Troubled Sisters — Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov & Chinese Liaoning

CNS Liaoning

CNS Liaoning

The Russians and the Chinese each have only one aircraft carrier in service. They happen to be sister ships and both have major problems in staying afloat and keeping the propellers turning.

Russia’s only operational aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, dating back to the Soviet Union, was ordered in 1981 and went into full service in 1995.  The ship has had significant operating problems. There were reports that in 2011 that the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet kept close by in case the Admiral Kuznetsov happened to sink.  The carrier made it back to her home port and has recently undergone a refit.

China also has one aircraft carrier, Liaoning, which is also beset with problems. The Chinese purchased the unfinished ex-Soviet carrier, Varyag, in 1989.  The Liaoning happens to be a sister vessel to Admiral Kuznetsov, though was never delivered due to the collapse of the Soviet union.  The Liaoning was commissioned two years ago but is still undergoing sea trials and reportedly has suffered significant mechanical failures.   Even the China daily is admitting that “more time is needed to hone [Liaoning's] combat readiness.”

Admiral Kuznetsov and Liaoning are each roughly half the size of a US Navy Nimitz class aircraft carrier, of which the US has ten.  According to, the US Navy has over twice as many aircraft carriers as the rest of the world combined, measured both by the number of ships and aircraft deck space.

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DNA Suggests Ancient Sailors Traveled Between Easter Island & South America

easterisland1Easter Island, called Rapa Nui by its inhabitants, famous for its massive stone statues, is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.  It is almost 2,000 nautical miles from the coast of South America and over 1,000 nautical miles to Pitcairn, the closest inhabited island.

Despite the distance, recent DNA analysis suggests that sailors were traveling back and forth between Rapa Nui and South America several hundred years before the the island was first visited by Europeans.  In this week’s issue of Current Biology, researchers argue that the DNA points to contact between Native Americans and Easter Islanders between 1300 C.E. and 1500 C.E, three centuries after Polynesians settled the island and at least two centuries before Europeans first landed on the island in 1722.  “We found evidence of gene flow between this population and Native American populations, suggesting an ancient ocean migration route between Polynesia and the Americas,” said geneticist Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas of the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study.

But did the South Americans sail to Rapai Nui or did the Polynesians sail to South America?  Opinions vary.  As reported in Science:

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Dwarf Plant Ceres — More Freshwater Than On the Surface of the Earth

Ceres as seen by Hubble Space Telescope

Ceres as seen by Hubble Space Telescope

In September, we posted about a recent study that concluded that up to half the water on our planet is older than the sun.  Scientists now speculate that the existence of water may be far more common in the universe than previously thought.  Some of that water may be fairly close to home, at least in astronomical terms.  The dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, may contain more water than our planet Earth.

This dwarf planet may contain more freshwater than Earth

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Swedish Navy Still Hunting Mystery Submarine

Swedish Corvette Visby, one of the ships searching for the mystery sub

Swedish Corvette Visby, one of the ships searching for the mystery sub

Last Friday, there were reports of unexplained underwater movements near the Stockholm archipelago. There were also reports of an encrypted distress call of the sort used by the Russian Navy, leading to speculation that a Russian submarine was stranded underwater. Russian officials have emphatically denied that, if there is a submarine, that it is theirs, and instead suggested that it could be a Dutch submarine, which participated in an exercise with the Swedish navy last week.  The Dutch responded by saying that their sub left the area well prior to the sightings.  Yesterday, Sverker Göransson, Sweden’s top military commander, told reporters. “This is very serious, I would even go so far as to say, that it’s fucked up.”  (The Swedish phrase used was “Det är för jävligt.”  If anyone has a better translation than “that’s fucked up,” we be happy to hear it.)

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“On Board a Man o’ War” – Nelson’s Victory & Death at the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805

On Trafalgar Day, the anniversary of Admiral Horatio Nelson‘s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar, a ballad describing the battle, “On board a Man o’ War,” sung by Ian Page. Feel free to grab a mug of porter, or coffee or tea, and to sing along.

Song: “On board a Man o’ War” – Nelson’s Victory & Death at the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805

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Update: Russian Ship Simushir and Carnival Magic Reach Port Safely

Updates on two stories from the weekend:

Carnival Magic Back in Galveston —  (See our previous post.) After being refused entry into both Belize and Mexico, the Carnival Magic is back in its home port of Galveston. One passenger aboard the ship was a nurse who had handled lab specimens from Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola on October 8, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Despite claims by media in Belize that the passenger had symptoms of Ebola, the nurse who quarantined herself in her stateroom, never had any symptoms and has since passed a blood test which showed no signs of Ebola.  As reported by the Washington Post: The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government had said it was working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”   The hospital published full page ads in two Texas newspapers in which Barclay Berdan, hospital CEO apologized for the numerous mistakes made in handling the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Russian Ship Simushir Towed to Prince Rupert – Continue reading

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Fire on the Cutty Sark! Again?

There are reports of a “small fire” aboard the 19th-century composite clipper ship, Cutty Sark, in Greenwich, UK.  Firefighters managed to contain the blaze which is said to have damaged a small part of deck three and associated timbers.  The Cutty Sark Crew, who runs the ship, said on Twitter: “London Fire Brigade dealt with a small fire on the ship this morning. Brought under control very quickly. The ship will open at 10.30am today.”  The fire was reported at 7:30 AM and four engines with 21 firefighters responded.

In 2007, the Cutty Sark was almost destroyed when a fire burned close to 50% of the ship. She has since been restored and reopened to the public on 25 April 2012.  One of the fastest ships of its day, the Cutty Sark was launched in 1869.  She is one of only two surviving composite clipper ships. Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing along the news.

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Canoes vs Colliers — Pacific Climate Warriors Blockade Newcastle

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Last Friday, at Newcastle, the world’s largest coal handling facility, it was a contest of canoes against the colliers. Calling themselves Pacific Climate Warriors, a group of protesters from a dozen Pacific island nations took to traditional outrigger canoes, kayaks and other vessels for a one day blockade of the Australian coal port.

The Pacific Climate Warriors traveled from the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tokelau, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea  and other island nations to draw attention to the effects of climate change on their island nations, and to protest Australia’s continuing commitment to coal.

Pacific Islanders blockade Newcastle coal port to protest rising sea levels

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Russian Cargo Ship Simushir Under Tow Off Coast of British Columbia

Photo: Maritime Forces Pacific/Facebook

Photo: Maritime Forces Pacific/Facebook

Late Thursday night, the 9,405 DWT Russian general cargo ship Simushir lost power while in a gale off Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, on the coast of British Columbia, Canada. By Friday morning, the ship was drifting in heavy weather roughly 25 kilometres off Moresby Island’s Tasu Sound, according to the Canadian Forces’ Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.  The ship was in danger of foundering, with 400 tons of bunker oil and 50 tons of diesel oil aboard.

Three vessels were dispatched to the stricken ship.  The CCGS Gordon Reid, an Offshore Patrol Vessel based in Victoria, British Columbia, was the first to arrive and succeeded in taking the Simushir under tow, despite difficult weather conditions. The Coast Guard vessel is reported to be towing the cargo ship away from the islands at 1.5 knots.  The tug Barbara Foss and the Canadian Coast Guard light icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier  are expected to arrive today to assist CCGS Gordon Reid.

Simushir, fuel-laden Russian cargo ship, towed from coast of Haida Gwaii

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PortSide NewYork Fundraiser — Resiliency is our Hook, October 28, 2014

PortSide NewYork is hosting a Fundraiser — Resiliency is our Hook, on October 28, 2014.  There will be smoky BBQ and sizzling Dixieland Jazz by the Red Hook Ramblers.  Good food, good music and good times for a good cause.

PortSide NewYork, the organization behind the historic tanker Mary A. Whalen, is nothing if not resilient.  The harbor-based educational non-profit has weathered many storms, both figuratively and literally.  In Superstorm Sandy, the organization suffered around $300,000 worth of damage. Nevertheless, PortSide Director Carolina Salguero and her team set up a post-hurricane recovery center ashore to help the equally hard-hit residents of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. The organization was subsequently rewarded a White House Champions of Change award in recognition for the wonderful work they did in Red Hook during those terrible days following Sandy.

Information about the fundraiser from the PortSide press release:

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Belize Refuses Entry to Carnival Magic As Ebola Hysteria Continues

cmagic1Ebola hysteria continues to spiral out of control. A nurse, who may have handled lab specimens from an Ebola patient at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, is now being quarantined in her stateroom on the cruise ship, Carnival Magic.  The ship, in turn, has been refused entry into Belize. The government of Belize also denied a request to evacuate the nurse through the airport in Belize City.  The shares of both Carnival and Royal Caribbean dropped 5% on the news.

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Coming Soon: Antoine Vanner’s “Britannia’s X” – Guess the “X” Competition

vanner1In December, Antione Vanner’s “Britannia’s X,” the third of his Dawlish chronicles will be published by Old Salt Press.  No, the book’s title will not be “Britannia’s X.” From Antoine’s Dawlish Chronicles blog:

The title, for now, is “Britannia’s X” – with “X” being undisclosed for now. I’m therefore offering signed copies of the novel to the first three successful guesses as to what “X” stands for. The first two books in the series have been Britannia’s Wolf and Britannia’s Reach, so what could the “X” possibly be?

The only clues I’m offering are (a) that the action covers the period April – September1881, (b) that the adventure (and nightmare!) starts in the Northern Adriatic but shifts continents thereafter and (c) that Nicholas Dawlish’s intrepid wife, Florence, plays a key role.

Go to Antione’s blog to learn more: Competition Announcement: 3rd Dawlish Chronicles Novel launching soon.

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The Antikythera Treasure Ship and the Titanic

A diver wearing a robotic Exosuit near Antikythera. (EPA/Greek Ministry of Culture)

A diver wearing a robotic Exosuit near Antikythera. (EPA/Greek Ministry of Culture)

The quote by Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was pure marketing genius.  He said that the Antikythera wreck is “the Titanic of the ancient world.”  The Titanic is, after all, the rock star of ship wrecks. No doubt what Foley meant was that the Antikythera wreck was very important historically not unlike the Titanic.  Of course, that is not what the media has interpreted the quote to mean.

UPI is referring to the wrecked ship as a “sort of luxury ocean liner.”  The Guardian called it ” a luxury liner dating from before the Roman empire.”  Because the site is also the source of the Antikythera mechanism, an astronomic calculator of mind-boggling complexity, often referred to as the “world’s oldest computer,”  one news source is referring to the wreck as the “Computerized Titanic,” which conjures up a whole new set of images.

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Murphy Was a Sailor — Lessons from a New York Yacht Club Seamanship Saturday

loveloveWe all know Murphy’s Law — “That which can go wrong, will go wrong and at the worst possible time.”  Anyone who has spent time around boats or ships also knows that Murphy was undoubtedly a sailor.  This came to mind last weekend, when I participated in “Seamanship Saturday” at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court in Newport, RI.  The program itself went smoothly, thanks to the hard work of the NYYC Seamanship Committee. The program topics, however, focused on what happens when things do not go smoothly on boats and to their crews when sailing offshore.

In the morning, I gave a presentation on damage control, which is to say, how to respond when your boat is on-fire, broken, or sinking.  The purpose of my talk was to address how to bring the boat home safely after suffering the most common casualties — from electrical and engine fires; a hull breach; steering loss; a collision at sea with other vessels or floating shipping containers; whale strikes; and down-flooding after a knock-down. I discussed what needed to be done, at least, to buy time to allow the captain and crew to make take-home repairs.  The approach was upbeat yet disaster was the backdrop.

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Happy Birthday US Navy, Not to be Confused with Navy Day or the Founding of the Navy

usnavylogoHappy 239th birthday to the United States Navy! On Friday, October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two armed sailing vessels to cruise to attempt to seize arms and stores from Royal Navy transports. The rebel forces were short of just about everything in the early days of the revolution, so stealing whatever they could from the British was an eminently practical idea.  Technically, these ships were the beginning of the Continental Navy and not the United States Navy as the United States did not yet exist.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy was disbanded, the ships sold and the sailors sent home.  The US Navy was later authorized by the United States Congress on April 30, 1798. So why does the Navy celebrate their “birthday” on October 13, 1775? And what is Navy Day, and why is it celebrated on October 27?

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Fire Surfing, Really

After posting yesterday about someone who tried to run 1,000 miles across the Gulf Stream to Bermuda in an inflatable hamster cage, and failed, here is a slightly less insane and more successful example of craziness on the water.  The video is more than three years old, but is new to me. Thanks to Bonnie K. Frogma and Bjoern Kils for pointing it out on Facebook. For your viewing pleasure — fire surfing.

Flaring Up – Surfing with a Flare – Red Bull Minor Threat

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After Coast Guard Rescue, Reza Baluchi Says “I Want My Bubble Back!”

bubblebYou really can’t make this stuff up. Extreme runner, Reza Baluchi, attempted to run from Florida to Bermuda, a distance of roughly 1,000 miles, in an inflatable bubble with a metal frame, looking something like a giant hamster wheel.  It didn’t go well.  A few days into the attempt, Baluchi activated a personal locator beacon after becoming disoriented and exhausted. The Coast Guard responded. A chopper lowered a rescue swimmer into the water and found Baluchi lying down inside his bubble.  The rescue is estimated to have cost taxpayers roughly $144,000.

Now, Baluchi is claiming that he never wanted to be rescued and that he wants his bubble back. Apparently the bubble destroyed when a fishing boat attempted to tow it into port. Baluchi claims that “the transponder button was struck accidentally.” The Coast Guard has a somewhat different view.  Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Mark Barney, noted, “He activated both his spot beacon and personal locating beacon. That’s a distress call. When he activated those two things, he was calling for help.

‘I want my bubble back,’ says man rescued by Coast Guard

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Replica of Henry Hudson’s Ship Half Moon May Move to Netherlands

halfmoonfrontThe story is regrettably familiar. A historic vessel, unable to find a suitable berth, is forced to move elsewhere. Yesterday, Chip Reynolds, Director of the New Netherland Museum and Captain of the replica ship, Half Moon, announced the museum’s intentions to move to the ship to the Hoorn in The Netherlands. The replica of the ship Henry Hudson sailed to the river which now bears his name in 1609 has been unable to find a berth on the river.

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The Nautilus at 60 — Nuclear Power Tested in an Idaho Desert

450px-Nautilus_(SSN_571)_Groton_CT_2002_May_08Just over 60 yeas ago, on September 30, 1954, USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine was commissioned in New London, Connecticut. Following commissioning she continued trials and testing, until she put to sea for the first time  on January 17, 1955 and signaled her historic message: “Underway on nuclear power.”  USS Nautilus was also the first submarine to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole on 3 August 1958.

What made the Nautilus unique was her nuclear reactor, the first to be put on a submarine. Initial testing of the reactor was done, not on the ship, but at a top secret Navy facility, hundreds of miles from the ocean in the high desert of Idaho.  Recently the Atlantic Monthly re-posted an article from 1959, by Commander E. E. Kintner, a Navy officer closely involved with the testing. The overall project was managed by then Captain Rickover.  From Admiral Rickover’s Gamble:

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Journey of the Jubilee Hope

LAKE-HOSPITAL1-586x319The hospital ship Jubilee Hope was recently christened by the Princess Royal, in Tanzania on Lake Victoria. The 160 ton ship will provide health services to 150 remote island communities with 400,000 people on the large inland lake. She will be operated by Vine Trust, an international charity.

The 8,585 mile voyage of the Jubilee Hope is as remarkable as her new service. She began her life as RMAS Dunster, a Royal Navy tender. Converted to a hospital ship on the Clyde by BAE Systems, the ship has a full dental surgery, operating room, two consulting areas, an eye surgery and a laboratory. It will host life-changing cataract operations, offer a dentistry service and provide help for difficult labors and a range of other healthcare needs.

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