Saturday, April 3, 2021

Seaspiracy: Marine organisations and experts react to hit Netflix documentary

Seaspiracy examines the global fishing industry, challenging notions of sustainable fishing and showing how human actions cause widespread environmental destruction.
From The Independant by Kate NG

Groups point to ‘inaccuracies’ in film and reject allegations of animal welfare abuse

Seaspiracy, a documentary exposing the impact of pollution and over-fishing on marine life released on Netflix this week, has drawn criticism from marine organisations and experts all over the world.
The film, directed and presented by 27-year-old filmmakerAli Tabrizi, challenges the idea of sustainable mass fishing and alleges that commercial fishing industries are guilty of animal welfare abuses.

But some scientists and marine conservation groups have pointed out that the documentary contains “inaccuracies” and accused it of being “misleading”.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which assesses and grants certification to sustainable fisheries, responded to claims in the documentary that alleged sustainable fishing is not possible.
“This is wrong. One of the amazing things about our oceans is that fish stocks can recover and replenish if they are managed carefully for the long-term,” said the council.

“Examples of there this has happened and stocks have come back from the brink include the Patagonian tooth fish in the Southern Oceans or the recovery of Namibian hake, after years of overfishing by foreign fleets, of the increase in some of our major tuna stocks globally.
“What is even more amazing, is that if we take care of our fish stocks - they take care of us. Research shows that fish stocks that are well-managed and sustainable, are also more productive in the long-term, meaning there is more seafood for our growing global population, which is set to reach 10 billion by 2050.”

The group also responded to allegation that MSC certification is “not credible”, saying the process is “independent of us and carried out by expert assessment bodies” and can be viewed online at Track a Fishery.

“Contrary to what the filmmakers say, certification is not an easy process, and some fisheries spend many years improving their practices in order to reach our standard. In fact, our analysis shows that the vast majority of fisheries that carry out pre-assessments against our criteria, do not meet these and need to make significant improvements to gain certification.”

Scottish salmon farmers have also rejected allegations made by the film, which claimed that 50 per cent of farmed salmon die from disease and infection before they are harvested.

Mr Tabrizi took secret footage on a salmon farm in Loch Linnhe alongside anti-fish farming activist Don Staniford, where they find a tanker filled with dead fish that Mr Staniford described as evidence of welfare abuse.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said: “While this film raises some very important issues, the allegations made against salmon farming in Scotland are wrong, misleading and inaccurate.
“Contrary to their claim, the filmmakers have no reached out to, or actively engaged with, our sector. Aquaculture is a key part of the answer, not the problem, with regards to concerns over wild fish stocks.”
The Plastic Pollution Coalition, who featured in the film, accused Mr Tabrizi of bullying staff and said the filmmakers “cherry-picked seconds of our comments to support their own narrative”.

Some experts said that while Seaspiracy carries an important message, it is lost amid “staged” scenes and out-of-context interviews.

Bryce Stewart, marine ecologist and fisheries biologist who lectures at the University of York, said in a Twitter thread: “Does [Seaspiracy] highlight a number of shocking and important issues? Absolutely. But is it misleading at the same time? Yes, from the first few minutes onwards.
“It regularly exaggerates and makes links where there aren’t any. Many of the scenes were clearly staged and I know at least one of the interviewees was taken out of context.
“Other ‘set ups’ made no sense - how can the marine life off the west coast of Africa be so abundant and so overfished (a real issue there) at the same time?
“This is the worst kind of journalism. People will either believe it and completely overreact, or find it so easy to discredit some of the statements that the real issues get downgraded or disbelieved. In that way I feel this film does more harm than good.
“On the flip side, it was good to highlight misconceptions about issues like the threat of plastic straws relative to many other factors. But where was climate change? I must have blinked and missed that. Please can we see a much more scientific and balanced film next time.”

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Friday, April 2, 2021

What’s good for the ocean may also be good for business

Credit...James Yang

From NYTimes by Tatiana Schlossberg

Companies are trying to prove that conservation, sustainable fishing and carbon sequestration are profitable.

Marty Odlin, who grew up and lives on the Maine coast, remembers what the ocean used to be like. But now, he said, “It’s like a desert and just within my lifetime.”
In the last few years, he said, he has seen lots of sea grass and many other species virtually disappear from the shoreline.

Mr. Odlin, 39, comes from a fishing family and has a passion for the history of the ocean and the coast, both of which have informed his sense of the ocean’s decline, a small part of the catastrophic deletion of marine life over the last several hundred years.

Using his training as an engineer, Mr. Odlin has decided to try to reverse that decline with his company, Running Tide, which is based in Portland.
Using a combination of robotics, sensors and machine learning, he is building an aquaculture operation that is selling oysters now and eventually clams.
He is also using that system to grow kelp, with the goal of producing enough of this seaweed to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently sequester it by burying it on the ocean floor, and sell carbon offsets.

The company also plans to seed oyster reefs and clam beds along the shoreline, and restore kelp forests and sea grass, to help the coastal ecosystem by bringing back biodiversity and improving water quality, among other benefits.

Oysters being inspected at the company Running Tide of Portland, Maine, which uses robotics, sensors and machine learning in its aquaculture operation that sells oysters and clams.
Credit...Running Tide

Mr. Odlin’s plans are one of a number of efforts in the “blue economy,” a term used to describe commercial activity on the oceans, seas and coasts.
He and others are trying to prove that ocean conservation, sustainable fishing and carbon sequestration can be good for business, especially as global shipping, aquaculture and the appetite for wild seafood increases around the world.

Mr. Odlin and his team build everything: boats, oyster floats, sensors and more, all with very high sensitivity to their environment.
They measure the amount of feed in the water and the growth rate of the various species and send that information into a database that they use to make all sorts of decisions: whether to change the feed, reposition the shellfish floats or make bigger changes about the varieties they’re growing. They also use the hard-won knowledge of commercial fishermen — there are about a dozen on staff — which Mr. Odlin said was a huge advantage.

The climate crisis demands technological innovations and “hard hats and steel toes,” he said.

Dan Watson, the chief executive and co-founder of SafetyNet Technologies, also has recognized the benefits of working alongside industry and demonstrating profitability.

His company builds high-tech fishing nets for trawling boats: Attached to the nets are LED lights that flash in various patterns and levels of brightness to signal emergency escape hatches (right-size holes) for those species that fishing boats aren’t trying to catch, known collectively as bycatch.

Studies have shown that LED lights can significantly reduce the amount of unwanted species that end up in fishing nets.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 9.1 million tons, or just over 10 percent of all of the fish caught every year, are thrown away, with nearly half coming from trawling nets.

In an era of overfishing and shifting habitats because of climate change that defy international regulations, reducing the amount of fish or other marine animals that are caught by mistake could have important consequences for the health of various populations as well as ocean biodiversity as a whole, Mr. Watson said.

“When I started all of this, I was a student, and I had the attitude of, ‘This is going to save the world and everyone should do it,’” Mr. Watson said.
“I had to turn more towards, ‘Here is the value proposition, and there is a strong financial argument for catching the right fish,’” he added.
“We can show crews, ‘Here is what you save on fuel, here is what you save on regulatory fines.’”

A gray whale near Long Beach, Calif. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that a total of 22 whales died from ship strikes in 2018 and 2019.
Credit... Nick Ut/Getty Images

Others, too, see the value of working with industry groups.
Whale Safe is an initiative from the University of California Santa Barbara to help big ships avoid hitting whales as they travel through ports around Los Angeles.
The program came, in part, as a response to shipping companies asking for help, according to Douglas McCauley, a professor of ocean science at U.C.S.B.

Ship strikes, as they are known, are among the leading causes of death for whales, and 2018 and 2019 were the worst years on record for collisions on the West Coast, with 27 total resulting in 22 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists estimate that the actual number of whales killed by ships could be much higher — as many as 80 a year off the West Coast, according to one study — because not all of the bodies are discovered.

Dr. McCauley helped bring together ocean technologists working at U.C.S.B. to build a near real-time detection system for whales in the Santa Barbara Channel, combining three inputs: an artificial intelligence algorithm that analyzes whale sounds, classifies them by species, and sends the data for review; a remote sensing system that predictively forecasts whale presence; and plain old citizen science, where trained whale watchers log whales into a mobile app.
“It’s not helpful if you’re only able to say, ‘Southern California is forecast to be cloudy with a chance of blue whales,” and this model forecasts at a much finer scale, Dr. McCauley said.

The system delivers the information to ships in a simplified rubric of low, medium, high and very high, so that they can slow if whales are around, which can significantly reduce the number of ship strikes. Whale Safe provides data about only this particular stretch of the California coast, but Dr. McCauley said they were planning to expand to San Francisco and possibly elsewhere in North America.

When ships reduce their speed they use less fuel, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants; the global shipping industry accounts for nearly 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Cargo ships typically burn dirty fuel that releases pollutants like nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, which can cause various cancers and childhood asthma for people living in port cities.
Air pollution in general also disproportionately affects communities of color.

In only six months, slower speeds in the Santa Barbara and San Francisco areas helped reduce pollution from nitrous oxide by more than 530 tons and greenhouse gas emissions by 17,000 metric tons.

But saving the whales could also have huge climate benefits, Dr. McCauley said.
During their lives and when they die, whales help sequester enormous amounts of carbon dioxide in two ways.
When alive, whales supply phytoplankton (which suck up carbon dioxide) with the nutrients they need to grow.
When whales die, their bodies sink to the bottom of the ocean and over time become part of the marine sediment layer, where they can sequester the carbon dioxide they have accumulated during their life span, an average of 33 tons for a great whale species, keeping it out of the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years.

Marty Odlin and his company, Running Tide, are trying to reverse the decline of marine life.
Along with the oysters and clams, Running Tide is growing kelp, with the goal of its pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and burying it on the ocean floor.
Credit...Running Tide

Any of these projects require a more hands-on approach to saving the ocean and a more deliberate overlap of business and conservation, which have historically been at odds, said Mr. Odlin, the founder of Running Tide.
“We have to take a more active role in solving the problem that we’re seeing,” he said. 
“And how do you take a more active role? The moral imperative is that you have to build something at the scale of the problem.”
Otherwise, he said, “generations in front of us are not going to forgive us.”
“We still have a chance right now, so I’m working as hard as I can.”

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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Super-cold thunderstorm sets temperature record

Cumulonimbus incus: The anvil shape forms when the rising cloud reaches the tropopause

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

We've all seen those majestic anvil storm clouds that form on a hot summer's day, but what do you think is the temperature right at the very top?

It's very cold, obviously; at high altitude it is well below freezing.
But would you be surprised to learn it is sometimes below even -100C?

Indeed, scientists have just published research showing the top of one tropical storm cloud system in 2018 reached -111C.
This is very likely a record low temperature.
It was seen on 29 December that year, just south of the equator in the western Pacific.
The measurement was made by a passing American satellite, Noaa-20.

When a powerful upward draft reaches the top of the lower atmosphere, or troposphere, it will normally flatten and spread out to form that classic anvil shape.

But if the storm is very energetic, the upward movement of air can punch through the troposphere's ceiling, the tropopause, to keep on rising into the stratosphere, the next layer up in the atmosphere.
In the 2018 event, the cloud top was at about 20.5km in altitude.

"It's called an overshooting top," explains Dr Simon Proud, a Nerc research fellow in satellite remote sensing at the National Centre for Earth Observation and Oxford University, UK.

"Overshooting tops are reasonably common. We get them over the UK as well, sometimes - like last August when we had a number of massive storms. But this was a very big overshoot.
Normally, an overshooting top cools by about 7C for every kilometre it goes above the tropopause; and this one was about 13C or 14C cooler than the tropopause - so, a pretty big overshoot," he told BBC News.

An example of an overshooting top: See the area of unevenness bursting through the flat surface

Dr Proud and Scott Bachmeier, a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, report the event in a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

They describe the contributing factors.
Although big storms in that part of the Pacific are frequent around the December-January timeframe, this one seemed to get an extra boost.

In part, this came from some very warm ocean water in the region, but there was help too from a phenomenon meteorologists refer to as the Madden-Julian Oscillation.
The MJO is an eastwards-moving zone of winds that can accentuate wet and dry weather.

What's noteworthy, however, is the hint in the long-term data that these super-cold thunderstorms may be increasing in frequency.

There have been as many such events across the globe in the past three years as there were in the 13 years before that.
That's relevant as, in general, the colder the storm, the more likely it is to produce hazardous weather, such as lightning and flooding.
"The storm we report on was in the middle of nowhere, and just as well," says Dr Proud.
"If you'd been there you would have got drenched and very probably a load of hail on your head as well - and a lot of lightning.
"Over the last 20 years, it seems these super-cold thunderstorms are becoming a little bit more common.
It's interesting that in this part of the world, the tropopause is actually getting warmer, so we might expect to see warmer clouds, not colder clouds, which likely means we're seeing more extreme storms as we're getting even bigger overshoots than we used to."

Artwork: Noaa-20 is an American low-orbiting satellite that feeds data into weather forecasts

The meteorological agencies are aware that not all the satellite sensors they fly today are capable of measuring the extreme low temperatures recorded by Noaa-20’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer (Viirs).
Improved capability is therefore necessary, especially since the American spacecraft on that day probably didn’t capture the absolute low temperature reached in the cloud top.

It flew over at three o’clock and the peak of activity was about half-four.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Fancy a deep red? The rise of underwater wineries

Crusoe Treasure, one of Spain’s largest underwater wineries, off Plentzia.
Conditions in the sea mimic key ageing factors that contribute to the flavour of wine.
Photograph: Bodega Crusoe Treasure

From The Guardian by Ashifa Kassam

After bottles were recovered in top shape from a world war one wreck, winemakers have started to exploit the sea’s cool, dark environment

Slipping into the chilly waters of the Baltic sea, the divers descended more than 60 metres to where the masts of the Jönköping lay strewn across the seabed.
They glided past the wounds left when the Swedish schooner was sunk by a German U-boat in 1916 to home in on the rare treasure they had come for: thousands of bottles of 1907 Heidsieck champagne.

For more than eight decades the bottles had sat undisturbed on the seabed, cloaked in darkness and protected by near-constant temperatures and pressure.
Photographs showing the bottles being gingerly raised from the sea by the divers in 1998 soon began to circulate, accompanied by rave reviews from impromptu tastings of the precious cargo.

In Spain’s Basque country, the discovery added to the list of wine-laden shipwrecks that had long captured the imagination of Borja Saracho, a keen diver.
Could the sea’s dark depths, gently rocking tidal movements and constant temperatures hold the secret to creating great wines?
“We decided there was an opportunity to find out what was going on in these shipwrecks,” he said.
If I put 20 wine tanks below the sea – all exactly the same – they’ll all come back different

Working with a small team, he secured permission to rent 500 square metres of seabed in the bay of Plentzia on Spain’s north coast, sinking specially designed structures capable of storing wine while also acting as an artificial reef.
Winemakers across the country soon joined in the experiment, sending bottles of wine for Saracho to plunge into the sea.

The results transformed Saracho into a proponent of underwater ageing and culminated in the launch of Crusoe Treasure, one of Spain’s largest underwater wineries, in 2010.
“It was astounding,” he said.
“The wines’ evolution underwater was very distinct from what would happen with the same grape on land.”

Similar experiments were playing out around the world, laying the foundation for what today is a niche – but rapidly growing – sector of the wine industry.
From Greece and Italy to new world producers in Chile and the US, winemakers are harnessing the power of underwater environments to shape everything from bold reds to sparkling cavas.

Bottles of wine being lowered to the seabed for the Crusoe Treasure winery. 
Photograph: Bodega Crusoe Treasure

The logic is that underwater conditions mimic the crucial ageing factors that are thought to contribute so much to the flavour of wine, such as constant temperature and the absence of light.
Winemakers soon went further, arguing that the watery cellar was leaving its own, singular imprint on the wines, said Mark O’Neill, a wine writer and the owner of Spain’s The Wine Place.
“If you’ve got a good wine, it will add a point of difference,” he said.
“The wine will have evolved in a different way.”

The technique, however, comes at a cost.
The logistics of submerging and retrieving the wine, often requiring divers as well as boats, and the increased risk of breakage and leaks can swell production costs by as much as 70% when compared with ageing wine on land.

Even so, interest in the idea has soared in recent years, in part boosted by the recovery of 168 bottles of champagne from another shipwreck in the Baltic sea, this time in 2010.
After spending about 170 years deep-sea ageing in what researchers described as “close-to-perfect conditions”, a single bottle of Veuve Clicquot found in the wreckage later sold for €30,000.

Among those turning to underwater ageing are some of the industry’s biggest players.
Louis Roederer, the maker of Cristal champagne, made headlines when it began using the waters off France’s Mont Saint-Michel as an underwater cellar.
A experiment by Veuve Clicquot, due to run for decades, saw the luxury brand sink a champagne-filled vault into the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea.

Sea Soul No7, a limited-edition offering from the winery, is raised to the surface after ageing underwater for six months.
Photograph: Iñigo Núñez Auria/Bodega Crusoe Treasure

As the sector grows, the techniques are varying wildly.
Some winemakers sink their wines in sealed amphorae, while others use custom-designed barrels or submersible cages laden with algae-encrusted bottles.
Others have eschewed marine environments for water-filled tanks on land. Wines have been plunged to depths of 40 metres, while others have wallowed in shallower waters, left to the whims of rising tides and at times partly exposed to air.

The lack of any kind of overarching ethos was among the factors that led to the first-ever underwater wine congress, held in 2019 in northern Spain.
“The hope is that people are responsible with the environments that they’re working in,” said Anna Riera, a marine biologist who works with the Crusoe Treasure winery.
“If all of a sudden everyone started projects like this, not with small spaces but with large underwater factories, this type of production would lose all meaning.”
We’re opening a window in a world that’s still to be discoveredBorja Saracho, Crusoe Treasure
Emmanuel Poirmeur of winery Egiategia

Many in the sector are keenly aware that their foray underwater comes as climate change tightens its grip on marine ecosystems.
In 2008, Emmanuel Poirmeur of winery Egiategia began submerging sparkling wines in France’s bay of Saint Jean de Luz, lured by what he described as the perfect conditions for secondary fermentation.
Egiategia in the Saint Jean de Luz bay

“I realised we were burning a lot of energy to recreate marine conditions,” he said.
The unpredictable nature of the process soon had him hooked.
“If I put 20 wine tanks below the sea – all exactly the same – they’ll all come back different,” he said.

In recent years he’s watched the climate crisis inject its own dose of volatility into the process, forcing him to use more resistant materials and reckon with a wider range of water temperatures.
“What I was doing 12 years ago is impossible now because all the elements are stronger,” he said.
“We have lots of storms now because of climate change.
It’s changing the temperature of the water and violence of the water.”

A deposit of bottles is quickly colonised by an anemone and crustacea.
Photograph: Bodega Crusoe Treasure

The concern is echoed in Spain’s Basque country.
At Crusoe Treasure, the underwater cellars are outfitted with sensors, offering a first-hand look at how their small plot of seabed – a tranquil stretch of sand surrounded by rocks in the summer that morphs into a wave-swept cradle in the winter – is being transformed.

In 2019, Saracho and his team watched as the temperatures at the bottom of the bay of Plentzia climbed to 20C (68F) – a swing of 9C (16F) from the minimum temperature recorded.
“We had never seen anything like it,” he said.

More than a decade after he and his team began plunging wines underwater, it was a hint of how much remains unknown about underwater ageing and the bodies of water it relies on.
“We’re opening a window in a world that’s still to be discovered,” said Saracho.
“There’s so much we have to learn.”

Links :

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

German submarines fitted with Russian technology: report

According to the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, German military submarines and warships (about 100 units) are equipped with navigation devices developed by a Russian company. Berlin began to cooperate with the Russian company "Transas" in 2005. 

From DW

A report that German submarines are navigating the globe with Russian hardware has sparked security concerns.
The newspaper Bild claims that the equipment is "open" to cyber sabotage and even "full loss of operability."

A navigation system of Russian origin called Navi-Sailor 4100 has been installed on at least 100 vessels operated by Germany's military, the Bundestag, including submarines, since 2005, according to the mass-market newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The navigation devices were developed by Transas, a company founded in St. Petersburg in 1990. Although it was purchased in 2018 by the Finnish firm Wartsila, the defense division remained in Russian hands.

The Bild report claims that the system's data encryption does not comply with military security standards, in an apparent reference to NATO, of which Germany is a member.
"During a worst-case cyberattack, navigation data could be hacked and the ship could fully lose operability,"
Navi-Sailor 4100 WECDIS MFD is the 3rd generation of well proven Warship ECDIS from Transas

Bild quoted an unnamed officer as saying. 
The report also pointed out that Russia sometimes carries out naval maneuvers close to Germany's Baltic Sea coastline.

Used widely on civilian ships, the Navi-Sailor system was fitted on about 100 German navy ships in 2005, during the chancellorship of the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder, Bild reports.
He is currently the chairman of the board of directors of the Russian company Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline project.

Subsequent governments, Bild reports, also decided to install the navigation system on two German submarines: the U35 and U36, launched in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

These German-built 212A-class submarines, billed as highly maneuverable and quiet and elusive for long periods under water, use a mix of hydrogen cell, diesel and battery propulsion and are fitted with six torpedo tubes.

Transas devices vulnerable?

Bild reported that its query to the German Defense Ministry (BMVg) on whether the Transas system was vulnerable to hacking elicited the reply that "the government is making great efforts to ensure the IT, cyber and crypto-media security in operational areas of the BMVg."

Wartsila's website says the Transas subsidiary provides 35% of electronic chart systems used by world shipping and ports, and 45% of world simulation equipment, typically used for training.
"Marine onboard equipment & data services are used on more than 13,000 commercial vessels and patrol boats of naval and Coast Guard fleets from over 100 nations," according to Wartsila.

Greens demand explanation

Tobias Lindner, the top Bundestag representative for the opposition Greens on the German parliament's defense committee, voiced alarm following Bild's report.
"The Bundeswehr must ensure that the navy's navigation software does not represent a security leak.
The ministry must quickly explain why software from a manufacturer in NATO countries is not being used," Lindner said.

Norway blocks sale to Russian company

On a similar issue of technology sensitivities, on Tuesday the government of NATO member Norway blocked the sale of Rolls-Royce's Norwegian offshoot, Bergen Engines, to Russia's TMH Group.

Such engines and technology would have been of "great military importance to Russia" but would "clearly be contrary to the best interests of the Norwegian and allied security policy," according to the government.

Norwegian Public Security Minister Monica Maeland described the measure as "absolutely necessary," saying security cooperation with Russia did not exist.

TMH Group is a privately owned company headquartered in Russia that makes locomotives and rail equipment.

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Monday, March 29, 2021

2 former Navy SEALs are using robot submarines to build ‘Google Earth’ for the ocean

Austin-based startup Terradepth aims to map the ocean floor and its environments with thousands of autonomous robotic submarines.
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]

From FastCompany by Susan Karlin

In 2005, Joe Wolfel and Judson Kauffman were a year into their Navy SEAL careers when they received a briefing on the USS San Francisco, a nuclear-powered submarine that had crashed into an undersea mountain, in large part due to uncharted waters.

Joe Wolfel (left) and Judson Kauffman [Photo: courtesy of Terradepth]
“The Navy really doesn’t have charts or maps of very much of the seafloor at all,” Kauffman says.
Even now, 80% of the ocean remains unmapped, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“That was the first time that either one of us understood the level of ignorance that exists around this subsea world, so that kind of planted a seed.”

Still, their scheme for hurdling that challenge wouldn’t germinate for another dozen years, after the pair parlayed their military experience into a business consultancy and began noting the burgeoning array of space exploration robotics.

“One day we looked at each other and said, ‘Why isn’t anybody taking this technology—autonomy, AI, and machine learning—and finding a way to map the ocean?’ ” Kauffman says.
“There’s a whole lot of room for modern technology to come in and disrupt the world of ocean exploration and the industry of ocean surveys.”
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]
That vision has since blossomed into Austin-based Terradepth, a data service company that has developed a new type of robotic submarine to autonomously map the ocean and its varied environments.
[Photo: courtesy of Terradepth]
The 30-foot-long submersible uses a camera and sensor suite to collect data, then employs machine learning to process it, discern what’s important, and reprogram itself to return to a location and test for additional information—all without human intervention.
The system relies on edge computing, which can analyze information and solve problems at the data source in near real time.
The team successfully ran the submarine through its first on-site paces in nearby Lake Travis earlier this month, paving the way for more robust testing in the Gulf of Mexico within three weeks and along the Florida coast after that.

Along with a camera, the submarine utilizes two types of sonar as well as depth, navigational, temperature, and geolocation instruments.
It can dive to nearly 20,000 feet, which allows it access to 98% of the ocean.
A mission autonomy computer calculates route planning, while a payload autonomy computer determines which system to turn on and what task to accomplish.
The system can also geotag the precise location of data samples.
Although the prototype runs on the same crude oil used to power ships, future iterations will use a more environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cell generator currently awaiting a patent.
The system autonomously recharges at sea.
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]
The endeavor has already piqued the interest of the maritime data collection industry and billionaire businessman Richard Branson, who is following its progress.
In just three years, the Terradepth team was able to build a successful prototype on a modest budget and staff for this type of research by reconfiguring existing technology.
That involved $8 million in seed money from data storage manufacturer Seagate Technology and a dozen engineers who’d previously worked on projects such as Tesla’s autonomous driving products and the Mars Pathfinder.
Terradepth is planning a second round of financing in about six weeks.

The leap forward was the team’s integration of off-the-shelf components.
“No one had ever put them together with the level of machine learning and autonomy that we required,” says Kauffman, who serves as co-CEO with Wolfel.
“The big question was, is this thing going to be able to do its job without human intervention, because no one’s ever really done that to the degree that we’re trying to do it.”
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]
Before founding their startup in 2018, the entrepreneurs ran their idea by the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“We said, ‘We’ve got this leapfrog concept,’ and sketched it out on a whiteboard.
And we said, ‘Are we crazy, or is this good? What do you think?’ ” Kauffman says.
“They went around the room and said, ‘Wow, it’s actually a really good idea. You should patent that immediately!’ ”

“It was a big surprise, that these two knuckleheads came up with something that some of the smartest engineers in the world didn’t see,” he adds with a laugh.
“One of their comments was, ‘We were probably staring at the problem too closely to see this kind of a solution.’ ”
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]
Wolfel and Kauffman see Terradepth as a complement to existing ocean mapping and exploration initiatives, such as those conducted by NASA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Seafloor Mapping Lab, which assisted in the probe’s sensor development.
Data from various mapping missions would be shared with research partners, sold to commercial clients, and stored in a cloud-based ocean data management system for the public.
“So it’s like a Google Earth of the oceans,” Kauffman says.

He and Wolfel plan to eventually add sensors to collect chemical, biological, and environmental DNA information to assimilate into the mapping data, which could unveil undiscovered patterns over time.
The goal is to have a networked fleet of 5,000 to 10,000 robots continuously collecting and adding to existing data sets for increasingly detailed maps that show how environmental factors are changing subsurface terrain.
[Image: courtesy of Terradepth]
Eventually, such ongoing monitoring could better illustrate the interactions between marine ecosystems as well as their relationships with the terrestrial world, like weather and bird migrations.
“Once you gather all the data for your first map, it’s not game over,” Kauffman says.
“There’s so much data in the ocean and so much that changes, it’s difficult to make sense of it when you just have little tiny pieces. And right now, with climate change, this is pretty valuable data.”
environments with thousands of autonomous robotic submarines.
Links :

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Three nuclear submarines of the Navy for the first time in history together surfaced from under the ice

For the first time in the history of modern Russia, three nuclear-powered submarines of the Navy surfaced together in the ice.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, reported this to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Vladimir Putin.
According to Evmenov, the ice was one and a half meters thick.
The submarines surfaced "according to a single concept and plan at the appointed time in an area with a radius of 300 meters."
One of the nuclear missile carriers conducted practical torpedo firing.
After the launch, the torpedo was raised to the surface in a specially equipped hole.
The three Russian submarines which surfaced near North Pole were 1 x spy submarine and 2 x Ballistic Missile subs (one DELTA-IV and a Borei-II). 

The Umka-21 Arctic expedition has been conducted since March 20 under the leadership of the main command of the Navy.
As the president noted, it has no analogues in Soviet and modern Russian history.
He added that during the expedition they confirmed "the high combat capabilities of domestic weapons, their reliability in operation in extreme conditions."
In total, Umka-21 involved more than 600 military and civilian personnel, about 200 types of weapons, military and special equipment.
In the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, wind gusts reach 32 meters per second. 
translated from Ria article (26/03/2021)

This is about submerged transit to the North Pole on 3 August 1958 breaking through the ice from the bottom.
Because her special propulsion allowed her to remain under far longer than diesel-electrics, she broke many records in her first years of operation, and traveled to locations previously beyond the limits of vessels.

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole.
The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world.
It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G.
Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946.
In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine.
Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule.
In 1952, the Nautilus’keel was laid by US President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut.
Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

Much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it, the Nautilus stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons.
It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because its atomic engine needed no air and only a very small quantity of nuclear fuel.
The uranium-powered nuclear reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines, allowing the Nautilus to travel underwater at speeds in excess of 20 knots.
In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and on July 23, 1958, departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on “Operation Northwest Passage”—the first crossing of the North Pole by submarine.
There were 116 men aboard for this historic voyage, including Commander William R. Anderson, 111 officers and crew, and four civilian scientists.
The Nautilus steamed north through the Bering Strait and did not surface until it reached Point Barrow, Alaska, in the Beaufort Sea, though it did send its periscope up once off the Diomedes Islands, between Alaska and Siberia, to check for radar bearings.
On August 1, the submarine left the north coast of Alaska and dove under the Arctic ice cap.

The submarine traveled at a depth of about 500 feet, and the ice cap above varied in thickness from 10 to 50 feet, with the midnight sun of the Arctic shining in varying degrees through the blue ice.
At 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 3, 1958, Commander Anderson announced to his crew: “For the world, our country, and the Navy—the North Pole.” The Nautilus passed under the geographic North Pole without pausing.
The submarine next surfaced in the Greenland Sea between Spitzbergen and Greenland on August 5.
Two days later, it ended its historic journey to Iceland.
For the command during the historic journey, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower decorated Anderson with the Legion of Merit.

After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut. 

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