Archive for 07/21/2011

Suffolk Free press –

Attempts to detonate a live 2,000lb Second World War mine picked up by a dredger off the Essex coast have been hampered by the weather.

The device was found eight nautical miles off the coast of Clacton on Friday morning and experts had planned to discharge it on Saturday.

But conditions have stopped Royal Navy divers from making contact with the mine – which they moved from the dredger onto the sea bed – in order to carry out a controlled explosion.

A Royal Navy spokesman said high winds and poor sea conditions meant it was not possible to dive on Saturday morning.

“It is looking unlikely they can dive safely today because of the weather,” he said.

Stewart Oxley, spokesman for RNLI Walton and Frinton, said the mine was believed to be “in very good condition” and “was still a viable destructive force”.

The Royal Navy has denied reports that it had lost the mine.

“They know where it is. When it’s safe to do so they will get down to it and dive on it. They put it on the sea bed safely,” a spokesman said.

A one-mile exclusion zone remains in place around the area.

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Lauren Steussy –

Nearly 30 underwater robotic vehicles will plunge into the Navy’s TRANSDEC pool this weekend for an annual competition among engineering students.

The students built machines that will navigate through a high tech underwater obstacle course at the SPAWAR pool, located at 49275 Electron Drive in Point Loma.

Twenty-nine teams from around the world came to the pool for the 14th annual “RoboSub” competition, which started Friday morning with a demonstration at 10 a.m. and is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the weekend.

Mayor Jerry Sanders also made an appearance at the competition Friday morning.

“[The competition] allows us to acquire new skills and learn new stuff – stuff we wont see in class. It’s a nice challenge,” said Kevin Larose, team leader from Team Sonia in Montreal Canada.

Larose added that the competition is a good opportunity for innovation because students can share information and ideas with each other.

“We look at almost every vehicle, and sometimes we see a team doing something and we see how we can do it even better,” he said.

Six teams from California will be among the 200 total students competing. Local students from San Diego City College and Mesa College brought their robots to the pool, as well as the La Jolla robotics team, iBotics.

The competition also features a hands-on demonstration for late elementary and middle school students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 14 through 16.

gCaptain –

China plans an ultradeep dive by a manned submersible beneath the Pacific that would propel it past the U.S. in a race to explore potentially vast mineral resources in the deepest parts of the world’s oceans.

The Jiaolong—named after a mythical sea-dragon—left China on board an oceanographic research ship on July 1. It arrived on Saturday at its destination in the northeastern Pacific, between Hawaii and North America, where it is to attempt a dive to 5,000 meters, or about 16,400 feet, according to state media reports.

The state-run Xinhua news agency on Saturday quoted Liu Feng, the director of the diving trials, as saying the sea was too rough to attempt the first of its planned four dives before Wednesday. “We’ll use this time to do our preparatory work down to the last detail, and as soon as sea conditions improve, we’ll start sea trials,” he was quoted as saying.

Xinhua quoted Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration, on Saturday that a “marvel” of Chinese manned submergence would occur in the next 15 days. The administration, which is overseeing the mission, didn’t respond to a request to comment.

The planned dive would be the latest milestone for China in a high-stakes technological race once dominated by the U.S., which in 1960 sent two men to the bottom of the Mariana Trench—at 11,033 meters the deepest point in the world’s oceans—in the now-retired Trieste bathyscaphe.

The U.S. led undersea exploration and mining efforts for several decades thereafter, but commercial interest waned in the 1980s and 1990s because international prices for nickel, copper and other commodities thought to be most easily mined from the deep seabed at the time were insufficiently high.

The U.S. Navy used to operate three manned submersibles, including one, called the Sea Cliff, that was capable of going down to 6,000 meters, but didn’t replace it after its retirement because of defense cutbacks in 1998.

Now, many experts say the U.S. risks falling behind potential commercial and military competitors as rising commodity prices make undersea mining more profitable, and China and Russia apply for rights to explore newly discovered deep-sea deposits thought to hold larger quantities of silver, gold, copper, zinc and lead in particular.

The race has commercial, scientific and military implications comparable to space exploration, in which China is also now a world power as one of only four countries—alongside the U.S., Russia and India—capable of manned space flight.

Although Chinese officials say the Jiaolong is for civilian purposes only, foreign military experts say such a craft could be used to intercept or sever undersea communications cables, to retrieve foreign weaponry on the ocean floor, or to repair or rescue naval submarines.

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Stuff.co.nz –

Police searching for a diver missing at an Auckland lake since yesterday say they have halted the search while they reassess their options.

Senior Sergeant Kim Libby, speaking to media at Takapuna’s Lake Pupuke this afternoon, also admitted that it may take up to two days for search teams to find the body.

The missing man was taking part in a training course when he and another man went missing on a dive yesterday.

The body of Tyrone North, 37, was pulled from the lake yesterday and a post-mortem is due to be carried out today.

A third diver was taken to hospital suffering hypothermia but has since been discharged.

Family and friends of the missing diver gathered at the lake today.

The dive squad had been using sonar equipment to search the lake bed today but this afternoon Libby said the decision had been made to halt the search while they reassessed their options.

It was also the first time police admitted they were now looking for a body.

He said searchers were considering whether to bring in more equipment to help with the search but said it could take days to recover the body.

The police dive squad arrived at the lake last night but conditions were considered unsuitable and the search was called off for the night.

Full story…

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher –

An excavation crew recently made a startling discovery at the bottom of Pearl Harbor when it unearthed a skull that archeologists suspect is from a Japanese pilot who died in the historic attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

Archaeologist Jeff Fong of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific described the discovery to The Associated Press and the efforts under way to identify the skull. He said the early analysis has made him “75 percent sure” that the skull belongs to a Japanese pilot.

He did not provide specifics about what archaeologists have learned about the skull, but said it was not from one of Hawaii’s ancient burial sites. They also contacted local police and ruled out the possibility that it’s from an active missing person case, said Denise Emsley, public affairs officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii, which was being inundated with media calls Wednesday about the skull from international news organizations.

The items found with the skull, which was determined not to be from a Native Hawaiian, provided some clues: forks, scraps of metal and a Coca-Cola bottle Fong said researchers have determined was from the 1940s.

Fifty-five Japanese airmen were killed and 29 of their aircraft were shot down in the attack, compared with the 2,400 U.S. service members who died. No Japanese remains have been found at Pearl Harbor since World War II.

Pearl Harbor is home to the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits on top of the battleship that sank during the attack. It still holds the bodies of more than 900 men.

The skull remains intact despite being dug up with giant cranes and shovels.

It was April 1 when items plucked from the water during the overnight dredging were laid to dry. When it was determined a skull was among the dredged items, contractors were ordered to stop the work, Emsley said. “We definitely wanted it to be handled correctly,” she said.

“That’s why it’s been kept quiet. We didn’t want to excite people prematurely,” she said.

Full story…

Sandra McCulloch –

Scientists and engineers have had their first look at a damaged section of Neptune, the world’s first regional underwater ocean observatory network, off Vancouver Island.

A team left Esquimalt on July 4 aboard the research vessel Thomas G Thompson for a three-week voyage to carry out maintenance and check damage inflicted in February when a trawler dragged its gear across the scientific equipment. They got a view of the damage on Tuesday.

Neptune Canada, an initiative led by the University of Victoria, features a series of ocean observation systems that can be monitored in real time over the Internet. It began operating in December 2009. Neptune stands for the NorthEast Pacific Time-Series Undersea Networked Experiments project.

“Getting out on the open ocean is significantly weather dependent — this is our first opportunity to be there,” Martin Taylor, president of Ocean Networks Canada, said Thursday. The damaged area is about 100 kilometers offshore in a location known as the Barkley Upper Slope.

Images shot by a submersible vehicle brought some relief, but did not answer all of the team’s questions. The good news is the equipment is still there and appears in good condition, said Taylor. The extent of repairs or whether some needs replacing will not be clear until the equipment is brought to the surface, which is expected to happen over the next few days.

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