Archive for 07/24/2011

Mary-Ann Ochota –

The Clipper Round the World yacht race is a strange and special 11-month event. At 40,000 miles, it’s the longest yacht race in the world and, crucially, the only Round the World race open to sailing novices.

In fact, half the people who sign up to the Clipper challenge have never sailed before.  This year the youngest competitor is 18, the oldest is 72.

The 2011-2012 race starts in one week, on the 31st July, in Southampton.  The fleet only return to home waters the week before the London Olympics begin.

I’m one of the 500 who will be taking on the challenge, and I’m one of the sailing rookies – I’d never stepped foot on a yacht before my first training session. Half the crew will earn membership to the elite club of Round the World racing yachtsmen and women, a feat fewer people have achieved than have climbed Everest.  The rest of us will share just a portion of the odyssey, sailing one or more race legs.

Clipper sailors may set off wet behind the ears, but when we return our bodies and our abilities will bear testament to our achievement. Deep ocean racing sailors normally have years of experience before embarking on voyages of this magnitude.  We get four weeks.

The pace that we’re trained at is the first challenge – a combination of theoretical knowledge, physical competence and memory, packed into long days of drills and hours on the water in the 68 foot racing yachts.

Half of us (including myself) have lost our breakfast to the gentle swell of the Solent.  We are slow, clumsy; we put our thumbs in the wrong places and struggle to manhandle ropes into messy half-remembered knots.  The reality is that we must improve – when your life depends on that knot, you must know it instinctively.  And as the glossy Crew recruitment brochure gleefully points out, no one has told the oceans that we’re amateurs.

My brain rumbles through helpful acronyms to make sure I ease the vang before I haul down on the topping lift, to make sure I remember what a broad reach is, to make sure I tie a bowline correctly.  For real sailors this is about as basic as remembering to pull your trousers down before sitting on the toilet.

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Haris Argyropoulos –

Without a doubt, Milos, the southwesternmost of the Cyclades, 86 miles from the port of Piraeus, is one of the most stunning of the island group, mainly due to its exceptional — and at some places outlandish — landscape and superb beaches.

Its main natural features are its large protected harbor — the hollow of a volcanic crater akin to Santorini’s, which separates it into two almost equal parts — and the broad variety of volcanic deposits and rocks that paint unique colorful scenes, particularly at sunset.

The island’s position, about halfway between mainland Greece and Crete, and its considerable deposits of obsidian — a naturally occurring volcanic glass used to construct razor-sharp tools perhaps even before the Neolithic era — made it an important center of early Aegean civilization.

A number of rare minerals, including bentonite, perlite, pozzolana and kaolin, are still mined in Milos and exported widely.
Excavations at the Bronze Age site of Phylakopi, on the northeastern coast, have revealed the existence of a great Minoan palace with several impressive frescoes, including that of the 16th century BC “Flying Fish” fresco.

Much later, in 415 BC, Milos’s importance set the scene for the fall of Athens as a moral stronghold — as admitted by Athenian historian Thucydides — when the islanders’ attempt to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian War led to the infamous massacre of all its males capable of bearing arms and the enslavement of the rest of the population.

A revival during the Hellenistic era produced what is Milos’s greatest claim to fame, the statue of the Venus de Milo, unearthed in 1820 and now in the Louvre in Paris.

Although Milos offers a wealth of unspoiled settings, the traditional preoccupation with mining has inevitably had some adverse aesthetic effect on the landscape and partly held tourist development in check. As a result, the island remains relatively uncrowded, despite its abundance of wonderful sandy beaches with azure waters — numbering around 75 and most of them shaded by trees. Some are surrounded by intriguing geological formations, with white, red, yellow or black rocks, or simply offer sun umbrellas and beach bars.

Full story…

Ben Coxworth –

Why don’t we have stationary commercial fishing platforms that are anchored offshore, where they sweep the waters with their nets, sending the captured fish back to shore through a pipeline ?

Well, because it’s simpler and more efficient to send fishing boats out to catch the fish and bring them in. Thinking along those same lines, the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation has proposed a ship-mounted renewable energy-harvesting system, that would be powered by the ocean’s waves.

Traditional wave-power systems, both actual and proposed, are typically permanently located out at sea. Because of this fact, they must be designed to withstand storms. They are also required to send the power that they generate back to shore via underwater cables, which can be very costly to purchase and install. Additionally, because they are permanent structures, they must meet regulatory standards and can’t be located anywhere that ships might run into them.

The Fraunhofer system would apparently have none of these problems. It would consist of floating buoys, that would be deployed over the sides of a 50 meter (164 foot)-long ship, on hinged arms. As those buoys proceeded to bob up and down on the waves, the arms to which they were attached would pivot up and down, generating power that would be stored on an onboard battery system. One the ship was ashore, power from those batteries could then be released into the municipal grid system, during hours of peak usage.

Because the system would be mobile (the buoys would be lifted out of the water when the ship was moving), everything could simply be taken to shore when storms were approaching. No cables would be required, and the system could be temporarily parked wherever it didn’t pose a hazard and the waves were decent.

Full story…

Cordelia O’Neill –

More than two dozen whales have died after a mass stranding in an estuary of a sea loch in the Scottish Highlands.

The bodies of 25 whales from a pod of 70 were found yesterday morning after they were stranded at low tide on Friday at the Kyle of Durness in the most north-westerly corner of Scotland.

Rescuers have managed to return 44 pilot whales to open water.

Attempts to refloat the whales began on Friday night and continued into the early hours of yesterday morning.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) medics, the coastguard and the navy managed to rotate some of the whales that were upside down to prevent them from drowning when the tide came in.

The BDMLR said many of the whales had become stranded on their sides, on top of each other and upside down and were inhaling sand.

Vets from as far away as Newcastle travelled to the remote loch and nine sets of pontoons were delivered to the site on Friday night, but they were not used as the estuary flooded too quickly.

Divers from a Royal Navy bomb disposal squad were in the area and took part in the rescue, watched by dozens of people from the shore. The members of the Northern Diving Group formed a human chain to herd the whales into deeper water.

The water receded yesterday morning, and the bodies were discovered onshore. It is believed they died the night before but were not discovered until first light.

Three whales were found alive, but had to be euthanased by vets as they were too weak to be refloated.

Full story…

RT –

The cruise ship Bulgaria, which sank on July 10 in central Russia, claiming 114 lives, is being towed to shallow waters to be further transported to shore. Eight people who were onboard are still missing.

The vessel is being towed to a backwater some 11km away by the two floating cranes that earlier dislodged it from the bed of the River Volga. Twelve ships are accompanying the Bulgaria to the shallow waters. At the shore, the vessel is awaited by experts who are preparing to examine it.

The vessel is still full of water, which needs to be pumped out.

The operation to raise the sunken ship in Russia’s central republic of Tatarstan started a week ago, but has been hampered by weather and technical complications. It was only on Friday that engineers successfully detached the stern of the ship and its bow from the sticky mud of the river bed.

Only 79 people survived the sinking of the Bulgaria, which was carrying 201 people on the day of the catastrophe. Eight bodies are still missing. On Saturday, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the bodies of six women and two men are being sought and confirmed that no children are among the missing.

Lisa Onland and Mary Ann Benitez-

The bodies of a Hong Kong diver and his American diving instructor have been found almost one day after they went missing during a diving expedition to a World War II ship scuttled outside of Manila.

Tin Shun-chuen, 30, is believed to have been undergoing technical diving training with Steven Brittian and fellow SAR diver Chow Fung-lung at around 6pm on Sunday in Subic Bay when they went missing.

Search and rescue divers found Tin and Brittian’s bodies shortly after 5pm yesterday.

While Chow completed his dive inside the USS New York without incident, Tin and Brittian were believed to be inside the engine room when both failed to surface after the dive.

Tin and Chow had hired Brittian, a 47-year-old retired US Navy shipman who is a diving instructor at Johan’s beach resort and dive shop.

The shop owner, Johan De Sadelier, a Belgian national, declined to give further details, with his staff members claiming he was busy.

An employee told The Standard De Sadelier yesterday spent most of yesterday with search and rescue teams, as well as a local village captain, at the dive site.

A spokesman from the Immigration Department said a request for assistance has been received from Tin’s family.

The incident is the first “fatal or non- fatal” case in Subic Bay – now a recreation area for the well-heeled – in the past six years, another veteran diver said.

Full story…