Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Never Ending Voyage: Henk De Velde about when lightning strikes

Never Ending Voyage: Henk De Velde about when lightning strikes

(TheOceans.net) Lightning can indeed strike twice; and listening for thunder will make you miss up to 40 per cent of lightning strokes. In US, about 100 people are killed by lightning each year, more than by tornadoes or hurricanes!

Interestingly, in spite of all kinds of weird weather and many years out there - ExWeb's founders have never experienced lightning storms on the Arctic Ocean or at Antarctica. Neither on the Atlantic Ocean and only once high up on Everest!

Yet thunder storms happen often enough at sea (often close to shore) and also on lower mountains (such as the Alps and the Rockies). While bigger boats can have elaborate systems; ocean rowers, budget sailors, campers and climbers remain unprotected.

The other week, ExWeb made a call for simple solutions. Henk de Velde heard us but following 30 years at sea; his experience still comes down to - rubber boots.

A tractor

Writes Henk:

"The safest places for a person outdoors in a thunderstorm are inside a metal-bodied car or lying flat on the ground. I can give an example of both."

"My brother in law, a farmer, was in the middle of an open field. When a thunderstorm approached, he went under his tractor. Don't ask me why but I think he also wanted shelter from the rain."

"The tractor was struck. He told me that he was laying there under the tractor flat on the ground for several seconds surrounded by fire. I think he was lucky to have survived."

A steel boat

"Another example happened to me. In thunder, a steel boat is the safest. I was sailing Campina about 700 miles north of the Hawaii islands, on my way to the Aleoutian Islands when lightning struck."

"I still remember what the sky looked like. I saw lightning strike the water around me and reefed sails. I went inside for protection when suddenly I heard a big boom. I thought the mast had fallen. All electricity failed."

"For a minute or shorter, a ball of fire danced through the saloon. It was ball-lightning. I never felt any heat, but my muscles went stiff and ached for more than half an hour. After the fireball was gone, I checked on the boat."

"The mast was good. All electronics were saved, with fuses blown. But all battery chargers burned, and wiring from the wind generator in addition to two other battery chargers had melted. I had to return to Hawaii to have it fixed. The battery chargers were toast beyond repair."


"Lightning is dangerous. You can protect your boat by means of grounding but whatever you do, you can never be sure about not getting struck or not getting damage."

"On my first boat, a plywood Wharram cat, I would at times use a cable from the rigging to the water. As the mast was wood and the rigging was attached to the mast by rope lashings, I was never sure of the efficiency and on my next three catamarans, all racing boats with aluminum or later carbon masts, a mast to water grounding system didn't exist. Campina was a steel vessel and the perfect Faraday cage."

"My current Juniper is a wood/epoxy trimaran with two wooden wingshaped rotating masts. The boat, including mast, is built by her designer Chris White (www.chriswhitedesigns.com) with a lightning protection included."

"A wire extention points like an antenna from the free-standing top of the masts. This steel wire is connected to a cable inside the mast running to aluminium hounds on which the wire rigging is attached, going to chain plates in the floats and from there a wire leads to a grounding plate on the outside of the underwater floats."

"All instruments are grounded to a grounding plate in the main hull, as is the SSB radio which has an antenna wire through the mizzen mast. This is the best grounded boat I ever had."

"But what will happen with the new carbon mast? Carbon is a conductor. If I get a synthetic rig, I'll have to run a heavy cable from the bottom of the mast through the beams to the floats for the same protection. I'm not so sure about this as it will lead the high voltage a long distance through the boat."

St Elmo's fire and Ball lightning

"In all my 30 years of sailing I have only been struck once, but there was another event that I will never forget."

"I sailed Wharram off the coast of Panama with huge thunderstorms mounting above land. A noice sounded from the masthead and the wooden mast looked as if it was on fire - the top burned like a Xmas sparkling-light."

"I was frightened at first but then I realized this was St Elmo's fire - a luminous electric discharge that may appear on pointed objects during heavy storms. It is usually seen on steeples (tips of aircraft wings), the mastheads of ships, and sometimes near the head of a person or the horns of cattle."

In the end: keep your fingers crossed and off the rigging

"After all, statistically the chance of getting struck is very small even when you see lightning hitting the water around you. Lightning does not always search the highest spot."

"In a steel boat, you are safest inside and I would say this goes for all boats. If you have to be on deck - wear heavy rubber boots. Don't walk barefoot and don't touch the mast or the rigging."

Earlier this year, Henk De Velde arrived Argentina without a mast and a broken propeller. Henk plans to stay in the area for the rest of the year, waiting for the new mast and a new sailing season. Currently in Colonia in Uruguay, 300 miles from Mar del Plata, Henk is painting his decks and writing booklets such as "God and Grace" and "Resistance, Hope and Beauty" (not about sailing) and a travelbook titled "Nowhere is a place." After fixing the boat, Henk plans to explore the country on the cheap and hike the Andes. After all, it is a A Never Ending Voyage.

Henk de Velde was born in Holland January 12, 1949. His childhood dream was to become a captain and explorer. From the age of 10 until 14, he read all the books he could find on the subject. Starting out as deckhand at age 15, Henk worked in the Merchant Navy for 13 years and made Captain in 1978, with a master license for all ships in the Amsterdam Nautical Collage. "But after becoming a Captain I had to become an explorer," he told ExWeb.

Henk married Gini who also took part of his first journey. Their son was born in 1981 on Easter Island; the couple divorced 1984 in South Africa. Henk wrote 7 books, all in Dutch. He made two documentaries for Dutch TV. Austrian TV also produced 'Fire and Ice - the Flying Dutchman'.

Henk's other hobbies include riding motorbikes; he started with a 440 cc chopper and ended with a ZZR 1100 road bike. He gives lectures and talk shows about voyaging and life, with the message "Choose your own goal."

Henk first made waves on ExplorersWeb September 3, 2004 when disaster struck his Campina: "Ice floes clashed against each other constantly with a power enough to crack my ship," He reported. "Around 4 hours before darkness fell, the ice berg that we had been anchored to broke. We maneuvered Campina to a larger ice berg, between the floes."

"Then the flow twisted and a heavy iceberg pressed the boat against the wall of ice. We were crooked 10 degrees. The iceberg pressed the boat onto underwater ice. I heard an enormous cracking. We tied her up with long lines to the ice." Henk and his ice lots Boris, 72, were stuck in the ice wall of the Laptev sea.

The Northwest Passage proved impossible indeed, but Henk De Velde's "Impossible Journey" won a special mention in the 2004 ExWeb awards for his battle to the bitter end.

Henk de Velde had previously sailed around the world four times, three times non-stop and solo. The first trip lasted between 1978 and 1985… so Henk is known to take his time when out exploring. "The reason for traveling like this is to experience new things and enjoy life to the fullest," Henk said already back then.

After returning home from his "Impossible Journey" in 2004 - a sail attempt around the world via the "impossible" Northern seaway along the North East Passage above and along Siberia, Alaska, Cape Horn and Antarctica - Henk has now decided to go back out there - and stay.


Exhilarating' phenomena

Waterspout forms over Lake Michigan.

Cherry Scott wasn't expecting to see a waterspout when she walked out of her kitchen door Sunday afternoon. But there it was, a funnel of water and spray over Lake Michigan

A PHOTO of a waterspout taken by Cherry Scott of Northport shows a funnel descending from clouds over Lake Michigan.

Marty and Cherry Scott enjoy rural life on their Black Sheep Crossing Farm on Kehl Road in northern Leelanau Township, which sits about three-quarters of a mile from Lake Michigan. She said it was it was an unusual circumstance that had her looking in the right direction to see the waterspout starting to form over Lake Michigan.

“I just happened to look at the right spot at the right time. If I had come out of the house a minute later, I would have missed it,” she said. Scott grabbed her new digital camera and hustled out the door in the stocking feet to capture the image.

“I ran out into the cow pasture, it was kind of exhilarating. There wasn’t any noise, except right before it happened there was a tremendously loud crack of thunder,” Scott said.

Scott wasn’t the only person who saw the waterspout. Susan Shively was at her home on Lighthouse Point Road, about a half-mile north of the entrance of Cherry Home Shores Subdivision, when she saw the fully-formed tunnel of water as it moved north along the shoreline.

“I wasn’t sure at first what we were seeing. I thought it was a small tornado, but we learned later on it was a waterspout,” Shively said. According to Shively, the waterspout traveled north along the shoreline though she wasn’t sure how far out on Lake Michigan it was located. “We watched it for 15 minutes and then it just disappeared,” she said.

Shively and her husband have lived in northern Leelanau Township for 10 years. It was the first time they saw a waterspout.

“It was very exciting,” she said.

Both Scott and Shively captured the natural phenomena in pictures, and contacted the Enterprise. Other waterspout witnesses called Greg McMaster, chief meteorologist for TV 7&4. He said he received four calls about waterspout sightings Sunday, and received pictures from Elk Rapids.

“It was not surprising we received so many photos. Conditions were good for waterspouts Sunday afternoon,” McMaster said.

Another view of the waterspout was
submitted by Barbara Robbins of
Leelanau Township.

Jeff Lutz with the National Weather Service’s Gaylord office said he received reports of waterspouts from three miles north of Elk Rapids, near Lake Charlevoix, and in Grand Traverse Bay. Lutz said waterspouts occur when relatively cool air moves over warm water and there is a low-pressure system nearby.

“It is similar conditions for producing lake effect snow or rain. With the clockwise spin of a low pressure system you get water spouts and cold-air funnels,” he said. The wind speed can’t be too fast, either, he said.

“Once it hits land, though, a waterspout will dissipate,” Lutz said.

Both Lutz and McMaster predicted an “interesting” time of year for weather is upcoming, especially on the Great Lakes.

“There are two seasons on the Great Lakes, the stable and unstable time of year. The stable time of year is when you have cold water and warm air, like winter going into spring. There is no cloud development and things are relatively stable,” Lutz said.

He said the instability begins when fall nears and land temperatures start dropping while water temperatures remain warm.

“The unstable time typically runs from late summer through most of winter. It’s an exciting time to be a meteorologist,” Lutz said.


Shippers, activists clash on Great Lakes

AP Environmental Writer

September 14, 2008 12:00 am

TRAVERSE CITY -- Day after day, ships longer than three football fields depart Great Lakes ports after picking up or delivering loads of iron ore, coal and other cargo. Reaching open water, crews wash the decks with high-powered hoses.

It's called "cargo sweeping," because residues that spill onto decks during loading and unloading are swept overboard. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that 1 million pounds of such debris is washed into the lakes every year.

The longstanding practice would appear to violate clean-water laws and regulations enacted in recent decades. But federal officials have given cargo residues a series of exemptions since the early 1990s. Now, the Coast Guard is deciding whether to continue them.

The agency is scheduled to issue a new rule by the end of this month. Several options are on the table, including a ban on cargo sweeping. But regulators also could let it continue, while requiring stepped-up record keeping so they can learn more about effects on the aquatic environment.

Canada's federal government altered its shipping law in 2007 to allow cargo sweeping and is considering amending a fishing law to do likewise, said Mark Mattson, a Toronto-based investigator for the Waterkeeper Alliance. His coalition is among conservation groups that want cargo sweeping halted, saying it's just another form of littering.

But shippers say requiring them to collect the residue, move it onshore for treatment and flush it into municipal wastewater systems would impose ruinous costs. A Coast Guard report last month estimated the price tag at $51.8 million up front, plus $35.7 million a year -- more than the annual profit for the entire industry.

"What some are proposing could mean the end of Great Lakes shipping and the movement of cargo by more expensive and less eco-friendly modes of transportation," said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association, which represents U.S.-flagged freighters on the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard report said cargo sweeping apparently does little if any ecological damage. Jim Weakley, president of the lake carriers group, likened it to "hosing down your driveway."

But environmental advocates say the jury is still out. More study is needed of potential long-term effects -- particularly on bottomlands that provide habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates at the base of the food web, said Joel Brammeier, vice president for policy with the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago.

"It's just common sense that throwing garbage into the Great Lakes is wrong and will cause harm," Mattson added.

Cargo sweeping has been standard operating procedure since the earliest shipments of iron ore from Michigan's Upper Peninsula during the 1850s mineral rush, says the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, an industry coalition.

Bulk dry cargo hauled across the lakes consists primarily of iron ore, coal and limestone, but also includes smaller quantities of cement, salt, sand and grain. In most ports, the freight is moved on conveyor belts between a ship's cargo hold and onshore storage facilities.

As that happens, bits and pieces spill onto the deck or tunnels beneath. Besides contaminating other types of cargo, the residues and dust create unsanitary conditions and slippery surfaces, Weakley said. So the material is flushed overboard from the deck or pumped from tunnels in the lower hull.

In its environmental impact report, the Coast Guard said ship residues can be found on lake bottoms, although in small concentrations.

"The effects of over a century of ... discharges on sediment quality or biological resources are barely detectable," it said. "Consequently, it would be difficult to project the effects of a single (cargo debris) discharge or even a full year of discharges."

Environmentalists contend some of the residues contain mercury and other metals that can harm fish habitat, but Weakley said mercury from coal is released only after it is burned and deposited in a gaseous form on waterways. The Coast Guard said it would not allow dumping of toxic or hazardous materials.

The study lists five policy alternatives, including prohibiting cargo sweeping or letting it continue under certain conditions. Shippers could be required to keep more extensive records, which would provide data for possible future regulation.

They also could be ordered to reduce the amount of debris swept into the water by making operational, mechanical or structural changes aboard ship or in port.

Weakley said shippers already have developed best-management practices to reduce the volume of cargo washed overboard. They observe no-discharge zones around spawning grounds, marine sanctuaries and other sensitive areas and wouldn't object if others were added, he said.

Brammeier, of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, wants a serious crackdown on cargo sweeping and bristles at the suggestion that it would destroy shippers. Many industries have mended their ways to protect the waterways on which the regional economy depends, he said.

"The future of the Great Lakes depends on protecting and restoring them, not on century-old assumptions that we can stress the system but never reach its breaking point," he said.


Monday, September 29, 2008

New approach to warning siren activation unveiled

New approach to warning siren activation unveiled

Oakland County officials have announced and implemented a new countywide severe weather warning system that involves activating existing and future tornado sirens before a tornado is spotted in the field or indicated on radar.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Emergency Response and Preparedness Director Mike Sturm detailed the sweeping change in the county's outdoor warning siren system on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Under the new approach, sirens will be activated when winds of 70 mph have been recorded in or around the immediate county borders.

"In the past, the sirens have only been activated when a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar," Patterson said. "Henceforth, the outdoor warning system will be activated when severe thunderstorms with damaging winds at or near 70 mph are in Oakland County or within a 10-mile buffer around the county."

If a 70 mph standard had been in place, Oakland County would have activated warning sirens an additional half a dozen times since January 2006, rather than just the three times the sirens were sounded during the same period of time based on National Weather Service standards.

Sturm said it was felt that any severe weather condition that could result in widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property should warrant activation of the outdoor warning system. He added that winds of 65 mph or more could do as much damage as a low-grade tornado.

The previous outdoor warning system began in 1977. There are 228 sirens in place across the county, with two more about to be installed. The total cost of siren installation is around $20,000, according to county officials.

Last October, three new tornado sirens were slated to be installed in three lakes area communities. Commerce, Highland, and Waterford townships netted the warning devices in the last year after the county received a $68,000 Urban Area Security Initiative Grant — federal money passed to the state and then passed on to the county — that made the purchase and installation of the sirens possible.


Response agencies scramble to keep up with storm season

For the fourth time in as many weeks federal disaster response officials found themselves shifting gears to address a storm.

As Hurricane Ike barreled toward the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was already moving its rapid response teams into southern Texas in advance of the storm, repeating preparations it made in recent weeks for Hurricane Fay in Florida, Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, and Tropical Storm Hanna in North Carolina.

A new approach

“The lesson learned is we must plan for these events well in advance of the event,” said Glenn Cannon, assistant FEMA administrator for disaster operations. “We plan for different events and scenarios … so we have the same game plan and are on the same page.”

The ad hoc, independent response that marred FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina is a thing of the past, he said. “We don’t need to relearn that lesson.”

That’s why, since August, FEMA has conducted daily — and sometimes more frequent than daily — videoconference calls to coordinate state and federal response for tasks as diverse as medical evacuations, supply delivery and rescue teams staging, he said.

As the chief coordinator for disasters, FEMA makes sure all local and federal agencies come in with the necessary resources and staffing. FEMA has developed more than 220 prescriptive mission assignments for its partners. The plans contain everything from checklists to draft documents so nobody is starting the process from scratch, Cannon said. Before Katrina, there were fewer than 30 such plans, he said.

The General Services Administration, which supports FEMA’s supplies purchasing, is one of the agencies dialed in on the daily phone call. Its Office of Emergency Response and Recovery, set up after Katrina, is getting its first real test this year with the battery of storms slugging the Gulf Coast.

The daily video teleconferences have allowed agencies on the federal, state and local level to reach out to one another and discuss what is needed and who can provide it, said Joshua Sawislak, acting director of the Office of Emergency Response and Recovery at GSA. The briefings ensure that agencies like GSA, which is responsible for trucking supplies into disaster areas, coordinate with, say, the Transportation Department, which knows which roads are closed, or the National Hurricane Center, which knows where storms are heading.

Role of technology

Technology has also provided real-time situational awareness, Sawislak said. During the evacuation of New Orleans in advance of hurricane Gustav, Customs and Border Protection and military reconnaissance technology helped give responders real-time knowledge of where ambulances transporting patients were and whether additional aircraft were needed to evacuate them, he said.

“Cooperation and communication has made the biggest difference,” Sawislak said. “FEMA can roll in mobile command centers with full capability and show us video of what is going on. … We don’t have to rely on CNN.”

The centralized emergency management office has also helped GSA coordinate internally, Sawislak said. The office is in charge of mobilizing GSA’s regional emergency response teams and reservists to make sure the right people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time, he said.

A deep bench

Although Ike is the second major storm this season to hit areas within GSA’s Fort Worth, Texas region, the regional emergency staff is ready to respond in full force, he said.

GSA staff from California, working with FEMA at the time, had deployed in response to Hurricane Gustav, relieving some of the pressure on the region, he said.

But GSA has a plan in place to supplement people from regions outside of the storm zone in order to give those in the storm zone a break, he said.

“The hardest part is to make sure people understand we’re in it for the long haul, and they need rack time … so they don’t get burned out,” Sawislak said.

At the same time FEMA is planning for the response, it is also working with partner agencies to plan for recovery, Cannon said.

FEMA is already planning for mass feeding and sheltering should Ike wipe out homes in the affected area. The agency is also working to ensure temporary housing is available should anyone be left homeless from the storm, he said.

The Small Business Administration, which administers home and business recovery loans, is also planning for the day after.

The agency has 1,500 of its 3,500-plus reserve staff on call to respond to Ike within 24 hours, said James Rivera, deputy associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. SBA has trained 3,500 people for its disaster recovery reserve force, which is used to staff up regions during times of emergency.

The reservists process loans, inspect property damage and perform other recovery duties. That reserve staff is 18 times larger than the reserve available during Hurricane Katrina, he said.

Although SBA has been part of the responses to many of this year’s natural disasters, employee fatigue has not yet been an issue, said Sandy Baruah, acting SBA administrator.

“But if Ike packs a punch and we’re dealing with it for a long time, or if it is followed by another serious hurricane, we do have this 3,500-person team of active reservists to work through the system,” Baruah said.

In addition to people power, the agency is also prepared to respond with technology. The agency has beefed up its loan processing system now allows 12,000 users to run cases simultaneous, 10,000 more than were allowed in the system during Katrina, Baruah said. People seeking assistance can also apply for their loans online, a development made in response to the long-distance evacuations after Katrina where many loan seekers couldn’t go to disaster recovery offices in person.

24-hour hurricane center

Whether agencies are involved in the response or the recovery phase, they rely heavily on the forecasts from the National Hurricane Center, which is staffed around the clock, to determine where to stage its crews and when to begin evacuations.

The Hurricane Center has two specialists tracking Ike at any given hour, but while Ike was being tracked alongside Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Hanna, each storm had its own team working overtime, said Bill Read, the center’s director. “It is a bit of a balancing act,” but because hurricanes are the agency’s business, there isn’t a lot of staff shuffling going on, Read said. The agency is always prepared to give officials briefings at any time of the day or night. “For some reason, the storms won’t take off on weekends, so we work weekends,” Read said. “Hurricanes don’t go to sleep at night

World is Now Committed to a Significant Warming

Even if greenhouse gas concentrations would remain constant at 2005 levels for the next century, which is a highly optimistic scenario, according to a group of researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the earth will still warm about 4.3 degrees F (2.4 C) above pre-industrial levels.

According to Climate Sciences professor V. Ramanathan and co-author Yan Feng, 90% of this warming will most likely be experienced in the 21st century.

Below are exerpts from the ScienceDaily article...............

"This paper demonstrates the major challenges society will have to face in dealing with a problem that now seems unavoidable," said Ramanathan. "We hope that governments will not be forced to consider trade-offs between air pollution abatement and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions."

The authors point out that the real problem is not the reduction of air pollution, but it is the lack of comparable reductions in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to offset the reductions in the surface cooling effect of fog. The paper also offers potential solutions.

There's a special room at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Researchers call it the "Anechoic Chamber" and they love to test their high-tech instruments there. Normal people think it's just plain spooky.

"In here, no one can hear you scream," says engineer Mark James as he opens the door on the surreal:

The door creaks shut behind James and suddenly it's like someone hit the mute button. Dead silence. Pyramids on the wall seem to be closing in. The urge to scream ... hard to resist.

James just gets on with the job. He's lead engineer on a research team using this cavernous facility to test a prototype hurricane sensor called HIRAD. Short for Hurricane Imaging Radiometer, HIRAD is designed to scan large areas of ocean for microwave signals that portend storm strength and dynamics. By collecting and transmitting these data to forecasters, HIRAD could reduce property damage and even save lives.

The Anechoic Chamber is the perfect place to check HIRAD's antenna.

Weird shapes lining the chamber's walls are made of a radio-frequency damping material arranged in a pattern akin to soundproof rooms. The shapes minimize microwave reflections and eliminate electromagnetic interference.

"The electromagnetic quiet allows us to test and fully characterize the HIRAD antenna," explains James. "Lack of sound is just a weird bonus."

A microwave source at one end of the chamber sends signals to the HIRAD antenna at the other end. In this way, engineers can explore the antenna's beam pattern to check that it meets the requirements of the mission ahead.

Using microwaves, "HIRAD will be able to map out wind speeds on the ocean's surface--in particular the hurricane strength within the eye wall and elsewhere," says Tim Miller, HIRAD principal investigator at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We can also determine how heavy the rain is and the temperature of the ocean surface, more indicators of hurricane characteristics."

Because of its design, HIRAD can make observations over a wider swath of area than instruments currently used by NOAA. And by using electronic rather than mechanical means to scan and create a two-dimensional image of the storm's dynamics, HIRAD can operate on less power than current wind measuring instruments. It's also smaller, lighter, and relatively inexpensive to build.

"HIRAD's observations will not only give weather officials more and better real-time information on storm strength, but it will also help them determine how the storm will develop and where it will go," says Miller. "All of this adds up to more advanced warnings to the public."

How is HIRAD doing so far in the "bat cave" testing?

"We're still reviewing our test data, but so far HIRAD is passing with flying colors," says Robbie Hood of the MSFC, former principle investigator for the project and still intimately involved in its development.

The next step, she says, "is to build the real thing. This is just a test unit – a laboratory prototype. Ultimately, HIRAD will be more compact and lighter weight than the unit we're testing now."

The team hopes to have HIRAD ready to fly checkout tests onboard an aircraft by fall 2009, and ready for its first hurricane experiment in 2010. HIRAD will have to compete with other candidate instruments for the hurricane experiment.

The whole team feels confident that their instrument is going to succeed. "We've got top-notch personnel working long hours to make it happen," says Miller. "We all know that HIRAD is a valuable instrument, and we want to place it in the hands of weather officials so it can do its work -- saving lives."

The trick, says James with a smile, "is not getting locked in the bat cave."



Ship with 10 crew sinks off Black Sea coast

SOFIA (Reuters) - A North Korean-registered cargo ship with 10 Ukrainian and Russian crew on board sank in rough waters in the Black Sea early on Saturday, Bulgarian authorities said.

Rescuers have so far failed to find any survivors as stormy conditions hampered rescue operations, said Nikolay Apostolov head of Bulgaria's Maritime Administration Agency. Rescue workers have also not found any bodies.

Efforts to save the crew, which consisted of nine Ukrainian and one Russian seamen, will be halted for the night because of the bad weather, he said.

The Tolstoy, which carried 2,500 tonnes of metal scarp and was sailing from Russia to Turkey, sank at about 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) some 12 miles off Cape Emine on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, officials said. It issued no SOS call, they said.

"We received the exact crew list from the authorities in Rostov (Russia). It shows the ship had 10 not 12 crew, which was the preliminary information," Apostolov said.

He said the vessel was owned by an Ukrainian company and sailed under the North Korean flag.

Nine dead after Indonesian ferry catches fire, sinks

AP, JAKARTA Rescuers were searching yesterday for a missing two-year-old boy after a packed ferry caught fire and sank in eastern Indonesia, killing at least nine people, an official said. The wooden boat, the Usaha Baru, was traveling between two coastal villages in Maluku province carrying 77 passengers and crew when a fire broke out in the engine, local search and rescue agency head Eddy Paays said.

Most of the passengers were Muslims traveling home to celebrate Id al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadhan, Paays said.

Panicked passengers started jumping into the sea after the fire broke out in the engine as the boat traveled on Friday between two coastal villages in the Maluku islands, he said, adding that fisherman helped pluck many from the sea.

Rescuers continued to search for a missing toddler near the fishing village of Salahutu, he said.

At least nine people were killed in the accident and 35 others were being treated at a hospital for burn injuries, Paays said.

Ferries and passenger boats are a major form of transportation in Indonesia.

Maritime Expert Witness On Reconstruciton of Collision

Both Robert LaPointe and Terry Raye Trott apparently violated boating safety rules prior to a fatal boat crash on Long Lake, Maine, last summer, witnesses for the state testified at LaPointe's manslaughter trial Tuesday. Milford Daily News writes:

LaPointe, 39, of Medway, Mass., was going too fast at night and did not exercise care to avoid a collision when he came up on Trott's boat from behind, said Maine Warden Kevin Anderson and boat reconstruction expert William Chilcott.

Trott was in violation because his rear "all-around" light was not working, and he may not have had a sounding device on his motorboat, they said.But both witnesses agreed that under federal navigation rules, LaPointe was at fault for the Aug. 11, 2007, crash. His obligation as the boat coming up from behind superseded the obligation Trott had to maintain proper lighting, they said.

"Mr. LaPointe was driving too fast at night," said Anderson, who conducted a reconstruction of the collision using the salvaged boats. "He wasn't able to avoid the collision. He ran over a boat." Boaters on Maine's lakes are required to obey the navigation rules maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, and any other state laws or local ordinances specific to each body of water.

Anderson said boaters must travel at speeds low enough to avoid a collision with another boat, a log, a loose dock, a swimmer or any other hazard that might present itself. Anderson estimated LaPointe was going between 40 and 50 mph at the time of the crash, and Trott was going between 10 and 20 mph.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Special - A Blind Storm Chaser? Is That Possible

A Blind Storm Chaser? Is That Possible?

By Michelle Dyer - Robin Storm Special Correspondent.

You might be wondering what a Blind Storm Chaser is, and why I'd even consider suggesting such a thing! Well, we all know what storm chasers are, but no one's ever heard of blind ones!

As a matter of fact, such a thing wouldn't otherwise cross your mind without me mentioning it. Perhaps the up-coming story I'm going to share with you, along with ideas of what I hope to see in the future, will make the thought of such things seem more plausible.

A Bit About Me

Before I go any further, perhaps I should give a bit of info about myself. My name is Michelle Dyer, and I am a 38 year old, totally blind female from Central Florida. The Sunshine State's been my home for about twenty years, but I am originally from Northern Virginia.

For most of my life, I've always seemed to have an interest in weather. Even though I can't really trace this interest back to a single event, there are many events that I will always remember. At some point down the road, I will share those experiences in a future article.

My Blogs And Weather E-Mail Lists

I, as a blind person, follow weather, yet I am unable to carry out the same actions that most other storm chasers do. This doesn't mean I've given up on my love for following weather though. First of all, I have two blogs that I post to on a regular basis. Secondly, I moderate a weather E-Mail list where weather from Florida is the central focus. Along with this, I am a member of a Mid West weather E-Mail list that is also moderated by a blind friend of mine.

If you are interested in the weather blogs, here's how you can get to them. To visit the All About Mid West Weather blog, please visit here. I also have a blog called The Storm Watch Forum. If you wish to visit that blog as well, please go here.

When you visit these blogs, you will also learn about a friend of mine by the name of Bonnie. This dear friend of mine lives in Oklahoma City and works as a storm spotter for the Oklahoma County Emergency Management. Even though she is not totally blind, she has to use glasses to correct her vision. When you read her blog postings, you will see just what an inspiration she is to me.

To learn more about, or to sign up for the E-Mail weather groups, you may visit the following pages. To get to the Florida Weather Info Google Group, please go here. If you are also interested in the Mid West Weather group, please visit this link. It is free to join, and we'd love to have you on board.

In What Way Do We Chase Storms?

One may ask, so how through these blogs and E-Mail groups do we chase storms? Well, the answer is simple! We go up to sites such as the www.weather.gov alerts page, pluck information regarding watches and warnings for states effected, posting these alerts to the blogs and E-Mail lists, then follow the progress of severe weather events through related news articles and personal accounts of specific weather events. All these items are well documented, giving the reader a full picture of what has taken place. This, in turn, gives a "Storm Chaser" feel to the material posted.

My Intuition And Other Four Senses

Blind individuals have ways of getting around their loss of eye sight. One way is through the use of their other four senses. Another way is through having an intuitive personality. I can say for certain that such things are true of me, and have played a role in how I follow weather.

How do I use my other four senses to follow weather? Well, that's simple! First of all, when I can't see the rain falling, I can hear it. Secondly, when I can't see the snow falling, I can feel it touching me. Thirdly, when it comes to knowing about an approaching severe storm, that's where hearing the thunder comes in handy. Oh, but of course, one must never leave out the use of a NOAA weather radio because it can save your life!

In conjunction with the use of my other four senses, I also have great intuition as it relates to weather. For the last twenty-five years or so, I have had a strange intuition about certain weather situations. For example, I have known about tornado outbreaks before anyone else has. I even get vives about these events several weeks in advance of their taking place. I hope to share these experiences at length in a future article.

So What Lies Ahead?

So what lies ahead in the future for me? Well, I hope to help in making it possible for blind weather enthusiasts to do what they love for a living, follow and forecast weather! As it stands now, the science of Meteorology is way too visual for the blind to do as a profession. In a future article, I hope to address this issue further, with the hope that I can bring about working ideas for change. Finally, I hope to encourage sighted storm chasers to take on blind partners, thus allowing for us to use our growing knowledge, our other four senses and intuition to help in the improving science of weather forecasting.

Michelle Dyer's Link
Florida Weather Group
My Blogs Are:
Other Special Sites Where You Can See My Writing:

We at Robin Storm welcome Michelle as our special weather correspondent. Watch here for her weather stories.


Friday, September 26, 2008

"Freak" Hurricane Ike Will Cost $22 Billion

"Freak" Hurricane Ike Will Cost $22 Billion

Hurricane Ike will be entered into the record books for the severe damage it inflicted in and around Galveston, Texas, experts say.

"This one's going to be famous for a long time, if for no other reason than it hit Texas, which hadn't gotten a strike by a damaging hurricane in 25 years," said Jeff Masters, director of Weather Underground, a private commercial forecasting service.

Masters also noted that the cost of Ike's rampage along the Gulf Coast could reach U.S. $22 billion, which would make it the third costliest hurricane on record behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The center of Hurricane Ike made landfall around 3 a.m. EDT Saturday at Galveston. The storm's peak winds were clocked at 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour, making it just short of a major Category 3 hurricane. (See photos of the hurricane's aftermath.)

But the storm's enormous size—nearly as large as the state of Texas—spread its destruction from eastern Louisiana to Texas.

"Freak" Storm

The worst of Ike's damage was caused by its huge storm surge, a mound of water pushed ashore by the storm's winds. (Watch video of Ike's waves crash over buildings in Cuba.)

Because of Hurricane Ike's huge size, its storm surge of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) above normal tides was much bigger than a Category 2 hurricane usually would create.

When Hurricane Ike struck eastern Cuba last week, it was a very powerful Category 4 hurricane with peak winds of about 145 miles (233 kilometers) an hour.

But the storm's long trip across Cuba caused the hurricane to weaken and spread out.

Ike stayed large when it moved off the western tip of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico, said James Franklin, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"One of the issues with Ike was how long it took for the core of the hurricane to recover from its passage over Cuba, Franklin said. "At one time, it was forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall [in the U.S.].

"I think we were anticipating that it might have intensified a little faster over the Gulf. But very often, you see storms that never recover after they have had interaction with land."

Masters said Ike became a "freak" over the Gulf of Mexico because its barometric pressure started dropping, which is usually an indication that a hurricanes winds are strengthening. Ike's winds did strengthen some, but not as much as forecasters expected.

Still, Ike was so large that its winds set most of the Gulf of Mexico into motion, and that's why its storm surge became so large and destructive.

Killer Storm

The hurricane has killed at least 34 people in the U.S.

Rescue workers are still trying to reach some coastal residents who did not heed the National Weather Service's dire warning to evacuate in advance of the storm.

Among the residents who did not leave were about 500 people on the Bolivar Peninsula just north of Galveston.

When Ike made landfall, the peninsula was hit by the storm's front-right quadrant, which carries a hurricane's peak winds and maximum storm surge.

Masters noted that 80 percent of the homes on Bolivar Peninsula were destroyed.

Dan Reilly, a meteorologist at the Houston-Galveston National Weather Service office, said Ike's storm surge combined with large pounding waves caused the damage on the peninsula.

The arrival of a storm surge is gradual as the hurricane approaches land and pushes the edges of the surge ahead of its center. But the surge steadily increases as the center of the hurricane gets closer.

When the hurricane's eye arrives, the powerful winds can create large breaking waves riding atop the surge, and these waves are very destructive as they crash down on buildings.

Reilly said the surge and pounding waves caused heavy damage on Bolivar Peninsula and the southwestern end of Galveston Island. But the surge did not top the city's 17-foot (5.2-meter) seawall, built after a devastating hurricane in 1900. (See scenes of the devastation left behind after the 1900 hurricane.)

Masters added that although the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season still has more than two months remaining, the rampage of Hurricane Ike and earlier storms that formed in the same area this summer may prevent future storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida from becoming as powerful as they might otherwise have been.

"They all acted to cool down the ocean in the Gulf and around the Bahamas," Masters said. "So the next storm that comes through will not have as much heat."


Lessons from disasters like Ike

America has tightened building codes in danger zones, but it also needs to stop building.

Nearly a week after Galveston Island took a severe beating from hurricane Ike, a Kroger grocery store has finally opened for business, grilling up fajitas for its employees. With the Texas island still not ready to take back evacuees, the open store is at least one encouraging sign of normalcy.

For that is the aim of rescue and relief workers, government officials, neighbors, and perfect strangers who all assist in the aftermath of any disaster – to help residents return to as normal a life as possible.

But normalcy has its downside in America's hazard-prone areas. If it means rebuilding exactly as everything was before the hurricane, fire, or earthquake, then business-as-usual is itself hazardous.

The country has learned to do some key things differently in the wake of several years of weather whammies. One of them is to adopt stricter building codes that save lives and money.

New building and landscaping standards spared five communities from San Diego's fierce fires last year. In 1992, when the worst mainland hurricane in US history slammed into Florida, 27 Miami-area houses built to hurricane-resistant standards suffered no structural damage, while other homes nearby were flattened.

Florida now has the most stringent hurricane building codes in the country. After Katrina and Rita in 2005, Gulf states caught on, with Louisiana, for instance, passing a statewide code. Structures along the Mississippi coast are being rebuilt on stilts.

Good job, except for this huge oversight. The rebuilding, with few exceptions, is taking place in the same spots that were wiped out. As naturally as snow falls, people want to build in warm places with beautiful beach vistas – no matter that they're on a vulnerable barrier island such as Galveston.

One thing that would discourage the pounding of pylons in obvious danger zones is market-priced property insurance. It's telling that private insurers have for the most part pulled out of the Gulf coastal areas. As of Nov. 30, State Farm won't renew even existing policies for customers within 1,000 feet of the shoreline.

Customers have therefore swarmed to subsidized state insurance programs, and, of course, should these fail, there is always the National Flood Insurance Program. Or not. Congress is wrangling over renewal of the program, which expires Sept. 30. Sadly, both House and Senate bills perpetuate low-cost insurance that only encourages more building in dangerous zones.

In the absence of correcting market forces, populations along the coastal counties of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have popped up like beach umbrellas. In 1980, about 67 million people lived in these counties, according to the US Census Bureau. In 2006, just over 88 million. And little has discouraged developers – at least before the housing bust – from marching up the tinder-dry hills of California.

State and local governments should either wean themselves from taxpayer-subsidized, low-cost insurance – or block off the most vulnerable areas. It is possible. After the 1977 Red River flood, Grand Forks, in North Dakota, marked off a "no build" zone near the river. Two decades ago, South Carolina began a gradual retreat from the sea – redrawing its baseline at the shore every 10 years.

Now in Texas, the land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, is proposing that new coastal construction be set back at 60 times the erosion rate – for example, 60 feet for every foot of erosion. Before Ike, he was blasted by local officials who said the restrictions would erode development and resulting tax revenue.

With so much washed out to sea or piled up as debris, Galveston – and other communities – should be welcoming Mr. Patterson's proposal. To prepare for disasters, America should not just batten down, but step back.

IAFC Recommends Hurricane Responses

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has produced a list of model procedures for responding to hurricanes and tropical storms. The guidelines can help chief officers establish a policy for response that minimizes the risk to fire/EMS personnel and protects the department’s human, physical and cyber-infrastructure critical to safeguard a community before, during and after a storm.

Some of the guidelines for creating a safe environment for personnel are:

  • Review the fire department’s standard operating guide, update as needed and review with all members. Obtain and review the most recent version of the fire department’s continuity of operations plan.
  • Update target occupancies list. A target occupancy might be an occupancy with a high probability of trapped victims or a structure that stores a large amount of hazardous materials or is susceptible to structural failure, such as schools, hospitals, health-care facilities and factories.
  • All companies familiarize themselves with the topography of their response area to become aware of flood-prone areas.
  • Inventory all equipment.
  • Ensure apparatus readiness.
  • Check the physical condition of each department building and facilitate repairs of any damaged roof areas, windows or doors that could contribute to increased damage in a hurricane. Check and service as needed any sump pumps for basement areas. Be sure all surface-area drains around the exterior of buildings are free and clear of all debris to allow for proper drainage.
  • Ensure all fire department generators have been serviced and are working.
  • Inventory and check batteries and chargers for portable equipment and be sure all are in working order and that there is an adequate number available.
  • Maintain all apparatus fuel tanks at no less than three-quarters full.
These procedures should be conducted at least two months prior to hurricane season.

The full report, are available at www.iafc.org.


By David Wilcock

All work on salvaging the remaining part of the MSC Napoli will be halted until next year because of bad weather, it was announced yesterday.

All that remains of the vessel, which was grounded off East Devon, is the rusting stern section, which was expected to be removed by the end of October, marking the conclusion of an estimated pounds50 million salvage operation.

However, the Secretary of State's representative for maritime salvage and intervention, Hugh Shaw, has agreed with environmental groups, the salvors and insurers representing boat owner Metvale that autumnal storms make the work too dangerous to continue.

It means the wreck could still be off Branscombe beach two years after it was grounded there in January 2007.

Mr Shaw said: "The decision to suspend salvage operations for the MSC Napoli was necessary to lessen the risks that the onset of harsher autumnal weather would have presented to the safety of the salvors involved and the local environment.

"The conditions under which salvors are operating are now becoming increasingly treacherous. During the initial incident, no lives were no lost and my aim is to lessen the risks to anyone involved in the operation during this final phase."

He said 2,800 tonnes of the aft section of the 60,000 tonne vessel have been removed. But the remaining section is heavily constructed and "proving difficult to dismantle", especially the 1,400 tonne engine.

"The vessel's location and exposure to the elements has not helped salvage activities," he said. "There is also an estimated 3,000 tonnes of silt and clay trapped inside the ship and adding substantial weight to the overall structure.

"My goal continues to be the removal of as much of the remaining aft section, as is practicably possible, balanced against the environmental sensitivities of the Lyme Bay area."

The news was met with dismay by some villagers in Branscombe.

Guy Bentley, who runs the Old Baker Tea Shop, said the continued presence of the wreck and the workers was affecting village life. "As a general rule for the locals, we cannot wait for everything to get back to normal again," he said.

"It will be nice to see the back of it. I live down by the beach and I go out there every night and you cannot see the night sky for the lights from the workers' camp.

"It ruins the whole beachfront and I'm sure it destroys the character for regular visitors."

A 500m temporary exclusion zone remains in place around what remains of the wreck off Branscombe beach.

Additional navigational marks will be deployed around the wreck, while counter-pollution response measures including personnel and equipment will remain in place.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency will continue its regular flights over the site.

Another villager, Anthony Sellick, said it might not be a bad thing for the recovery and teams to stay for another winter.

"The wreck isn't doing any harm and the teams patrolling the beach are doing a good job of recovering things," he said.

"There is going to be a certain amount of stuff on the sea bed which will wash up over the winter.

"Bits of steel and other material are still washing up on the shore which isn't good. But we are not suffering as much as we first feared."

Coast Guard Crew Sickened Surveying Damage

A U.S. Coast Guard crew that stumbled upon a group of washed-away chemical tanks on Sunday evening was taken to the hospital, KPRC Local 2 reported.

Coast Guard Lt. Steve Morris said the crew maneuvered their boat next to the chemical tanks that had washed up under the hull of several barges, and they began feeling sick when they returned to shore.

The crew of six went to the hospital complaining of watering eyes, scratchy throats and dizziness.The Coast Guard dispatched its Maritime Safety Security Team from Boston and other cities to comb through the Houston Ship Channel to look for damage and inspect for dangers. Along with the floating tanks, they encountered large equipment floating in the water after having broken away from various petrochemical plants and refineries. Coast Guard crews bumped their boats up against some of the large debris to push it into areas where it can remain until cleanup can be organized.

Other damage along the channel spotted by the Coast Guard teams included several barges and at least one oil tanker that had run aground after breaking free from docks, large oil tanks pushed and bent at the Magellan facility dock, overturned trucks and other equipment onshore, and one large door caved in on a warehouse structure. The Coast Guard reported it has not found any widespread oil slick or other spill similar to what it saw with Hurricane Katrina.Only tugboats were cleared for travel through the Ship Channel, and no decision had been made on Sunday night as to when tankers and freighters would resume.

To the end of the world, in Magellan's wake

Though safer and more luxurious, voyages still face uncertain weather and treacherous waters
Passengers gather on deck as the ship rounds Cape Horn.

TIERRA DEL FUEGO, Chile - At 7:45 a.m. on a Sunday in early January, several hundred passengers aboard the Celebrity Infinity huddled with cameras along the starboard railings on the ship's decks, poised for the rounding of Cape Horn. The roughly 2,000-mile journey from Buenos Aires to the tip of South America had taken a week, some of it through treacherous seas, and anticipation was high.

As if on cue, bitter-cold wind hurled tiny daggers of ice crystals at the mariners, sending many of the less-stalwart scuttling for the nearest doorway. Others weathered the onslaught and hoped for the best.

Suddenly, the roiling skies cleared, and a rainbow appeared, glancing off the craggy granite rock face of Cape Horn.

"This is what we came all this way to see," exclaimed passenger Bobbi Sorensen of Atlanta. "It was a real thrill!"

Her husband, Tom, a seasoned sailboat captain, marveled at the blackness of the granite rocks and the isolation of the continent's southernmost outcropping. "Cape Horn is literally the punctuation mark at the end of the world," he said.

Author and on-board historian James W. Reid proclaimed this particular rounding of the Cape the best he'd seen in 100 voyages. "Travel is very uncertain in this part of the world, and the unpredictable weather makes you stop and think: How did [Ferdinand] Magellan . . . do it?" he said.

Reid presented slide shows and lectures on South American history, ports of call, and points of interest throughout our 14-day cruise to Valparaíso.

"Here, the magic of the past has not faded with time," he said. "You can still relive the days of these early navigators and see the same things they saw as you sail around the Horn and through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel ."

Today, cruising around the tip of South America is much safer, more luxurious, and far more affordable than ever. Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Silversea, and other cruise companies offer a variety of sailings, with multiple ports of call in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Some itineraries also include Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, the Falkland Islands, or Antarctica. The best time to cruise is during our winter months when it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. But be forewarned: High winds and cold temperatures in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego can make for wintry conditions, even in summer.

Like many Cape Horn passengers, Mary and Dennis Murphy of Groton were eager to chart a new course. "We haven't been to South America and wanted to get a general feeling for the area, so we can decide whether to return and explore it in greater depth," said Mary. "We also were attracted to this cruise itinerary by the prospect of seeing beautiful natural features and unusual animals, such as penguins and sea elephants."

Although the couple had sailed on smaller ships, this was their first cruise aboard a 2,500-passenger liner. "It's a great value for the money," Mary said. "There are tons of choices in excursions and activities - something for everybody. The ship also has great food and amenities. If you are interested in rounding Cape Horn, you couldn't do it on a smaller vessel for the same price."

Passengers traveled from 38 countries to sail aboard the Infinity, creating what Allan King , the cruise director and a native of Scotland, likes to call a "floating United Nations." Evening entertainment featuring Argentinian gauchos and Latino singers, afternoon tango lessons and optional rodizio dinners (where meat is grilled on skewers) added a south-of-the-equator flair.

"Anybody approaching South America has to look with open eyes and expect the unexpected," King said. To get the most from the voyage, he recommended passengers research the ports of call and book excursions well in advance. "This is a different type of cruise vacation than you will experience in the Caribbean or Alaska," King explained. "In South America, the port cities are gateways to places of interest."

On the morning the Infinity arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, our first port of call after leaving Buenos Aires the day before, thick sides of beef, pork, and lamb were sizzling on wood-fire grills at small bistros inside the cavernous Mercado del Puerto near the port terminal. A pleasant walk through the Old City took us past timeworn Parisian-style buildings, open-air fruit markets, and vendors' stalls to the immense Plaza Independencia. In the center of the square, a regal bronze statue of General José Gervasio Artigas on horseback honors the "father" of Uruguay.

That afternoon, we traveled 45 minutes by bus north from Montevideo to the Juanico Winery in Uruguay's principal wine-producing region for a leisurely drive through the estate's 600 acres of lush vineyards and a tour of their oak-barrel aging cellar. Inside the wood-beamed tasting room we sampled six wines, including a 2002 Preludio Barrel Select, an elegant blended red. Many passengers in our tour group purchased bottles to take back to the ship.

A sea lion bobbing in choppy waters was the first to greet the Infinity at Puerto Madryn, a rather drab Argentinean town founded in 1865 by Welsh settlers. Despite its lackluster appearance, the area is a jumping-off point for rich nature areas. To the east, the Valdes Peninsula, one of South America's finest wildlife reserves, is home to immense southern sea elephants, sea lions, seals, and flocks of sea birds. One hundred miles to the south, the Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery hosts the largest penguin nesting ground on the continent and is the best place to rub elbows with an estimated 2 million Magellan penguins.

"Part of the attraction of South America for nature lovers is the opportunity to sail the southern oceans and encounter distinct populations of sea creatures, birds, and land-dwelling animals that you don't see in the Northern Hemisphere," explained Milos Radakovich, our on-board naturalist.

Our often bumpy, dusty three-hour ride to Punta Tombo took us through arid scrub land, reminiscent of Baja California. Sparse herds of fuzzy brown guanacos, or wild llamas, munched dry grass far from the roadside.

At the rookery, a pebble pathway led through pocked rolling hills, where fluffy gray penguin chicks snoozed in shallow burrows or peeped incessantly for their parents. The handsome black-and-white adult birds paraded single-file across the path. From a lofty viewing area atop a precipice on the seacoast, we gazed down at thousands of penguins, bobbing in the chilly waters for fish and sprawling on the sandy shore.

"We saw the march of the little, or fairy, penguins in Australia," said Judith Goldstein of South Windsor, Conn. "We loved it and selected this tour because it enabled us to view penguins in their natural habitat."

The fierce winds of Patagonia kicked up a blinding dust storm when we returned to the Infinity, delaying boarding for two hours. At times the thick dust nearly obliterated the shoreline and another cruise ship nearby. This blustery send-off from Puerto Madryn proved to be the initial salvo of a major gale that packed sustained winds of 60 miles per hour with gusts up to 90 miles per hour, and sent 30 foot waves crashing against the ship's hull. For the next two days, sailing was rough.

The Infinity's public-address system chimed early on the morning we were scheduled to drop anchor off Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. Captain Athanasios G. Peppas, a veteran of 10 Cape Horn voyages, explained that heavy seas would prevent the ship's tenders from transporting passengers to shore and, therefore, the visit to the Falklands was canceled.

Later that day Peppas told us it is not uncommon for foul weather to scuttle disembarkation plans in the Falklands. "This is not just a cruise; it's an adventure," he said.

Fortunately, the seas calmed as we neared Tierra del Fuego ("land of fire"), assuring us our memorable rounding of Cape Horn, which was named after the Dutch town of Hoorn, the birthplace of navigator Willem Schouten. In 1615, the prominent Dutch merchant Isaac Le Maire raised money and hired Schouten to lead an exploratory voyage in search of an alternate route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, south of the Strait of Magellan, which was charted a century earlier. Schouten succeeded in finding that southerly route, known as the Strait of Le Maire, in 1616.

After leaving Cape Horn, the Infinity sailed up the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia, Argentina, which calls itself the southernmost city in the world. Nestled along a small, boat-studded harbor, this frontier town exudes a slightly Bavarian flavor, with its peaked clock tower and Alpine-style buildings. On San Martin Street, we shopped for jewelry, sheep's wool throws, and leather jackets while checking the menu offerings of local restaurants for king crab and grilled steaks. Our afternoon excursion took us through dramatic vistas in Tierra del Fuego National Park aboard the rather touristy and pricey "train at the end of the world."

The remaining days of our cruise included stops at two Chilean ports of call. Punta Arenas, the oldest and largest city in Chilean Patagonia, offered a spectacular view from atop Hill of the Cross Lookout and an opportunity to walk through the lavish mansion, now a cultural center, built by Patagonian pioneer Mauricio Braun in 1905. Puerto Montt, originally a German settlement and now the gateway to the southern lake area, featured the area's largest artisan market, with a tremendous selection of handcrafted clothing, jewelry, and leather goods, just a few minutes walk from the passenger terminal.

The highlights were our evening sail past the five ice-blue glaciers glittering like crown jewels along the Beagle Channel west of Ushuaia and the full day we spent wending our way through the Chilean fiords. At times snow-etched peaks loomed above the Infinity, casting long shadows on passengers sunbathing below on the ship's top deck.

Before disembarking in Valparaíso, each passenger received a certificate commemorating the voyage. For Harvey and Harriet Ellis of Warminster, Pa., completing the nearly 4,000-mile cruise was a triumph.

"We're living in a time when middle-class people can travel to exotic places that were impossible to reach, except for the very well-to-do, even a century ago," Harriet said. "Cape Horn is literally the world's last outpost, and we decided that if Magellan could do it, so could we."

Salvors to produce Casualty Management Guidelines

Marine salvage companies meeting in Malta this week decided unanimously to progress a project to produce best practice guidelines for Marine Casualty Management.

The AHTS 'Boulder' responded earlier this year when the general cargo vessel 'B Prus' had engine problems in severe weather some 160 miles west of La Corunna.

The AHTS 'Boulder' responded earlier this year when the general cargo vessel 'B Prus' had engine problems in severe weather some 160 miles west of La Corunna.

The guidelines will assist governments, shipowners and managers, port authorities and other interests directly involved in ship salvage operations.

For several years the International Salvage Union (ISU) has proposed the production of best practice guidelines for Marine Casualty Management (MCM Guidelines). At its Annual General Meeting in Malta, ISU members endorsed the project to complete guidelines for circulation and use by salvors, shipowners and coastal states worldwide. The intention is to complete the guidelines during 2009.

Commenting on the initiative, President of the ISU Arnold Witte said, 'There is existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidance on the issue of places of refuge. There is also very general IMO guidance on general issues relating to the control of ships in emergency situations. What is missing is specific, comprehensive guidance on best practice throughout the entire casualty management process. The MCM Guidelines will fill that gap and, in doing so, will sharpen and enhance marine emergency response capabilities worldwide. Our intention is to consult with our maritime industry partners when finalising the guidelines.'

Read the full story in the October issue of Maritime Journal.

Injury on ship transiting to OCS facility controlled by general maritime law

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that an action for personal injury brought by an offshore platform worker injured while being transported by a vessel on the high seas is controlled by general maritime law, rather than the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The dispute in the instant case was between the worker’s employer and the owner of the vessel on which he was injured. The employer and the owner had entered into an indemnity agreement regarding such claims. Such indemnity agreements are disfavored under the OCSLA, but are generally permissible under general maritime law. Grand Isle Shipyard v. Seacor Marine, No. 07-31019 (5th Cir., September 22, 2008).

UK – report on deaths by asphyxiation

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the report of its investigation of the death by asphyxiation of two crewmembers on board a bulk carrier approaching Dover Strait on 18 January 2008. A cargo of steel turnings had been loaded, without clear notice of the specific nature of the cargo as dangerous and subject to self-heating. At some time in the past, a direct air path had been inadvertently created between the cargo hold and the forward store. When the two crewmembers entered the cargo store, they succumbed to the lack of oxygen. It has been recommended that improvements be made with regard to cargo notifications and enclosed space management. Report No. 15/2008 (9/23/08).

NOAA – marine debris

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a news release stating that the Interagency Report on Marine Debris has been completed. The report was prepared at the request of Congress and focuses on marine debris sources, impacts, and strategies. Among other things, it notes that approximately 49% of marine debris originates from land-based sources, approximately 18% originates from ocean-based sources (ships, offshore structures, etc.), and approximately 33% was classified as general source debris because it could have come from land- or ocean-based sources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued similar news release. (9/22/08).

'Princess' hull cut open on Day 2 of salvage operations

Divers from Titan Salvage and Harbor Star have successfully cut a small hole through the hull of the capsized M/V Princess of the Stars on Thursday, the second day of retrieval operations for the chemical cargo inside the ship.

The Task Force Princess of the Stars, in a statement, said the salvors first surveyed the capsized ferry to determine where the toxic cargo is located - first by using a ROVO, remote operated videocamera, which surveyed the inside of the ship, and then via the divers. The divers were then able to cut an opening close to the target container.

"On our 2nd full working day, we managed to cut a 1 meter by 1.5 meters opening at the starboard (right) side of the ship, 1 meter away from the container of the endosulfan. If the good weather holds till tomorrow (Friday), we will be able to make the opening 2 x 2.5 meters, allowing divers to go in," Capt. Roberto Aris of Harbor Star was quoted as saying.

The task force said the divers will survey the cargo hold and determine the best way to extract the toxic cargo, which was shipped by Del Monte Philippines and Bayer Philippines.
"Once a full survey of the cargo hold area has been done by the divers, we will have a concrete plan on how best to remove the target cargo identified to be toxic," Aris
The task force also said the water around the container and inside the cargo hold tested negative for endosulfan.

The Philippine Coast Guard also said marine life under the ship was also reported as normal by the divers, citing the presence of numerous fish in the area.
The Coast Guard also said Titan's divers have not yet encountered any dead bodies during their dive.

The salvors are speeding up their retrieval operations for fear that an oncoming typhoon might affect the weather in the area and hamper their operations anew.
Delays due to bad weather

The retrieval operations for the chemical cargo entombed inside the capsized M/V Princess of the Stars commenced Wednesday, after almost a week of delays due to bad weather.

Titan Salvage, the salvaging company contracted by the ship's owner Sulpicio Lines, and its local counterpart Harbor Star on Wednesday started surveying the capsized ferry, located off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon.

The survey is part of retrieval operations for the chemical cargo inside the ship, which include the pesticide endosulfan and several other containers of dangerous chemicals.

The survey was done to study where the divers and their equipment would best pass through to get to the ship's cargo hold, where the chemicals are located.

Titan and Harbor Star said they will work faster to be on schedule after almost a week of delays due to rough seas.

On Tuesday, retrieval operations were delayed due to heavy downpour that also caused the collapse of two bridges connecting the town of San Fernando to the site of the shipwreck.

The only activity performed Tuesday was to check the moors connecting the "Big Time" barge, the salvaging firms' working platform beside the capsized ship, to see if these were still intact and the anchors secure.


Tanker 150 nm NE of Hurricane IKE on Sept 11, 2008.

Messing About In Ships Podcast


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ship-induced Waves Affect Snails, Crabs And Insect Larvae In Sandy Lakes And Rivers

Ship-induced Waves Affect Snails, Crabs And Insect Larvae In Sandy Lakes And Rivers

ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2008) Snails, crabs, insect larvae - the shores of rivers and lakes are populated by thousands of small animals that play an important role in the food chain of the freshwater ecosystem. They eat the leaves, among other things, which fall into the water, and so keep the waters clean.

Up to 10,000 organisms can be found on a square meter of water bottom, of which a lot are also terrestrial insect larvae. Scientists call the whole group macrozoobenthos - these are all invertebrates living on the bottom and still visible with naked eyes. Researchers at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) now study the impact that ship-induced waves can have on these small animals.

The larva of Calopteryx splendens, a dragonfly, crawls on a stone in shallow water. Then operates Friederike Gabel the wave machine. A wave, comparable to that of a sport boat, runs along the three-metre-long canal.

The larva is washed out - "detached" say the researchers - and paddle around several minutes helplessly in the water until it found again the "solid ground" under its feet. “If they stay suspended in the water, the larvae take the risk to be eaten" explains F. Gabel, a specialist of the effect of waves on invertebrates. In addition, the larva spent energy to fix them back, which has negative effects on their growth and reproduction. The researchers fear that ship-induced waves increase larval mortality and subsequently biodiversity, which would have a long-term effect on the ecological quality of rivers and lakes.

Using an experimental set up, they have defined in laboratory for which threshold of wave strength the animals will be washed out from their standing place. They found that the more complex was the structure of the habitat, less massive was the detachment. "The impact of waves is the lowest, when the shore is covert with tree roots," explains F. Gabel. Even dense reed belts would provide a sufficient protection against the power of the waves to the animals. On the contrary, the detachment is maximal on sand and stones. Complex habitats reduce the impact of waves since they offer better hiding place and fixing possibilities for the animals, explains F. Gabel.

The researchers have now begun to collect samples in natural habitat. They want to determine the long-term impact of ship-induced waves on the invertebrates inhabiting the shore. They survey different locations of the River Havel and compare shore sections differently exposed to ship-induced wave intensity.

We are not against the ship traffic, stresses F. Gabel, however there is a need to find simple measures to protect the shores. "As a result of our investigations we could make recommendations for water management, such as the design of the shores or, that ships in certain areas should pass by far away from the shore or should lower their speed" said the scientist.

The results are now published in the journal Freshwater Biology (2008, 53, 1567-1578).


Survey finds holes in U.S. disaster preparedness

NEW YORK — In a disaster such as an earthquake or terrorist attack, nearly two-thirds of U.S. parents would disregard orders to evacuate and would rush to pick up their kids from school, according to a new survey.

The survey found that 63% of parents would ignore orders to evacuate and instead attempt to reunite with their children, possibly hindering rescue efforts by adding to traffic congestion.

The authors of the study, released Thursday on the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, said that despite years of government efforts to enhance disaster preparedness, schools need to do more to plan for disasters and parents need to be made aware of the plans.

The report was commissioned by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Children's Health Fund.

Among parents of school-age children, 45% said they do not know the location where their children would be evacuated as part of the school's disaster plan.

"There should be an outcry from parents to push their schools and their school districts to develop a plan that makes sense," said Irwin Redlener, associate dean for public health preparedness at Columbia and president of the Children's Health Fund.

The federal Department of Homeland Security has allocated billions of dollars to help state and local governments set up disaster contingency plans.

But just 44% of the U.S. residents surveyed this year said they have all or some of the basic elements of a disaster preparedness plan, including food, water, a flashlight with extra batteries and a meeting place in case of evacuation.

The survey has been administered annually since 2002 by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

The telephone survey of 1,579 adults was conducted between July 25 and Aug. 9. The margin of error for the entire survey was 2.5 percentage points. The margin of error for the subset of households with children was 4 percentage points.

Parents said Thursday they were not surprised by the finding that most of them would disregard evacuation orders and pick up their children.

Diana Ennen, of Margate, Florida, is the author of "The Home Office Recovery Plan: Disaster Preparedness for Your Home-Based Business" and a mother of three.

"As a mom, you wouldn't be able to keep me away from picking up my children," she said in an e-mail. "My first instinct would be to get them at all costs. I would literally run the entire distance to get them. I believe most parents would feel the same."

After the Storm - Angie’s List has tips for repairing your home after heavy rains, flooding

Indianapolis - In the wake of Hurricane Ike and other storms, homeowners are faced with another potential disaster: unscrupulous storm-chasing contractors with promises to help consumers quickly repair the damage for cash up-front.

More often than not, these contractors pocket the money, perform shoddy, little, or no work and disappear. Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com), the nation’s leading provider of local service company ratings, can help homeowners avoid the ne’er-do-well contractors and instead find the reliable, quality help they need. “The last thing consumers affected by the bad weather need is another thing to worry about,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “If a person you don’t know comes to your door promising to help if you’ll just pay in cash, just say ‘no.’ With just a little research, you can find a reliable person who will get you back on the feet and keep you there.”

Angie’s List tips to avoid shady storm chasers:

• What not to do: If a stranger comes to your storm-ravaged yard offering to repair your roof, remove trees or do other major repair work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with little or no recourse.

• Do your research: Check Angie’s List to get some insight into local service companies. Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage too. While you might get lucky working with an independent provider who lists his truck as a permanent address, remember that you have few options if the job goes awry or the provider disappears.

• Quality is worth the wait: When massive storms hit, tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand and the best performers are generally the busiest. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other similar company can’t even answer the phones.

• Get estimates: Though your situation might seem to be one of desperation, avoid settling on the first contractor who comes along and offers to do the job. Take enough time to get at least a few different estimates on the job.

• Document important information: The same holds true for the old adage to “get it in writing,” including the price, materials to be used and the timeline for completing the job. This is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong. For homeowners with water damage, cleaning up the mud and water-soaked belongings can seem like the biggest task at hand. But drying out that area is equally important because if left damp too long, dangerous mold can grow. If the mold growth is small, you can clean and kill it with these steps.

1. Damp wipe: Mold can generally be removed from hard surfaces by scrubbing with water and detergent. It is important to dry the surface quickly.

2. Wear protective gear: Protect your hands with gloves and your eyes with goggles.

3. Discard: Remove damaged materials and seal in plastic bags.

4. Follow up: Revisit the site. It should show no signs of water damage or mold growth. Wide spread mold growth may require professional assistance. Angie advises following these tips when choosing a professional for remediation projects:

• Testing for mold: To ensure you’ve taken care of any mold issue or to determine if you have unseen mold, hire a professional remediator. If you’re hiring out the cleanup, test the area both before and after clean up.

• Understand the process: Know what the company plans for the remediation. Ask what is going to happen, when it will happen and how it may affect you. Ask about containment. How will they prevent the movement of mold spores from one area of the home to another? How long will it take?

• Check references & get estimates: Ask your provider for references and call those people. Check Angie’s List for other firsthand accounts.

• Certification: Mold remediators should follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mold remediation guidelines. You can also check the National Association of Mold Professionals (NAMP).

• Check your insurance: Not all mold damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check your policy because coverage and limitations vary. Angie’s List tips to avoid future basement flooding:

• Check your gutters: Make sure you gutters are cleaned out regularly (as well as after storms) and are flowing freely, rather than allowing water to pool around your foundation. • Seal it up: Seal cracks and holes in the concrete block walls.

• Waterproof: Paint the basement walls with specialized waterproofing paint.

• Check those pipes: Check for water leaks where pipes enter the basement.

• Install a sump pump: This will help ensure unwanted water stays out of your basement. ### Angie’s List is where thousands of consumers share their ratings and reviews on local service providers in more than 340 different categories. Currently, more than 650,000 consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them find the right professional for the job they need done. Members have unlimited access to the list via Internet or phone; receive the award-winning Angie’s List magazine, which includes articles on home improvement and maintenance, consumer trends and scam alerts.



Maritime Undersecretariat On Ferry Accident In Bandirma

ANKARA - Turkey's Maritime Undersecretariat said on Monday that one person died, 89 people were rescued, and 5 others were reported missing after a ferry boat "Hayat N" sank in Marmara Sea after departing from Bandirma Port on Sunday evening.

The ferry was loaded with 73 trucks and two cars as well as passengers.

In a written statement, the Undersecretariat said there were 95 people in the ship, adding 27 of them were crew members.

The statement said 34 of those 89 injured were under treatment in hospitals.

Manmara N. Maritime Corp, the owner of the ferry, said reason of the accident could not be determined yet, notig technical works were underway.

17 missing after S Korean cargo ship capsizes off Macao

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- About 17 crew members on a South Korean cargo ship were missing after the ship capsized off the coast of Macao on Wednesday, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said.

According to Yonhap, the 4,000-ton Zues-ho was found capsized in waters around 57 km southwest of China's Macao Special Administrative Region at 4:10 p.m.(0810 GMT) by a Chinese rescue ship.

The ship lost radio contact after sending a distress call to Singaporean maritime authorities earlier on the day, Yonhap said.

Eight South Koreans, eight Myanmarians and one Indonesian sailors are missing, Yonhap said.

The Chinese authorities deployed a 3,500-ton rescue ship and an airplane to the scene to find the missing, but Typhoon Hagupit hampered the rescue ship from conducting the rescue operations, South Korea's Coast Guard said.

The Zues-ho, registered in South Korea, left Vietnam on Sunday with 6,200 tons of glass materials on board and was scheduled to arrive at the South Korean port of Masan on next Sunday, Yonhap said.