Tag Archives: ocean

Journalist becomes freediver to report on man’s growing relationship with Moby Dick whales

Source: NY Times article

Journalist James Nestor becomes a freediver: one of a group of mostly scientists interacting with Moby Dick whales without breathing gear – spermwhales – to depths over 100 feet and for times over 5 minutes duration. They study the whales’ speech and behaviour and next, will be trying to replicate their language and hold conversations about trees and other things whales cannot see from their watery perspective. Once believed too dangerous to attempt, this group has been diving since 2007 with whales that, “can grow as long as 60 feet and weigh up to 110,000 pounds,” and eventually, Nestor dove in too:

I HELD MY BREATH AND SWAM DEEPER, 10, 20, 30 feet. I heard a thunderous crack, then another, so loud they vibrated my chest. Below my kicking feet, two sperm whales emerged from the shadows, each as long as a school bus.

The cracking was coming from the whales; it’s a form of sonar called echolocation that species of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans use to “see” underwater. With these vocalizations, called clicks, the whales were snapping three-dimensional images of my body, and those of my diving companions, from the inside out — scanning us to see if we were a threat, or if we were food.

The New York Times offers a free virtual reality film app for Android or iPhone so you can get a taste of what swimming with whales feels like.

Hat tip to Leen De Weerd-Mosley for the beautiful find.

21 yo Boyan Slat’s historic ocean cleanup is poised to begin

Boyan Slat tests his inventionA 21 year old inventor has designed a miles-long filter that will remove the many tons of plastic debris in our oceans … and convert it to usable products, like oil. The storm-resistant equipment will be powered by solar panels and the project will launch next year, in 2016.

Marine life will float right through the filters. Because there are no nets, “entanglement will be virtually impossible,” Slat comments. His Ocean Cleanup team proposes to eliminate about half of the ocean’s floating island of plastic.

Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup and a native of the Netherlands, offers this comment on the value of his project:

“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time.

Watch Slat describe the journey of conceiving and designing his world-saving invention.

Like The Ocean Cleanup on Facebook

What you can do: help keep plastic out of waterways.

Sign your high school team up for Shore Bowl competition

To compete in the 2014 Shore Bowl you need a team, a coach and to sign up by November 30. Teams will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. Shore Bowl overview and registration link.

Shore BowlWhat Is Shore Bowl?
The Shore Bowl is a regional academic competition for high school students in NJ, NY, and PA that focuses on ocean-related topics. These topics include the biology, chemistry, physics and geology of the ocean, as well as navigation, geography, and related history and literature. The Shore Bowl will be one of 25 regional competitions hosted around the country. The winners of each regional competition will travel to Seattle, WA to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Prizes will be awarded to the top teams at both the regional and national levels.

Shore Bowl happens

Saturday, February 1, 2014 | 7am – 6pm
Food Science Building
Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

Japan is going to poison the world

Excerpts from Barry Ritholtz article. It’s a good read with links to many reports and other articles.

Fukushima will start burning radioactive debris containing up to 100,000 becquerels of (highly) radioactive cesium per kilogram . . . even the Japanese – who have raised acceptable levels of radiation to absurd levels – would normally demand that material with this radioactivity be encased in cement and buried . . . many of the incinerators are located smack dab in the middle of crowded cities, and are not equipped to contain radiation.

(Nuclear expert Arnie) Gundersen says that radioactivity from the burnt debris will end up not only in neighboring prefectures, but in Hawaii, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California. Gundersen said that burning radioactive debris is basically re-creating the Fukushima disaster all over again, as it is releasing a huge amount of radioactivity which had settled on the ground back into the air.

It is bad enough that radiation from Fukushima is spreading across the Pacific to the United States through air and water, that the Japanese are underplaying the enormous threat posed by the spent fuel pools, and that the Japanese have engaged in a massive cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima crisis. But intentionally burning radioactive debris to try to cover up the problem – and spreading radiation worldwide in the process – is an entirely separate affront.

In addition to burning radioactive debris, Japan intends to build tents over the leaking Fukushima reactors. While this sounds like a way to contain the radiation, it would actually funnel it straight up and spread it globally . . .

BP’s Oil Spill Is All Cleaned Up Now, Right?

Last night I argued with a friend who claimed that environmental damage is now under control in the United States, and offered the BP oil spill as evidence of how well environmental disasters are being handled, and their impact minimized. This is so not true, but it’s not enough to say so – it must be proven, so here are a few facts:

A post from the NY Times’ Green blog about the BP oil spill published on its anniversary in April shows that the associated problems have far from ended.

“Nearly 2,000 responders are actively working in the gulf to aid in the ongoing recovery efforts. We continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused. We’re monitoring seafood to ensure its continued safety and implementing aggressive new reforms for offshore oil production in the gulf so that we can safely and responsibly expand development of our own energy resources. And E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson is leading a task force to coordinate the long-term restoration effort based on input from local scientists, experts, and citizens.”

Law firm Beasley Allen publishes news on its website and has this to say about Dead Zones in the Gulf caused by the oil spill

Marine Biologists have issued a grim forecast for Gulf shrimpers and fishermen in the wake of the BP oil spill: the 2011 “Dead Zone” in the Gulf, they predict, will likely be the largest on record, choking some species of sea life and hindering others from properly migrating and developing. The implications of a super-size dead zone, estimated to grow as large as the size of Delaware and Maryland combined, could be huge . . .

While the BP oil spill isn’t directly responsible for the Mississippi River dead zone, the 200-million-plus gallons of oil and the millions of gallons of toxic chemical dispersants that BP dumped into the Gulf have caused a dead zone of their own. Scientists have found several square miles of Gulf sea bed blanketed by oil untouched by hungry microbes.

Pictures taken during submarine excursions to some of the oil-choked areas showed crabs, starfish, coral, tube worms, and other creatures smothered to death under thick blankets of oil. Highly toxic gases released from the well and noxious soot from the burning of oil on the surface have deepened the devastation. The effects of Corexit, the chemical dispersant used by BP to break the sludge into smaller particles, are still largely unknown and widely feared in the scientific community.

Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district, adds these sobering thoughts: “Chris Jones, the brother of Gordon Jones, one of the 11 workers killed the night of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, delivered some of the most powerful and touching testimony I have seen in my 36 years in Congress.”

Congressman Markey also points out,

We now know BOPs (blowout preventers) don’t always work, even when they’re used correctly. We know the oil companies still don’t have full response capabilities, even if they’ve given their top hat a new coat of paint. And we know that the recommendations of the bipartisan spill commission haven’t been put in place.

Yet Republicans in Congress and the oil companies are still pushing for more drilling with less safety. This is the sort of willful ignorance and speed-over-safety mentality that led to the BP spill in the first place.

Other chilling reports showing that the effects of the BP oil spill are far from gone, can be found by googling “bp continues working in the gulf”.

I’d like to leave readers with hope for a better future: please keep in mind that current sweeping changes in ecology and climate are not natural occurrences – they are entirely due to man’s intervention. And, we are consuming much more of planetary resources than are available. The good news here is that as we are creating the problems, we can change our behaviour and begin to fix the world. As Jaime Cloud reminded my family recently, there’s “just enough time.”

Protei: swimming ocean clean-up robots

My friend Guillermo Cerceau, who is interested in the health of oceans, is excited about a new technology project called Protei, being developed under Open Hardware Standard licensing in order to help the world, instead of for profit. Protei are swimming, remote-controlled robots which can be used in the ocean to clean up garbage and chemical spills. Protei’s inventors tell us this about their oil cleaning prototype:

Current oil spill skimming technology could only collect 3% of the DeepWater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The health of workers was exposed to cancerous toxic, the boats were expensive and pollutive to operate, they could not operate in bad weather (hurricane seaon) they could not operate at night or far away.

Protei is a technology currently in development that will provide
– Unmanned, no human exposed to toxic.
– Green and cheap, sailing upwind capturing oil downwind.
– Self-righting, rugged, can operate in hurricane time.
– Semi-autonomous : can swarm continuously and far away.

Protei exceeded their Kickstarter funding goal of $27,500 and now are working on a new prototype to clean up waste discarded in oceans.