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Live Webcast from GOM Ocean Floor

Live Webcast from GOM Ocean Floor
Live Webcast from GOM Ocean Floor

                        

From April 12-30, members of the public are invited to join NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer as it explores deep-sea habitats in the Gulf of Mexico. Virtual ocean explorers will have the chance to see canyons, deep-sea coral communities, and shipwrecks dating to the early 1800s via live video transmitted from the deep seafloor.


“This is an exciting opportunity for the public to join us as we explore the Earth’s ocean to obtain and share scientific information that describes largely unknown ocean areas. This information can then be used by ocean resource managers, coastal communities, offshore industries and others to inform decisions about how best to manage, use and protect the ocean and its resources,” said John McDonough, the acting director of NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research.


“America's Gulf is our backyard, yet there is a great deal we still need to learn about its sea floor, sea life and maritime heritage," he added.


Anyone with Internet access can follow the expedition on NOAA’s website, which will chronicle the expedition through live and archived videos, background science essays, still images, logs from the science team, curricula and educational modules. 


Last year’s Okeanos expedition to the North Atlantic Ocean drew more than 900,000 visits to the web pages as the public watched dynamic underwater sea creatures, visited rarely seen underwater landscapes and heard scientists describe the underwater world. 


Technicians aboard the ship will launch Remotely-Operated Vehicles (ROVs), allowing scientists on shore to explore features such as salt domes, gas seeps, and canyons, while also investigating shipwrecks and marine life, including deep-sea coral habitats. NOAA’s ROV Deep Discoverer, accompanied by the ROV camera-sled Seirios, are equipped with high-definition video cameras and advanced lighting systems to obtain and send live video. The ROVs may operate as deep as 3,000 meters.


The live video timeframe will include Earth Day, April 22, when the team will explore a deep-sea canyon, characterizing the features, habitats and species they encounter. On April 15, 16 and 24, expedition scientists expect to investigate shipwrecks to determine if they may be significant national maritime heritage sites. Such sites require not only study, but protection in partnership with industry and other federal partners.


To view video on this year’s expedition, go here


Picture credits:
Ship and map: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program
Underwater: Ocean Exploration Trust/Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University


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Early Submarine Discovery: The Secret of the Pearl Islands

Source: Der Spiegel 

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For the past 137 years, a mysterious wreck has emerged at low tide each day on a beach off the coast of Panama. Researchers now know that it's the presumed lost "Sub Marine Explorer," one of the world's first submarines and a vessel that would ultimately kill its German inventor.

The tower was the first thing Jim Delgado saw. Inch by inch, it emerged from the deep-green surf of the Pacific Ocean -- an encrusted piece of black metal covered with barnacles, rust and seaweed, a ghostly apparition slowly rising from the sea.

Delgado was sitting on the roots of an ancient palmetto tree, staring at the water as if transfixed. Aside from the hermit crabs digging in the sand at his feet and the brown pelicans screeching in the treetops, Delgado was alone -- the only human being on this godforsaken island known as San Telmo, somewhere southeast of Panama City.

Low tide came slowly and sluggishly, eventually exposing the mysterious rust-eaten wreck a fisherman had described to Delgado. The man believed it was a Japanese submarine that had been on a mission to attack ships near the Panama Canal during World War II, only to fall prey to the treacherous waters of the Pearl Archipelago.

But the more the tide retreated, the more Delgado -- director of the renowned Vancouver Maritime Museum -- was convinced that the fisherman's story couldn't possibly be true. This thing appearing before his eyes had to be older, much older.

The design reminded the scientist of an "iron cigar," and he instinctively thought of the "Nautilus," that legendary underwater vessel author Jules Verne described in his novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Delgado had devoured the book as a young boy.

But could something like this be possible? Delgado was mesmerized. Years ago, working as a marine archaeologist, he had recovered the wreck of the "General Harrison," a ship from the days of the California gold rush, from San Francisco Bay. He was also involved in the raising of the "H.L. Hunley" from the harbor entrance at Charleston, South Carolina -- the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship, during the American Civil War in 1864.

And now, on this isolated beach on a tropical island -- during his vacation, no less -- he had apparently happened upon the most spectacular find of his career.

Without any equipment, and wearing nothing but boxer shorts, Delgado swam out to the mysterious wreck. He cursed when he scraped his left leg on the sharp-edged metal -- and because he didn't have a measuring tape to document the object's exact dimensions. The size, shape and condition of the chambers corresponded to none of the vessels he was familiar with -- and Delgado thought he knew just about everything that had ever floated. But this craft's technology seemed much more modern that that of the "Hunley." The shape of the hull was more reminiscent of the fantasy forms he'd seen in old science fiction books. Why on earth, he wondered, had he never heard about this vessel?

When Delgado heard the sound of the approaching rubber dinghy that had come to take him back to his cruise ship, he quickly took a few shots with his camera -- hardly able to believe his luck at having decided to pass on the dull bird-watching outing the other passengers had taken. His few hours on this remote island had truly been worth it.

Historic find

That was five years ago, and by now it's become clear that Delgado made a sensational historic find. He discovered the lost "Sub Marine Explorer," one of the world's first functioning underwater boats, designed by a brilliant German engineer whose invention eventually brought him an agonizing death.

A look at the workings of the submarine.
DER SPIEGEL

A look at the workings of the submarine.

The well-preserved wreck off the shores of San Telmo offers an unprecedented glimpse into the maritime past. Even though the beginnings of manned underwater vessels aren't so distant, the pioneer days of submarines remain filled with unanswered questions. Old construction plans often diverge from the actual designs, and many boats were either lost or destroyed. In some cases it remains unclear as to exactly how -- and whether -- the vehicles actually worked.

The San Telmo discovery could provide answers to many questions about the first submarines. Some of Delgado's colleagues believe that the wreck in the Pacific is a unique example of a handful of submarine prototypes that have remained preserved. They are craft in which daring men -- essentially the Space Shuttle pilots of their age -- ventured into the unknown world beneath the ocean's surface in the 19th century. Only five diving machines from the years before 1870 have survived the ravages of time:

  • The "Brandtaucher" designed by German inventor Wilhelm Bauer, now in a museum in Dresden.
  • A nameless submarine used by the Confederates in 1862, during the American Civil War, now on display in New Orleans.
  • The "H.L. Hunley," built in 1863 and currently being restored in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The "Intelligent Whale," a submarine built in 1866 and now in a New Jersey museum.
  • And the "Sub Marine Explorer" off the coast of San Telmo in the Pacific, built in 1865.

The "Explorer" marks a high point in maritime engineering, but also a tragic one. Equipped with a cleverly designed system of ballast chambers and a compressed air tank that allowed for pressure compensation, it also had two hatches beneath the hull enabling divers to exit the craft underwater. But about 130 years ago, when the vessel was being used to collect oysters and pearls from the ocean floor off the coast of Panama, the condition known as "the bends," or decompression sickness, was largely unknown. The condition can cause an agonizing death when divers rise to the surface from deep water too quickly. Technical progress had fatally outpaced medical science, costing the inventor and team of the "Explorer" their health and their lives.

But on the evening following his discovery, as he sat excitedly in the dining room of his cruise ship, Delgado had no idea of the tragedies that must have transpired in this iron coffin in the Pacific's pearl beds. Instead, he couldn't stop describing the details of the strange wreck to his wife Ann.

Back home in Vancouver, the scientist had the pictures he took on San Telmo developed and promptly e-mailed the images -- together with a description and a request for further information -- to colleagues around the world.

One man, Richard Wills, an expert on American Civil War submarines, wrote back to inform Delgado that his data were a perfect match to a description Wills had discovered in a scientific article from 1902. The piece even included a precise drawing of the largely unknown diving device. This couldn't possibly be a coincidence -- the vessel had to be the "Sub Marine Explorer."

Little known inventor

Inside Kroehl's craft.
Sven Röbel

Inside Kroehl's craft.

Little was known at the time about the man who designed the craft, a German inventor named Julius H. Kroehl who had emigrated to the United States. He built an iron fire watchtower in Harlem in 1865 and was then hired by the New York magistrate to demolish -- unsuccessfully, as it turned out -- a reef that obstructed shipping in the East River. But how did the mysterious German hit upon the idea of designing such a progressive diving ship? Delgado decided to get to the bottom of the story. A search through historical archives revealed that the "Sub Marine Explorer" last belonged to an outfit called the Pacific Pearl Company, which planned to dig for oysters off the coast of Panama in the 1860s.
 As far back as the days of the Conquistadors, divers had been digging up treasures from the depths of the "Archipiélago de las Perlas." Black slaves had once fished the famed "La Peregrina" pearl -- a magnificent, softly shimmering 50-carat jewel -- from the waters of the archipelago. The shells also held the promise of fortune, offering wealth in the form of mother-of-pearl, a highly sought-after luxury material used in the fashion of the day.

According to old business records, one of the partners in the company with offices near New York's Wall Street was a certain W.H. Tiffany, apparently a member of the eponymous jewelry and lamp dynasty.

The story was becoming more and more fascinating, and after making two more trips to San Telmo in 2002 and 2004, Delgado had finally collected enough material to justify launching an expedition to delve into the final secrets of the "Explorer" and its inventor.

Accompanied by SPIEGEL, an international team of scientists set out for the waters of the Pearl Archipelago on February 18. According to expedition leader Delgado, he had "assembled the best people" -- people like Australian Michael McCarthy, 58, a world-renowned underwater archaeologist, Larry Murphy, also 58, a specialist in corrosion studies, and metallurgist Don Johnson, 79, a proven expert in the study of materials and rust processes. One of the most pressing issues for the team was to determine how much longer the rare wreck would withstand constantly being submerged in salt water. They also wanted to find out what materials were used to build the craft and how it actually worked.

The sub has resurfaced every day at low tide for 137 years.
Sven Röbel

The sub has resurfaced every day at low tide for 137 years.

Armed with GPS navigation gear, multi-parameter probes and laser-guided distance measuring devices, the researchers tackled the archaic technology of the 19th century. "It was as if we were looking through a portal into a forgotten era," Delgado raves. He and his team found themselves constantly surprised by the ship's design and its technical intricacies.

The upper half of the ship's double hull, which once housed the compressed air tank, was made of pressure-resistant cast iron, while the lower half consisted of wrought-iron plates connected with rivets. The heads of the rivets were on the inside of the hull, apparently in an effort to make the boat, which was moved by a propeller driven by muscle power, as streamlined as possible.

In the fine layer of sand that covered the floor of the work chamber, with its two hatches for recovering oysters, Delgado found a depth gauge filled with mercury and the wooden handle of a manual pump, which was apparently used to improve the air in the small enclosed space. Spraying a fine water vapor was meant to bind the carbon dioxide in the air onboard the vessel. After all, the boat contained up to six men collecting oysters in candlelight, in what amounted to hard labor on the ocean floor.

All of these characteristics closely matched an old newspaper article Delgado's research assistants had previously dug up in archives. In the summer of 1869, the "Mercantile Chronicle," a Panama paper, using the florid language of the day, described how the revolutionary submarine worked. "Before submersion," wrote the paper, "enough air is filled into the compressed air chamber," using a "pump with the power of 30 horses" mounted on another boat, "until the air in the chamber reaches a density of more than 60 pounds," which corresponds to pressure of about four bars. Once the compressed air tank has been sealed, "the men enter the machine through the tower on the upper side" and "as soon as the water is permitted to fill the ballast chambers, the machine sinks directly down to the ocean floor," where "a sufficient amount of compressed air is promptly fed into the working chamber until it possesses sufficient volume and power to resist the enormous pressure of the water," so that the men can "open the hatches in the floor of the machine" and begin recovering oysters.

The writer continued: "When they have been underwater for a sufficient period of time and all shells within reach have been collected," compressed air is pumped into the ballast chamber "and as this air then forces out the water, the machine safely rises to the surface."

Ignorant of diving dangers

Kroehl, the designer, couldn't know how important gradual, controlled pressure compensation is during surfacing. Nowadays, when underwater researcher Delgado, himself a practiced diver, climbs into the narrow chamber -- bathed in a pale, green light from the midday tropical sun -- he surveys the rust-covered valves, rudder levers and handles and tries to imagine what it must have felt to work "in this iron coffin." What it must have been like to hear the hissing of compressed air with ears aching from the pressure, and how sour the air must have smelled when almost all the oxygen had been consumed and the candles were slowly being flicker out.

Delgado waxes philosophical at such moments and talks about the "great flow of history that extinguishes the individual." He has been studying the "Explorer" for five years now, and yet he doesn't even know what its inventor looked like. Although Kroehl himself was said to have been a passionate photographer, not a single portrait of the man has been found.

The biography of the forgotten engineer, compiled from the rudimentary recollections of his descendants and the records of his military service with the Union army, is still filled with gaps. Kroehl was born in 1820 in the East Prussian town of Memel, now Klaipeda in Lithuania, and as a child moved with his family to Berlin. Old address books reveal that his father, businessman Jacob Kröhl, lived at Hausvogteiplatz 11 between 1829 and 1833.

Jim Delgado in the tower of the
Sven Röbel

Jim Delgado in the tower of the "Explorer."

In 1838, after having served in an artillery unit in the German military, the young Julius apparently boarded one of the many emigrant ships that were then taking countless Germans to the shores of the New World. American records show that Kroehl became a US citizen in 1840. New York City commercial records from 1855 list him as an engineer in Lower Manhattan, an area filled with docks, iron foundries and plenty of German immigrants.

By then, Kroehl had filed a patent for the "Improvement of iron-bending machines," and he was apparently fascinated by the diving bells that had recently been developed for use in bridge construction.

In November 1858, Kroehl married 26-year-old Sophia Leuber in Washington, and beginning in 1863 he spent a year and a half fighting in the American Civil War. He served in the Union navy as an underwater explosives specialist and later as a scout in the Louisiana swamps. There Kroehl apparently contracted an illness that kept him bedridden for months. Between bouts of fever, the inventor must have repeatedly worked on the idea for his underwater machine. His thoughts probably revolved around a sort of diving bell, but one that was self-propelled and able to move freely -- and could therefore be used to attach mines to enemy warships.

But by the time he had finished the plans and regained his strength, the navy was less than enthusiastic. The war was over and Kroehl's project was too costly. The military simply failed to recognize the enormous potential of this type of submersible battle machine. Attempts with a few other devices had been less than encouraging, but Kroehl's submarine was technically superior to everything that had preceded it.

Refusing to give up, the inventor in 1864 became chief engineer and a partner in the Pacific Pearl Company -- a company that made headlines two years later. In the spring of 1866, the New York Times reported on the first sensational dive of the "Sub Marine Explorer." On May 30, at about 1:30 p.m., Kroehl, accompanied by three friends, entered his underwater device and dove to the bottom of the harbor at North Third Street. Bystanders spent an hour and a half waiting anxiously before the steel monster reappeared at the surface and the hatch slowly opened. Kroehl, clearly in the best of spirits, casually puffed away at his meerschaum pipe and proudly presented a bucket of mud, freshly collected from the bottom of the harbor.

The Pacific Pearl Company's investors were apparently impressed by the demonstration. That same year, they paid to have the disassembled "Explorer" shipped from New York to Panama's Caribbean coast, where it was loaded onto a train and taken through the jungle to Panama City on the Pacific. At the time, the town was a mosquito-infested pit, full of shady bars, corrupt officials and feverish fortune-hunters en route to California -- a way station on the new transit route between New York and San Francisco.

Arrival in Panama

On December 8, 1866, the news of the arrival of an incredible diving apparatus caused a sensation in the chaotic city. The device was apparently being assembled at the train station and would soon be ready for use. About six months later, the "Panama Star and Herald" reported that the work was finally complete. Engineer Kroehl, the paper wrote, had personally supervised the hoisting of the "Sub Marine Explorer" into the adjacent dock, and in a few days the boat would begin its first diving trips off the coast of islands owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.

The trial runs, which lasted several weeks, apparently proved to be Kroehl's undoing. Completely confident in his invention and obsessed by the possibilities of working deep underwater, he couldn't possibly know that nitrogen molecules expand into small gas bubbles in the body when a person surfaces too quickly, essentially causing the blood to foam.

When Julius H. Kroehl died, on Sept. 9, 1867, doctors made the usual local diagnosis and the US consul made it official, writing to Kroehl's widow that her husband had died of "fever." None of them could have known about the deadly decompression sickness. The funeral, the consul wrote, was held by the local chapter of the brotherhood of Freemasons at the "Cementerio de Extranjeros," or Foreigners' Cemetery, in Panama City's Chorrillo district.

Part of the sub's hull has been destroyed.
Sven Röbel

Part of the sub's hull has been destroyed.

For two years after Kroehl's death, there were no further reports of the "Explorer," until the New York Times published a story about a pearl diving expedition to an island it called "St. Elmo." On an August day in 1869, at about 11 a.m., the boat apparently dove down into the waters off Pearl Island, remained submerged for four hours and finally surfaced with 1,800 oysters on board. The process was repeated on each of the next 11 days, until the crew had collected 10.5 tons of oysters and pearls worth $2,000.

But then, wrote the paper, "all divers succumbed to fever," which ultimately led to the undertaking being abandoned. The devilish machine, according to the Times, was taken to a protected bay off the island, where the crew soon planned to return -- but this time with "local, acclimated divers" supposedly immune to the "fever."

It was in precisely this bay, in the green waters off San Telmo, that Jim Delgado found the "Explorer" surfacing at low tide, as it has been doing every day for the past 137 years.

Translated from German by Christopher Sultan

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Big Fish Stories Getting Littler

Big Fish Stories Getting Littler

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - 11:38 AM

They came, they fished, then snap! They posed. Right in front of their Big Catch — and thereby hangs a tale.

Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

For generations, tour boats have been collecting fishing enthusiasts in Key West, Fla.: taking them for a day of deep sea casting; providing them rods, bait, companionship; and then, when the day ends, there's a little wharf-side ceremony. Everyone is invited to take his biggest fish and hook it onto the "Hanging Board"; a judge compares catches, chooses a champion, and then the family that caught the biggest fish poses for a photograph. The one up above comes from 1958. Notice that the fish on the far left is bigger than the guy who, I assume, caught it; and their little girl is smaller than most of the "biggies" on the board. Those aren't little people. Those are big fish.

Here's another one from the year before — 1957. Again, the fish loom larger than the people. Check out the guy in the back, standing on the extreme right, next to an even bigger giant.

Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

Charter companies have been taking these photos for at least 50 years now. In some cases, they've operated from the same dock, fished in the same waters and returned to the same Hanging Board for all that time — which is why, when a grad student working on her doctoral thesis found a thick stack of these photos in Key West's Monroe County Library, she got very excited. Lauren McClenachan figured she could use this parade of biggies to compare fish over time.

For example, here's a photo taken a decade after the previous shots — during the 1965-1979 period:

Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

The fish in that one are still big, but no longer bigger than the fishermen. It's the same in this next one. Grandma and Grandpa are decidedly the biggest animals in the photo:

Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

Let's keep going. This next photo was taken during the 1980-1985 period. It's a group shot, one of many. Everybody's displaying their biggest catches. Loren visited this wharf in 2007 and discovered, as she writes in her scientific paper, that these display boards "had not changed over time," which meant she could measure the board, and then (using the photos) measure the fish. Clearly, these fish are way smaller than the ones from the 1950s:

Courtesy of Monroe County Public Library

How much smaller? Adjusting for time of year, and after checking and measuring 1,275 different trophy fish, she found that in the 1950s, the biggest fish in the photos were typically over 6 feet — sometimes 6 feet 5 inches long. By the time we get to 2007, when Loren bought a ticket on a deep sea day cruise and snapped this picture ...

Courtesy of Loren McClenachan

... the biggest fish were averaging only a foot, or maybe a little over. That's a staggering change. The biggest fish on display in 2007 was a shark, and sharks, Loren calculated, are now half the size they used to be in the '50s. As to weight, she figured the average prizewinner dropped from nearly 43.8 pounds to a measly 5 pounds — an 88 percent drop.

It's no big surprise, I suppose, that fish in the sea are getting smaller. The curious thing, though, is that people who pay 40 bucks to go fishing off Key West today have no sense of what it used to be like. Had Loren not found the fish photos, there would be no images, no comparative record of what used to be a routine catch.

In her paper, Loren says that the fishing charter tours are still very popular. The price of the tour hasn't dropped (adjusting for inflation), only the size of the fish. Looking at the photos, people now seem just as pleased to be champions as those "champs" back in the '50s, unaware that what's big now would have been thrown away then. Loren says she suspects that people just erase the past "and will continue to fish while marine ecosystems undergo extreme changes."

Change Blindness

Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has a way of describing these acts of creeping amnesia. He calls the condition "shifting baseline syndrome," and while he was talking about marine biologists' failure to see drastic changes in fish sizes over time, it's a bigger, deeper idea. When you're young, you look at the world and think what you see has been that way for a long time. When you're 5, everything feels "normal." When things change in your lifetime, you may regret what has changed, but for your children, born 30 years later into a more diminished world, what they see at 5 becomes their new "normal," and so, over time, "normal" is constantly being redefined to mean "less." And people who don't believe that the past was so different from the present might have what could be called "change blindness blindness."

Because these changes happen slowly, over a human lifetime, they never startle. They just tiptoe silently along, helping us all adjust to a smaller, shrunken world.

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S.O.L.O.: Guardians of the Pacific

S.O.L.O.: Guardians of the Pacific

By John Tapley
Photos courtesy Larry McKenna

During a dive trip in Eastern Indonesia in 2005, Larry and Bonnie McKenna set out to capture footage of a Pacific leatherback turtle. After reaching a secluded beach via canoe, he encountered one of the majestic, endangered creatures first hand and experienced a spark of inspiration - he wished to see his new friend prosper.
Following a rigorous funding campaign, and largely thanks to the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), Larry’s dream came to fruition through a special organization: Save Our Leatherbacks Operation (S.O.L.O.).
Completely fueled by the passion of volunteers and generous donations, S.O.L.O. is a certified IRS 501(c) (3) non-profit charity foundation and a registered Texas environmental non-profit corporation. The organization’s three-fold mission agenda is to educate the public about the Pacific leatherback turtle and its plight, join people together in a democratic fashion to illicit change, and reverse the population shift via a series of hands-on initiatives and projects at nesting beaches.

Climate change has had a substantial negative impact on ocean life and the Pacific leatherbacks are no exception. As Pacific temperatures raise and water levels heighten, the reptiles’ nesting grounds are barraged
By intense heat and overwhelmed by flooding; many nestlings perish before they can properly hatch. According to McKenna, the threat facing Pacific leatherback turtles has far-reaching, though not immediately apparent, consequences to the oceans’ food chain. As the turtles primarily predate on jellyfish, which consume fingerlings, their extinction would cause a massive, irreparable crash in an already fragile environment.

Of special importance are S.O.L.O.’s partnerships with indigenous people residing on various islands in the Pacific. Because S.O.L.O. can only accomplish so much with its allocated visitation time, the hard work and dedication of local associates is vital to maintaining the mission. S.O.L.O. volunteers work closely with native villages and help provide them with the tools, provisions, and education necessary
To facilitate change. Banding together with locals, the organization has implemented several enterprises such as daily and nightly beach patrols, construction of protective fencing and scaffolding installations, and crucial data collection processes.

One of S.O.L.O.’s keystone fundraising and groundwork projects, Turtle Discovery Tours, allows participants to
Get a firsthand experience at the operation’s efforts and also provides unforgettable leisurely pursuits. This year’s excursion, slated to begin September 6, will take place in the Indonesian provinces of Bali and East Java in an area magnanimously titled “The Island of the Gods”. The
11-day tour includes a diverse array of activities and accommodations such as diving, snorkeling, traditional ceremonies, and much more.

For more information on S.O.L.O.’s new Adventure, above, its future projects, volunteer opportunities, and further details on September’s tour, contact them at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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3 Bizarre Fish Species Discovered in 2013

Despite all the scientific advances made in the last century, there’s still so much we don’t know about marine life. Every day, whether in Antarctica or deep in the Mid-Atlantic the ocean has a way of constantly surprising us with new species of fish and other aquatic species. In a year full of exciting discoveries, here are three of the most quirkiest, most bizarre fish finds of the last year.

bizarre fish

via reef2rainforest.com

Earlier this year, scientists with the group Conservation International discovered Hemiscyllium halmahera, a new species of shark that uses its fins to walk on the seafloor. This bizarre fish, which is poses no harm to humans, inhabits the tropical waters of Oceania, including Australia and Indonesia. While reaching less than 4 feet in length, these fish have unusually long tails, perhaps used to help steer as it crawls along the ground. This nocturnal forager uses its ability to scour the seabed for crustaceans and other fish.

 

Dwarf Goby

bizarre fish

via nationalgeographic.com

Researchers came a new species of dwarf goby, dubbed Eviota santanai, in the waters of Timor’s first national park that sounds like a miniature monster. This bizarre fish stands out with a innocent pink appearance that belies multiple rows of teeth and up to three curved canines in the back row of teeth. Found in one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in the world, the fish stands out from its cousins with a different sensory system, lacking the pores many of its cousins have.

 

via myscience.us

via myscience.us

Perhaps the most bizarre fish discovery of 2013, Arapaima leptosoma is the first member of the group Arapaima to be discovered since 1847. The group survives in oxygen-poor swampy waters of the Amazon River by taking advantage of the labyrinth organ, a group of blood vessels opening into the mouth that allows it to “breathe” air. The fish is absolutely massive, at over six feet in length, and this particular subspecies distinguishes itself with a nearly flat forehead with a slender body. It’s amazing that a fish this big could evade discovery until 2013, especially given its ability to breathe outside the confines of water!

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3 Significant Giant Squid Sightings in Recent History

Aqua News: http://aquaviews.net/ocean-news/3-significant-giant-squid-sightings-history/#/ 

 

The legendary giant squid, once thought to be a myth, is an elusive creature that has captivated the imaginations of humans since we first set out on the sea. Mariners have reported sightings of the giant squid for hundreds of years, but the reports were often thought to be cases of misidentification or simply cautionary tales of the dangers of ocean travel.

These notions came to rest in the mid 16th century, when the first recorded specimen of giant squid washed ashore alive near a town in Denmark. Sightings of giant squid have picked up since then with improvements in research and technology, three of particular note which have taken place in the last decade.

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giant squid sightings

via ocean.si.edu

On September 30, 2004, the giant squid was filmed in its natural habitat for the first time. A Japanese team, led by zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera, baited a line off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands of Japan. The team took multiple still photos of the squid showing its attack on the bait. This was the first time the squid’s hunting habits were caught on film.

 

First Live Giant Squid Video Emerges

In July of 2012, after continued research, Tsunemi Kubodera’s team became the first to obtain video of the giant squid in its natural habitat. As with the 2004 expedition, the team baited a line to entice the giant squid to come close enough for them to observe and film the squids hunting habits. The team witnessed the squid swimming against the current while holding on to the bait.

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Largest Mediterranean Specimen Washes Ashore

giant squid sightings

via Wikipedia

The largest specimen ever found in the Mediterranean Sea was found on October 10, 2012 washed up on a beach in Andalucia, Spain. The specimen was dead when it was found, but was otherwise completely intact. Dissection of this squid in February of 2013 showed it to be thinner than the typical giant squid. This squid was preserved and displayed to the public.

Giant squid sightings have occurred since the beginning of maritime history, but the last 10 years have given scientists the most complete information about the giant squid to date. These giant squid sightings are certainly not going to be the last. As science searches for more information about the giant squid, sightings will become more plentiful. With more sightings, the legend of the giant squid will become more real than ever before

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Shipwreck may be part of Kublai Khan's lost fleet


By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu October 27, 2011
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Marine archaeologists have found a shipwreck dating from the 13th century off the coast of Japan
  • The vessel is thought to have been part of Kublai Khan's massive invasion fleet
  • More than 4,000 artifacts, including pottery shards, cannonballs and anchors were found near the wreck

(CNN) -- In Japanese legend they are known as The Kamikaze -- the divine winds -- a reference to two mighty typhoons placed providentially seven years apart which, in the 13th century, destroyed two separate Mongol invasion fleets so large they were not eclipsed until the D-Day landings of World War II.

Marine archaeologists now say they have uncovered the remains of a ship from the second fleet in 1281 -- believed to have comprised 4,400 vessels -- a meter below the seabed, in 25 meters of water off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.

Scientists are hoping they will be able to recreate the complete Yuan Dynasty vessel from Kublai Khan's lost fleet using a 12-meter-long section of keel. The Mongols ruled China from 1271 to 1368.

According to Yoshifumi Ikeda, a professor of archaeology at Okinawa's University of the Ryukyus, and head of the research team, the section could go a long way to helping researchers identify all the characteristics of the 20-meter warship.

"This discovery was of major importance for our research," Ikeda told a news conference. "We are planning to expand search efforts and find further information that can help us restore the whole ship."

Discovered using ultrasound equipment, the research team says it is the first wreck from the period to have an intact hull, the planks of which are still attached to the keel with nails.

Scientists say its good state of preservation -- they were even able to establish that the planks were originally painted a whitish-gray -- is due to the fact it has been covered by sand.

"I believe we will be able to understand more about shipbuilding skills at the time as well as the actual situation of exchanges in East Asia," Ikeda told reporters in Nagasaki.

More than 4,000 artifacts, including ceramic shards, bricks used for ballast, cannonballs and stone anchors have been found in the vicinity of the wreck, linking it to the Yuan Dynasty invasion fleet.

Ikeda said there were no immediate plans to salvage the hull and the first step was to conserve the find by covering the sites with nets.

The Kamikaze -- perhaps better known as the nickname given to the Japanese suicide pilots of the Pacific War -- were a nation-defining event for Japan and set the limits of Mongol expansion in the east.

Historians say the first Chinese attempt to invade Japan in 1274 ended in disaster.

Having initially engaged a numerically superior Japanese samurai force at the Battle of Bun'ei in First Battle of Hakata Bay, the Chinese retreated to their fleet of 300 ships and some 500 smaller craft after just one day of battle on land. A typhoon destroyed a third of the fleet that night and the remnants limped back to port in Korea which was then a vassal state of China.

Seven years later, Kublai Khan amassed an impressive armada of 4,400 ships carrying 40,000 Korean, Mongol and Chinese troops in a bid to finally subjugate Japan. The Japanese, convinced of a second invasion, had spent the intervening years building strategic seawalls which made it difficult for the Chinese to land.

Unable to gain a beachhead after initially taking the island of Iki and Tsushima, the fleet was decimated by a two-day typhoon that hit the Tsushima Straits.

It is believed about 80% of the fleet was destroyed and the Khan's troops either drowned at sea or slaughtered on the beaches by samurai.

According to a contemporary account cited in the book "Khubilai Khan's lost fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada," by maritime archaeologist James P. Delgado, the losses were so great that "a person could walk across from one point of land to another on a mass of wreckage".

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Top 10 Wreck Dives of North Carolina

SCUBA Diveing Magazine http://www.scubadiving.com/photos/top-10-wreck-dives-north-carolina?pnid=331961 

 

1 — U-352 Without a doubt, one of the biggest draws to the Outer Banks is the opportunity to dive on this historic World War II German U-boat. On May 9, 1942, the U-352 was cruising close to the North Carolina coast in search of enemy targets when she picked a fight with the wrong ship. The scrappy USCG Cutter Icarus was on her game that day when the U-352 opened fired with torpedoes and missed. In retaliation, the Icarus launched depth charges and sunk the U-352 in 110 feet of water, 28 nautical miles south of Morehead City. Thirteen men perished in the attack while 33 survivors were picked up by the Icarus and retuned to Charleston where they spent the rest of the war as prisoners. Sitting with a 45-degree list to starboard and her conning tower intact, the U-352 fascinates divers and strikes at their imagination when they get a glimpse of a this amazing piece of WWII history.

2 — Papoose The wreck of the Papoose has a convoluted history since in actuality it is the wreck W.E. Hutton. During the early stages of WWII, German U-boats wreaked havoc along the Eastern seaboard sinking numerous Allied merchant ships. In the confusion, the wreck of the W.E. Hutton was misidentified by the United States Navy and thought to be the wreck of the Papoose. Even though this mystery has been solved, most still refer to the ‘Hutton’ as the Papoose. Sitting upside down in 120 feet of water, the 435-foot tanker is a favorite to many divers who come to see the plethora of marine life that includes the sand tiger sharks that are seen here with regularity. With the Papoose resting nearly 36 nautical miles from shore, its popularity is increased due to the clear waters of the Gulf Stream; 100 foot of visibility is not unheard of on the Papoose aka W.E. Hutton.

3 — USCG Cutter Spar Not all the wrecks of North Carolina met their end due to tragic events. The USCG Cutter Spar is one of the many wrecks sent to the bottom as part of the North Carolina artificial reef project. The 180-foot buoy tender sits in 110 feet of water with a strong list to port. It has become a very popular dive because it’s fully intact, easily navigable and a favorite hangout for sand tiger sharks, schools of Atlantic spadefish and the occasional giant southern stingray. Amazingly, the Spar was moved 200 feet from her original location and rolled over on her port side when Hurricane Irene struck the coast in August 2011. She weathered the storm intact, though — a tough little ship.

4 — USS Schurz The captured World War I German gunship, the USS Schurz, is a classic North Carolina wreck dive. The 255-foot ship was sunk June 21, 1918, 30 nautical miles south of Beaufort Inlet, after colliding with the SS Florida while sailing at night. When discovered in the 1980s it was a popular dive for those seeking to reclaim artifacts and take home a small piece of history. Brass portholes, crew personal effects and weapons were some of the many items removed. Today, it is illegal to take artifacts from the Schurz and most are content to see the beautiful reef system this wreck site has become. Colorful sea fans, abundant marine life, dense schools of baitfish and the occasional shark keep divers returning year after year to this treasure trove of a dive site.

5 — Caribsea One of my personal favorites, the wreck of the Caribsea is one of those hit and miss dive sites. Notorious for low visibility conditions as well as large schools of sand tiger sharks, this dive can be a top shelf experience when the blue water pushes in on rare days, exposing up to 100 sand tiger sharks in one spot. Sunk on March 11, 1942, by a German U-boat attack, this 251-foot freighter sits in 90 feet of water on the east side of Cape Lookout Shoals. Scientists believe the sand tiger sharks gather here during the summer months to mate.

6 — Aeolus The Aeolus is another one of North Carolina’s popular wrecks that was sunk as part of the artificial reef program and only a few hundred feet from the wreck of the Spar. This 400-foot wreck sits in 110 feet of water and was split in two during a powerful hurricane that swept through the region in the 1990s. During the 2012 dive season, the Aeolus became home to approximately a dozen sand tiger sharks that took up residence inside the wreck. Divers returned day after day to swim right amongst the sharks in what became known as ‘Club Aeolus,’ North Carolina’s coolest shark lounge.

7 — Proteous No top ten list for North Carolina would be complete without including this gem of a wreck. The 390-foot luxury steam liner, Proteous sunk on August 19, 1918, in a collision with the SS Cushing approximately 20 nautical miles south of Cape Hatteras. Mostly a low-lying debris field, with the exception of the prominent stern and propeller, she was popular dive for artifact hunters during the 80s and 90s. Today, it is a hot spot for shark sightings, vast numbers of grouper and big pelagic life, such as African Pompano, giant amberjacks and barracudas. The added feature of the regular appearance of clear warm Gulf Stream water makes it an impressive dive.

8— Atlas Another victim of a German U-boat attack, the 430-foot Atlas tanker was sunk on April 9, 1942, only a few miles from the wreck of the Caribsea in 115 feet of water. Like the Caribsea, the visibility on the Atlas can sometimes be less than 20 feet, but when the blue water rolls in this wreck site is a showstopper. Enormous sand tiger sharks at a whopping 10 feet in length can be seen patrolling the wreck by the dozen. The marine life is thick on this wreck and an opportunity to dive it should not be missed.

9 — USS Indra The wreck of the USS Indra has many humorous aliases, such as the Indra Maru after the famed Japanese wrecks of Truk Lagoon, or the Indra Doria after the Mount Everest of wreck dives, the Andrea Doria. This 330-foot landing craft was sunk in 60 feet of water only 10 miles from Beaufort Inlet as part of the North Carolina artificial reef program. Since the 1990s she has been visited by more divers probably then any other wreck off the Outer Banks. Because she is partially intact, sitting upright and within close proximity to Morehead City, she attracts both novice and advanced divers, alike. Whatever you call the ”Indra,” she is a legendary wreck site in her own right.

10 — Naeco On March 23, 1942, the 411-foot Naeco went down in a fiery mess at the hands of yet another German U-boat attack in World War II. Today, the ship sits in two distinct pieces about a mile apart some 38 nautical miles due south of Morehead City. This wreck, which sits in an average of 140 feet, is as far offshore as dive boats will venture. With clear, warm Gulf Stream water being the standard conditions here, it appeals to those divers who don’t mind the deeper depths.

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The Cape Lookout Light and the Civil War

The second Cape Lookout lighthouse, a much needed improvement from the 1812 lighthouse, had been operating for less than two years before being swept up in a war that seemed impossible only months before. During the Civil War, the Cape Lookout lighthouse was disabled, restored, raided, and repaired in conflicting efforts to darken or illuminate the treacherous coast for Union forces.

CALO First Order Fresnel Lens

First Order Fresnel lens in storage circa 1975.

Darkening the Coastal Lights

On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln declared a Federal blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas in response to the secession. N.C. Governor John Ellis sent telegrams out to the principal lights along the coast ordering them darkened the same day that Lincoln announced the Northern blockade. However, North Carolina did not officially secede from the Union until May 20, 1861.

Realizing that the coast was vulnerable, the Confederate Light House Bureau called for all lighting apparatuses to be removed from the lighthouses in early June. Although there are many tales of retreating Southern troops vandalizing the lights or taking the lenses with them as they fled inland, these tales are generally untrue. Most lenses, including the lens at Cape Lookout, were carefully removed, packed, and stored until such time as the lights could be re-established after the war. In many cases, the removal of the lens was accomplished either by the lighthouse keeper or under the keeper's supervision to ensure the lens's safety.

In late June, the lens and lamps of the 1859 Cape Lookout lighthouse were removed and taken to a warehouse in Beaufort. Here it was stored along with the 4th order lenses from the range lights on Bogue Banks and the smaller lenses from the lighted buoys marking the sea lane into Beaufort Inlet. The lenses were eventually stored in Raleigh, where they remained until the end of the war.

The Lookout Lighthouse Raid

The Union controlled Cape Lookout lighthouse was relit with a third order Fresnel lens on March 1, 1863. Since most of the original lenses were still in Confederate hands, the Federal Light House Bureau was having trouble finding enough lenses to relight the most important towers. Under normal circumstances, a 3rd order lens would be considered too small for use in a tower such as at Cape Lookout, but these were not ordinary circumstances.

On April 3, 1864, a small band of Confederate troops, armed with kegs of powder, mounted an expedition into Union controlled Core Banks with the intention of disabling the Cape Lookout lighthouse. The reports of the damage done during this raid are conflicting. The initial Confederate report, written on April 9th, stated that the party "destroyed both light-houses at Cape Lookout (on Sunday night), so that they never can be repaired again." A second report issued on April 12th indicated that the 1812 lighthouse was destroyed and, due to the poor quality of the powder, the 1859 lighthouse was only temporarily disabled. The Union report, written on April 5th, noted relatively minor damage to the 1859 lighthouse and made no mention of the 1812 lighthouse.

Both Union and Confederate reports indicate that the oil supply was destroyed. Physical and historical evidence indicates that the lower section of the iron spiral staircase was badly damaged. Due to iron shortages during the war, this section of stairs was replaced with wooden steps.

On April 9th, U.S. Rear-Admiral SP Lee requested additional troops in order to prevent another attack on the lighthouse by Confederate forces.

Lighthouse Wooden Steps Plan

An enhancement of the original architectural plan for the replacement of the damaged iron stairs with wooden stairs. The wooden steps and landings are shown in orange.

Repairing the Light

The temporary repairs that were made by the Union to mend the damages done during the Confederate raid of the lighthouse were completed on June 27, 1864. These repairs included the replacement of the damaged section of spiral iron stairs with wooden steps as well as repairs to the landings and the replacement of broken glass.

General Sherman's troops captured the state capital of Raleigh on April 13, 1865. There Union troops found the Fresnel lenses of the majority of North Carolina's coastal lights--including the lens from Cape Lookout, which had been stored in the city since July 22, 1862.

However, some of the hundreds of glass prisms which composed the first order lens were broken or missing. After the Civil War had ended, the U.S. Light House Board decided that the lenses should be shipped to their original manufacturer in France to be checked and repaired. The Cape Lookout lens was among the first to be sent: it left the United States on November 28, 1865 and returned, completely restored and shipped to the Staten Island Depot, in mid-August of the following year.

The lens was not the only part of the lighthouse in need of repairs after the war. In 1866, Congress authorized $20,000 to be used to restore the Cape Lookout lighthouse. The temporary wooden stairs were replaced with iron steps and several other repairs were made to the lighthouse. It was determined that the Cape Lookout lighthouse was ready to receive her restored first order Fresnel lens on March 18, 1867. The lens was probably reinstalled by the end of May, significantly improving the reach of the light. By 1870, the keeper and assistant keeper had made the necessary repairs on the grounds and the Cape Lookout lighthouse had been restored to her original glory.

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Preserving the Mary Rose

The Tudor battleship has been stabilised and is now on display in a new museum. Jon Evans explores the chemistry stopping those timbers shivering

Mary Rose hull

To avoid potentially damaging shrinkage, the hull was sprayed with water for about 12 years, then with PEG for 19 years © Peter Phipp / Travelshots.com / Alamy

In many ways, the sea has not been particularly kind to the Mary Rose, the flagship of Henry VIII’s navy when it faced an invading French fleet at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour in July 1545. For a start, it engulfed the ship, with the loss of over 350 men.

The French claimed to have holed the Mary Rose, but there is no real evidence for this. In reality, the sinking was probably a combination of bad luck and bad seamanship. The Mary Rose was the first ship to sail out and engage three French galleys that had broken away from the fleet, during which it fired its guns. For some reason, the gun ports were then left open, allowing seawater to rush in as the Mary Rose manoeuvred, sinking it.

The Mary Rose came to rest on the seabed, around 14m down, at which point the sea really went to work. Through a combination of the abrasive action of silt flowing past and feeding by organisms such as shipworms and marine bacteria, the exposed wooden hull of the ship was quickly eroded away on the port side.

In one crucial way, however, the sea did the Mary Rose a huge favour, by gradually burying it in sediment. This covering of sediment protected the rest of the ship, together with many of the objects inside it, from further erosion and damage. ‘Basically it’s the sediments that built up over many, many centuries that helped preserve it,’ explains Mark Jones, research director at the Mary Rose Trust, the charity set up to conserve and preserve the ship.

As well as physically protecting the ship from abrasion, the sediment also created an anaerobic environment. This lack of oxygen prevented aerobic organisms from feeding on the wooden hull, and also stopped any damaging chemical reactions involving oxygen, such as metal corrosion, from taking place.

Mary Rose hull being raised

The ship’s hull was discovered in 1971 and raised from the sea in 1982 © Louie Psihoyos / Corbis

And so there the Mary Rose lay for over 400 years, before being discovered in 1971, when the first of what would eventually amount to 19,000 artefacts were brought up. Then, in 1982, what remained of the hull was raised from the seabed on live TV and carefully moved to its new home on Portsmouth dockyard.

De-salting the sea dog

If the raising of the Mary Rose was an impressive feat of engineering, it was nothing compared to the challenge of replicating the preservative effects of a simple layer of sediment. As soon as it was lifted free of the protective sediment, the Mary Rose and its artefacts began to be attacked by bacteria and fungi and to react with oxygen. Meeting this preservation challenge has kept Jones and his colleagues busy for more than 30 years, and although they have managed to overcome every problem so far thrown at them, new ones continue to appear.

Over that time, drying has remained the main aim of the preservation work. When wet, the artefacts and hull are inherently unstable and prone to deterioration, whereas they are much more stable and robust when dry.

For artefacts made of metal, stone, glass, ceramics and some fabrics, this drying process is fairly simple, merely requiring gentle heating to drive off the moisture. However, some of the more fragile artefacts made from fabrics such as leather need to be treated with waxy substances like glycerol to prevent them breaking apart as they dry. On top of this, several other treatment steps are often required to stop any further deterioration.

Tudor cannon

© Steve Vidler / Alamy

So, for example, preventing corrosion in artefacts made from metals such as iron, bronze and copper, including guns, powder scoops, nails and bolts, requires removing chloride salts. The most effective technique for doing this, especially for iron artefacts, is hydrogen reduction, which involves heating the metal artefacts to a temperature of 850°C in a hydrogen atmosphere. Although effective, this technique is highly controversial because it changes the metallurgical structure of the artefact, whereas ideally the artefact should be preserved in its original condition.

‘This is the only method that has successfully removed total chlorides from iron found in the marine environment, but we’ve stopped using it,’ says Jones. Instead, they’ve switched to other techniques, such as alkaline sulfide methods, although these tend to be much slower, especially for large objects.

Salts also need to be removed from stone, glass and ceramic artefacts, but for a different reason. ‘As these artefacts dry, salts crystallise out again and force these very pliable sections of glass apart, which just destroys the outer surface,’ explains Jones. In addition, artefacts made from natural materials need to be sterilised using chemicals or cold temperatures to kill off any bacteria or fungi that may be feeding on them.

Shower me timbers

But it’s the wooden objects and structures that present the biggest drying challenge. Before the Mary Rose became covered in its protective layer of sediment, marine bacteria and fungi had time to attack all the wooden objects, including the hull. They ate away much of the glucose-rich cellulose and hemicellulose in the cells making up these objects, leaving behind the harder-to-digest lignin.

The end result was that the cells were hollowed out. Only the lignin in the outer cell wall remained, forming a network outlining where the cells used to be, while seawater quickly entered and filled up the gaps in the hollowed-out cells. ‘What replaces the cell wall layers then is water, so that supports the shape of the cell,’ says Jones.

Tudor plates

Smaller wooden objects could be soaked and dried easily © Rik Hamilton / Alamy

Fortunately, this only happened in the surface layers of the wooden objects, because the microbes didn’t have enough time to work their way any deeper before the covering of sediment created an anaerobic environment. ‘The first 10mm is very decayed, very soft, basically lignin, really. And that structure is just supported by water,’ reveals Jones. ‘Beneath that you’re then entering into very, very sound wood; the cell walls are saturated with water but are well preserved.’ If all this water is removed by drying, the wooden objects would shrink dramatically, by up to 50%, causing them to warp and crack.

So when the hull and other wooden objects were first raised, they were simply kept wet, while Jones and his colleagues worked out a way to dry them without causing any shrinkage. Smaller wooden objects were simply immersed in water-filled tanks and containers, while the hull itself was constantly sprayed with filtered, sterilised water, which continued until 1994.

The scheme they eventually came up with was inspired by the approach used on the Vasa, a Swedish warship that sank in Stockholm harbour in 1628 and was raised in 1961. This involves replacing the water in the wooden objects with the polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG), which prevents the objects from shrinking as they dry.

Wooden artefacts such as plates, arrows and gun-carriage wheels were immersed in a tank containing liquid solutions of PEG. The artefacts were immersed for up to six months, giving sufficient time for the PEG to penetrate deep into the wood and displace the water in the cell walls, where it bound with what remains of the cellulose via hydrogen bonds.

Next, the artefacts were freeze-dried to drive off the majority of the remaining water. This involves placing the artefacts in a sealed chamber, where they are first frozen to temperatures of around –35°C and then dried by reducing the pressure and gradually raising the temperature. The advantage of this process is that any ice formed during the freezing process sublimes directly into vapour without going through a liquid stage, reducing drying stresses and preventing damage to the wooden objects. It’s also much faster than air drying, taking two to three weeks rather than up to a year.

Treating the wooden objects with PEG and then freeze-drying them has been going on for almost 20 years now, and has been a massive undertaking. The Mary Rose Trust owns several freeze-drying chambers of different sizes, with the largest able to dry entire gun-carriage wheels and wooden beams. ‘We have probably the largest number of vacuum freeze driers for archaeological material in the UK,’ says Jones, who was awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year honours for his work on the Mary Rose.

One hull of a challenge

The hull of the Mary Rose, which is 32m long and weighs around 280 tonnes, presented an even greater challenge, as it is far too big to be immersed in a tank or placed in a vacuum freeze dryer. So in 1994, Jones and his team stopped spraying the hull with water and started spraying it with PEG. Initially, they used PEG with a molecular weight of 200 grams per mole, which is liquid at room temperatures and so could diffuse deep into the wood to displace the majority of the water in the sound cells. But this liquid PEG wouldn’t provide sufficient support for the completely hollowed-out cells near the surface.

So in 2006, after ensuring that the PEG 200 had diffused throughout the hull, they started spraying a solution of PEG with a molecular weight of 2000 grams per mole. Unlike its smaller cousin, PEG 2000 solidifies when dry, providing the physical support necessary to retain the structure of the hollowed-out cells.

Mary Rose museum

The new £35 million museum in Portsmouth’s dockyard had to be built around the ship © Mary Rose trust

The sprayers were finally switched off at the end of April 2013, when the drying process began. This involved installing a network of ducts to transport conditioned air with a relative humidity of 55% and maintained at a temperature of 18–20°C around the hull, with the aim of steadily drawing out the moisture.

The sprayers were switched off just a month before a new £35 million museum housing the Mary Rose was opened to the public. Because the Mary Rose could not be moved, this new museum was built around the ship, with visitors now able to view the ship through windows as it dries.

As they walk past the ship on one side, the other side presents a mirror-image replica of the hull, with artefacts such as guns and the surgeon’s chest displayed in the same position as they would have been found on the actual ship. Other dried artefacts, such as longbows, clothing, glasses, coins and even the skeletons of an archer, the ship’s dog and one of the rats that the ship’s dog would have caught, are displayed in climate-controlled cases in several rooms throughout the museum.

By the end of 2015, the ship should have dried sufficiently for the network of ducts to be dismantled and the wall separating the visitors from the ship to be removed, while still maintaining the same constant temperature and relative humidity around the ship. The hull will also be cleaned, because some of the PEG 2000 has formed white deposits on it. Then, the Mary Rose will be in the most pristine state since it first sailed the seas over 500 years ago.

An ongoing concern

That doesn’t mean, however, that all the preservation work can stop, because new and unexpected challenges are arising all the time. For example, a few years ago Jones and his team discovered that sulfuric acid was forming in the hull, raising concerns that this acid could gradually degrade and break down the wooden timbers. The problem was first spotted in the Vasa, but subsequent research showed that it was also happening in the Mary Rose.

Rather unexpectedly, it turns out that the hull of the Mary Rose contains quite a lot of sulfur, around two tonnes, which is an unfortunate consequence of the anaerobic environment provided by the sediment. Although this oxygen-free environment protected the Mary Rose from aerobic organisms, it allowed anaerobic marine bacteria to thrive.

Many of these anaerobic bacteria reduce sulfates in seawater as part of their respiration process, producing hydrogen sulfide as a waste product. Over the course of more than 400 years underwater, huge amounts of this hydrogen sulfide diffused into the hull of the Mary Rose. When the hull was then raised from the seabed, the hydrogen sulfide could react with oxygen in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid and sulfate salts.

Mary Rose cannon

The recovered artefacts, including metal cannons and cannonballs, had to be dried and stabilised to prevent corrosion © Steve Vidler / Alamy

What made the situation even worse is that this process is catalysed by iron, and the Mary Rose contains lots of iron in the form of guns, nails and bolts. Iron readily reacts with hydrogen sulfide to form iron sulfide, which then reacts with oxygen to form sulfuric acid.

Fortunately, this sulfuric acid is proving reasonably easy to deal with. ‘We did neutralise the acid during the PEG treatment and we removed a lot of the iron using some chelating agents,’ says Jones. Nevertheless, together with researchers at the University of Kent, Jones is also looking at a method for removing the threat of sulfuric acid altogether. This would involve spraying the hull with strontium carbonate nanoparticles, which react with the sulfur in the hull to form stable strontium sulfates that don’t react with oxygen to produce sulfuric acid. Initial studies have shown that these nanoparticles can impregnate wood and will react with the sulfur to form unreactive species.

There is, however, a potentially more insidious problem, because oxalic acid may also be forming in the hull of the Mary Rose. Oxalic acid can be produced by fungal activity, and a few active microbes will still be inside the hull, but it can also be produced by the breakdown of PEG. Again, this problem was first observed in the Vasa, but Jones and his colleagues are now looking to see whether it’s happening in the Mary Rose.

‘We are looking into this at the moment to see if we’re finding any PEG breakdown products,’ Jones says. If they do find such products, then this raises troubling questions about the long-term stability of PEG. ‘It all depends on what else is inside that timber that could interfere with the PEG,’ he adds.

The Mary Rose has been through a lot over the past 500 years and has certainly earned a comfortable retirement. As with any elderly pensioner, though, it’ll just need continual check-ups.

Jon Evans is a science writer based in Bosham, UK

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Killer Whales Chase Speedboat

Rich & Laura Howard celebrated their 20th Wedding Anniversary in La Paz Mexico at Costa Baja Resort/Spa. Their dive with the friendly resident sea lion colony was interrupted when whales dropped by. Watch the amazing video as these whales play "like dolphins" in the wake of their boat. Check out http://www.oceansofimages.com/ for more images of these Killer Whales / Orcas. Enjoy & excuse all the screaming.. we were blessed & so lucky to witness these "large dolphins" at play! http://scubadiverlife.com/2014/03/10/killer-whales-chase-speedboat/
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Albino blue marlin surprises anglers off Costa Rica; ‘Definitely not a typical day’


Extremely rare catch made after an hour-long fight off Los Suenos

Albino blue marlin

Albino blue marlin surprises anglers off Costa Rica; photo by Maverick Sportfishing

Anglers and crew fishing in the Pacific off Costa Rica on Tuesday were astonished to discover that a large marlin they hooked was completely white.

The extremely rare catch of an albino blue marlin was made aboard the Spanish Fly, a 43-foot yacht that runs from Maverick Sportfishing out of Los Suenos. (It could be that the marlin was leucistic, with reduced pigmentation, and not a true albino lacking all pigmentation. But just about everyone is referring to the billfish as true or partial albino.)

Albino blue marlin

Albino blue marlin surprises anglers off Costa Rica. Photo by Maverick Sportfishing

The boat was captained by Juan Carlos Fallas Zamora, with mates Carlos Pollo Espinoza Jimenez and Roberto Chelato Salinas Hernandez. The clients were Bob and Karen Weaver, veteran anglers from New York. Karen reeled the marlin in after an hour-long fight, and the crew carefully released the billfish.

The boat’s regular captain, Daniel Espinoza, stated on Facebook that he chose the wrong day to take a day off. He posted the accompanying photos on his page, though, saying the group “had an amazing day and confusión. Caught one Blue Marlin alvino, first time I hear of one. Congratulations on that great job.”

Albino blue marlin

Albino blue marlin surprises anglers off Costa Rica. Photo by Maverick Sportfishing

Sportfishing report announced the catch on its Facebook page in all caps: “SUPER RARE ALBINO BLUE MARLIN!!!”

Red.Rum Sportfishing, based in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, shared the photos under the heading: “RARE ALBINO BLUE MARLIN!”

Jason Schratwieser, a spokesman for the International Game Fish Association, said by telephone that he shared the photos with several veteran angles, and none had ever seen a white blue marlin.

Albino blue marlin

Albino blue marlin surprises anglers off Costa Rica. Photo by Maverick Sportfishing

The Espinozas and Weavers were pre-fishing before a major tournament Wednesday, and unavailable for comment.

Glen Mumford, owner of Maverick Sportfishing, said via telephone that his captains have seen albino sailfish, but never a white blue marlin.

“It was definitely not a typical day,” Mumford said.

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Rare albino whale and baby spotted off Australia coast


6/27/13 By Jennifer Lawinski of MSN News

 

An albino humpback whale, known as Migaloo, was spotted traveling with another white whale off the coast of Australia.

One of the ocean's sea-lebrities, a 46-foot-long white humpback whale named Migaloo, has been spotted off the Australian coast with a second white whale, and scientists are eager to find out whether the two are related.

Migaloo, an aboriginal word for "white fella," was seen traveling on June 13. He had been the only known white humpback whale, Austrlia's Herald Sun reported. But another, likely his offspring, was first photographed in 2011 and seen with him again in the latest sighting. Migaloo was first spotted in 1991, and a skin sample was used to identify his gender in 2004.

Scientists are hoping to acquire DNA samples to see if Migaloo and the newcomer are indeed family.

Video: Humpback, orca, and grey whales making a splash in Monterey Bay

"Maybe this will be the year we uncover the mystery of this rare pair of white whales,'' Xanthe Rivett, a photographer with The White Whale Research Centre, told the newspaper.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 humpback whales are expected to make the journey between the cold waters of the Antarctic and the warmer Great Barrier Reef for this year's mating season.

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Battle of the Atlantic

 

http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/missions/2010battleoftheatlantic/ 

During the first half of 1942, war raged off the shores of North Carolina. Explosions were seen and heard from the shore, oil washed up on the beaches, and dozens of valuable ships were sent to the bottom. The residents of the Outer Banks lived in constant and realistic fear of Axis forces landing soldiers on their beaches. Today, remnants of 'the war that came home' can be seen strewn all along the North Carolina coast. Four German U-boats, along with several Allied war ships and scores of merchant vessels dot these beautiful waters and offer a tiny glimpse into that portion of our nation's history.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary's previous Battle of the Atlantic expeditions in 2008 and 2009 focused on the U-boats and Allied vessels that sank during World War II just off the North Carolina shore. During this year's expedition, archaeologists, marine biologists, and researchers will come together to explore the final piece of the triangle. They will focus their attention on the merchant vessels that were sunk in these waters, as they attempted to bring supplies to the war that raged in Europe.

Although the plight of these merchant ships is often left untold, the merchant marine vessels actually took the hardest toll during World War II. By researching and documenting a few pieces of the merchant marines' story during the war, the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary hopes to offer a better understanding of the important role these ships and their mariners played during World War II, as well as highlight their value as heritage resources, and promote increased access and preservation. Come join the expedition, as we learn more about the Battle of the Atlantic and the historic shipwrecks that help make the waters off the coast of North Carolina such a unique place.

Expedition Summary

The 2010 summer expedition is the third part of a larger multi-year project to research and document a number of historically significant shipwrecks tragically lost in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. The project is dedicated to raising awareness of the war that was fought so close to the American coastline and to preserving our nation's maritime history. Using non-invasive methods, NOAA divers and partners will survey and photograph visible sections of several merchant vessels, which hopefully will allow scientists to understand the structural integrity of the remains and make recommendations for management options.

The merchant shipwrecks are located in an area known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," which encompasses shipwrecks from both sides of the Battle of the Atlantic. While some of the wrecks lie at recreational diving depths (less than 130 feet), many are located in deeper waters where they remain as windows into the past and serve as monuments, and in many cases grave sites, from one of the darkest chapters in the Nation's history.

Consistent with the established ethics promoted within the recreational dive community of respecting and preserving underwater resources, NOAA supports open access to these shipwrecks and encourages responsible behavior. Through this expedition, NOAA hopes to highlight our shared maritime history and demonstrate the importance of preserving these shipwrecks for the study and enjoyment of future generations of divers and for all Americans.

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is conducting this survey in partnership with Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, State of North Carolina, NOAA's National Center for Coastal and Ocean Science, East Carolina University, Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration Research and Technology, and the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, who are all providing technical expertise and logistical support for the expedition.

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Explore Odyssey's extraordinary collection of shipwreck artifacts

Welcome to Odyssey's Virtual Museum

Odyssey is the world leader in deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, searching the globe's vast oceans for sunken ships with intriguing stories, extraordinary treasure and precious artifacts spanning centuries of maritime travel. Our important discoveries also uncover priceless new knowledge and history from the depths. As we recover these shipwreck treasures once believed lost forever, we also resurrect lifetimes long forgotten, offering a rare and fascinating window into historic events that would otherwise remain obscure.

Odyssey's expert team of researchers, scientists, technicians and archaeologists search the oceans of the world, recovering shipwreck treasures once thought lost forever. We love to share these amazing discoveries and over two million people have enjoyed viewing artifacts from our permanent collection in person at museums and science centers around the world. Now, we’re bringing our collection right to your computer.

Odyssey’s Virtual Museum is a work in progress, and new artifacts from our various shipwreck projects will be added on a regular basis. The multitude of artifacts in Odyssey's Permanent Collection, spanning more than 2000 years of maritime history, continues to grow as new shipwrecks are discovered and investigated.

http://odysseysvirtualmuseum.com/ 

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Wreck of the SS Republic

 Project Overview

The SS Republic®* was a Civil War-era sidewheel steamship that sank in 1865 while carrying a large cargo of silver and gold coins and a stunning variety of everyday wares essential to life in mid-19th century America. It was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration in 2003.

En route from New York to New Orleans with passengers and commercial cargo, the SS Republic was lost in a violent hurricane on October 25, 1865. The passengers and crew escaped from the sinking ship, yet a fortune in coins and much needed cargo to help rebuild New Orleans' post-Civil War economy sank to the bottom of the Atlantic seabed 1,700 feet (518 meters) deep. Nearly 140 years later, Odyssey discovered the shipwreck of the Republic approximately 100 miles off the Georgia coast. The archaeological excavation conducted during the 2003-2004 excavation seasons was accomplished entirely through the use of advanced robotics and cutting-edge technologies and was the first of its kind ever performed at such depths. 

Over 51,000 U.S. gold and silver coins were recovered from the Republic wreck site, as well as over 14,000 artifacts - a fascinating assortment of 19th century goods in use during the Civil War years. In addition to the wealth of knowledge gained from the Republic shipwreck project, the success of the archaeological excavation has set a precedent for achieving the highest archaeological standards essential to the emerging field of deep-water shipwreck exploration and recovery.

Odyssey's discovery and archaeological excavation of the SS Republic was the subject of a National Geographic one-hour special entitled "Civil War Gold" which aired nationally on PBS; an episode of "National Geographic: Ultimate Explorer"; National Geographic Magazine's September 2004 issue; two books "Lost Gold of the Republic" and "Bottles from the Deep"; and numerous television, newspaper and magazine stories.

For more information visit Odyssey Marine Exploration at http://Shipwreck.net 

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More Gairsoppa Silver Delivered


Odyssey Marine Provides Operational Updates on Historic Shipwreck Projects

 

  • Gairsoppa & Mantola Recovery Operations Completed for 2012 - Resuming Spring 2013
  • Additional Shipwreck Project Operations Continue Through Winter
  • Seafloor Mineral Assets See Significant Progress and Increased Valuation

Odyssey Marine Exploration (NasdaqCM: OMEX), pioneers in the field of deep-ocean exploration, provided an operations update on several projects.

Due to current weather conditions in the North Atlantic and the previous commitment of the Seabed Worker to another charter, operations on the SS Gairsoppa and SS Mantola shipwrecks have been deferred until weather in the area is appropriate for operations in the second quarter of 2013. The ship is offloading approximately 17,000 additional ounces of silver and other artifacts in Falmouth before it continues on to Norway to conclude the charter. This additional silver bullion, originally thought to indicate another area of the ship containing silver cargo, was the only additional silver found in the areas inspected since offloading the first cargo of silver.

Work on the project aboard Seabed Worker began on June 4, 2012. During the 83 operational days (days not affected by weather delays, transit or time in port) of this period, the Odyssey team surgically opened and cleared approximately 70% of the holds and compartments of the SS Gairsoppa which were suitable for transporting silver cargo. These areas were opened and inspected using the ROV controlled hydraulic shears, deck removal tool and small grab system operated from nearly three miles above the shipwreck site. During these operations, a total of 1,218 silver ingots, which are expected to yield approximately $44 million at current silver prices, were recovered from the SS Gairsoppa as well as several hundred artifacts which have been declared to the UK Receiver of Wreck. Based on experience and data gained this season, and armed with improved tools and technology, it is expected that the rest of these areas can be searched and cleared within 30-45 operational days upon Odyssey’s return to the site.

Operations on the Mantola were also conducted to test ship and equipment capabilities during the early part of the expedition, and recovery operations on that shipwreck are planned to continue immediately after completion of the Gairsoppa.

The monetization of the silver recovered from the Gairsoppa to date is underway and expected to be completed before the end of this year. At current silver prices and after accounting for contractual obligations to the UK government and Galt Resources, the recovery to date will result in an increase of approximately $26 million to Odyssey’s net income in 2012.

Odyssey anticipates that an additional 1,599 insured silver ingots, representing approximately 1.8 million ounces, and what could be a substantial amount of uninsured silver remains on the Gairsoppa site. Documentation of the insured silver lists four separate lots with individual numbers for each ingot. The inscribed number on every silver ingot recovered to date matches this documentation. Silver from only three of the four lots has been recovered and none of the lots have so far been fully accounted for. The fact that a substantial amount of the insured and manifested cargo remains to be recovered leaves open the possibility that the uninsured cargo, which according to sources including “Lloyd’s War Losses” could total an additional three million ounces or more, may be located with the remainder of the insured silver on the shipwreck. In addition, there is a reported 600,000 ounces of insured silver believed to remain on the SS Mantola.

“We’re pleased with the operational results to date on this project even though the combination of weather and the end of any additional charter extensions prevented us from completing work on the final areas of the site for now. We recovered about $44 million in silver bullion in a record-breaking operation. Our team has proven their ability to efficiently execute complex operations at a depth of 4,700 meters (15,600 feet) to complete both the deepest cargo salvage and largest recovery of precious metals ever accomplished. We’ve proven that we can make precise cuts, gain access to interior areas of a steel shipwreck, and recover cargo from a shipwreck deeper than the Titanic,” said Mark Gordon, Odyssey President and COO. “There is only a limited area of the Gairsoppa that remains to be inspected and cleared, and we’re confident that operations can be completed quickly in 2013. We will execute the completion of both the Gairsoppa and Mantola projects as part of our new commodity shipwreck program which includes at least four other shipwrecks under salvage agreement which were reportedly carrying more than $230 million of commodity value.” 

 

 

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Catfish Trivia Archive

How many Reindeer Does Santa Have? 

According to the popular song, Santa has 8 reindeer in addition to the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph. The other reindeer's names are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

 

When we talk about the Beaufort Scale are we talking about the fish weigh station on the waterfront? 

The Beaufort Scale refers to windspeed. The Beaufort Scale is a "relative scale" and not measured in miles per hour or kilometers per hour etc. Instead it is graduated in degrees as to how severely it affects and impacts the environment around us such as destroying buildings, blowing down trees, etc.

 

1. The Beaufort Scale is used to measure wind intensity. It uses a flag as the measure.
 
 
 

2. The Beaufort Scale is an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or inland. Its full name is the Beaufort wind force scale, although it is a measure of wind speed and not of force in the scientific sense.The scale was devised in 1805 by Francis Beaufort (later Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort), an Irish Royal Navy officer, while serving on HMS Woolwich.   

 

One of our most popular wrecks is the SPAR. It is located about 20 miles off shore in about 100 feet of water and it has a large resident population of Sand tigers. So does the name of the wreck "SPAR" stand for Sand tiger Permanent Area Resident?

SPARS was the nickname for the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve, created 23 November 1942 with the signing of Public Law 773 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[1] The name is the contraction of the Coast Guard motto: Semper Paratus and its English translation, Always Ready. 

 

In the children's book "The Sea of Monsters" by Rick Riordan

a. Where is the SEA of Monsters &

b. What person and his ship that are historically significant to us here in Beaufort helped save the day.

They sail for the Sea of Monsters, which is situated within the Bermuda Triangle, but the CSS Birmingham is attacked and destroyed by the monsters Charybdis and Scylla. The ship's engine overheats and explodes, and Tyson (who was in the engine room at the time) is presumed dead. Percy and Annabeth escape on a wooden raft, which Annabeth steers by opening the thermos of winds. They steer to a nearby island, where they find "CC's Spa and Resort". The spa resort's owner is the sorceress Circe, while the spa itself is actually a prison for male demigods. Circe turns Percy into a guinea pig and puts him in a cage with six others. Annabeth frees the guinea pigs and feeds them Hermes' vitamins, making them human again. The other six guinea pigs are revealed to be the crew of the notorious pirate Blackbeard (the demigod son of Ares), and Percy and Annabeth leave Circe's island on Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge

 

Where will you find a bramble shark? 

The Bramble Shark is found in the Eastern Pacific as will as around the globe in tropical waters.

If you turn a sea urchin upside down, how long does it take for it to right itself?

The average time required for the urchin to flip was 2 minutes and 28 Seconds.

What are Tongue Stones?

Tongue stones are fossilized shark teeth (usually Meg) that were thought to be tongues around medieval times.

 

Who was the first woman featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated? 

The first woman on a Sports Illustrated cover was Pamela Nelson in volume 1 Issue 3 published August 30, 1954. 

 

What is Pearl Essence?

Pearl essence is a lustrous, silvery-white substance obtained from the scales of certain fishes or derived synthetically, as from mercuric chloride: used chiefly in the manufacture of simulated pearls and as a pigment in lacquer.

What are Flotsam and Jetsam?

Flotsam and jetsam are quite similar.

 

In maritime lawflotsamjetsamlagan and derelict are specific kinds of shipwreck. The words have specific nautical meanings, with legal consequences in the law of admiralty and marine salvage:[1]

 

·                    Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo.

 

·                    Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore.

 

·                    Lagan (also called ligan[2]) is cargo that is lying on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes marked by a buoy, which can be reclaimed.

 

·                    Derelict is cargo that is also on the bottom of the ocean, but which no one has any hope of reclaiming. (In other maritime contexts, derelict may also refer to a drifting abandoned ship.)

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Florida Family Finds $300K Worth Of Shipwrecked Treasure

 

 

A Florida family who spends their time together hunting for treasure struck it rich over the weekend, hauling up an estimated $300,000 worth of gold from an historic wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean.


"What's really neat about them is they are a family, they spend family time together out there and the most amazing part about them is they always believed this day would come," said Brent Brisben, whose company 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels LLC owns the rights to the wreckage.


Brisben said Rick and Lisa Schmitt, and their grown children Hillary and Eric, found gold chains and coins from the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that went down in a hurricane off the coast of Florida in 1715 en route from Havana to Spain.


The ships' manifests indicate that about $400 million worth of treasure was on board, of which $175 million has been recovered, Brisben said.


His company bought the rights to the wreck site from the heirs of legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher in 2010 and allows others, including the Schmitts, to search under subcontracting agreements.


Brisben said the Schmitts, who live in Sanford, Florida, have been searching for treasure for years. Eric Schmitt, who made the latest haul, also found a silver platter worth about $25,000 in 2002 when he was a high school sophomore.


Under U.S. and Florida law, the treasure will be placed into the custody of the U.S. District Court in South Florida. The state of Florida will be allowed to take possession of up to 20 percent of the find for display in a state museum. The remainder will be split evenly between Brisben's company and the Schmitt family, he said.


Brisben said the story of the 1715 wreckage was used as a basis for the 1977 film "The Deep" and for the 2008 film "Fool's Gold".


By Barbara Liston; Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz (C) Reuters 2013.

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Fish bioluminescence: Distinctive flashing patterns might facilitate fish mating

 

 

Scientists have shown for the first time that deep-sea fishes that use bioluminescence for communication are diversifying into different species faster than other glowing fishes that use light for camouflage. The new research indicates that bioluminescence -- a phenomenon in which animals generate visible light through a chemical reaction -- could promote communication and mating in the open ocean, an environment with few barriers to reproduction. The study was recently published in the journal Marine Biology

"Bioluminescence is quite common in the deep sea, and many fishes inhabiting this region exhibit complex, species-specific patterns of light-producing structures," said John Sparks, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Ichthyology and one of the co-authors on the study. "But we still have so much to learn about how these animals use bioluminescence -- for predation, camouflage, communication, or something else. This new work provides insight into how this phenomenon might have shaped present-day biodiversity in the deep open ocean."

Unlike on land, where rivers, mountain ranges, and other physical obstacles can genetically isolate animals from one another resulting in speciation events over time, in the deep open ocean there are few obvious physical barriers to reproduction and gene flow. This has traditionally been considered one of the reasons why there is a comparatively low level of fish species richness in the deep sea. For example, bristlemouths, which are among the most abundant vertebrates on Earth, are represented by only 21 species. But that's not the case for all fishes. Lanternfishes, which inhabit the same mid-water, or mesopelagic, area of the ocean, have diversified into more than 250 species.

"The comparison of lanternfishes and bristlemouths is ideal for studying speciation in the deep sea. Both bioluminescent groups are among the most abundant vertebrates on Earth and live in the same dark environment," said Matthew Davis, a research associate at the University of Kansas and the study's lead author. "The difference in species numbers between these two groups is striking. Both use bioluminescence for camouflage, but lanternfishes have evolved a suite of light organs that act as a beacon for communication, which our work suggests have had an incredible impact on their diversification in the deep sea."

To investigate, Sparks, Davis, and other scientists from the University of Kansas and Johnson County Community College reconstructed a tree of life for ray-finned fishes with a particular focus on the evolution of bioluminescence.

Many fishes emit light from organs called photophores that appear as luminous spots on the body. On lanternfishes, photophores are present ventrally along the belly, laterally on the flank and head, and on the tail. The researchers discovered that the common ancestor of lanternfishes most likely evolved this complex photophore system during the Late Cretaceous, between 73-104 million years ago.

The significance of the photophores on the underside of mesopelagic fishes has long been thought to provide camouflage against predators swimming below, helping them to blend in with any residual light shining down from the surface. But the function of photophores on the side of the body has been obscure, until now. Using mathematical techniques based on the anatomy of the fishes, the researchers determined that the lateral photophore patterns on certain lanternfish lineages are distinct enough to allow identification of individual species. This is not the case for photophores on the belly. Recent work has shown that lanternfishes are capable of seeing blue-green bioluminescence from up to about 100 feet away, supporting the idea that lateral photophores could be used for interspecific communication.

"In this study we have shown that deep-sea fishes that exhibit unique, species-specific bioluminescent organs, like lanternfishes and dragonfishes, also exhibit increased rates of diversification," said Leo Smith, an assistant curator of ichthyology at the University of Kansas and a co-author on the paper. "This suggests to us that bioluminescent signaling may be critical to diversification of fishes in the deep sea."

To further test this hypothesis, the researchers plan to record lanternfish flashing patterns using emerging technology, such as remotely operated vehicles outfitted with ultra low-light underwater cameras. Other tools that might assist in this type of research include the Exosuit, a next-generation, human-piloted atmospheric diving system now on display in the American Museum of Natural History's Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life through March 5, 2014.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Museum of Natural History. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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U/W Bike Race

eventsiconJoin us on July 4th for this annual event benefitting the Children's Mile of Hope.

Lionfish Tournament

eventsiconWe need your help to make Carteret County's 6th Annual "If you Can't Beat 'em, Eat 'em" Spearfishing Tournament a success! This Tournament is a joint effort between Discovery Diving and Eastern Carolina Artificial Reef Association (ECARA).

Treasure Hunt

eventsiconFood, prizes, diving, and fun! Proceeds benefit the Mile Hope Children's Cancer Fund and DAN's research in diving safety.

ECARA Event

2013Join us in support of the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association.  Click here for more info on this great event and how you can help to bring more Wrecks to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.