Sunday, May 22, 2022

Follow the 'Yellow Brick Road' to geologic features of Liliʻuokalani Ridge Seamounts | Nautilus Live

What may look like a "yellow brick road" to the mythical city of Atlantis is really an example of ancient active volcanic geology!
Our Corps of Exploration have witnessed incredibly unique and fascinating geological formations while diving on the Liliʻuokalani Ridge within Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
At the summit of Nootka Seamount, the team spotted a "dried lake bed" formation, now IDed as a fractured flow of hyaloclastite rock (a volcanic rock formed in high-energy eruptions where many rock fragments settle to the seabed).
The unique 90-degree fractures are likely related to heating and cooling stress from multiple eruptions at this baked margin.
Throughout the seamount chain, the team also sampled basalts coated with ferromanganese (iron-manganese) crusts from across different depths and oxygen saturations as well as an interesting-looking pumice rock that almost resembled a sponge.
Our exploration of this never-before-surveyed area is helping researchers take a deeper look at life on and within the rocky slopes of these deep, ancient seamounts.
Scientists are studying the microbial communities residing within the ferromanganese crusts found over rock surfaces and how the characteristics of the crusts vary from region to region in ocean basins as well the microorganisms that live on and within them.
These studies will help provide baseline information on the living communities of seamounts which can inform management and conservation measures.
“I feel like I’m looking at the road to Atlantis,” a crew member aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus murmurs partway into a clip of the team’s undersea exploration. 
“Are you kidding? This is crazy.”

Perhaps the scientist, one of the Corps of Exploration team studying the Liliʻuokalani Ridge in the Pacific Ocean, could be so metaphorical because he’d already partially identified what the structure really was.
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO nautical raster chart)
After describing the underwater feature as a “dried lake bed,” a post on the Nautilus’ site gives more context.
What may look like a “yellow brick road” to the mythical city of Atlantis is really an example of ancient active volcanic geology.

The crew posted a video to the official Nautilus YouTube channel earlier this week, pictured below. There are also clips of the crew collecting rock samples and commenting on nearby sea life.

Last month, CNET reports the team found some beautiful, otherworldlyspecies during their submarine excursions.
The “unidentified gelatinous creature” gave the team a thrill, with one team member exclaiming “Very charismatic. Yay!” during a clip of the voyage.

It’s pretty heartwarming to see marine scientists get excited over new discoveries, but it’s also sad to know there are so many things we don’t know about the ocean given how fast we’re destroying it.
Coral reefs are bleaching again, animals are living in plastic wastelands and scientists say a potential mass extinction is on the way.

The Nautilus team can’t be everywhere all at once, nor can other oceanic researchers.
What kinds of sea life will they leave uncatalogued because it died before they got a chance to study it? 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Waves story

A short film about my affinity for the ocean, its mystery and power.
filmed in: Tahiti, Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia, Barbados, Maldives, Philippines and California
Arnaud Jerald exploring the legendary wave of Teahupoo.
Shot by Tim McKenna Filmed in Teahupoo, French Polynesia.
Links :

Friday, May 20, 2022

Murky provenance of a Chinese fleet clouds Madagascar shrimp fishery

Madagascar in July imposed a prohibition on industrial trawlers fishing in waters within 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) of the country’s coast.

From Mongabay by Rivonala Razafison
  • Thirty-nine trawlers are licensed to catch up to 4,170 metric tons of shrimp in Madagascar’s waters during the 2022 campaign, which officially began on March 1.
  • Chinese-owned company Mada Fishery, which holds eight exploration rights did not apply to catch shrimp this year, and its eight vessels are now sitting idle.
  • Three of the vessels were previously engaged in fishing violations in the Gambia, and under Malagasy law should not be eligible to fish in Madagascar now — unless there’s been a change in their ownership.
  • But a murky document trail and general lack of transparency into the vessels’ ownership makes it unclear whether that has happened; transparency advocates say the implementation of simple measures would have made a significant difference in the investigation of Mada Fishery.
ANTANANARIVO — During the current shrimping season, 39 trawlers will catch just over 4,000 metric tons of shrimp in Madagascar’s waters.
But one company, with a five-year exploitation right, didn’t apply for licenses to trawl this year.
Its idle vessels highlight both improving regulation and potential weaknesses in monitoring of the country’s fishing sector.
An artisanal fisherman next to a ship in Madagascar.
Image © Pierre Baelen / Greenpeace.
The company bought exploitation rights for eight vessels.
The company says it also bought eight shrimp trawlers, which spent part of last year being repaired at the state-owned shipyard at Antsiranana, on the northern tip of the island.

But Mada Fishery’s boats have a troubled history, according to an investigation by the Environmental Justice Foundation, an NGO that promotes environmental sustainability around the world.
EJF says three of these trawlers previously violated fishing regulations off the West African coast and should be banned from operating in Malagasy waters.

“As recently as 4 November 2020, the vessels were intercepted by the Gambian Navy, Gambian Department of Fisheries and Sea Shepherd,” Steve Trent, founder and CEO of London-based EJF, told Mongabay.

“The trawlers were found to have been fishing inside protected waters reserved exclusively for small-scale fishers in Gambia,” he added.
“The Gorde 105 and Gorde 107 vessels were also double-bagging their nets — another offense under Gambian fisheries regulations. As a result of the Gambian Navy and Department of Fisheries findings, fishing trawlers Gorde 105, Gorde 106 and Gorde 107 were impounded and escorted to the Gambian port of Banjul.”

Malagasy regulations state that “no vessel with a history of illegal fishing should be allowed to fish in the country’s waters” — unless there’s proof of a change in ownership.
A fishing trawler — the Cap-Saint Augustin, not one of Mada Fishery’s — off the shore of Nosy Faly.
Image by Mongabay.

Messy paperwork

EJF says it’s not clear that the vessels have actually changed hands.
When Mada Fishery’s fleet of trawlers anchored in Seychelles en route to Madagascar, documents submitted by the captains of at least four of the boats appeared to have been forged.

EJF says the identification numbers for Gordes 105-108 correspond to ships in an entirely different fleet, officially registered to a company called Shandong Roncheng Dafa Fisheries Co.
But EJF found no such company listed in Chinese vessel registration records: every Chinese corporation has a unique number called a Unified Social Credit Identifier, but the number provided on the Gorde fleet’s documents for Shandong Roncheng Dafa does not match that of any existing company.

The ships’ documents and hulls all had the same call signs, making it difficult to identify them individually.
Worse yet, the 16-digit number used by the Chinese government to identify fishing vessels also appeared to be wrong.

In light of these irregularities, the campaigners say the ships should not be licensed to fish until clear proof of ownership is provided.
Perhaps tellingly, Mada Fishery did not attempt to register the disputed boats to fish for shrimp this year.

But what about the future?
If they are now owned by Mada Fishery, the eight trawlers should qualify for fishing licenses.

“That could be the case if they respect the existing laws and regulations,” Mahatante Tsimanaoraty Paubert, Madagascar’s minister of fisheries and the blue economy, told Mongabay.
“The vessels changed names and owners. According to the Malagasy laws and regulations, we can issue license as long as they comply with our laws. They can apply for fishing licenses as they hold fishing rights they bought.”
A fishing trawler fishing off the shore of Nosy Faly in northwest Madagascar.
Image by Mongabay.

Improving fisheries monitoring

While Mada Fishery’s boats are idle, the trawlers fishing off Madagascar this year will be more closely monitored than in the past.
Paubert said the government’s own surveillance will be supplemented by several international collaborations.
“Apart from the Fisheries Surveillance Center (CSP) within the ministry, the European-funded Ecofish Program, by the mean of its OSIRIS II ship intervening in the Western Indian Ocean, helps us stop any eventual illegal fishing activities in our waters.”

Other support will come from Amsterdam-based NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“They are to fully put a ship with its crew at our disposal to patrol our waters under the control of the government,” Paubert told Mongabay.
“Madagascar hasn’t to pay for their service.
What we have to do is to make available onboard the nearby 25 Malagasy fishing inspectors and the navy’s forces for the ship’s security.”

Paubert was only appointed to his role as minister overseeing fisheries in October last year.
Just weeks later, Madagascar joined the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI).
Its mission is to improve the sustainability of global fisheries by increasing the transparency of government management of stocks.

Links :

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The nuclear cruise ship

NS Savannah reaching the Golden Gate Bridge in 1962

From Marpro

The N.S. Savannah, the world's first nuclear-powered merchant ship.
At first glance, it looked like an ordinary cruise ship.
But there's one thing that sets this ship apart from any other.
Just a few meters from the passenger staterooms were a nuclear reactor

At first glance, the N.S. Savannah looked like an ordinary cruise ship.
With a pool for taking a dip, a dining room, and a lounge that doubled as a movie theatre.
But there’s one thing that sets this ship apart from any other.
Inside this unmarked space, just a few meters from the passenger staterooms was a nuclear reactor.
Something unheard of on a passenger-carrying ship before or since.
And it meant the N.S. Savannah could do incredible things.
Like circling the earth for years without ever stopping.

In the 1960’s, nuclear power was viewed as a revolutionary, near limitless source of energy.
But what was less certain, was whether putting a nuclear reactor aboard a civilian ship was really a good idea.

The Nuclear Ship Savannah

As one of the first ships powered by a nuclear reactor, N.S.Savannah was going to prove that nuclear power was a safe, clean, and near-limitless source of energy that could revolutionize ships.
Because to make one trip around the earth, a typical ship will burn through more than twenty thousand barrels of bunker oil.
All the while, billowing toxic smoke into the atmosphere.
The N.S.
Savannah was designed to make that same trip without burning anything at all.
Because it could circle the earth using just a few pounds of a new kind of fuel called uranium.

Replacing an oil-burning engine with a small nuclear reactor promised to make ships of the future more economical, faster, and more reliable.
It would also eliminate the need for large fuel tanks, freeing up more room for cargo and passengers.
Nuclear-powered ships could also travel for years on end before needing to refuel, and travel at much higher speeds.
Opening up new trade routes that could reshape maritime trade.
But despite all the promises of nuclear power, the world had good reason to be skeptical.

In the 1950s, nuclear really only meant one thing.
Its enormous destructive potential and the hidden dangers of radiation were widely feared.
Nuclear weapons had been around for nearly a decade, but the peaceful use of nuclear energy was still a new concept.
So in 1953, U.S. President Eisenhower launched the Atoms for Peace program.
In an effort to win over hearts and minds, research, funding, and equipment would be sent throughout the world to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
And the N.S. Savannah would be built as a floating example of what an atomic-powered future could offer.
As the first of its kind, the ship would carry both passengers and cargo at the same time.

The N.S. Savannah was designed to look like the ship of the future.
From the teardrop-shaped superstructure to the streamlined cargo cranes, everything about this ship was designed to stand out.
But what really set it apart was the power plant.

The Savannah’s 74-milliwatt cylindrical reactor was designed with access from above for refueling.
Along with the pressurized water reactor, the primary coolant loop, and steam generator, it is housed in a 50-foot containment vessel encased in lead, concrete, and polyethylene.

To keep passengers and crew safe, mere meters from the reactor, engineers built-in layers of protection.
The reactor was surrounded by a primary radiation shield, a thick steel containment vessel, and a 500-ton biological shield.

To counter severe weather, Savannah featured one of the first ship stabilization systems, using hydraulically-actuated fins to counter rolling motions.
The ship also featured a reinforced hull and energy-absorbing structures to protect against a collision with another ship.

And in the unlikely event that Savannah was to sink, the reactor was designed to automatically shut down and one-way valves would flood the containment vessel with seawater, preventing radioactive material from escaping.
Engineers had thought of every possible disaster scenario and Savannah’s builders boldly claimed that they were shone of the safest ever built.

It only remained to convince the world.

Though it had taken six years to develop and build, Savannah surprised even its designers.
The reactor produced more power than anticipated.
The ship was designed to top out at 20 knots, but could easily surge along at 24.
Among the grimy, soot-covered merchant ships of the era, Savannah was undeniably striking.

In May of 1964, Savannah set sail on an ambitious world tour to demonstrate the merits of nuclear power.
Over the course of a year, it made visits to U.S. cities along the eastern seaboard and to over a dozen European ports, crossing the Atlantic several times in the process.
The ship traveled nearly 150,000 kilometers, using only 35 pounds of uranium.
Each time Savannah pulled into a new port, huge crowds formed to greet it.
In the first year alone, 1.4 million people lined up to tour the ship.
Savannah’s world tour had gone fantastically well, generating enormous public interest and plenty of positive press.
Savannah’s commercial operator was so happy with the ship’s performance, they urged Congress to fund another four nuclear ships based on Savannah’s design.
And back in the United States, additional crews were being trained in anticipation of serving aboard future nuclear ships.
If nuclear propulsion really was the future, momentum seemed to be building.
Savannah had made nuclear propulsion look easy, as the ship cruised effortlessly from port to port.

But hidden behind the sleek lines and gleaming white paint stood a harsh reality.
There was nothing straightforward about operating a nuclear ship.
Before Savannah could pull into a port, it needed special permission.
And the request had to be made months in advance.
And Ports often refused over safety concerns.
So behind the scenes, Savannah’s representatives would have to fly out well in advance to begin negotiating agreements.
Covering everything from how to respond if the ship were to cause a nuclear accident, to who would be liable.
Gut-level scepticism about floating nuclear reactors wasn’t going to disappear overnight.

And to make matters worse, Savannah’s design wasn’t very practical.

The unusual half-passenger half-cargo configuration meant the ship wasn’t good at carrying either.
The passenger accommodations took up a lot of space, while the cargo holds were too small.
And with so much emphasis having been placed on an eye-catching design, the ship’s sleek lines made cargo handling difficult.

Savannah also needed a highly-trained crew about a third larger than on a conventional ship.
For a ship built to prove that nuclear power could be commercially viable, Savannah seemed to do the opposite.
Even as the ship’s operator publicly boasted about Savannah’s performance, their operating costs were heavily subsidized, consuming millions each year in taxpayer money.

But in one very important way, the Savannah could still be considered a success.
Because It helped inspire other countries to build their own nuclear-powered ships.
In 1964, West Germany launched the NS Otto Hahn.
In 1976, the Japanese launched Nuclear Ship NS Mutsu.
And, a fourth, the Soviet Union nuclear cargo ship was built in the 1980s.
But, public protests led to the ships being barred from entering major ports, and harbor workers, fearing radiation exposure, refused to unload cargo from the ship.

Follow along on an amazing day aboard the NS Savannah. Lounge on the deck with Mrs. Eisenhower or simply enjoy the many amenities that the ship has to offer.
While a technical success, Savannah’s design never became profitable and lasted just 5 years in commercial operation.
In 1971, the reactor was refueled and made inoperable.
Since the N.S. Savannah is historically significant, the ship was officially declared in 2001 a National Historic Landmark.

Otto Hahn carried cargo for 9 years, but it’s reactor was eventually removed and replaced with a conventional diesel engine.
Mutsu Never carried cargo, and after having traveled just 82 thousand kilometers, its reactor was also swapped for a Diesel engine.
Along with a handful of nuclear icebreakers, Russia still occasionally operates the only remaining nuclear cargo ship, mostly carrying military cargo in the far north of the country.

Today, more than 90,000 thousand merchant ships operate on the world’s oceans, and the majority burn low-grade bunker oil.
The most polluting oil available.
One large cargo ship can put out as much hazardous sulfur dioxide as fifty million cars.
And while the public remains focused on the potential dangers of nuclear power, shipping-related emissions have led to four hundred thousand premature deaths each year from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
If just a dozen large cargo ships were powered by nuclear reactors, the reduction in global emissions would be considerable.
And they would join the hundreds of nuclear-powered vessels that have been operated safely by the U.S. military over the past 50 years.
Today’s nuclear technology is safer and more economical than it was sixty years ago when Savannah first set sail.
But the development of nuclear-powered civilian ships remains frozen in time.
Because the biggest obstacles still remain, especially public perception.
Links :

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Victor Vescovo interview

From SuperYachtNews by Jack Hogan

Where to next for the most capable private deep-sea exploration vessel on earth, and its intrepid owner…
The last time we spoke with Victor Vescovo, Commander, USN (Ret.), he, the team at Caladan Oceanic and EYOS Expedtions, onboard the private expedition vessel Pressure Drop, had just successfully taken scientists on the first manned descent of the Atacama Trench off the northwest coast of Chile.
Part of an ongoing series of dives to uncharted ocean depths, the Ring of Fire expedition now continues its way around the Pacific.
I met with Mr Vescovo at a café in London, shortly before he was due to receive the Don Walsh award for marine oceanic research and exploration.

It was fitting that it was Don Walsh himself, one of two crew on the first descent to the Mariana trench in 1960, along with Jacques Picard, to hand over the award that bears his name.
In what remains a mind-blowing feat of pioneering engineering, calculated risk, and an innate desire to explore, Walsh and Picard laid down a marker as to what was possible 60 years ago.
Mr Vescovo, his team, and a growing fleet of private scientific explorers now continue in this spirit.
In my last conversation, I left Mr Vescovo onboard Pressure Drop, expecting that soon he would be diving a new trench off the coast of Mexico.
His explanations as to why they did not, underline the frustration that must go hand in hand with the thrill of exploration.

“We were supposed to go and execute a dive in the MesoAmerican Trench, with a local Mexican scientist. And we never got a permit. They never denied it. But they just never awarded it, either. And I'm still not clear why we didn't get a permit. Maybe there was something happening between the scientific team and the government - we just don't know, “ says Mr Vescovo.

The first person to the bottom of the Mariana Trench - Don Walsh (left), greets Victor Vescovo (Right).
Image Reeve Jolliffe

A fully crewed and operational private vessel, or superyacht, operates on an entirely different timescale to the ebbs and flows of the bureaucratic system.
A vessel as finely tuned as Pressure Drop cannot simply be turned off and wait dormant for the open-ended filling of paperwork and permits.
As Mr Vescovo says, paraphrasing another highly influential figure in the world of private exploration, EYOS founder & Expedition Leader Rob McCullum, “Sometimes the biggest hurdle to ocean exploration is not the science, it’s other people.”

As Mr Vescovo describes his team at Caladan Oceanic, working alongside EYOS expeditions, he claims it feels as if they are walking on eggshells at times.
There is a tightrope to walk concerning regulations, and there is very little in the way of international regulatory framework to operate within.
If someone has never been to a remote place, and the authorities and academic institutions do not have the technology that could get close, there is not much chance that there is a standard form to fill out that allows these operations to proceed.
At times, Mr Vescovo points out, it feels as if he and his team are restarting the process entirely before each trip.

DSV Limiting Factor being lowered off DSSV Pressure Drop

There is no definition within the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as to what marine scientific research actually entails.
It is perhaps a testament to the rapid evolution of both the capabilities and desire of private vessels and their owners to engage with this research and push these boundaries, that these hurdles are encountered at all.
It is unlikely that those who write the legislation had anything in mind quite like a private vessel with a submersible that can operate at over 11,000m in mind.
“It's an extraordinary situation really.
If you're a private, completely philanthropic oceanographic research mission” continues Mr Vescovo, “you are subjected to a level of scrutiny that is akin to brain surgery, while a container ship can plough through and accidentally dump out four or five containers, and nothing happens.
So, the dichotomy of how the commercial world is treated and how philanthropic scientific, so-called good guy research is handled, is irrational.”

Part of the issue, Mr Vescovo explains, is that countries are now exerting a level of influence over their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that is more akin to what is defined as territorial waters.
The 12-mile limit around most coastlines is sovereign territory, and he explains, Caladan Oceanic’s expeditions will always be very respectful of this demarcation.
EEZs, on the other hand, were established without full sovereignty in mind.
They are legally international waters.
New Zealand, for example, has the 4th largest EEZ in the world, but it does not have the fourth largest territory.
The designation of these zones is designed to protect economic, and natural resources such as fisheries, and oil and gas deposits from foreign exploitation.
Countries such as Norway have benefited hugely from their rights to the North Sea oil fields, for example.
However, the single sentence in the UNCLOS allowing countries to “regulate Marine Scientific Research” (MSR) in their EEZs has put an enormous brake on such research because now countries can – and usually do – highly restrict or even prohibit it – which is not what the drafters of UNCLOS seem to have intended.

DSV Limiting Factor returning to DSSV Pressure Drop.
Image - Reeve Jolliffe

Mr Vescovo and his team have encountered local governments who are reinterpreting their own definitions, and they appear unsure how to interact with an expedition such as his.
As he stresses, they are there to explore, and all of the research and data collected will be made freely available.
Having the freedom to operate transparently, and in partnership with a more diverse collection of governments will allow the work that Caladan Oceanic has pioneered to expand, and, crucially, be emulated by a growing fleet of like-minded private vessels.

Superyachts for scientific exploration is, in my estimation, the most positive and impactful activity the industry can undertake.
The resources and capabilities of Caladan Oceanic, REV Ocean and OceanX have redefined what is possible, not just for intrepid individuals, but the scientific community as a whole.
While not all exploration and research-minded superyachts can undertake such extreme missions as they perform, they can conduct meaningful research and collectively the worldwide community of yacht owners can form their own scientific ecosystem, as Mr Vescovo explains:

“I actually had dinner with the head of NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), who asked me: ‘What can we do to have a greater partnership between the public and the private sector?’ My simple answer is to publish a list of research priorities.
For example, what are the 10 research objectives that are the most challenging, but that the private sector could, with the assistance of certain governments, take on? We have a growing number of vessels and owners that are expressing interest. Is it a fun trip cruising the Amalfi Coast? No, but it is more positively impactful.”

DSV Limiting Factor awaiting pick up.
Image - Reeve Jolliffe

Continuing to channel the competitive nature of the owners and organisations behind exploration vessels towards impactful research will bear fruit.
One needs only to look at the reinvigoration of NASA and the space program, thanks largely to Elon Musk’s development of reuseable launch systems, for an example of what private industry can help achieve.
When we spoke about the recent successful expedition to find the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s ship that was lost under the Antarctic Ice Sheet a century ago, I saw the spark in Mr Vescovo, who concluded.
“Gosh, I would love to have found that ship! I am so happy for the team that did.
That is the exact kind of expedition that we would love to have done.”

Where to next then for Pressure Drop and the team at Caladan Oceanic & EYOS Expeditions? They are wasting no time heading across the Pacific for a fresh round of firsts in Micronesia.
Departing Gaum on the 12th of July, the team will head back to the Challenger Deep with Dr Dawn Wright, an American cartographer and the Chief Scientist at multi-billion dollar geospatial intelligence firm, ESRI.
This will be followed by a trip to the bottom of the Yap Trench with master Micronesian Navigator Sesario Sewralur and finally a dive at the Palau Trench with former president of Palau, Tommy Remengesau.
Then, fittingly for someone who has achieved so much on the blue planet, Mr Vescovo will be part of Blue Origin’s next New Shepard Mission NS-21, which will fly six customer astronauts into space on just the 5th human flight from the Blue Origin program.

Rob McCallum, founder of EYOS expeditions.

Regarding that flight and potential criticism that they are simply “rides” for the wealthy into space where very few people will ever get to go, Victor stressed that “Customers paying to go up in these new, 99% reusable rockets – as the New Shepard is - is actually a great thing.”
He explained, “Anything that allows us to build experience launching and recovering them increases their reliability, safety, and drives down the cost to access space for everyone over time – just like the early days of powered flight.”

Back at sea, Mr Vescovo and the team at Caladan Oceanic are far from alone in the field of private scientific exploration.
The aforementioned REV Ocean and OceanX, along with Caladan Oceanic are part of a growing group of scientifically centred private exploration organizations.
Colloquially known as the Pink Flamingo Society, they are working in conjunction with 14 international scientific organisations to coordinate the use of private vessels for research free of charge.
Concurrently, organisations such as Yachts For Science and the Seakeepers Society are working to connect eager yachts that may not be scientific specialists with suitable programs of research that can work in tandem with their operational schedules.

The combined potential to affect positive change for the ocean that this expanding network of philanthropic vessels and organisations presents is hard to overstate.
Some of the issues that Mr Vescovo has encountered will undoubtedly cause headaches again, but the next generation of collective action that these vessels and associated organisations undertake may see some of the barriers fall away as awareness increases, and our understanding of the ocean and our obligation to protect it, deepens.