Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why is China Interested in the Arctic?

Soon China could hold two of the largest icebreakers in the world, China will be able to offer "escort" services through the Arctic, saving some 6,000nm between production plants in China and consumers in Europe - just think of the strategic market advantage - because of two ice class vessels - now thats a good investment.

China’s Arctic Ambitions

Today’s idea: China has set its sights on the Arctic, an article says, since global warming is expected to transform the frozen region into new shipping lanes over an ocean rich in oil and natural gas.

World | The United States, Russia, Canada and other countries near the Arctic have claim upon it, but China? Whether it does or not, Paul McLearywrites in World Politics Review, it’s making its move. The notable holdout on climate-emissions cutbacks has been expanding its navy and its quest for resources and land from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East. Now this:
… It’s not what China has done so far, but instead what it appears to be planning to do, that has raised eyebrows among members of the Arctic Council [the federation of Arctic powers].
Specifically, not only does the Beijing government operate the world’s largest non-nuclear icebreaker — the Xuelong (Snow Dragon), purchased from Ukraine in 1993 — but in October 2009, China’s State Council declared that that Xuelong needed “brothers and sisters,” approving construction of a $300 million Chinese-built icebreaker expected to be operational in 2013. Between the two ships, China will have larger and more modern icebreakers than either the United States or Canada. While the new vessel is smaller than the Xuelong, with a displacement of 8,000 tons to the Xuelong’s 21,000 tons, its construction is a bold statement from a country that would benefit from the seasonal shipping lanes many expect to open up over the next several decades, as well as from the possibility of future oil and gas extraction in the unclaimed far north.
China- and Arctic-watchers have also noted that the new Chinese Embassy in Reykjav√≠k, Iceland, will be the largest in the capital, and that the Chinese have been making investment overtures in the country since the island nation’s economy collapsed in 2008. The Chinese, as usual, have been circumspect about all of this activity. [World Politics Review]
Further reading: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=china+arctic

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - Estimate How Much? (Over 30 million gallons? Yes!)

Ian D. MacDonald, an oceanography professor at Florida State University, estimated Friday that oil may be leaking from the breached well at a rate of approximately 25,000 barrels a day, or between 8-9 million gallons already. That’s  about 5 times the government estimate.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

800KW Ocean Wave Power Unveiled in U.K.

Aquamarine Power on Wednesday unveiled the next generation in its development of wave energy machines.
The Oyster 2 is a wave-harnessing machine enabling the conversion of hydraulic power to electricity. The new 800-kilowatt model, to be built in Scotland, will be capable of producing 250 percent more power compared to theolder Oyster model. The Oyster 2 also has fewer moving parts, and is modular so that parts can be swapped out for maintenance as needed.
As with the earlier Oyster, the Oyster 2 is not the type of wave-harnessing machine that uses underwater turbines or buoys to directly generate electricity. Instead, a series of pistons triggered into action by ocean waves creates water pressure and pumps the pressurized water to shore through an underwater pipeline. The high-pressure water is then used to power a conventional hydroelectric generator.
While it seems elementary, the Oyster is at the forefront of wave-energy harnessing. Its closest competitor, theSeadog Pump, also concentrates on simply creating intense water pressure, albeit using buoys.
Three Oyster 2 machines will be installed by summer 2011 at the European Marine Energy Centre , which is located in the Orkney Islands off the coast of mainland Scotland. The three test machines will be connected to a 2.4-megawatt hydroelectric turbine onshore.
Aquamarine Power has said its long-term goal is to create an offshore commercial wave farm of 20 machines. When fully operational, the 20 machines could provide enough electricity to power 12,000 homes annually.
The company directly credits the funding it received from the U.K. government as helping spur development of the Oyster 2. In addition to being named Britain's "Innovator of 2009," Aquamarine Power received a Marine Renewables Proving Fund grant for 5.1 million pounds (over $7 million) and a U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change grant for 22 million pounds (over $31 million).
The original Oyster machine, which was built in 2009, is already operating in waters off the Orkney Islands.
(Credit: Aquamarine Power)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

WWF Freund Expedition to Coral Triangle to photograph biodiversity

Taking to heart the notion that pictures paint a thousand words, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found a perfect way to educate the public about the preserving the beauty of the Earth’s Coral Triangle – through photographs.
The triangular region known as the coral triangle contains one-fourth of the world’s island and covers the seas of six countries: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. The Coral Triangle is the global centre of marine diversity and it is for this reason that it is also called the Amazon of the Seas.
A journey of discovery
Renowned nature photographer Yogi Freund and his wife Stella of the Freund Factory Expedition will embark on an eye-opening journey to the Coral Triangle with the WWF. The expedition is called the WWF and Freund Expedition which aims to document WWF’s fieldwork.
The expedition will tell the story of the beauty underneath the Coral Triangle and the factors affecting it by capturing amazing images.
“We are faced with an exciting adventure as we are tasked to document beautiful locations and memorable places. Each day we see new things and incredible situations, we have the duty to tell a story through our images which is considerably easy since the places are already beautiful,” expressed Stella Freund of the WWF/Freund Photo Expedition.
The WWF/Freund Expedition is an 18-month photojournalistic expedition that also investigates the connectivity between the wildlife, the people of the region, and more importantly, the threats they are facing.
The marine life that can be found in the Coral Triangle consists of 600 of the 800 known corals. The region is also home to 2700 types of fish, six of the seven marine turtles as well as an impressive array of flora and fauna.
The apex of the Coral Triangle
The Philippines is situated at the heart of the Coral Triangle that is home to 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef. Our country prides itself as the second largest archipelago in the world with its 36,289 kilometers of coast. The Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity with over 500 species of reef-building corals.
But behind the breathtaking natural beauty of the Philippines lies the sad reality that not everyone can see or even realize - that we are a dangerous threat to the wonderful world that surrounds us. Changing this reality is among the key priorities of the Freund Factory Expedition and the World Wildlife Fund.
“Taking photos is the easy part, but it’s keeping your eyes open that was really hard. There are times when I was really stunned by the locals’ practices and how they treat the marine animals. Sometimes I need to re-compose myself and remember my task of documenting what’s happening to provide more information to the public,” said Freund.
The Philippines and Indonesia are two of the countries that have the world’s most threatened coral reefs. Less than 30 percent of the coral reefs in the country are currently in good condition. Harmful practices such as chemical pollution, acidification and destructive fishing continue to plague the coral reefs in the country.
Freund elaborated, “Presenting photos that tell a story of how we are negatively affecting our environment is the main goal of our expedition. It’s going behind the scenes and getting it on image. We hope to capture an image that will strongly appeal to the emotions of those who will be able to see it. Through which we hope that they will have the initiative to do something about the situation.”
Private initiative
Verde Island passage is one of the most significant links to the global ecosystem of the coral system. It is located between Batangas in Luzon and Oriental Mindoro and is described as the ‘center of the center of marine biodiversity’.
Hamilo Coast, a residential leisure destination in Batangas and nestled within the Coral Triangle is one of the few private sectors participating in the initiative to conserve nature. Hamilo has been working closely with the WWF-Philippines.
The said residential leisure destination is the first community development in the Philippines planned for ecological sustainability. Among the milestones of Hamilo Coast in cooperation with the WWF and local government is the declaration of their coves as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
“We conducted an initial baseline study two years ago to check the health of reefs and the quality of marine life in the area and found out that these sites have the most potential for being declared as MPAs because of the biological attributes,” said Joel Palma, WWF-Philippines Vice President for conservation programs.
“However, the survey also revealed that the area has been subjected to various environmental stresses caused by illegal means of fishing, resulting in the deterioration of conditions of the coral, reef fish, and seagrass or macrolagal communities,” explained Palma.
The powerful images from the WWF/ Freund Expedition are set to improve the situation in the country. The emotional story behind every photo that is both artistic and educational is one way of getting through Filipinos.
Yogi Freund, lead photographer of the expedition said: “We hope that people can learn from our journey. Appreciating our photos is not enough; it’s about understanding the message and doing something to prevent the worsening conditions in the coastlines and what’s underneath the ocean. It’s part of our responsibility to take care of our habitat.”

Its 2010 - is this "survey" prudent or "over the edge" risking human life?

Catlin Arctic survey: 

'An unbelievably hard journey'

Explorers with the Catlin Arctic survey battled
strong headwinds, freezing waters and dangerously
thin ice on their expedition to measure sea ice at 
the north pole.


Catlin Group Limited is an international specialist property/casualty 
insurer and reinsurer which operates through six underwriting hubs: 
London, Bermuda, the United States, Europe, Asia-Pacific and 
Canada. The Group underwrote gross premiums of US$3.7 billion 
in 2009.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What was learned from the EXXON VALDEZ Oil Spill? Why must we learn it again?

Black Wave - The legacy of the Exxon Valdez (Teaser EN) from Macumba on Vimeo.
"The day dawned like any other, barely. Within minutes (at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989 to be precise), the way we think of oil, how we manage commercial shipping, and how the National Park Service manages resources changed forever... The Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Carrying 1,264,155 barrels of oil bound for Washington...

EXXON VALDEZ Oil Spill Facts & Figures
 257,000 barrels……of oil were spilled (equivalent to 11 million gallons or 125 olympic-sized swimming pools).
 17,000 barrels……of oil were recovered (750,000 gallons).
 1,300 miles……of shoreline were impacted.
 460 miles……the distance the spill stretched from Bligh Reef to the village of Chignik on the Alaskan Peninsula.
 512,000 feet (almost 100 miles)…of containment boom used for cleanup.
 11,000 people…employed by Exxon to assist with cleanup efforts.
 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs……the ‘best’ estimate of how many animals died outright from the spill.

Some of the lessons learned include:
 Response to a major event or incident is complex, requires careful yet clearly identified management, exemplary leadership, and specialized skills.
 The lingering effects of such an event can be difficult to identify but are vitally important to understand.
 Prevention is inordinately cheaper than cleanup.
 Distance doesn't necessarily mean you're safe (after nearly 2 months, Katmai National Park was struggling with fresh oil).
 We didn’t know much about our resources and still today have a lot to learn—a realization which helped initiate natural resource Inventory &Monitoring, coastal mapping, and archeological survey efforts.
 We can and must work well with others—local communities, business, and state & federal government agencies...

Following the initial response came cleanup. With summer coming we divided the park staff into those who worked on the spill and those who ran the park. Everyone rose to the challenge – it was inspiring and humbling and a tremendous privilege to work alongside the small park staff and with all those who came to help us. Summer came and left and we were still engaged in spill activities on a daily basis...

For the next two summers there was cleanup and surveys. Surveys charting the fate and persistence of the oil that hit the shores of the park continue to this day, 20 years later. And 20 years later, on a hot day, you can still see the rainbow sheen in the water and smell the oil as it seeps from park beaches. I suspect some of it will always be there...

The rest of the story is here for your reading pleasure...