Australian Salt Water Crocodile Kills Fisherman

crocA 57 year old fisherman, wading in the Adelaide River, south of Darwin, was attacked and killed by a 15 foot long (4.5 metre) crocodile.  The fisherman was attempting to unsnag his line when attacked.  As reported by the BBC:  The attack took place in a stretch of the river close to where cruise ships show sightseers crocodiles leaping from the water to snatch chicken carcasses suspended from poles. The killer crocodile is believed to be a rare half-albino who had regularly approached the cruise ships.  This is the fourth person to be killed by a crocodile in Australia’s Northern Territory this year.  In the recent past, deaths from crocodile attack have averaged about one a year. The crocodile population has increased since being declared a protected species in 1971.

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From Lakes Freighters to Lake Houses — Benson Ford & John W. Boardman

Benson Ford

Benson Ford

Great Lakes freighters are known for their longevity. Compared to their salt water sisters, lakes boats, as they are called, rust slowly and tend to be around for a long time. Here are two lakes freighters, Benson Ford and John W. Boardman, which may be around even longer than usual. Their hull and engine rooms have been scrapped but their forward deck houses have become lake houses.

Put-In Bay, Ohio is a village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. It is probably best known for being the site of Oliver Hazard Perry’s War of 1812 victory over British Naval forces, known as the Battle of Lake Erie, and sometimes referred to as the Battle of Put-in-Bay. The bi-centennial of the battle was celebrated last year.  Put-in_Bay is also known as the resting place for the forward deck-house of the Great Lakes freighter Benson Ford. The forward deck-house is now a lake house on a cliff high above Lake Erie.

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Slow Life — Time Lapse Sponge and Coral

A wonderful suitable video for a summer Sunday. From the video description – “Slow” marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives.

Slow Life from Daniel Stoupin on Vimeo.

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Fukushima Fear Mongering & the Damage it Does

No, this is not radiation from Fukushima

No, this is not radiation from Fukushima

In March of 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was hit by a tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake.  Three operating nuclear reactors suffered partial meltdowns and a fourth reactor which was not in service suffered hydrogen explosions which threaten the containment of highly radioactive spent fuel rods. Significant radiation was released into both the air and into the ocean. The Fukushima disaster is the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second (after Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.  One ongoing problem is that Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the Japanese utility company that operates the plant, has been grossly incompetent, deceptive and guilty of downplaying the extent of the damage.  Tepco initially denied that radioactive cooling water had leaked into the ocean and then belated admitted that many hundreds of tons had been leaking and continue to leak into Pacific.

While Tepco has been downplaying the problem, some in the United States have been spreading wild, bizarre wholly dishonest claims about the extent of the radiation from Fukushima. Continue reading

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The Cooperage at Mystic Seaport: A Woodworking Craft

Just about 40 years ago, while a student studying naval architecture, I had a summer job working for a major oil company in New York City. One weekend, two friends and I took a train out to visit Mystic Seaport. Departing Manhattan and arriving in a 19th century seaport village was a revelation. I recall being very impressed by the Charles W. Morgan and the Joseph Conrad. The chandlery, the pharmacy and the rope walk were both interesting. Oddly, the one shop that I recall most distinctly was the cooperage — where the barrels were made. I had known at least something about whaling ships before I arrived yet I simply hadn’t given the work of the cooper any thought. Without the cooper’s staves, hoops and barrels, no whaler would have a profitable voyage. Here is an excellent video about the cooperage at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The Cooperage at Mystic Seaport: A Woodworking Craft

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Italy Bans Largest Cruise Ships from Venice

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

We posted in June 2012 about protests over the docking of large cruise ships in Venice, Italy.  The arrival of the MSC Davina at 139,400 GT, almost 1,100 feet long, about 125 feet wide and carries up to 5,329 passengers and crew, kicked off a campaign to limit the size of cruise ships calling on the island city.

Critics of the cruise ships argued that the large ships damaged the ecology of the lagoon and the pollution and vibration might damage the city’s historic buildings.  In 2013, Venice proposed banning liners of more than 96,000 tonnes from Saint Mark’s basin and the Giudecca Canal,  but the decree was overturned by a regional tribunal. Now the Italian government has reinstated the ban which also limits the number of smaller cruise ships calling on the city. Italian news agency, ANSA, reports that 650 cruise ships currently pass through the city annually.  Eight large ships currently calling on Venice will be banned under the new rules.

The the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry lobbying group, is calling for the Italian government to dredge a new channel in the Venice lagoon to allow additional cruise traffic.  Local groups, however, oppose the new dredging. An environmental report on the potential impact of the new channel is expected be completed within 90 days.

Italy to ban large cruise ships in Venice

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The Last of the Caballito de Totora, the Little Reed Horses of Peru

For the last thirty five hundred years, Peruvian fisherman have paddled boats called caballito de totora, the little reed horses, out through the surf to cast their nets offshore.  At the end of the day, they ride the waves back to shore almost like modern surfboards. The fishermen build the boats themselves– growing the reeds, harvesting and drying them, and then bundling the reeds together, in the same way that the boats have been built for the last three millennium.

The little reed horses, however, may be on their way out, as the marshes where the reeds grown are drained by developers and the children of the fishermen look for a better life at universities or by working in construction or in the tourist hotels that now line the beaches in resort town like Huanchaco.

See also: Town’s Floating Symbol Fading Into the Sunset

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Concordia Yawls — An Appreciation

Photo: Concordia Company

Photo: Concordia Company

The recent sinking of the Concordia yawl, Winnie of Bourne, brought to mind just how remarkable this class of boats indeed is.  Winnie of Bourne was raised from the bottom near the entrance of Nantucket harbor just two days after she sank, so we hope that she will be salvaged and restored.

The Concordia yawl is the most successful and beloved class of wooden offshore sailboats ever built. The first was built to replace Llewellyn Howland’s family’s Colin Archer designed pilot cutter, which was destroyed by the Great Hurricane of 1938. The first yawl, named Java, was (and is) 39ft 10in long with a 10ft 3in beam, 5ft 8in draught, an 18,000 pound displacement, a 7/8ths fractional rig and a coveline with the iconic star on her bow and a crescent moon on her stern.

Over the next 28 years, over 100 Concordia yawls would be built.   Continue reading

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The Super Moon on the Schooner Pioneer in a Frenetic New York Harbor

"Supermoon" over the bow of Clipper City.  Click for a larger image.

“Supermoon” over the bow of Clipper City. Click for a larger image.

Last night, my wife and I took to a two hour sail on the schooner Pioneer to watch the “super moon” rise over New York harbor.   The “super moon,” is in scientific terms referred to as a “perigee moon,” a full moon at perigee, when the moon is closest to the earth.  This year we are having a solid streak of “supermoons.”  We had one last month on July 12th, one last night August 10th and will will have another on September 28th.   On nights with a “supermoon” the moon is roughly 14% larger and 30% brighter than other, non-super full moons. So, supermoons are not really all that impressive, but it was a beautiful night for a sail on the harbor.

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Winnie of Bourne, Concordia Yawl, Raised After Sinking Off Nantucket

Photo: Jim Powers for the Inquirer and Mirror

Photo: Jim Powers for the Inquirer and Mirror

On Friday morning, near the entrance to Nantucket harbor at around 10:30 AM, someone made a very bad mistake.  The 40′ Concordia yawl, Winnie of Bourne, and the 46′ Swan, Dragon, collided, sending the Concordia yawl to the bottom. The four aboard the 1952 built yawl were rescued from the water by the Coast Guard.  The collision remains under investigation. Winnie of Bourne was raised by a crane barge on Sunday.  For photographs of the yawl before the collision, click here.

The collision took place just before the start of the nine day Nantucket Race Week, one of the busiest weeks of boat traffic on the island.

Sunk sailboat raised from bottom

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The Sardine Run — Gannetts, Sharks, Dolphins & Divers

A remarkable video of gannetts, sharks, dolphins & divers diving on the sardine run on the Agulhas Bank off South Africa.

Shark Explorers – Sardine Run 2013

From Scuba Diver Life — Gearing Up For South Africa’s Sardine Run

Exactly why and how the sardine run takes place is still a subject of some debate among experts. It is an unpredictable event that depends upon a delicate balance of simultaneous factors; while some years produce shoals of sardines so dense that they can be seen from the air, in other years the sardines do not run at all. Continue reading

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Hawaii’s Twin Hurricane Near Miss, King “TUTT” & El Niño

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio threatening Hawaii Photo: AP

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio threatening Hawaii Photo: AP

Hawaii survived a near miss with two hurricanes. On Friday, Hurricane Iselle, downgraded to a tropical storm, hit the Big Island of Hawaii.  Hurricane Julio is expected to pass roughly 200 miles to the north of the islands on Sunday or Monday.  Tropical Storm Iselle still brought heavy rains, strong winds, downed trees and power outages to the Big Island, Maui and Oahu.

Despite having a near miss by two hurricanes in a matter of days, overall, hurricanes are relatively rare in Hawaii.  Since formal records began to be kept in 1950, the Big Island of Hawaii has not been struck by a hurricane.  Tropical Storm Iselle is only the second tropical storm to make landfall on the Big Island.  The last hurricane to strike the state of Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which made landfall in Kuaui,  killing four and doing $3 billion worth of damage.

Why are hurricanes so rare in Hawaii? Continue reading

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Twenty Eight Feet: Life on a Little Wooden Boat

A very well-made short documentary by Keven A. Fraser about David Welsford’s life on an Herreshoff 28, Lizzy Belle.

Twenty Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat from kevinAfraser on Vimeo.

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Bjoern Kils & New York Media Boat to the Rescue, Again

newyorkmboatOn Tuesday, the New York Media Boat‘s 2pm Adventure Sightseeing Tour was interrupted just off South Street Seaport, when the boat captain, Bjoern Kils, spotted three people in the water near Pier 15.  They immediatey went to help.  Bjoern describes what happened next in his blog:

When we arrived, two men were in the water trying to keep an unconscious victim afloat. Apparently, he had been handling lines for a large vessel when a line snapped, knocking him into the water.

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Capt. Schettino Lectures on Emergency Procedures? Really?

captschCaptain Francesco Schettino recently gave a two-hour lecture on emergency procedures to criminal science masters candidates at Rome’s Sapienza University. Yes, this is the same Capt. Schettino who ripped open the side of the cruise ship Costa Concordia on a reef, then ignored the ship’s safety management procedures by delaying the order to abandon ship for at least an hour, until the ship was aground on a rocky bottom. The grounding caused the ship to partially capsize. The same Schettino who abandoned the crippled cruise ship early in the evening. The same Capt. Schettino who is now on trial for multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning his ship.  32 passengers and crew died when the ship sank and rolled over.

Who thought that this would be a good idea? The university dean, Luigi Frati, isn’t wild about the idea, and is seeking disciplinary action against the professor who invited the captain to share his wisdom and experience.  The dean is not the only one upset. As reported by ABC News: Italy’s education minister called the news “disconcerting,” while the prosecutor in Tuscany who is arguing for Schettino’s guilt expressed indignation also at reports that Schettino had been awarded a diploma.

Furor After Concordia Captain Gives Seminar

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Two Ships from the River Clyde — Glennlee & Falls of Clyde



In the press, they have been described as “sister ships” which is not literally true. Falls of Clyde, an iron-hulled four masted ship built in 1878 in Port Glasgow, is older and larger than Glennlee, a three masted steel-hulled barque, also built in Port Glasgow in 1896. In a non-technical sense, however, they could be called sisters, as they are both survivors, having each been declared derelict and destined for scrapping or scuttling.  Now, Glennlee has been fully restored in Scotland and supporters are hard at work raising money to do the same to Falls of Clyde in Hawaii.

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Coal Mine Canaries, Lake Erie Algae and Washington Oysters — Will We Ignore the Warnings?

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Last Saturday, I was helping my son move to a new job in Wisconsin. We spent the night in a motel just outside Toledo and woke to find that we couldn’t take showers, brush our teeth or have a cup of coffee. We were hardly alone. Roughly 500,000 people in Toledo, Ohio and surrounding suburbs also woke to hear that they should not drink the water, as it might be toxic. Even washing might cause skin rashes and itching. An algal bloom in Lake Erie, from which Toledo gets is water, created toxins which made the water unsafe for drinking, cooking or even bathing. The water ban lasted for more than two days, and has still not been lifted in some neighborhoods.

The problem is not new. This sort of algal bloom has been going on in Lake Erie for years. Continue reading

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Draken Harald Hårfagre, a Broken Mast and Why They Didn’t Row to Port

Photo:  Ian Leask

Photo: Ian Leask

In early July, the 114-foot long  Draken Harald Hårfagre, the largest Viking replica ever built, was sailing across the North Sea,  from Haugesund in Norway.  Three days out, in high seas, the ship’s mast failed and went over the side.  No one was injured. The ship diverted to Lerwick where it arrived safely.  Given the nature of Viking sailing rigs, which have to be relatively light in order to be raised and lowered, the original Vikings must have had to deal with similar dismastings fairly often.

The modern day re-enactors, however did not row to shore. Michael Grey at Lloyd’s commented on a BBC 4 interview with the ship’s captain: Continue reading

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Vacuuming New York’s Blue Whale

My favorite place in New York’s American Museum of Natural History is the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, where a 94 foot long blue whale appears to be swimming through space.  The whale is a 21,000-pound fiberglass model of a female blue whale found in 1925 off the southern tip of South America.  The whale was installed in 1969. Every year the whale is cleaned using a special vacuum cleaner.  This year the cleaning process was streamed live over the internet.  In case you missed it, here is a two minute summary of the two to three day cleaning job.

Whale model gets a cleaning | AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY NY

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Update: The 18th Century World Trade Center Ship May Have Been Built Near Philadelhia

Four years ago, workers excavating at the new World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan uncovered the remains of an 18th century wooden merchant ship. The ship was found 20 feet below street level,  is roughly 30 feet in length and was probably buried intentionally as land fill.  It was found in an area outside that which had been previously excavated for the original World Trade Center complex and appears to have remained undisturbed since it was buried in the late 1700s.

Now a new report has been published in the Tree Ring Society journal Tree Ring Research which dates the ship and gives an indication where it was built. Much of the “news” in the report dates back to 2011, when Scientific American reported that Dr. Neil Pederson and a team from the Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory had determined that “the ship was likely built in 1773 in a small shipyard on the outskirts of a major metropolitan center.” The new report, of which Dr. Pederson is one of the authors, now identifies the “major metropolitan center” as probably Philadelphia. Additionally, the ship appears to have been built from the same kind of white oak trees used to build parts of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.

Origins of Mysterious World Trade Center Ship Revealed

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