Saturday, May 25, 2024

Sand monster

 The large white fish, known as stargazer, buried deep into the sand with just its glaring eyes and scary gnashers poking out.

The odd looking fish are usually found in deep waters and they bury themselves in the sand to hide from prey.
Stargazers bury themselves in the sand in order to ambush prey.
Their secondary gland creates an electric which makes them a serious predator.
"They do not pose any real threat to humans, but they sure look menacing." 
Links :

Friday, May 24, 2024

NOAA confirms 4th global coral bleaching event

This three-panel image shows a boulder star coral in St.
Croix, USVI, as it shifted from healthy (May 2023), to bleached (October 2023), to recovered (March 2024), following extreme marine heat stress throughout the Caribbean basin in 2023.
(Image credit: NOAA)


The world is currently experiencing a global coral bleaching event, according to NOAA scientists.
This is the fourth global event on record and the second in the last 10 years.

Bleaching-level heat stress, as remotely monitored and predicted by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch (CRW), has been — and continues to be — extensive across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins.
CRW's heat-stress monitoring is based on sea surface temperature data, spanning 1985 to the present, from a blend of NOAA and partner satellites.

NOAA Coral Reef Watch's global 5km-resolution satellite Coral Bleaching Alert Area Maximum map, for January 1, 2023 to April 10, 2024. 
This figure shows the regions, around the globe, that experienced high levels of marine heat stress (Bleaching Alert Levels 2-5) that can cause reef-wide coral bleaching and mortality. 
(Image credit: NOAA)

"From February 2023 to April 2024, significant coral bleaching has been documented in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of each major ocean basin," said Derek Manzello, Ph.D., NOAA CRW coordinator.

Since early 2023, mass bleaching of coral reefs has been confirmed throughout the tropics, including in Florida in the U.S.; the Caribbean; Brazil; the eastern Tropical Pacific (including Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia); Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; large areas of the South Pacific (including Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Samoas and French Polynesia); the Red Sea (including the Gulf of Aqaba); the Persian Gulf; and the Gulf of Aden.

NOAA has received confirmation of widespread bleaching across other parts of the Indian Ocean basin as well, including in Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tromelin, Mayotte and off the western coast of Indonesia.

“As the world’s oceans continue to warm, coral bleaching is becoming more frequent and severe,” Manzello said.
“When these events are sufficiently severe or prolonged, they can cause coral mortality, which hurts the people who depend on the coral reefs for their livelihoods.”

Coral bleaching, especially on a widespread scale, impacts economies, livelihoods, food security and more, but it does not necessarily mean corals will die.
If the stress driving the bleaching diminishes, corals can recover and reefs can continue to provide the ecosystem services we all rely on.

“Climate model predictions for coral reefs have been suggesting for years that bleaching impacts would increase in frequency and magnitude as the ocean warms,” said Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP).

The world is currently experiencing a global coral bleaching event, according to NOAA scientists.
This is the fourth global event on record and the second in the last 10 years. Bleaching-level heat stress, as remotely monitored and predicted by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch (CRW), has been—and continues to be—extensive across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins.
CRW's heat-stress monitoring is based on sea surface temperature data, spanning 1985 to the present, from a blend of NOAA and partner satellites.
Because of this, the NOAA CRCP incorporated resilience-based management practices and increased the emphasis on coral restoration in its 2018 strategic plan, and funded a National Academies of Sciences’ study, which led to the publication of the 2019 Interventions to Increase the Resilience of Coral Reefs.offsite link

Koss said, “We are on the frontlines of coral reef research, management and restoration, and are actively and aggressively implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Interventions Report.”

The 2023 heatwave in Florida was unprecedented.
It started earlier, lasted longer and was more severe than any previous event in that region.
During the bleaching event, NOAA learned a great deal while engaging in interventions to mitigate harm to corals.
Through its Mission: Iconic Reefs programoffsite link, NOAA made significant strides to offset some of the negative impacts of global climate change and local stressors on Florida’s corals, including moving coral nurseries to deeper, cooler waters and deploying sunshades to protect corals in other areas.

This global event requires global action.
The International Coral Reef Initiativeoffsite link (ICRI), which NOAA co-chairs, and its international members are broadly sharing and already applying resilience-based management actions and lessons learned from the 2023 marine heatwaves in Florida and the Caribbean.
ICRI and its members are helping to advance coral interventions and restoration in the face of climate change by funding scientific research on best management practices and implementing its Plan of Actionoffsite link.

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program is a partnership across multiple NOAA offices and programs that brings together expertise for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and conserving coral reef ecosystems.
Links :

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Why experts are worried about Russia's oil and gas surveys in the Antarctic

A number of countries have historical claims to land in the Antarctic.
From YahooNews by James Hockaday

Russia has insisted it is only in Antarctica for scientific research purposes, but the discovery of a huge reserve of oil and gas has raised alarm bells.

Concerns are being raised that Russia is prospecting parts of Antarctica for oil and gas and surveying the continent for military purposes amid warnings Moscow could breach a long-standing treaty critical to keeping the region conflict-free.

Russian research ships have already discovered reserves amounting to 511bn barrels of oil – roughly 10 times the North Sea’s entire 50-year output – according to evidence submitted to a committee of MPs.

In a meeting last week, the Commons Environment Audit Committee (EAC) raised concerns that Russia is carrying out surveys with the view to drilling the region for fossil fuels – which would constitute a breach of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.

When asked about this by the committee's MPs, David Rutley, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, said that Russia had "recently reaffirmed its commitment to key elements of the treaty", adding: "They have to be held to account on this."

He said Russia has had a "long-standing programme of surveying and mapping the geology of Antarctica both on the land and on the seabed" and has repeatedly given assurances that its surveying is "purely for scientific purposes".

Asked if he was "content to believe Russia" on this, Rutley said: "We continue to monitor the situation and we continue to make our points fully heard... We've had a very successful treaty here. Geopolitical headwinds are challenging, but we need to stick to the course with this."

Antarctica - its scientific value is endless.
What happens there affects us all.
British Antarctic Survey has played an instrumental role in protecting and researching this most vital part of the world.
Why are people concerned by Russia's Antarctic surveys?

In evidence submitted to the committee, Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway College, said: "There is a worry that Russia is collecting seismic data that could be construed to be prospecting rather than scientific research."

He said this would "signal a potential threat to the permanent ban on mining" and the integrity of agreed-upon environmental protections for Antarctica as a whole.

Activists protest against Russia's polar research vessel, Akademik Alexander Karpinsky, as it enters Cape Town Harbour in April 2023.
(Getty Images)

Professor Dodds added that, that since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there had been "widespread concern" that Moscow's worsening relationship with the Western world "will spark strategic competition and make it ever more explicit in Antarctica".

The committee also raised concerns over reports by the Daily Maverick, a South African online journal, which said it discovered Russia's Antarctic activities after its survey ship, the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky, docked in Cape Town.

In an earlier report, it refers to the ship being sanctioned by the US in February over the Ukraine war. 
It refers to a statement by the US State Department, which identifies the ship as being operated by PMGE, a subsidiary of Rosgeo.

“Rosgeo and its subsidiaries,” the statement adds, “perform a range of geophysical services in the search and exploration of oil and gas fields. We can confirm this vessel we designated last Friday is owned by a subsidiary of Rosgeo, which is the state-owned oil, gas and mining geological exploration [holding]."

Russia and China 'resisting new protections for Antarctica'

In June 2023, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) held a special meeting to try and resolve a six-year impasse in creating further marine protected areas in Antarctica.

China and Russia stalled progress on this by demanding more data, the Maritime Executive reports, adding that both nations have been blocking proposals to expand Marine Protected Areas since the idea was first proposed by Australia.

Commenting on this pattern in 2022, Tony Press, an adjunct professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, called it a "weird politicisation of science".

Pointing to the threat of climate change in the region, he said: "The use of spurious science to block consensus is a major issue and needs to be dealt with."

In a meeting report, a US delegation said: "We cannot find any rationale for why Russia continues to ignore new data and analyses that disprove its hypothesis and simply conclude that Russia’s approach is intended to sow discontent and crush the spirit of collaboration that many of us share in CCAMLR."

What is the Antarctic Treaty?

Signed in Washington on 1 December 1959, the Antarctic Treaty is a framework designed to ensure peaceful coexistence and scientific cooperation on Earth's southernmost continent.

Antarctica is one of the few places on Earth that hasn't been fought over, and with scientists from 12 countries operating there by the late 50s, it made sense to form an international agreement to keep it that way.

The treaty was ratified by those 12 countries in 1961, but its number of signatories continued to grow and now stands at 56.

Among the 14 articles in the treaty is a resolution that Antarctica shall be "used for peaceful purposes only", with military activities and the establishment of military bases on the continent prohibited.

It protects the "freedom of scientific investigation" in Antarctica, and "cooperation toward that end", and says that "scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available".

The treaty also ensures that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to territorial claims. It also prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste.

Out of the 12 nations active in Antarctica at the time the treaty was signed, nine had made territorial claims over the continent or had reserved the right to do so.

However, all parties agreed that their political differences shouldn't interfere with research on the continent, and as a disarmament regime, the treaty has helped to prevent any territorial disputes.
source : According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, Russia has reportedly discovered the largest oil reserves in history in British waters off Antarctica, despite hydrocarbon exploitation in the region being strictly prohibited, except for specifically authorized scientific activities. 
Which countries have claimed territory in Antarctica?

The international partnership ensures that no single country "owns" Antarctica, although seven countries do have historical territorial claims over the continent.
Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom maintain territorial claims in Antarctica, which were made as expeditions began to explore the continent.

Most countries, including the United States, do not recognise these claims, according to the US Department of State.

While neither the US nor Russia have made claims over the continent, both nations reserve the right to do so.

There is still an unclaimed section on the southwest of the continent, but many other countries including Italy, Japan, China, the US, Russia, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Poland have built research facilities in areas claimed by other nations – another example of the spirit of cooperation that has kept conflict away from Antarctica so far.
Links :

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Centuries-old map shows how ancient Chinese fishermen navigated South China Sea

other video from CCTV+
From CCTVplus
Centuries-old maps handed down to fishermen by their ancestors in Tanmen Township of China's southernmost Hainan Province provides compelling evidence to China's sovereignty over the South China Sea, according to a China Global Television Network (CGTN) documentary released on Friday.

Like many people in Tanmen, Lu Jiabing was born into a fishermen' family going back generations.
What distinguishes Lu's family is a treasured family heirloom -- a booklet used to navigate the South China Sea which Tanmen residents call "Genglubu", meaning "Route Map." 

This is page 9 of Zheng Changmei's copy of " Liushui Genglubu ", which records the route from Changhuajiao to Sigengshajiao in Hainan Province. In this map, in addition to the port, hidden row, sand and stone, needle position, and more, there are also records of fishing operations.

Each family's Genglubu is different from another.
Passed down through successive generations, the documents embody the Tanmen fishermen's adventurer spirits, and have become an important basis for China's territorial rights in the South China Sea.

"I'm not sure when this Genglubu was written.
Anyway, it's been passed down from generation to generation, and I'm the sixth in line to inherit it.
We used it along with a compass at sea.
The needle of the compass points toward south and north.
'Zi' refers to north and 'Wu' to south.
There are 24 squares, each containing one character.
One square represents 15 degrees, and there are 360 degrees in total," Lu told CGTN.

Chinese fishermen’s historic Genglubu supports claim to South China Sea 
Out on the vast ocean, the compass and Genglubu have forged new routes at sea for the fishermen over the past centuries.
One line of text on the map indicates a route From the Xisha Islands' Panshiyu in the central part of the sea to the Nansha Islands' Shuangzi in its south, covering some 280 nautical miles.

Fisherman Su Chengfen holds an ancient compass and a log from a traditional navigational log known as agenglubu,which means‘road book’.
Among Tanmen's fishermen of centuries past, there were several hundred Genglubu in circulation, and the Lu family's manuscript is one of the most detailed.
It records 135 routes -- 84 in the Nansha Islands and 38 in the Xisha Islands.

"One red circle represents a single sea route.
Our ancestors' exploration covered the entire South China Sea.
It has been passed down through generations.
Whenever my grandfather headed out to sea, he would read Genglubu by the light of kerosene lamp the previous night.
I'd climb on his back to look at it along with him.
In the beginning, I would follow my father to work in the Nansha Islands.
We would stay there for six months.
We sailed all over the Nansha Islands," said Lu.
Long before satellite navigation or even accurate nautical charts came into being, Hainan fishermen used Genglubu and drove wooden sailboats to cultivate the sea.
These documents have survived to witness the development the South China Sea islands by local people.

"This is the sea chart passed down in my family.
The names marked on the entire nautical chart were all left by our ancestors.
Meiji Island (Panganiban Reef) was called 'Shuangmen.' These are the sections that are connected.
We call them 'Duanjie' as it's easier to remember.
Its official name is Ren'ai Reef.
These places are known as the 'ancestral waters.' These are the places our ancestors explored and developed.
So, I feel proud of them," Lu said.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Last private land on Svalbard up for sale for €300 million

Svalbard archipelago.
Photo: Thomas Nilsen
From The Barents Observer by Thomas Nilsen
With 60 square kilometers, about the size of Manhattan, and a coastline of five kilometers, the unique faraway property on Svalbard is a geopolitical hotspot in a warming Arctic.

It is AS Kulspids that is up for sale, a company holding the only privately owned land on Svalbard.
“A unique opportunity to acquire the company holding the last remaining private owned land on Svalbard with significant environmental, scientific and economic importance,” reads the short text in the online advert.
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (NHS nautical raster chart)
The land, named “Søre Fagerfjord” in the Svalbard Treaty, is located on the southwestern coast of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the archipelago halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
“This is the only possibility for a buyer to get a position in the High Arctic and establish a strategic foothold,” said Per Kyllingstad to Bloomberg.
Kyllingstand is the lawyer representing the sellers.

No-one, except polar bears and Arctic foxes, live at the property in the inner part of Recherchefjorden. A cabin was built here in 1918 as AS Kulspids wanted to explore for coal and asbest. No commercial resources were discovered.

Today’s owners of the company are Norwegians and the starting bid is €300 million.
The buyer can be a country that have ratified the Svalbard Treaty or citizens of such countries or any company legally based in such country.
The 1920 Svalbard Treaty is signed by 46 countries, among them China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Science and climate research

Few places on the planet is warming faster than Svalbard.
Last July saw heat record for Longyearbyen with an average temperature of 10,1 degrees Celsius.
That was first time with a middle temperature above the meteorological term “Polar Climate” for an entire month.

Scientists are worried and the international interest to monitor how climate changes affect the Arctic is growing.

Today, only Norway and Russia have permanent settlements at Svalbard; Longyearbyen and Barentsburg.
Poland has a small polar research station at Hornsund, while Norway facilitates for multiple nation research presence at Ny-Ålesund.
Moscow has expressed a desire to create a Arctic research hub for BRICS countries in the Russian ghost town of Pyramiden, but so far little has materialized.

It is, however, not open for a potential buyer to use the property for any kind of commercial activity. Norway’s strict environmental laws apply, although Norwegian authorities cannot discriminate any residents of signature countries.
Svalbard is visa-free, but the only commercial flights to the archipelago go via Tromsø and Oslo, airports that require Schengen-visa for travelers in transit to Longyearbyen.

Last time a private property was up for sale on Svalbard was in 2016, when the Norwegian Horn-family sold Austre Adventfjord, a Treaty mentioned piece of land across the fjord from Longyearbyen.
Austre Adventfjord was sold for 300 million kroner (€26 million) to the Norwegian state after the Chinese billionaire and property tycoon Huang Nubo said he would bid for the property.

Svalbard is Norwegian territory. About 60% of the land is covered by glaciers.
Here from the southwestern shore of Spitsbergen island.
Photo: Thomas Nilse

Satellite communication business

Although environmental laws likely will hinder mining activity at the property now up for sale, businesses like a satellite station might be built.

Article 4 of the Svalbard Treaty allows for land owners to “establish and use their own purposes wireless telegraphy installations, which shall be free to communicate on private business with fixed or moving wireless stations…”

AS Kulspids highlights this options and writes on its portal that “The very northern position of Svalbard creates unique conditions for satellite communication.”

Links :

Monday, May 20, 2024

An enthralling account of Captain Cook’s final, fatal voyage

photograph: bridgeman
The Wide Wide Sea. By Hampton Sides. Doubleday; 432 pages; $35 and £25
Hampton Sides also takes on the complex legacy of the British explorer

Until recently Captain James Cook was not a particularly controversial figure.
But in January a statue of the 18th-century British sailor and explorer was toppled in Melbourne and the words “The colony will fall” spraypainted on the plinth.
In Hawaii an obelisk in Cook’s memory has been splattered with red paint and the message “You are on native land.”
Cook has joined Edward Colston, Robert Clive and Cecil Rhodes as a focal point for anti-colonialist ire.$

In fact Cook was neither a slave trader nor much of an imperialist.
He was, first and foremost, a brilliant navigator and cartographer.
Acting under Admiralty orders, he undertook three pioneering voyages in the Pacific between 1768 and 1779.
His mapmaking transformed Europeans’ knowledge of the world’s largest ocean.

An excellent new book draws on Cook’s letters and notebooks to tell the story of his third and final trip. Cook was almost 50 when he set off on hms Resolution in July 1776.
Among the crew he took were William Bligh (later captain of the Bounty before the mutiny in 1789) and Mai, a Tahitian prince noted for being painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Cook had secret instructions from the Admiralty not only to claim new territory for Britain, but to search for a north-west passage via the Bering Strait (a task even someone with his navigational experience found impossible).

The author, Hampton Sides, focuses on Cook’s return to Australia and New Zealand—countries the explorer had first encountered almost a decade earlier—his discovery of the Society Islands (today part of French Polynesia) and his time in Hawaii.
It was there, in February 1779, that he was killed after a botched attempt to kidnap a local chief in response to the theft of a longboat.

Cook was a man of his times.
He believed Europe would have a civilising influence on many benighted folk in the Pacific.
He was distinctly cruel in meting out punishments, to his own crew as well as to any indigenous people who opposed him.

Yet Cook also admired many of the people and places he encountered in the South Pacific.
Unlike the Spanish, he had no interest in religious conversion.
He tried hard to stop his men from spreading venereal disease. For the most part, his land claims were aimed not at promoting a British empire but forestalling grabs by Britain’s rivals, France and Spain.

As the author makes clear, there is a balance to be struck between justified admiration for Cook’s seamanship and a legitimate resentment of the colonialism that followed indigenous peoples’ first contact with Europeans.
Today many Western countries are divided over how to think about such vexed legacies.
In 2020 half of Britons thought it was right that Colston’s statue was removed (though many disapproved of it being dumped in Bristol harbour). Cook’s statue still stands in central London, as does Clive’s—and Rhodes’s in Oxford.
The question is whether they will enjoy their perches much longer.

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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Adventure at sea: when a can of tuna saves the day!

Right in the middle of his journey at sea, Philippe Poupon encounters a minor setback:
his GPS antenna is acting up, depriving his SmartConnect device of its role as cheerleader for sharing his adventures with you all. 

But that's no problem!
With a dash of creativity and a pinch of resourcefulness, his weather router, Maurice Uguen, concocts a brilliant plan: build an antenna out of a simple tin of pâté.  

Well, Philippe didn't have any pâté on board, but a tin of tuna took its place to play the lead role in this technological adventure on the high seas! 
And guess what? 
It worked like a charm! 
The device is transmitting again, sharing our favourite navigator's every move. 

Because as we all know, when you're at sea, you have to be clever, resourceful and, above all, have a soft spot for pâté... or tuna!