Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Spill STILL Going...

I told you the "top-kill" procedure would be temporary at best. Now, that was even more temporary than hoped, but what happens now? I have come across material that said BP is done trying to stop it and will focus on capture/cleanup, but all is not lost. Well, it is... but I'm trying to be optimistic and being a grouch about the situation is not going to help efforts anyway, right?

The next move will likely be an LMRP - "lower marine riser cap" - which involves ATTEMPTING to cut into the damaged part of the well and insert a shut off valve. Okay, this is another risky move that will take an estimated 4 days to complete. Who knows how long before they even know if it worked. Amongst other failed attempts so far was a large box placed over the leak and a tube inserted to suck out the oil. What about drilling relief wells, you ask? There is so much controversy due to this spill that the public just wants the darn leak plugged so we can truly assess the situation. Plus, relief wells is at least 3 months away.
I found good information on the Voice of America news site:

Hey, this is scary stuff. People are NOT overreacting to the impacts and implications of this disaster. It SHOULD be headline news everyday for as long as possible. Hurricane season is around the corner and who knows what that will bring. Unfortunately, not even the Weather Channel can prepare us this early. After a few "quiet" seasons, many here in Florida are holding their breath and try to carry about normally until the weather, or oil, or BOTH reach our shores.

So keep yourself up to date on environmental situations in general. Yes, this is something focused on the southeast, but there are devastating impacts from our species that affect locations and ecosystems all over the world. Do not lose sight of how to keep your local environment healthy just because another coast is having bigger problems. ALL the ecosystems are important, and often we do not realize exactly how important until they are damaged beyond restoration.

Remember that during your BBQ this Memorial Day weekend. And be sure to raise your flag and your awareness for our soldiers and veterans too this holiday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Spill Stopped?

Well, the latest reports coming out of the Gulf of Mexico are stating that the oil leak is now considered capped. Unfortunately, there are 3 separate places where the lines had been leaking... so it is not yet clear if ALL of the leaks are stopped. The May 17th issue of TIME magazine's article "The Big Spill" has great detail and diagrams explaining the entire disaster in layman's terms.
They used a method called "top-kill" to stop the leak. Essentially, tons of mud and debris are stuffed down on top of the leak. Then, after the pressure is low enough, cement is funneled down to the area to "permanently" stop the problem. But in actuality, this method is only a temporary solution.

But at least now the clean up efforts will be more productive for the time being. Let's just hope everyone (public, politicians, AND BP) bears in mind that this disaster is NOT over yet. The carnage and real impacts of this spill have only just begun.

Take care, and take initiative!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ocean Science Lecture-HBOI: Reefs

Ocean Science Lecture Series: Brian Lapointe, Ph.D. “Reefs, Wreckers, and Shipwrecks in the Florida Keys

This portion of the FAU/Harbor Branch 2010 Ocean Science Lecture Series goes along a little bit with the episode of Undersea Explorer discussed back in January about artificial reefs in Canada. The talk has some very interesting historical facts presented in association with the biological aspect. The speaker in this film covers the Wrecking Era and several wrecks going back hundreds of years. This lecture does focus on the Florida Keys, but the information can be transferred to many other areas since the research is expansive. The historical background is very interesting, and the research is both relevant and useful.

If you know you want to see it, then skip straight to the video posted on You Tube:

First, Dr. Lapointe defines the term “reef” in a way that gives a clue into the history of the word itself. There is a mining reference definition, and a nautical one as well, but the first one is perhaps the most interesting “n. 1. A narrow ridge of rocks or sand, often of coral debris, at or near the surface of the water.” WOW! Does that not sound completely different from everything you imagine when someone says “reef”? Maybe that is why I prefer an encyclopedia over the dictionary – it provides a more detailed description (often with pictures!)

The first study on coral reefs was actually held hundreds of years ago in order to find a way to reduce corals as they were considered serious navigational hazards. In the era of modern coral research, it has been learned that 98% of the coral reefs have died in the Florida Keys – this is the definition of a mass extinction. Now, eco-tourism and fisheries in the Keys are relying heavily on artificial reefs to survive… not to mention the marine animals themselves. This type of information is how marine preserves, like John Pennecamp, came to be. That particular sanctuary was created in 1974 and was the first of its kind in the Florida Keys. There was degradation of the coral ecosystems noted since the 1960’s, and it is STILL getting worse. (Just wait for the Oil Spill to get there. Whoo-hoo.) It is important to understand this decline is not strictly from over fishing. What goes into the water from the mainland of Florida has such a serious impact and in the past did not garner the attention it so desperately needed.

I have a great appreciation for the PowerPoint included in Brian Lapointe’s talk because he took the time to include many photographs for reference, and since he has been doing this research for many years, some of the vibrancy and life seen in the photos no longer exists in reality. SIDE NOTE: This is why is it always important to take photos wherever you go and on whatever adventures you may have; many of the amazing things we experience may not be there in the future.

If you want a nice decade by decade synopsis about the condition of the water quality and the health of grass beds and coral reefs in the Florida Keys, this is really the lecture you have been waiting to hear. Also, if you have a research project or paper that includes almost anything about the marine environment, then this will provide some great information. I personally like Brian, but will admit that if you aren’t into the science or the history, he might lose you in the middle of the lecture. But hang on for the artificial reef stuff!! This is around the 35 min. mark in the video. There is great footage of The Vandenberg Project – a.k.a. the “Swiss-cheesing” of a ship that is now a successful artificial reef.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) there is a lot of history, so if you want just the biological stuff, then you should move the video forward to the pictures that capture your attention.

While artificial reefs serve as a wonderful form of aid to the ecosystem, the economy, and our history… I can’t help but worry that some people will focus on this as being a suitable alternative to simply protecting the natural habitats that struggle to remain. Can’t we have both?

Happy Mother’s Day and try to find thoughtful and sustainable gifts when you show Mom how much you care,


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oil Spill: Part III... still going

All right, I’ve been trying so hard not to simply rant on and on about the Oil Spill and its impacts, considering it has not (YET) reached my own shoreline. But this is a great video clip that was released by CNN yesterday regarding this infamous spill:

... and hey, anyone who knows me understands I'm a sucker for sea turtles...

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) hey, it is a short first-hand clip; there really is no excuse not to watch it (unless you have dial-up, and even then it is worth the wait)

One of the most important things to note about this piece is the “treatment” of the oil spill. This process causes the oil to break into small (relatively speaking) droplets that are still just as dangerous as the large slick itself to the marine environment. Animals ingest it, get coated in it, and breathe it in… all with bad results. To give you some information on the behavior of oil in the water, I found a website that explains everything clearly and accurately based the knowledge I have (which isn’t bad I dare say). The only disclaimer I have is at the end where it states, “oil in the marine environment rapidly loses its original properties and disintegrates into hydrocarbon fractions” – define rapidly, okay? But there is a notation about the amount of oil released, so remember that too.

I promise that I am making a sincere effort to approach this incident without the emotional diatribe that I break into in real life, but anyone who is unaffected by the impending tragedy that will befall Florida’s shores is a nimrod that deserves to be publicly flogged. So there. In addition, I am EXTREMELY annoyed at the shock and awe of the media’s reaction to the “it could reach Florida” … uh, every heard of the Gulfstream? Geez.

I also find it fascinating, although I don’t know whether that is positive or negative, that Deepwater Horizon created a response page on Facebook. How public relations in a time of instant feedback is changing the world. All I can say is- beware of propaganda. When information is so freely provided to the public, odds are it is a watered-down version of the truth (if truthful at all). Even as you read this blog, understand it all amounts to one human providing information to another. No matter what I read, I will not blog about it based on one lone source or other blog. Information must come from somewhere – which is why I try to give you useful links to get to the real goods as fast as possible.

Oh, one last POSITIVE note… I have not heard anything from the media, but I have a friend whose father works for the Colgate company, which has donated “tons of soap” to be used to help clean animals affected by the spill. A spot check via Google left me without corroboration on that one, however.

Take care and use a water purifying system at home instead of bottled water every time, okay?

Record-Breaking dive for Great White Shark

This is my attempt to give a little positive relief from the frustrating madness of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I have other stuff for you to read on that subject if you really want more. But, THIS is a little something different from the other side of the globe.

I have been a long time fan of Steve Alten’s work, a local author gone best seller. His earliest works involve a theory that the MEG (Carcharadon megaladon), an extinct monster shark thought (by most) to closely resemble the modern day Great White Shark (Carcaradon carcharias), still exists living in the deep ocean of the Marianna Trench. One debunking argument to that theory was that the great white shark is a coastal predator staying within the first 600 feet of the water’s surface.

This leads to an interesting article documenting some results from a great white shark tagging and tracking program that has been going on for some time. Most recently, and notably, the largest shark NIWA had tagged in an ongoing study – 4.8 meters (~15 feet) long – was recorded diving to 1,200 meters (~4,000 feet)! I love that there is so much to learn about even infamous species such as the great white… I just wish that there was more attention given to this need for ocean research in general.

A variety of websites are noting this feat, but mostly those are blogs – like this one. So I decided to track down a reference for the actual research done and here you go:!

It is not the publication itself, as the findings simply haven’t been published yet, but this link at least traces to the NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) in New Zealand. This article does not focus on the dive itself, but more on the tagging process used and the shark migratory information gathered. It is actually a migration study that happened to discover and record this along with several other 1,000+ meter dives.

RATING ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) absolutely worth reading, especially if you like keeping up with ongoing research around the world

I hope your “Cinqo de Mayo” was pleasant and not too rowdy… stay dry when it rains and get in the water while it is still clean!