Archive for 07/12/2011

David C. Walter –

The remains of loved ones — and a sea turtle — will be laid to rest off Miami’s coast in unusual containers.

Jennifer Werger stood by her father’s memorial Friday, remembering how much he hated funerals.

“He hated crowds,’’ she said. “He just liked peace and quiet.”

William A. Smith’s family had gathered at Haulover Marina to decorate Smith’s “reef ball,” a holed-out cement hemisphere that will serve as an artificial marine habitat.

Six of the odd-looking structures stood in a row Friday morning on the grass in front of the docks, awaiting their final cargo: the cremated remains of five men and a sea turtle. The remains will be mixed with cement and anchored to their respective reef balls, which will be lowered into the waters off Golden Beach on Sunday.

As Werger, 43, and her mother watched, Smith’s grandchildren embedded shells, driftwood and flowers into a fresh layer of cement.

They then carved their names into the ball commemorating their grandfather’s death last year. When it was Werger’s turn, she left a hand print and carved a heart.

“He knows who we are,’’ she said.

Other customers have embedded military medals, wedding rings and ceramic tiles into the balls, said George Frankel, CEO of Eternal Reefs, a company that has seeded more than 80 memorial reef balls off the Miami coast since 1998.

In total, the company has laid around 1,500 people to rest at a chain of artificial reefs stretching all the way from South Florida to the Jersey Shore.

“Everyone from the very elderly to stillborns,” Frankel said.

And then there’s Griffin the sea turtle.

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RT –

Rescuers working at the wreck site of the Bulgaria pleasure cruiser say many of the dead just had time to put on life vests, but failed to escape. The ship sank on Sunday on the Volga River and only 79 of the 209 people onboard survived.

“We were forced to cancel our vacation. This tragedy has left none of us – people accustomed to seeing massive grief – untouched. So many of our countrymen have died,” divers of the rescue team “Leader” said in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

The conditions for the operation are difficult.

“There is practically no visibility at the bottom. A good flashlight could allow you to see for no more than half a meter. And without light it was pitch-black darkness there, like during the night,” they said.

The sunken ship is lying less than 20 meters underwater and is unstable.

“The waves rock the vessel all the time. If it suddenly tips over, not every rescue diver will manage to get out,” they said.

“There are no dead outside – all of them are inside the ship. And it’s dark as night inside without a flashlight. So we work with lights. A single breathing gas cylinder is good for 60 to 90 minutes.”

The divers’ main task now is to find all the bodies inside the ship and take them to the surface.

“We search for free ways to places we need to get to and get somebody out. If we see somebody behind bars, we cut them. If there is nobody, we go on and search for new access routes,” they explained.

There are many signs underwater of a panic and attempts to escape the doomed ship.

“Many of the dead are wearing floatation vests. They managed to put them on, but failed to get out,” the rescuers said.

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John Dyson – 

The discovery of seahorses has turned Studland Bay in Dorset into a battleground, as sailors, villagers and conservationists fight it out for control of the waters.

Nearly dawn in the English Channel. All night we have been sailing eastwards along the south coast; the lights of the Isle of Wight are coming up ahead, the Dorset cliffs form a massive wall on our left.

But there is a problem. An hour from now the tide carrying us in fine style up-Channel will reverse, so we will bounce up and down in wild seas and make zero progress. Nothing for it but to do what sailors have done for centuries – run for shelter, drop the hook and wait for the tide to turn in our favour.

Brushing the cliffs under the lighthouse on Anvil Point, we run past the town of Swanage and sweep round the broken pillar of white chalk known as Old Harry. Beyond lies smooth water dotted with slumbering boats. I drop anchor and put the kettle on. Thank heavens for Studland Bay.

Take the little ferry across the mouth of Poole harbour from Sandbanks, near Bournemouth, and you land on clean white sand stretching for nearly a mile, where picnickers play beach games. At its far end, the beach makes a sharp kink to the south and turns into cliffs of white chalk fringed with rock pools. This corner, perfectly sheltered from prevailing westerly winds, is Studland Bay.

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Wynne Parry – 

Buried deep beneath the sediment of the North Atlantic Ocean lies an ancient, lost landscape with furrows cut by rivers and peaks that once belonged to mountains. Geologists recently discovered this roughly 56-million-year-old landscape using data gathered for oil companies.

“It looks for all the world like a map of a bit of a country onshore,” said Nicky White, the senior researcher. “It is like an ancient fossil landscape preserved 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) beneath the seabed.”

So far, the data have revealed a landscape about 3,861 square miles (10,000 square km) west of the Orkney-Shetland Islands that stretched above sea level by almost as much as 0.6 miles (1 km). White and colleagues suspect it is part of a larger region that merged with what is now Scotland and may have extended toward Norway in a hot, prehuman world.

The discovery emerged from data collected by a seismic contracting company using an advanced echo-sounding technique. High pressured air is released from metal cylinders, producing sound waves that travel to the ocean floor and beneath it, through layers of sediment.

Every time these sound waves encounter a change in the material through which they are traveling, say, from mudstone to sandstone, an echo bounces back. Microphones trailing behind the ship on cables record these echoes, and the information they contain can be used to construct three-dimensional images of the sedimentary rock below, explained White, a geologist at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

The team, led by Ross Hartley, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, found a wrinkly layer 1.2 miles (2 km) beneath the seafloor — evidence of the buried landscape, reminiscent of the mythical lost Atlantis.

The researchers traced eight major rivers, and core samples, taken from the rock beneath the ocean floor, revealed pollen and coal, evidence of land-dwelling life. But above and below these deposits, they found evidence of a marine environment, including tiny fossils, indicating the land rose above the sea and then subsided — “like a terrestrial sandwich with marine bread,” White said.

The burning scientific question, according to White, is what made this landscape rise up, then subside within 2.5 million years? “From a geological perspective, that is a very short period of time,” he said.

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