Date with disaster: Adventurers sail through wave of tsunami debris

Aug 7

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By Jim Meyer

Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen

The Pacific Ocean is a pretty darned big place. The hull of the 72’ former racing yacht, Sea Dragon, not so much, especially when crammed full of research equipment and 14 full-sized human-type people not necessarily accustomed to the rigors of the open ocean. But that’s just what the intrepid team of oceanic avengers from the 5Gyres Institute are up against as they race across the Pacific on a collision course with the great field of debris washed away from Japan by last year’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Imagine cramming into an RV and driving from Nome, Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego with the cast of Road Rules Season 9. (That would be the Maximum Velocity Tour, but I’m sure you knew that, gentle reader.) Now try to imagine that the I-5 is heaving 30 to 40 feet into the air, is full of sharks, and generally wants you dead. Add to that, Theo won’t stop spraying you with the super soaker he brought for some reason, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the potential horror involved here.

Scientist, adventurer, and Gulf War veteran Marcus Eriksen previously floated the length of the Mississippi on a raft made of plastic bottles and sailed from California to Hawaii on a boat made of trash to raise awareness of the pollution problem facing us all. What he saw changed his life. “I couldn’t believe how much waste was littering our coast lines,” he says.

Eriksen and his wife, Anna Cummins, co-founded the 5Gyres Institute in 2009 to study the Earth’s 5 great subtropical gyres – enormous, slow-moving whirlpools on the ocean’s surface – and raise awareness of the horrifying levels of garbage floating within. These great pelagic depressions (I think I just named Jimmy Buffet’s next album) serve as the Earth’s mighty bellybuttons, collecting all sorts of unwanted refuse, the vast bulk of it, plastic.

The most infamous of these gyres holds The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and while the notion of an island of garbage a thousand miles across is an exaggeration, what is actually out there might be far more insidious. “Those 5 gyres make up about 21 percent of the planet’s surface, and they are covered in this thin confetti of plastic,” says Eriksen, who has trolled for trash across the high seas.

This confetti, made of particles the size of fish-food, is often coated with a thin layer of industrial chemicals and petroleum, creating little poison pills that fish in turn eat and absorb. But very little is known about how this stuff travels, and that’s where the tsunami debris comes in.

Some of the debris has already made landfall in North America, most notably a Harley Davidson discovered on a Canadian beach earlier this year (perhaps the first time a Harley has made it over 4,000 miles without breaking down) and shockingly, a 66 foot-long concrete dock covered in millions of invasive organisms that washed up on the Oregon coast.

But according to Eriksen, this debris is only the vanguard. “The stuff washing up in British Columbia right now, that is the stuff affected by wind,” he says, speaking via satellite phone, noting that anything peeking above the surface of the Ocean acts as a sail, speeding its journey east. “But what’s subsurface, what’s beneath the waves, hasn’t made its way across yet.”

For an organization dedicated to studying the effects of plastic pollution in the sea, last year’s catastrophe provided a unique opportunity. “You don’t often get a chance to take an entire city, put it in the ocean, and see what happens to all the stuff,” Eriksen says. “That’s what happened here.”

Eriksen and his team of scientists, journalists, and environmentalists sailed from Yokahama Japan on June 10. They sailed half way across the ocean until finding their first piece of tsunami debris on June 17, then turned south to travel the length of the debris field. “What’s left behind is going to be plastics and anything that’s trapping air, say lightbulbs, car tires still on the rim, insulated refrigerators, boat hulls,” Eriksen says.

Eriksen says the stuff should help answer some questions: “What’s the impact on marine life? How much is out there, and what kind of pollutants are sticking to the materials that are left behind? Are there going to be mountains of trash washing up along the Hawaiian beaches a year from now?”

In the meantime, Dr. Eriksen and his shipmates are bunking a foot from their boat-mates, spending a goodly portion of their days heaving along with their storm-tossed decks, and all in the name of a cleaner, plastic-free sea. Follow the adventures of these ocean adventurers at the fantastic 5Gyres blog.

Jim Meyer is a Baltimore-based stand-up comedian, actor, retired roller derby announcer, and freelance writer. Follow his exploits here.

Human Traffickers: The Modern Day Barbary Pirates – Yahoo! News

Jun 24
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Defense

COMMENTARY | This week the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report revealed there were an estimated 27 million victims forced into human trafficking. It also revealed there are 17 countries doing nothing to comply with international standards to stop the practice.

Eleven are from the same neighborhood as a historical ancestor to the modern-day human traffickers: the Barbary Pirates. This group from North Africa and the Middle East raided Europe and other regions for centuries with impunity, and no one did anything about it until the U.S. came along.

The question is whether the U.S. is again willing to do something about a human trafficking problem that others seem unable or unwilling to tackle.

For hundreds of years, Barbary Pirates seemed to go wherever they pleased. There are even reports of these pirates snagging travelers sailing between Ireland and England. All were forced into the type of slavery that might have exceeded the Hollywood horrors shown on the big screen. Rowers chained to oars until death, harems, bastinados, drudgery or prison. Only a lucky few were ever ransomed or managed to escape. An estimated 850,000 might have fallen to this fate.

This persisted until the U.S. got into the commercial game, trading throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Tripoli pounced, unleashing the human trafficking problem upon a new country, well-documented by Ian W. Toll‘s book “Six Frigates.”

Americans were advised by Europeans to pay tribute to the Barbary Pirates, a bribe which would hopefully lead to fewer attacks. But a cash-strapped American government couldn’t pay up. And these Barbary Pirates demanded the U.S. make them ships to include in the ransom payments for American kidnapped sailors. The Pasha declared war on the U.S. in 1801.

President Thomas Jefferson finally ordered the American Naval Squadron (built by John Adams, which Jefferson opposed creating) to deal with the Barbary Pirates. Initially, it was a disaster. America captured little and lost its frigate (the USS Philadelphia) and all aboard when it ran aground off of Tripoli. Now the pirates had more captives and a powerful ship.

But a daring raid by Lt. Stephen Decatur aboard a disguised Maltese merchantman destroyed the USS Philadelphia. America kept up a blockade in the harbor, and shelled the city. Marines were landed with the goal of installing an ex-Pasha, who would be more amenable to American interests.

The blockade didn’t work. The Marines didn’t overthrow Tripoli. But Tripoli did sign an agreementpromising not to capture more American ships. And when the Algerians made the mistake of declaring war on the U.S. after the War of 1812, they too were forced to cave in after several naval setbacks.

America did not overwhelm the Barbary Pirates but did earn some grudging respect by standing up to them. And that’s what they need to do with human trafficking. Some large military demonstration of force won’t achieve much, but perhaps some highly publicized law enforcement raids might do the trick.

Because after the Americans stood up to the Barbary Pirates, other Europeans followed. Within two decades of their wars with the Americans, these countries were conquered and became colonies themselves.

If Europeans see how serious Americans are about the problem, they’re more likely to do their part. Maybe like the Barbary Pirates, the human trafficker scourge can finally be brought under, after America proved you can stop a problem that seemed to persist forever.

A new Rainbow Warrior sets sail

Apr 9
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Life on the Sea, Projects, Ships

Feature story – October 14, 2011

The Earth has a new champion. In Bremerhaven, Germany, we’ve held the naming ceremony for the world’s first purpose-built, crowd-bought, eco-sleek sailing vessel, the new Rainbow Warrior.

 

The new Rainbow Warrior during sea trials.

If you’re one of the 100,000 donors who bought a bolt, an action boat, an anchor, a chart, a soap dish, a piece of her sail or the whole of her wheelhouse, thank you and obrigado. If you’re one of our 3 million regular annual donors, merci bien and Xie Xie! If you’re one of our 17 million email or mobile subscribers, Facebook fans or Twitter followers, gracias and shukran.  If you’re one of our 14,000 volunteers, danke schön and kinanâskomitinawaw.

We said the Earth needed a new warrior, and each of you answered that call: today we smash a bottle of champagne across the bow, and launch the world’s first ship built from the keel up to win the battle for the future of the Earth.

wo A-frame masts exclaim that this is no ordinary sailing ship: it is a sleek, efficient eco-vessel, every detail crafted with sustainability in mind, from the hard coating on her hull which is 100% free of biocides to the FSC® wood of her cabins, to the onboard recycling systems and biological sewage treatment. The new Rainbow Warrior will primarily be powered and propelled by the sun and wind , with the option in unsuitable weather to switch to efficient diesel-electric power. The revolutionary mast design allows her to carry more sail, and makes room for the radio masts, antennas, and domes that provide internet and satellite communications — allowing us to broadcast video from remote locations and tweet from any ocean. She boasts a video editing suite, a conference room, a campaign office, two fast action boats, webcams fore and aft and a helicopter hanger and helideck. She can accommodate up to 30 people.

 

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is from the Cree First Nation from Northern Alberta, Canada. She is the Godmother of the ship. The Rainbow Warrior prophecy (that the ship is named after) comes from Indigenous nations in North American, like the Cree.

 

The first ship to bear her name was a rusting fishing trawler scraped and sanded down by hand and painted with a dove and rainbow. She made history saving whales, stopping radioactive waste dumping, and sailing straight into the forbidden zone around nuclear weapons tests from the Pacific to the Arctic.

Her voyage into history was cut short by two limpet mines in 1985, when frightened politicians in Paris ordered French agents to sink the ship in New Zealand, believing this would stop our protests against nuclear weapons tests. One crewmember was murdered in the attack – photographer Fernando Pereira. It was a massive miscalculation, catalyzing opposition throughout the Pacific, strengthening Greenpeace, and hardening our resolve to rebuild and return. A supporter in Auckland coined the phrase that became a motto of opposition: “You Can’t Sink a Rainbow.”  When we returned to Moruroa in a refurbished sister ship, the legacy of the Rainbow Warrior as a parable of persistence was sealed. Today the Rainbow Warrior II is doing relief work in India as a hospital ship.

As a purpose-built campaigning ship, the new Warrior will be a voice for our oceans, our forests, our climate, and our future. Built to last for at least 50 years, she is a promise to you, our supporters, to never give in, never give up.

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, said at the ceremony: “The new Rainbow Warrior is the perfect ship with which navigate the perfect storm of ecological, economic and democratic crises lashing our world.”

“Carrying an international crew, the Rainbow Warrior will confront environmental criminals across the world, she will investigate and expose destructive activities, but perhaps most of all will provide a beacon of hope and an inspiration to action wherever she goes.

“If you’ve not yet been a part of the journey of building the Rainbow Warrior, please come onboard and be part of her voyage. The world needs another warrior: you.”

>> Find out more about the Rainbow Warrior I and Rainbow Warrior II.


Catch our web video series “Stories from the Rainbow Warrior” and see the maiden voyage through the eyes of our newest activists, the New Hands on Deck: www.facebook.com/newhandsondeck It’s our way of saying “Thank you” and to show off what 100,000+ of you bought when you funded the ship bolt by bolt, cleat by cleat, and sail by sail.

High-powered cannon sinks tsunami ‘ghost ship’

Apr 7
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Defense, Life on the Sea

Cross-posted via Word Press “Press This” from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17635726 

6 April 2012 Last updated at 04:31 GMTHelp

The US Coast Guard has used cannon to sink a crewless Japanese ship that drifted to Alaska after the 2011 tsunami.

Petty Officer David Mosley said that the weapon was used to puncture holes in the vessel to take on water.

The boat had no lights or power and was viewed as a danger to other ships.

Chinese freighter hijacked by pirates off Iran: Xinhua

Apr 7
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Defense, Life on the Sea
ReutersReuters – 9 hrs ago

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese freighter has been hijacked by pirates off southern Iran, the Chinese Embassy in Tehran reported on Friday.

The cargo ship, the “Xianghuamen,” belongs to Nanjing Ocean Shipping Co Ltd in Nanjing, eastern China, the embassy said in a posting on its website.

The ship was commandeered Friday morning in the Gulf of Oman near the south Iranian port of Chabahar, the embassy said.

The embassy is in touch with Iranian authorities and has asked the government to take all necessary steps to recover the vessel and its crew safely, according to the statement.

There were no other details, including the number of pirates or crew members.

An official with Nanjing Ocean Shipping contacted by telephone confirmed the hijacking, but would not provide further information.

(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Coast Guard monitors ghost ship drifting northwest

Apr 3
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Life on the Sea, Ships

cross-posted via PressThis from:
http://news.yahoo.com/coast-guard-monitors-ghost-ship-drifting-northwest-202417487.html

 

Associated PressBy RACHEL D’ORO | Associated Press – 6 hrs ago
  • In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the derelict Japanese fishing vessel RYOU-UN MARU drifts more than 125 miles from Forrester Island in southeast Alaska where it entered U.S. waters March 31, 2012. The vessel has been adrift since it was launched by a tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck Japan last year. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)In this photo provided by the U.S. …

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A derelict Japanese ship dislodged by last year’s massive tsunami was drifting toward Alaska Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The shrimping vessel was floating slowly northwest in the Gulf of Alaska about 125 miles west of the nearest point of land — Forrester Island outside the Dixon Entrance, a maritime transportation corridor separating U.S. and Canada jurisdictions. The ship is heading in the direction of the southeast Alaska town of Sitka 170 miles to the north, traveling at about one mile per hour, Coast Guard spokesmanDavid Mosley said.

There are no immediate concerns regarding the community of about 9,000, however. Mosley said the town is just a reference point at this time and that currents could always change.

“Our main concern is maritime traffic,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize any safety concerns, alerting vessels. We don’t want any vessels to run into it.”

A Coast Guard C-130 was heading to the ship Monday to pinpoint the exact location and check if a data buoy was successfully dropped on it Saturday.

The vessel has been adrift since it was launched by the tsunami caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck Japan last year. About 5 million tons of debris were swept into the ocean by the tsunami.

The ship has been identified as coming from Hokkaido, Japan.

Beside boat traffic, another concern is the ship’s impact on the maritime environment after floating at sea more than a year. What’s on board is unknown. Also unknown is whether the ship is carrying fuel.

The vessel, named Ryou-Un Maru, is believed to be 150 to 200 feet long, according to Mosley.

Officials are studying various options on how to deal with the ship, including scuttling it at sea or towing it to land.

The Japan earthquake triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, but Alaska state health and environmental officials have said there’s little need to be worried that debris landing on Alaska shores will be contaminated by radiation. They have been working with federal counterparts to gauge the danger of debris including material affected by a damaged nuclear power plant, to see if Alaska residents, seafood or wild game could be affected.

In January, a half dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms appeared at the top of Alaska’s panhandle and may be among the first debris from the tsunami.

The United States needs to hurry up and prepare for debris from the tsunami, U.S. Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Maria Cantwell of Washington state said last week in Seattle, before the ship crossed into U.S. waters from the coast of Canada. The Democratic senators said they’re seeking three things from the federal government, including emergency research money to better understand where the debris is going and how much can be expected on U.S. shores.

At the time, Begich said he was worried the derelict vessel might end up in Alaska waters.

“My understanding is they know the owner and he has indicated they don’t want it,” Begich said Friday. “Neither do we.”

Begich was not available for comment Monday. His spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, repeated his call for a plan and funding as a necessity.

“The rapid pace at which events are changing and debris is moving only underscores that need,” she said.

Kony 2012: Bring Justice, Arrest Joseph Kony

Feb 4
Posted by lfpl Filed in Cultural Issues, Relief

Awareness is the key for stopping wrongs in this world. Action against those wrongs is the next step. Educate yourself about this issue so you too can help the injustices happening in Uganda. KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice. Joseph Kony is a warlord, a guerrilla group leader operating the LRA – The Lord’s Resistance Army as both a cult and a militant group in Uganda. Armed with a radical pseudo-Christian fundamentalist and extremist ideology, Kony kidnaps young children brutally forcing them to become his soldiers and prostitutes. He forces them to kill their own parents, commit murder, mutilations on others, rape, and even purported acts of cannibalism. These are ordered through his own self-styled version of the Ten Commandments. The crimes have not just stayed within the borders of Uganda, but Democratic Repulbic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, and Central African Republic. He is accused of forcing over 30,000-66,000 children into his army (estimates vary from different sources) and displacing over 2 million since the rebellion began in 1986. Kony was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005 (Hague, Netherlands) but has been never captured. Do you part to get him captured today. http://www.invisiblechildren.com/.