Archive for 07/13/2011

Daniel Bateman –

A Cairns dive instructor is reaching extreme depths on the Great Barrier Reef rarely seen before by human eyes.

Lance Robb, from Closed Circuit Divers at Kewarra Beach, has dived deeper than most on the world’s largest natural attraction.

He dropped down to an incredible depth of 156m – a new personal record – during a recent trip with James Cook University scientists searching for new life at Osprey Reef, about 90 nautical miles off Port Douglas.

The edge of the reef plunges to a depth of up to 1500m.

Mr Robb uses a special re-breathing apparatus to help him reach limits normally unsafe for humans.

The rebreather, which recycles exhaled gas while providing oxygen, has the advantage of not expelling any bubbles.

This allows for a stealth approach to diving, and the opportunity to see marine creatures normally scared away by regular diving apparatus.

On his extreme dive at Osprey in May, Mr Robb attempted to find eggs belonging to the nautilus, a deep-sea relative of the squid.

He also observed never-before-seen corals, and large silver-tip and grey reef sharks.

As he was adjusting his camera at 156m, a large grey reef shark swam straight at him.

“It probably speared down 50-60m down straight at me. It turned around about 1m away from me. It was straight at me, and then turned away,” he said.

Full story…

Stephanie Simon –

The bright blue waters inside the New York Aquarium attract the fish and the crowds, but underwater photographer Brandi Irwin likes it best when it is pitch black.

In fact, she goes nighttime scuba diving in the Caribbean, taking very unique photographs of the marine life she finds in the dark.

“We’re going in with no lights at all because the animals that are out at night are light sensitive and they come out to feed at night so we like to go in by moon light,” says Irwin.

When Irwin does shine her lights, it isn’t just to see underwater. She shines ultraviolet light that some marine life actually absorbs. The result is that they glow in different colors, akin to wearing a white t-shirt to a club and seeing it glow under the black lights.

An exhibit of these photographs is opening at the New York Aquarium on August 5.

Irwin has been diving for more than a decade and doing underwater photography for the past two years.

Originally she had a very different idea for an underwater venture.

“I did modeling for 10 years and I had a real interest in water, so I wanted to combine the two and shoot fashion underwater,” says Irwin. “When I discovered all these interesting little animals underwater, because I’m a big animal lover as well, then I started really enjoying doing underwater things because they’re just darling.”

With all this excitement over glow-in-the-dark fish, Irwin says viewers can’t just turn off the aquarium lights and see what glows.

“Well it’s not something that you can see with the naked eye, you have to have special equipment in order to see it,” she says.



Phuong Le – 

For over 75 years, Blau Oyster Co. has relied on Washington state’s cool clean waters to grow the plump oysters that are as prized in the Northwest as salmon and orcas. But too much pollution from animal and human waste has been washing into Samish Bay in north Puget Sound, prohibiting shellfish harvests 38 days already this year.

“If the water quality isn’t good, we can’t be open,” said Scott Blau, whose family has been farming in these tidelands 80 miles north of Seattle since 1935. Most of the harvest from the small business is shucked and ends up in stews or can be ordered pan-fried or raw at local restaurants; some oysters are sold in the shell as far away as Hong Kong and Singapore.

Washington state is the nation’s leading producer of farmed oysters, clams and other bivalves with about $100 million in annual sales. The recent downgrade of 4,000 acres of shellfish beds in Samish Bay because of fecal contamination means more days when shellfish beds can’t be harvested, hurting the local economy and jeopardizing the much larger, decades-long effort to clean up pollution in Puget Sound, the nation’s second largest estuary. It also was set back in the state’s goal to increase 10,800 acres of harvestable shellfish beds by 2020.

Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year said the state has failed in Samish Bay, and directed agencies to fix the problem by next September. “We’re not going to flush, literally flush 4,000 acres down the drain of prime shellfish growing area in the state,” she told managers at an April meeting.

In response, state and local officials last month released a plan for more inspections and enforcement on all fronts, including septic tanks, livestock operations, small hobby farms, dairies and others, as well as more education and help for landowners. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this summer plans over flights to determine likely pollution sources, such as muddy fields where rain is more likely to wash mud manure into waters.

The problems of Samish Bay highlight the greater challenges facing Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and other distressed watersheds, where cleanup is complicated by pollution from many varied and diffused sources, called nonpoint pollution, including farmland or stormwater runoff, agricultural activities, urban development, failing septic tanks, toxics and even pet waste.

Full story…


Dave Kelley – 

There have been many stories written about the sinking of the steamer “Mayflower” boat on Lake Kamaniskeg on November 12, 1912 with three men surviving and nine people drowning. This story takes an underwater perspective as to the state of the boat in the summer of 2003.

The Mayflower was built on the shore beside the Hudson House Hotel in Combermere, Ontario in 1903 by Napoleon Tessier of Hull, Quebec for two brothers, John Charles Hudson and Henry Edwin Hudson. She was built from oak, hemlock and local white pine and was launched and commissioned in June 1904. Her official registered number was 116861, gross tonnage of 58.86 and net tonnage of 38.02, length was 77 feet, breadth 18 feet, depth of 4 feet and height of about 20 feet.

It was almost a flat bottom wooden boat designed with shallow draught for navigating the shallow waters over some shoals and sand bars on the Madawaska and York Rivers. Some individuals described her looking like a “scow.” She was powered by two cross compound steam engines with the steam supplied by a Fitzgibbon boiler mounted amidships 3 1/2 feet below the deck which was supplied by J & R Weir of Montreal.

Weir also designed the Mayflower. The single rear paddle wheel was set into a cut in the stern and had twelve paddles. A modification to the paddle wheel was made some years after launch as the boat tended to “porpoise’ when underway and cause considerable hardship in handling and steering.

Two rudders mounted off to the sides and aft of the paddle wheel helped the narrow boat navigate the sharp corners in the Madawaska River especially around the present day Pine Cliff Resort. By the year 1912, the boat was not seaworthy and was not certified by the authorities. She had a previous sinking when it ran into a log “dead head” on the Madawaska River and partially sunk the year before. The boat had not been well maintained in the previous few years.

The Mayflower was used for freight, mail and limited passenger service between Barry’s Bay and Combermere, Palmer Rapids on the Madawaska River and Havergal on the York River. It also serviced the corundum mines at Craigmont in the Conroy Marsh waterway by towing or pushing barges containing bags of processed corundum to the train at Barry’s Bay for shipment to the USA and Europe.

She had a crew of three – owner/Captain John Hudson, pilot/wheelsman Aaron Parcher and fireman/engineer Tom Delaney. It had low light level running lights and was not designed to be on the water at night. On Tuesday, November 12, 1912 the Mayflower had made what was to be the last return trip from Combermere to Barry’s Bay for the season earlier in the day.

Full story…