Archive for 09/16/2011

Philip Dorling – 

The federal government has secretly wound back a critical environmental protection for the Great Barrier Reef against shipping accidents in order to avoid a diplomatic stoush with the United States and Singapore.

Leaked US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks have revealed that the government has “weakened” the compulsory pilotage regime for large vessels, including oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers, sailing through the sensitive maritime environment of the Torres Strait.

Owners and masters of vessels that fail to use a pilot to navigate the narrow and hazardous channel will not face any penalty if they do not subsequently call at an Australian port.

On learning the Torres Strait pilotage regime was quietly amended 17 months ago, the chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry, said it was “absolutely essential” that all shipping [through the strait] has pilotage.

The cables reveal that the US and Singaporean governments reacted strongly against the Howard government’s October 2006 announcement of a compulsory pilotage regime in the Torres Strait designed to reduce the risk of oil and chemical spills in the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

Full story…

Juan Ortega – 

In the latest of a spate of diving deaths off South Florida shores during the past two months, a Davie man hunting for lobsters off Dania Beach on Sunday accidentally drowned, officials said.

Robert Hocke, 62, a married father of two, was a “very devoted family man” whose passion was “the water.” He often went boating, body-boarded at the beach with his two grandchildren, and attended beachside concerts, said his grieving daughter, Michelle Hocke Bluman, 36, of Atlanta.

Hocke, who had about 20 years of diving experience, had worked for the U.S. Coast Guard during the Vietnam War era and a few years ago retired from the auto-repair industry, officials and relatives said.

Hocke disappeared during a dive about 1 p.m. Sunday and his body was recovered four hours later about a mile south of Dania Beach Pier. He accidentally died of asphyxia due to drowning, the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday.

“He was a special man,” Bluman said. “He was always giving with his time and known for helping people, including through his auto-repair shop. Customers were always giving him gifts, because of how he treated them fairly.”

Hocke’s death is at least the fifth diving-related fatality off South Florida and the Keys since July, according to news reports.

Even though some of those who recently died were experienced divers, the Coast Guard urges people to thoroughly train, and “to keep safety at the forefront of every maritime outing,” Petty Officer Nick Ameen said Monday.

“The death of one diver is one too many, and can usually be avoided through proper equipment maintenance and thorough training,” Ameen said.

Full story…

Steven Morris – 

An ambitious scheme to scuttle the decommissioned aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal off Devon to create an artificial diving reef has won the backing of councillors.

Members of Torbay council’s harbour committee voted unanimously to support the proposal to sink the Royal Navy’s former flagship six miles off the English Riviera.

But the harbour committee’s unanimous backing of a proposal to lease part of the seabed from the Crown Estate to create a final resting place for the Ark is seen as a major step forward by the many champions of the plan in Devon.

Other schemes that have been floated for the ship have included turning it into a museum or a helipad or simply selling it for scrap.

In Torbay the idea of buying the vessel and turning it into an artificial reef was hatched over drinks at a sailing club and quickly turned into a solid plan. A charity called Wreck the World has been formed and it has put in a bid of £3.5m for the Ark.

One of the charity’s founders, Michael Byfield, said: “It’s been a steep learning curve and there are still lots of obstacles but we feel we are getting somewhere.”

Wreck the World believes that divers would be attracted to Torbay from around the world if the scheme came to fruition, bringing in an estimated £10m a year to the local economy.

Byfield said he believed it would be best to scuttle the ship so that the top of it came to rest five to 10 metres below the surface, making it accessible to many more divers than if it was sunk deeper.

Full story…

Guampdn – 

The 20 millionth Professional Association of Diving Instructors’ diver certification was issued to a Guam diver.

Alexandra Swanson, 22, found out she received the 20 millionth PADI diver certification this morning at Micronesian Divers Association in Piti. She was certified on Sept. 4.

“This is the first time I’ve ever won anything in my entire life,” she said minutes after finding out she won a week-long trip for two to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The prize includes round-trip coach airfare to Cairns, four nights in a hotel resort and three days/three nights aboard the dive vessel the Spirit of Freedom, according to information on PADI’s website.

The PADI organization’s 20 Millionth Diver Certification contest was worldwide.

According to PADI’s website, PADI has issued millions of scuba certifications worldwide, and there are more than 6,000 PADI dive shops and resorts worldwide.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” MDA President Lee Webber said. “We’re going to get worldwide publicity for Guam.”

Shiver me timbers !

Posted: 09/16/2011 in all marine news

Pirates

Petaluma 360 – 

The Petaluma Museum pays tribute to the golden age of piracy and its colorful characters in a new exhibit, “Pirates, Legends and Lore,” opening Friday, Sept. 16.

“Piracy is an ever-popular subject that never ceases to capture people’s imagination,” said Joe Noriel, president of the Petaluma Museum. “What many people don’t know is that piracy was interwoven into the development of this country.”

“Pirates, Legends and Lore” will offers residents the opportunity to learn the stories of real-life pirates and examine the social end economic forces that compelled their career choice, their daily lives and even the myths pirates created themselves to help them achieve their goals.

While there won’t be any “walkin’ the plank,” the exhibit will feature a host of pirate artifacts, including flintlocks, swords, a grappling hook, cannon balls, plates from the Sir Francis Drake and money plundered by pirates. Also on display wil be pieces of eight, gold doubloons, Spanish reales and an original first-edition copy of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

There will also be several hand-on elements of the exhibit, such as learning to tie a sailor’s knot, making a pirate flag, prizes for answering taking a pirate quiz, learning pirate expressions and what they mean and the opportunity to have a photo taken at a ship’s wheel.

Full story…

Australias_coral_reefs

Andrew Marszal – 

Coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the Earth, a leading United Nations scientist claims.

He says this event will occur before the end of the present century, which means that there are children already born who will live to see a world without coral.

The claim is made in a book published tomorrow, which says coral reef ecosystems are very likely to disappear this century in what would be “a new first for mankind – the ‘extinction’ of an entire ecosystem”.

Its author, Professor Peter Sale, studied the Great Barrier Reef for 20 years at the University of Sydney. He currently leads a team at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. 

The predicted decline is mainly down to climate change and ocean acidification, though local activities such as overfishing, pollution and coastal development have also harmed the reefs.

The book, Our Dying Planet, published by University of California Press, contains further alarming predictions, such as the prospect that “we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years”. 

“We’re creating a situation where the organisms that make coral reefs are becoming so compromised by what we’re doing that many of them are going to be extinct, and the others are going to be very, very rare,” Professor Sale says. “Because of that, they aren’t going to be able to do the construction which leads to the phenomenon we call a reef.

We’ve wiped out a lot of species over the years. This will be the first time we’ve actually eliminated an entire ecosystem.” 

Coral reefs are important for the immense biodiversity of their ecosystems. They contain a quarter of all marine species, despite covering only 0.1 per cent of the world’s oceans by area, and are more diverse even than the rainforests in terms of diversity per acre, or types of different phyla present. 

Recent research into coral reefs’ highly diverse and unique chemical composition has found many compounds useful to the medical industry, which could be lost if present trends persist. New means of tackling cancer developed from reef ecosystems have been announced in the past few months, including a radical new treatment for leukaemia derived from a reef-dwelling sponge.

Another possible application of compounds found in coral as a powerful sunblock has also been mooted.

Full story…

Michael D. Reid – 

When Victoria filmmaker Ian Hinkle finishes shooting undersea footage of a scuba-diving marathon in southern California’s Pacific waters that once teemed with blue sharks, it’s safe to say his film won’t be mistaken for Shark Night 3D.

Sure, there will be sharks and other ocean predators – and 3D cameras. They’re part of an arsenal of equipment to be operated by Hinkle, media director for the Canadian social enterprise Global Reef, and his team of land and underwater photographers from near and far – uniting this weekend for a fascinating expedition and his documentary chronicling it.

But 30-Mile-Dive isn’t Hollywood escapism. The film’s “star” – Scott Cassell, veteran deep-sea explorer and U.S. counter-terrorism operative – will attempt a non-stop scuba dive at more than six metres deep for 50 kilometres, from Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor to Los Angeles, using state-of-the-art equipment to perform scientific experiments and convey a sobering message.

The goal is to draw attention to an ocean crisis that, being underwater, is conveniently out of sight, yet frighteningly real.

“That’s why I joined the expedition as a filmmaker,” explained Hinkle, who hails from Washington state, has a BA in film from UBC and has two decades of production experience in capacities from cinematographer to producer. Specializing in socio-political and environmental issues, he has long been attracted to adventure stories.

Since making his directorial debut on The Living Coast for Discovery Channel, he has worked on several documentaries with climbers and solosailors.

Full story…