Over the weekend a huge Chinese freighter loaded down with coal and fuel oil crashed into part of the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast. Today, salvage teams are still struggling with how to extricate the Shen Neng 1 without dumping any more of its dirty cargo into the delicate marine ecosystem.
The ship had left the port of Gladstone just a few hours before striking the reef in Douglas Shoal. It ran aground in a restricted zone of the marine park, almost 30km [18.6 miles] from the authorised shipping channels it should have been using [Sydney Morning Herald]. Both the main engine and the rudders sustained serious damage. While rescuers debate how to orchestrate a salvage operation, the Shen Neng 1 has slid another 20 or 30 yards along the reef, destroying more coral in its path.
The ghost fleet, mothball fleet, reserve fleet—whatever you want to call the long-obsolete U.S. Navy ships that have been rusting in California’s Suisun Bay for decades, they might finally be gone this decade. The federal government’s Maritime Administration says it will spend $38 million to remove about half of the crumbling convoy from the waters near San Francisco by 2012, and dispose of the rest by 2017.
After World War II, there were thousands of surplus ships, and, in 1946, the Maritime Administration began keeping the best of them in reserve. At one time, more than 350 ships were in the fleet, including cruisers, destroyers, supply ships, transports and tankers [San Fransisco Chronicle]. The Navy dusted off some of them for use in the Korean and Vietnam wars. But the rest became relics, slowing decaying over the next six decades. And while the ghost fleet provides some nostalgia for Navy vets, it provides something less romantic for Suisun Bay: pollution. Twenty tons of lead-based paint had leached into the water.
According to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, chivalry just depends on how much time you’ve got.
That was the conclusion Benno Torgler and colleagues arrived at by studying two of history’s most famous shipwrecks: The Titanic, where social norms seem to have prevailed and women and children had a better chance of surviving, and the Lusitania, where they did not. The rapid sinking of the Lusitania appears to have triggered the selfish instinct for survival in its passengers, while the slow sinking of the Titanic may have allowed altruism to reemerge.
More than 1,500 people died when the Titanic struck an iceberg in 1912 and sank over the course of three hours in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. In their analysis, the researchers studied passenger and survivor lists from both ships, and considered gender, age, ticket class, nationality and familial relationships with other passengers. The differences emerged after a closer look at the survival rates [The New York Times]. Children aboard the Titanic, researchers say, were about 15 percent more likely to survive than adults, and women had more than a 50 percent better chance than men to make it out alive.
Climate change doesn’t affect all places equally, and while Greenland and West Antarctica’s glaciers have started slipping into the sea at an alarming rate, East Antarctica was actually gaining ice. But now that could be changing, as a Nature Geoscience study done with data from NASA’s gravity-measuring satellites called GRACE suggests that the area could now be losing mass.
East Antarctica is far too cold, even in summer, for any appreciable melting to happen. And since a warmer world means more precipitation, any extra snow that falls on East Antarctica stays there indefinitely. But, starting in 2006, GRACE began to detect lower gravity over East Antarctica, suggesting that the ice sheet was getting less massive [TIME].
The scientists note that there is a huge uncertainty in their numbers: GRACE data suggests a 57 billion-ton-per-year loss, plus or minus 52 billion tons. (The reason is that the bedrock beneath Antarctica could be bouncing back slightly with less ice to weigh it down, which would cross up GRACE’s readings.) Some researchers are not convinced that the continent is losing mass, since the margins for error in the team’s analysis range between 5 and 109 billion tonnes of ice loss per year [New Scientist].
While the amount of East Antarctica ice loss remains in doubt, you can’t miss the huge chunks of Antarctic ice that have floated up near New Zealand this week and posed dangers for shipping. This is only the second time in 78 years that large Antarctic icebergs have been sighted so far north. The previous occasion was in late 2006 when icebergs could be seen from the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, even from the hills around Christchurch [CNN].
80beats: Fossils of Shrimp-Like Creatures Point to Warmer Antarctica in the Distant Past
80beats: Floods Beneath Antarctica’s Ice Sheet Create a Glacial Slip-and-Slide
80beats: Antarctica is Definitely Feeling the Heat from Global Warming
DISCOVER: Grace in Space looked at the Grace satellites in detail
80beats: From 300 Miles Up, [Grace] Satellites See Water Crisis in India’s Future
Image: flickr / giladr
Americans scientists have rediscovered the remains of two advanced Japanese submarines from World War II, buried in the waters off Hawaii. But these shipwrecks, the I-14 and I-201, aren’t relics of a great Pacific Theater battle. Rather, the U.S. captured and then sank them on purpose, along with three others Japanese ships including the gargantuan I-401, which was found back in 2005.
The I-401, along with the I-14 and I-201, were captured at war’s end and sailed to Hawaii, where US naval intelligence officers could plumb the ships’ secrets…. All were scuttled to avoid having to share the information with the Pacific war’s late-comer and co-claimant to such prizes, the former Soviet Union [Christian Science Monitor].