Robert Ballard is the oceanic detective who turned up the Titanic in 1985, the lost Nazi ship Bismarck, and many other shipwrecks. Now he's off to to find Amelia Earhart's plane that hasn't been seen since she and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific ocean on July 2, 1937 during their flight around the world. And based on a photo taken just a few months after Earhart disappeared, Ballard is pretty sure he knows where the plane crashed. From the New York Times
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Kurt M. Campbell, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Obama administration, invited Dr. Ballard to a meeting. The two had known each other since their days in Naval intelligence.
Mr. Campbell ushered him into his office, Dr. Ballard recalled in a recent interview: “He closed the door, and he said, ‘I want to show you a picture.’”
First, he offered Dr. Ballard a grainy black-and-white photo. “He said, ‘What do you see?’ I said, ‘I see an island with a ship on a reef?’ And he said, ‘No, look over to the left.’”
As Dr. Ballard squinted at the blur, Mr. Campbell handed him a second, digitally enhanced image. Mr. Campbell said the smudge was landing gear from a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. And the reef in the picture was part of tiny Nikumaroro Island, in the mostly uninhabited Phoenix Islands.
There it was, a precise place to look for Earhart’s plane.
“I went, ‘I’ll be damned,’” he said.
This darling denizen of the deep is a Helicocranchia, aka a piglet squid. Scientists on the Ocean Exploration Trust's E/V Nautilus caught footage of the rarely seen creature at a depth of 4,544 feet near Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The commenters' delightful descriptions really make the clip.
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Aquanaut is an autonomous submarine developed by Houston Mechatronics Inc. that transforms into a humanoid robot -- well, the upper half anyway -- to service underwater oil and gas rigs. IEEE Spectrum's Evan Ackerman took a dive with Aquanaut in a massive swimming pool that NASA uses to help train astronauts for microgravity. From IEEE Spectrum:
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The HMI engineers, who often joke that building a Transformer has been one of their long-term career objectives, are convinced that it can be done. Aquanaut has been designed primarily for servicing subsea oil and gas installations. The companies that own and operate this infrastructure spend vast sums of money to inspect and maintain it. They rely on robotic technologies that haven’t fundamentally changed in decades, largely because of the challenge of working in such an extreme environment. For HMI, however, that’s not a problem: Of its 75 employees, over two dozen used to work for NASA. Extreme environments are what they’re best at.
HMI cofounder and chief technology officer Nic Radford spent 14 years working on advanced robotics projects at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston. “I’ll grant you that getting into space is harder than getting underwater,” he says. “But space is a pristine environment. Underwater, things are extraordinarily dynamic. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s 10 times harder or 50 times harder for robots working underwater than it is in space..."
Aquanaut will not require a tether or a support ship. It will travel in submarine mode to its deepwater destination, where it’ll transform into its humanoid form, unfolding its powerful arms.
Jeff Crilly and his friends were participating in a mako shark fishing tournament off the Jersey Coast when a different kind of shark came by for a snack of chum. Yes, they're gonna need a bigger boat. John Chisholm, a shark expert at the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, estimates the 16- to 18-foot Great White weighs as much as 3,500 pounds.
From the Asbury Park Press:
Chisholm keeps a running database of great white sharks he's identified by certain features, such as markings. Crilly's shark had white markings on its gills, which Chisholm found no matches for in the hundreds of sharks logged in the database.
"She wasn't in there. I was able to determine it was a new shark and if we ever see it again, we'll be able to identify her," Chisholm said.
Chisholm invited Crilly to name the animal and he dubbed her Sherri. After his mom. Read the rest
From Smithsonian Channel's "Great Blue Wild: Life in the Muck:"
The speed of a hairy frogfish’s bite is the result of a vacuum in its mouth that can suck in its prey in just 1/6000th of a second. It’s so fast that even slow-motion video struggles to capture it.
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Yesterday, a guest on the 28th floor at the Tidewater Resort on Panama City Beach caught this video of a big shark circling a lone woman who had no idea the animal was nearby. Eventually people on the beach noticed the shark and yelled to the woman to return to shore. I don't know what kind of shark it was, or whether it was hungry, but I am certain that this video would be more interesting with the soundtrack below. (News Herald)
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A dozen mating manatees stopped traffic on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa, Florida. Apparently some drivers reported a whale in distress but it turned out to be the manatees in a "mating ball" or "mating herd." And it happened before, a few years ago, in the same spot! Must be something in the water...
From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission:
Manatees mate in herds consisting of a focal female and multiple males, from a few to over a dozen, attempting to mate with her. Mating herds are most often observed during the warmer months, but can occur year-round. They can last anywhere from a few hours up to a week long. The manatees are often observed splashing or climbing on top of each other in the water.
(The Drive via Daily Grail)
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During the deepest human sea dive ever, 35,853 feet/10,928 meters down to the bottom of the western Pacific's Mariana Trench in a one-person submarine, underwater adventurer Victor Vescovo found what may be newly discovered species of marine life along with candy wrappers and a plastic bag. This is the third plastic bag that divers have found in the Mariana Trench, considered the deepest natural trench on Earth. From National Geographic:
A study released in October 2018 documented what is still the deepest known piece of plastic—a flimsy shopping bag—found at a depth of 36,000 feet inside the Mariana Trench....
Single-use plastics are virtually everywhere, and they may take hundreds of years or more to break down once in the wild. The Mariana Trench has higher levels of overall pollution in certain regions than some of the most polluted rivers in China, according to a study in February 2017. The study's authors theorized that the chemical pollutants in the trench may have come in part from the breakdown of plastic in the water column.
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In December last year, Jean-Jacques Savin, 71, floated away from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa in an orange capsule he'd built. Last week, he landed at the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. Read the rest
Well, sort of. Paleontologists have identified a 430 million-year-old fossil of a multi-tentacled sea creature as a new species and dubbed it Sollasina cthulhu after HP Lovecraft's Great Old One. From Yale University:
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The new cthulhu, Sollasina, had 45 tentacle-like tube feet, which it used to crawl along the ocean floor and capture food. The creature was small, about the size of a large spider. It was found in the Herefordshire Lagerstätte in the United Kingdom, a site that has proven to be a trove of fossilized ancient sea animals.
“In this paper, we report a new echinoderm — the group that includes sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sea stars — with soft-tissue preservation,” said Yale paleontologist Derek Briggs, a co-author of the study. “This new species belongs to an extinct group called the ophiocistioids. With the aid of high-resolution physical-optical tomography, we describe the species in 3D, revealing internal elements of the water vascular system that were previously unknown in this group and, indeed, in nearly all fossil echinoderms.”
An astonishing school of hammerhead sharks surprises divers at Darwin's Arch in the Galápagos Islands in this majestic video from the BBC's Mission Galápagos series. In an article at Wanderlust, Mission Galápagos host and animal biologist Liz Bonnin lists this adventure as one of her "most amazing wildlife experiences":
The hammerheads come from all different directions and gather, swim around each other in big circles in a wonderful sort of balletic association. At the very centre of this big mass of hammerheads are the oldest, most mature females. The younger sharks swim around them. When the males come in to mate, they’ve got to weave and wind their way through this mass of hammerheads, so only the strongest, fittest males will get to mate with the females in the centre.
We are only just beginning to understand the purpose of this mass congregation, so the more scientists dive down there, the more they’re understanding its importance. It’s a very special place, and a very important behaviour, that needs to be protected. The Galapagos is one of the last jewels of this blue planet of ours. It really needs extra protection of ours oceans to make sure that that doesn’t disappear for ever. It was extraordinary.
(via The Kid Should See This)
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Watch marine biologist Ocean Ramsey (yes, Ocean is her first name!) swim with a 20-foot great white shark off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. First spotted off Guadalupe in 2014, this animal, nicknamed "Deep Blue," is thought to be the largest great white in the world. They're definitely going to need a bigger boat.
“We never would have imagined we would be fortunate enough to be graced with the presence of this massive, big, beautiful, female white shark," says Ramsey, who at the time was observing tiger sharks with her One Ocean Research team. “It fills my heart with joy and takes my breath away.”
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Beyond magic! Please #helpsavesharks !!!! Incredible swimming with “Deep Blue” one of the largest great white s for hour! Just using our @oneoceandiving boat as a scratching post, so mellow and beautiful. Help ban the purposeful killing of sharks and rays with @oneoceanconservation this year & in your local/international community ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ AHHHHHHMAZING!!!! #Beyondwords still out to sea/going back in 😍😍😍😍😍😍 vid shot by @oneoceandiving Shark specialist & my amazing #seaster @mermaid_kayleigh out with @juansharks @forrest.in.focus @camgrantphotography @oneoceanresearch
Last week, private equity investor and adventurer Victor Vescovo became the first person to touch the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean, 27,480 feet down to the floor of the Puerto Rico Trench, in his custom $35 million Triton submersible, named the Limiting Factor. From Smithsonian:
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Vescovo has previously trekked to both the North and South Poles and climbed the highest mountain on each continent, including Mount Everest, a combo known as the “Explorer’s Grand Slam.” But that club is—relatively speaking—a little crowded, with more than 60 people having completed the feat. That’s one reason Vescovo decided to take to the water. The Puerto Rico Trench dive is the first leg of his latest challenge: to reach the lowest spot in each of the world's five oceans. He’s dubbed the feat, inaccessible to anyone without millions of dollars of resources, the “Five Deeps Expedition...."
Through one lens, the trip can be seen as a vanity project for a rich explorer. However, as Ann Vanreusel, head of the research group Marine Biology of Ghent University, tells Erik Stokstad at Science, whatever the motive behind the expedition, it has true scientific value. “[T]here is not any funding agency that would be willing to spend so much money to visit all those areas,” she says.
Indeed, Five Deeps is poised to produce some of the most accurate maps ever of the ocean’s deepest spots and unseen habitats and creatures, aided by the fact that Alan Jamieson, a marine ecologist at Newcastle University and one of the world’s leading experts on the ocean’s depths, is the science leader of the expedition.
Trump's about to make a bunch of whales, turtles, and dolphins go deaf.
The Trump administration is about to take a preliminary step toward oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, by approving requests from energy companies to conduct “deafening seismic tests that could harm tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Read the rest
is a citizen science project (and app) enabling you to listen to livestreams of audio from underwater microphones off Washington’s San Juan Island. Read the rest
Most military underwater surveillance systems filter out whale calls along with other ambient ocean noise. This inspired researchers from China's Tianjin University to create a form of "bio-inspired steganography" in which recordings of whale songs can be edited to contain secret messages and then electronically transmitted underwater. From Newsweek:
In research published in IEEE Communication Magazine, the team said there are two ways to hide signals in whale pulses—changing the signal to include encrypted information or making the signal weaker.
The former is problematic because it would stand out from other naturally occurring signals, Jiang told SCMP. However, the second method holds promise. Researchers could build a coding system around the whale sounds. They could then edit whale sounds so they are indistinguishable from other whale calls. When they are received by the coding system, they can be deciphered. The main drawback for this approach is that it would be difficult to send a message over a long distance.
"Bio-Inspired Steganography for Secure Underwater Acoustic Communications" (IEEE Communications)
Image: "A mother sperm whale and her calf off the coast of Mauritius" by Gabriel Barathieu Read the rest