US Navy May Have Located Missing Argentine Submarine

A US Navy plane may have located the position of the Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan which has been missing since last Wednesday. Sensors aboard the plane detected a ‘heat stain’ at 230 ft below the surface, roughly 185 miles off the east coast of Argentina. A rescue vessel involved in the search also picked up a sonar signal late Tuesday night.

Time is running out for the 44 crew members on the submarine, which reportedly has a seven day supply of oxygen.  If the submarine sank or was disabled a week ago, the oxygen supply could be very close to being exhausted.  

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America’s Cup Concept Yacht AC75 — Foils But no Keel

The Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa design teams have unveiled the AC75, a concept design for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021. The design is a 75 foot long foiling monohull. Most notably, the AC75 lacks a keel.  The design uses the righting forces generated by the canting port and starboard foils for stability, as well as to lift the boat out of the water at speed. The canting foils also are ballasted to provide additional stability.

Here is a video animation of the concept design with commentary by Dan Bernasconi, Design Coordinator Emirates Team New Zealand. 

Morning Report: ‘Completely new concept of boat’ for America’s Cup 2021

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Coconut Crabs, the Size of Dogs, Hunt Sea Birds

Coconut crabs are the stuff of nightmares. They live on remote coral atolls and are the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They can grow to over three feet long and weigh up to about 9 pounds. They can climb trees and use their immensely powerful claws to rip open coconuts. Recently scientists have discovered that they also hunt and eat sea birds. 

Mark E Laidre, a biologist at Dartmouth College, had heard stories of the crabs hunting sea birds and set out to investigate. He traveled to the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. While crabs are generally known as scavengers, Laidre had never before encountered a crab which hunted which hunted its prey.

In a recent paper, he writes: 

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British Sailor, Simon Speirs, Dies in Clipper Round the World Race

Simon Speirs, a 60 year old sailor from Bristol, UK, has died in the Clipper Round the World Race. On Saturday, Speirs,  was washed overboard while handling sails on the foredeck of the Clipper CV30 Great Britain, while sailing in rough seas in the Southern Ocean. Speirs was recovered but never regained consciousness. The cause of death is unconfirmed but is thought to be drowning. Simon Spears was buried at sea this morning. Speirs was a retired solicitor.

A statement by the Clipper Round the World Race organization reads: 

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Argentines Search for Missing Submarine ARA San Juan

ARA San Juan, an Argentine Navy diesel-electric submarine, was on a routine mission when it went silent on Wednesday. Communications ended while the submarine was en route,with a crew of 44, from Ushuaia naval base, near the southern tip of South America, to the Mar del Plata base, south of Buenos Aires.  The submarine’s last known position was about 430km off the south-eastern Valdés peninsula.

“The last position [registered] was two days ago,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said, according to the AP. “Without wanting to be alarmist or overdramatic, the facts are that no form of communications could be established between the vessel and its command, even with the alternative methods that the submarine has.

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Solo Sailor François Gabart Sets New Record — 851 Miles in 24 Hours

François Gabart has set a new solo 24-hour speed record of an extraordinary 851 miles sailed in 24 hours on his 98′ trimaran MACIF.  Gabart set the new record sailing in the South Atlantic, averaging 35.4 knots.

Gabarts’ record is only about 50 miles less than the all-time 24-hour distance record of 907.9 miles, set by Banque Populaire V in 2009 with a crew of 11.

As reported by Yachting World, Gabart is trying to break the solo round the world record set by Thomas Coville on Sodebo last year. This stands at 49d 3h, and to better it MACIF must arrive back at the finish line between The Lizard and Ushant by Christmas Eve.

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Wreck of “Chile’s Titanic,” SS Itata, Located

The wreck of the Chilean steamship, SS Itata, has been located in 650 feet of water off the port of Coquimbo, in Elqui Province, in northern Chile. The ship sank in a storm on August 28, 1922 with an estimated loss of close to 400.  SS Itata is often referred to as Chile’s Titanic.  

The discovery is part of an almost two decade long search for the ship.  A team of researchers from Chile’s Catholic University of the North (UCN) and the Chilean chapter of global marine conservation organization Oceana were finally able to locate the wreckage using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). 

In addition to its sinking, SS Itata  may also be remembered for her role in an attempt to smuggle arms from the US during the Chilean Civil war of 1891. What has become known as the Itata incident is credited with contributing to President Benjamin Harrison’s defeat in his reelection bid for the presidency in 1892.

Hallazgo Vapor Itata from Rewind Comunicaciones on Vimeo.

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The Mercy — Colin Firth as the Ill-Fated Donald Crowhurst

The Mercy” is a soon to be released film about Donald Crowhurst‘s attempt to win the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first single-handed, non-stop, around-the-world race in 1969. The film stars Colin Firth as Crowhurst and Rachel Weisz as his wife, Clare. 

Crowhurst was one of nine competitors who started the race, in which only one racer, Robin Knox-Johnston, finally finished. Crowhurst had gambled everything on winning the race and began faking his reported positions. Ultimately Crowhust disappeared and is believed to have probably committed suicide. 

The movie’s release has been delayed and is expected to be in theaters in February of next year. So far, initial reviews have been favorable.  Several years ago, Robert Redford’s movie, “All is Lost,” was so so bad, it was almost a comedy due to the complete lack of understanding of sailing and sailboats shown by the movie makers.  “The Mercy” apparently doesn’t repeat this mistake. Perhaps most critically, the movie has received a good review from one sailor who knows the topic well, Robin Knox-Johnston. comments: Continue reading

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Invasion of the Sea Pickles — Pyrosome Bloom in the North Pacific

Photo: Steve Morey

The Pacific Ocean appears to under attack by a horde of sea-pickles. The bumpy, translucent, pickle-shaped organisms called pyrosomes are filling fishing nets, clogging hooks and washing up on beaches along the coast of the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada. They are also befuddling scientists who have no idea why the population of the tube-like organisms has exploded. Pyrosomes are common in the tropics and occasionally appear in more northern Pacific waters, but no one has an explanation of why they have appeared in such large numbers as far north as Alaska.

Pyrosomes are strange creatures, to begin with. They are tunicates, colonies of individual organisms known as zooids that feed off of plankton and other small organisms. In the tropics, they can reach a length of 30 feet and often glow in the dark. The pyrosomes in the Nothern Pacific have been up to two feet long.  Continue reading

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Does US Navy Can-Do, Never-Say-No Culture Promote Accidents?

The US Navy has rightfully been undertaking a considerable review and revaluation of the problems that led to the recent ship collisions between the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain with commercial vessels, resulting in the deaths of  17 sailors. The results so far are rather mixed. A report issued on November 1 on the two collisions, deemed the sailor’s deaths to have been “avoidable” and criticized mistakes made by the ships’ sailors and their commanders prior to the collisions. A US Government Accountability Office report in September highlighted deficiencies in training resulting from lengthy deployments of US ships based in Japan. Some in the the Navy have also pointed out the risks of getting inadequate sleep onboard these ships due to demanding watch schedules.

The reports, by and large, all sounded very familiar and have a tendency to focus on the end results of mistakes and deficiencies rather than their underlying causes. A recent article in Stars and Stripes, however, addresses failure in Navy culture as addressed in a Navy review released recently which spotlights weaknesses contributing to decreased efficiency and safety in the fleet. They also raise the Balisle Reporta scathing 2010 internal Navy report on the surface fleet’s readiness, which urged officials to counter the “underway at all costs” mentality. Continue reading

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Swimming with Galápagos Green Sea Turtles

Like so many other species, Galápagos green sea turtles are unique to the archipelago. Here is a short video of snorkeling with Galápagos green sea turtles off Punto Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos in early November. 

Galápagos Sea Green Turtles, Floreana Island, Galapagos

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Repost: On Armistice Day, Remembering the German High Seas Fleet Mutiny of 1918

Soldiers' council of the Prinzregent Luitpold.

Soldiers’ council of the Prinzregent Luitpold.

In the US, today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor those who have served in the military.  It coincides with Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, when the guns finally fell silent after four years of bloody conflict. Today is a good time to recall the mutiny of the German High Seas Fleet, which played a significant role in finally ending the war. Here is a repost of a an article from a few years ago about the naval mutinies.

The mutinies at Wilhelmshaven on October 29th and at Kiel on November 3, triggered the German revolution and swept aside the monarchy within a few days. The naval mutinies led directly to the end of the German Empire and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.

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The Unsolved Mystery of the Sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald, an American Great Lakes ore carrier, sank in Lake Superior in a storm on November 10, 1975, 42 years ago today.  The crew of 29 were lost when the freighter sank loaded with 26,000 tons of taconite, iron ore pellets, in 530 feet about 15 nautical from Whitefish Bay. What is remarkable is that exactly why and how the bulk carrier sank remains a mystery to this day.

The wreckage of the ship was located within days. The bow section was upright some distance from the stern which was upside down on the bottom. Roughly 200 feet of vessel around midships was missing.

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The Sad Saga of Greenings (CV24) in the Clipper Round the World Race


There was a joke, of sorts, in the Clipper Round the World Race, that in the over two decades of racing around the world, only one boat has ever sunk. It was the boat least likely to sink, at least based on its name, which was Cork.  The boat, named after the city and not the buoyant material, hit the rocks off Indonesia in the 2010 race. 

The joke no longer works, however, as about a week ago, the Team Greenings Clipper 70 (CV24) hit a reef at the  Olifantsbospunt, located between Cape Town and Cape Point and was holed, shortly after the beginning of the start of the leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Freemantle, Australia. The crew was safely evacuated without injury.  After surveying the damage to the boat, it was decided that the boat would be pulled from the race. 

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Caribbean off Roatán Awash in Plastic and Rubbish

Photo: Caroline Power Photography

I was recently shocked and disturbed to see photos of a significant quantity of floating plastics and trash in the Caribbean near the Honduran Island of Roatán. Roatán is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.  It is a beautiful island with incredible diving. My family enjoyed a memorable diving vacation on the island a few years ago.

We have been writing about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on this blog for years. Like the other oceanic garbage patches in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, the circular swirl of the currents makes for a vast and nasty conglomeration of plastic and other industrial wastes in what had, not so long ago, been a pristine ocean. One difficulty with addressing the various oceanic garbage patches is that they are so large and, in most cases so far away, that they can seem almost abstract. 

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Swimming with Sea Lions in the Galapagos

My wife and I just got back from an incredible trip to the Galapagos. We spent a week on Ecoventura‘s 83’ MY Eric and visited six of the more eastern islands of the archipelago. We saw many of the species of plants and animals that helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution as described in his “On the Origin of the Species” of 1859. One of our favorites were the nearly ubiquitous sea lions which we snorkeled with almost every day.

Shortly after we started snorkeling off the beach at Punta Pitt on San Cristobal, on our first full day in the Galapagos, several sea lion pups swam over to play.  We were barely in waist deep water before two pups began literally swimming circles around us. The short video we shot is below. 

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Tour of Volvo Ocean 65 Team Brunel

Here is a fascinating tour of the Volvo Ocean 65Team Brunel, one of seven identical yachts now racing around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo Ocean 65s are high-performance one-design racers created by Farr Yacht Design and built by a consortium of four European boatyards. They are carbon fiber speed demons. While racing yachts are generally spartan, these black carbon beasts strike me as bordering on grim. The Volvo is not a pleasure sail.  

Onboard Tour of Volvo 65 Yacht | Yachting World

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Bizarre Navy “Training Film” from 1967 — How to Succeed with Brunettes

This may be the most bizarre Navy training film yet. The film dates from 1967 and purports to answer the question of “how to succeed with brunettes (or blondes.)” It is directed exclusively at male naval officers.

How many female naval officers were there in 1967? Some, but not too many. The first woman to become an admiral in the US Navy was Alene Duerk in 1972. Admiral Duerk was the head of the Navy Nurse Corps.

As for the answer to the question, “how to succeed with brunettes (or blondes?” the film recommends acting like a “gentleman,” which is not altogether bad advice, in general, although considerably less condescension and general sexism might be in order. 

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Just for Fun — A Whale and an Octopus in the Sky

As we descend into the depths of Autumn, even if has been an unusually warm Autumn, here are two YouTube videos reminiscent of summer, when even blue whales and giant octopus can fly in the clear blue sky. In the first video, Randy Lowe, aka Randy The Kite Man, flew a giant 100-foot blue whale kite over Delray Beach, Florida.  The video of the giant octopus kite is from Singapore where it took six people to get the huge kite airborne. Read more about it here.

Whale Of A Kite

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Zealandia — the Hidden Continent

Image: Nick Mortimer/GNS Science Research Institute

Researchers have identified a 2 million square miles continent hidden beneath the Pacific Ocean. They have named it Zealandia. The highest peaks of the continent which rise above the surface are the islands of New Zealand and New Caledonia. The newly identified continent is about two-thirds the size of Australia.

A group of geologist published their determination that Zealandia is indeed its own continent in the journal of the Geological Society of America. ”The paper we’ve written unashamedly sticks to empirical observations and descriptions,” Nick Mortimer, a geologist at GNS Science in Dunedin, New Zealand. told Reuters. ”The litmus test will really be if ‘Zealandia’ appears in maps and atlases in five or 10 year’s time.”“Zealandia” is believed to have broken away from Australia about 80 million years ago and sank beneath the sea as part of the break up of the super-continent known as Gondwanaland.

In geological terms, a continent is defined as “one of the Earth’s major land masses, including both dry land and continental shelves.”  What makes Zealandia unusual is that 94 percent is underwater. The “new” continent is mostly continental shelf. Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.

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