Saturday, June 24, 2023

Sea Level through a porthole

As the planet warms and polar ice melts, our global average sea level is rising. 
Although exact ocean heights vary due to local geography, climate over time, and dynamic fluid interactions with gravity and planetary rotation, scientists observe sea level trends by comparing measurements against a 20 year spatial and temporal mean reference.
These visualizations use the visual metaphor of a submerged porthole window to observe how far our oceans rose between 1993 and 2022.
This visualization watches the global mean sea level change through a circular window.
The blue mark on the ruler shows the exact measurements of the Integrated Multi-Mission Ocean Altimeter Data for Climate Research.
The level of the animated water changes more smoothly, driven by a 60-day floating average of the same data.


Friday, June 23, 2023

France & misc. (SHOM) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

3 new nautical raster charts & 183 updated
1834 Dépôt de la Marine Nautical Map of St. Pierre Island 
île Saint Pierre with the GeoGarage plateform

Conor O’Brien’s pioneering saoirse Circumnavigation centenary will be honoured by Irish Cruising

Valentine’s Day with a difference – the new-build of Conor O’Brien’s global pioneering Saoirse steps out in style under sail for the first time at Baltimore on Tuesday February 14th 2023
Credit: Kevin O’Farrell

From Afloat by WM Nixon

The magnificent pioneering voyage round the world south of the Great Capes in 1923-1925 by Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) of Foynes, sailing his new-built engine-less 42ft Baltimore ketch Saoirse, was of such heroic proportions that any attempts at a re-enactment to mark the Centenary of its start this year from Dun Laoghaire on June 20th might seem faintly ridiculous, a profound ocean challenge reduced to pantomime.

Yet the latest images by noted West Cork photographer Kevin O’Farrell of the new and very precise re-build of Saoirse having her first sail in Baltimore on Tuesday of this week (Valentine’s Day, of course) and setting impressively traditional sails from Barry Hayes and his team at the UK Sailmakers loft in Crosshaven, make such a forceful impression that you could well believe that all things – real or re-enacted - are possible.

Saoirse. Conor O’Brien’s sail-plan for his first yacht design was essentially for offwind sailing, and the stunsails…

…were by no means ornamental, adding real speed in light winds. 
Photo courtesy O’Brien family
And this was very much the mood when the original Saoirse sailed out from Dublin Bay a hundred years ago.
For apart from anything else, the characterful little ship, which had been designed by O’Brien himself though with some welcome modifications by Baltimore’s master shipwright Tom Moynihan, was still largely untried at sea, and had done no ocean voyaging at all.

Into the unknown…when the new Saoirse departed from Dun Laoghaire on June 20th 1923, neither she nor her skipper had done any ocean voyaging of significance.
Photo: Irish Times


At the time of Saoirse’s build through 1922, West Cork was a hotspot of some of its most active scenes of conflict in the Civil War.
Yet while the construction job was done, there was little enough time or opportunity for sea trials, and Saoirse departed from Dun Laoghaire for “a voyage to New Zealand” largely as an act of faith.
But it was an act of faith gloriously fulfilled, and as confirmed at last night’s AGM of the Irish Cruising Club in Dun Laoghaire, the 1929-founded ICC and the 1880-founded RCC – the latter having given O’Brien’s achievement international recognition while the voyage was under way - have come up with a very appropriate programme to mark the event.

O’Brien’s initial stage of the voyage in June 1923 started with a first passage from Dun Laoghaire to Madeira.
It went very well indeed, with the surprisingly swift little Saoirse making such good time in the brisk Portuguese Trades that, despite calms in the later stages, she arrived off Funchal in Madeira on July 3rd.
So although there’ll be a gathering of cruisers and their crews at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire on June 17th prior to heading south, there’s no attempt at that stage to match O’Brien’s actual departure date of June 20th, as it’s felt the “Saoirse Show” was really only up and running when Madeira was reached.

Conor O’Brien in relaxed mood at Saoirse’s helm as she proves unexpectedly fast running south in the Portuguese Trades, June 1923.

Thus those members who genuinely wish to show their appreciation of what O’Brien was doing will need to sail their boats to Madeira for the main event on July 3rd, and the word from ICC Commodore David Beattie last night was that 46 boats from many areas and several cruising clubs had expressed interest in being there.
And O’Brien’s other famous ocean-going design, the 56ft trading ketch Ilen of 1926-vintage restored through the tireless efforts of Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick, will also be heading south as part of the fleet, with trainees and ocean-cruising enthusiasts making up her ship’s company.

The restored 56ft Trading Ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage will be sailing to Madeira as part of the Saoirse Centenary celebrations.
Photo: Gary MacMahon


Whether or not the new Saoirse herself is present remains to be seen, as the resources behind her re-build are being provided by Fred Kinmonth, whose family have strong West Cork connections even though he has spent his working life as a Corporate Lawyer in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, his heart is in West Cork, and his first priority is to emphasise that Saoirse was and is a West Cork boat, despite Conor O’Brien’s frequently-avowed devotion to Foynes Island in the Shannon Estuary.

So with much completion work still to be done internally, after her trial sail on Tuesday the new Saoirse was re-hauled at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt on the Ilen River, and it is hoped that she will be making her fully-completed and formal debut at the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival on May 26th-28th 2023.

The Saoirse re-creation newly launched at Oldcourt, September 2022.
Although the hull lines used were those taken off the original hull by Uffa Fox in 1927, they were shown to match Conor O’Brien’s own “rough” pre-build sketches of 1922 very closely.
Photo: John Wolfe

The new build of the design of Saoirse herself by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt - to very precise lines taken off by Uffa Fox, no less, in 1927 - saw her reaching the launching stage last autumn, and now the accelerated commissioning programme opens up fresh schedule possibilities.
But perhaps the most meaningful option would be to have her in all her unique glory – and very much the flagship of West Cork - in Dun Laoghaire on June 20th 2025, a hundred years to the day from O’Brien’s return.
His success was celebrated with such widespread enthusiasm afloat and ashore that Dublin Bay Sailing Club unprecedentedly cancelled their racing for the day (it was a Saturday) so that their fleet could welcome the great circumnavigator home.


The first edition of Across Three Oceans, O’Brien’s lively and often idiosyncratic account of the voyage, was published within a year in 1926, and it had a freshness which has convinced total Saoirse aficionados that this is the only true account of the voyage.

Yet O’Brien’s lively and decidedly opinionated mind meant that he was always seeing new ways of interpreting his first thoughts and impressions, and subsequent editions always carried so many different angles on it all that the initial impact was lessened, even if the debating points were increased.

One of sailing’s greatest books.
The new Irish Cruising Club/Royal Cruising Club 6th edition of Conor O’Brien’s pioneering account of his global circumnavigation south of the Great Capes with the 42ft Baltimore-built traditional gaff ketch Saoirse in 1923-1925.
Compiled by Alex Blackwell and a special ICC/RCC Publications Committee, it includes extra material about O’Brien’s personal background, and other after-thoughts on ocean sailing which he added with additional analysis and further sea-going experience

But 97 years later, in the hopes of providing an accessible and user-friendly account of O’Brien’s extraordinary achievement and his own equally extraordinary background and family history, the ICC and RCC are jointly publishing a manageable paperback 6th Edition of Across Three Oceans (“manageable” means you can read it in bed), with a foreword by this columnist which tries to explain the history and character of a man who at times would have been at a loss to provide those explanations himself, or would have delighted in spinning a yarn which was at variance with reality.

Meanwhile, for those who wish to go into it all in complete detail, in 2009 Collins Press of Cork published an excellent biography of O’Brien titled In Search Of Islands, written by Judith Hill using the impressive selection of O’Brien material amassed over many years by Gary Mac Mahon.
And of course O’Brien wrote other sailing-related books, the best of them in conjunction with his wife, the artist Kitty Clausen, who died tragically young, but in her prime had sketched the most impressive portrait we have of Conor O’Brien.

Kitty Clausen’s insightful portrait of her husband Conor O’Brien

As for the new Saoirse, Kevin O’Farrell has meticulously photographed every aspect of her build from the beginning of the project in Liam Hegarty’s atmospheric Top Shed at Oldcourt, and his book of those evocative images of the creation of the new Saoirse will be published in May, a work of art in itself and a total immersive experience for lovers of wooden boats, connoisseurs of craftsmanship, and everyone for whom West Cork is a very special place


It says much about the contemporary widespread interests of the Irish Cruising Club that the Saoirse Centenary was just one of many topics covered in a busy agenda last night, but inevitably it was prominent in everyone’s thoughts.
For although the ICC was not founded until 1929 at a modest gathering of five cruising yachts at Glengarriff, one of the first acts of the new club was to make Conor O’Brien an Honorary Member, and from his retirement at his little house of Barneen on Foynes Island, he occasionally emerged to take part in the ICC’s Annual Dinner.

The Club has come through the pandemic in good heart, helped by the fact that the very able Commodore David Beattie had his period of office extended to three years from the usual two, thereby providing continuity at a time when it was sometimes difficult to tell whether boats could go cruising or not.


Yet once there were the faintest chinks of light in the restrictions, they sailed the seas near and far.
But nevertheless there’s something encouraging about the fact that the adjudication by Tom Kirby of Clonakilty for the premier award, the Faulkner Cup, which dates from 1931, has gone to Clew Bay member Duncan Sclare, who’d bought a well-used 29ft Verl 900 on the west shores of the North Sea.
As soon as restriction-easing began in March, he sailed this little boat – called Quibus - home to Mayo in the seasonal fair winds of very raw easterlies, an efficient and seamanlike exercise in exemplary style which gave the Faulkner Cup a fresh perspective.

Plans of the Verl 900 – Duncan Sclare’s Quibus to this design is the smallest boat in many years to have been awarded the ICC’s premier trophy, the Falkner Cup

For many years now, high latitude places have feature in the top awards, and Svalbard or Spitzbergen – just as you wish – has been frequently visited in tines past, But these days that Arctic archipelago is not only too popular for its own good through being over-run by cruise liners, but it’s now considered political frontier country.
So Adrian Spence and Paddy Barry with the former’s 47ft ketch El Paradiso had more than enough problems to deal with in making a worthwhile visit there, but they are awarded the Strangford Cup nevertheless.

Adrian Spence’s Vagabond 47 El Paradiso found that Svalbard is now well-wrapped in red tape, yet she still managed enough cruising to be awarded the Strangford Cup

The Round Ireland cruise can be a work of art in its own right if properly executed, so the contest for its special cup is always fascinating, and in 2022 it was Vice Commodore Derek White of Strangford Lough, with his Limerick-built Fastnet 34 Ballyclaire, who got it right despite the weather in the west sometimes not being right at all.

Derek & Viv White’s Fastnet 34 Ballyclaire in Derrynane during their award-winning Round Ireland cruise


All the ICC logs have been superbly collected and presented in the professional-standard Annual by Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan.
Yet despite this winter workload, her own enthusiasm for cruising and cruising boats seems greater than ever, for although she and husband Andrew Wilkes were stuck in the Canaries during the depths of the lockdown with their 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J, they kept themselves busy by taking over and restoring an abandoned Nicholson 43 called Hunza which they sailed home in due course, thereby taking the ICC’s Atlantic Trophy.

Another ICC member who has always given over and above the call of duty if John Clementson of Strangford Lough, whose ability as a tech whizz landed him with the job of moving the Club into the Internet age, which he did so capably that his work has been recognised with the John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing.

The ICC now has a host of trophies covering every possibility of activity and achievement afloat, but one which those in the know look out for is the Fingal Cup for the log which the Adjudicator most enjoyed.
No-one will argue with Tom Kirby’s choice here, as it goes to Andy and Paddy McCarter of Lough Swilly, whose Starlight 35 Gwili 3 suddenly seemed very far away in her longterm Canary Islands base.

Andy and Paddy have both been Free Bus Pass holders for a while, but nothing daunted, they decided to bring Gwili 3 home to Ireland themselves, with both boat and crew requiring specialist attention at times.
In due course, they did it, and produced an enjoyable account of it all while they were at it, in the best ICC style in a club which is itself now beginning to think about its Centenary.

Links :

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Titanic sub: Safety concerns raised about missing submersible

Titan Oceangate submarine
Finding the 22-foot-long Titan submersible, which went missing on June 18, is a desperate race against time.
The craft, powered by four electric thrusters that move it at a maximum speed of 3 knots, lost contact with its surface vessel, the Polar Prince, around 105 minutes into a dive.
The Titan was headed for the wreckage of the Titanic, roughly 375 nautical miles from Newfoundland, Canada.
If the sub is still intact, those aboard have only hours of air left.
image : Reuters

From BBC news by y Rebecca Morelle & Jake Horton

A former employee of OceanGate - the company that operates the missing Titan submersible - warned of potential safety problems with the vessel as far back as 2018.

US court documents show that David Lochridge, the company's Director of Marine Operations, had raised concerns in an inspection report.

The report "identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns", according to the documents, including the way the hull had been tested.

Mr Lochridge "stressed the potential danger to passengers of the Titan as the submersible reached extreme depths". 
He said his warnings were ignored and called a meeting with OceanGate bosses but was fired, according to the documents.

The company sued him for revealing confidential information, and he countersued for unfair dismissal. The lawsuit was later settled but we don't know the details of the settlement.

The BBC tried to contact Mr Lochridge but he is not commenting. 

It can take five passengers to The Titanic on the ocean floor, you can pilot it with a gaming controller...and it has a toilet.
Climb aboard Titan, a unique submarine used to explore the world's most famous shipwreck.
Separately, a letter sent to OceanGate by the Marine Technology Society (MTS) in March 2018 and obtained by the New York Times, stated "the current 'experimental' approach adopted by OceanGate... could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic)".

A spokesman for OceanGate declined to comment on the safety issues raised by Mr Lochridge and the MTS.

The Titan submersible, described as "experimental" by the company, was built from an unusual material for a deep sea vessel.

Its hull - surrounding the hollow part where passengers sit - was made from carbon fibre, with titanium end plates and a small window at one end.

"Typically, the part of deep-sea submersible housing the humans is a titanium sphere around 2m in diameter," said Dr Nicolai Roterdam, lecturer in marine biology at the University of Portsmouth.

To withstand the immense pressures of the deep you need super-strong materials, to resist the weight of water above that's pressing down on you.

Carbon fibre is cheaper than titanium or steel and is extremely strong, but it is largely untested for deep sea vessels like the Titan.

In an interview with Oceanographic last year, OceanGate's CEO Rush Stockton said: "Carbon fibre is used successfully in yachts and in aviation, but it has not been used in crewed submersibles."

In the court documents, Mr Lochridge claimed the hull had not been properly tested - where it's placed under extreme pressures and analysed to look for potential problems.

He claimed that trials on a smaller scale model of the sub had revealed flaws in the carbon under pressure testing.

Mr Lochridge also raised the issue of the Titan's glass viewport.
He claimed the company that made the material would only certify its use down to 1,300m.

A December 2018 statement from OceanGate said the Titan had completed a 4,000 meter dive which "completely validates OceanGate's innovative engineering and the construction of Titan's carbon fiber and titanium hull".

In a 2020 interview with GeekWire, Mr Rush said tests were conducted which revealed that the Titan's hull "showed signs of cyclic fatigue".

The BBC filmed Stockton Rush inside the submersible in 2022

In a May 2021 court filing, the company said Titan had undergone more than 50 test dives, including to the equivalent depth of the Titanic, in deep waters off the Bahamas and in a pressure chamber.

The shape of the Titan is also unusual.

The hull of a deep-diving sub is usually spherical, which means it receives an equal amount of pressure at every point, but Titan's hull is tube-shaped, so the pressure would not be equally distributed.

"Titan is quite a different deep-sea submersible compared to those used in research," said Dr Roterman.
"Whether or not this design with composite materials represents a structural weakness would be for engineers to determine, however," she added.

Some of the most awe-inspiring scenes included in Titan – A Viewport to Titanic, are Titanic’s legendary bow, the forecastle, the well deck, the ship’s bridge and wheelhouse area, and the officers’ deck. Notably, viewers can also see the telemotor where Quartermaster Robert Hichens was at the helm and the crow’s nest location where lookout Frederick Fleet alerted the bridge of the iceberg ahead.
Areas of accelerated deterioration include Titanic’s foremast that has completely disintegrated, and Captain Smith’s cabin that is now destroyed by the ravages of time, currents, and the effects of iron eating bacteria that leave rivers of rusticles all over the wreck.
The sea life that now makes the Titanic home are also to be seen including squat lobsters, rattail fish, and bamboo coral.
For those interested in supporting the continuing efforts to document and study the Titanic and the creatures that make it their home, there are still a limited number of Mission Specialist roles available for the 2023 Titanic Expedition.
Why wasn't the sub certified?

In the court documents, Mr Lochridge also said he had urged OceanGate to get the submarine inspected and certified.

Subs can be certified or "classed" by marine organisations - for example by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) or DNV (a global accreditation organisation based in Norway) or Lloyds of London.
This essentially means that the vehicle must meet certain standards on aspects including stability, strength, safety and performance.
The process involves reviewing the design and construction, assessing testing and trials to be certified. And once the sub is in service it needs to be checked periodically to ensure it still meets these criteria.
But certification of subs isn't mandatory.

OceanGate's Titan submersible (pictured above) has been missing since Monday
Image CBS news

Titan was never certified or classed - as the company wrote a blog post about it in 2019.

It said the way that Titan had been designed fell outside the accepted system - but it "does not mean that OceanGate does meet standards where they apply."

It added that the classing agencies "slowed down innovation… bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation".

A CBS reporter who went on the Titan in 2022 quoted a waiver people signed before boarding as stating it was "an experimental submersible vessel that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body which could result in physical injury, emotional trauma or death."

Any sub that dives over 4,000m is a one-off vehicle - not something mass-produced - and requires innovation and novel design to survive at these depths.

But that doesn't mean this falls outside the classing system.

Take for example the sub called the Limiting Factor. 
This vessel, designed by Triton submarines, has repeatedly travelled to the very deepest places in the ocean - performing many dives to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which lies 11km down.

Image Triton submarines

It's a truly unique and cutting-edge vessel - but the team behind it collaborated with the DNV classing agency from design, through to construction and testing. 
And the Limiting Factor is fully certified to repeatedly - and safely - dive to any depth in the ocean.

Links :

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Navigating climate change: Kiribati’s efforts to address sea-level rise

From Hydro y Wim van Wegen
Interview with Tion Uriam, national coordinator for hydrography and charting, Kiribati
Tion Uriam is the national coordinator for hydrography and charting in the Marine Division of Kiribati’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Transport.
He has a diverse academic background, including a diploma in Geospatial Science from the University of the South Pacific and a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Surveying from RMIT University, and he also completed the GEBCO/Nippon Foundation Cat A programme at the University of New Hampshire.
Uriam has over 15 years of experience working in the Kiribati government.
He started as a GIS officer in the Ministry of Fisheries, then transitioned to become a land surveyor before his current position.
As the national coordinator for hydrography and charting, he oversees the hydrography department – ensuring that Kiribati’s waters are safely chartered – and manages maritime safety and infrastructure development.

The impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on daily life in Kiribati and the Pacific region can also be felt in the hydrographic profession.
In this interview, Tion Uriam, the national coordinator for hydrography and charting in Kiribati, emphasizes the challenges faced by Pacific Island nations and the importance of addressing root causes.
Uriam discusses the challenges in obtaining support and resources for the Kiribati Outer Islands Transport Infrastructure Investment Project, and how initiatives like Seabed 2030 are helping to bring together countries and organizations to share resources and expertise.
Kiribati is also working to educate and raise awareness about the significance of hydrography and the effects of climate change.

How has everyday life in Kiribati – and other countries in the Pacific – been impacted by climate change and sea-level rise?

Climate change and sea-level rise have had a significant impact on everyday life in Kiribati and other Pacific Island countries.
Rising sea levels have caused increased coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion into the freshwater lens.
In our part of the world, we are experiencing the impacts of La Niña: with climate likely to have an impact on the ENSO cycle, La Niña means less rain for us.
In fact, we have just recently experienced a heavy drought period.
The islands in the Pacific face similar challenges, but at varying scales.

In your opinion, what is the most pressing challenge facing Pacific Island nations such as Kiribati on the topic of climate change and global warming, and how do you envision the country addressing this challenge in the coming years?

Pacific Island nations like Kiribati are facing a major challenge with climate change and global warming due to their vulnerability to rising sea levels and frequent natural disasters.
These events are already having serious consequences for the people and environment of these islands.
In Kiribati specifically, the challenge is largely caused by high population density and inadequate planning, which are affecting the two most crucial resources – land and water.

Map of Kiribati.
(Data sources: UNCS, Esri, Global Discovery, Government of USA;
map created by UN OCHA ReliefWeb)

Tackling climate change and global warming is not something that can be done by Kiribati alone, but we can control how we use our land and protect our water.
Although steps are being taken to adapt with modern measures, the root cause of the problem is still the high population and poor planning.
Addressing these underlying issues is crucial to effectively dealing with the impacts of climate change.

What measures is Kiribati taking to adapt to these changes and to protect its coastlines and communities?

Our traditional way of life was characterized by its capacity for adaptability to environmental changes.
The design of homes, for example, allowed for mobility and portability, and families acquired only sufficient resources for their daily sustenance.
The implementation of measures to support adaptation in response to environmental challenges can be considered more as reactive, rather than proactive, in nature.
Genuine adaptation entails the capability of survival in a constantly changing environment and growing population, which ultimately depends on effective resource management practices.

How is Kiribati working to maintain accurate and up-to-date hydrographic charts and maps of its waters?

The Kiribati Outer Islands Transport Infrastructure Investment Project (KOITIIP), an ADB and WB funded project, is currently focused on updating the charts of four islands in Kiribati.
The goal is to use this work as a stepping-stone to gain support for mapping the rest of the islands in Kiribati and producing more nautical charts.
The most recent data available is satellite-derived bathymetry that covers all 33 islands in Kiribati.
We are also taking part in the Seabed 2030 initiative, which allows for the exploration of crowd-sourced bathymetry to map more of Kiribati’s waters.
Vessels that frequently ferry between the islands carry single beam echosounders, effectively helping to map Kiribati’s waters through the collection of data.

What challenges does Kiribati face when it comes to conducting hydrographic surveys and maintaining accurate maps in the face of climate change and sea-level rise?

The current biggest obstacle is obtaining the necessary support to establish a sustainable programme.
My department currently lacks the budget and manpower needed to undertake the work.
The perceived value of producing maps and its potential contribution to Kiribati’s long-term socio-economic development plans is not yet clearly understood.

The phrase “we cannot manage what we can’t measure” is especially relevant in the context of Kiribati.
Through KOITIIP, we aim to increase awareness of the importance of mapping and the potential benefits it can bring.

From left to right: Robert Karoro (Kiribati), Diego Billings (Jamaica), John Nyberg (USA) and Tion Uriam (Kiribati) at the Eleventh Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management, in New York, August 2022.
(Image courtesy: NOAA)

When it comes to the effects of climate change and sea-level rise, various models predict that Kiribati could be underwater in the coming years.
These predictions are based on satellite-derived elevation data, which has a very low level of detail.
Since many of Kiribati’s atolls are only three metres above sea level, more accurate predictions could be made by mapping the elevation at a higher level of detail.

How are technology and innovation being employed to improve hydrographic capabilities and address the impacts of climate change?

Affordability and access to technology are important factors in improving hydrographic capabilities and addressing the impacts of climate change in Kiribati.
The cost of technology, both hardware and software, can be a barrier for small island nations like Kiribati.
However, initiatives like the Seabed 2030 project, which seeks to map the world’s oceans by 2030, are helping to bring together countries and organizations to share resources and expertise.
Additionally, open-source and low-cost technology solutions are becoming increasingly available, which can help to reduce the cost of technology and increase access to it.
It’s important for Kiribati to find the most affordable and accessible technology solutions that meet their needs and capabilities.

How is Kiribati working to educate and raise awareness about the importance of hydrography and the impacts of climate change on its waters?

In order to educate and increase awareness on the significance of hydrography and the effects of climate change on Kiribati’s waters, workshops were conducted with representatives from various government departments.
One of these workshops, held in November 2022, was in collaboration with our friends from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), aimed at creating and engaging various stakeholders in developing a comprehensive action plan for managing geospatial data using the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (UNGGIM IGIF model).
Recently, another workshop was conducted by Seabed 2030, resulting in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between my ministry (MICT) and Seabed 2030 on the sharing of data.

By participating in the Seabed 2030 initiative, Kiribati can leverage crowd-sourced bathymetry to expand the mapping of its waters.

How do Kiribati and other Pacific Island nations work with international organizations and other countries to exchange knowledge and best practices in hydrography?

Kiribati collaborates with international organizations and other countries by exchanging knowledge and best practices in hydrography through various initiatives, such as workshops and conferences.
Additionally, there is a mentorship programme through the South West Pacific Hydrographic Commission where individuals can receive guidance and support from experienced mentors.
In this case, Dr John Nyberg has served as a mentor, providing valuable assistance and support.

Are there any other ways in which Kiribati and other countries in the Pacific are working to advance the field of hydrography and stay up to date with the latest technologies and techniques?

As I mentioned earlier, one way that Kiribati and other Pacific Island nations are advancing the field of hydrography is through participating in mentorship programmes.
For example, Kiribati has participated in the South West Pacific Hydrographic Commission’s mentorship programme, where experienced hydrographers provide guidance and support to the next generation of hydrographers in the region.
This type of programme allows for the exchange of knowledge and the sharing of best practices in the field, helping to ensure that countries in the Pacific stay up to date with the latest technologies and techniques in hydrography.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today.
What steps do you believe need to be taken by industrialized countries to mitigate the effects of climate change and avoid worst-case scenarios?

There is a very simple answer to this that says it all: I think it’s important that we all do our part, as we are all in this together.

Do you have any final message or advice that you would like to share with the global hydrographic community, particularly regarding the challenges and opportunities facing Kiribati and other small island nations in the Pacific in the face of climate change and sea-level rise?

I truly am a firm believer in mentorship programmes: whether between individuals or organizations, we can benefit from learning from one another.
Especially in our case, where we do not have the experience or expertise, a mentorship programme can be useful in bridging this gap.

Attendees at the Kiribati national workshop on the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework in Betio, Kiribati, November 2022.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Sailing with Captain Barkley: Frances Barkley's 18th-century sea voyage

Frances Barkley: An Eighteenth-century Seafarer by Cathy Converse.
Now author Cathy Converse has written a new work of creative non-fiction based on that journal called Frances Barkley: An Eighteenth-century Seafarer, set to be launched at the Maritime Museum of B.C.
on May 12 at 4 p.m. (Details at
Heritage House
From Times Colonist by Cathy Converse
Frances Barkley was determined not to be separated from her merchant mariner husband, so in November 1786, she joined him on an eight-year sea voyage that would take them around the world twice

Over 200 years ago, Frances Barkley, a 17-year-old girl fresh out of a convent school in France, met a 26-year-old sea captain, fell in love, and married him after a six-week courtship.

Determined not to be separated from her new husband, five weeks later, in November 1786, she set sail on his ship, a 400-ton, three-masted sailing ship called the Imperial Eagle, on an eight-year voyage that would take them around the world twice as they traded in sea otter pelts, Chinese tea, silk, porcelain, and cotton.

A British East Indiaman, 1770s, by Francis Swaine. Public domain

During their voyage to Nootka Sound, they were the first of the non-Indigenous explorers to chart what became known as Barkley Sound.

The reminders of their visit are still there: printed on all nautical charts of the area are Loudoun Channel and Imperial Eagle Channel, named for their ship; Trevor Channel is based on Frances’s birth name; and Cape Beale was named after the ship’s purser who was killed on a trading expedition up the coast.

Despite their findings, the Barkleys were largely bypassed by historians, as they had left no published account of their life at sea.

In 1836, at the age of 66, Frances Barkley began writing the story herself, leaving a small journal that she titled Reminiscences, now housed in the B.C. Archives.

Converse says her goal was to create a more immersive experience while maintaining Frances’ original intent in Reminiscences.
At times there were gaps in Frances’s journal, but Converse says she was able to fill in some of those holes through research, talking to marine historians and ships masters, as well as communicating with relatives, to provide a more detailed description of the couple’s travels.

This excerpt from Frances Barkley: An Eighteenth-century Seafarer (Heritage House, 2023), which recounts her experiences in Russia and Alaska, is reprinted with permission of the publisher.

We continued toward Petropavlovsk, on the southeast coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
It was here that we hoped to obtain enough furs to make our long trip worthwhile.

Along the way, we were teased with momentary glimpses of snow-capped mountains before the veil of fog enveloped us once again.
We were aware of the long chain of mountains that lined this coast, but we lived within this bubble of featureless whiteness and could see nothing.

Captain Charles Barkley. Public Domain
According to Captain Barkley’s calculations, we were nearing our destination.
On June 21, and much to our favour, as we came abreast of the lighthouse signaling the entrance to Awatcha Bay, our old nemesis the fog lifted.
To our amazement, winter suddenly became summer; the cold north wind dropped and the warmth coming off the land was a welcomed surprise.

We entered the bay with some trepidation as we had heard the Russians disliked foreign traders, particularly the British.
They were fiercely protective of their furs.
Unexpectedly, three great guns were fired.

We could see soldiers, with their muskets shouldered, standing in a cloud of white smoke near where the cannons were fired.
They were clad in thick bear skins, which made them look more like the animals than men.

On the opposite side, we noticed six more cannons.
There seemed to be more guns than men guarding the entrance to the bay.
After that rather unnerving welcoming, a boat was dispatched with a pilot aboard to show us where we should anchor.
Once around the peninsula, the bay itself was expansive and was dominated by lofty snow-capped mountains that loomed over everything.
It was quite magnificent.
Mariners rightfully call this the “Kamchatka Pearl.”

As soon as we anchored, the sergeant came aboard with greetings and a gift of two large salmon from the governor, Major Ismailov.
The area was rich in fish, particularly salmon.
We were assured that the fish had been carefully prepared according to custom and were buried for several days.

The sergeant was eager to have us try this tasty morsel.
We suppressed our revulsion and in the name of diplomacy, we ate the rotting fish with good cheer.
It was something I would not want to repeat.
We were then offered an invitation to join the governor the following day, which we graciously accepted.

We dressed the Halcyon in the appropriate flags, gathered our family together along with our ship’s officers, and rowed to shore.
We were greeted with great ceremony and a repast of salmon was specially prepared for us in the same manner.

Because I was the captain’s wife, I was offered the most desirable part of the fish, a delicacy set aside for persons of high-ranking status — the snout.
It was quite putrid.
I demurred as politely as I could and chose a slice of the fresh fish, which was for inferior guests.
When it came time to take our leave, we were well pleased to be rid of the civilities of the company.

In need of a walk, we had a delightful row around the bay to see if we could detect any spot which looked promising.
Usually, we would find one or two rugged trails, but here there did not appear to be many suitable places.

We stopped at the village and many of the residents came out of their houses to greet us.
Some presented us with wonderful gifts of cranberries, which were large and well-flavoured.
Others invited us into their houses, which, although humble, were neatly attired and well looked after.

Our little William garnered a great deal of attention from the children, who would come up and caress him, perhaps because he was so foreign to them.
He was glad enough to frolic and play with the children, as adults had been his only companions while on board the ship.

Plan of Barkley Sound, 1787, by Captain Charles Barkley.
Barckey Sound with the GeoGarage platform (CHS nautical raster chart)
The entertaining went on daily during our time in Awatcha Bay.
We hosted many dinners and made sure our guests were served plenty of wine, beer, brandy, and rum, which they seemed to like.
They did not have their own liquors except for something they called Quass, made from fermented rye bread.
It tasted a bit like mead.

While we were still at anchor, several other ships arrived, all fully dressed in their flags.
As each ship entered and then departed, they fired their cannons as a salute: first to Empress Catherine, then once for each of the dignitaries on land, and then again for each of the ships in the harbour and their officers, and whoever else they could think of, sometimes firing fifteen rounds for each person.

It made for an ear-splitting cacophony and left our part of the bay choked with smoke.
We had never experienced so much camaraderie, feasting, and music.
Our small ship was visited morning, noon, and night with our guests eating us out of house and home.
Such ceremonies, however, are an important part to securing permission to engage in trade.

Despite our best efforts, the trade in pelts was non-existent.
To bypass government regulations against foreign trade in furs, transactions regularly took place in secrecy.
Unfortunately, the governor was in residence at the time we arrived.
It was his duty to prevent the Kamchadals (the Indigenous people of the land) from engaging in any commercial undertakings.

Major Ismailov was aware that we came to trade, but despite the seeming friendship, the showering of small gifts, and our extravagant entertaining, we left with our stores greatly reduced.
We were glad to escape the endless ceremonies, the civility, and the noise, but we were disheartened to have left empty handed.


We were twenty-seven days at sea when, on August 16, we saw the icy peak of Mount St. Elias soaring above the clouds, looking like a regal potentate surveying its mountain kingdom.

On August 18, we spotted Mount Fairweather, about 152 miles south of Mount St. Elias.
This part of the coast was unknown to us, so we had to tread carefully.
The weather was changeable, windy, and misty at times, but overall, it was tolerably warm.

We were farther north than Captain Barkley intended, but we came across a sound called Admiralty Bay, where we found a secure anchorage in Lord Mulgrave’s Harbour, east of the entrance.
Scanning the horizon, we spied several canoes that looked to have been out on a fishing expedition.

As they drew closer, we could see that the men wore daggers suspended from their necks and carried spears with large sharp iron barbs.
Their hair was matted and well-oiled and daubed with ochre.

They dressed in sea otter skins that were stitched together and draped over their shoulders, but they wore nothing underneath their capes, leaving them quite exposed.
The women were modestly dressed in skin dresses with a kind of woven rug thrown over their shoulders.
Their hair was neatly parted in the middle, kept smooth behind their ears, and tied at the top in a knot.

They also sported a bone or wood appendage that was slipped into a slit below the bottom lip.
Both men and women covered their faces with soot and red ochre.
We found them to be astute traders who knew the worth of their furs.
They sold us the furs they had with them, even the ones they were wearing.

I spent my days exploring the island and found the ground cultivated with oats, peas, and strawberries.
I thought it a bit surprising as the people looked to be unsettled, perhaps using the area as a seasonal stopover.
The men gave us fish and the women provided us with different kinds of berries, fresh and dried, but the raspberries were especially delicious.
It was a treat to eat fresh food and we relished it whenever we got the opportunity.

After putting everything in order aboard the ship and filling the water butts, we prepared for our departure.
It was now July 25.
As the Halcyon turned out to sea we were welcomed by a violent wind and steep seas.
With great effort, the sails were reefed and we stood offshore to ride out the storm.

When the weather calmed somewhat, we ran for Cape Edgecumbe.
Despite the weather, the scenery along this coast was breathtaking, truly a landscape painted by angels.
As we neared the cape, the cliffs darkened to an inky black then slowly blended into a greyish white as we moved farther south.

The coastline was striated with precipitous cliffs that dropped straight into the ocean.
Along the shoreline, where the land and sea clashed, dangerous shoals poked up from the detritus left by erosion.

We took a thrashing all the way down the coast.
After another terrible night of rough seas, we rounded the cape and found a safe anchorage in Norfolk Sound and tucked into a cove at the bottom of the bay.
It was a relief to finally be away from the crashing sound of breaking waves.
You never quite get over the anxiety that comes with such violence, although you learn to live with the dangers the ocean presents.
For our dear William, severe weather events were of no consequence.
He knew no other life, having spent most of his four years at sea.

From the ship, we could see there was habitation on shore that appeared to be of a more permanent nature than we found in Lord Mulgrave’s Harbour.
We were not surprised, then, when several large, well-appointed canoes visited us the next day.
They were familiar with merchant ships such as ours and they brought sea otter skins to trade.
We found the transaction for the pelts arduous and costly.

Gunpowder and shot were first on their list, but not guns as each canoe already had two or three muskets.
They told us they preferred the accuracy of their spears over guns.
Next on their list were blankets, cooking utensils, tools, and other iron weapons.
Captain Barkley was able to understand and communicate with the traders.
He had a great aptitude for languages and regularly studied the languages of the peoples we met on our trips.

The men projected a fierceness in their attitude, and we remained wary.
When on board, they took anything that was not put away, and when our crew ventured on shore, they were stripped of all they had, including their clothing, at times under gunpoint.

On one lovely moonlit evening Captain Barkley heard chanting, like a war song.
Through his night glass he saw several canoes tight into the shoreline.
It was quite frightening as we were not well manned.

As a warning, the ship’s cannons were fired off over their heads.
The next day they came out to us attired in their war regalia, their paddling timed to their chanting.
They circled the Halcyon three times.
Tension mounted, but we remained calm.

Suddenly, with a great shout they pulled off their masks and proceeded to trade.
We were greatly relieved.

Captain Barkley had always attempted to treat those we met with respect and honour.
They said they had been on a raid the previous night and sold us the furs they obtained.

Had we stayed longer, I have no doubt that we would have had an excellent cargo of sea otter skins.
Unfortunately, we could not extend our stay as originally planned because we were running short of provisions and reduced to an allowance of a teacupful of rice a day.

Fortunately, there was plenty of grog so there was no murmuring on board.
As it was, Captain Barkley purchased a pretty good lot.
It was not what we hoped, but at least we had some pelts to take back to Canton.

Links :

Monday, June 19, 2023

Shadow tanker fleet: A ticking time bomb waiting to cause disaster

Locations of tankers loaded with Russian crude and products as of Monday.
(Map: MarineTraffic) source FreightWaves

The circumvention of sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers, has resulted in the environmental and safety hazard that is the “shadow fleet” of ageing tankers that continue oil transfers in secret.

According to Allianz Shipping Safety Review 2023, of the 900 or so very large and ultra large tankers operating worldwide, around 20% were operating in a way that technically breaks sanctions against Iran, Venezuela or, increasingly, Russia.

As reported to the IMO, a fleet of between 300 and 600 tankers primarily comprised of older ships, including some not inspected recently, having substandard maintenance, unclear ownership and a severe lack of insurance, is currently operated as a ‘dark fleet’ or ‘shadow fleet’ to circumvent sanctions and high insurance costs.

The shadow fleet practices dangerous of ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean, as well as the methods used to obscure ship identities and turning off AIS transponders.
In addition, as brokers Poten had pointed out, to obfuscate the illicit nature of their employment, owners of these tankers frequently change the vessel’s name and ownership and flag them in jurisdictions that are known to be less strict.

Allianz reports that there were at least eight groundings, collisions or near misses involving tankers carrying sanctioned oil products in 2022, such as:In March last year, shadow tanker Arzoyi ran aground off eastern China.
Tanker Petion was involved in a collision in Cuba just days later
In November 2022, oil tanker Linda I was found with severe defeciences and was in contravention of pollution regulations for using high-sulphur marine fuel without an exhaust gas cleaning system.
Recently, in May, the vessel Pablo exploded in Southeast Asia, reporedly killing three crewmembers and washing up oil on nearby shores.

Furthermore, according to international news, a dark fleet tanker called Canis Power broke down recently in the Baltic Sea.
The tanker suffered engine failure in Danish waters in May, while it was loaded with up to 340,000 barrels of oil.
There are a number of worrying scenarios such as a collision with an uninsured shadow vessel that causes major environmental damage.
… said Captain Nitin Chopra, Senior Marine RIsk Consultant at AGCS.
As these tankers are old, not inspected regularly and operate secretly, a major oil spill could be released either by collision, grounding or poor maintenance and human error.
It’s only a matter of time before these tankers cause a major disaster.

According to the IMO, unclear ownership and a severe lack of insurance can also result in a participating shipowner evading its liability under the relevant liability and compensation treaties (e.g.
International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) and the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunkers Convention).

The fact that they operate in secret causes an important safety risk as well.
These vessels are undetectable and uninsured.
This poses a threat to the integrity of the crew onboard as well as people aboard other ships.


IMO Legal Committee, 110th session broadly supported the recommended measures outlined in the original submission, including:
  • Flag States are called upon to ensure that tankers under their flag adhere to measures which lawfully prohibit or regulate ship-to-ship transfers, and that such vessels further adhere to the spirit of the safety requirements in IMO conventions and practice safe shipping standards to minimize the risk of oil pollution;
  • Flag States should consider requiring that vessels update their ship-to-ship operations manuals to include notifying their flag State when they are engaged in a mid-ocean operation;
  • Port States should ensure enforcement of the safety and liability conventions on these vessels and ensure that ship-to-ship transfer operations are conducted in accordance with the applicable safety requirements in IMO conventions; and
  • Should port States become aware of any ships “going dark”, they should consider subjecting such vessels to enhanced inspections as authorized, and notifying the respective vessel’s flag administration, as appropriate.
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Sunday, June 18, 2023

Mysterious species found in remote Pacific depths | Nautilus Live

No, that’s not a face-hugger from the Alien films you see on your screen, but it sure is bizarre!
Our team was stumped when we encountered this mysterious gelatinous creature while diving on a previously unexplored guyot north-northwest of Kingman Reef.
One of our experts initially guessed it could be a helmet jellyfish (with missing tentacles), but thanks to our expert, global Scientist Ashore network - connected to the ship via telepresence technologies - we have solved the mystery!
Midwater expert Dr. Dhugal Lindsay helped us to identify this jellyfish as a member of the order Narcomedusae, and an undescribed species within the genus Bathykorus.
This is only the second encounter with this animal, first spotted by NOAA Ocean Exploration’s ship Okeanos Explorer in 2015.
Using the rays on top of the bell, we believe this animal likely eats other gelatinous animals like jellies and/or swimming sea cucumbers.
Different from all other species in the genus, the animal’s brown color indicates to experts that this is a predator of bioluminescent prey.
You never know what we’ll find when exploring the deep ocean in the Pacific Remote Islands!
The US waters surrounding Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll are home to some of Earth’s most pristine marine ecosystems.
While recent expeditions have increased our baseline knowledge of the deep-water resources of this region, large areas remain completely unexplored, particularly areas north of the Kingman/Palmyra Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
Further explorations of these areas are urgently needed to address the management and science needs of the region as a monument management plan is under development, including a better understanding of the deep-water natural and cultural resources here, biogeographic patterns of species distributions, and the geological context of the region.

Our Corps of Exploration spotted this absolutely adorable pale orange dumbo octopus surrounded by marine snow around 1,400 meters deep while diving on the summit of “Guyot 10” in the waters of the Pacific Remote Islands.
Don’t let its Disney-like appearance fool you; these octopuses (Grimpoteuthis spp) are actually predators!
They propel themselves through the water using those famous ear-shaped fins to find food, then gobble their prey up whole, feasting on a plethora of deep sea critters such as copepods, isopods, bristle worms, and amphipods.