Saturday, November 6, 2021

Building of the cruising ship 'Wonder of the Seas', Chantiers de l'Atlantique

On the occasion of her departure from Saint-Nazaire this Friday, November 5, discover in 12 minutes the construction of the Wonder of the Seas, the world's new largest cruise ship.
Ordered in December 2016 by the American shipowner Royal Caribbean Group, the C34 saw its first sheet officially cut in April 2019, with the ship's lay-up taking place in October 2019 and its launch in September 2020.
After successfully completing her sea trials at the end of August, the Wonder of the Seas was delivered on October 29.
With a length of 362 meters and a width of 64 meters, she has a tonnage of 236,857 GT, with 2807 cabins and 64 suites on board. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

A new U.S. maritime strategy

From CIMSEC by representative Elaine Luria 

This article outlines the path that led to the U.S. Navy’s current strategic deficit and proposes a framework for a new maritime strategy, one that I believe should be immediately developed along with the corresponding force structure assessment.
With a modest 5% additional investment in the Navy over the next five years, 90% of the changes required by this strategy can be achieved.

The Death of Naval Strategy

The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 effectively ended U.S.
naval strategy.
Through this legislation, Congress affirmed its authority to step in and “right the ship” after a series of well-publicized military failures, which at the time seemed to lay squarely on the shoulders of the services’ inability to work together without service-specific parochial interests getting in the way.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act affirmed and strengthened the role of Secretary of Defense and greatly expanded the power of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, effectively removing the Service Chiefs and Secretaries from any role in the operational chain of command and from any advisory role to the President.
They were relegated to budget warriors – and the Navy was a ship not under command.

The Act also sought to increase the caliber of officers in joint positions and required that all officers serve in a joint tour as a prerequisite for promotion to flag or general rank.
As a result, the services realigned officer career paths to meet these new joint timelines.
Each service had to align to statutory promotion boards, which ultimately drove the career path of each officer, resulting in officers moving as quickly as possible from one milestone tour to another.
No longer could an officer afford to spend multiple tours on Navy staffs learning the craft of strategy.
Strategy was only for the Joint Staff—only for the Chairman.

The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)—the only service chief with “Operations” in his title— had a unique role since the position’s establishment in 1915.
The official role of the CNO was codified in 1947 under General Order 5 as “(a) command[er] of the Operating Forces, (b) principal naval advisor to the President and the Secretary [of the Navy].” 

The ink had barely dried on the General Order, when forces in Congress and the White House set about to further the trends in unification of the armed forces.
Over the next 20 years in a series of laws, the role of the CNO in operational matters was fully removed and by the 1970s, then-CNO, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, was convinced that the Navy “was confused about its justification for existence.”

Thomas Hone noted in his book, Power and Change, that “OPNAV [the CNO’s staff] is a loose confederation, not an operational organization.” It was, however, not until 1978, when CNO Admiral Thomas Hayward, fresh off a tour as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, translated Zumwalt’s criticisms into real change.
Hayward was convinced the Navy needed to be revitalized, strategically and tactically – simply put, the Navy needed a strategy around which to plan and program.
As professor John Hattendorf of the Naval War College observed, “Hayward sought to change…from a budget battle to an analysis of the strategic issues of a global maritime power.”
In 1981, Navy Secretary John Lehman built on Hayward’s Sea Strike concept to establish the goal of a 600-ship Navy, which he very nearly reached before leaving office.

Then came Goldwater-Nichols.
One cannot deny that the Act has been successful in more fully integrating the services into a Joint Force, however, one cannot overlook the deleterious effects on strategy and procurement in the individual services that have resulted.
As I wrote in Look to the 1980s to Inform the Fleet of Today, the Navy does not have, and has not had, a maritime strategy for the past 30 years.
Moreover, the past 30 years have seen failures in ship class after ship class, resulting in a lost generation of shipbuilding.

As “budget warriors,” many CNOs since the late 1980s have attempted to leave their mark on the service, and some have—for better or worse.
However, it is precisely because the Navy has lacked a strategy that the success or failure of the Navy has relied solely on the strength of the CNO or Navy Secretary’s personality.
As I noted in my article, Secretary Lehman’s bullish approach: “first strategy, then requirements, then the POM, then budget,” stands in stark contrast to the budget-driven Navy leadership of subsequent decades.

What is, and is not, a Maritime Strategy?

A strategy is the military means to accomplish political ends – or as often quoted from Clausewitz, “a continuation of politics with other means.”

This year, like many others, military leaders reiterated in repeated testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that they are “prepared to compete globally and fight and win the nation’s wars…” However, when asked what “win” means, the same leaders seem befuddled.
The Chief of Staff of the Army recently testifiedthat “winning with China means not fighting China.” I happen to agree with him, except, that was not the question—which is precisely the problem.
We cannot define what “winning” means.
When one cannot define winning, one cannot write a strategy.

What does winning with China look like? Numerous naval strategists including Sir Julian Corbett have argued that war cannot be won by naval (or air) action alone.
Similarly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, recently testified that “decisive outcomes in war are ultimately achieved on land…” Does this mean that we cannot have a decisive outcome with China without a ground invasion of the mainland?

Today, the military rise of China threatens the balance of power globally and as Thucydides noted – the rise in power of one actor threatens all others.
This is not to say that China—or any other country—does not have the right to defend itself, but that a country that does not share the ideals of a free, democratic world is disrupting international norms.
As with the destabilizing actions of Russia, if not properly managed, China’s actions could be misinterpreted and lead to unintended conflict.

It is precisely this ambiguity that drives the Navy’s need for a new global maritime strategy – and a complementary national maritime strategy that includes the full range of commercial maritime activities, domestic shipbuilding and repair, and Maritime law enforcement activities.
The need is especially critical when defense resources are strained amid competing priorities from non-defense spending and among the services themselves.
This naval strategy should be developed by naval leaders, not by the Joint Staff nor the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. defense planning strategy has been a variation of a two-front war policy.
Today’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) calls for the Armed Forces to be capable of “defeating aggression by a major power; deterring opportunistic aggression elsewhere.”

By placing offense (defeating aggression) as the primary capability of our forces, it constrains thinking in the offense-defense balance of military strategy and has resulted in maintaining a large standing army and Cold War-era battle tactics as the preferred methods of training and equipping our forces.

Today’s “Maritime Strategy”

In the 1984 Maritime Strategy, “winning” meant keeping the conflict to a conventional war and supporting ground forces in driving the Soviets back to their own borders.
This is the “deny and punish” approach still employed today.
The Navy developed the strategy on the assumption, backed by intelligence, that any conflict with the Soviets would quickly engulf much of the globe.
This required the Navy to be present and ready in three key regions simultaneously, instead of the “swing strategy” preferred by the Joint Staff.

The Navy developed a maritime strategy based on a three-front conflict and centered it around the carrier battle group.
The strategy did not consider limitations in maintenance, training, or employment.
It was assumed every ship would be available in conflict and that the number needed was 600.

If the same construct were applied to our force today using the current NDS, the Navy could simply use the Indo-Pacific Command Commander’s most demanding contingency to determine the number and type of ships required for the whole Navy.
This resultant force structure would be well below the 355-ship requirement, even when accounting for “opportunistic aggression elsewhere,” and would likely fall below 250 total ships.

So, how did the Navy develop its current Battle Force 2045 plan that calls for somewhere between 382 to 446 manned ships and 143 to 242 large, unmanned vessels?

Instead of starting with a single contingency, or multiple contingencies, the Navy made assumptions about force development, force generation, and force employment to drive their final assessment.
The range of ships presented in Battle Force 2045 came about not from a global maritime strategy, but instead, three different studies were simply coalesced into a single force structure assessment, and the resulting force requirements present a range based on the final product of each study.

As a 2019 RAND Corporation study on defense planning noted, “different assumptions and types of guidance can produce very different results in the process.”

In other words, our assumptions greatly drive outcomes.
Combatant Commanders (CCDR) develop contingency plans to combat specific scenarios in their theater while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, through the Joint Staff, is tasked with global strategic planning.
The study concluded that “a common assumption is that the plans and programs of the defense planning process should be strategy-driven, but the final size and shape of the force are highly budget-influenced.
When operating in that realm, defense planners do not have a reliable way of estimating—or quantifying—risk” (emphasis added).

Former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015, that the Joint Staff force planning process, the process that translates strategy into the forces we need, is deeply flawed and guided much more by parochial interests vice national interest.
She goes on to say “the current process is antithetical to the kind of competing of ideas and innovation that the Department [of Defense] really needs…”

When a force structure assessment begins by using inputs like force generation and employment to counter specific scenarios, the output will always be dependent on current force employment constructs.
The Optimized Fleet Response Plan uses a 5:1 model, where five ships result in one deployed.
For example, if one wanted 100 ships deployed around the globe annually (the Navy’s traditional deployment rate), the force structure required would be 500 ships.
However, if the force generation model is changed to 4:1, the total force would require only 400 ships.
Further, if the force generation model was a forward deployed naval force (FDNF) model where ships are available two-thirds of the time (3:2), the force structure assessment addressing the same threat would only require 150 total ships.
These force generation models are critical assumptions that drive the force structures used in defense planning.

In a seminal article, “Cruising for a Bruising: Maritime Competition in an Anti-Access Age,” Naval War College Professors Jonathan D. Caverley and Peter Dombrowski, note “the most likely location for great-power friction is at sea.” Many scholars have written about the balance of power that affects competition on land, especially over the last 20 years, but much less has been written about maritime competition and the offense-defense balance on the oceans.
However, a truth remains, “when offense has the advantage, the security dilemma grows more acute, arms races grow more intense, and war grows more likely.”

Naval platforms are ideally suited to provide a flexible deterrent option, however, Barry R.
and Jack Snyder postulate that the U.S. military is offensively minded, and one can see this through public testimony and statements of our military leaders.
The defense side of “offense-defense” is often thought of as a natural output of a strong offense.
This was true in the 1980s Maritime Strategy that envisioned an exclusively offensive plan and is what Caverley and Dombrowski refer to as the “Cult of the Offensive…” They argue that even if the Navy could instantly develop the fleet of the future, the doctrine of power projection would still dominate the thinking.

In the 1984 Maritime Strategy, the deterrent role was ancillary from the demand-based wartime strategy that resulted in the 600-ship requirement.
In that strategy, deterrence was an output of force structure, and it articulated the requirement for a peacetime presence to fill deterrent roles, reduce response times, and provide policymakers with naval crisis-response options.
One-third of the ships needed for wartime missions in each theater would always notionally be forward deployed under the strategy.
However, by 1987, the 600-ship requirement was exclusively tied to a deterrent presence model.
Vice Admiral Hank Mustin testified that dropping below the 15-carrier requirement would necessitate a discussion of “what [region] do you want to give up?”

Deterrence as a Strategy

I agree with many of today’s military leaders that war is not inevitable, but to conclude that the only way to win in the face of malign or belligerent nations is not to go to war is naïve at best, and is not grounded in a strategy that uses deterrence as its first principle.

It would be better to acknowledge that we are not going to conduct a land campaign against China, so in conventional thinking, the U.S. cannot “win” a war, however, much as with nuclear war, deterrence should be considered “winning.” When military leaders use language like “fight and win,” it downplays the primary objective of deterrence and ultimately may shape force structure and force employment in the wrong direction.

A deterrence strategy should not be a byproduct of an offensive strategy.
According to a 2017 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) study, in the decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, “the U.S. Navy pursued a deterrence posture that relied on modest levels of forward deployed forces that were smaller representations of the larger force.
To avoid instability caused by regional powers, deterrence was premised on the promise of punishment that would arrive with follow-on forces.” Bryan Clark, testifying about the study in 2017, affirmed “the emergence of great power competition is going to put the onus on us to deter conflict with those great powers.”

Each contingency plan has a phase of deterrence, or what the Navy terms “presence,” day-to-day requirements for ships at sea.
In the past 20 years, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dominated the Navy’s power projection requirements and structural cracks in our force generation and employment models have been revealed.
Many ships have deployed back-to-back with maintenance truncated, only to have future maintenance availabilities extended to double or more of their original length, requiring another ship to deploy in their place.
The Navy has tried to “reset” this cycle on several occasions, only to be told that they must surge again to meet emergent requirements.

Today, the combined CCDR day-to-day requirements for all theaters would require 150 more ships than are presently in the fleet.
Moreover, although the Navy can provide flexible strike options without the need for overflight consideration, the last two decades of war have shown that our Navy is not adequately sized using current force employment models to provide this enduring capability.

The inherent mobility of a navy provides a deterrent when present, but when removed it reminds enemies—and allies alike—of the unfixed nature of a mobile force, and could create the incorrect perception that an opening exists for aggression.
Case in point is the recent deployment of the forward-based carrier Ronald Reagan from Japan to the Middle East.
A ship can only be in one place at one time, therefore, political decisions or CCDR requests can also take away the deterrent that was present yesterday.

The same is not true for forward based ground troops.
During the past twenty years, the Army did not lower the troop levels in Korea or Germany to deploy them to Iraq and Afghanistan—but that is precisely what the Navy did with its own force posture commitments.
Naval forces that otherwise would have been present in the Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and North Atlantic have instead persistently been deployed to the Middle East, leaving a massive presence gap that China has exploited.

A New Maritime Strategy

The same 2017 CSBA study cited earlier provides a compelling model for developing a new maritime strategy.
This study proposes a revolution in naval strategy and presence.
This new “deterrent strategy” would organize forces into distinct Deterrence Forces and Maneuver Forces, with each having separate force structures and missions.
The study suggested that the Navy should “focus on sustaining an effective posture for conventional deterrence rather than an efficient presence to meet near-term operational needs.”

The Deterrence Forces

Much has been written over the past 70 years about the actual success of deterrent strategies, but many believe it is a strategy worth pursuing.
Deterrence cannot be measured in real time and although it is the cornerstone of our National Defense from nuclear to conventional conflict, there is no way to accurately measure its success or failure.
Only in retrospect can we know that our strategy of deterrence has worked – and it has clearly worked in nuclear conflict, but not always in conventional conflict.

In a deterrent strategy, the commitment of the defender, in this case the U.S., must be resolute and unwavering.
As Robert Jervis noted, “perceptions are the dominant variable in deterrence success or failure.” Bruce Russett concluded that deterrence fails “when the attacker decides that the defender’s threat is not likely to be fulfilled.”This does not mean that the U.S. must respond to every provocation, as it often did during the Cold War, but as Michael J. Mazarr noted, “successful deterrence typically involves…taking steps to demonstrate both the capability and determination to fulfill a threat.” It is this capability and determination that may have led Michèle Flournoy to state that if the U.S. had the capability to “credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours, Chinese leaders might think twice before, say, launching a blockade or invasion of Taiwan…”

The Navy and Marine Corps by their inherent construct are uniquely positioned to provide both general (ongoing, persistent) and immediate (short-term, urgent) deterrent forces.
In a 2020 article, Erik Gartzke and Jon R. Lindsay stated that “One of the defining characteristics of a naval force is its special role in projecting power.
Navies enable countries to influence politics in more places, more decisively, farther from home.” The article provides an in-depth discussion of the role of naval power and identifies actions that demonstrate resolve and capability, and that make room for adversaries to reach bargains, rather than conflict.
This is precisely the reason the U.S. Navy should be persistently present on the high seas around the globe.
This deterrent presence cannot simply be the byproduct of the current Navy global presence construct.
It must be intentional, persistent, and tailored to the individual theater.

The CSBA study provides a detailed proposal of the composition and deployment locations of the deterrence force, and although I do not agree with the entirety of the force structure or locations outlined in the study, the overarching concept it defines is valid and should be considered as a foundation of a new maritime strategy.

In this construct, the Deterrence Force consists primarily of forward deployed naval forces, with a force generation model that produces a full year of deployed ship presence for every two ships, which is 2.5 times what we achieve today through purely rotational forces.
The study’s force construct provides for a mix of low- and high-end forces, including unmanned surface and sub-surface vehicles.
Carrier strike groups would not be part of Deterrence Forces.
The Maneuver Forces

While the Deterrence Force is the first line of defense preventing near-peer competitors from achieving a fait accompli, the Maneuver Force arrives to conduct sustained warfare, and will be augmented by the remainder of CONUS-based rotational forces when they arrive later.

In the CSBA study the Maneuver Forces are deployed on a more traditional, rotational model such as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) and are centered exclusively on carrier strike groups.
The study provides for two carrier strike groups deployed continuously, but independent from current global force management plans.
Instead, these forces “will need to be prepared for a wider range of possible operational environments, more potential adversaries, a larger number of alliance relationships, and a higher likelihood of being faced with high-intensity sustained combat.” In the study, the Maneuver Forces consist of multi-carrier task groups not assigned to a particular region, but free to move between theaters conducting major exercises, experimenting with tactics, and operating with allies.

Next Steps

The Navy should develop a maritime strategy and corresponding force structure based on the Deterrence and Maneuver Force construct outlined in the CSBA study, make changes to operating models as rapidly as possible, and make their intentions widely known.

The 2017 CSBA study makes a strong case for adoption of this new operating model and for making significant changes to future naval forces.
We simply cannot continue to use the same outdated approach to conventional deterrence and expect to successfully deter peer competitors.
The study concludes that:
“This [current] approach to conventional deterrence will likely not work against the potential great power aggressors of the 2030s, who are likely to seek the ability to achieve a quick, decisive victory over adversaries.
Efforts to reverse the results of aggression would require a much larger conflict and would likely have global consequences that would create international pressure to reach a quick settlement.
To be deterred in the 2030s, aggressors must be presented with the possibility that their goals will be denied or that the immediate costs to pursue them will be prohibitively high.”

The conundrum we face today is that there is no time to waste in developing this new strategy and method of operations.
The CSBA study calls for significant investment in new platforms and overseas basing that are both costly and time consuming.

Many of the force changes proposed in the study would take decades to achieve and proposals such as basing forces in Vietnam and the Philippines are unlikely to materialize.
However, force employment and generation can be changed quickly, and existing infrastructure and basing agreements can be rapidly leveraged to achieve the goals of this strategy.

In order to quickly establish the Deterrence Force, I differ somewhat from the CSBA study in the proposed locations for these units and believe that we must take advantage of locations where we currently conduct routine operations and have existing infrastructure.
These forces could be postured in a sweeping arc encircling China, from Djibouti to Diego Garcia to Singapore to Guam to Japan, very similar to the Akhromeyev Map.
This would include standing up the First Fleet in Singapore, as proposed by the former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite.
We should work with allies in the region on increasingly-coordinated operations and extend and strengthen our compacts with island nations, such the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, who have expressed a willingness to work closely with the U.S. to reject Chinese influence.

In the Mediterranean and European theater, deterrent forces should be based in Souda Bay, Spain, and Norway to counter Russian malign efforts in the region, with additional forces stationed in Alaska.
This would also be a deterrent force poised to respond in the Arctic.

For the Maneuver Force, a slightly different approach than that discussed in the CSBA study is achievable today.
Operating these maneuver forces using a FDNF CONUS-based model would position one carrier strike group on each coast, with the remainder of the carriers operating in a rotational model (such as OFRP) until it is their turn to rotate into the FDNF model.
Additionally, the Japan-based FDNF carrier would remain on its current cycle.
The two FDNF CONUS carriers would then split the globe and operate as maneuver forces in a regional model vice specific allocation to a combatant commander.

Finally, I propose that by using existing platforms we can achieve most of the deterrent effect of this strategy in the next five years.
We should increase DDG procurement to four per year (two per yard per year), rapidly ramp-up and expand the FFG program to a second production yard, modify current platforms such as the MK VI patrol boat with missile launchers, field the Naval Strike Missile on LCS, and convert commercial vessels to large VLS magazines.
Additionally, while the Marine Corps fully develops its Expeditionary Advance Base Operations concept, they could begin testing the concept using the LCS and EPF platforms.
I postulate that this deterrence effect can be gained for as little as a 5% increase in the current Navy budget ($10B) per year.
Much as John Lehman wrote in discussing the development of the 1984 Maritime Strategy, 90 percent of the deterrent power of this buildup could be achieved in the first year.
This was done by publicly declaring and explaining the strategy, especially its naval component, and taking actions that left no doubt among friend and foe that it would be achieved.


The United States has a unique role in history.
Seth Cropsey and Bryan McGrath wrote in 2017, “the paradox of the American experience is that the U.S. is not simply a great power – it is an exceptional power, for which ideals count as much as strength.”
It is this exceptional power – and responsibility – that requires exceptional thinking by the political and military leaders of our nation.
This global maritime strategy can work, but the Navy will have to overcome substantial barriers to change in the Joint Staff, Combatant Commands, amongst the Services, and within the National Security Council and Congress.
However, one cannot argue with a good plan.
All we need is the plan and a few champions on Capitol Hill.

Links :

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Alcohol leading contributor in U.S. recreational boating accidents

It’s so important for a boater to always wear a life jacket and to make sure that it is serviceable, properly sized, and correctly worn.

From Maritime Executive 

The U.S. Coast Guard released its 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics Report on Tuesday, revealing that there were 633 boating fatalities nationwide in 2018, a 3.8 percent decrease from 2017.

From 2017 to 2018, overall recreational boating injuries also decreased 4.5 percent (2,629 to 2,511), and the total number of accidents decreased 3.4 percent (4,291 to 4,145).

Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2018, accounting for 100 deaths (19 percent) of total fatalities.

“While these decreases are encouraging, there are still too many deaths and injuries that could be avoided through the use of life jackets and eliminating alcohol consumption while operating a boat,” said Captain Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters.
“It is heartbreaking to realize that more than 100 people could still be alive today had alcohol use been curbed.”

Half of a boating party perished in Alabama in July 2018 when an inebriated passenger bumped into the operator, who had also been drinking, which caused the operator to swerve and crash into a bridge piling at about 25 mph.
Two people were killed, including one who was struck by the boat’s propeller.
The operator had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.15, nearly twice the state’s legal limit of 0.08.

“This was just one tragedy that could have been prevented by removing alcohol from the day’s activities,” Johnson said.
“Anyone who’s spent long periods of time out on the water knows that alcohol consumption, when combined with fatigue from sun and wind exposure, will severely hinder a person’s ability to make good decisions and maintain awareness of their surroundings.”

The report also shows that in 2018:
  • The fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which tied as the third lowest rate in the program’s history. This rate represents a 3.6 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
  • Property damage totaled about $46 million.
  • Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 77 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
A number of deaths involved inflatable life jackets that had expired cartridges or life jackets that were not buckled, thus making them ineffective as lifesaving devices.

Where boating instruction was known, 74 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.

The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats.
Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (50 percent), kayaks (13.5 percent) and canoes (seven percent).

Links :

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

U.S. vs. Canada: five modern-day territorial disputes

Five conflicts with history – and a future.
Credit: TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 / image processed by Ruland Kolen

From BigThink by Frank Jacobs

All of these conflicts have a long history.
They may also have a long future.
  • U.S.-Canada relations are mostly friendly, but both countries do not agree on everything.
  • In these five places, they even argue about where the border between them should be.
  • Those conflicts have been around for a long time, but that does not mean they cannot get worse.
It is often called the longest undefended and peaceful border in the world, and for its 5,525 miles (8,891 km) over land, the U.S.-Canada border is just that.
At sea, it is a different story.
There are five maritime locations where Canada and the U.S. have very different opinions over who owns what.
If ever the friendly relations between both countries turn frosty, it could very well be over one or more of these disputed areas.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca: a three-way fight over equidistance
Two small slivers adding up to no more than 15 square nautical miles.
Credit: David H. Gray, “Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Borders” (via IBRUat Durham University).

Ioannis Phokas was born in Greece but served the Spanish king, under a name more suitable to the Spanish palate: Juan de Fuca.
In 1592, he claimed to have found the fabled Strait of Anian.
Legend held that this channel connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Like many other legends animating discoverers and explorers across the Americas, this one too mistook wishes for reality.
De Fuca’s name would have melted back into obscurity if English sea captain Charles Barkley, exploring the Pacific Northwest in 1787, had not spotted some similarities with descriptions from de Fuca’s expedition.

Today, his name resonates across the region.
There is a strait named after Juan de Fuca, and derived from that a tectonic plate and an undersea ridge, as well as a park on Vancouver Island, and… a territorial dispute.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca separates Vancouver Island in British Columbia (Canada) from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State (U.S.).
The border between both countries runs straight down the middle of the strait.
No problem here: it is the bit out to sea that is under dispute.

The disagreement between the U.S. and Canada is not about principle.
Both countries agree the border here should be equidistant between them.
The problem is: equidistant from where?
Each side uses slightly different base points, resulting in small differences in the borderline.

To complicate matters, the provincial government of British Columbia has rejected both the Canadian and American borderlines and the entire principle of equidistance.
It argues for the principle of natural prolongation, claiming that the appropriate boundary is the submarine canyon (also named Juan de Fuca).
Although that would mean a better border for British Columbia, the Canadian government is loath to give up the principle of equidistance, which could cost it dearly in other areas.

The Dixon Entrance: where the U.S. is north and Canada south
The largest patch of the three shown here measures 806 square nautical miles.
Credit: David H. Gray, “Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Borders” (via IBRUat Durham University).

Canada is north of the United States, right? At the Dixon Entrance, it is the other way around.
North of this body of water lies Prince of Wales Island.
Despite its royal name, the island is part of the United States.
It is also the southernmost point of Alaska’s panhandle.

To the south of the Dixon Entrance lies Canada’s Haida Gwaii archipelago, known as the Queen Charlotte Islands until 2010.
The archipelago’s northernmost island is still referred to as Graham Island, perhaps because its Haida name is a bit of a mouthful: X_aaydag_a Gwaay.yaay linag_waay in X_aayda Kil.

The waters in between are rich with fish, attracting orcas, albatrosses, and humans.
In pre-contact times, local tribes feuded over access to these marine resources.
The neighbors are still in disagreement, but their names now are the U.S.
and Canada.
The present conflict has its roots with yet another set of rivals: Russia and Britain.

Squint, and you can spot today’s border between Alaska and Canada in the map annexes to the 1825 Treaty of St Petersburg.
Signed halfway across the world, that agreement between Russia and Britain drew a line between their interests in the northwest of North America.

It set 54° 40’ north as the southern limit of Russian America’s panhandle.
(The treaty later gave rise to former President James K. Polk’s campaign slogan, “Fifty-four forty or fight!” but that’s another story).
But because much of the panhandle’s rugged terrain was still unsurveyed, the actual course of the border remained vague.

The Brits imagined a very thin panhandle, the Russians a very fat one.
When the Americans purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867, they inherited that simmering conflict — which became serious enough to acquire capital letters: the Alaska Boundary Dispute.

The ABD was settled by international arbitration in 1903.
The panhandle’s current land border is 35 miles (56 km) east of where the ocean touches the coast, somewhere in the middle between both extreme claims.

The Canadians, however, were still unhappy.
If the border had been a bit more in their favor, they would have had direct sea access to the Yukon goldfields.
They blamed the British, who had negotiated the deal on their behalf, but favored better relations with the U.S. over a better deal for Canada.

The arbitration also specified Alaska’s maritime border with Canada.
The so-called A-B Line ran from Cape Muzon — the southernmost point on Dall Island, Alaska’s southernmost island — east toward the mainland.
This left most of the Dixon Entrance on the Canadian side of the line.

But that was not how the Americans saw it.
As far as they were concerned, the A-B Line was relevant for the land border; the sea border ran well south of the line, as per maritime law.
This cuts the Dixon Entrance in two, the north going to the U.S., the south to Canada.

Those are the claims that both governments are still sticking to today.
One of the reasons the matter is so hard to resolve is the area’s Pacific salmon.
Each year, several species squeeze through the narrow Dixon Entrance to return to the rivers of the mainland to spawn.

To catch them, fishermen from each side follow the laws of their own country.
As recently as the 1990s, competition between Canadian and American fishermen in the grey zone boiled over into so-called “salmon wars,” both sides occasionally arresting each others’ crews.
In 1997, things came to a head when Canadian fishermen blockaded an Alaskan ferry, effectively holding its passengers hostage for three days.

Things are less tense now.
There’s even a telephone hotline where crews can report violations of standing agreements.
But the core issue has not been resolved.

As the map shows, the gray area is divided into three contiguous zones on either side of the Canadian claim line.
The triangle-shaped one in the middle is interesting because it is not part of the Canadian claim or the American one.
That means it constitutes an area of negative sovereignty, similar to the Bir Tawil triangle between Egypt and Sudan (see also Strange Maps #396).
It is unclear whether this area is expressly “ungoverned” or not.

The Beaufort Sea: two bald men fighting over a toupee
The Beaufort Sea wedge measures 6,250 square nautical miles.
Credit: David H.Gray, “Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Borders” (via IBRUat Durham University).

The Beaufort Sea was named after the Royal Navy admiral who invented the scale to measure wind force that also carries his name.
As many geographic features in Canada, it comes with an automatic translation into French: Mer de Beaufort.

That sounds very vacation-y, but do not be fooled.
This is about as cold, windswept, featureless, and uninhabited a part of the world as you may dread to find.
The sea ices over for most of the year, although recently climate change has enlarged the ice-free zone that appears in late summer.
A territorial dispute over a slice of this desolate sea recalls the old saying used by José Luis Borges to describe the Falklands War: 
“Two bald men fighting over a comb.”

The dispute is about a wedge-shaped area north of where the border between Alaska and the Yukon territory reaches the sea.
That land border follows the 141st meridian west, as agreed in the 1825 Treaty of St. Petersburg between Russia and Britain.

Fine, proposes Canada: just follow that line 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 370 km) north into the sea, and that is your sea border.
Not so fast, says the U.S., arguing that the marine border should be perpendicular to the coastline as it goes out to sea.
The difference is an area of about 8,100 sq mi (21,000 sq km).

The U.S. and Canada both agree that the sea border should be “equitable,” but they differ on what “equitable” means, in these particular circumstances.

The dispute is inflamed by the important reserves of oil and gas hidden beneath the ice, water, and rock.
According to Canada’s National Energy Board, the wedge could contain as much as 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas and 1 billion cubic meters of oil — enough to satisfy the country’s energy needs many years over.
And in a few years’ time, those reserves could become more accessible, as ice retreats due to climate change.
There is a rather dark irony hiding somewhere in that prospect.

So forget the comb.
A more appropriate simile is not about fighting over something useless, but over something that is improper and outdated.
Like two men fighting over a toupee.

Northwest Passage: as ice recedes, potential for conflict heats up
Some of the route options for the Northwest Passage.
Credit: Public domain

Funny, here is the Northwest Passage again (see also Strange Maps #1106).
The search for this drastic shortcut to sea voyages between Europe and East Asia was a motif for many of the earliest European expeditions into North America.

Such a route, through various channels across Canada’s vast northern archipelago, is theoretically possible, if not for the sea ice.
Many expeditions saw their progress blocked by ice or became trapped by it, with the most horrific example being the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845.
Two ships and 129 men disappeared, their frozen remains discovered more than a century later.

The first to complete a passage this way was the Norwegian Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen, who took three years in the Gjøa, a sloop with a crew of six, to finish the journey in 1906.

In the last few decades, climate change and the resulting decline in sea ice have made Canada’s northern channels more easily navigable.
In 2007, a commercial vessel completed the trip without the assistance of an icebreaker, the first time that has ever happened.

Some of the more navigable channels of the Northwest Passage are very shallow, but there are several other options yet to be fully explored or deiced.
If the northern route could accommodate supertankers and other ships too large for the Panama Canal, it would shave off a big stretch of their only current option: a trip around Cape Horn, on the southern tip of South America.

As global temperatures continue to rise, the Northwest Passage will become increasingly viable for marine traffic, even if only in summer.
That means the territorial dispute over the Northwest Passage is likely to heat up soon as well.

For Canada, the issue is clear and simple: any potential waterway opening up for international shipping will pass through Canadian waters, over which the country exercises full sovereignty, meaning that Canada may grant access or levy tolls as it pleases.

However, the United States and several other countries claim that a viable Northwest Passage would de iure be an international strait, open for transit passage without restriction or compensation, broadly similar to the Bosporus that runs straight through Istanbul (see Strange Maps #1047).

In 1969, U.S. oil tanker SS Manhattan completed the passage without asking prior permission from the Canadians, and to drive the point home, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea did the same in 1985.
Even though the latter ship allowed inspection by the Canadian Coast Guard, public opinion in Canada was furious and the trip turned into a diplomatic incident.

In 1986, Canada reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, a claim the U.S. refused to recognize.
To defuse the situation, both countries in 1988 signed an Arctic Cooperation agreement, which did not touch the sovereignty issue as such, but clarified some practical matters.
Under the Law of the Sea, ships in transit passage do not need permission to pass but may not engage in research while they do.
The agreement proposed that U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels would always be considered to be doing research, so would always need to ask permission to transit.

The treaty held for about a decade.
At the end of 2005, pictures were published of the USS Charlotte at the North Pole.
Canada strongly suspected the submarine had traversed its waters.
It certainly had not asked for permission to do so.
Canada’s tit for America’s tat was that it decided no longer to use the term “Northwest Passage” but designated the area as “Canadian Internal Waters.”

But it was to no avail: the U.S. sticks to its interpretation of international law and reserves the right to treat Canada’s Internal Waters as international waters instead.
Which side will prevail?
At the rate that polar ice is retreating, we will know in a couple of years.

Machias Seal Island: lighthouse keepers without a light to keep
Machias Seal Island is the only actual dry land that is disputed between the U.S.
and Canada.
Credit: David H.
Gray, “Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Borders” (via IBRUat Durham University).

In 1865, a 7-foot-tall American sailor named Barna Beal landed on Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine.
Beal, inevitably nicknamed “Tall Barney,” claimed the 20-acre uninhabited island for the United States and single-handedly chased off the British patrol sent to eject him from it.
In his will, he left the island to the first of his descendants to be named Barna.

How much of that is true is debatable.
But in the second half of the 20th century, Barna Norton, Beal’s great-grandson, took up the claim.
He was generous about it though, saying, “The island belongs to me, but everyone is welcome.”

For decades, Norton would bring over groups of tourists to the island on his boat in summer to see the island’s thriving puffin and tern colonies.
Every few years, the Canadian government sent him a cease and desist note, which he duly ignored.
After all, a letter from the U.S.
State Department said he had the right to do so.

Things came to a head every Fourth of July when Norton would parade around the island with an American flag and ask the Canadian lighthouse keepers for rent.
Canada’s counteroffensive would be led by Tony Diamond, a puffin watcher from New Brunswick.
Diamond would stick dozens of small Canadian flags in bird s’ nests around the island.

Norton died in 2004, and it seems there is no new Barna yet to reignite the pantomime war with Canada.
The origins of that war and the geopolitical gray zone that surrounds the island go back to a 1621 land grant that deeded Nova Scotia to a Sir William Alexander.
The Canadians say the grant included the island.
The Americans say the wording is too vague.

That became relevant in 1783 when the British and the Americans signed their divorce papers, a.k.a.
the Treaty of Paris.
Under the generous terms of that treaty, the newly independent U.S.
was granted sovereignty over all islands within 20 leagues (69 miles, 111 km) of its shores, unless they were previously part of Nova Scotia.

Machias Seal Island is fewer than 10 miles off the coast of Maine.
“American,” say the Americans.
But there is that ambiguously worded grant from 1621.
“Canadian,” say the Canadians.

The result was not a Mexican standoff but a Canadian one.
The Canadians had the upper hand but at considerable effort.
Canada sent a steady stream of keepers to the island’s lighthouse, not to operate the light — it had been automated years ago — but solely “for sovereignty reasons.”

In fact, the U.S.
and Canada did have a few other territorial issues in the Gulf of Maine, but those were resolved by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1984.
But Machias Seal Island was excluded from that deal.
Both sides seemed willing to let the current standoff continue, as long as its ingredients included nothing more harmful or costly than a steady stream of lighthouse keepers and the occasional barnacle-encrusted local “claimant” to the island.
Meanwhile, tour boats from both the U.S.
and Canada bring birdwatchers to the island.

But Machias Seal Island comes with fishing grounds, which are as disputed as the island, and much more valuable.
In 2002, Canada allowed its lobstermen to fish in the gray zone in summer, bringing them in direct conflict with their colleagues from Maine.

Sometimes, things got physical.
In 2007, a Mainer had his thumb ripped off in the gray zone while jostling with a Canadian for space.
Today, an increasing scarcity of lobsters — a consequence of global warming — is not helping matters.
Links :

■ For a slightly more spectacular border dispute in the part of the world named after Juan de Fuca, see this entry in Canada’s Historyabout the Pig War of 1859 — casualties: one Canadian pig, killed by an American settler.
■ For more on the Dixon Entrance, see this article on BBC Travel.
■ More background on the Beaufort Sea dispute in this article (or is that arcticle?) at the Arctic Institute.
■ And here’s another one from the same source on the Northwest Passage (and Arctic shipping in general).
■ Additional info on Machias Seal Island here on
Most images taken from the article “Canada’s Unresolved Maritime Boundaries” by David H. Gray, published in the Autumn 1997 edition of the IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, a publication by the International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU) at Durham University (UK).

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

This groundbreaking simulator generates a huge indoor ocean

Future research on the ocean-atmosphere will be facilitated by a state-of-the-art simulator that’s set to be constructed on the Scripps campus.
The NSF funded SOARS instrument will mimic the ocean with unprecedented accuracy

From Wired by Matt Simon

It’s a 32,000-gallon concrete tank with a wind tunnel grafted on top.
With it, researchers can study the seas—and climate change—like never before.

Schematic created by SOARS scientists depicting the variables within ocean-atmosphere systems that scientists will be able to replicate using SOARS.
JUST A SHORT walk from the sea at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, researchers are putting the finishing touches on a remarkable feat of engineering: an indoor ocean.
Stretching 120 feet in this cavernous building, the 32,000-gallon concrete tank is topped with huge ducts that blast 60-mph winds across seawater piped in straight from the Pacific.
At one end of the machine, a paddle pushes waves, creating a roiling surface.
It’s all lit with natural photons pouring in from conical overhead skylights that look like rocket engines.

This is the Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator, or Soars, a customizable ecosystem for scientists to better understand how the seas are transforming under the burden of climate change.
It’s currently undergoing trials, with an official opening slated for next summer.
When Soars opens, there will be nothing else like it in the world.
If you’re a researcher interested in studying the Arctic Sea, you can form sea ice by switching the simulator into polar mode, which drops the water temperature to 34 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind to –2 degrees.
Or you can crank the thermostat the other way to simulate climate change.
If you’re interested in ocean acidification, you can infuse carbon dioxide into the hermetically sealed simulator and watch what it does to real seawater.

“Imagine it as a giant wave tank with a wind tunnel grafted on top,” says Scripps oceanographer Dale Stokes, co-principal investigator of Soars.
“You end up with this natural sort of analog computer—we can turn all these knobs and look at what happens.”

We’ve all heard that three-quarters of Earth is covered with oceans, and that scientists know more about the surface of the moon than they do of the deep sea.

But, more urgently, researchers know too little about how the surface of the sea is interacting with the atmosphere—how waves spew particles that eventually form fog and clouds; how skyrocketing carbon-dioxide levels are affecting the organisms floating in the open ocean; and how sea ice might be changing as waters warm. 

Illustration : SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography

“It's a complex mixture of chemistry, biology, and physics,” says Scripps oceanographer Grant Deane, co-principal investigator of Soars.
“That's one of the things that we've discovered in the last, I would say, 15 years—these complex interactions in this thin layer on the surface of the ocean.
And what happens there influences clouds, ice, weather, climate.
We have to understand that boundary and the role it plays in the climate.”

Soars gives oceanographers unprecedented control over these variables.
Up until now, scientists could run complex computer climate models to estimate, say, how increasing CO2 levels might change the chemistry of surface waters.
These models are useful, but their resolution is coarse.
Because of limited computing power, the models break the ocean up into pixels on the scale of tens to hundreds of kilometers.
If scientists tried working on the centimeter scale, they’d be waiting for results for a very long time.
With Soars, oceanographers can snake instruments through the walls of the tank and take CO2 measurements on an extremely fine scale. 

Illustration : SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography

Another option for scientists is going out on a research vessel—but it can run them over $20,000 a day to use a boat, whereas Soars will cost $1,500 to $2,000 a day.
Stokes and Deane reckon that, depending on the nature of the research, investigators might need the machine for a few days to a few months.
The simulator will be open to any researcher, at Scripps or otherwise.

Relatively short, simple experiments might involve measuring how wind speeds and wave sizes influence the number of aerosols that fly off the water’s surface.
Or someone might want to know how the “albedo” of the ocean changes, meaning how much of the sun’s energy it reflects.
As the simulated sea gets rougher, white caps would bounce back much of the sunlight, while calmer, darker waters would absorb more of it and heat up.

A longer and more complex experiment would involve cultivating microbes and plankton—little plants and animals that float at the mercy of currents—and playing with water and air temperatures to see how they react.
Or a researcher might fiddle with atmospheric CO2concentrations, which currently are around 420 parts per million on Earth.
“One of the first things we'll do is we'll pump the CO2 up to 600 ppm and see what that does to the organisms,” says Deane.

What do all of these experiments have in common? Control.
Oceanographers can only study the real sea as-is and in the moment.
With Soars, they will be able to essentially fast-forward into a world with higher temperatures and CO2 levels.
“We can turn these knobs and make very good estimates of what future systems look like,” says Stokes.

Atmospheric aerosol scientist Paul DeMott of Colorado State University is planning an experiment at Soars next summer in which his team might change temperatures and wind speeds to see how aerosols are generated.
He’ll be able to watch the process close up from several vantage points: A gangway over the tank offers a top-down view, and a big aquarium-style window in the control room shows the experiments in cross-section.

Illustration : SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography

For DeMott, Soars provides an ultra-controlled environment where he can isolate aerosols from the water without having to worry about other sources.
Scientists can certainly sample aerosols at sea, but they can’t be sure they’re only getting aerosols coming off the patch of water they’re studying—all sorts of atmospheric gunk is also blowing in from land and other parts of the ocean.
“So you're getting some kind of an integrated effect when you're making a measurement on the ship, and you aren't necessarily capturing only the nascent emissions that are coming from the ocean,” says DeMott.

Understanding ocean aerosols is critical, because when water forms around them in the atmosphere, they go on to seed clouds.
That means the ocean is intimately linked to precipitation on land.
Plus, clouds also produce an albedo effect: The bigger and brighter they are, the more of the sun’s energy they reflect back into space, thus cooling the climate.
Might changing wind patterns and warmer oceans change how clouds are formed? With Soars, DeMott can play with the variables and see what happens.

Kimberly Prather, an atmospheric chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and co-principal investigator of Soars, has been participating in the simulator's trial runs this fall, and will be running full experiments once it opens.
Her work involves cultivating life in the tank, like microbes and phytoplankton, which are the base of the oceanic food web.
Little animals known as zooplankton eat these phytoplankton, and bigger fish eat the zooplankton, and so on up the food chain.

But despite these microbes being tiny, they may have a planetary climate effect.
When microbes proliferate in this water, they get very, very gassy.
We’re talking a complex cloud of dimethyl sulfide, methanethiol, nitrogen compounds, and more.
“They emit gases when they're stressed, they emit gases when they're happy—if you will.
They emit gases when they communicate with each other,” says Prather.
“They emit gases all the time, and that has never been looked at in the ocean before.
That is something that we want to do in this simulator.”
With Soars, Prather now has unprecedented control over the temperatures, turbidity, winds, and atmospheric gas concentrations that could influence how these microbes proliferate, and in turn how their off-gassing influences the atmosphere.
“Nobody has done it yet in a systematic manner, to really go after how the ocean is controlling the composition of the atmosphere that's ultimately affecting air quality and health, and the health of our planet,” says Prather.
“To me, as an atmospheric scientist, it's shocking that there's this big of a gap.”

The data gathered from Soars experiments about the boundary between air and water can then be used to improve coarser global climate models by plugging this new fine-scale data into them.
“To understand all of these as a dynamic evolving system, I think it's going to be a really, really exciting and powerful facility,” says UC Davis atmospheric chemist Christopher Cappa, who’s planning experiments at Soars next summer.
“What you get with a facility like this is the ability to really hone in and nail down processes.”

The stakes are astronomical.
More than 90 percent of the global warming humans have caused has been absorbed by the oceans; so far, the seas are saving us from ourselves.
But scientists desperately need to understand how the oceans themselves are faring, and how changes within them might influence the entire climate.
“If we don't wake up, if we don't understand the consequences of our behaviors, we are going to be in a really tight spot,” says Deane.
“We already have purchased a certain amount of pain for the future—how much more we purchase depends on what we do now.”

Links :

Monday, November 1, 2021


A quick little walk, totally against the rules of course but if we don't change a thing, if we're very careful, it shouldn't do any harm. It would be nice...

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Paradise won’t protect itself

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most spectacular living networks on our planet.
Seeing it for yourself will leave you speechless.
So be curious.
Look beneath the surface.
Marvel at the intricate details of our natural world.
Now more than ever, the simplicity of getting outside and experiencing nature is important to us all.
It's these freedoms and connections that help us realise what it truly means to be alive.
And it forces us to comprehend the impact we, as humans, are having on the world around us.
Learning and understanding of its connectedness to us is the number one driver for innovative and creative change.

Early in 2020, we spent a week with marine biologist, Johnny Gaskell, who leads a team pioneering a reef restoration program in the Whitsunday Region - a mountainous archipelago made up of 74, mostly uninhabited, islands inside the Great Barrier Reef.
Alongside him, Australian marine biologist, Laura Wells, and South African surfer, Frank Solomon, explored the mind-blowing beauty of the Whitsundays and learned of the environmental challenges this region faces.
Whitsunday islands with the GeoGarage platform (AHS Austrlia nautical raster charts)

Johnny is a big advocate for people learning firsthand and encourages everyone to jump in the water; he believes curiosity gets people invested and motivates them to be a part of reef protection.
Seeing the restoration of the reef firsthand juxtaposed with the impact that plastics and pollution have on what seems a paradise, might just be the catalyst for change.