Archive for June, 2012

RT – 

It is being reported that large Russian amphibious naval ships are steaming toward the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russian civilians and naval infrastructure are under threat from ongoing civil disorder.

“The crews of the Nikolay Filchenkov, Ceasar Kunikov and SB-15 tugboat – together with the marine units they carry – are capable of protecting security of Russian citizens and evacuating a part of the property of the logistics base,” a source at the Russian Navy General Staff told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

But according to an officer stationed with the Black Sea Fleet, the Nikolay Filchenkov and Ceasar Kunikov are still sitting in dock in Sevastopol.

Moreover, the crew is said to be on “regular service duty” and are under no emergency orders. He pointed out, however, that Russian naval ships must be prepared to dispatch anywhere in the world in 12 hours notice.

There has also been speculation over Russia’s Syrian logistics base in Tartus, which operates the PM-138 floating workshop.

This facility provides technical maintenance of Russian warships deployed in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Iman tanker, with an anti-terrorist squad aboard, completed a mission off the coast of Syria in May; that same month, plans for the Moscow missile-carrying cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet to patrol the Syrian coastline was canceled in May.

Meanwhile, The Professor Katsman, a cargo vessel, pulled into Tartus on May 26.

Some Russian and foreign media outlets speculated that the vessel delivered Russian weapons to the Syrian authorities that could be used to fight the opposition.

Russia denied the claims, stressing that it only provides Syria with defensive weapons to protect it from outside attack.

Full story…

The Jakarta Post –

In a giant tent not too far from the sandy beaches and beautiful coastline of Rio de Janeiro, ocean experts were sounding sirens over the condition of the ecosystem covering three-fourths of the Earth’s surface.

Saturday was The Oceans Day at Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Daylong events had experts talking about the challenges of forming a Rio+20 Oceans Declaration and Rio+20 Ocean Commitments, which will be submitted to around 130 world leaders attending the summit from Wednesday to Friday.

“This is not the situation we would find ourselves to be in 20 years ago, so we bear collective responsibility for the fact that the oceans are as polluted as they are,” said Rachel Kyle, vice-president and head of Network Sustainable Development at World Bank.

The major challenges facing the oceans include unsustainable fishing, climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and waste and the loss of habitats and biodiversity, according to a blueprint for ocean and coastal sustainability prepared by several UN agencies.

Jacqueline Alder, a marine and coastal ecosystem expert at the UN Environmental Program, believes that human activities on land, such as wastewater disposal, should be held responsible for the amount of pollution in the oceans.

On Saturday, Oceans Inc, an ocean channel, began its weeklong Rio+20 broadcast, with updates on the progress of the UN interagency report, how measures to preserve the ocean are faring and how the summit is looking after the planet’s circulatory system.

While the UN interagency report demands a number of actions for sustainable oceans, Kyle announced that more than 80 nations, private companies and international organizations have declared support for an alliance known as the Global Partnership for Oceans.

That idea was first announced in February by World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

Full story…

David Wroe –

Australia is to establish the world’s largest network of marine reserves, which will ring the country and cover more than 3 million square kilometres of waters to protect reefs and marine life, the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, will announce today.

After years of consultation and planning, Mr Burke will release the final plan for the massive expansion of marine reserves, which include key waters such as the Coral Sea and pygmy blue whale habitats off the southern coast of Western Australia.

But the plan is likely to disappoint conservationists, who were pressing for more waters to be classed as sanctuaries or marine national parks, the highest levels of protection.

Instead, the final plan will be a patchwork of zones, some of which will still allow mining and certain types of commercial fishing.

Mr Burke said the plan would take the success of Australia’s national parks on land and apply them to the sea.

“Our oceans have been such a missing piece of that jigsaw and this now allows us to fill that in,” he said.

“For generations, Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks.

Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too.”

Mr Burke will be able to take the announcement to the Rio+20 summit next week, where he and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will be able to trumpet ocean protection and also the carbon tax.

Mr Burke recently said the “blue economy” and ocean protection would be key issues in Rio.

Full story…

Alan Boyle –

If NASA’s underwater practice session is any indication of what a real space mission to an asteroid will be like, you can expect to follow along with the exploration of a near-Earth asteroid via Facebook, Twitter and the Web — or whatever takes their place by the year 2025.

There’s a string of chats and webcasts that let you in on the action at the Aquarius deep-sea habitat during the simulated mission, known as NEEMO 16.

As the “16” suggests, the space agency has been doing NEEMO — NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations — for more than a decade.

The idea is to simulate the logistics associated with an extended space mission, as well as the isolation, by sending an astronaut crew into the Aquarius, 63 feet (19 meters) below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface in the Florida Keys, and have them practice the routines they’d be doing in scuba gear.

This summer’s 12-day simulation began on Monday with the four-person crew’s “splashdown” into the sea.

The NEEMO 16 crew is headed by NASA astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, who flew into space on the shuttle Discovery in 2010, and also includes Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, British astronaut Timothy Peake and Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres (who’s the top scientist on the Mars rover team, the chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, and a veteran of NEEMO 15).

Aquarius habitat technicians Justin Brown and James Talacek play support roles underwater.

Full story…

RT – 

The Russian warship which was reported as moving towards Syria with a unit of commando troops, is at its home port on the Black Sea, Ukraine’s Sevastopol.

The US media cited intelligence sources as saying last Sunday that the landing ship Nikolay Filchenkov was traveling to the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria.

The vessel was said to be carrying arms and a unit of amphibious commando troops, who would be used to secure the Russian base in the troubled country from a possible attack.

The vessel, however, is still in Sevastopol, the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, as a journalist from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti witnessed.

The ship is not even loaded, as apparent by its draft, the report says.

The agency cites a naval officer familiar with the situation as saying that Nikolay Filchenkov has remained in this position since June 8.

“The ship is ready for deployment just as any warship of the Navy on duty.

There are no marines on board and we received no orders to set sail to Syria.

The crews are engaged in their normal routines,” the officer said. Earlier this week Washington and Moscow clashed over Russian arms in Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed out at Russia over a shipment of combat helicopters, which she said the Syrian government could use in a crackdown on the opposition forces.

Full story…

Samantha Spooner –

Kenya is set to become home to a global phenomenon when the East African Whale Shark Trust opens the world’s largest open-water whale shark enclosure.

The project aims to establish whale shark tourism in the country while making a push for the conservation of the giant fish.

Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish and are completely docile creatures.

The EAWST, which has been working on the unique conservation project for the past three years, plans to place two juvenile whale sharks in a sanctuary by November this year.

Visitors will have an opportunity to swim with the whale sharks at a cost of $100 (Sh8,400) per person.

The excursion, which will include marine awareness induction, will last approximately three hours, which includes one hour in the whale shark sanctuary.

The EAWST has set up an enclosure in Waa, which is between Diani and Mombasa on the South Coast.

The enclosure is made of high density woven polythene and will be 100 times the size of the Georgia aquarium in Atlanta, USA, the world’s largest and home to four whale sharks.

It includes its own natural coral reef.

Full story…

Charles Q. Cho –

An underwater volcano gave off clear signals well before its outburst last year that it would erupt, findings that could help forecast such eruptions in the future, researchers say.

Submarine eruptions account for about three-quarters of all of Earth’s volcanism.

However, the overlying ocean and the sheer vastness of the seafloor make detecting and monitoring them difficult.

Now robot submersibles and a host of other scientific instruments are helping scientists learn more about these mysterious volcanoes.

Their findings could lead to short-term forecasting of undersea eruptions in the future.

Researchers concentrated on Axial Seamount, an undersea volcano about 250 miles (400 kilometers) off the Oregon coast.

The volcano, located under more than 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) of water, erupted April 6, 2011.

“Axial Seamount is unique in that it is one of the few places in the world where a long-term monitoring record exists at an undersea volcano, and we can now make sense of its patterns,” said researcher Bill Chadwick, a geologist at Oregon State University in Newport.

The researchers used pressure sensors on the seafloor to monitor its vertical motions.

“Uplift of the seafloor has been gradual and steady beginning in about 2000, two years after it last erupted,” Chadwick said.

“But the rate of inflation from magma went from gradual to rapid about four to five months before the eruption.

It expanded at roughly triple the rate, giving a clue that the next eruption was coming.”

Full story…