Saturday, July 15, 2023

Call of the ocean

The Call of the Ocean is a documentary film about Tapio Lehtinen, who took part in the extremely challenging Golden Globe Race in 2018-19, and became one of the sport’s legends with his performance.
The race is sailed alone around the globe with boats representing the technology of 1968, without stops, refuelling, or physical human contact.
Lehtinen completed the 30,0000 nautical mile voyage in 322 days, which elevated him to the ranks of international sports legends.
Lehtinen is the sixth person in the world to have circumnavigated the globe via Cape Horn singlehanded, without stopping, navigating only with a sextant.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Scarborough shoal and the Spratlys in ancient maps

From BWorldonline y Amelia H. C. Ylagan

“Buy it, na!” Tony Carpio said to his friend Mel Velarde.
It was an old map that Tony encouraged Mel to buy — the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas, more commonly known as the Murillo Velarde 1734 map — the oldest known map in Philippine history.
It was November 2014.
Sotheby’s had announced an auction of some 80 heirlooms of the Duke of Northumberland, Ralph George Algernon, which included the rare map.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio “Tony” Carpio, whose personal advocacy was (and still is) the protection and preservation of Philippine territorial and maritime sovereignty, specifically in the West Philippine Sea, immediately saw the value of the Murillo Velarde map to counter the adverse claims of China on Philippine territory.

“Local public and private museums declined to take part in the Sotheby’s bid.
The National Museum was interested but didn’t have the money, so the plan was for (Mel Velarde) to buy the map and sell it later to the National Museum,” Velarde recalled to media in June 2014.
The National Museum had a limit of only P5 million to buy rare items.
Mel Velarde paid £170,500 (approximately ₱12 million at that time) for the Murillo Velarde map — not for the name, he says, for he cannot trace his lineage to the Jesuit priest Father Pedro Murillo Velarde (1696-1753) who conceptualized and designed the map under orders from King Philip of Spain.
Filipinos Francisco Suárez and Nicolás de la Cruz Bagay did the artwork and engraving, respectively.

There are less than 50 extant copies of the map.
Some are mounted on a cloth backing measuring 112×120 cm.
The map itself measures 108×71 cm and is on a scale approximating 1:1,400,000.
The National Library of Congress of the USA, which owns one of the original copies, describes the “Carta” map thus:

“The Philippines were (sic.) at that time a vital part of the Spanish Empire, and the map shows the maritime routes from Manila to Spain and to New Spain (Mexico and other Spanish territory in the New World), with captions.
In the upper margin stands a great cartouche with the title of the map, crowned by the Spanish royal coat of arms flanked each side by an angel with a trumpet, from which an inscription unfurls.
The map is not only of great interest from the geographic point of view, but also as an ethnographic document.
It is flanked by 12 engravings, six on each side, eight of which depict different ethnic groups living in the archipelago and four of which are cartographic descriptions of particular cities or islands.
According to the labels, the engravings on the left show: Sangleyes (Chinese Filipinos) or Chinese; Kaffirs (a derogatory term for non-Muslims), a Camarin (from the Manila area), and a Lascar (from the Indian subcontinent, a British Raj term); mestizos, a Mardica (of Portuguese extraction), and a Japanese; and two local maps — one of Samboagan (a city on Mindanao), and the other of the port of Cavite.
On the right side are: various people in typical dress; three men seated, an Armenian, a Mughal, and a Malabar (from an Indian textile city); an urban scene with various peoples; a rural scene with representations of domestic and wild animals; a map of the island of Guajan (meaning Guam); and a map of Manila.

Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys in Ancient Maps: An Exhibition, opened on Friday at the Alliance Française de Manille featuring the Murillo Velarde 1734 Map and Justice Carpio’s old Philippines map collection.

Justice Carpio, who was the guest of honor and main speaker at the Alliance Française, said “the 1734 Murillo Velarde map is a living document because it determines Philippine territory today, that is, Philippine territory cannot be determined without this map.” 
This oldest Philippine map of “Las Yslas Filipinas” is the official Spanish Government map showing Philippine territory during the Spanish regime.
MEL VELARDE points to Bajo deMasinloc, now known as Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, as incontrovertible proof that it has always been part of the Philippines 
– Photo by RICHARD A. REYES –
It shows Panacot (Scarborough Shoal) and Los Bajos de Paragua (the Spratlys) as part of Philippine territory, Justice Carpio said.
None of these islands drawn in this Murillo Velarde map appeared in China’s maps from centuries ago.

“The map debunks once and for all, the Chinese historical narrative that China has owned the South China Sea for 200 years.
Now the world knows better.
Thanks to the definitive ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal, China’s historical narrative has been exposed as fake news.
The map proves, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were part of the Philippine territory as early as 1734,” Justice Carpio had said at a lecture at the Ateneo de Manila University in 2017.

At the Alliance Française opening, Justice Carpio explained that the aggressiveness of China in claiming the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal started with the 1898 Treaty of Paris, after the Spanish-American war, when Spain ceded to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands in exchange for $20 million to ratify the Treaty.
Spain might have missed the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, putting these outside the western side of the polygonal lines of the Philippines in the Treaty of Paris.

But the United States noticed the exclusion, and demanded a revision of the map for the revised treaty, called the 1900 Treaty of Washington, which provided that “Spain relinquishes to the United all title and all claim of title, which she may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of that Treaty and particularly to the islands of Cagayan (Mapun), Sulu and Sibutu and their dependencies, and agrees that all such islands shall be comprehended in the cession of the Archipelago as fully as if they had been expressly included within those lines.”

The frame of reference for the 1900 Treaty of Washington’s definition of the Philippine territory was the Murillo Velarde map, which included the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal, But still, China’s position is that Philippine territory is limited to the islands enclosed by the polygonal lines drawn in the 1898 Treaty of Paris.
Justice Carpio said that China did not participate in the Arbitral proceedings, but “by officially submitting its Position Paper to the Arbitral Tribunal, China expressly and formally recognized that Philippine territory is defined by three treaties, including the 1900 Treaty of Washington… China is forever estopped from claiming that Philippine territory is limited to the islands enclosed by the Treaty of Paris.”

 Scarborough Reef in the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical raster chart)
It was only in 1947 that China started to claim the Spratlys, Justice Carpio said.
Scarborough Shoal appears in a 1948 Chinese map, named Si-ka-ba-luo, a Chinese transliteration of the English name Scarborough, The shoal was named by Captain Philip D’Auvergne, whose East India Company ship East Indiaman Scarborough grounded on one of the rocks on Sept.
12, 1784, before sailing on to China although it already had a Spanish name recorded in the 1734 Murillo Velarde map of Spanish Philippines (W. Gilbert [1804] A New Nautical Directory for the East-India and China Navigation .., pp.480-482).

The Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas, the Murillo Velarde 1734 map is indeed the “Mother of all Philippine Maps,” a “Living Document” to history, as Justice Carpio says.

Filipinos thank Justice Antonio Carpio for his unrelenting fight for Philippine territory and maritime sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

We thank Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Albert del Rosario, who had fought together with Justice Carpio for Philippine rights on the seas.
Ambassador del Rosario, 83, passed away on April 18. May he rest in peace.

Links :

Thursday, July 13, 2023

New technology sees through Russian attempt to hide ships from Ukraine

Analysis of a radar satellite image of Russian warships, some with the new camouflage, in Sevastopol, Crimea.
The artificial intelligence (AI) ship detection algorithms used by Satim Inc. can clearly differentiate different classes of ship even with the camouflage applied.
Satellite image from Umbra Space.

From NavalNews by H I Sutton

Ukraine and NATO will be closely monitoring Russian naval activity in the Black Sea.
Russia has however tried to make this more difficult by devising a unique new camouflage scheme.
Modern technology can however help unmask these deceptively camouflaged warships.

Russia is attempting to hide important warships in the Black Sea by painting them in a new deceptive camouflage scheme.
The ruse makes it difficult to judge their length and shape, and so identify them in satellite imagery.
This could make it more difficult for Ukrainian planners and, potentially, even thwart an attack.

Defense analysts have been exploring how effective it is.
Initial checks in some satellite images confirmed the viability of the camouflage.

However, Imagery analysis company Satim Inc. has shared a way in which artificial intelligence (AI) can help see through the camouflage.
Their AI can identify classes of ships in radar satellite imagery, which is very difficult to do as a human.
This approach is unaffected by the camouflage.

This deceptive camouflage is unique to Russia in modern history and is distinct from the more famous Dazzle camouflage.
Dazzle attempts to confuse an observer so that they misjudge distance, speed and heading.
Here the aims are quite different.

The New Camouflage Makes Some Sense

Since Naval News first broke the story of this camouflage June 22, several more Russian warships have been observed with this scheme.
The flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Makarov, has had a more extreme camouflage applied.
This includes ‘blacking out’ the helipad and the bow of the ship.
Then all three of the Buyan-M class missile corvettes, the minesweeper Ivan Golubets and the anti-submarine corvette Muromets, have the camo.

Guide to Russian Navy warships with new deceptive camouflage

There are indications that the camouflage is intended to hide the overall length and form of the ship when viewed from the surface, such as by a maritime drone.
However the larger factor is likely from above.
Here the camouflage is intended to make it harder to identify the ship in satellite imagery.
This is significant as we can reasonably expect that both Ukraine and NATO are using satellites to monitor Russian fleet movements.

The camouflage isn’t likely to fool an experienced analyst if they have time to study the image.
But it might not have to still be useful to the Russians.
How well the camouflage works will depend a lot on the light conditions, the satellite being used and the time available to analyze it.
Overall we can expect it to slow down the work of analysts and increase uncertainty.
This will be especially felt while creating a picture of overall fleet disposition.

Another factor is the use of artificial intelligence.
Countries can leverage AI to speed up and scale-up image analysis.
This AI may try to determine the length and shape of a ship to identify it.
So it may actually be more vulnerable to these types of camouflage than a human.

Very interesting for anyone doing OSINT, impressive ship detection / identification algorithms from
courtesy of Richard Culshaw
Seeing Through The Camouflage

Known as SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar), radar satellites are not new.
However it is only recently that commercial satellites have been able to provide high-resolution SAR imagery.
Unlike regular satellite imagery which passively interpret what they see, SAR radars produce their own energy and then records the amount of that energy reflected back to whatever is on the earth.
The imagery can be beautiful, but it can be difficult to interpret as a person.
Ships appear blurred and the parts which reflect the energy may not be intuitive, masking its form.
Experienced analysts may be up to the challenge, but there less certainty than typical optical satellite imagery.
Certainly, differentiating two distinct classes of warship can be very difficult.

Satim Inc. have an answer.
Their artificial intelligence is trained to recognize distinct classes of warship and submarine.
Their system has a level of accuracy over 90 percent.
Satim have been able to demonstrate to Naval News that their technology can identify the relevant classes of ship in the Russian base at Sevastopol, Crimea.
Using a SAR image taken by an Umbra Space-owned satellite, it clearly identifies ships which are known via other sources to have been camouflaged.

Another AI analysis of Russian Navy ships in Sevastopol by Satim Inc.
The Buyan-M highlighted has the new camouflage.
Note how the AI can differentiate the different classes of ship even though they look similar to the human eye.
Satellite image from Umbra Space.


Combined with other satellite imagery and other forms of open source intelligence (OSINT), the AI interpretation of SAR imagery can help unmask the camouflaged ships.
SAR has additional advantages that it works at night and can see through clouds.
Thus it increases the persistence of satellite coverage.

Russia will likely continue to experiment with efforts to deceive satellite monitoring.
Last year, the Russian Navy has attempted to disrupt imaging of ports and bridges by placing barges with radar reflectors nearby.
This is generally agreed to have not worked, and the later abandoned the practice.

There are already indications that the first warship reported with the new camouflage, the Admiral Essen, has had some or all of it removed.

However there is not yet any sign that it is being discontinued elsewhere.
And new ships may soon be identified with the camo.
Analysts will chase developments and adapt; the game goes on.

Links :

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

How oceans became new technological battlefields

image: getty images

Ukraine has repelled the Black Sea Fleet.
But naval drones may not be enough to defeat it

“Larger fleets win,” says Rear Admiral James Parkin, the Royal Navy’s director of development.
Out of 28 maritime battles, he says, all but three were won by the bigger fleet.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last year it had around 20 warships in the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s navy barely existed.
On day one, it scuttled its sole frigate—a rusty Soviet-era cruiser on which this correspondent once hitched a ride to Odessa—to stop it falling into Russian hands.
Yet the war at sea, like the one on land, has confounded expectations.
“After the war we will certainly write a textbook,” says Vice-Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa, Ukraine’s navy chief.
“And we’ll send it to all the nato military academies.”

The inflection point came on April 14th 2022, when Ukraine sank the Moskva, a Russian cruiser, the largest loss of a warship since the Falklands war in 1982.
The Black Sea Fleet promptly moved back and is still 100-150 nautical miles off the Ukrainian coast, says Admiral Neizhpapa.
That has lifted the threat of an amphibious assault on Odessa: anti-tank obstacles that once guarded roads have been pushed aside and soldiers sent to other parts of the front.
And it paved the way for a deal in July whereby Russia agreed to let Ukraine keep exporting grain.
This helps not only Ukraine, 70% of whose pre-war trade went through the Black Sea, but also grain-importing countries of the global south.

There was nothing revolutionary about the Moskva operation.
“To me, it shows the importance of proper land-based anti-ship missiles, sea mines and good intelligence,” says Niklas Granholm of foi, Sweden’s defence research agency, “all put together in a coherent operational concept.” Luck played a role: atmospheric conditions might have let Ukraine’s radars see unusually far.
So did Russia’s ineptitude.
Just as its massive tank losses were down to poor tactics, not technological change making armour obsolete, so the Moskva is a cautionary tale of getting the basics right.

Being hit is one thing; failing to control the subsequent fire is another.
“Damage control remains a key metric against which professional naval standards should be assessed,” concludes Alessio Patalano of King’s College London.
“On the day of the sinking I was confronted by army colleagues: this must surely be the end of the idea of building big warships?” recalls Rune Andersen, chief of the Norwegian navy.
“I said no: it’s the end of having a 40-year-old warship which hasn’t been updated and without trained crews.” A newer warship with better air defences and a sharper crew might have parried the Ukrainian missiles.

A striking feature of the war has been Ukraine’s use of uncrewed surface vessels

The maritime contest is in stalemate.
Ukraine has achieved “sea denial” near its coast, stopping Russian ships coming close.
But Russian warplanes roam freely, preventing Ukrainian naval vessels from coming out.
The result is a “grey area” of 25,000 square kilometres in the north-west Black Sea in which neither side can “move freely”, says Admiral Neizhpapa.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet squats in relative safety, imposing a distant blockade and frequently lobbing Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukraine.
Ukraine has good intelligence on the fleet’s movements thanks to America and Britain, which are fusing data from satellites and surveillance aircraft.
But it lacks missiles with sufficient range to hit what it sees.
That has forced it to turn to other means.

A striking feature of the war has been Ukraine’s use of uncrewed surface vessels (usvs), essentially drone boats, to reach Russian-controlled territory.
In October and November these were deployed alongside aerial drones to attack Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and an oil depot in Novorossiysk, a Russian port.
Other attacks have followed, including an apparently successful hit on an intelligence ship near the Bosporus on May 24th.
These carry on a long tradition of naval raiding.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels used a usv to strike a Saudi frigate in 2017.
America tried drone boats as early as the 1940s.
But modern electronics, powerful artificial intelligence and ubiquitous satellite communications—in Ukraine’s case via Starlink—have made possible sleek usvs that are less conspicuous on radar and have the ability to navigate over long distances and find targets.
Ukraine cannot match the Black Sea Fleet on equal terms.
But it can chip away at its ports and logistics.
The Ukrainian Navy has recently incorporated the use of uncrewed maritime platforms into their ranks. Credit: Billy Watkins /

“Drones are very important elements of our warfare right now,” says Admiral Neizhpapa.
“The warfare of the future is a warfare of drones.”
He adds that Ukraine is learning by doing.
“No other country has as much experience using naval drones.” Whether that will be enough to break Russia’s blockade is another question.
A raid on Sevastopol in March seems to have been repelled, with one usv blocked by a boom and two others destroyed by machineguns.
Not every usvwill get through.
But the technology is proving itself on another, murkier front of the naval war.

On September 26th 2022 explosions ripped through the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The culprits remain unknown.
But the incidents underscored the vulnerability of underwater infrastructure to sabotage.
Russian reconnaissance of cables and pipelines is decades old, well-resourced and growing in intensity, according to American and European security officials.

In April a Scandinavian documentary unveiled details of a fleet of Russian ships, disguised as fishing trawlers and research vessels, operating in the North Sea.
One of those ships, the Admiral Vladimirsky, was tracked near seven wind farms off the British and Dutch coasts during a single trip.
When journalists approached, they were greeted by masked gunmen.

Protecting every inch of cable or pipeline is impossible, concede naval officials.
But drones are part of the answer.
After the Nord Stream attacks, European governments urgently wanted to map out potential threats.
Admiral Andersen says Norway reached out to private companies working offshore in activities such as oil and gas.
“We found an industry with a huge sense of responsibility and a willingness to contribute.”

Within days he had 600 advanced undersea drones, some remotely operated and others autonomous.
Working with Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, these scanned “every inch” of gas infrastructure over 9,000 square kilometres, before moving on to power and data cables.
The project showed how technology that once seeped from the military into the civilian world can now move in the other direction.
On February 15th nato established a new critical undersea infrastructure co-ordination cell to encourage such defensive co-operation.

Offence is another matter.
The paradox is that the countries helping Ukraine to build such systems—often in deep secrecy—and providing it with the intelligence necessary to use them effectively, such as up-to-date maps of Russian jamming, are themselves constrained in their ability to develop the same technology at home.
“The things that a British company funded by British taxpayers’ money and cohered by British military officers can do in Ukraine I cannot do in the ukbecause peacetime regulations forbid it,” laments Admiral Parkin.

European maritime authorities do not want drones wandering off course into civilian waters.
That prevents navies from training and experimenting as boldly as they might.
Pity the ambitious admiral.
“We’re at a bit of a moment in uncrewed surface vessels in particular which is equivalent to the man with a red flag walking in front of a motor car.”

Links :

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

New Zealand (Linz) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

1917 British Admiralty Nautical Chart 
source : Geographicus

Mapping the mysteries—and the dangers—of the ocean depths

Terradepth's submersible Abraham, docked on Lake Travis outside of Austin.
Bryan Parker

From TexasMonthly by Bryan C. Parker

Founded by a pair of former Navy SEALs, Austin-based Terradepth has ambitious plans to deploy a fully autonomous fleet of submersibles to continually monitor the seafloor.

Squinting against the sunlight, a team of three engineers leaned over from a floating dock on Lake Travis to pull a side panel off a blue-and-orange submersible named Abraham.
After removing a microwave-sized block of foam from the engine compartment, they peered inside, trying to puzzle out what was causing an imbalance in the buoyancy of the 25-foot-long watercraft.
For months leading up to this torrid day last June, they’d been troubleshooting one problem after another, ahead of an important test in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, wiping sweat from their foreheads, they pondered whether to get the submersible back under the water or to call it a day and haul it back to the shop for repairs.

Getting Abraham working properly has been no easy task, in part because the startup for which the engineers work, Terradepth, wants it to do something few, if any, other autonomous underwater vehicles can—operate with no human intervention for weeks at a time.
The Austin-based company envisions deploying thousands of robotic submersibles to patrol the world’s oceans.
(The recent OceanGate tragedy highlighted the difference between submersibles, which typically need mother ships to launch and retrieve them, and submarines, which can leave and return to port under their own power.)

Terradepth’s submersibles would operate in pairs, one charging its batteries on the surface while watching over its identical twin exploring below.
Guided by onboard artificial intelligence and equipped with an array of sensors and cameras, the robots would take turns diving to map the underwater terrain in high definition.
They’d also gather information on the water’s depth, salinity, pH levels, and temperature—continually cataloging changes.

As Terradepth sees it, that fleet could gather underwater data at a fraction of the current costs of ocean mapping, helping to provide new insights into everything from seaborne weather patterns to the best spots for new oil rigs or offshore windmills to the location of sunken treasures.
But that far-out future remains far out of reach, for now.

Mundane by comparison, the work of many of Terradepth’s thirty or so employees takes place in an industrial park in North Austin, where they create and maintain software.
Last November, the company launched a cloud-based platform called Absolute Ocean to which maritime mapping data can be uploaded, stored, and shared through a web browser.
That may sound simple, but Terradepth’s CEO—a bald, barrel-chested former Navy SEAL named Joe Wolfel—insists it’s a remarkable achievement because such information is often difficult to access.
“People might be surprised,” says the middle-aged executive.
“Most of the ocean-floor maritime data is still transported by mailing hard discs back and forth or emailing PDFs.”

Absolute Ocean’s technology can translate data from disparate file types into three-dimensional imagery.
The first image a user sees upon logging into the site is the blue marble of Earth floating in space.
From there, they can zoom in to view coastlines, underwater mountains, shipwrecks, and anything else that can be found in the places where detailed mapping data exists.
If that sounds a bit like Google Earth, it’s supposed to.
Through their own mapping efforts and by assembling an enormous trove of surveys from companies around the world, Terradepth hopes to host the largest collection of oceanographic data in the world.

In contrast to the abundance of available real-time maps of the terrestrial environment, we know relatively little about the shape of the landscape beneath the sea.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of offshore wind farms, deep-sea oil drilling, an ever-expanding network of transoceanic telecom cables, and countless scientific research projects promise to bring Terradepth myriad potential customers for just such data.
For example, most states require an oceanographic survey of any proposed underwater construction site near the shore.
And even in open waters, many projects require an understanding of the topography of the seafloor, including the presence of obstacles such as sunken ships, defunct pipelines, or hydrothermal vents spewing magma.

Terradepth aims to build its business on making maritime data easier to view and share and by driving down the costs of collecting that data.
But to fully realize its vision, the company needs to get Abraham off that dock in Lake Travis and out into deeper waters, where a world of discovery still awaits.

Every grade-school kid knows that around 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but the oceans aren’t just vast, they’re deep.
We still have no clear picture of what’s in most of the planet’s 321 million cubic miles of water, only about 25 percent of which have been mapped in high resolution.
In recent years, undersea explorers have found giant tube worms clinging to deepwater volcanoes near the Galapagos Islands, located the lost city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt, and pinpointed the century-old wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance in the Antarctic.

“If you go hiking in the mountains, you get a map,” says Kelly Dorgan, a biologist who studies marine invertebrates at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.
“The ocean is so under-studied that we’re not looking for a path through the mountains; we’re looking for, ‘where is there a mountain?’ ”

Indeed, in 2005, the nuclear-powered USS San Francisco submarine ran into an underwater mountain near Guam while traveling at full speed.
One crewman was killed and dozens of others injured because the Navy’s maps were inaccurate.
Much of our understanding of the ocean floor comes from imperfect data collected by aircraft.
Flying low, planes and helicopters and drones use water-penetrating lasers to measure the elevation of the seafloor.
This technique is called light detection and ranging, or lidar.
The deeper or darker the water, the less accurate lidar readings tend to be, resulting in maps that can be off by hundreds of feet—falsely indicating there’s a valley, for example, where there’s actually a mountain—says Michael Starek, chief scientist at the Conrad Blucher Institute, an ocean data research outfit that’s part of Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.

The USS San Francisco accident got Wolfel and his Terradepth cofounder, Judson Kauffman, talking while they served together as Navy SEALs in Baghdad, he says, and it “stuck in the back of our heads” even after they left the military.
In 2012, they founded a Nashville-based firm called Exbellum that helped place special-forces veterans in jobs, and five years later, they were among the founders of Desert Door Distillery, which makes sotol in Driftwood, just southwest of Austin.
In November 2017, over a few Shiners at the since-shuttered Austin barbecue joint Freedmen’s, Kauffman asked, “Why can’t we do for ocean research what SpaceX is doing for space?”

Their opportunity to try doing that came the next year, thanks to Seagate Technology, the California-based data storage giant.
Wolfel had consulted for Seagate while working for retired Army general Stanley McChrystal’s McChrystal Group several years earlier.
He’d gotten to know Seagate’s then-CEO, Steve Luczo, who offered to financially back any good idea for a start-up that Wolfel could come up with—so long as it involved robotics and data storage.
Seagate’s venture-capital division seeded Terradepth in 2018 with $8 million.
(It has since raised a total of over $30 million, according to Crunchbase.)

Terradepth is far from the only company wading into the ocean mapping business.
Its global competition includes some well-financed Texas firms, including Ocean Infinity, a company with dual headquarters in Austin and the United Kingdom, and Houston-based Nauticus Robotics.
Ocean Infinity, which garnered publicity after joining the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 after it crashed in 2014, already operates a small fleet of crewless robotic surface ships capable of transporting multiple robotic submersibles to a mapping site.
And Nauticus has a fleet of twenty autonomous submersibles that can not only map the seabed but also transform underwater into robots capable of repairing structures such as oil rigs.

Terradepth hopes to set itself apart with its use of paired autonomous submersibles that can take turns acting as the surface vessel for each other, one feeding geolocation data to its partner that’s diving up to two thousand meters with a camera and multiple sonar sensors for mapping.
When the submerged vehicle runs low on battery power, it resurfaces to recharge its battery on a diesel-powered combustion engine, and its counterpart would take its place below.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) estimates that ocean mapping typically costs as much as $100,000 a day, and a UNESCO report from 2017 indicates that most of that cost comes from the crew and fuel necessary to power the surface vessel.
Wolfel hopes that Terradepth’s submersibles can someday be produced for $1 million each and operate for about $10,000 a day, though that cost could vary greatly depending on the scope of a particular client’s project.
Such numbers, at this stage, remain highly speculative, considering that a week after the summer 2022 testing in Lake Travis, a broken valve on Abraham resulted in a months-long work stoppage that reset the company’s timeline.
Terradepth now expects an ocean test of the submersible sometime this summer.

Steve Hall, the former vice chair of the IOC, with almost three decades of experience in underwater exploration and mapping in the United Kingdom, said he’s not aware of any other companies trying to launch an effort to map the oceans purely with unmanned systems.
“If you can get it to work,” he said, noting an important caveat, “it’s transformative.”

Terradepth needs its robotic submersibles not only to avoid running into underwater mountains but also to be able to distinguish between, say, a boulder on the seafloor and a shipwreck.
To do that, it first must show the robot what those two things look like.
At Lake Travis, the company went through a laborious process of teaching the sub by labeling 1,600 manmade objects on the seabed that had been pinged by Abraham’s sonar.
“It took weeks,” Wolfel says.
“We have the highest-resolution map of Lake Travis.”

Still, there’s a long way to go.
For deep ocean exploration, the company will need to train the submersibles to identify tens of thousands of objects.
That could include anything from unexploded munitions to those hydrothermal vents where giant tube worms live.

Even as Terradepth works toward creating its own fleet, it has already deployed a handful of autonomous submersibles on mapping projects for paying clients.
Made by California-based Teledyne Technologies, these watercraft, called Gavias, range from between 6.5 and 14 feet long and have to be managed by a manned surface vessel.

Wolfel and his team were recently commissioned to check on the condition of an underwater pipeline.
They determined that it had become partially exposed when it should’ve been completely buried in the seafloor.
This condition could pose an environmental hazard, potentially leading to the contents of the pipeline leaking out into the sea.
According to Wolfel, they were able to show the client a clear visual rendering of the issue in Absolute Ocean in just over an hour.

Such operations account for the bulk of Terradepth’s earnings, while the remainder comes from Absolute Ocean.
The platform operates as a paid subscription service, at a cost of up to several thousand dollars a year.
Academic institutions can also obtain licenses for a nominal fee.
Companies that use Absolute Ocean can keep their proprietary data all to themselves or share it with the world.

Terradepth also plans to use its platform to sell mapping data provided by third parties, including TCarta, a Denver firm that specializes in using satellites to generate topographical maps of the ocean floor.
As of now, Absolute Ocean has about 250 subscribers, but Terradepth hopes to triple that number by the end of the year.
Among the earliest customers were hydrographic survey firms such as S.  T. Hudson Engineers in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which specializes in the design of ports; Orange Force Marine, a Canadian purveyor of marine supply and survey services; and Arobotnx, an Indian industrial robotics and automation firm.

In the summer of 2022, Absolute Ocean was also tapped to be the “data visualization and exploration tool” for a project seeking to create and make publicly available a map of the entire ocean floor.
That effort is being spearheaded by a nonprofit called Seabed 2030 that’s jointly operated by the Nippon Foundation, an ocean philanthropy in Japan, and an international organization focused on understanding the depth measurements of the oceans.
Seabed 2030 hopes having such knowledge more widespread will help humankind confront global challenges, including climate change and overfishing.

Seabed 2030 contributors, such as private ship captains who collect sonar readings along the path of their journeys, will be able to upload their data into Absolute Ocean, where it will be converted into interactive maps.
Steve Hall serves as Seabed 2030’s head of partnerships and sees enormous value in Terradepth’s web platform.
“You can kind of click and play is the nice thing with the Terradepth product,” he says.
“Within a few hours you’re going to have a pretty good understanding of how to visualize data.
” That may sound simple, but it fundamentally shifts the experience of reading ocean data from trying to grasp raw numbers as XYZ coordinates into an intuitive, user-friendly package.

Terradepth’s involvement in Seabed 2030 could give it a role in achieving some of the loftier intentions Wolfel touts for the company, like aiding in the discovery of chemicals in the unexplored deep that could fight diseases, including cancers.
That’s not as farfetched as it might seem.
Multiple medical breakthroughs have come from sea creatures, including tunicate, a marine invertebrate animal that has been used to successfully treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For now, cancer and climate change aren’t the day-to-day focus of Terradepth.
Instead, the company remains months, if not years, away from a fully realized version of itself.
But Wolfel sees the path he’s on as an essential part of convincing the world to pay closer attention to our own Earth instead of dreaming of new worlds.
“We’re sitting there talking about creating an ocean on Mars because we’re assuming that this planet is done,” he says with an edge of frustration.
He’s hoping Terradepth can be part of a different solution: “Bring the resources to bear to understand our own ocean better, and it can save the planet.”

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Monday, July 10, 2023

Croatia (HHI) nautical chart layer update in the GeoGarage platform

41 rasterized ENCs updates

Future of deep-sea mining hangs in balance as opposition grows

From The Guardian by Karen McVeigh and Chris Michael

Ireland and Sweden join countries calling for moratorium on extraction of metals from seabed as UN-backed authority prepares for crucial talks

The list of countries calling for a pause on deep-sea mining continued to grow this week ahead of a key moment that mining companies hope will launch the fledgling industry, and its opponents hope could clip its wings, perhaps for good.

Ireland and Sweden became the latest developed economies to join critics, including scientists, environmental organisations and multinationals such as BMW, Volvo and Samsung.
The carmakers have committed not to use minerals mined from the seabed in their electric vehicles.

No deep-sea mining contracts have yet been authorised, but efforts by the industry and some states, including Norway, have accelerated the race to mine for metals in the planet’s last unexplored frontier.

It is a critical time.
With a deadline due to expire on Sunday, commercial applications for deep-sea mining could be given the green light despite the absence of any regulations.
From Monday, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the quasi-UN body in charge of those regulations, will meet in Kingston, Jamaica until 28 July to resume negotiations.

Much is at stake.
Scientists have warned of large-scale, severe and irreversible harm to global ocean ecosystems, already threatened by the climate and biodiversity crises, if deep-sea mining goes ahead.
Too little is known about the ocean’s abyss even to draw up regulations, they say.

Last month, the European Academies Science Advisory Council warned of the “dire consequences” for marine ecosystems and against the “misleading narrative” that deep-sea mining is necessary for metals required to meet the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Mining below 200 metres (650ft) can lead to harmful noise, vibration and light pollution.
There is also the risk of leaks and spills of fuels and other chemicals used in the mining process.

Greenpeace Aotearoa is calling leaked undercover footage of wastewater pouring into the Pacific ocean during deep sea mining tests “damning”. 
The undercover footage of the latest deep sea mining tests in the Pacific Ocean shows wastewater being dumped by Canadian miner The Metals Company (TMC) at the ocean surface, with unknown toxicity and ecological impacts.

Researchers this year discovered more than 5,000 new species – most of them new to science – living on the seabed in an untouched, mineral-rich area of the Pacific Ocean, known as the Clarion-Clipperton zone, targeted by deep-sea mining firms.

The tiny Pacific island of Nauru is expected to be the first to apply to the ISA to begin mining, although the country has said it won’t sponsor an application on behalf of The Metals Company (TMC) until after the ISA meets this month.
Nauru – with a population of about 12,000 – triggered the “two-year rule” in 2021 on behalf of Nauru Offshore Resources, a subsidiary of TMC.
This request required the authority to complete the mining code by 9 July 2023, or accept mining applications under whatever regulations exist.

Canada-based TMC, formerly known as Deep Green Metals, is partnering with the Pacific states of Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati to explore for deep-sea metals.
It has downplayed the impacts and highlighted the need for metals such as cobalt and copper for a transition to clean energy technologies.

That narrative is disputed by some scientists and environmental groups.
They point out that such metals are already mined around the world; that lithium, the key mineral used in many batteries, is not widely present in the deep sea; and that electric vehicle technology is constantly changing.

Sweden and Ireland joined a growing list of countries calling for a moratorium, pause or ban on commercial deep-sea mining.
They include Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Chile, Panama, Palau, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has backed a complete ban.
Other countries that have not yet supported a moratorium have nevertheless indicated they will not give approval without first agreeing regulations.

So far, the ISA has allowed companies to explore the deep sea for research purposes only.
It has created and adopted regulations to govern 31 exploration contracts, sponsored by 14 nations.
As well as Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati, they include China, Russia, South Korea, India, Britain, France, Poland, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica and Belgium.

But the failure to establish a regulatory framework for commercial mining before the 9 July deadline triggered by Nauru has thrown the ISA into uncertainty, and means all eyes are on the meeting starting next week.

Many critical issues remain to be addressed within the draft regulations, a long document full of temporary text in brackets and marked in red.
According to the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts, the ISA has yet to agree what levels of environmental harm would be considered permissible, what would be the criteria for such harm, and how it would assess liability and assign penalties.

In theory, each of the ISA’s 168 members is involved in its decision making.
But in practice, most power lies with a small group of experts known as the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), made up of lawyers, geologists and diplomats, with few environmentalists.
There is no scientific assessment group to vet applications and no inspectorate to ensure compliance.
If the LTC recommends that the council approves an exploitation contract, it can be overturned only by a super-majority of two-thirds of the full council, which comprises 36 states.

Other concerns, particularly among smaller island nations and Indigenous communities, which fear being affected most, include how to share the benefits from mining.
There is currently no mechanism to do so.
At the last ISA meeting three months ago, the head of Belgium’s delegation, Hugo Verbist, warned the authority was “sleepwalking into a legally uncertain situation”.

This time around, the ISA will address a new proposal by France, Chile, Costa Rica, Palau and Vanuatu to pause deep-sea mining until all regulations are in place.
If passed, it would act as a moratorium but would require approval by a super-majority, or two-thirds, of the 168 assembly members.

William Hague, a former leader of the Conservative party, this week called for Britain to support the moratorium.
The UK has so far pushed only for high environmental standards, and said it would not support any exploitation licences “unless or until” there were enforceable regulations and sufficient evidence to judge the potential impact on deep-sea ecosystems.

Proponents of deep-sea mining have questioned whether a moratorium is even legal for the ISA to institute.
Under the UN convention on the law of the sea, which set up the ISA, the authority is charged with regulating mining activities and with protecting the marine environment.
However, the treaty also specifies that the seabed and its mineral resources are the “common heritage of mankind”, and part of the ISA’s remit includes equitable sharing of financial benefits.

Despite the opposition, an executive from TMC has said it expects to file an application in the second half of 2023 with the goal of receiving an ISA mining licence in 2024.
Production would start by the end of that year or early 2025.
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Sunday, July 9, 2023

Spain (IHM) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

133 rasterized charts based on IHM vector chart material (ENC) updated

El Niño 2023

Geneva 4 July 2023 (WMO World Meteorological Organization)
El Niño conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific for the first time in seven years, setting the stage for a likely surge in global temperatures and disruptive weather and climate patterns. 
El Niño is a natural climate pattern associated with warming ocean surface temps in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
But it takes place in the context of a climate changed by human activities.
Signs of El Niño conditions seen from space in Sentinel-6 satellite data collected on April 24
 (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The latest ECMWF seasonal guidance indicates that El Niño will likely reach strong levels by August-September  100% of members indicate a strong event will be in place by November and continue through the end of 2023
courtesy of @BenNollWeather
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