs of the future.”

The future of autonomous shipping

Many newer ships are already highly automated, at least in terms of being able to passively gather performance metrics for remote analysis, and technology can also enable diagnostics and repairs from afar.
But the pandemic has highlighted the role automation can play.

Global trade today relies on ships and crews traversing vast oceans, and fully autonomous cargo vessels that can cover these distances are likely still a long way off, if they ever arrive.
Barriers include technological and regulatory constraints, not to mention practical obstacles, such as the need to carry out maintenance on longer voyages.
Domestic journeys are a natural starting point for autonomous ships because they don’t require international cooperation, and a vessel that remains relatively close to shore — such as the Yara Birkeland on its proposed route in southern Norway — can adhere to safety standards with on-shore personnel able to physically (or remotely) intervene in an emergency.

“From a regulatory perspective, the challenge (with longer, international automated routes) lies within the fact that the IMO (International Maritime Organization) does not have a common and internationally acknowledged way of granting approval [for] such vessels as the Yara Birkeland,” Ryste said.
“This means there is a likelihood of encountering varying rules and regulations between flag states and port authorities.
This is manageable for point-to-point operation but will be a too-demanding administrative task when more parties are involved — at least, at the moment.”

As COVID-19 shifts global structures and accelerates innovation, we’re already seeing how autonomous tools could help ships continue operating through future pandemics.
And while some jobs will likely be lost as automation takes hold, technology is unlikely to replace humans across the board.

“For decades, autonomous systems have been used to assist humans in dangerous work, such as clearing up after accidents or dealing with highly dangerous substances or infectious diseases,” Phaneuf noted.
As autonomous systems improve, their role “will likely increase, but [it] will need to be part of a larger, interconnected network of manned, unmanned, automated, and autonomous systems on water, in air, and on land.”

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Long Blue Line: How 80 Coast guardsmen saved an Alaskan town during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919

 Coast guard-manned USS Unalga underway in an Alaskan ice field. (NOAA)

From CoastGuard blog by BM1 William A. Bleyer, United States Coast Guard
Occasion sometimes aris in which the officers and crews are called upon to face situations of desperate human need which put their resourcefulness and energy, and even their courage, to the severest test.
“The Influenza at Unalaska and Dutch Harbor,” U.S. Coast Guard Annual Report, 1920

As the testament above indicates, The Coast Guard’s response to the Spanish Flu Pandemic in Alaska would prove the ultimate test of bravery and endurance.

Pandemic, quarantines, social distancing and facemasks–too familiar today.
These terms resonated with equal disquiet for Americans 100 years ago as the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 affected nearly every corner of the globe.
It caused the deaths of between 25 and 50 million people, more than all who died in World War I.
Even in regions with the most advanced medical care, Spanish Influenza killed approximately three percent of all victims.

Crew members of Unalga burying the dead at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. (NOAA)

Medical care in the remote territory of Alaska was far from advanced.
When the pandemic arrived in the spring of 1919, it wiped out entire villages.
At the time, Alaska was “an American colony [which] occupied a political status somewhere between a government protectorate and an industrial resource”1 and the presence of Federal Government assets in this immense territory was minimal.

In late May 1919, USS Unalga was patrolling in Seredka Bay off Akun Island, in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain.
World War I had ended just six months prior, so – like all Coast Guard-manned cutters – Unalga and its crew still served as part of the U.S. Navy.
At 190 feet, the Unalga’s white hull was only somewhat longer than modern Fast Response Cutters patrolling Alaska’s waters today.
And while Unalga’s daily operations were fundamentally similar to today’s FRCs, they were much broader.
An Alaskan patrol in 1919 could consist of law enforcement boardings of fishing and sealing vessels; inspecting canneries; transporting mail, supplies, passengers, and prisoners; rescuing shipwrecked or stranded victims; rendering medical care; acting as a floating court; and resolving labor disputes.

On May 26th, Unalga was resting at anchor following a routine day of seamanship and signals training.
At around 4 p.m., an urgent radio message arrived.
The settlement of Unalaska on nearby Unalaska Island was suffering from a severe outbreak of Spanish Influenza.
The cutter’s commanding officer, Capt. Frederick Dodge, prepared to get the Unalga underway at dawn.

Members of Unalga’s crew shepherding orphan children to safety.

That night, Unalga received another radiogram–the region around Bristol Bay, on Alaska’s southwestern mainland, needed urgent help to cope with its own outbreak.
Dodge faced a dilemma: the Unalga could not be in two places at once.
He radioed his command that he was setting a course for the closer Unalaska to assess the situation.

Remote even today, in 1919 Unalaska and adjacent Dutch Harbor were tiny villages with a combined population of about 360 people, mostly of Aleut or mixed Russian-native ancestry.
There was only one doctor on the entire island.

After arriving, Unalga’s crew disembarked to a horrific scene.
Nearly the entire settlement was infected, including the only doctor and all but one operator at Dutch Harbor’s Navy radio station.
The situation was critical as historian Alfred Crosby noted in America’s Forgotten Pandemic:
very large proportions of isolated populations tended to contract Spanish Influenza all at once.
The sick outnumbered those doing the nursing.
The sick, therefore, lacked fluids, food, and proper care, which caused very high death rates… effective leadership was vital to keeping death rates down.
If complacency, incompetence, sickness, or bad luck crippled the ability of the leaders to react efficiently to the pandemic, then Spanish Influenza could be as deadly as the Black Death.
A building commandeered by Unalga’s commanding officer, Captain Frederick Dodge, and named “USS UNALGA ORPHAN HOME.” (NOAA)

It now fell to the men of the Unalga to provide lifesaving leadership and medical care.

Out of the Unalga’s crew of approximately 80 men, only three had medical training: Ship’s Surgeon Lt. j.g. Dr. F.H. Johnson (U.S. Public Health Service), Lt. E.W. Scott (U.S. Navy Dental Corps), and Pharmacist’s Mate 1/class E.S. Chase.
These men began coordinating the town’s medical care.
Together, they assembled a group of volunteers from the crew that kept growing until it included personnel drawn from every department on board the cutter.

From May 26th to June 4th, Unalga proved the difference between life and death for the inhabitants of Unalaska.
Captain Dodge initiated feeding the town using Unalga’s food stores.
Crewmembers delivered 350 prepared meals on the first day and, by the height of the pandemic, they were delivering more than 1,000 meals per day.
Villagers ranked the ship’s emergency rations somewhere between awful and lousy, but they ate them.

Orphans and a caretaker at the Unalga Orphan Home.

Every crewmember engaged in some aspect of relief work.
Nicknamed “gobs,” those not caring for the sick provided logistical support, such as keeping fires for incapacitated villagers or helping prepare or deliver food.
Other crewmen took over operation of the Navy radio station in Dutch Harbor.
The men even built a temporary hospital outfitted with plumbing and electrified by the cutter’s generator.

Caring for the sick and burying the dead was an exhausting and emotionally challenging job.
Death by “The Spanish Lady” (the disease’s elegantly macabre nickname) was often horrific.
Victims frequently suffered from double pneumonia and drowned when their lungs filled with fluid, some of it oozing out of their noses and mouths when they died.
The crewmembers nursed the sick with no protective equipment except cloth facemasks, exposing themselves to infection.
Several men became ill, including Dodge.
He determined he was well enough to remain in command and later recovered.
While Unalga’s crew did their best to save lives, they ultimately had to inter 45 victims beneath white Russian Orthodox crosses in Unalaska’s cemetery.

Unalga’s crew wearing “Flu” masks.
All the cutter’s crew members involved in the humanitarian effort volunteered to help.

Unalga’s crew also cared for the children of the deceased or incapacitated.
Unlike seasonal flu, Spanish Influenza acutely affected young adults, probably because it provoked an overreaction in the victims’ immune system.
This had the tragic effect of creating a number of orphans.
Even if not infected, these children were vulnerable to starvation, freezing, or attack by feral dogs, described by Unalga’s men as similar to ravenous wolves.
Unalaska had its own orphanage, the Jesse Lee Home, but when that filled up, a vacant house was requisitioned and named the “USS UNALGA Orphan Home.”
When that also filled, Dodge started housing children in the town jail under the care of the town marshal.
Among these orphans was Benny Benson, who later designed the state flag of Alaska.

Unalga’s Master-at-Arms, Peter “Big Pete” Bugaras volunteered to care for the orphans.
An enlisted man responsible for enforcing ship’s discipline and handling prisoners, Bugaras had a reputation as “the strongest man in the Coast Guard Service,” and was described as “Greek by birth, a born fighter of men, and protector of all things helpless and small.” Burly and big-hearted, Bugaras took responsibility for running the UNALGA Orphan Home.
He had his men fashion clothes for the children by tracing outlines of their bodies on bolts of cloth and cutting them out.
Several women in the village were appalled to see Bugaras enthusiastically scrubbing children clean with the same vigor he used on dogs, but by all accounts the little ones loved him.

Outside help finally arrived on June 3rd, when Coast Guard Cutter Bear dropped anchor.
Under the combined effort of the two cutter crews, many of the surviving victims began to recover and the pandemic subsided.
Navy vessels also arrived.
In the words of Unalga officer Eugene Coffin: “Navy ships and nurses were sent to Unalaska after we yelled for them.” With the arrival of warships USS Vicksburg and USS Marblehead in mid-June, Dodge resupplied the Unalga to set sail for Bristol Bay.
Unalaska’s last death occurred June 13th and with its departure on June 17th, the Unalga’s relief of Unalaska officially ended.

Unalga men burying the dead at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Unalaska.

The Unalga’s care of Unalaska’s inhabitants had been somewhat rough-hewn but effective.
During the cutter’s relief effort, the local mortality rate had hovered around 12 percent, while other areas in Alaska experienced up to 90 percent.

The Coast Guardsmen of the Unalga were far from saints, but for years later the inhabitants of Unalaska remembered them as saviors.
In July 1919, Unalaska’s Russian Orthodox priest, Dimitri Hotovitzky, and Aleut Chief, Alexei Yatchmeneff, co-wrote a letter to Dodge stating “We feel had it not been for the prompt and efficient work of the Unalga, when everyone willingly and readily exposed himself to succor the sick, Unalaska’s population might have been reduced to a very small number if not entirely wiped out.”

While Unalga’s performance at Unalaska drew universal acclaim, the cutter and USS Marblehead were criticized for arriving in the Bristol Bay region too late to make a difference.
As the disease had largely run its course, Unalga’s crew worked with the Marblehead’s Navy personnel to provide for the remaining medical care and relief work in the community.
When the pandemic finally released Alaska from its grip, nearly 3,000 inhabitants had died.
Nearly all of the dead were Native Alaskans, an irreparable loss to the indigenous community and its culture.

Unalga’s officers, including: Standing: Lieutenant Junior Grade Willie B. Huebner USNRF; Captain Eugene Auguste Coffin USCG; Captain Warner Keith Thompson USCG; Captain Theodore Graham Lewton USCG; Lieutenant E. W. Scott USNRF (Dental Corps); Lieutenant Junior Grade Dr. F. H.
Johnson USPHS.
Sitting: Lieutenant Carl E. Anderson USNRF; Senior Captain Frederick Gilbert Dodge USCG; Lieutenant Gordon Whiting MacLane USCG.

Every pandemic and its tragedies are unique, but in the Coast Guard’s response today we can hear echoes of 1919, when the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Unalga quarantined and rendered pandemic relief to the remote Alaskan settlement of Unalaska.
Cutter Unalga and the men who sailed aboard it made history as part of the lore of Alaska and the long blue line.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Greenland's melting ice sheet has 'passed the point of no return,' scientists say, dooming it to disappear

Ice melted during a heat wave in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019.
Caspar Haarloev from "Into the Ice" documentary via Reuters

From BusinessInsider by Morgan McFall-Johnsen

Rising temperatures have driven Greenland's glaciers past a critical tipping point, where snowfall can no longer replenish melting ice.

  • Greenland's ice sheet may have passed a point of no return, setting it on an irreversible path to disappearance, according to researchers at Ohio State University.
  • Snowfall can no longer replenish the ice lost as Greenland's glaciers retreat, so it will keep melting and cause catastrophic sea-level rise, even if global temperatures stop rising.
  • The climate crisis could bring about other tipping points in the Arctic and the Amazon, but there may still be time to avoid those.
Greenland's ice sheet may have hit a tipping point that sets it on an irreversible path to completely disappearing.

Snowfall that normally replenishes Greenland's glaciers each year can no longer keep up with the pace of ice melt, according to researchers at Ohio State University.
That means that the Greenland ice sheet — the world's second-largest ice body — would continue to lose ice even if global temperatures stop rising.

 The Brückner and Heim glaciers in southeast Greenland.
Greenland is the second largest ice cap in the world after the Antarctic.
Jeremy Harbeck / NASA / AFP

 Heim glacier in the GeoGarage platform (DGA Denmark nautical arster chart)

In their study, published Thursday in the journal Nature, the scientists reviewed 40 years of monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers that are draining into the ocean across Greenland.

"What we've found is that the ice that's discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that's accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet," Michalea King, the study's lead author and researcher at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a press release.

Complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels 23 feet by the year 3000.
If that happens, the ocean would swallow coastal cities across the globe.
Greenland's ice is already the world's largest single contributor to sea-level rise.
In just the next 80 years, its current melt rate would add another 2.75 inches to global sea levels, according to a study published in December.

Satellite image shows meltwater ponding on the surface of the ice sheet in northwest Greenland near the sheet’s edge on Monday, July 30, 2019.
While the heat wave broke in Western Europe after a few days, extreme temperatures shifted north and caused massive ice melts in Greenland and the Arctic.NASA via Associated Press

"Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss," Ian Howat, a glaciologist and co-author on the paper, said in the release.
"Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass."

But this is just one of many climate-change tipping points that human activity might bring about.
There is still time to avoid irreversible pathways to other calamities.

There are more points of no return

The amount of ice Greenland loses each year has steadily increased in the last two decades.
Before 2000, the researchers found, the ice sheet had an equal chance of gaining or losing mass each year.
But in the climate of the last 20 years, it will only gain mass one in every 100 years, the researchers found.

Greenland dumped an unprecedented amount of ice and water into the ocean during the summer of 2019, when a heat wave from Europe washed over the island.
The ice sheet lost 55 billion tons of water over five days — enough to cover the state of Florida in almost five inches of water.

Ice melt formed whitewaters in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 1, 2019. 
Caspar Haarloev from "Into the Ice" documentary via Reuters

Melt brings about more melt, as water pooling across the ice sheet absorbs more sunlight and further heats everything around it.
That's why tipping points like Greenland's accelerate ice loss so much.

Rising global temperatures and certain human activities can bring about tipping points in other parts of the world, too.

In the Arctic, ice melt is exposing permafrost — frozen soil that releases powerful greenhouse gases when it thaws.
If warming thaws enough permafrost, the gases released will trap heat faster than humans' fossil-fuel emissions.

In the Amazon rainforest, humans have been cutting and burning trees for years, allowing moisture to escape the ecosystem.
Enough deforestation could trigger a process called "dieback," in which the rainforest would dry up, burn, and become a savanna-like landscape, releasing up to 140 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
Last year, leading rainforest scientists warned that the Amazon is "teetering on the edge" of that threshold.

  In this aerial view melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland.

Still, scientists say that switching to less carbon-intensive forms of energy, like solar power, and reducing unsustainable logging and mining can help us avoid those disasters.

Even for the Greenland ice sheet, the future holds more tipping points — degrees of collapse that will accelerate the glaciers' melt even more.
Limiting global warming could delay those tipping points and give the world more time to prepare.

"We've passed the point of no return, but there's obviously more to come," Howat told CNN.
"Rather than being a single tipping point in which we've gone from a happy ice sheet to a rapidly collapsing ice sheet, it's more of a staircase where we've fallen off the first step but there's many more steps to go down into the pit."

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Sunday, August 16, 2020