The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: antarctic

Friendship Lures a Penguin Back to a Brazil – Year After Year

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Screenshot from video by Paul Kiernan/The Wall Street Journal.

In 2001, a bricklayer living on the southeast coast of Brazil was met with a surprise outside of his beach shack – a Megallanic penguin lying at his doorstep, covered in oil. After cleaning and caring for the penguin, it returned to sea, and was presumably gone forever. But since then, the penguin nicknamed JingJing has returned year after year to visit his savior while feeding in the warmer waters off Brazil before migrating back to the breeding grounds off southern Argentina. It’s a remarkable friendship that would make anyone wonder about the sentience of these brilliant little birds.

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Christie’s to Auction Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Medals on October 8th

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Above: Shackleton’s Royal Geographic Society Silver Medal (1904) and a photo of the young, strapping explorer. Image: Christie’s South Kensington.

Throughout his brief life and career, Sir Ernest Shackleton, who, enchanted by literature but bored with school, left formal education behind to join the Merchant Marine at the age of 16.

He wouldn’t set sail on his first exploratory expedition until July of 1901, when he was selected to join Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, the first British voyage into the Antarctic for 60 years.

Shackleton was sent home by Scott, with whom he was reported to have ill rapport (Scott only sighted that Shackleton was ill). Still, Shackleton wanted to continue his exploratory endeavors, and four years later set sail on what is generally accepted to be his most successful campaign, aboard the Nimrod.

Shackleton went on to earn over 40 medals and awards throughout his career, and on October 8th, 15 of them will be put up for auction by Christie’s in South Kensington, England.

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Last Man Off: Author and Shipwreck Survivor Matt Lewis Discusses Disaster, Survival and Regret in the Southern Ocean

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Above: Likely the last (recoverable) photo taken of the Sudur Havid. All of Mr. Lewis’ photos from the voyage lie beneath the South Atlantic, somewhere to the west-northwest of South Georgia Island.

In April of 1998, a 23-year-old marine biologist named Matt Lewis boarded the Sudur Havid, a commercial fishing vessel headed for the Southern Ocean in search of Patagonian toothfish (better known for its more common market name, “Chilean sea bass”). He was to be a scientific observer, documenting the vessel’s catch. It was his first job out of school.

The vessel was to spend several months at sea between the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties and the Screaming Sixties, great conveyor belts of wind and current, named in reference to the almost constant 40-60-knot winds and 40-60-foot seas that occur within those southern latitudes. It was an adventurous gig – the kind of thing a young, freshly lettered bachelor is supposed to get himself into.

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“With my mum and sister in Somerset before the trip, 1997. I know: bad hair, dreadful beard, but I was young.” Photo courtesy of Matt Lewis.

Two months into the excursion, the Sudur Havid was off South Georgia Island in a heavy storm, possibly overloaded, but continuing to fish, per usual, when the ship’s factory (where the fish are processed and frozen) began to take on water. The inboard pumps, which were used to drain the factory, became clogged, and stopped working. Slowly, the ship began to list, and the reality that she would have no chance of making port set in amongst the crew. South Georgia Island was 170 miles away–too far for helivac–and South Africa and South America were both well over 1,000 miles away.

Now it was a nightmare.

The ship, which Lewis, junior amongst the crew, had assumed was prepared for such an emergency, was carrying unserviced life rafts and no survival suits. The water over the rail was as good as freezing, about 32.5° fahrenheit (~0.25° celsius)–a temperature at which even a healthy human body can last no more than 45 minutes.

“When you’re in trouble, you pull together, fight together, try to laugh and keep your spirits up. But there’s only so much you can do when the water is so cold.”

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This Is How Tiny Plankton Cool the World’s Oceans

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Above: Bright green swirls show a massive phytoplankton bloom off Patagonia, South America, December 2010. Image: NASA.

During summer months in the Southern Ocean, when one might suspect that waters would be cooling and algae blooming–as in the northern hemisphere’s summers–a fancy little phytoplankton is hard at work.

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10,000 Miles on the Trail of The World’s Most Wanted Fishing Vessel and the Laughable Response of the Maritime Industry to The New York Times’ Devastating Reporting.

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Above: One of Sea Shepherd’s vessels limping through the tortured waters of the Southern Ocean somewhere south of Cape Town, South Africa. Screenshot: Animal Planet/Sea Shepherd Global, Selase Kove-Seyram for The New York Times.

The last segment of The New York Times’ “The Outlaw Ocean” series came out this week. This fourth and final installment, titled “A Renegade Trawler Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes,” details the story of two Sea Shepherd ships which tailed one of the world’s most wanted illegal fishing vessels for over 10,000 miles – because not one national government or international maritime organization would bother to pursue the rogue vessel.

Over 111 days, the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon, vessels named after the T.V. game show host and “The Simpsons” creator (both investors)–followed the Nigerian-registered, Norwegian-built seine netter Thunder through the “furious fifties” and the “roaring forties,” latitudes where winds and waves are almost continuously in excess of 40 knots and 40 feet.

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A Patagonian toothfish, or Chilean sea bass from one of The Thunder’s 45-mile-long illegal nets which Sea Shepherd seized. (Ed’s note: Sea Shepherd’s seizure of the net was illegal, according to some maritime lawyers, but chances of prosecution are very low in the wake of The Thunder’s illegal activities.) Photo: Jeff Wirth/Sea Shepherd Global.

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To Swim Faster, Emperor Penguins Shake Millions of Micro-Bubbles from Their Feathers

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Photo: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic. Video below.

National Geographic Fellow and photographer Paul Nicklen captured this shot while on assignment in Antarctica to film emperor penguins, champion freedivers that can reach depths of nearly 2,000 feet, and stay there for over twenty minutes hunting fish, squid and krill.

When it does come time to rocket to the surface, the deepest diving bird known to science and rattles its feathers to expel trapped oxygen, or “micro-bubbles”. This not only looks cool; it functions like a turbo charge and allows the 70-pound penguin to swim two to three times faster.

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Watch a Sailboat’s Incredible Voyage to Antarctica, from Above

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Screenshot from “Antarctica” by 

If you’re planning–or have ever considered–a trip to Antarctica from South America by sail, the infamously feared and revered stretch across Drake Passage from Cape Horn and back is probably the first thing that comes to mind. What many of us don’t consider, and what is shown in the montage below, are the miles upon nautical miles of stunningly still, breezeless serenity created by an amphitheater of icebergs, glaciers and mountains–through much of which you may have to drop sail and motor-cruise.

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Screenshot from “Antarctica” by 

I don’t know if it’s the musical accompaniment, the tranquility of the setting or the gracefulness of the whales, but there seems to be something utterly relaxing about the voyage (at least, what’s shown)–a sentiment I wouldn’t expect to have when surrounded by hull-crushing icebergs and marrow-chilling seas, even with the temperamental winds of the roaring 40s (the latitudes between 40 and 50 degrees South) aside.

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What if all the Ice Melted? The Real Future Waterworld vs the Hollywood Version.

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When the film Waterworld was released in 1995, I gazed in silent wonder at the opening, as the Universal globe, and my beloved Earth’s landmasses disappeared beneath the waves. It was a jaw-dropping Hollywood moment, but was there really, truly enough water locked up in the polar ice caps to swallow up the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada and the Andes – leaving only the tops of what are presumably maybe Everest or a couple of other Himalayan spires peaking up from the briny depths? Let’s just say Kevin Costner’s Magnum Oceanus was not a film to let facts stand in the way of a rip-roaring yarn.

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