Video of Thresher Sharks Slapping Prey

tsd_ThresherKAScience’s website has a short video clip showing a Thresher Shark using its long tail to slap at a school of small fish. There are 4 phases: preparation, strike, wind-down recovery and collection of the prey. It’s difficult to tell from the video whether the shark is actually stunning its prey, or separating it from the group to make it easier to pick off. Either way,  this tactic is far more efficient than trying to hunt the fish down individually.

The video was taken near Pescador Island in the Philippines and you can see it on Science’s website. You can also read the paper – Thresher Sharks Use Tail-Slaps as a Hunting Strategy.

I’ve been lucky enough to dive with them several times down at Malapascua with Trevor and Andreas of Thresher Shark Divers, from whose website I borrowed the photo above.

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Rita Winning 2012 Photo of the Year for BSAC NZ

Rita and her prize

Rita and her prize

Slightly belatedly, congratulations to Rita for winning the 2012 Photo of the Year competition for the BSAC NZ club. Despite having had her Canon G11 and housing for 2 years, she’d never got around to taking it underwater, instead she’d been continuing to use her old camera. Finally, on the last diving day before the competition closed, she got around to diving with it.  And coincidentally she took her best photos of the year, including the one that won the club’s Photo of the Year.

Congratulations, Rita. Now after that example of beginner’s luck, you’d better learn how to use it!

I took her old camera in, and found it a real struggle to use, with a massive delay between pressing the shutter and anything happening. But a bad workman always blames his tools as they say!

Snorkeller at Blue Mao Mao Arch

Snorkeller at Blue Mao Mao Arch, the Poor Knights

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Rainbow Warrior in Auckland

Rainbow Warrior at Princes WharfThe new Rainbow Warrior is currently doing a tour of New Zealand. This weekend the she was in Auckland and people had chance for a free tour of the ship. I have to say that I was somewhat underwhelmed. Not by the ship itself, but by the tour.

We got there at around 9:20am, and queued up to register. This happened at around 10am, and we got a nice little badge with an albatross on it and were asked to come back at 10:45. So nearly an hour and a half after we had originally arrived, we finally got on to Rainbow Warrior III, the 3rd ship to carry this name and the first that was purpose-built for Greenpeace, the previous two being converted trawlers. She is a purpose-built motor-assisted, sailing yacht with 2 masts that was built in Germany. We started off gathered around the foremast and listened to someone from Greenpeace’s Auckland office tell us about the Rainbow Warrior’s connection with New Zealand, and NZ’s clean, green image which is now threatened by the Government inviting oil companies to drill for offshore oil around our coasts. Greenpeace is opposing this. Next, we headed into the bridge where the bosun described some of the controls and told us about their sailing operations. This was the best part of the tour, and she knew what she was talking about. From the bridge, we headed aft to the conference room, where we saw the bell from the original Rainbow Warrior, along with a video of Greenpeace’s contribution to the environment in the last 40 years. Then we got off.

For me, there was far too much propaganda and far too little about ship. In fact I’ve seen far more of the first Rainbow Warrior, despite it being half the size and in 27 metres of water in Matauri Bay.  Greenpeace are rightly proud of the fact that they only take individual donations and none from Governments or companies. But by the time I’d been told that for the 5th or the 6th time, I’d got the message and didn’t need to hear it yet again. In fact the best thing about the entire morning was the yum cha meal we went for afterwards.

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Cargo Ship Off Tauranga Likely to Break Up

The Rena,  a Liberian flagged container ship, hit Astrolabe Reef last Wednesday 5th October. Weather conditions were good, and the reef is a well charted feature.

11 of the containers apparently contain ferrosilicon which according to the BBC’s website is flammable if it comes into contact with water. Wikipedia on the other hand says that “In contact with water, ferrosilicon may slowly produce hydrogen”. I’ll leave any chemists in the audience to their own conclusions.

The latest I’ve heard is that over a hundred containers have fallen off the ship which is now listing badly. In addition to the containers, there were around 1700 tonnes of oil aboard, of which 350 tonnes may have already leaked. Attempts to pump the oil off the ship on Sunday were abandoned when the weather deteriorated.

There is now a large crack in the hull, and the ship is still taking quite a pounding in the bad weather. There are plans to helicopter salvage workers on to reassess the damage tomorrow if it is possible. According to the New Zealand Herald, Prime Minister John Key this afternoon said the substantial fractures in the vessel made it much more likely to break up on the reef.

Oil has already reached some of the Bay of Plenty beaches, and a number of dead birds have been washed up. It is looking like being a major environmental disaster.

The captain and another officer have been charged with ‘operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk’.

More information on the BBC’s website, and a long article from the NZ Herald.

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D-Day Wreck Found in Solent

On 7th June, Landing Craft LCT 427 was on the way back to Portsmouth after successfully delivering a cargo of tanks to Gold Beach as part of the D-Day landings. Unfortunately she never made it, as just 4 miles from shore she collided with the battleship HMS Rodney and was sliced into 2 pieces. All 12 crew were killed.

Divers from Southsea Sub Aqua Club have located the two pieces of the wreck. They are several hundred metres apart at a depth of around 30 metres in a busy shipping channel that is normally out of bounds for diving, but the club was given special permission by Portsmouth Harbour Master.

You can read more on the BBC’s website.

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Odyssey Marine Plan to Retrieve Silver from 1941 Wreck

Wreck of the Gairsoppa Odyssey Marine Exploration have done a deal with the British Government to attempt to recover the cargo of a merchant ship that was torpedoed in 1941. The S.S. Gairsoppa of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company sailed from Calcutta in December 1940 carrying a cargo of tea, iron and an estimated 240 tons of silver. She joined a convoy from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and was heading for Liverpool. The weather deteriorated and the captain felt that she would not have enough coal, so they broke away from the convoy to head for Galway in Ireland.

On February 17 1941 she was sunk by a single torpedo from a German U-Boat commanded by Ernst Mengersen. All 85 crew died, except for the second officer, who survived in a lifeboat for 13 days.

Odyssey Marine Exploration won a contract from the British Government to salvage the cargo. The terms of the deal apparently mean that Odyssey will receive 80% of the value recovered in return for shouldering all the costs and risks of recovery. The British Government will get the remaining 20%. The actual amount of silver on board is not known, as during the war the Government kept transportation records opaque so as to avoid giving information to the enemy. But investigation of insurance records imply that it could be as much as 240 tons.

Earlier this month, Odyssey used a robot to find what they believe is the wreck at a depth of 2.9 miles, approximately 300 miles south-west of Ireland. They have concluded that the wreck is of the Gairsoppa because of the number of holds, anchor type, scupper locations and the red and black hull colours which match the scheme used by the British India Steam Navigation Company.

You can read more about this story on the New York Times’s website.

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Photos from Takako Uno Featured on DiscoverWildlife.com

While I was in Hong Kong, I was very fortunate to attend a number of slideshows and presentations by Stephen Wong and Takako Uno. They specialise in underwater images of a wide range of marine creatures. You can see some of Takako Uno’s photos on DiscoverWildlife.com’s website (including the one above which I hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing). DiscoverWildlife.com is a website produced by BBC Worldwide.

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New Species of Dolphin Identified

DolphinDetailed DNA studies and analysis of skulls in museums have determined that some dolphins in South-eastern Australia belong to an unrecognised species. They are a type of bottlenose dolphin and have been classified as Tursiops australis, which are genetically different from two other bottlenose species, Tursiops truncatus and Tursiops aduncus. Their common name is Burrunan dolphins, which comes from the Aboriginal for “large sea fish of the porpoise kind”.

There are approximately 150 dolphins which make up two resident populations in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria state. Speaking of which, I once had a very good pinot noir from a winery in Port Phillip, so the dolphins obviously have good taste.

According to Kate Charlton-Robb of Monash University  “This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognised since the late 1800s,”.

You can read more from the BBC’s website.

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Cave Diver’s Body Unlikely to be Recovered for Several Days

The team of 3 British cave divers who are working with the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation and the Garda have moved Artur Kozlowski’s body almost halfway to the entrance. His body was found 800 metres into the cave system at a depth of 52 metres. Over the weekend it was moved to within 450 metres of the entrance.

The divers have apparently been doing 4 hour dives, one hour to reach the body, one to move it, and two hours getting back. Superintendent Pat Murray has said that the cave is very silty.

You can read more from the Irish Times website.

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Rugby World Cup Opens in Auckland

Last Friday, the Rugby World Cup 2011 finally started. And since the opening ceremony was in our new home town of Auckland, Rita and I went down to the Central Business District on Friday afternoon to get a feel for the atmosphere. We were far too late to get onto Queen’s Wharf, so we just strolled down Queen’s Street from Wellesley Street to the waterfront. I had expected that a few people would make an effort to go out and celebrate, but I had not expected the 100,000 people who were estimated to be there, in addition to the 60,000 who were at Eden Park.

Of course it would have been a lot more colourful if the home team weren’t the All Blacks, with their fans dressed accordingly. It looked like a bizarrely boisterous funeral. It was left to the Tongan supporters to add some colour to the occasion, and they were great fun. The bus driver that took us home was from Tonga and he was getting into the spirit of things – blowing his horn every time he passed any of his flag-waving countrymen. A great atmosphere. And we were fortunate not to be affected by the transport problems that some people faced.

Here’s a sense of what it was like:

And the rugby has been pretty good, with some great games. I do feel for the Welsh, who were desperately unlucky (and hard done by?) in their loss to South Africa. I can’t wait for Wednesday’s games!

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Hong Kong Green Power Hike Dates For 2012 Set

The 19th Green Power Hike will be held on Saturday 14th January 2012 on the Hong Kong Trail. There will be 3 routes to choose from – 50km (the whole Hong Kong Trail), 25km and 10km.

More details will be announced in the middle of October on Green Power’s website.

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Cave Diver Dies in Ireland

Polish cave diver, Artur Kozlowski, has apparently died while exploring the Kiltartan system near Gort in southern Galway. He failed to surface from a dive on Monday night and the alarm was raised at 9pm. His body was located at 7pm on Tuesday approximately 800 metres into the Pollorona borehole at a depth of 52 metres.

In 2008 Mr. Kozlowski, supported by Tom Malone, dived to a depth 103m at Pollatoomary cave in County Mayo’s Partry mountains.  This was the deepest any cave diver had descended in either Ireland or Britain.

A team of cave divers are intending to try and recover his body today (Thursday).

You can read more from the Irish Times, and from DiverNet.

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