Monday, December 27, 2010

Russian plans for tomorrow - USA lives in the day - USA ARCTIC DRILLING 2011 UNPREPARED

Arctic. © RIA Novosti.Vladimir Baranov
The Russian emergencies ministry is planning to build ten centers to monitor the operation and safety of oil and gas pipelines on the Arctic coast, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.
"One of the problems in the Arctic is the safety of oil and gas pipelines built on frozen ground. The thaw [in spring and summer] causes deformation of earth layers and, consequently, leads to leaks, ruptures and explosions at pipelines," Shoigu said in an interview with Russia 1 television.
"We have decided to build ten centers along the coast in the Arctic," he said. "They will combine meteorological, rescue and even borderguards services — all that is needed to tackle emergency situations."
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway are seeking to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to contain rich oil and gas deposits. The vast hydrocarbon deposits will become more accessible as rising global temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice.
Easier access to untapped natural resources of the Arctic will inevitably lead to the construction of dozens of new pipelines and require well-coordinated monitoring of oil and gas exploration in the region.
Shoigu said the most advanced safety technologies would be used in construction of pipelines in the Arctic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Heavy rains force temporary suspension of traffic in the Panama Canal

Heavy rains have forced the temporary suspension of traffic along the Panama Canal, the major shipping waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which handles 5% of global trade.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said in a statement on Wednesday that it was forced to suspend traffic through the canal after heavy rains had swelled the lakes that form part of canal to historic levels.
The ACP added that the temporary closure was for opening the flood gates to reduce the water level in one of the lakes, and expressed hopes that normal traffic could resume “within hours”.
Though certain sections of the canal has been closed on several occasions due to temporary blocks caused by accidents, this is the first time in more than 20 years that the entire canal has been closed to ships since the US invasion of Panama in 1989.
Most of Central America as well as several Latin American nations including Colombia and Venezuela have experienced the heaviest rains in decades this year, resulting in severe floods and mudslides across the region.
Unlike the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal is not at sea level and is made of narrow fresh water channels and lakes situated at a higher altitude. The Canal has two massive locks at either end, which are used to raise and lower ships into and out of the canal.
The construction of the canal was completed by the United States in 1914 after taking over the project in 1904 following a failed French attempt. The Canal came under Panamanian control in 1999, and has since been a major contributor to the central American nation's economy.
Some 40 ships pass through the Panama Canal on a daily basis, making one of the busiest waterways for global trade. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.

So I'm home for the Holidays; to talk with sponsors, suppliers and especially Captain Mark Schrader, of the Around The Americas vessel SV OCEAN WATCH, who completed a west-to-east Northwest Passage in 2009 during his near 28,000nm voyage around North America and South America.

Admiral Michelle, Philip and I drove north in our 850 Volvo to flood stricken Stanwood north of Seattle to meet Mark at what might be the best pizzeria in Washington state, Jimmy's Pizza. At high noon there comes another 850 Volvo with Captain Mark Schrader. We discover that both of our Admirals' are named "Michelle" - that makes it easy - Michelle this and Michelle that - not missing a single beat or speaking out of turn.... lol ... as my Michelle was taking it all in seated next to me and across the table from Mark. Mark's Michelle was back at the ranch enjoying her horses. Captains talk another language... everything has acronyms, abbreviations or some never heard of nautical terms... I could see the twinkle in the Admiral's eyes as she listened and took notes. Michelle explained her method of galley madness to Mark as he nodded with agreement... then exclaimed "Sounds like you are good hands and ready for a trip of a lifetime... I really want to go back again. I already miss exploring its secrets."

L-R: Captain Mark Schrader, Admiral Michelle and Captain Douglas Pohl

Around The Americas website:

Around The Americas News announcement:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Retirement on a Cruise Ship Combines Adventure with Convenience - REMEMBER TO CONSIDER A PRIVATE YACHT

If you are the kind of person who likes adventure and convenience – two goals that are usually incompatible – retirement on a cruise ship might be for you. It’s easy to see why many folks like cruises – you arrive at the dock, have your picture taken and come on board for a glass of the bubbly. Meanwhile your luggage finds your room (tipping is usually already included). You stow your clothes away (once) and then contemplate which restaurant merits your dinner reservation. After a busy night at the shows or rolling the dice, you awake to find your new home arriving in a new and exotic port. You check out those sights, then back to the ship where you …. rinse and repeat! And until it’s time to go home,your job is to enjoy hassle-free travel from your moving base.
Many retirees go on cruises when they first retire. Usually they like them so much they keep on taking them, discovering new destinations with different cruise lines. The choices are many, from budget operators like Carnival and Voyages of Discover to mid-priced lines like Princess to the super-extravagant like Seabourn and Crystal. Your editor, who was anti-cruising before he went on one, has really enjoyed cruising on the smaller boat experience provided by Windstar and Princess lines. Photos below are from our Ocean Princess stateroom looking at Nice (France) and Sorrento (Italy) this September.

Some folks like it so much they decide to pretty much live on board, and we can’t blame them. Princess is just one cruise line that offers multi-month cruises. The Pacific Princess has a 97 night cruise around the world, while the Seven Seas Voyager (Regent) offers a 145 nighter. Here is a link to a dozen more “super-long cruises“.
But why stop there? Many folks actually take up residence on board a cruise ship built for long-term living. You typically own your apartment and pay your share of the communal expenses. On the more affordable end of that scale, you can read Jan Cullinane’s article about what it’s like to live on the Alegria, a cruise ship converted to permanent apartments.
But if you want to step up to the ultimate in permanent cruising, you might want to check out The World. Your Topretirements editor was fortunate enough to have enjoyed lunch and a tour on this beautiful ship when it recently visited Newport, RI. To say that it is luxurious would be a serious understatement. This boat is for the very wealthy, and my, what a life they can live. From the tennis court, resort pool, and mini-golf course on the top deck to the indoor swimming pool and dance floor on the rear deck – and everywhere in between – no possible luxury has been spared. The spa was the single most luxurious facility we have ever seen. There are at least 5 luxurious restaurants plus more casual dining options, and at least 2 are open at any time of day or night. Residents vote on each year’s itinerary and share management of the ship. They pay handsomely for the privilege, too. Apartments range from studios to multi-bedroom penthouses and range from about $600,000 to multi-million dollars. Monthly expenses start at about $20,000/month (but do include a dining allowance!). But, as was pointed out to us, compared to the cost of owning a yacht and cruising the world with your own captain and crew – The World is a bargain! Please enjoy the photos of the World below (large photo of the ship is courtesy of Wikipedia and VirtualSteve. See also Residential Cruise Liners.

What do you think?
 Would residential cruising be for you? Would you also have another base somewhere else. What happens when you become elderly. Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

One scientist's hobby: recreating the ice age

The Associated Press
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 4:31 AM

CHERSKY, Russia -- Wild horses have returned to northern Siberia. So have musk oxen, hairy beasts that once shared this icy land with woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Moose and reindeer are here, and may one day be joined by Canadian bison and deer.

Later, the predators will come - Siberian tigers, wolves and maybe leopards.
Russian scientist Sergey Zimov is reintroducing these animals to the land where they once roamed in millions to demonstrate his theory that filling the vast emptiness of Siberia with grass-eating animals can slow global warming.
"Some people have a small garden. I have an ice age park. It's my hobby," says Zimov, smiling through his graying beard. His true profession is quantum physics.

Climate change is felt most sharply in the Arctic, where temperatures are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. Most climate scientists say human activity, especially industrial pollution and the byproducts of everyday living like home heating and driving cars, is triggering an unnatural warming of the Earth. On Monday, negotiators representing 194 countries open a two-week conference in Cancun, Mexico, on reducing greenhouse gases to slow the pace of climate change. Zimov is trying to recreate an ecosystem that disappeared 10,000 years ago with the end of the ice age, which closed the 1.8 million-year Pleistocene era and ushered in the global climate roughly as we know it.

He believes herds of grazers will turn the tundra, which today supports only spindly larch trees and shrubs, into luxurious grasslands. Tall grasses with complex root systems will stabilize the frozen soil, which is now thawing at an ever-increasing rate, he says.

Herbivores keep wild grass short and healthy, sending up fresh shoots through the summer and autumn. Their manure gives crucial nourishment. In winter, the animals trample and flatten the snow that otherwise would insulate the ground from the cold air. That helps prevent the frozen ground, or permafrost, from thawing and releasing powerful greenhouse gases. Grass also reflects more sunlight than forests, a further damper to global warming.
It would take millions of animals to change the landscape of Siberia and effectively seal the permafrost. But left alone, Zimov argues, the likes of caribou, buffalo and musk oxen multiply quickly. Wherever they graze "new pastures will appear ... beautiful grassland."

The project is being watched not only by climate scientists but by paleontologists and environmentalists who have an interest in "rewilding."
"This is a very interesting experiment," said Adrian Lister, of the Natural History Museum in London. "I think it's valid from an ecological point of view to put back animals that did formerly live there," he told AP Television News. He disapproved of suggestions to rewild nonnative species - for example, relocating elephants and rhinos to the American plains.

Zimov began the project in 1989, fencing off 160 square kilometers (40,000 acres) of forest, meadows, shrub land and lakes. It is surrounded by another 600 square kilometers (150,000 acres) of wilderness.

It is an offshoot of the Northeast Science Station, which he founded and where he has lived for 30 years. Already icebound by October, the park is 40 kilometers (25 miles) inland from the station, accessible only by boat in summer and by snow vehicles after the rivers freeze.

A 32-meter (105-foot) tower inside the park gives constant readings of methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor. The data feeds into a global monitoring system overseen by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Zimov's research on permafrost, greenhouse gas emissions and mammoth archaeology has attracted world scientists to his laboratories, a small cluster of cabins and a tiny chapel on a rocky bluff above a channel of the Kolyma River. A 20-bed barge is used for field trips in summer, and a $100,000 hovercraft is on order. Zimov sometimes uses an old Russian tank to bring supplies from the Chinese border, 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away.
Part of the station's attraction - and deterrence - is its remoteness. It is 6,600 kilometers (4,000 miles) and eight time zones east of Moscow. The nearby town of Chersky, with some 5,000 people, has few amenities, and the nearest city, Yakutsk, is a 4-1/2 flight. Many researchers, particularly Americans, prefer to work in Alaska or northern Canada, which are more accessible "Most of the Arctic is in Russia, and yet most of the Arctic research isn't," said Max Holmes, of Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, director of the Polaris Project, which has sent undergraduates to the station for the last three summers.

Zimov started the park with a herd of 40 Yakutian horses, a semi-wild breed with a handsomely long mane that is raised by Yakuts and other native people for their meat. Short, sturdy and broad-backed, they survive harsh Siberian winters with the help of a furry hide, thick layers of fat and the ability to paw through a meter (3 feet) of snow to forage.

Of his first herd, Zimov said 15 were killed by wolves and bears, 12 died from eating wild hemlock that grows in the park, and two slipped through the perimeter and made their way back some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to their original pastures.

But he bought more. Now the horses have learned to avoid poisonous plants and to resist predators. Over the last three years, more colts were born and survived than horses lost.

The challenge is to find the right balance between grazers and predators, and how to help his animals get through their first winters.
His workers still give occasional buckets of grain to the horses to supplement their diet with salt. About half the horses come regularly to the cabin where a caretaker stays year-round. The other half are rarely seen except for their tracks.

Zimov also has had problems with the moose that he brought inside his enclosure. Moose still live in small numbers in surrounding forests, and the males jump back and forth over the 6-foot-high fence.

In September he traveled to a nature reserve on Wrangel Island, about five hours by boat across the East Siberia Sea, and brought back six 4-month-old musk oxen. One died a few weeks later. The others are kept in a small enclosure and fed hay until they can fend for themselves.

His objective is to see whether a thriving population of grazing animals will regenerate grasslands that disappeared long ago, which would slow and even halt the accelerating pace of permafrost thaw. So far, he says, the results are encouraging.

Today he has 70 animals in the park. He wants thousands to restock Siberia. To bring 1,000 bison from North America would cost $1 million, Zimov says, a small price to pay.

"If permafrost melts, 100 gigatons of carbon will be released this century," he said. "What's $1 million? One regular grant."
AP Television News producer Siobhan Starrs and APTN cameraman Dmitry Kozlov contributed to this story

Friday, November 26, 2010

Man makes fourth Antarctic trip

A POTTSVILLE carpenter will trade boardshorts and thongs for thermal underwear and a jumpsuit as he makes his fourth expedition to Antarctica early next month.

A POTTSVILLE carpenter will trade boardshorts and thongs for thermal underwear and a jumpsuit as he makes his fourth expedition to Antarctica early next month.
Peter McCabe will take up the tools to preserve heritage-listed huts erected 99 years ago by Sir Douglas Mawson and the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) team.
The 30-year-old has “ice in his veins”, a condition that took hold on his first trip to the continent in 2005, during 14 months at Australian research base Casey Station.
“Once my first trip finished I was pretty much already looking for an avenue to head back down there,” he said.
“The term they coin for it is ‘You get ice in your veins’ ”.
The Mawson’s Hut Foundation gave Mr McCabe an opportunity to return south through its work restoring the historically significant huts Mawson and the AAE team built at Cape Denison, one of the windiest places on earth.
Much of the past decade’s work has been restoring the main hut where the team lived, but this time an astronomical observatory called the “transit hut” is the focus.
The transit hut was first managed as a standing ruin and left alone to age and deteriorate naturally, but that has changed.
“In the last few years its condition has worsened dramatically and it is getting to the point where we could go down there one year and it will be completely gone,” Mr McCabe said.
“Once we realised the condition it was in every-one involved said we need to reconsider how we manage this building.
“All of a sudden the standing ruin classification wasn’t appropriate. We couldn’t let this thing blow away, we had to do something.”
Next year’s centenary of Mawson’s 1911 voyage is expected to bring a lot of visitors to the site, and Mr McCabe said “we need to make sure it is all ready for the big show”.
Two carpenters and a doctor will make up the team. They leave Hobart on December 8 and the journey to Antarctica will take six days across seas as high as 10m.
“Mawson was a really bad traveller at sea – that is what I tell myself when I am laying in the bunk feeling seasick,” Mr McCabe laughed.
Mawson was a man of remarkable achievement and it is hard not to be inspired by his exploits and the stories of the first AAE expedition.
The most disastrous, yet incredible, tale is about the trek Mawson took with Xavier Mertz and Lieutenant Belgrave Ninnis.
Ninnis fell through a hidden crevasse with almost all of the trio’s food and the other two started walking home.
Mawson somehow managed the marathon trek back alone after Mertz died, but when the ship arrived to take the rest of the team, Mawson had not returned.
Six crew volunteered to stay behind and wait for him, even though the boat would not return for 12 months and there was no guarantee he would ever return.
Mawson arrived back at Cape Denison only hours after the ship had sailed and he could still see it in the distance as he walked home to the hut.
“When you walk into the hut you see a lot of things sitting untouched like a pair of one of the men’s overalls hanging up on a nail and a frozen piece of seal steak sitting on a shelf – you can see all these little moments of history sitting there.
“You learn a lot about what all the men did in their time down there, and I have got a lot of admiration for all of them and what they went through.”
The crew will mark Christmas with a game of cricket on the ice and will watch the midnight sun for New Year’s Eve.
Mr McCabe said he would miss his new fiancee, Katrina.
“Due to extremely expensive phone costs we will only be able to get 20 minutes a week conservation time.”
Strange encounters with penguins and the sheer beauty of the icy coastline are some of Mr McCabe’s fondest memories of the Antarctic.
Last trip a penguin launched itself out of the water and into a zodiac Mr McCabe was driving.
“He hung out with us for a few minutes and when he thought it was time to go he jumped back in the water.”
You can keep updated on Mr McCabe and his team’s progress by visiting the expedition blog at

Centenary of Scott's ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic

FOOTSTEPS: Antony Jinman
ONE of the greatest adventures in human history began 100 years ago today with a Plymouth man in charge.
On November 26, 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic set sail from New Zealand.
It ended in tragedy in March 1912 when Scott and his four companions died of starvation and frostbite on their way back from the South Pole.
The anniversary is marked today as Plymouth explorer Antony Jinman begins a blog reflecting on Scott's daily diaries and detailing his own preparations for a memorial expedition in the Plymouth hero's footsteps.
Mr Jinman said: "100 years ago, even getting to the Antarctic was a dangerous adventure that few people have achieved.
"They sailed through the stormiest and most remote seas in the world. Scott's party was hit by terrible storms and they had to throw some of their supplies overboard to save the ship.
"There was a real danger they might not make it."
Mr Jinman's memorial expedition in 2012 is the highlight of a series of local, national and international commemorations, which is already under way.
He will lead a party on foot to the site where Scott died. There they will be joined by relatives flown in for a service of remembrance.
Events in Plymouth include a conference and arts shows in June next year.
Engaging all ages in the city, particularly children, is a key goal in the programme. One part of that is series of Polar Fun Days with science and art, which will begin at Devonport Guildhall on February 22 and 23 and then tour the city.
Mr Jinman said: "We want this (the Scott commemorations) to have a social impact, particularly targeting children who will be starting primary school next year. We want all children to know about Scott and be inspired by him and have aspirations of their own."
That spirit of adventure could change their employability and boost entrepreneurism in a city currently heavily dependent on the public sector, he said.
Scott and his team battled 800miles on foot across the ice to the southernmost point on Earth only to discover they had been beaten in the quest to be the first to the pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen's party.
Scott and companions returned through freak weather and died only about 11 miles from safety. The story of their bravery and spirit remains one of the greatest tales in the history of human exploration.

Hang gliding 'LOOP' perfection by John Heiney in Mazatlan Mexico

Hang gliding looping in Mazatlan México. John Heiney from San Diego CA. give us a good show.Official Guinness World Record Holder('88-'98) for Consecutive Loops (52) 4 times world hang gliding acrobatic champion

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PlanetSolar TURANOR continues underway... update November 24 2010



Ms Tûranor


The TÛRANOR* PlanetSolar is a pioneer in renewable energy technology used for marine navigation.Not something like this has been achieved in the field of mobility to this day. This solar-powered catamaran uses advanced technologies available on the market. The intention is to demonstrate that through innovative use of materials and technologies available, performance of high rank can be achieved today.

  • The Energy Management: Moving should not use more energy than that provided by the sun.
  • Efficiency: The motorized and solar is efficient only if the costs are reasonable and competitive.Therefore, we mainly use materials and technologies available today that creates a potential for mass production, thus considerably reducing the cost and operational costs over time.
* The name means TÛRANOR "The power of the sun." This name comes from the saga of Lord JJR Tolkien "The Lord of the Rings."

Dear Friends PlanetSolar,

Here about a month since we left Las Palmas. We traveled over 3,000 miles (6,000 km) across the Atlantic. When we get to Miami we walked the first 10,000 miles that first sail around the world with solar energy.
PlanetSolar track
The team Thalassa who followed us for several days has carried a story about the adventure "PlanetSolar. It will air this Friday, November 26 on the television channel France 3 at 20:30. Do not miss this excellent documentary that tells the incredible story of this adventure solar.
If the start of the Atlantic crossing happened in good weather, the second part was more technical, mostly because of Tropical Storm "Tomas" which décidt rise north-east on our way and disrupted trade winds yet installed. We therefore had to play with adverse winds and sunshine weaker than expected. But what amazing experiences to discover this new kind of navigation, and move closer to the Pacific Ocean.
Tropical storm Tomas
During this journey, we all had a lot of work between shifts organized for every 4 hours in pairs, the management of navigation, boat maintenance, preparation of meals and rest periods. Time passes relatively quickly on board. Technically the ship works very well. However we had some problems with the desalination system. We will use our next stop to change defective parts. But what is very heartening to note is that the innovations of TÛRANOR PlanetSolar our 536 m2 of panels and solar control technology and our electric propulsion system works perfectly.
PlanetSolar engine
Our entire team to land more than a dozen people now work in the preparation of our arrival on the American continent. This complex is essential for achieving the goals of our project. demonstrate what is achievable today with renewable energy: to achieve this goal we must reach a wide audience.
PlanetSolar crew
Hopefully we only have a few more days of sailing before joining Miami Coast. Incredible moment to review the relief on the horizon, smell the smells of vegetation warmed by the sun. The whole crew is delighted to ask again alighted on the new continent and enjoy being able to walk on land or to eat an ice cream.
Last Thursday, TÛRANOR PlanetSolar made a lightning stop in St. Martin to save the record for crossing the Atlantic on solar power. TÛRANOR covered the distance from Las Palmas to St Martin-in 26 days, 19 hours and 10 minutes (Sun21 in 2007, had set a time of 29 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes).
PlanetSolar à St-Martin
Join us in the "minute PlanetSolar" to follow the adventures of our last two weeks aboard the largest solar boat in the world.