Saturday, August 26, 2023

Image of the week : arcus clouds

 Arcus cloud in Normandy in Trouville sur Mer (Thursday 24th 07:30 am)

view in panoramic

same arcus cloud viewed from Le Havre
(photo Alban Lh)

time-lapse in Houlgate
and another arcus in Berck sur Mer

French cruise ship makes rendezvous with Russian nuclear icebreaker near North Pole

In thick Arctic sea-ice, 150 meter long icebreaking cruise vessel Le Commandant Charcot makes acquaintance with Russia's 50 Let Pobedy.
Le 'Commandant Charcot' equipped with advanced technology, had embarked on an expedition to the Arctic. 
The ShipXplorer technicians on board aimed to install the first AIS and ADS-B receiver at the North Pole, and enhance maritime safety and communication in this remote region.

From The BarentsObserver by Atle Staalesen

French cruise ship makes rendezvous with Russian nuclear icebreaker near North Pole
In thick Arctic sea-ice, 150 meter long icebreaking cruise vessel Le Commandant Charcot makes acquaintance with Russia's 50 Let Pobedy.

The meeting between the two vessels took place in remote Arctic waters not far from the North Pole.

Video made by passengers onboard the 50 Let Pobedy and shared on social media shows the two vessels trading greetings and sailing side by side through thick sea-ice.

Le Commandant Charcot meets 50 Let Pobedy in Arctic waters in middle of August 2023.

On board the brand new French cruise vessel are up to 450 people, of them 270 passengers, and the tourists are seen waving to the Russian ship as they break through the ice.

The distance between the two powerful ships is only a few dozen meters.

The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker is on the way to the North Pole as part of an expedition for students.
Shortly after its meeting with the tourist ship, it encountered also two other ships currently sailing in the area.
According to ship operator Rosatom, the 50 Let Pobedy met with Arctic research station Severny

The latter ship had sailed all the way from St.Petersburg with new crew and equipment for the drifting station that is on a two-year expedition across the ice.

The Le Commandant Charcot is the first vessel of its kind that has made it to the North Pole.
Screenshot from video

The Le Commandant Charcot is the new vessel built for cruise ship operator Ponant.
It is classified as icebreaker and can make independent voyages to the North Pole.
In 2021, it was first hybrid-electric luxury cruise ship to make it to the North Pole.
The ship set out on a 16-days expedition from Reykjavik in early August. It sails to the geographic North Pole and ends up in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

It is not a voyage for the regular man and woman. The starting price per person is €31,485.
According to Ponant, the Le Commandant Charcot can offer the “cruise voyage of tomorrow.” 
On board, are luxury services never before offered in the farthest reaches of the northern hemisphere.

Each of the ship’s common areas are designed to convey French-style discreet luxury and arouse wonder and amazement, the company informs.

The cruise ship has hybrid engines powered partly by liquified natural gas and electric batteries that allows it to briefly sail silently without engines running.

Links :

Friday, August 25, 2023

Pioneering wind-powered cargo ship sets sail

The ship at sea trying out its sails
A Cargill chartered dry bulk ship has launched on its first voyage since being fitted with special sails, aiming to study how harnessing wind power can cut emissions and energy usage in the shipping sector
image source : Cargill

From BBC by Tom Singleton

A cargo ship fitted with giant, rigid British-designed sails has set out on its maiden voyage.

Shipping firm Cargill, which has chartered the vessel, hopes the technology will help the industry chart a course towards a greener future.
The WindWings sails are designed to cut fuel consumption and therefore shipping's carbon footprint.

It is estimated the industry is responsible for about 2.1% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The Pyxis Ocean's maiden journey, from China to Brazil, will provide the first real-world test of the WindWings - and an opportunity to assess whether a return to the traditional way of propelling ships could be the way forward for moving cargo at sea.

Folded down when the ship is in port, the wings are opened out when it is in open water. They stand 123ft (37.5m) tall and are built of the same material as wind turbines, to make them durable.

Enabling a vessel to be blown along by the wind, rather than rely solely on its engine, could hopefully eventually reduce a cargo ship's lifetime emissions by 30%.

Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill Ocean Transportation, said the industry was on a "journey to decarbonise". 
He admitted there was "no silver bullet" - but said this technology demonstrated how fast things were changing.
"Five, six years ago, if you would ask people in shipping about decarbonisng, they would say 'well, it's going to be very difficult, I don't see this happening any time soon'," he told the BBC.
"Five years later, I think the narrative has changed completely and everybody is really convinced that they need to do their part - everybody is just struggling a little on how we're going to do this.
"That's why we've taken the role as one of the larger players to underwrite some of the risk, and try things, and take the industry forward."

The sails being fitted in a dockyard in China

The Pyxis Ocean will take an estimated six weeks to reach its destination - but the technology it is using has its origins in something much faster.

It was developed by UK firm BAR Technologies, which was spun out of Sir Ben Ainslie's 2017 America's Cup team, a competition sometimes called the 'Formula One of the seas'.

"This is one of the most slow-moving projects we've done, but without doubt with the biggest impact for the planet," its head John Cooper - who used to work for Formula One team McLaren - told the BBC.

He thinks this voyage will be a turning point for the maritime industry.
"I do predict by 2025 half the new-build ships will be ordered with wind propulsion," he said.
"The reason I'm so confident is our savings - one-and-a-half tonnes of fuel per day. Get four wings on a vessel, that's six tonnes of fuel saved, that's 20 tonnes of CO2 saved - per day. The numbers are massive."

The innovation has come from the UK but the wings themselves are manufactured in China. Mr Cooper says a lack of government support in reducing the cost of imported steel prevents the company from making them here.

"It's a shame, I'd love to build in the UK," he told the BBC.
'Throw everything at it'

Experts say wind power is a promising area to explore, as the shipping industry tries to reduce the estimated 837 million tonnes of CO2 it produces each year.

In July it agreed to reduce planet-warming gases to net-zero "by or around 2050" - a pledge critics said was toothless.

"Wind power can make a big difference," says Dr Simon Bullock, shipping researcher at the Tyndall Centre, at the University of Manchester.
He said new cleaner fuels will take time to emerge "so we have to throw everything at operational measures on existing ships - like retrofitting vessels with sails, kites and rotors".
"Ultimately we do need zero-carbon fuels on all ships, but in the meantime, it is imperative to make every journey as efficient as possible. Slower speeds are also a critical part of the solution," he told the BBC.

Stephen Gordon, managing director, at the maritime data firm Clarksons Research, agreed that wind-related technologies were "gaining some traction".
"We have the number of ships using this technology doubling over the past 12 months," he explained.
"This is from a low base, however. In the international shipping fleet and new-build order book of over 110,000 vessels, we have records for under 100 having wind-assisted technology today."

Even if that number dramatically increases, wind technology may not be suitable for all vessels, for example, where the sails interfere with the unloading of containers.

"The shipping industry does not yet have a clear decarbonisation pathway and, given the scale the challenge and the diversity of the world shipping fleet, there is unlikely to be a single solution for the industry in the short or medium term," Mr Gordon predicted.
John Cooper, of BAR Technologies, is more bullish though, saying the future for wind wings is "very rosy."
He also admits he takes a certain satisfaction in the idea of the industry returning to its origins.
"The engineers always hate it, but I always say it's back to the future," he said.
"The invention of big combustion engines destroyed the trade routes and the sailing routes and now we're going to try to reverse that trend, just a bit."
Canopee another project : 
Ro-Ro Cargo Ship for European Space Agency “Unfurls” its Sails (see links below)
TomVanOossanen photo courtesy of Zéphyr & Borée

Links :

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The strange tale of SS Warrimoo, the ship that existed in two centuries at once

SS Warrimoo plied a trans-Pacific route from Canada to Australia, which means it crossed both the equator and the international date line on every trip.

From Atlas Obscura by Frank Jacobs

On New Year’s Eve 1899, the captain of this Pacific liner steamed into history.
Or did he?

“BE GOOD AND YOU WILL be lonesome,” Mark Twain wrote under a photograph of himself.
The author sits on a folding chair, his feet on a ship’s railing.
Wearing a peaked cap and a grumpy face, he stares listlessly out to sea.

The picture was likely taken in 1895 on board SS Warrimoo, as Twain was crossing the Pacific from Canada to Australia.
It’s used as the frontispiece for Following the Equator (1897), a travelogue of his year-long round-the-world lecture tour.
The tour and his bad mood had a common cause: Twain was bankrupt.

A World Tour to Pay Off Creditors

In previous years, the former printer had sunk $300,000 of his (and his wife’s) money into an invention he thought would revolutionize printing, until then very much a manual, labor-intensive industry.
But the Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter, was a disaster.
Twain’s investment—about $9 million in 2022 money—was a total loss.
He embarked on his world tour to pay off his various creditors.
Twain, likely on the deck of SS Warrimoo, wasn’t exactly relishing the trip around the world.

While on board SS Warrimoo, Twain crossed the equator and the international date line, two events he noted in his book:
A sailor explained to a young girl that the ship’s speed is poor because we are climbing up the bulge toward the center of the globe; but that when we should once get over, at the equator, and start down-hill, we should fly.

Crossed the equator.
In the distance, it looked like a blue ribbon stretched across the ocean.
Several passengers kodak’d it.
And a few days later:

While we were crossing the 180th meridian it was Sunday in the stern of the ship where my family were, and Tuesday in the bow where I was.
They were there eating the half of a fresh apple on the 8th, and I was at the same time eating the other half of it on the 10th—and I could notice how stale it was, already.

The family were the same age that they were when I had left them five minutes before, but I was a day older now than I was then.
The day they were living in stretched behind them half way round the globe, across the Pacific Ocean and America and Europe; the day I was living in stretched in front of me around the other half to meet it.

Along about the moment that we were crossing the Great Meridian a child was born in the steerage, and now there is no way to tell which day it was born on.
The nurse thinks it was Sunday, the surgeon thinks it was Tuesday.
The child will never know its own birthday.
It will always be choosing first one and then the other, and will never be able to make up its mind permanently.
This will breed vacillation and uncertainty in its opinions about religion, and politics, and business, and sweethearts, and everything, and will undermine its principles, and rot them away, and make the poor thing characterless, and its success in life impossible.

Crossing the equator and the date line may have been memorable for Twain and other occasional passengers, but for the crew of SS Warrimoo, a steamliner plying a regular connection hauling mail, cargo, and passengers between Canada and Australia, it was just another day at the office.
The American satirist’s passage could have been the high-water mark (so to speak) of the ship’s wider notoriety, had it not been for an even more fateful encounter with both lines, a few years later.
A Prank of Historical Proportions

This happened on the evening of December 30, 1899, as SS Warrimoowas once more making the crossing from Vancouver to Sydney.
By chance, the ship was just a few nautical miles from the intersection of the equator and the date line.

Seeing a chance to pull a prank of historical proportions—big enough to be written about more than a century hence—Captain John Duthie Sydney Phillips ordered his crew to steer the ship toward the meeting point of both lines.
Five experienced navigators checked the position of the sun and, after sunset, the stars.
The ship’s position was checked every three hours.
Helped by smooth seas and open skies, SS Warrimooat the stroke of midnight found itself right across the aforementioned intersection, its bow pointing south and its stern facing north.
A lot comes together at the point where the international date line and the equator cross, about 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaiʻi and 2,500 miles north of New Zealand.
This chart shows the route across that point that SS Warrimoo attempted to take.

This had some positively mind-boggling consequences.
The forward part of the ship was in the Southern Hemisphere, where it was summer, and already January 1, 1900.
The aft part of the ship was in the Northern Hemisphere, where it was winter, and still December 31, 1899.

It could be said, therefore, that the same ship was, for a brief moment:in two different days (on its forward half, it was already Monday, while on its aft part, it was still Sunday);
  • in two different months (forward in January, aft in December);
  • in two different seasons (summer and winter);
  • in two different years (1900 and 1899);
  • in two different centuries (the 20th and the 19th); and
  • in all four hemispheres at once (the southern and the northern on either side of the equator, and the eastern and western on either side of the 180th meridian).

Did This Really Happen?

However, like many stories that sound too good to be true, this one is as well.

It’s not that the story is entirely made up.
In 1942, the Ottawa Journalreported that Captain Phillips, now retired, was able to verify the whole thing from his logbooks.
And it’s not unheard-of for ships in the neighborhood to go out of their way to cross the equator on the date line.
In nautical lore, this makes you a “golden shellback.”
It’s doubtful that they would have been able to achieve and maintain a position that precise at the appropriate time.
And in theory, it’s certainly possible for a ship on that specific point at a specific time to be in different days, months, seasons, years, centuries, and hemispheres.
However, even though the captain and his crew may have believed they were at exactly the intersection of the Great Meridian (180° E/W) and the equinoctial circle (0° N/S), it’s doubtful that with the navigational methods and instruments of that time that they would have been able to achieve and maintain a position that precise at the appropriate time.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of the new century.
As some may remember from the whole Y2K hullaballoo, centuries (and millennia) only end when the year ending in zero is over, not when it starts.
So, just like the 21st century and the third millennium started on January 1, 2001, the 20th century began on January 1, 1901, not 1900.
(Not that this chronological truth got in the way of popular opinion.)

Apart from that mention in the captain’s log, there is no record of that remarkable evening on board SS Warrimoo.
Mark Twain, had he been on board, probably would have had a witty thing or two to say about it.
However, being the unreliable narrator that he was, we still wouldn’t have known what actually happened.

Links :

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Deep-sea mining could begin soon, regulated or not

Polymetallic nodules from the deep ocean floor are rich in valuable minerals such as cobalt and nickel.
Credit: Vincent Fournier
From Scientific America by Olive Heffernan

Mining the seafloor could boost global production of clean energy technology—and destroy the ocean in the process

Editor’s Note (8/15/23): In late July the International Seabed Authority announced it will not issue any extraction permits for deep-sea mining until it finalizes its mining regulations, and it indicated they might not be completed until 2025.

Bizarre creatures from the black ocean abyss, preserved in glass jars, line stacks of shelves in deep-sea biologist Adrian Glover's laboratory at London's Natural History Museum.
Among them is a ghostly white animal, oddly elegant and shaped like an ornamental flower with a glass stalk, retrieved from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, five kilometers down.
Ninety percent of the species Glover has assembled had never before been seen by humans.

Glover is part of an international effort to discover what lives on a remote part of the Pacific Ocean seafloor called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
The CCZ is a vast abyssal plain slightly larger than the European Union, situated between Mexico and Hawaii, dotted with rocky outcrops and seamounts.
It is one of the most pristine and least explored parts of our planet—and it may soon endure the world's first deep-sea mining operation.

Trillions of black, potato-size rocks known as polymetallic nodules are strewn across the CCZ seafloor.
The nodules contain valuable metals, including cobalt, copper and nickel needed for electric vehicles; rare earth elements crucial for clean energy technologies; and smaller amounts of lithium, in high demand for batteries.
Surveyors expect the overall tonnage across the CCZ to be substantial, in some cases higher than the sources now mined on land.

Glover hands me a nodule, which looks and feels like a small lump of coal, cold and lifeless.
On closer inspection I can see faint traces of foraminifera, single-cell organisms fundamental to the marine food web, which once covered its surface.
Each nodule starts as a little fragment, perhaps a shark's tooth or a piece of seashell.
Over a long time, metals slowly gather and form an expanding crust around this node, growing just one to 10 centimeters every million years.
The specimen in my hand would have taken about 10 million years to form.

Out on the soft CCZ seafloor, nodules offer a hard surface for tiny creatures, from microbes to sponges, to cling to—a life-giving substrate in a severe habitat.
Water temperatures can reach zero degrees Celsius, there is virtually no light, and pressures can exceed 1,000 bars, equivalent to having a couple of elephants standing on your big toe.
The minuscule life attracts other animals; octopuses, for example, lay eggs in the sponges.
Over time, unique communities form across seafloors strewn with nodules.

Life in the CCZ doesn't exist in great abundance, but it does exist in great diversity.
The nodules “are home to hundreds, maybe thousands, of species that we know little about,” Glover says.
“Whether they would provide food on a plate or stop climate change or become the next cure for cancer, we can't say yet.
Though we could do the research to find out.”
An animal called a crinoid, or sea lily, inhabits the seafloor 4,800 meters deep, in the central Pacific Ocean’s Clarion- Clipperton Zone, targeted for mining.
Credit: Vincent Fournier

Not everyone wants to wait for more discovery.
A Vancouver-based start-up called The Metals Company (TMC) is pushing to start mining the CCZ in 2024, in partnership with the Pacific Island nation Nauru.
Big machines would scrape the seafloor, scooping up nodules while kicking up clouds of sediment, potentially damaging the deep sea on a vast scale by removing habitat and species and altering ecosystems.

Whether TMC goes ahead with its plans is up to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations–affiliated agency responsible for promoting deep-sea mining in international waters while also protecting the deep sea from harm.
ISA has not finalized its mining code, so deep-sea miners such as TMC have no guidelines about how they should operate.
There are significant unknowns about potential environmental damage, as well as about what lives in this remote part of the Pacific and how the region may contribute to ocean health.
Given ISA's conflicting mandate, many experts are concerned that it will prematurely green-light commercial extraction because of industry pressure.

It's not just environmentalists who are concerned; governments and even corporations that want the minerals in the nodules have taken a stand against mining in international waters, at least until the potential impacts of deep-sea mining can be fully assessed.
The growing chorus of voices includes France, Germany and Chile; BMW and Google; and more than 700 experts.
Scientists such as Glover are scrambling to collect data, in many instances funded by contractors, including TMC, which need it to obtain mining approval.
“The rush to understand this place has been related to the fact that we may lose it,” says Diva Amon, a deep-sea biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Credit: Jo Hannah Asetre; Source: “Estimates of Metals Contained in Abyssal Manganese Nodules and Ferromanganese Crusts in the Global Ocean Based on Regional Variations and Genetic Types of Nodules,” by Kira Mizell, James R.
Hein, Manda Au and Amy Gartman, in Perspectives on Deep-Sea Mining, edited by Rahul Sharma.
Springer, 2022 (reference)

Sunken treasure

Gerard Barron, CEO of TMC, describes a polymetallic nodule as a “battery in a rock.” The self-assured prospector says deep-sea mining is a rare opportunity to transition the world off fossil fuels.
His company has secured the rights to explore for minerals across several large tracts of the CCZ—enough metals, he claims, to power 280 million electric vehicles, equivalent to the entire U.S.
car fleet.
Prospectors note that deep-sea mining could be the start of ethical mineral extraction: doing away with child labor linked to terrestrial mines in some countries, providing revenue to developing nations through deep-sea profit sharing and leaving a better environmental legacy than mining has on land.

No one has yet scoured the deep sea commercially, but exploration is happening in national and international waters.
Norway, for example, has recently proposed opening its continental shelf to mining.
ISA, which presides over the international seabed, has granted 30 exploration contracts covering 1.4 million square kilometers of the seafloor to prospective miners.
Of those, 17 are for sites in the CCZ; each plot measures around 75,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Ireland.
The other contracts cover nodules in the Western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, as well as massive sulfide deposits at hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and cobalt crusts that line the flanks and summits of seamounts at various Pacific sites.

TMC has contracts to explore three CCZ plots for nodules, in partnership with sponsoring states Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati.
In June 2021 TMC and Nauru, through a venture called Nauru Ocean Resources, Inc.
(NORI), invoked an arcane ISA statute known as the two-year rule, which obligates ISA to allow mining to proceed within two years, regardless of whether a mining code is in place.
In theory, TMC could have begun commercial extraction in July.

In November 2022 the company completed its first trial; onboard the 228-meter-long mining vessel Hidden Gem, Barron's team hauled up more than 3,000 metric tons of nodules from 4.3 kilometers underneath the ocean's surface, proving that it is ready, and equipped, to start commercial work.

TMC is the likely frontrunner in the race to mine the deep sea because it is the only contractor to have invoked the two-year rule.
Barron plans to start in 2024.
The company rose from the ashes of Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian start-up headed by a geologist and friend of Barron's named David Heydon, who subsequently founded DeepGreen, later rebranded as TMC.
Barron was one of the early Nautilus investors.
Nautilus intended to excavate minerals from hydrothermal vents, often teeming with exotic life, in Papua New Guinea's territorial waters.
The start-up developed and tested three big mining machines, each the size of a combine harvester and weighing about six metric tons, which quickly came to symbolize the damage industry could impose on the ocean floor.
Faced with issues related to securing a vessel, as well as lack of investment, in 2019 the company liquidated.

Barron, who got out before Nautilus went bust, has cast himself as a green miner.
The 56-year-old Australian exhibits the casual ease of a Silicon Valley tech mogul: tight beard, shaggy hair, jeans and white T-shirt.
He also wears a combat-style jacket, inside which he carries a softball-size polymetallic nodule—a portable prop for his pitches.
When he talks about his company's plans, Barron exudes confidence and calm optimism.
“I think it's important to remember that we're doing this because the world agrees that we should move away from fossil fuels,” he told me when we met recently at a café in west London.
“That transition is going to be very, very metal-intensive.”

Prospectors contend that without deep-sea mining the world will run out of valuable metals for green technologies.
According to the World Bank, we'll need more than three billion (nonmetric) tons of minerals and metals to deploy the wind, solar and geothermal power required to avoid two degrees C of global warming.
Some estimates predict that the reserves of cobalt, used widely in rechargeable batteries, and of nickel, used in electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage, in the CCZ are significantly larger than the remaining reserves on land, although it's hard to gauge the real extent of resources in the abyss, especially those that are easily recoverable.

Not everyone is convinced of an impending shortage—or that, in the event of one, deep-sea mining is the only solution.
The Institute of Sustainable Futures says a global transition toward 100 percent renewable energy could be met with land-based reserves.
“Urban mining”—recovering metals from our discarded computers, mobile phones, tablets and other electronics—could also be greatly scaled up.
The world recycles less than 20 percent of its electronic waste, and safe disposal is a rapidly growing problem.
Also, future demand for certain metals, such as cobalt and lithium, may not be as high as once anticipated; Tesla now uses cobalt-free batteries in half of its new cars.
Manufacturers are exploring alternatives to lithium-based batteries, too.
Smothered by sediment

If the 17 CCZ exploration contracts all progress to exploitation, it's possible that within a decade, multiple operators will be dredging the seafloor for nodules.
Most operators, including TMC, would use harvesters to mine the dark seafloor.
A typical harvester is fitted with twin caterpillar tracks like those on an army tank so it can crawl across the seabed sediment.
The harvester sucks up nodules, whipping up a cloud of fine silt as it travels along, and sends them to a surface vessel through a pipe called a vertical riser.
An average harvester would gather about 400 metric tons of nodules per hour from the CCZ floor; that's 67,000 metric tons per week.
One machine, over a 30-year contract, the standard duration, could strip 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles) of seabed.

Some upset is certain.
Given the incredibly long time it takes nodules to grow and their role as a substrate for marine life, “it's very clear that if you take the nodules away, the ecosystem would move to a different state for millions of years,” says Sabine Gollner, a research scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

As the big machines crawl along, they will suspend large amounts of fine sediment in the water, which could settle as much as tens of kilometers away.
Scientists have little evidence for what the effects might be, but it is plausible the plume could smother sedentary creatures such as sea anemones and sponges.
Barron cites a 2022 study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that found that the sediment plume kicked up by mining vehicles didn't disperse as widely as people thought it would.
But that was from an experimental trial with a prototype collector about one-third the size of an actual machine.

Sediment stuck to the nodules is sucked up along with them to the surface vessel.
Onboard, the nodules would be cleaned before being transported to a shore-based facility for processing, and the waste sediment would be pumped back into the ocean through another long pipe.
To save on expenses, most contractors plan to release this “dewatering plume” at around 1,000 meters above the ocean floor.
This rain of sediment is likely to cause problems for midwater swimmers, such as jellyfish, by interfering with their visual communication cues or their ability to filter food from the water.
It could also clog the gills of commercial species that forage there, such as fish and shrimp, which are eaten by larger species like tuna and billfish.

Barron's response to environmental concerns is that land mining creates extensive ecological damage and in some places involves human labor abuses.
He points to the growth in nickel mining in the world's equatorial rain forests, notably Indonesia and the Philippines, which studies have shown seriously harms ecosystems there.
“You can't look at one [environmental] situation without having an eye on the other,” he contends.

Under ISA rules, contractors have up to 15 years to explore their claim areas.
They must conduct a “baseline survey” of the nodules and the environment—including details of the habitat and what lives there—and submit it to the ISA's Legal and Technical Commission as part of their exploitation application.
The type and amount of data included in the survey, however, are left up to the contractors, based on ISA guidelines, and the commission is still discussing what data might be acceptable.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Source: “Estimates of Metals Contained in Abyssal Manganese Nodules and Ferromanganese Crusts in the Global Ocean Based on Regional Variations and Genetic Types of Nodules,” by Kira Mizell, James R.
Hein, Manda Au and Amy Gartman, in Perspectives on Deep-Sea Mining, edited by Rahul Sharma.
Springer, 2022 (nodule data); “2022 Final List of Critical Minerals,” by U.S. Geological Survey (reference)

Some mistrust stems from the fact that ISA has never refused an application for exploration, even in regions recommended as marine-protected areas by international conservation organizations.
One especially contentious case is a 2018 contract awarded to Poland to explore a vast site in the mid-Atlantic, next to and partly in the site of the Lost City hydrothermal field—one of the most extreme environments ever discovered on Earth, which scientists hope will be considered for World Heritage status.

Diva Amon, a biologist from Trinidad, is one of ISA's most vocal critics.
She says the agency's requirements for contractors are far too weak.
Amon's first postdoctoral research position, at the University of Hawaii, took her to the CCZ, where—like Glover—she was collecting biological data from a site targeted for mining, in her case by UK Seabed Resources, then a subsidiary of the arms giant Lockheed Martin.
In 2017 Amon founded SpeSeas—a nonprofit dedicated to raising ocean awareness—and in 2020 she was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.
She starred alongside Will Smith in the actor's documentary series Welcome to Earth.
Now at U.C.
Santa Barbara, Amon focuses on understanding the deep sea, including the CCZ; she is no longer collecting data for contractors.

Amon says “there's a fundamental difference between science to understand and science to exploit”—something she has learned from working in both situations.
She says science to exploit often becomes “a tick box exercise”—doing only what's needed to satisfy a checklist.
The problem with that, Amon says, is “not all contractors are doing high-quality science.
Not all contractors are doing a lot of science.
And not all contractors are making their science accessible.” Malcolm Clark, a biologist who has served as an adviser on the ISA's Legal and Technical Commission for the past seven years, agrees.

TMC has conducted several baseline surveys of one of its three CCZ sites, called NORI-D, collecting data on the density and location of the nodules, and the area's habitat and biology.
In March 2023 it submitted the first tranche of these data to ISA, saying it intended to submit the remaining data before August 2023.
Amon claims the information is insufficient.
“A big part of understanding a place—especially a place that you've never been to—is understanding the variation over a [long] period of time,” she says.

Renee Grogan shares some of Amon's frustrations with the ISA.
She is co-founder and chief sustainability officer of Impossible Metals, a start-up that is promoting what it calls a less intrusive extraction method—using a fleet of autonomous robots to pick up nodules individually from the seafloor rather than sucking up everything in a machine's path.
ISA should force transparency from contractors, says Grogan, who previously worked on sustainability for Nautilus Minerals.
“Regulators with backbones” are needed for that to happen, she says.

Another concern about ISA's conflicting mandate to regulate and promote mining is that ISA recommends, but does not require, that contractors conduct small-scale tests of their operation's potentially harmful impacts.
Clark says few contractors could afford the financial risk without any surety they would be licensed.
“Going into test mining is a huge increase in the complexity and the expense of what a contractor might need to do,” he says.
He acknowledges that very little is known about the impacts mining could create.
“That's obviously a very big question, as you start to move from a few hundreds of [metric] tons of resource extraction into thousands and millions of tons over much larger areas.”

Barron claims that nodule mining could have a regenerative effect on marine life.
“What we're finding now is that actually, when you do disturb an area, it creates much more attraction … for organisms to come back,” he says.
“Once we start to collect nodules, the area starts to rehabilitate pretty well straight away.” Without mining having been done, it is hard to substantiate such a claim.
A 2022 project Barron referred to, which involved a few mining study sites, looked only at foraminifera and found no statistical difference between sites, whether mined or untouched.
When queried, TMC responded in writing that “further study of the impacts of actual collection system tests, such as those NORI is undertaking, [is] essential.”

Missing data
In March 2022 Amon led a review, with 30 other scientists, to identify categories of information needed to manage a mining operation, including how animals that live there vary over time and space and their relationships to one another, as well as noise and light pollution, sediment plumes and the release of toxic metals.
One issue was whether a contractor or the regulator has an effective management plan in place: If there is an adverse impact, whose job is it to mitigate the consequences? The study concluded that, for the CCZ, sufficient data to sustainably manage a mining operation exist for only 15 percent of the categories.
Filling in the knowledge gaps would be a “monumental task” that could take a decade or more, the experts wrote.
Ten of the 30 authors support a moratorium.

One unanswered question is how mining will impact life in the water column.
Jeff Drazen, a biologist at the University of Hawaii whom TMC has contracted to collect biological data in the CCZ, worries that this issue is being ignored.
“Despite a lot of scientists wanting to monitor [midwater] biology, we were not asked to do that.
So that has still not happened,” he says, noting that contractors have not required it.
Drazen says that when TMC tested its mining equipment in NORI-D there was no capability on the ship to look at impacts on midwater life.

Credit: Violet Isabelle Frances for Bryan Christie Design; Source: “Towards Deep Sea Mining—Impact of Mining Activities on Benthic Pelagic Coupling in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone,” by Benjamin Gillard. Ph.D. thesis, Jacob’s University; November 2019 (reference)

Another open question is whether mining will impact the survival of isolated populations.
For example, one strategy to maintain deep-sea diversity might be to rake long strips of seafloor that are separated by intact strips.
But would the newly isolated populations be able to survive?

Barron says Amon's review is flawed, claiming it includes only the views and data of select experts and excludes contractor data, which he says show that mining impacts are likely far less than once feared.
In reply, Amon says contractor data were mostly missing from DeepData, the platform ISA uses to house information.
“It may be true that there are more data out there.
But they are not accessible to any stakeholders in a meaningful way,” says Beth Orcutt, a marine biologist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine.

According to ISA more than 100 CCZ surveys have been done.
Data from just 24 of them reside on DeepData.
A recent study led by Muriel Rabone, a data curator at London's Natural History Museum, unearthed problems with the biological information stored on the platform, including duplication of records and misidentification of species.
Rabone has communicated her concerns to ISA and says the regulator is working hard to fix the problems.
Rabone says that until corrections are made, experts analyzing the data could reach false conclusions.

Barron remains outwardly optimistic that mining will start soon, even though the past few months have been tough for TMC.
In March the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, with 160 member countries, urged ISA members to back a moratorium on deep-sea mining.
In May the shipping company Maersk, an investor in TMC since Barron became CEO in 2017, announced that it was divesting, without detailing reasons why.
TMC's share price has been volatile in recent months.
Still, now that the two-year rule's embargo date has passed, TMC could just begin mining, without ISA having finalized its regulations, as long as there is no veto from ISA member nations indicating a need to wait for those guidelines.
Creatures from the Clarion-Clipperton seabed include (left to right) a sea cucumber (purple), a different sea cucumber (white), a glass sponge, a sea star and a sea anemone.
Credit: Vincent Fournier

Scientists hope the effort being made to understand the ocean's abyss will lead to an informed decision.
“There has to be a level of trust that [contractors] are doing it correctly and reporting it correctly,” Orcutt says.
“So much of deep-sea mining is going to rely on trust because no one can go out there and watch what they're doing.” A crucial consideration for ISA will be deciding how much evidence about harm is enough.
“This is essentially a decision as to what level of risk people are prepared to accept,” Glover says.
“We're never going to answer every question.”

Mining's larger future will rest largely on how ISA finalizes its rule book amid the rush to scour the seafloor.
ISA has a rare chance to regulate an industry before the industry has begun.

Links :

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Huge backlog of 200 ships are stuck trying to enter the Panama Canal as they wait weeks amid slowed traffic due to drought:

Vessel-tracking data highlights the extent of issue with hundreds of ships, mainly bulk cargo or gas carriers, seen waiting near entrances to the canal on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans

From DailyMail by Kamal Sultan

More than 200 ships are stuck on both sides of the Panama Canal after authorities capped the number of crossings because of a serious drought.

The large vessels, thought to be carrying millions of dollars worth of goods, are locked in a traffic jam with some waiting for weeks to cross.
Vessel-tracking data highlights the extent of the issue with hundreds of ships, mainly bulk cargo or gas carriers, seen waiting near entrances to the canal on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The number of daily transits through the canal has been capped at 32 by water authorities in a bid to conserve water.

Panama is set to lose $200million in revenue from the delays and it could cause a spike in US grocery and parcel prices as extra fees are hiked on to shipping costs.

More than 200 ships are stuck on both sides of the Panama Canal after authorities capped the number of crossings because of a serious drought

The entrances on both sides of the Panama Canal are jammed with some ships backed up for more than 20 days. 
Some shipowners have resorted to rerouting their journeys to avoid the backlog.

The canal uses three times as much water as New York City on a daily basis and needs rainfall to replace it.

But the rainy season is yet to arrive in Panama and the canal is going through its driest spell in more than a century.

Restrictions for the number of vessels passing through has been extended until September 2.
'The delays are changing by the day. Once you make a decision to go there is no point to return or deviate, so you can get stuck,' Tim Hansen, chief commercial officer at Dorian LPG, which operates large gas carriers, told the Wall Street Journal.

Without enough rain, the ship transits are cut and the lucky ones that cross pay hefty premiums.

This increases transport costs for cargo owners like American oil as well as Asian importers and gas exporters.

Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, the administrator of the Panama Canal, warned the restrictions could have to remain in place until the rest of the year.
He said the drought could see a $200million drop in revenue next year if the low rainfall continues into winter.

Conditions of extreme rain or drought are a lot more regular than in the early years of the canal's operation, according to him.

It presents a huge challange for the Panama Canal Authority which supplies water to around half the country's population of 4.5 million.

'The Canal communicates with its customers so that the information allows them to make the best decisions even if it means that they may choose another route temporarily,' Vásquez Morales said.

'Demand remains high which proves the Panama Canal remains competitive in most segments, even with measures to save water.'

Operators have hired the US Army Corps of Engineers, who originally built the canal, and has set aside $2billion over the next decade to divert four rivers into the waterway and help ships flow through.

The canal already has three rivers that feed into it.

Wide disruption has not been caused for containerships which are the canal's biggest users.

Most are given preferential status because they work on fixed schedules and book crossings up to a year in advance. 

The large vessels, thought to be carrying millions of dollars worth of goods, are locked in a traffic jam with some waiting for weeks to cross

The entrances on both sides of the Panama Canal are jammed with some ships backed up for more than 20 days

However some are caught up in the chaos and have to pay several times the average tolls.

Lars Oestergaard Nielsen, who is head of customer delivery in the Americas at shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk, said: 'We had two ships that couldn't book and it was quite expensive.
'We went to an auction and paid $900,000 on top of $400,000 normal toll fee for each ship to cross.'

Ordinarily, ships cross the canal at an average 50 feet of draft but this has now been reduced to 44 feet to cope with the drought conditions.

Large boxships have to cross with fewer containers in order to match the lower water depth. Smaller ships are added to help move the rest of the cargo.

Those that aren't on fixed routes like bulk and gas carriers which are booked to move goods in short notice end up facing the longest delays.

Oslo-based Avance Gas operated 17 vessels and has had to re-route 75 percent of its ships moving American exports of butane and propane.

Ships carrying these products to Asia move through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope.

'Waiting time is one thing, but it's also the uncertainty,' its chief executive Øystein Kalleklev said. 

The number of daily transits through the canal has been capped at 32 by water authorities in a bid to conserve water

Panama is set to lose $200million in revenue from the delays and it could cause a spike in US grocery and parcel prices as extra fees are hiked on to shipping costs

'It's risky to fix a ship with no firm itinerary because you can lose the contract if the wait is too long.

The Panama Canal is a big mess these days twenty days in a queue is unprecedented at this time of the year.'

Huge ships that move bulky items like coal and iron ore are stuck in the traffic jam. They are usually owned by medium or small operators and get no priority.

The restrictions could add more pressure on consumer goods prices, according to maritime firms and experts, as delays and extra fees add to shipping costs.

It could lead to higher prices and less choices for American consumers.

The Panama Canal is important for moving consumer goods from Asia to the United States, especially ahead of peak selling seasons like Christmas.

It also allows faster transportation of US commodities to Asia and South America's Pacific Coast.

The Panama Canal has a 40 percent-market share of containers moving from Northeast Asia to the US East Coast.
Links :

Monday, August 21, 2023

The Titan submersible disaster was years in the making, new details reveal

 OceanGate’s Titan submersible prior to its final dive on a mission to see the Titanic wreckage.OCEANGATE EXPEDITIONS/HANDOUT VIA XINHUA NEWS AGENCY.
From VanityFair by Sysan Casey

To many in the tight-knit deep-sea exploration community, OceanGate’s submersible dives were reckless and often dangerous, writes best-selling author Susan Casey.

41.73º N, 49.95º W, North Atlantic Ocean, June 18, 2023

Fate cleared up the weather, blew off the fog, and calmed the waves, as the submersible and its five passengers dived through the surface waters and fell into another world.
They entered the deep ocean’s uppermost layer, known as the twilight zone, passing creatures glimmering with bioluminescence, tiny fish with enormous teeth.
Then they entered the midnight zone, where larger creatures ghost by like alien moons.
Two miles down, they entered the abyssal zone—so named because it’s the literal abyss.

Deeper means heavier: pressures of 5,000, then 6,000 pounds per square inch.
As it descended, the submersible was gripped in a tightening vise.
Maybe they heard a noise then, maybe they heard an alarm.

I hope they watched the abyss with awe through their viewport, because I’d like to think their last sights were magnificent ones.

As the world now knows, Stockton Rush touted himself as a maverick, a disrupter, a breaker of rules.
So far out on the visionary curve that, for him, safety regulations were mere suggestions.
“If you’re not breaking things, you’re not innovating,” he declared at the 2022 GeekWire Summit.
“If you’re operating within a known environment, as most submersible manufacturers do, they don’t break things.
To me, the more stuff you’ve broken, the more innovative you’ve been.

In a culture that has adopted the ridiculous mantra “move fast and break things,” that type of arrogance can get a person far.
But in the deep ocean, the price of admission is humility—and it’s nonnegotiable.
The abyss doesn’t care if you went to Princeton, or that your ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.
If you want to go down into her world, she sets the rules.

And her rules are strict, befitting the gravitas of the realm.
To descend into the ocean’s abyssal zone—the waters from 10,000 to 20,000 feet—is a serious affair, and because of the annihilating pressures, far more challenging than rocketing into space.
The subs that dive into this realm (there aren’t many) are tested and tested and tested.
Every component is checked for flaws in a pressure chamber and checked again—and every step of this process is certified by an independent marine classification society.
This assurance of safety is known as “classing” a sub.
Deep-sea submersibles are constructed of the strongest and most predictable materials, as determined by the laws of physics.

In the abyss, that means passengers typically sit inside a titanium (or steel) pressure hull, forged into a perfect sphere—the only shape that distributes pressure symmetrically.
That means adding crush-resistant syntactic foam around the sphere for buoyancy and protection, to offset the weight of the titanium.
That means redundancy upon redundancy, with no single point of failure.
It means a safety plan, a rescue plan, an acute situational awareness at all times.

It means respect for the forces in the deep ocean.
Which Stockton Rush didn’t have.

Stockton Rush in front of his Antipodes submersible

Unfortunately, June 18, 2023, wasn’t the first time I’d heard of Rush, or his company OceanGate, or his monstrosity of a sub.
He and the Titan had been a topic of conversation talked about with real fear, on many occasions, by numerous people I met over the course of five years while reporting my book The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean.
I heard discussions about the Titan as a tragedy-in-waiting on research ships, during deep-sea expeditions, in submersible hangars, at marine science conferences.
I had my own troubling encounter with OceanGate in 2018 and had been watching it with concern ever since.

Everyone I met in the small, tight-knit world of manned submersibles was aware of the Titan.
Everyone watched in disbelief as Rush built a five-person cylindrical pressure hull out of filament-wound carbon fiber, an unpredictable material that is known to fail suddenly and catastrophically under pressure.

It was as though we were watching a horror movie unfold in slow motion, knowing that whatever happened next wouldn’t be pretty.
But like screaming at the screen, nothing that came out of anyone’s mouth made any difference to the ending.

In December 2015, two years before the Titan was built, Rush had lowered a one third scale model of his 4,000-meter-sub-to-be into a pressure chamber and watched it implode at 4,000 psi, a pressure equivalent to only 2,740 meters.
The test’s stated goal was to “validate that the pressure vessel design is capable of withstanding an external pressure of 6,000 psi—corresponding to…a depth of about 4,200 meters.” He might have changed course then, stood back for a moment and reconsidered.
But he didn’t.
Instead, OceanGate issued a press release stating that the test had been a resounding success because it “demonstrates that the benefits of carbon fiber are real.”

Rush didn’t even break stride.
He ran right on ahead, plowing hard into his director of marine operations, David Lochridge.
Lochridge had emigrated from Scotland to work for OceanGate—selling his home in Glasgow, moving to Washington State with his wife and seven-year-old daughter.
Unlike many of his new colleagues, Lochridge was an established undersea pro: a submersible and remote-operated-vehicle pilot, a marine engineer, an underwater inspector for the oil and gas industry.
He’d piloted rescue subs for the British navy to save men trapped aboard downed military submarines.

By January 2018, the Titan was nearly completed, soon to begin its sea trials.
But first Lochridge—who according to his contract was responsible for “ensuring the safety of all crew and clients during submersible and surface operations”—would have to inspect the sub and pronounce it fit to dive.
And that wasn’t going to happen.

Lochridge had been watching the sub’s progress with ratcheting alarm.
He’d argued with OceanGate’s engineering director, Tony Nissen; OceanGate had responded by refusing to let Lochridge examine the work on the sub’s oxygen system, computer systems, acrylic viewport, O-rings, and the critical interfaces between its carbon fiber hull and titanium endcaps.
Mating materials with such wildly divergent pressure tolerances was also…not advised.
(Nissen did not respond to requests for comment.)

When Lochridge voiced his concerns, he was ignored.
So he inspected the Titan as thoroughly as he could.
Then he presented Rush and other OceanGate senior staff with a 10-page “Quality Control Inspection Report” that listed the sub’s problems and the steps needed to correct them.
“Verbal communication of the key items I have addressed in my attached document have been dismissed on several occasions,” Lochridge wrote on the first page, “so I feel now I must make this report so there is an official record in place.”
These issues, he added, were “significant in nature and must be addressed.”

“Titan could not get classed because it was built of the wrong material and it was built the wrong way.
Once he made up his mind, he was on a path from which there was no return.”

Lochridge listed more than two dozen items that required immediate attention.
These included missing bolts and improperly secured batteries, components zip-tied to the outside of the sub.
O-ring grooves were machined incorrectly (which could allow water ingress), seals were loose, a highly flammable, petroleum-based material lined the Titan’s interior.
Hosing looped around the sub’s exterior, creating an entanglement risk—especially at a site like the wreck of the Titanic, where spars, pipes, and wires protrude everywhere.

Yet even those deficiencies paled in comparison to what Lochridge observed on the hull.
The carbon fiber filament was visibly coming apart, riddled with air gaps, delaminations, and Swiss cheese holes—and there was no way to fix that short of tossing the hull in a dumpster.
The manufacturing process for carbon fiber filament is exacting.
Interwoven carbon fibers are wound around a cylinder and bonded with epoxy, then bagged in cellophane and cured in an oven for seven days.
The goal is perfect consistency; any mistakes are baked in permanently.

Given that the hull would be “seeing such immense pressures not yet experienced on any known carbon hulled vehicle we run the risk of potential inter-laminar fatigue due to pressure cycling,” Lochridge wrote, “especially if we do have imperfections in the hull itself.” The hull would need to be scanned with thermal imaging or ultrasound to reveal the extent of its flaws.
“Non-destructive inspection is required to be undertaken and subsequent results provided to myself prior to any in water Manned Dives commencing,” he added, digging in his heels on the scanning.
This would reveal any weak spots and provide a baseline that could then be used to check for signs of fatigue after every dive.

Scanning the hull shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Lochridge noted in another document that OceanGate had previously stated the hull would be scanned.
(Spoiler alert: The hull was never scanned.
“The OceanGate engineering team does not plan to obtain a hull scan and does not believe the same to be readily available or particularly effective in any event,” the company’s lawyer, Thomas Gilman, wrote in March 2018.
Instead, OceanGate would rely on “acoustic monitoring”—sensors on the Titan’s hull that would emit an alarm when the carbon fiber filaments were audibly breaking.)

Lochridge’s report was concise and technical, compiled by someone who clearly knew what he was talking about—the kind of document that in most companies would get a person promoted.
Rush’s response was to fire Lochridge immediately, serve him and his wife with a lawsuit (although Carole Lochridge didn’t work at OceanGate or even in the submersible industry) for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of trade secrets; threaten their immigration status; and seek to have them pay OceanGate’s legal fees.

In the lawsuit, OceanGate cited its grievances.
According to the company, Lochridge had “manufactured a reason to be fired.” In 2016, he had “ ‘mooned’ through the large viewing window Tony Nissen and other members of the OceanGate engineering staff through [sic] with whom he had been arguing.” He had “repeatedly refused to accept the veracity of information provided by the Company’s lead engineer and repeatedly stated he did not approve of OceanGate’s research and development plans, insisting, for example that the company should obtain a scan of the hull of Titan’s experimental vessel prototype to detect potential flaws….”

Now unemployed, distressed by OceanGate’s allegations, and beset with legal bills, Lochridge was in a vulnerable position.
He countersued for wrongful termination and sent his inspection report to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA, in turn, passed it to the Coast Guard.

OceanGate’s onetime director of marine operations, David Lochridge (foreground), who raised concerns about OceanGate’s engineering, speaks aboard the Cyclops 1.ANDY BRONSON/THE HERALD/AP.

Ironically, Lochridge had saved Rush from himself at least once before.
In June 2016, Rush piloted OceanGate’s shallow-diving sub, the Cyclops 1, to the site of the Andrea Doria, a hulking 700-foot ocean liner and epic entanglement hazard that had sunk in 1956 off Nantucket, in a patch of the Atlantic known for its murky fog and seething currents.
The ship lies in 240 feet of turbid water, cobwebbed with discarded fishing lines.
At that depth, it is accessible (and just barely) to advanced scuba divers, 18 of whom have died there.
Rush was headed down to “capture sonar images of the shipwreck” with Lochridge and three clients.

Word gets around in the deep-sea community.
I learned of what happened next from two sub pilots from other companies, who both told me the same story on different occasions after hearing it from OceanGate personnel.
I also reviewed correspondence related to OceanGate’s lawsuit against Lochridge and his wife, in which Lochridge describes the incident.
(Lochridge declined to be interviewed.)

As chief pilot and the person responsible for operational safety, Lochridge had created a dive plan that included protocols for how to approach the wreck.
Any entanglement hazard demands caution and vigilance: touching down at least 50 meters away and surveying the site before coming any closer.
Rush disregarded these safety instructions.
He landed too close, got tangled in the current, managed to wedge the sub beneath the Andrea Doria’s crumbling bow, and descended into a full-blown panic.
Lochridge tried to take the helm, but Rush had refused to let him, melting down for over an hour until finally one of the clients shrieked, “Give him the fucking controller!” At which point Rush hurled the controller, a video-game joystick, at Lochridge’s head.
Lochridge freed the sub in 15 minutes.

The expedition had been planned to include 10 dives, but instead it ended abruptly, with OceanGate citing “adverse weather conditions.” After returning to shore in Boston, Rush held a press conference.
“We were able to view the Andrea Doria area for nearly four hours, which is more than 10 times longer than scuba divers can,” he announced.
The dive, OceanGate’s website noted, had “focused on the bow of the vessel.”

Writing this now, I feel a variety of emotions.
Empathy, of course, for the families of those aboard the doomed Titan.Despair for the “mission specialists” whose trust in OceanGate was so misplaced: Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, and Hamish Harding.
Sadness, because I knew and admired PH Nargeolet—a deep-sea icon whose expertise on the Titanic led to his fatal association with Rush.
PH and I sailed together in the Pacific on the 2019 Five Deeps Expedition, when explorer Victor Vescovo piloted a revolutionary sub, the Limiting Factor, to the deepest spots in all five of the earth’s ocean basins.
(Journalist Ben Taub was on the Five Deeps Expedition in the North Atlantic and wrote about it for The New Yorker.)

Vescovo had commissioned the Limiting Factor in 2015 and hired Nargeolet as his technical adviser to vet the sub’s design and build.
Happily, PH didn’t have much to do.
The Limiting Factor was built by Triton Submarines, a company known for its high quality and smart designs, whose cofounder and president, Patrick Lahey, is regarded as the world’s most experienced submersible pilot.
Vescovo’s sub was certified—at great cost and difficulty, over several years, from inception to completion to sea trials to dives—by senior inspection engineer Jonathan Struwe from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a Norway-based international marine classification society that is the gold standard for safety.

And my God, the testing.
Every piece of the Limiting Factor was pressure-tested to 20,000 psi, equivalent to a depth of 43,000 feet—20 percent greater than full ocean depth.
There was so much testing that Triton built its own state-of-the-art pressure chambers in Barcelona, Spain.
The only high-powered pressure chamber large enough to fit the passenger sphere was located in St.
Petersburg, Russia, so the four-ton titanium orb was shipped halfway around the world.
For days the sphere was squeezed mercilessly, simulating repeated dives to depths beyond any existing on earth.
Afterward, it showed zero evidence of fatigue.
“Even millions of cycles would not adversely affect it,” Lahey told me.
The crushing pressure only makes the sphere stronger.
When I boarded Vescovo’s ship in Tonga, I had already digested Nargeolet’s incredible résumé.
It was given to me by Captain Don Walsh, Navy deep submergence pilot number one.
He and Jacques Piccard made history by diving 35,800 feet to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the ocean’s absolute nadir.
Struwe dived with Lahey to 35,800 feet—he wanted to, but also he had to.
How else could he certify the Limiting Factor worthy of the first-ever DNV class approval for repeated dives to “unlimited depth”? Struwe was so integral to the sub’s success that Lahey considered him to be a codesigner.

All this made Rush look awfully foolish within the community as he trash-talked the classification societies.
“Bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation,” he complained in a blog post.
His sub was simply too advanced for the uninitiated.
But Rush also used slippery language to infer to clients that the Titan would be classed: “As an interim step in the path to classification, we are working with a premier classing agency to validate Titan’s dive test plan.”

“He actually had the DNV logo up on his website for a time,” Lahey recalled in disgust.
“I told Jonathan Struwe about it and he called Stockton and said, ‘Take it down, and take it down now.’ ”

When I boarded Vescovo’s ship in Tonga, I had already digested Nargeolet’s incredible five-page résumé.
It was given to me by Captain Don Walsh, Navy deep submergence pilot number one.
Walsh commanded the bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, when he and Jacques Piccard made history by diving 35,800 feet to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the ocean’s absolute nadir.
Walsh was 87 years old when I met him in 2019; he had dedicated his entire legendary career to deep-sea science, engineering, and exploration.
“PH is kind of my parallel on the French side,” he told me.
“He’s a walking history.
He can give you the European angle on deep exploration.”

Nargeolet had been a decorated commander in the French navy, the captain of France’s 6,000-meter sub, the Nautile, and the leader of his country’s deep submergence group.
As commanding officer of the French navy’s explosive ordnance disposal team, he’d de-mined the English Channel, the North Sea, and the Suez Canal.
And that was just on page one.

I felt awed to meet him, and a bit intimidated.
But PH was a deeply humble man.
He talked about how much he loved the ocean, how diving brought him a sense of peace beyond anything attainable on land.
He described how the French pilots in the Nautile would stop for lunch on the seafloor, laying a tablecloth, breaking out silverware, and decanting a bottle of wine.
What’s your favorite place to dive? I asked him.
“Volcanic vents,” he replied without hesitation.

PH also loved the Titanic—he made his first manned dive to the wreck in 1987 and had revisited the site more than 30 times.
No one knew the ship’s past and present as intimately as he did.
(He would later write that from the moment he saw it, the Titanic had “placed itself at the center of my life.”) He laughed as he explained why he got a kick out of seeing the Titanic’s swimming pool: “Because it looks like it’s empty and it’s full of water! You don’t see the surface, you know?”

One morning, as the Limiting Factor was being launched, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder: I was standing too close to the winch.
Nargeolet guided me to a safer spot, cautioning me in his lovely French accent: “When something goes wrong, it goes wrong very fast.”

If empathy and sadness were the only emotions I felt, I’d be able to sleep better.
But I am also angry.
Angry at Rush’s disrespect for the deep ocean, a realm he professed to want to explore but in reality did not understand.
Angry because five people are dead and many others were jeopardized (all of whom must feel like they’ve survived a game of Russian roulette) after Rush was warned for years that his sub wasn’t fit for purpose.

My anger is also personal, because when I first heard about OceanGate back in 2018, I was just beginning to learn about submersibles, just beginning to report my book.
I didn’t yet know how reckless, how heedless, how insane the Titan was.
I didn’t know that the 4,000-meter sub’s viewport was certified to only 1,300 meters.
I wanted desperately to dive to abyssal depths but at the time couldn’t see a way to do it.
The handful of vehicles in the world that can dive below 10,000 feet were all dedicated to science.

Then suddenly there was Rush, holding forth in the media about how his brilliant new sub would take people to see the Titanic and saying things like, “If three quarters of the planet is water, how come you can’t access it?” and “I want to change the way humanity regards the deep ocean.” I wasn’t very interested in diving to the gruesome Titanic, but I was extremely interested in diving to 13,000 feet.
Rush’s operation sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

I called OceanGate and spoke to a marketing executive, a young person I won’t name because they left the company long ago.
The 2019 Titanic trips were nearly sold out, they told me, but there would be future expeditions even deeper: “The end goal is not 4,000 meters.
We’re already building to go to 6,000 meters.” This was possible because of Rush’s many advanced innovations, they explained.
The Titan’s pressure hull would be made of “space-grade” carbon fiber, monitored by an array of acoustic sensors.
“Steel just implodes,” they said with assurance, as if this was something that had ever happened.
“But carbon fiber gives a warning 1,500 meters before implosion.
It makes very specific snapping sounds.
There’s no other acoustic hull-monitoring system in the world.”

No other deep-sea submersible in the world had such a system.
Because no other deep-sea sub needed one.

Fortunately, I knew enough to speak to a few people before I got anywhere near the Titan.
One phone call was all it took.

Terry Kerby, the veteran chief pilot of the University of Hawaii’s two deep-sea subs, the Pisces IV and the Pisces V, recoiled when I asked him what he thought about OceanGate.
“Be careful of that,” he warned.
“That guy has the whole submersible community really concerned.
He’s just basically ignoring all the major engineering rules.” He paused to make sure this had sunk in, and then added emphatically: “Do not get into that sub.
He is going to have a major accident.”

Kerby referred me to marine engineer Will Kohnen for a more detailed explanation of why the Titan was “just a disaster.” Kohnen is the chair of the Marine Technology Society’s Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee.
He helped write the class rules for submersibles, owned and operated a company that manufactured submersibles, and had decades of experience in the field.

And Kohnen, a straight-shooting French Canadian, knew all about the Titan.
“It’s been a challenge to deal with OceanGate,” he said with a sigh and then launched into a two- hour explanation of the reasons why.
Carbon fiber is great under tension (stretching) but not compression (squeezing), he told me, offering an example: “You can use a rope to pull a car.
But try pushing a car with a rope.”

The bottom line? A novel submersible design was welcome—but only if you were willing to do the herculean amount of testing to prove that it was safe, under the gimlet eye of a classification society.
OceanGate decided that process would be too long and expensive, Kohnen said, “and they were just going to do whatever they wanted.”

His committee had recently written a letter to Rush—signed by Kohnen and 37 other industry leaders—expressing their “unanimous concern” about the Titan’s development and OceanGate’s “current ‘experimental’ approach.” Rush needed to stop pretending that he was working with DNV and start doing it, stop misleading the public, stop breaching “an industry-wide professional code of conduct we all endeavor to uphold.” The group concluded by asking Rush to “confirm that OceanGate can see the future benefit of its investment in adhering to industry accepted safety guidelines…” The letter, which has now been widely publicized, was a stern warning, the epistolary equivalent of being hauled into the principal’s office and smacked with a ruler.

Surely, people in the submersible world thought, Rush would come to his senses.
Surely he wouldn’t actually go through with this?

Rush ignored the Marine Technology Society’s letter.
He ignored the fact that it was signed—at the top—by Don Walsh.
Don Walsh! If you know anything about the deep ocean, you know that when Don Walsh speaks, you shut up and listen.

“He doesn’t tell the truth, what’s his name—Rush,” Walsh observed to me.
“He’s absolutely 14-karat self-certitude.”

“Have you met him?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” Walsh said tartly.

“What was your impression?”

Walsh chuckled.
“Oh, he tolerated me.
He was correct.
He was polite.
He really wanted to tell me how he was all out on the cutting edges of technology, places I couldn’t even imagine.”

Rush ignored the fact that the letter was signed by the cofounder of EYOS Expeditions, Rob McCallum, whom he’d known since 2009 and had tried unsuccessfully to hire for OceanGate’s Titanic operations.
McCallum’s client list was awash in wealthy ocean explorers.
He’d led seven expeditions to the Titanic with Russia’s two Mir submersibles and had dived to the wreck himself.
When McCallum learned more about the Titan, he wanted nothing to do with it: “I’ve never allowed myself to be associated with an unclassed vehicle.

Rush ignored the fact that the letter was signed by Terry Kerby, a former Coast Guard navigator who led the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab for 38 years and had made more than 900 sub dives in the Pacific.
“You have enough to worry about if you’re exploring volcanoes or shipwrecks without having to worry about whether your submersible is going to survive,” Kerby told me.

“Would you ever agree to pilot a sub that wasn’t classed?” I asked.


Rush ignored the fact that the letter was signed by Patrick Lahey, a man who forgot more about manned subs yesterday than Rush would learn in his lifetime.
Lahey had not only signed the letter and warned Rush repeatedly about the Titan’s dangers, he also quietly paid the Lochridges’ legal fees in the hope that the inspection report would be dissected in court and made public.
But to Lahey’s “bitter disappointment,” Lochridge decided to settle, withdrawing his OSHA complaint and agreeing not to discuss OceanGate publicly in exchange for being left alone.
“I think Stockton had really intimidated him and frightened him,” Lahey said.
“I certainly would have continued that fight, because I believe you take something like that right to the end.
But he didn’t want to, and I knew it wasn’t my decision.”

By spring 2018, it was evident that Rush’s deep-sea sub would never be certified.
“Titan could not get classed because it was built of the wrong material and it was built the wrong way,” McCallum said.
“So once Stockton made up his mind, he was on a path from which there was no return.
He could have stopped, but he could never fix it.”

Rush was angry that McCallum had been steering EYOS’s clients away from diving in the Titan, though many had expressed interest.
“I have given everyone the same honest advice which is that until a sub is classed, tested, and proven it should not be used for commercial deep dive operations,” McCallum wrote to Rush in March 2018.
“4,000 [meters] down in the mid-Atlantic is not the kind of place you can cut corners.”

“It is my hope that when you cite OceanGate’s missing classification that you also offer the following,” Rush replied in a sour email.
“1) that this need is expressly your opinion, 2) that there has never been a fatality in an unclassed sub, (3) that there are subs in current commercial operation that are not classed, (4) and that Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX all follow the same ethos [False: They had to get FAA approval] and relevant and respective industry certification paths.” He concluded by lecturing McCallum: “Industry attempts to disparage innovative business, operational and design approaches will not help advance subsea exploration.”

PH Nargeolet, who died in the Titan implosion, poses next to a miniature of the Titanic, his life’s obsession.

At Kohnen’s invitation, I attended the Marine Technology Society’s 2019 meeting.
By that time Rush had been ignoring its letter for a year.
“The program is an overview of manned submersible operations worldwide,” Kohnen said, addressing the group.
“Today we’re doing the deep submersible review work.” This consisted of an alphabetical rundown of every deep sub and the status of its operations.
When he got to the letter O, Kohnen cleared his throat.
“Anybody here from OceanGate?” (Silence.) “No?”

OceanGate’s recalcitrance was like smog hovering over the conference room.
During a coffee break, I heard the Titan mentioned in the same breath as the UC3 Nautilus, a creepy Norwegian sub whose owner had killed and dismembered journalist Kim Wall on a dive.
In a corner, two marine engineers were worked up, and I caught a snatch of their conversation: “When it’s compressing it can actually buckle,” one engineer said in an exasperated tone, referring to Rush’s carbon fiber hull.
“Like if you stand on an empty soda can.” The other engineer snorted and said: “I wouldn’t get into that thing for any amount of money.”

Clearly, Rush would do as he pleased.
He would register the Titan in the Bahamas and sail from a Canadian port into international waters, thus skirting Coast Guard regulations that any commercial sub must be classed.
OceanGate’s lawyer, Thomas Gilman, emphasized in the 2018 lawsuit against the Lochridges that the Titan “will operate exclusively outside the territorial waters of the United States.”

Anyway, Rush wasn’t carrying paying customers—he was enlisting “mission specialists.” This wasn’t some cute marketing ploy, like American Airlines giving a kid a set of plastic pilot’s wings.
In maritime law, crew receive much lighter protections than commercial passengers—and to Rush’s mind, calling them mission specialists and putting them to work on the ship made them crew.
On a podcast, CBS reporter David Pogue noted that, in advance of shooting his segment on the 2022 Titanic expedition, OceanGate had emailed him “a document that basically said, ‘In thy news reporting thou shalt not use the terms ‘tourists, customers, or passengers.’ The term is mission specialists.”

So, yes.
Many people felt that a catastrophe was brewing with the Titan, but at the same time everybody’s hands were tied.

On the Titan’s second deep test dive in April 2019—an attempt to reach 4,000 meters in the Bahamas—the sub protested with such bloodcurdling cracking and gunshot noises that its descent was halted at 3,760 meters.
Rush was the pilot, and he had taken three passengers on this highly risky plunge.
One of them was Karl Stanley, a seasoned submersible pilot who would later describe the noises as “the hull yelling at you.” Stanley was no stranger to risk: He’d built his own experimental unclassed sub and operated it in Honduras.
But even he was so rattled by the dive that he wrote several emails to Rush urging him to postpone the Titan’s commercial debut, less than two months away.

The carbon fiber was breaking down, Stanley believed: “I think that hull has a defect near that flange that will only get worse.
The only question in my mind is will it fail catastrophically or not.” He advised Rush to step back and conduct 50 unmanned test dives before any other humans got into the sub.
True to form, Rush dismissed the advice—“One experiential data point is not sufficient to determine the integrity of the hull”—telling Stanley to “keep your opinions to yourself.”

When the world learned of the Titan’s disappearance on June 18, no one I know in deep-sea circles believed that it was simply lost, floating somewhere, unseen because—the mind reels—it didn’t have an emergency beacon.
“The fear was collapse,” Lahey said bluntly.
“The fear was always pressure hull failure with that craft.”

“I remember him saying at one point to me that one of the reasons why he had me on that dive was he expected that I would be able to keep my mouth shut about anything that was of a sensitive nature,” Stanley told me in a phone interview.

“Like what?” I asked.

“I don’t think he wanted everybody knowing about the cracking sounds.”

Shortly after that, Rush did make an accommodation to reality.
He sent out a press release heralding the Titan’s “History Making Deep-Sea Dive to 3,760 Meters with Four Crew Members,” and then a month later canceled the 2019 Titanic expedition.
(He had previously scrubbed the 2018 expedition, claiming that the Titan had been hit by lightning.) Now, Rush was off to build a new hull.

Surely, people in the submersible world thought, Rush would come to his senses.
Surely he wouldn’t actually go through with this?

But he did.
2020 was a write-off because of COVID.
In 2021, Rush took his first group of “mission specialists” to the Titanic—and with him now, as part of his team, was PH Nargeolet.

It’s not that Nargeolet's friends didn’t try to stop him.
“Oh, we…we all tried,” Lahey said.
“I tried so hard to tell him not to go out there.
I fucking begged him, ‘Don’t go out there, man.’ ”

It’s that Nargeolet knew everything they were saying was true and wanted to go anyway.
“Maybe it’s better if I’m out there,” Lahey recalls Nargeolet saying.
“I can help them from doing something stupid or people getting hurt.” In the implosion’s aftermath, the French newspaper Le Figaro would report that Nargeolet had told his family that he was wary of the Titan’s carbon fiber hull and its oversized viewport, assessing them as potential weak spots.
“He was a little skeptical about this new technology, but also intrigued by the idea of piloting something new,” a colleague of Nargeolet's, marine archaeologist Michel L’Hour, explained to the paper.
“It was difficult for him to consider a mission on the Titanic without participating in it himself.”

Now the reports are emerging about the plague of problems on OceanGate’s 2021 and 2022 Titanic expeditions; more dives scrubbed or aborted than completed—for an assortment of reasons from major to minor.
A communications system that never much worked.
Battery problems, electrical problems, sonar problems, navigation problems.
A thruster installed backward.
Ballast weights that wouldn’t release.
(On one dive, Rush instructed the Titan’s occupants to rock the sub back and forth at abyssal depths in an attempt to dislodge the sewer pipes he used to achieve negative buoyancy.) Getting all the way down to the seafloor and then fumbling around for hours trying to find the wreck.
(“I mean, how do you not find a 50,000 ton ship?” Lahey asked me, incredulous, in July 2022.)

One group had been trapped inside the sub for 27 hours, stuck on the balky launch and recovery platform.
Other “mission specialists” were sealed inside the sub for up to five hours before it launched, sweltering in sauna-like conditions.
Arthur Loibl, a German businessman who dove in 2021, described it to the Associated Press as a “kamikaze operation.”

Fair is fair: Some people did get to see the Titanic and live to tell about it.
Plenty more left disappointed, having spent an extremely expensive week in their branded OceanGate clothing, doing chores on an industrial ship.
(OceanGate’s Titanic expedition 2023 promotional video, now removed from the internet, showed “mission specialists” wiping down ballast pipes and cleaning the sub.) And when Rush offered them 300-foot consolation dives in the harbor, even those were often canceled or aborted.

Sadly, those problems now seem quaint.

When the world learned of the Titan’s disappearance on June 18, no one I know in deep-sea circles believed that it was simply lost, floating somewhere, unseen because—the mind reels—it didn’t have an emergency beacon.
No one believed that its passengers were slowly running out of oxygen.
If the sub were entangled amid the Titanic wreck, that wouldn’t explain why its tracking and communications signals had vanished simultaneously at 3,347 meters.
“The fear was collapse,” Lahey said bluntly.
“The fear was always pressure hull failure with that craft.”

But the families didn’t know, and the public didn’t know, and it would be ghastly not to hope for some slim chance of survival, some possible miracle.
But which was better to hope for? That they perished in an implosion at supersonic speed—or that they were alive with hardly a chance of being found, left to suffocate for four days in a sub that had all the comforts of an MRI machine?

“When I found out that they were bolted in…” Kerby told me, his voice anguished.
“They couldn’t even evacuate and fire a flare.
You know, there’s a really good reason for those [hatch] towers.
It gives everyone a chance to make it out.”

“The lack of the hatch in the OceanGate design was a serious deviation from any and all submersible design safety guidelines that exist today,” Kohnen wrote in an email, seconding Kerby.
“All subs need to have hatches.”

No knowledge of the tragedy was preparation enough for watching television coverage of the Titan’s entrails being craned off the recovery ship Horizon Arctic.
Eight-inch-thick titanium bonding rings—bent.
Snarls of cables, mangled debris, sheared metal, torn exterior panels: They seemed to have been wrenched from Grendel’s claws in some mythical undersea battle.
But no, it was simply math.
A cold equation showing what the pressure of 6,000 psi does to an object unprepared to meet it.

One person involved in the recovery effort, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me that the wreckage itself was proof that no one aboard the sub had suffered: “From what I saw of all the remaining bits and pieces, it was so violent and so fast.”

The abyss doesn’t care if you went to Princeton or that your ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence.
If you want to go down into her world, she sets the rules.

“What did the carbon fiber look like?” I asked.

“There was no piece I saw anywhere that had its original five-inch thickness,” he said.
“Just shards and bits….
It was truly catastrophic.
It was shredded.”

Now, back on land, he was still processing what he’d seen.
“I think people don’t actually understand just how forceful the ocean is.
They think of the ocean as going to the beach and sticking their toes in the sand and watching waves come in, and stuff like that,” he reflected.
“They haven’t a clue.”

“Is there any possible reason the Titan could have imploded other than its design and construction were unsuitable for diving to 4,000 meters?” I asked Jarl Stromer, the manager of class and regulatory compliance for Triton Submarines.
Stromer, who has worked in the industry since 1987, began his career as a senior engineer at the American Bureau of Shipping.
He’s an expert on the rules, codes, and standards for every type of manned sub—the nuts and bolts of undersea safety.

“No,” he replied flatly.
“OceanGate bears full responsibility for the design, fabrication, testing, inspection, operation, maintenance, catastrophic failure of the Titan submersible and the deaths of all five people on board.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
In the beginning, OceanGate’s mission had seemed so promising: “Founded in Everett, Washington in 2009, the company provides manned submersible services to reach ocean depths previously unavailable to most individuals and organizations.” But there’s a vast chasm between intention and execution—and pieces of the Titan now lie at the bottom of it.

After the tragedy OceanGate went dark, suspending its operations.
Its website and social media channels were suddenly gone, its promotional videos deleted.
Emails sent to the company received this reply: “Thank you for reaching out.
OceanGate is unable to provide any additional information at this time.” Phone calls were greeted with a disconnection notice.

Only one person familiar with OceanGate’s thinking would speak to me on the record: Guillermo Söhnlein, who cofounded the company with Rush.
And Söhnlein left that post in 2013.
“So I don’t have any direct knowledge or experience with the development of the Titan.I’ve never dived in Titan.
I’ve never been on the Titanic expedition,” he told me.
“All I know is, I know Stockton, and I know the founding of OceanGate, and I know how we operated for the first few years.”

Okay, then.
What should people know about Rush? “I think he did see himself in the same vein as these disruptive innovators,” Söhnlein said.
“Like Thomas Edison, or any of these guys who just found a way of pushing humanity forward for the good of humanity—not necessarily for himself.
He didn’t need the money.
He certainly didn’t need to work and spend hundreds of hours on OceanGate.
You know, he was doing this to help humanity.
At least that’s what I think was personally driving him.”

Before the Titan’s last descent, there hadn’t been a fatal accident in a human-occupied submersible for nearly 50 years—despite a 2,000 percent increase in the annual number of dives in that period.
In the 93-year history of manned deep-sea exploration, no submersible had ever imploded.
“Ultimately it comes down to not just technology,” Kohnen told me, “but the rigor of the nerdy, detailed engineering that goes behind it, to determine that things are predictable.”

“This disaster validates the approach the industry has always taken,” McCallum agreed.
“Stockton could have been held in check by professional engineers, independent oversight, and a genuine culture of safety.
That he wasn’t will be the subject of much investigation.
For those within OceanGate that enabled this culture there should be a long period of self-reflection.
This tragedy was predicted.
It was avoidable.
It was inevitable.
It must never be allowed to happen again.”

Those rules Rush so disdained? They had been refined, honed, universally adopted—and they had worked.
Submersibles had earned their title as the world’s least risky mode of transportation even as they operated in the world’s riskiest environment.
Because there is one last rule that every deep-sea explorer knows: The goal is not to dive.

The goal is to dive, and to come back.

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