Nautical News: For the week of May 18, 2014

COLUMBUS’ SANTA MARIA FOUND OFF HAITI

Provincetown based Barry Clifford, the man who found the pirate ship Whydah, the only pirate ship loaded with pirates’ treasure found in North America, is claiming that he has found Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria. Clifford’s expedition is being funded and documented by TV’s History Channel. Clifford said the he found the Santa Maria where it ran aground on a reef off Haiti’s northern coast back in 1492. It is lying in only 10 to 15 feet of water. Clifford and his team used high tech sonar scanning and metal detection devices that show that most of the ship is still intact. Historians said the wreck is the correct size, 117 feet long, and stones that match the type of stones in Spain where the Santa Maria was built were also found at the site. Plans are now to excavate the ship, and if archeologists prove this to be really the Santa Marina, this could be the most significant shipwreck ever found.

 

DEEP DIVING NEREUS VEHICLE LOST OFF NEW ZEALAND

The remote controlled underwater vehicle named Nereus was confirmed lost northeast of New Zealand at a depth of 6.2 miles. It was built in 2008 by the Deep Submergence Lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with primary funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. The unmanned vehicle was working as part of a mission to explore the ocean’s hadal region. Scientists believe the underwater vehicle imploded under pressure as great as 16,000 pounds per square inch. In the past, Nereus explored places we’ve never before seen by man. It was a one-of-a-kind vehicle, built to descend to the deepest parts of the ocean and to operate either autonomously or to be controlled remotely from the surface.

 

DR. SPINGRAD TAKES OVER AS CHIEF SCIENTIST OF NOAA

NOAA has a new chief scientist. Dr. Richard W. Spinrad was appointed by the Obama administration to be NOAA’s chief scientist. Before this appointment, Dr. Spinrad was vice president for research at Oregon State University. He has a strong background in oceanography and meteorology and teaching and will use those experiences to set policy and program direction for science and technology priorities ranging from fisheries biology to climate change. Dr. Spinrad also has experience in the non-profit sector having served as executive director for research and education at the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, Inc. otherwise known as CORE in Washington, D.C. Between 2005 and 2010 he worked at NOAA as the head of the National Ocean Service.

 

THREE SENIOR FRENCH SAILORS RESCUED OFF CAPE COD

The Coast Guard coordinated a rescue of three senior sailors approximately 1,200 miles east of Cape Cod. Watchstanders from the 1st Coast Guard District command center in Boston received an epirb signal registered to a 42 foot French flagged sailboat named Tao with three men on board. Two of the three Frenchmen were reported to be 79 years old and the other’s age was 72. Three nearby ships in the area diverted their courses to help with the rescue. They were the 500 foot Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine, the motor vessel Mol Maxim, and a Spanish-flagged fishing vessel Robero. A Coast Guard airplane also was dispatched and was the first to find the sailboat in distress. The crew on the plane dropped marking flares, a life raft, and a radio to the sailors. The men abandoned their sinking sailboat and got into the life raft. The Spanish fishing boat Robero was next on scene and safely rescued the sailors from the life raft. A Coast Guard safety officer said that this rescue demonstrated that mariners from any nation can unite to help save lives in a distress situation. Weather on scene was 10 to 12-foot seas with 33-knot winds.

 

FOUR BRITISH SAILORS LOST OFF CAPE COD

The next day, the Coast Guard received another epirb signal. This one from a British flagged 41 foot sailboat with four sailors on board. The name of this boat was the Cheeki Rafiki. It was also taking on water and sinking about a 1000 miles east of Cape Cod, but now the weather was even worse than the day before with 50 knot winds and 15 foot seas. Again, the Coast Guard dispatched an airplane which searched throughout the night, but this time the crew could only find bits of debris, but no signs of the sailboat or the sailors. Two large commercial vessels, the 600 foot Teesta Spirit and the 652-foot Georgia Highway also searched, but found nothing. Unfortunately, this search and rescue does not have a happy ending.

 

MASSPORT WILL DREDGE BOSTON HARBOR

MassPort expects to receive $170 million in federal funding to dredge Boston Harbor so that the new super sized container ships coming out of the Panama Canal can offload at the Conley Terminal in South Boston. Officials believe this could bring twice as many containers to the area translating into billions of dollars to the region. Without the dredging, access to the South Boston terminal limited the large container ships to lighter loads and made them dependent upon entering at high tide. The $170 million will pay almost two-thirds of the $310 million estimated cost to make the harbor eight feet deeper. The balance of the money will come from Massport and the state. If all goes well, the dredging project could be completed by the year 2020.

 

 

103 YEAR OLD WHALE SWIMS IN THE WILD – 4 YEAR OLD WHALE DIES IN CAPTIVITY

Scientists have been following an orca whale affectionately named Granny for decades. Granny is 103 years old and is in great shape. In little over a week, Granny and her pod have just traveled 800 miles swimming off the west coast of Canada from northern California. Scientists base her age on the ages of her children. She is easily identified by a white marking on her back and a notch in her fin and photos of her date back to the 1930s. It is not unusual for female orcas to live for 50 or 60 years and for killer whales for 90 years. Granny is important evidence to those who protest orcas held in seaquariums. The average lifespan of an orca in captivity is 4 1/2 years. Quite a difference from those who swim in the wild.

 

SHARK GETS HAWAIIAN PUNCH

A 25 year-old Hawaiian surfer said he scared off a tiger shark that tried to attack him by punching it in the eye. The former boxer was surfing with about 10 others in Hawaii when he saw a shark come at his left leg. It took a big bite out of his board and tossed him into the water. Scared out of his wits, he started punching the shark as hard as he could. He said he grabbed the shark’s fin with one hand and punched it in the eye with the other. He punched it eight times before it finally retreated. He swam back to shore with just a few scratches. How was that for a Hawaiian punch?

 

CARBON MONOXIDE HELPS ELEPHANT SEALS TO DIVE DEEP

And last on today’s nautical news, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego have found deep diving elephant seals with the same levels of carbon monoxide in their blood as is found in humans who smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day. Despite carbon monoxide being known as the “silent killer” because it is a colorless and odorless lethal gas, it somehow helps the seals to dive deep under water. Scientists have now learned that carbon monoxide is produced naturally in small quantities in humans and animals, and in recent years it has been used by medical researchers as a treatment for diabetes, heart attacks, sepsis, and other illnesses. One thing about this study seems clear. Unless you can dive as deep as an elephant seal, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day is definitely not good for you.

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