Archive for 07/16/2011

Tuck Thompson –

“HONEYMOON killer” Gabe Watson will go on trial in February 2012 in his hometown of Birmingham Alabama on charges he murdered his former bride Tina during a scuba dive trip off Townsville in 2003.

Prosecutors claim Watson plotted the underwater slaying in Alabama to collect insurance money and asphyxiated Tina Thomas, 26, on the SS Yongala by turning off her oxygen and abandoning her.

Circuit Court Judge Tommy Nail set the trial date of February 13 2012 following a brief hearing with Watson’s lawyers and Alabama state prosecutor Don Valeska. Watson is free on bond pending trial.

A Birmingham grand jury indicted Watson on murder charges in October 2010, shortly before the bubblewrap salesman was deported from Australia.

Tina’s father, Tommy Thomas, has campaigned for eight years to get Watson in front of a jury.

Queensland declined to prosecute Watson for murder, despite the findings of a coronial inquest, and allowed him to plead guilty to manslaughter in 2009.

Watson served 18 months in an Ipswich prison and was released in November 2010.

Watson’s family and lawyers say he is being hounded for being no more than a flawed dive “buddy.”

Watson, a married Kim Lewis, a Tina Thomas lookalike and high school friend, shortly before he was imprisoned. They live in the same suburban home Watson bought with Tina shortly before their honeymoon.

More than a dozen Queenslanders have been asked to appear as prosecution witnesses, including two Queensland Police detectives who worked years to build the case against Watson.

Prosecutors claim Watson intended to collect from two insurance policies on Tina’s life: a work policy that would have paid $165,000 and a travel policy that potentially could have netted him millions of dollars if he had won a lawsuit.

Mr Thomas said Watson asked his daughter to maximise her work policy and make him sole beneficiary shortly before the wedding but, unknown to Watson, she didn’t do it.

Full story…

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Diane M. Rey – 

The only link Howard Lewis has to the great-grandfather he never knew is a 100-plus-year-old hutch Charles Hartmann made when he served as a keeper’s assistant at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.

Lewis, who lives in Eastport, figures his ancestor passed the time when the weather was fair perfecting his craftsmanship of the carved mahogany piece.

A volunteer with the U.S. Lighthouse Society, Lewis transports modern-day craftsmen and volunteers on his 40-foot deadrise workboat to the lighthouse near the mouth of the South River. The crews are working to restore the iconic structure that sits about a mile and a half offshore just south of Annapolis.

Thomas Point’s cottage-like quaintness makes it one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. But from 1898 to 1901, when Hartmann manned the light, it may have seemed more prison-like than homey. The male keepers typically spent three weeks on the watch without returning to shore. Wives and children were not allowed to join them.

“To me it would be very isolating. And you wouldn’t have the ship and boat traffic you have nowadays,” remarked Lewis. “You can stand there and put yourself in another world and say, ‘How could they do this?’ “

Visitors will have the chance to ponder that question for themselves on public tours this weekend. A few spaces still remain for tours Saturday and Sunday. Tours will also be held in August.

Full story…

Online.WSJ –

After 105 years, the three masts of the Queen of the Lakes still stand erect — all the more remarkable because the 19th-century Canadian schooner has sat in the dark depths of Lake Ontario since it wrecked in 1906.

“We think it hit bow first because the bowsprit is broken off, but the rest of the ship looks pretty nice,” undersea explorer Jim Kennard said Friday.

Kennard and fellow shipwreck enthusiasts Dan Scoville and Roland Stevens located the 129-foot-long vessel using side-scan sonar in 2009. They confirmed the find and captured images of it in early July using a remotely operated submersible.

Loaded with 480 tons of coal, the 53-year-old ship ran into a stiff gale in November 1906, sprung a leak and sank rapidly some 10 miles off Sodus Bay on the lake’s southern shore. The crew of six clambered aboard a yawl and rowed to safety.

The ship sits on the lake bed at a depth of 200 to 300 feet. Its masts extend as much as 100 feet upward in calm, frigid waters deprived of oxygen, conditions that account for how well it’s preserved.

“When you have a temperature of, like, 39 degrees and you’re at a depth where there’s no wave action or current, the only thing that can damage the wood would be zebra or quagga mussels as they collect and grow in big clumps and fall off,” Kennard said.

The invasive mussels were not introduced to the lake system until the past 15 years or so, he said. “Years ago, all you would see on the ship was just a dusting of silt,” he added.

Its rigging and sails have long since disintegrated and the large, tapered spar extending forward from the bow is gone.

But both anchors and the mussel-coated wheel are firmly in place. Cables that held the masts in place lie in coils on the deck and a steam-powered winch that might have been added in the early 1900s is visible in the bow section.

The ship was sailing from Rochester to Kingston, Canada, when it began taking on water.

Full story…

Angela Pownall – 

Standing on an ugly steel and concrete structure several metres above the ocean, it’s hard to imagine that beneath the surface is an underwater scene that is almost unrivaled worldwide.

This is Exmouth’s Navy Pier in WA and it has been rated the sixth best scuba dive in the world for its sheer abundance and diversity of marine life.

Built in 1964 to receive parts to build the US naval communication station which is still operational nearby, the Navy Pier has become a home for so much marine life because of its seclusion.

Fishing was banned from the pier years ago, boat traffic is restricted and the area is closed off to the general public because it is defense land.

Marine life has been left to flourish and more than 80 species of fish thrive under the pier.

Even from on the pier, massive schools of fish can be seen thronging in the water, giving a glimpse of the extraordinary marine environment.

With a giant entry step, divers plunge 3m from the pier into the ocean. Looking down as soon as I’m in the water, a turtle swims slowly under my feet and I know this is going be good.

As we descend, the scale of life we see is staggering. It is difficult to know where to look and which way to go.

Huge schools of fish seem to stare at us as they shelter from the current behind the pier’s pylons, which are completely covered with coral and creatures such as starfish and nudibranchs.

Flutefish whizz past while brightly colored bannerfish, angelfish and lionfish, as well as many more species, busy themselves around the coral.

Huge grouper fish hide behind the pylons or lie on the ocean bed with their mouths agape. Moray eels poke their open-mouthed heads out of crevices.

During a night dive, a nocturnal grey nurse shark curiously swims right up to me to investigate who is visiting its favourite spot.

White-tipped reef sharks rest in groups on the seabed and wobbegong sharks disguise themselves among the algae and coral.

A few metres away from the pier itself, there is another underwater colony centred on a cluster of bombies. More sea creatures – sea urchins, octopuses and toadfish – lie on the coral or watch us from their hiding places.

With a maximum depth of 11m, the Navy Pier is an easy dive though it is dependent on tides and currents. Visibility is rarely great because of tidal movements although we were lucky enough to get 12 metres of viz which was the best it had been for a year.

Full story…

Angela Pownall – 

Standing on an ugly steel and concrete structure several metres above the ocean, it’s hard to imagine that beneath the surface is an underwater scene that is almost unrivaled worldwide.

This is Exmouth’s Navy Pier in WA and it has been rated the sixth best scuba dive in the world for its sheer abundance and diversity of marine life.

Built in 1964 to receive parts to build the US naval communication station which is still operational nearby, the Navy Pier has become a home for so much marine life because of its seclusion.

Fishing was banned from the pier years ago, boat traffic is restricted and the area is closed off to the general public because it is defense land.

Marine life has been left to flourish and more than 80 species of fish thrive under the pier.

Even from on the pier, massive schools of fish can be seen thronging in the water, giving a glimpse of the extraordinary marine environment.

With a giant entry step, divers plunge 3m from the pier into the ocean. Looking down as soon as I’m in the water, a turtle swims slowly under my feet and I know this is going be good.

As we descend, the scale of life we see is staggering. It is difficult to know where to look and which way to go.

Huge schools of fish seem to stare at us as they shelter from the current behind the pier’s pylons, which are completely covered with coral and creatures such as starfish and nudibranchs.

Flutefish whizz past while brightly colored bannerfish, angelfish and lionfish, as well as many more species, busy themselves around the coral.

Huge grouper fish hide behind the pylons or lie on the ocean bed with their mouths agape. Moray eels poke their open-mouthed heads out of crevices.

During a night dive, a nocturnal grey nurse shark curiously swims right up to me to investigate who is visiting its favourite spot.

White-tipped reef sharks rest in groups on the seabed and wobbegong sharks disguise themselves among the algae and coral.

A few metres away from the pier itself, there is another underwater colony centred on a cluster of bombies. More sea creatures – sea urchins, octopuses and toadfish – lie on the coral or watch us from their hiding places.

With a maximum depth of 11m, the Navy Pier is an easy dive though it is dependent on tides and currents. Visibility is rarely great because of tidal movements although we were lucky enough to get 12 metres of viz which was the best it had been for a year.

Full story…

gCaptain – 

Matthew R. Devlin was charged today in an information with one count of misconduct of a ship operator causing death, in relation to the “Duck boat” accident on the Delaware River on July 7, 2010, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge William P. Hicks, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service.

In this accident, the barge The Resource, which was towed by the towing vessel M/V Caribbean Sea piloted by defendant Devlin, ran over a boat operated by the tourism company Ride the Ducks International LLC. As a result, two passengers on the Duck boat who were visiting from Hungary, Szabolcs Prem, 20, and Dora Schwendtner, 16, were killed.

Devlin, 35, of Catskill, New York, was charged under a federal criminal statute (Section 1115 of Title 18 of the United States Code) applicable to involuntary manslaughter committed by the operator of a vessel.

The information alleges that “for an extended period of time prior to the collision, [Devlin] was distracted by his use of a cell phone and a laptop computer to attend to personal matters; elected to pilot the Caribbean Sea from its lower wheelhouse, where he had significantly reduced visibility in comparison to the perspective from the upper wheelhouse of the Caribbean Sea, from which the captain of the Caribbean Sea had directed that Devlin pilot the vessel; and did not maintain a proper lookout or comply with other essential rules of seamanship.”

“Those who operate transport vessels on our waterways have a clear duty to ensure that proper sightlines are maintained at all times, and to obey all other rules of seamanship, so that the risks to others on the water are minimized,” said Memeger. “When that duty is breached and causes death, the Seaman’s Manslaughter Statute allows the federal government to seek criminal sanctions against the vessel operator.”

Full story…

Hydro International –

Australian scientists have sought the help of the United States and Australian navies to plug a critical gap in their Argo ocean and climate monitoring program caused by Somali pirates operating in the western Indian Ocean.

According to CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship scientist, Dr Ann Thresher, they have not been able to seed about one quarter of the Indian Ocean since the increase in the piracy and that has implications for understanding a region of influence in Australian and south Asian weather and climate.

Over thirty nations contribute to the multi-million dollar Argo project, in which 3,000 robotic instruments provide near real-time observations of conditions such as heat and salinity in the top 2,000 meters of the ocean.

Australia, through CSIRO and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), ranks second among countries based on the number of profilers providing data, with more than 325 profilers reporting to international data centers from the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans and the Tasman Sea. At nearly two meters in length the drifting profilers, or ‘floats’, are programmed to drift at 1000m for 10 days, then fall to 2000m and sample as they ascend to the surface to upload their data to satellites.

Although the Argo project offers shipping and defense benefits, its primary objective is to monitor ocean heat and salinity patterns that drive the climate and monsoonal systems which bring rain to Australia.

Dr Thresher said the programme is reliant on commercial shipping and research and chartered vessels to deploy the instruments. “With the region north of Mauritius being a no-go area for most vessels due to pirate activity, we have approached the US and Australian navies to assist us in deployments of around twenty profilers, including ten provided by the United Kingdom Argo project.

Full story…