Archive for 03/01/2012

Newswise –

In a modern iteration of the great age of Antarctic exploration of the 19th and 20th centuries, three teams of scientists are rushing to reach not the South Pole like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, but lakes deep below the surface of the Frozen Continent believed to hold scientific treasures.

That quest by Russian, British and American scientific teams for water samples is the topic of an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

C&EN European Correspondent Sarah Everts explains that the Russian mission to Lake Vostok captured global headlines recently when the team bored 2.5 miles through Antarctic ice to reach the lake’s ancient water, undisturbed for 15 million years.

They want to analyze the lake for signs of life and clues about how life might survive in Earth’s most inhospitable places – or on other planets.

But that step must wait until late in 2012 when the Antarctic winter ends, allowing travel into the Frozen Continent.

But the Russians are only one team of several trying to understand what kind of life can survive in water beneath the Antarctic ice sheet and how these organisms might do it.

The other two may yield even greater scientific treasures.

One is an American team that plans to drill with hot water – rather than mechanically, as the Russians did – into a river of ice one half mile below the surface that carries water from several underground lakes to the ocean.

Full story…

Arab News –

The Saudi-Sudanese joint venture to exploit gold, silver, copper and other minerals from the bottom of the Red Sea will bring about big economic benefits for both countries, said Petroleum and Minerals Minister Ali Al-Naimi on Wednesday.

“We are encouraging work and studies on mineral reserves in the Red Sea that could be exploited, realizing good economic returns for both countries, creating new job opportunities for Saudis and Sudanese and achieving transfer of technology,” he said.

Al-Naimi was talking to reporters after returning from Khartoum following talks with Sudanese officials on prospects of expanding cooperation in oil and mineral sectors.

It was the sixth meeting of a Saudi-Sudan Joint Committee to discuss matters related to exploiting the treasures of the Red Sea.

Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Sudan in mining is a good model for other Arab countries to follow, he added.

The meeting would contribute to strengthening this cooperation, especially in exploiting minerals in the Red Sea, he added.

Full story…

Michael Marshall –

 It looks like Neanderthals may have beaten modern humans to the seas.

Growing evidence suggests our extinct cousins criss-crossed the Mediterranean in boats from 100,000 years ago – though not everyone is convinced they weren’t just good swimmers. Neanderthals lived around the Mediterranean from 300,000 years ago.

Their distinctive “Mousterian” stone tools are found on the Greek mainland and, intriguingly, have also been found on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos.

That could be explained in two ways: either the islands weren’t islands at the time, or our distant cousins crossed the water somehow.

Now, George Ferentinos of the University of Patras in Greece says we can rule out the former.

The islands, he says, have been cut off from the mainland for as long as the tools have been on them. Ferentinos compiled data that showed sea levels were 120 metres lower 100,000 years ago, because water was locked up in Earth’s larger ice caps.

But the seabed off Greece today drops down to around 300 metres, meaning that when Neanderthals were in the region, the sea would have been at least 180 metres deep (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.01.032).

Ferentinos thinks Neanderthals had a seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years.

Modern humans are thought to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago, on crossing to Australia.

Full story…


Mike Schuler –

The USCG arrested the drunk captain of a Maltese-flagged freighter while on the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon on Tuesday.

According to the USCG report, the captain of the 738-foot M/V Laconia was taken into custody by a Coast Guard Boarding and Safety Team from Astoria after his blood-alcohol level was found to be in excess of the legal limit for commercial vessel operators.

The Coast Guard says that they were tipped off by Customs and Border Protection agents who boarded the vessel for a routine customs inspection and suspected the man had been drinking after finding open containers of alcohol in the Captain’s stateroom.

The Coast Guard boarding team conducted alcohol tests on the Captain while the Laconia remained anchored at the Astoria anchorage. As a result of the breathalyzer test, the man was removed from the vessel and handed over to Coast Guard Investigative Service officials. The man will be transported to the federal detention center in Portland, Ore., Wednesday.

The Laconia will have to find a replacement captain prior to departure from the Astoria anchorage. The vessel is destined for Kalama, WA according to data from Marine Traffic.