Archive for 08/27/2011

Clay Dillow –

Attention hipsters and other people seeking hipness: there’s a new fad catching on in Western Australia’s Shark Bay, and you won’t want to be the last to to post pictures of yourself imitating it to your Tumblr feed.

“Conching” is a method by which Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are trapping small fish in conch shells, bringing the shells to the surface, and then shaking them with their rostrums to clear out the water and dump the fish into their mouths. More remarkably, the trend appears to be spreading throughout an entire population of dolphins, and fast.

The first isolated instances of conching were recorded in 2007 and 2009 among a small group of Shark Bay’s dolphins. But other dolphins seem to be observing that behavior and learning the method for themselves–in the last four months alone, researchers have documented the behavior six or seven times–marking a very rapid horizontal spread of behavior.

That’s significant on a few levels. For one, we already know dolphins are very intelligent creatures, but a horizontal spread of a learned behavior at this rate is pretty off-the-charts.

Moreover, scientists appear to have gotten in on this fad at the ground floor (they were observing dolphins conching way before it was mainstream, bro), so they have the opportunity to observe this learned behavior as it spreads.

Full story…

Wendy Wilson –

They were looking for bones.

The waters shone like glass Tuesday afternoon as we journeyed across Lake Victoria in Alexandria fishing guide Roger Van Surksum’s speedboat to the dive site on the southwest end of the lake.

Van Surksum took the helm while divers Wayne Wagner and Wesley Torgrimson readied for another dive, perhaps their last search for bison bones at the site before state archaeologists took charge of the area.

“Here I sit, with that curiosity bugging me – retired and nothing else to do, but think about history,” Van Surksum said of finding the first bone. “It could be way bigger than I had imagined.”

Excitement shone on their faces as Torgrimson and Wagner donned scuba gear. Each man carried about 60 pounds of weight on his back, including a tank, to keep him from rising to the surface.

“You always think it is boring in Minnesota, but when you find stuff like this, it’s not,” Wagner said with a smile. “There is all this history around here. It’s so exciting.”

It was a treasure hunt with a historical prize. With each bone discovered, a piece of the past was unearthed – a filament of a life long gone, but just beneath our feet.

It was time to start the search.

Full story…

Science Business –

With the snip of a underwater robot claw, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry cut the ribbon on 23 August for a new applied underwater robotics laboratory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Environmental monitoring of the ocean, marine research and the offshore oil and gas industry all demand strong technical expertise and advanced engineering solutions. In response to this demand, NTNU has newly established the Applied Underwater Robotics Laboratory (AUR Lab).

The lab brings together experts from cybernetics, control engineering, marine biology, marine archaeology, electrical engineering and telecommunications, and underwater technology to produce new scientific results that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

“NTNU would like to consolidate its position as a leading university where links between science and technology strengthen our ability to conduct cutting edge research and develop new innovative approaches. Building on these connections puts NTNU in a unique position to explore the ocean,” said Kari Melby, Pro-Rector for Research at NTNU during the opening ceremony for the laboratory on 23 August.

An underwater snip

Trond Giske, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, formally opened the laboratory by cutting an underwater ribbon using Minerva, one of the university’s remote underwater minisubs.

“The AUR Lab will strengthen NTNU’s position as a world-leading centre of expertise in subsea technology. Top-quality research and education in this field will be decisive in the ability of several of Norway’s most important industries to create jobs and add value to the country’s economy in the future,” said Giske as he remotely cut the underwater ribbon. Also in attendance were Pro-Rector Melby and Ivar O. Grytdal, who is director of Statoil’s Subsea North division, which will also be a player in the new laboratory.

Full story…

Elizabeth Dinan –

After years of research under top-secret conditions, Greg Sancoff has unveiled a “game changing” invention he describes as “like an attack helicopter on water.”

Named Ghost, it’s the world’s first “supercavitating” water craft, meaning it travels across water like a boat, but through a tunnel of gas below the surface, he said. The significance of the technology means Ghost moves through the gas instead of water which has 900 times more drag, he said.

“We’re creating an artificial environment around our underwater structure,” said Sancoff, who is developing Ghost with his own money, while the project is “controlled by the government.”

“We’re reducing hull friction, which hasn’t changed much since the Vikings,” he said. “This, in many ways, is probably one of the largest advancements made in the Navy. It’s like breaking the sound barrier.”

Ghost is also stealth, is powered by jet fuel, can carry thousands of pounds of weapons including torpedoes and is “virtually unstoppable,” Sancoff said. He added the cockpit of the prototype is like one found inside a plane and the rear can seat multiple Navy SEALS.

According to a statement by retired Navy Admiral Thomas Richards, who serves on Sancoff’s board of directors, Ghost can travel at speeds “in excess of a mile a minute.”

The technology can be applied to surface or submersible watercraft which can be manned or unmanned, Sancoff said.

“You can leave Portsmouth and come up off the coast of Africa,” he said.

“Secrecy orders,” which barred images of Ghost being released to the public were lifted by the Navy on Aug. 10, coinciding with the launch of a prototype in waters off the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“It’ll be seen,” explained Sancoff, who said he’s discussed the project with officials from the Navy, Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency and the defense industry.

“The government is very interested,” Sancoff said, while declining to discuss specifics.

Ghost is being tested from a previously vacant building at the shipyard that Sancoff is leasing. Headquarters for the company he built around Ghost, Juliet Marine Services, are in a circa 1725 ship captain’s home on Deer Street in Portsmouth. The doors are always locked, he said, and exterior surveillance cameras are visible to visitors.

Full story…

Adam Spangler –

At 0700 hours, June 17, 100 Miles off the coast of Greenland, a black inflatable speedboat splashed into the icy water off the bow of a large, repurposed Russian fireboat. Kumi Naidoo, the charismatic leader of Greenpeace International, climbed down into it. As the engine revved up and the high-speed Zodiac started pounding through the waves, Naidoo recalled clutching a bow rope tightly with one hand, and with the other holding a banner demanding, “Stop Arctic Destruction.”

Speeding past Danish naval patrol boats, the inflatable reached its target, a towering 53,000-ton oil rig. As Naidoo and his Nordic action coordinator, Ulvar Arnkvaern, started to climb a steel ladder that stretched 100 feet up to the platform, a high-pressure fire hose hammered freezing water down on their heads.

Soaked to the skin and shivering violently, Naidoo and Arnkvaern fought their way up, step by step. When they reached the deck of the oil rig, Naidoo announced to the crewmen who surrounded him that he was there to hand over a petition signed by 50,000 people online demanding that the rig operator, Cairn Energy, release its oil-spill response plan—if it even had one.

The captain of the rig refused to see him and, while he waited to be arrested, Naidoo gave a short interview to a newspaper reporter patched in by walkie-talkie. When a police helicopter landed, the activists were flown off to four days in a Greenland jail, where Naidoo came down with a fever. The petition was left behind, unread. Both sides claimed victory though neither seemed to have won anything.

The Cairn Energy protest was the first time a Greenpeace executive director had been arrested and deported in a direct action in over a decade and it’s not a coincidence that Naidoo decided to lead the operation on the eve of the organization’s 40th anniversary.

Greenpeace finds itself at a major crossroads. What began as a tiny grassroots group in Vancouver now has 2.8 million members and 2,500 employees in 40 countries. It is not just the international face of the environmental movement—it is a behemoth that rivals some of the companies it opposes.

It has won battles in the wilderness and in the courts, but it also faces widespread criticism that it has not achieved major, world-changing results. As the organization struggles with middle age, a question flaps in the air like one of their tattered banners: What is Greenpeace’s role in the world today ?

Full story…

China Daily –

Kate Moss pulled out of a scuba diving course – because she’s too scared of fish.

The supermodel is currently holidaying in the South of France with her husband Jamie Hince and a group of pals and was keen to get her formal qualification in diving while she’s there but her fear of sea-dwelling creatures put an end to that.

A source told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “Kate has been snorkeling before and dived a bit. She was keen to get a formal qualification, did some of the classroom-based stuff and was really getting in to it. But then she got convinced she was going to bump into a giant, scary fish – possibly a shark – and began to get nervous.

“When a school of tropical fish swam past, Kate got a bit terrified by one of the bigger, grey ones, Pals were calling her ‘Skate Moss’ all afternoon, joking she’d stumbled across a giant skate.”

So instead of going under water, Kate intends to spend the rest of her break on British businessman Sir Philip Green’s luxury yacht by relaxing with pals while sipping champagne in the sun.

The source added: “Obviously the yacht she’s staying on is filled with vodka and champagne, and the gang like nothing more than sunbathing on deck with a chilled beer or a glass of bubbly.”