Archive for 08/04/2011

Jeff Burnside –

The Florida Keys disappearing by the year 2100 ? That’s the pronouncement from a national environmental group this week, warning that South Florida is among the most vulnerable areas of the country to climate change and sea level rise.

The sea is rising, but it’s rising slowly enough so that too few people get alarmed, say climate scientists. It’s a slow march upward 5-10 feet, says all the science, that will happen over the next 100 years or so.

“And so we would be utter fools not to attempt to arrest this while we have a fighting chance,” said University of Miami scientist John Van Leer, who has been researching climate change since the 1980’s, before almost all his colleagues.

So this new warning from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is a review of more than 75 scientific studies warning us about the future of South Florida, is the same warning he and his colleagues have been raising for years.

So what are the impacts that many scientists have found are already happening in South Florida, in part, because of climate change ?

– An increase in diseases like dengue fever is already underway
– Seafood is becoming less plentiful
– Our valuable coral reefs are already dying at alarming rates
– Our drinking water supply is becoming infused with seawater intruding on the underground aquifer
– We’re seeing more frequent extreme weather events, like heavy rains or wildfires caused by drought, consistent with climate change
– Our coastline is eroding at a greater and greater pace especially during storms
– Agriculture harvests are more challenged, often leading to increased prices
– Stronger hurricanes In recent years, science has lurched toward finding ways to adapt to climate change. But does that mean less scientific research on how to slow climate change ?

Full story…

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Harlan Kirgan – 

Oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico devoured crude oil gushing from the broken Deepwater Horizon wellhead last summer, said Terry Hazen, a leading researcher into the 2010 spill.

“If I had to look for oil-degrading bacteria, I would have done it in the Gulf of Mexico,” Hazen said to more than 100 people attending the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s biennial Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Series on Wednesday night.

Hazen is co-director of the Virtual Institute for Microbial Stress and Survival at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, managed by the University of California. He also is head of the laboratory’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology.

In a lecture entitled, “Can Mother Nature Take a Punch? Microbes and the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf,” Hazen described how his research team of about 50 scientists studied the spill from May 25 to Oct. 20, 2010.

They found that that 35 percent of the light crude from the spill evaporated within two days, and in a week 45 percent had evaporated, he said.

But it was bacteria that acted like “oil-seeking missiles” that feasted on the oil, he said.

Full story…

Allison Cross – 

A mother polar bear swam for nine days straight to reach sea ice, covering nearly 700 kilometres and losing her cub in the process, according a new study on the movement of female polar bears.

The study, which links shrinking sea ice as a possible threat to polar bear cubs, also noted the bear lost 22 per cent of her body weight after swimming in the Beaufort Sea.

“It’s pretty remarkable. That’s the longest that’s ever been recorded for bear swimming non-stop,” said Anthony Pagano, the study’s lead author and a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist. “Historically, there just wasn’t this extensive amount of open water that bears would be forced to swim (in).”

Initial results from the ongoing study, which used data from GPS collars on 68 bears, were presented last week at the International Bear Association Conference in Ottawa.

Scientists tracked the movements of the bears between 2004 and 2009 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and found their journeys in the water were an average of 150 kilometres long.

They also saw an increase in the number of swims over the course of the study.

“About a quarter of our . . . bears had these (greater than 50 km) swims in 2004,” Pagano said. “And in 2009, just over 60 per cent had swims.”

The long swims are likely very strenuous on the bears, said Pagano, and often fatal for their cubs.

Full story…

Hydro International – 

On Monday 1st August 2011, at 8.40AM, the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) oceanographic vessel Alliance came to the rescue of an 18m pleasure craft in Italian international waters, near the port of Savona in the Ligurian Sea. The bridge watchkeepers noticed a motor yacht on fire at about 5 miles distance.

The NURC crew promptly raised the alarm with the Italian Coastguard and launched a Delta Fast Rescue Boat. Six people were saved uninjured, but visibly shocked: an Italian family of five and an Ecuadorian woman.

At the same time of arrival as the Italian Coastguard vessels, the rescued persons were taken on board the Alliance where they received first aid. Meanwhile, due to the gravity and extent of the fire, the Alliance’s request for firefighting was denied by the coastguard. After a few minutes the motor yacht sank. 

“We all have to consider ourselves lucky that our NATO ship Alliance was on the scene at the right moment, said Dirk Tielbuerger, Director of NURC. Due to the vigilant and determined behaviour of the crew all were rescued and were able to return home uninjured”.

Full story…

gCaptain – 

To learn more about marine airbags and their use for moving and launching large ships, we reached out to Song Tao of Qingdao Evergreen Shipping Supplies Co.,Ltd. Let’s here what he has to say…

What were the first uses of air bags in the launching of ships ?

The history of marine air bag ship launching dates back to 1981. Xiao Qinghe ship repair and building shipyard, located in Jinan city of Shangdong Province, launched a 60 DWT tank barge with air bag suspension on January 20, 1981. Seven air bags were deployed in that project.

One was 2 meters in diameter and 6 meters long and used for elevating. The remaining six air bags were 0.8 meters x 6 meters long and acted as the rollers. The first intention of that trial launch was to develop a prompt, less landform limited ship launching method for warfare purposes.

How has the technology advanced since then ?

Over the past twenty years, the airbag ship launching system has made advancements in not only the air bag, but also the ship launching/landing technology. The first generation air bags used a rubber dipped canvas as a reinforcement layer to form the air chamber trunk. Two cone-shaped molds were then used to make the ends and everything was stuck together.

With today’s air bags, the whole-enlacing-technology used for manufacturing is done together. Rubber dipped synthetic-tyre-cords are used as the reinforcement layers with the trunk and two cone-shaped ends made at the same time. Everything is then-laced together, so the air bag doesn’t have any joints.

Due to the development of rubber chemistry, the performance of the rubber employed in the latest air bags is highly enhanced and about 15 times that of the first generation bag with the same specifications.

The launching and landing technology has also developed. In the beginning, only small and flat bottom ships located on a fabricated slope could be launched with air bags. Now this technology is more flexible and less limited by the ship and landform. Now any type of ship with a DWT below 55,000 and in a place with enough launching space can be launched using air bags.

The launching slope even can be sloped upward. It has really developed into a cutting edge technology for launching ships, and especially useful for some marine emergencies.

Full story… 

Jessica Marshall – 

Endangered right whales feed at depths just below the surface where they’re vulnerable to collisions with ships.

This depth corresponds to high concentrations of their copepod prey.

Ship collisions are a leading threat to this species, which numbers only between 300-400 individuals. 

Critically endangered North Atlantic right whales foraging in Cape Cod Bay in the spring spend most of their time just below the surface where they can’t be seen but remain vulnerable to collisions with ships, according to a new study.

The whales appear to be following their food, because the researchers also found high levels of copepods, tiny crustaceans the size of a grain of rice, at the same depths.

“It makes sense that whales are spending time where their food is,” said Susan Parks of Pennsylvania State University, lead author of the study published today in Biology Letters.

Still, the fact that the whales spent nearly all of their time just below the surface came as a surprise to the team.

“In the past I had known that right whales feed at the surface in Cape Cod Bay; you can see them swimming through the water with their head above the water and their mouth open,” Parks said. “What was really surprising to me in this study was how much time the whales were spending just out of sight but at a really dangerous depth for a boat to run into them.”

In fact, with the aid of trackers attached to the whales using suction cups, researchers knew that at times as many as 10 whales were within their visual range, yet they could see almost nothing at the surface. “We would know that they were right in front of us,” Parks said.

Full story…

Amanda Smith – 

The historic 1812 British Navy gunboat that has been residing at St. Lawrence National Park in Mallorytown Landing is being moved to its new home in Prescott on Thursday.

The gunner has resided in a specially constructed boathouse at the park for 40 years. The move of this boat will add an important component to Fort Wellington’s historic site. The display will illustrate the significant role the St. Lawrence River and these British gun boats played during the War of 1812.

“It’s in excellent condition for a 200 year-old boat,” said Elizabeth Pilon, visitor experience project manager. “It’s been a long-term goal to move the boat to Fort Wellington. It will be a centrepiece to the fort.”

The move is part of a project that has taken two years to co-ordinate and involves Parks Canada engineers, conservation staff, St. Lawrence Islands staff, project staff, the Parks Canada underwater archaeology department and the movers.

“It’s a real team effort,” said Pilon of the move. “It is very exciting to see this happening. It’s about preserving and presenting the boat to more visitors.”

The gunner will be housed in a new 649-square-metre visitors’ centre at Fort Wellington, with the bow of the boat looking out towards the St. Lawrence River.

The 16.5-metre gunner was lifted by airbag system to raise it the required two feet to complete the move. The wall of the boathouse was removed Tuesday morning.

The boat was encased in a protective shell to prevent any damage to the gunner during the move by outside elements.

Full story…