Clipper Round the World Race — Dramatic Man-Overboard Rescue

Andrew Taylor, 46, from London, a crew member on Derry~Londonderry~Doire yacht, racing in the Clipper Round the World Race, went overboard in the Pacific at 23.43 UTC Sunday night in rough weather. He was sighted again at 00.55 UTC before being recovered at approx. 01.13 UTC (13.13 local time, 30 March). Dramatic footage of the rescue has been posted on Youtube:

Derry~Londonderry~Doire successfully recovers man overboard during Clipper Round the World

From the Clpper Round the World website:

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International Court of Justice Ends Japanese Antarctic Whaling

japan-whaling-1aGreat news. The UN’s highest court has ruled against Japanese Antarctic whaling. The Japanese have notionally supported the commercial whaling moratorium adopted in 1982 but have exploited a loophole which allows for whaling for “scientific research.”  As we posted last June, the the government of Australia, supported by New Zealand, filed a suit asking the International Court to halt the Japanese whaling fleet’s annual trips to harpoon minke and fin whales. Today, the International Court of Justice at the Hague ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program, ruling that it is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese government had claimed.  As reported by CBC News:

Reading a 12-4 decision by the court’s 16-judge panel, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka said Japan’s program fails to justify the large number of minke whales it says it needs to catch under its current Antarctic program — 850 annually — and it doesn’t catch that many anyway. It also didn’t come close to catching the 50 fin and 50 humpback whales it aimed to take…  All that drew into doubt Japan’s assertion that its whaling is for scientific purposes, he said…

“The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking, and treating of whales … are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’,” Tomka said.

Japan said it would abide by the ruling but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”.  Norway and Iceland continue to engage in commercial whaling in violation of the moratorium.

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Hobie Alter — Legendary Surfing and Sailing Innovator



Hobart “Hobie” Alter died of cancer in Palm Desert, California on March 29th, 2014 at the age of 80.  In 1958, he revolutionized surfboard design by developing the foam-and-fiberglass surfboard. In the 1960s, he introduced multi-hull sailing to the mass market with the Hobie Cat, eventually offering 13 different models.  Over 135,000 Hobie 16 catamarans are sailing around the world. Alter also designed the Hobie 33, an ultralight displacement monohull sailboat.  He also designed skateboards and the “Hobie Hawk,” a radio controlled glider.   Alter sold Hobie Cat to the Coleman Company, Inc. in 1976.  His sons, Hobie Jr. and Jeff, carry on the family tradition, operating Hobie Designs and overseeing the company’s licensing operations. Hobie Cats are currently manufactured in five different countries around the world.

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Sponges — Mother of Us All?

1spongeAll terrestrial life came from the sea, but how did life develop in the ocean? Professor Tim Lenton of the University of Exeter, who led a new study, said: “There had been enough oxygen in ocean surface waters for over 1.5 billion years before the first animals evolved, but the dark depths of the ocean remained devoid of oxygen. We argue that the evolution of the first animals could have played a key role in the widespread oxygenation of the deep oceans. This in turn may have facilitated the evolution of more complex, mobile animals.

And what were these animals that oxygenated the oceans? Sponges, according to the the new research.  Sponges may lack the brains and other organs of more complex animals, but they are animals nonetheless, and around 700 million years ago, sponges began to flood the oceans with oxygen.  The oceans had had relatively little oxygen and could not support more complex life.

First animals oxygenated the ocean, study suggests

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Booze, Balconies and Falling Overboard from Cruise Ships

article-2541485-1ABF52EB00000578-692_634x348Sarah Kirby went on a five night Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Destiny to celebrate her 30th birthday in October of 2012.  Partying with friends, she became very intoxicated.  Just after midnight, she went back to her stateroom and stepped out on to her cabin balcony to get some air.  Somehow, she managed to fall or climb over the 45″ high railing, tumbling seven decks, roughly 100′, to the water, striking a life raft on the way down.  Kirby is quoted as saying, ‘I remember leaning over the balcony to look at the side of the ship and next thing I knew I was in the water.‘ Two hours later she was rescued from the water by the ship’s crew.

She is now suing Carnival for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  She claims that the bartender “pushed drinks on her,” and that Carnival delayed rescuing her from the water. Carnival denies the allegations saying that the claims ‘are completely unsupported and contradicted by the evidence in the case.‘  The lawsuit made a large splash in the media in January when infrared CCTV video emerged of the fall. (See the video after the page break.)

Without expressing an opinion about the specifics of the lawsuit, it does raise several important questions. Are balconies, booze and drunken passengers inherently tragedies waiting to happen?  Are the cruise lines doing enough to keep their passengers on board and doing enough when they fall overboard?  Specifically, why haven’t cruise lines installed “Man Overboard Detection Systems” as mandated by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010?

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Visiting Underwater Volcano Kick’em Jenny

Back in 2011, we posted about Kick’em Jenny, which in addition to being the name of a rockabilly singer as well as a Dutch Celtic Symfo-Folk group, is an active underwater volcano in the Lesser Antilles about 5 miles north of the island of Grenada.

Kick’em Jenny rises 4,265 ft above the sea floor on the steep inner western slope of the Lesser Antilles ridge.  The volcano has erupted on at least twelve occasions between 1939 and 2001.  The dome of the volcano is approximately 180 meters (590 feet) below the surface of the Caribbean.  Kick’em Jenny was last surveyed in 2003.  Last October, researchers sent an ROV into the volcano to see what had changed over the last decade.   The video below is a fascinating journey into the volcano, with commentary by Dr. Steve Carey, Chief Scientist on the E/V Nautilus.  For more videos of Kick-em-Jenny and other submarine wonders go to Exploration Now.

180 Meters Below – Kick’em Jenny Submarine Volcano

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SSV Oliver Hazard Perry — “Building a War of 1812 Warship”

Photo: Kim Fuller

Photo: Kim Fuller

The April Smithsonian Magazine features photos of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry and an article titled “Building a War of 1812 Warship.”   One can only imagine what Oliver Hazard Perry would have thought of the new ship that bears his name. After having had the Lawrence, his first ship at the Battle of Put-in-Bay in 1813, shot out from under him, he would certainly appreciate the new ship’s steel hull. The twin engines and bow thruster, hidden beneath the waterline, would have amazed him and the electronics would have surely seemed like black magic, (which at times, I believe they are.)

Building a War of 1812 Warship – This summer, a ship named after naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry will set sail

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Mock Iranian Carrier Claimed to Be Set for Movie About Downing of Iran Air Flight 655

Photo by Al-Alam

Photo by Al-Alam

Lights, camera, mock aircraft carrier.  We posted the other day about a strange mock Nimitz aircraft carrier apparently under construction in an Iranian shipyard.  The Iranian-owned Al-Alam News Network is reporting that the mock-up is being built for a film titled “Airbus,” about the 1988, downing of civilian passenger plane Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes.  The film is reported to be a joint Iranian-Canadian production, being co-directed by Nader Talebzadeh and Paxton Winters and will star both Iranian and American actors, most prominently Sean Ali Stone, the son of American filmmaker Oliver Stone.  It is unclear what role a mock aircraft carrier would play in the account of the shooting down of the passenger plane by a US guided missile cruiser.

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Finding Flight MH370 — Inmarsat, Haystacks, Satellites and Sextants

graph-flightpathIt appears that the British satellite firm, Inmarsat, combined high tech analysis with very basic navigation to estimate the flight path of MH370, after all other other searchers had failed to find the plane.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced yesterday that Flight MH370 had crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean with no survivors. Debris, which may be from the 777 jet liner which disappeared on March 8th, has been sighted by satellite imagery and by search planes. So far, however, no debris has been recovered as a cyclone in the area has turned back ships attempting to collect and identify the debris.  

So how did Inmarsat locate the probable flight path of the doomed jet-liner? Continue reading

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Twenty Five Years Ago Today, Exxon Valdez Grounded in Prince Edward Sound

ExvalOn March 24, 1989, the 210,000 dwt crude oil tanker Exxon Valdez sailed from Valdez Marine Terminal and entered Alaska’s Prince William Sound. At 12:04 am, the single hulled ship ran aground on Bligh Reef, resulting in the largest oil spill in United States history, prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Between 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil spilled into the Sound.  The oil eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean.

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Sylvia Earle — LEGO Aquanaut

Sylvia-earle-and-legoSylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer.  In her illustrious career she has earned many honors, including being named by Time Magazine as as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998. She is National Geographic’s explorer-in-residence, as well as a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and a Knight in the Netherlands’ Order of the Golden Ark. She was recently recognized in a very different venue. Sylvia Earle now has a LEGO figurine modeled after her.

The Aquanaut 

The first thing you should know about Sylvia Earle is that she has a LEGO figurine modeled after her. One that has little yellow flippers instead of little yellow feet.

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Iran’s Mysterious Fake Aircraft Carrier Barge


Iranian mock-up, top, USS Nimitz bottom, approx. to scale. Photos: NYTimes

Iran appears to be be building a non-functioning mock-up of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.  The mock-up appears to be more of a barge, is not nuclear powered, doesn’t really look all that much like the Nimitz and is only about 2/3 the size of the aircraft carrier. There are reports that the vessel does have Nimitz’s number 68 painted in white near the bow and that mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck.

Iranian Ship, in Plain View but Shrouded in Mystery, Looks Very Familiar to U.S.

The interesting question is, why?   Continue reading

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Mapping 1,200 Years of Scottish Shipwrecks

scotishshipwreckmapThe Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) has published a remarkable and potentially dangerous interactive map of 1,200 years of shipwrecks in Scottish waters. The map is part of an effort to enhance the maritime record for Scotland. Why is the map dangerous? Because it is so easy to get lost wandering about the map and reading about the specific wrecks.  For example, I happened to click on a wreck in Tobermory Bay, the wreck of the San Juan De Sicilia, a 16th Century galleon from the Spanish Armada, which was also a treasure ship.  I clicked through several screens to learn about the galleon and then spent the next twenty minutes of so clicking on other wrecks which ranged from coasters to fishing vessels, steam ships to barques, as well as the ever-popular “unknown.”  A fascinating map that is easy to spend time clicking around in.   The map shows over 33,000 wrecks with a bit of history of each.   Not necessarily the worst way to spend an afternoon.  Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to the post.

Shipwreck Map of Scotland

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Mad as a Lighthouse Keeper — Not the Solitude, but the Mercury

photo_point_mendocinoWe recently posted about three killer lighthouses.  It turns out that lighthouse keepers had more to worry about than simply storms and terrible conditions. In the 19th century, lighthouse keepers had a high frequency of madness and suicide.  Many assumed that they went mad from solitude and the demands of the job. It turns out it was something simpler and more sinister.

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HMS Victory Paint-Scheme a “20th Century Invention”?

hms-victory-011According to the historic coating specialists, Michael Crick-Smith and Ian Crick-Smith, the current black and orange-yellow color scheme of Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory is “an early 20th century invention of what an 18th century warship looked like.”  Based on their study of hundreds of fragments of the original paint surfaces, they have concluded that the original ochre was a much paler yellow instead of what they refer to as “that hideous orange.” Many interior spaces were also said to be less elaborately and brightly colored than they are now on the famous ship.

Paint detectives uncover true colours of Nelson’s victorious flagship 

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Sailing on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry this Fall

ohprenderingI recently booked a berth on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry  on a passage next September from Newport to Bermuda under the command of Captain Richard Bailey.  I find it hard to believe that it was so long ago, but nevertheless, 17 years ago, I sailed aboard the replica frigate HMS Rose from New York York to Bermuda with a group of Patrick O’Brian aficionados. Captain Richard Bailey was in command and he and his capable crew did a fine job managing the enthusiastic, but often clueless volunteers with skill and grace. (Who would have thought that herding cats would be a skill required of professional mariners.).  I am very much looking forward to the upcoming voyage.

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Navy SEALs Seize the Morning Glory — the Mystery Tanker and the Struggle to Control Libyan Oil

43903This morning, the press was abuzz with reports that last Monday, in the Mediterranean off Cyprus, US Navy SEALS boarded and took control of an oil tanker, Morning Glory, which had recently loaded a cargo of Libyan oil in the port of Sidra. The SEALs conducted the operation from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80).  The Morning Glory was returned to Libyan waters with a team of sailors from a second US Navy destroyer, USS Stout, aboard.   There were no causalities reported in the raid.

The press has used a variety of adjectives to describe the tanker. It has been referred to as “hijacked“, “rogue“, “rebel“, “diverted” and “mystery.”  The ship entered the port under a North Korean flag but North Korea denied that the ship was still under its registry.  Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby described the Morning Glory as “a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans.”

So, who owns the Morning Glory?  Who owns the oil?  And why did Navy SEALs seize the ship?

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Kite Foiling — I Believe I Can Fly

Here is a good video to start the week. Kite foiling is an amazing new niche in the world of sailing.  To be fair, kite boarders have sticking foils on the the bottom of their boards for years. Now, however, it looks like the sport is really taking off, so to speak. The first Kite Foil Gold Cup is now ongoing in La Ventana, Mexico and will be moving on to Switzerland, Austria and France during the year.

(By the way — the still below, which features a woman in a bikini, oddly enough, never appears in the video itself.  Still worth watching, despite the false advertising.)

I believe I can Fly

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USS Texas at 100 Years Old — A Proud History & an Uncertain Future


USS Texas (BB-35)

I remember visiting the battleship USS Texas in the San Jacinto River in Texas as schoolboy from Dallas while on a family vacation, almost fifty years ago.  Her 14″ guns were impressive and I still recall climbing around her anti-aircraft guns on deck.  This week marked the 100th anniversary of the USS Texas‘ commissioning on March 12, 1914.

USS Texas is a New York-class battleship and the last of the dreadnoughts. She fought in both World War I and World War II, providing artillery support in both the invasion of Normandy and the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  She has been a museum ship since 1947.

In recent years her greatest battles have been with rust and inadequate funding.  We posted in 2012 about chronic leaks in the hull that have threatened to sink the ship.  (See Update: 100 Year Old Battleship Texas Shutdown Indefinitely by Leaks).  Plans to put the ship in a “dry berth” to preserve her have been put on hold due to lack of funding.  Last year $17.5 million in funding was arranged to allow for critical repairs, while an estimated additional $18 million is still needed. To the question as to whether the glass was half full or half empty, ship manager, Andy Smith replied, “”At least, we’ve got a glass.”

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LCS USS Coronado Stops for Passing Whales

lcswhalewatchLast Sunday was the second of two weekends of the Dana Point Festival of Whales, which celebrates the annual migration of gray whales which passes the coastal California community. Captain Todd Mansur of Dana Wharf  Whale Watching was following two gray whales, when he found himself and the whales in a crossing situation with the USS Coronado, a new Navy Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).  Captain Mansur was able to contact the Navy ship and alert them to the whales off their bow.  The ship came to a complete stop and let the gray whales and the whale watchers pass.  The LCS is a radical trimaran ship design meant to operate in coastal water and is capable of cruising at 40 knots, with a top speed of 46 knots.  On Sunday, the USS Coronado was underway at only around three knots, so it had no trouble stopping to avoid the whales.

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