Archive for July, 2011

Jakarta Globe –

Madagascar police have arrested two men attempting to smuggle out nearly 200 threatened tortoises, including two dozen of the rarest species on Earth, a conservation group said on Thursday.

The shipment was destined for Indonesia.

The 26 specimens of Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) seized comprise about five per cent of the estimated surviving wild population of the critically endangered animal, native to northern Madagascar.

Authorities found the live tortoises in a box and three bags on the tarmac at Antananarivo’s Ivato Airport, according to Traffic, which monitors illegal trade in wildlife.

The contraband was minutes from being loaded on a plane, and was destined — after transfers in Nairobi and Dubai — for Jakarta, Indonesia, police reportedly said.

“In the case of rare, high value species like these, they would certainly have been destined for the pet trade in Asia,” Richard Thomas of Traffic said of the Ploughshare tortoises.

Full story…

The Telegraph – 

They hope to make history by rowing 450 miles across the Arctic sea to the magnetic North Pole.

The trip to the Pole, which they estimate will take between four to six weeks, has not been done before. It is only possible now because of more ice-melt in the Arctic, organisers said.

Mr Wishart is leading the Old Pulteney Row To The Pole challenge to highlight the effect of climate change on the ice around the polar regions.

He has taken part in two previous expeditions to the North Pole and has also rowed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Before setting off on Saturday, he said: “No one has ever attempted this before, so we are quite literally heading off on a voyage into the unknown.

“I’ve seen the satellite images showing a route through the ice in late summer for the last two years, so as the expedition leader, I’m looking forward to meeting the challenge for real and making a bit of history at the same time.

“What will I miss most? A glass of malt and a change of clothes.”

Dumfries-born Mr Wishart captained the team which broke the London-to-Paris rowing record in 1999 and in 1992 was part of the first group to walk unsupported to the geomagnetic North Pole.

The crew set off from Resolute Bay in Canada at around 5.15pm UK time.

Cyclist Mark Beaumont, who is also on the boat, said: “I’m making a documentary about the voyage.

“So for me, the thing I’m anticipating most is filming the journey, its ups and downs and excitement, trying to capture the spirit of an unprecedented journey.”

Full story…

By Darryl Fears – 

A giant underwater “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay is growing at an alarming rate because of unusually high nutrient pollution levels this year, according to Virginia and Maryland officials. They said the expanding area of oxygen-starved water is on track to become the bay’s largest ever.

This year’s Chesapeake Bay dead zone covers a third of the bay, stretching from the Baltimore Harbor to the bay’s mid-channel region in the Potomac River, about 83 miles, when it was last measured in late June. It has since expanded beyond the Potomac into Virginia, officials said.

Especially heavy flows of tainted water from the Susquehanna River brought as much nutrient pollution into the bay by May as normally comes in an entire average year, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources researcher said. As a result, “in Maryland we saw the worst June” ever for nutrient pollution, said Bruce Michael, director of the DNR’s resource assessment service.

That’s bad news for biologists who monitor the bay and horrible news for oysters and fish. Dead zones suck out oxygen from deep waters and kill any marine life that can’t get out of the way.

Nutrient pollution from chemicals such as fertilizers provide a feast for bay algae, which bloom and die in a rapid cycle. They decompose into a black glop that sucks oxygen out of deeper waters. Oysters and other shellfish are doomed in dead zones. Fish and crabs can skitter to surface waters where there’s more oxygen, but some don’t make it, Michael said.

Full story…

By Andrew Preston – 

Eleven years after 118 submariners met a grisly death at the bottom of the ocean in the Kursk, a British team has developed the most advanced underwater rescue system in the world. Andrew Preston watches them go into action.

The British co-pilot of the rescue vehicle speaks slowly and deliberately into his microphone: ‘Lima, Lima, Lima.’

The signal is broadcast directly into the Mediterranean Sea via ‘underwater telephone’ using low frequency sound waves. The message is picked up in the control room of the Alrosa, a Russian submarine from the Black Sea fleet. The code words mean that the Nato rescue vehicle, known as Nemo, has successfully ‘mated’, or docked, with the Russian sub.

At the same time a diver clambers through a hatch in the floor of Nemo with a spanner. He follows up the message with two loud taps on the hatch of the submarine casing beneath him, then after a short pause taps a third time. This is the signal that it is now safe for the Russian crew to open the outer hatch. The two vessels have established a hydrostatic water-tight seal, and suction is now the only thing holding them together 300ft underwater.

All this is happening on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Cartagena in south-east Spain. Shortly afterwards the submarine hatch of the diesel submarine opens and a smiling Russian face appears. History has been made.

When it was built during the Cold War, the Kilo-class Alrosa was designed for anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. Its mission was to snoop, avoid detection, and try to track and, if required, attack Nato forces. Now, for the first time, a Russian submarine is actually taking part in a Nato exercise.

Inside the rescue vehicle it is cramped and humid. In the forward compartment, with its bulbous clear acrylic nose on the front, the pilot and co-pilot sit surrounded by joysticks and a myriad of dials and switches. Behind them, a Navy diver acts as the operator for the rescue chamber, which in an emergency can deliver up to 15 people at a time to the surface, or two injured submariners on stretchers.

But today special guests are moving the other way. Squashed together in the back of Nemo, their heads bent forwards and knees touching from benches on either side, are military VIPs from Russia, the U.S. and other Nato nations, who cross from the module into the submarine, led by General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of Defence Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

Full story…

Hydro International – 

Three deep-ocean moorings have become the foundation for a new drive to measure change in currents linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the Indonesia Archipelago, considered a key factor influencing Australia’s climate.

The moorings were deployed earlier this month as part of an international collaboration to monitor the Timor Passage and Ombai Strait, two strategic deep-ocean channels which act as ‘chokepoints’ in the global system of ocean currents.

Valued at over AUD1 million, the moorings, up to 3,000 metres tall and carrying an array of special marine sensors, were deployed as part of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

They are one of several deepwater mooring arrays being deployed in a project led by CSIRO Wealth from Ocean Flagship scientists Dr Bernadette Sloyan and Dr Susan Wijffels. 

The moored instruments will enable oceanographers to see how warm, fresher tropical waters may influence Indian Ocean ecosystems and tropical weather systems which bring rains to Australia.

“Known as the Indonesian Throughflow, this powerful system of ocean currents influences the seasonal climate in Australia,” Dr Sloyan said.

Full story…

By Lance Shearer – 

Stan Waterman is a living legend in the field of scuba and shark filming, a field in which the “living” part – staying alive – is a big part of the challenge. For him, “swimming with the sharks” was never just a metaphor.

Looking piratical in a black eye patch, the 88-year-old spoke Wednesday evening to a group of about 65 in the Environmental Learning Center at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve headquarters off Collier Boulevard, as part of Rookery Bay’s Summer of Sharks.

Waterman has spent most of his life filming and documenting the world’s sharks. He opened a dive business in the Bahamas in 1954, and served as an underwater cameraman and co-producer for “Blue Water, White Death,” the 1971 film that was the first glimpse for many people into the world of sharks.

He worked with his friend Peter Benchley on “The Deep,” along with 10 years of productions for ABC-TV and the “Expedition Earth” series on ESPN. Waterman won five Emmy awards for his work, and was the subject of a Discovery Channel biographical special, “The Man Who Loves Sharks.”

Actually, Waterman told his audience, that title wasn’t exactly correct. He doesn’t love sharks, he said, but he certainly respects them, and is grateful to them. “Sharks put my kids through college,” he said.

Full story…

BBC News – 

A Victorian sea fort is due to reopen as a private venue after a two-year restoration project.

Spitbank Fort, which was built to defend the Solent and mainland from French attack, was sold for more than £1m to a property investor.

Amazing Retreats, set up in 2010 by umbrella company Clarenco, restores character properties as venues for film locations and private functions.

The company said the restoration was expected to be complete in November.

The Grade II listed island property, one mile (1.6km) off the Hampshire coast, would provide accommodation for up to 18 people and function space for 50 guests.

The developer’s architects worked with English Heritage to restore the property, which is one of four Napoleonic forts guarding the Solent.
‘Exceptional offer’

The building cost nearly £120,000 to construct between 1861 and 1878 and was one of Palmerston’s Follies, a series of land and sea-based forts designed to repel French warships, but was never put into action.

Its walls are 15ft (4.5m) thick at basement level, with 35ft (10.6m) thick sea foundations and a 8ft (2.3m) thick concrete roof.

Full story…