Sunday, March 17, 2019
There is something beautiful about girls in headscarves.
This picture was taken by me in Sulawesi, an island visited by one of "my" whaling wives, Eliza Underwood, a very long time ago. One day, I will tell you what she had to say about what was called 'Celebes", but this is not the time.
The young woman in the forefront of the picture (without a headscarf) is a teacher of English at the local high school in Manado. The girl with her (in a headscarf) is one of her pupils. I was asked to talk to them so that they could practise their English.
It's a lovely memory. Did it affect my reaction when the news of the massacre of two Moslem congregations at Christchurch mosques stormed into my consciousness? Perhaps. All I remember is total shock -- that an obscenity on that scale was not possible in my quiet little country at the bottom of the world.
I watched the news. Compulsively.
Next morning, Saturday, I walked very early through Parliament grounds. I had wondered if a police presence would prevent me. But instead it was as serene as ever . . . except that the flags were at halfmast.
For the rest of my way my eyes were blinded with tears.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Island of the Lost continues to inspire interest, perhaps because the question of bad and good leadership is so critical in these shaky and uncertain times. It has been described as a classic in the genre, and so many seem to agree with this, that Algonquin is issuing a new edition, due to appear in stores, both internet and brick-and-mortar, in August.
Here is the blurb:
Hundreds of miles from civilization, two ships wreck on opposite ends of the same deserted island in this true story of human nature at its best—and at its worst.
It is 1864, and Captain Thomas Musgrave’s schooner, Grafton, has just wrecked on Auckland Island, a forbidding piece of land 285 miles south of New Zealand. Battered by year-round freezing rain and constant winds, it is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. To be shipwrecked there means almost certain death.
Incredibly, at the same time on the opposite end of the island, another ship runs aground during a storm. Separated by only twenty miles and the island’s treacherous, impassable cliffs, the crews of the Grafton and the Invercauld face the same fate. And yet where the Invercauld’s crew turns inward on itself, fighting, starving, and even turning to cannibalism, Musgrave’s crew bands together to build a cabin and a forge—and eventually, to find a way to escape.
Using the survivors’ journals and historical records, award-winning maritime historian Joan Druett brings to life this extraordinary untold story about leadership and the fine line between order and chaos.
“[A] study of the extremes of human nature and the effects of good (and bad) leadership . . . If the southern part of Auckland Island is all Robinson Crusoe, the northern part is more Lord of the Flies . . . Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life . . . [She] shows that real leadership is rare and powerful.”
—New York Times Book Review
Front interior pages
“This story goes reality TV a few steps better . . . A clear morality tale about the pitfalls of rigidity and the benefits of adaptability and cooperation . . . Druett, who has written other works of nautical history and a maritime mystery series, wisely lets the details make the point, resisting the temptation to oversell. Her writing style is clear and detached, her touch just right . . . The power of the crews' divergent stories . . . propels the narrative like a trade wind.”—Los Angeles Times
“An amazing saga . . . Rarely are the two opposing sides of human nature captured in such stark and illuminating relief."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“One of the finest survival stories I've read . . . [Druett's] tale is backed up by a solid knowledge of sailing ships and of the flora, fauna and weather of Auckland Island, an inhospitable terrain that has defied attempts at human settlement and is now a wildlife preserve.”—Seattle Times
“A riveting study of the extremes of human nature and the effects of good (and bad) leadership . . . If the southern part of Auckland Island is all Robinson Crusoe, the northern part is more Lord of the Flies . . . Druett is an able and thorough guide to the minutiae of castaway life . . . [She] shows that real leadership is rare and powerful.”—New York Times Book Review
“Captivating . . . Druett has a talent for storytelling . . . Those yearning for a classic man vs. nature, triumph-over-terrible-odds story, get ready to set sail.”—Paste
“Fascinating . . .a surprisingly gripping tale that will leave readers amazed. Grade: A”—Rocky Mountain News
“The kind of courage and resourcefulness that would do Crusoe proud . . . Druett’s well-researched account earns its place in any good collection of survival literature.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Using diaries, ship logs, and newspaper accounts, Druett re-creates the different experiences of the survivors of two wrecked vessels . . . Viewers of television’s Survivor and readers of survival novels will enjoy Island.”—School Library Journal
“Swashbuckling maritime history reanimated by a noted naval enthusiast . . . Druett excels at recreating the men’s struggles and desperation (tempered by boundless hope) . . . Depicted with consistent brio, stormy seas become epic events.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This is a fine addition to the genre of survival tales like Endurance or In the Heart of the Sea.”—Publishers Weekly
“The amount of detail the author has amassed is truly impressive, resulting in an invaluable account of survival.”—Booklist
“[Druett] writes with a confidence and clarity that makes this account an exciting read and an important addition to our history.” –Northern Advocate
“Island of the Lost is one of the greatest yarns I’ve ever read, surpassing even Shackleton and Robinson Crusoe.”— South Coast Register
“Survival stories from earlier ages remain favorite fare, as is underscored by this amazing saga by an award-winning New Zealand maritime historian.—The Berkshire Eagle
“It is felicitous that Joan Druett should have found this story. She is one of our most readable historians. Her knowledge of maritime events is encyclopedic. And she can write: vividly, lucidly, accurately … Each of the plot’s two threads is absorbing in itself. Combined and contrasted, their motif … makes this book more powerful still.”—Weekend New Zealand Herald
Sunday, March 10, 2019
A hearing on the threat seismic testing poses to North Atlantic right whales was plodding along when Representative Joe Cunningham pulled out an air horn and politely asked whether he could blast it.
Before that moment at a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, Cunningham, a Democrat, had listened to a Trump administration official testify, over and over, that firing commercial air guns under water every 10 seconds in search of oil and gas deposits over a period of months would have next to no effect on the endangered animals, which use echolocation to communicate, feed, mate and keep track of their babies.
It's why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave five companies permission to conduct tests that could harm the whales last year, said the official, Chris Oliver, an assistant administrator for fisheries.
As committee members engaged in a predictable debate along typical party lines - Republicans in support of testing and US President Donald Trump's energy agenda, Democrats against it - Cunningham reached for the air horn, put his finger on the button and turned to Oliver.
"It's fair to say seismic air gun blasting is extremely loud and disruptive ... is that correct?" the congressman asked."I don't know exactly how loud it is. I actually never experienced it myself," Oliver replied.
So Cunningham gave Oliver a taste of the 120-decibel horn. An ear-splitting sound filled the small committee room. An audience of about 50 gasped and murmured.
"Was that disruptive?" Cunningham asked.
"It was was irritating, but I didn't find it too disruptive," Oliver said.
It seemed disruptive to at least one person in the room. Subcommittee Chairman Jared Huffman broke into the debate to say an aide, who is pregnant, informed him that when the air horn sounded, her baby kicked.
Cunningham, who represents Charleston and other coastal cities, pressed on. What if it happened every 10 seconds for days, weeks and months, he said. He asked Oliver to guess how much louder commercial air guns are than his store-bought air horn. When Oliver didn't bite, he told him the sound from air guns is 16,000 times that of his air horn.
Five companies are awaiting final permits from the Interior Department to begin testing between New Jersey and Florida. An estimated 400 North Atlantic right whales, hunted to the brink of extinction, survive. A birth among the 100 mating pairs is so rare that seven calves spotted recently were celebrated as a tiny glimmer of hope.
Every governor on the Eastern Seaboard from Massachusetts to Florida, Republicans and Democrats, stands in opposition to the Trump administration's proposal to offer federal offshore leases along the Atlantic coast, where beach tourism thrives. The governors are backed by state attorneys general and legislators.
Although Cunningham's stunt was the highlight of an ordinary hearing, Democrats could not shake the administration's argument that there is no evidence showing that seismic testing has ever killed or significantly hurt a right whale in the Gulf of Mexico or Pacific Ocean, where testing has happened recently.
Oliver said right whales are more commonly killed by boat strikes and getting entangled in fishing nets, and that NOAA Fisheries is focused on stopping that. He emphasised that studies have shown some adverse impacts from seismic testing but that those "are sublethal."
But that testimony was followed by testimony from whale experts who described what sublethal means. Scott Kraus, a vice president and senior science adviser for the New England Aquarium, said the tests will stress out an animal that's already struggling from lack of disease resistance.
"Many right whales now have poor body scores that are just above the threshold of reproductive success, suggesting that any additional stressors ... will push them below any ability to reproduce," Kraus said.
Christopher Clark, a senior scientist and research professor at Cornell University, said there is nowhere for animals to hide from seismic noise. It travels efficiently underwater, radiating for thousands of miles from where it starts. The bowhead whale, a close relative of right whales, reacts to extremely low levels of seismic noise from far away.
"It continues reacting until it totally stops communicating," Clark said. "For right whales, such changes will increase the the likelihood of mother-calf separations." It's not physical harm to a single individual, he said, but "this is the cost to a marginally surviving population as a result of chronic noise from seismic air gun surveys."
The Washington Post
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Apparently, playing bridge is good for the brain. As the illustration illustrates, there is learning involved. But it is indeed a way of thinking outside the square, and making really interesting good friends.
As the New Zealand Herald meditates ...
You can learn to play in Wellington, too -- just go to the Wellington Bridge Club site and ask for their flyer. The Victoria Bridge Club, just up the street in Tinakori Road, is also offering lessons.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Fascinating seminar series
A Fair Wind: The Past and Future of Sail Technology
Date and time:
12 March | 5.15pm, wine reception from 6.30pm
Talks & courses
Join us for a free panel discussion in central London about wind power and sail technology, featuring Professor Ian Buxton (Newcastle University), Frank Scott and Andrea Grech La Rosa (UCL). All are welcome and there is no need to book.
Concerns about climate change and the environmental impact of shipping have put wind-assisted transport back in the spotlight. This event will address the technological, social and environmental issues surrounding wind-assisted and wind-powered ships, both historic and contemporary.
The 150th birthday of Cutty Sark, one of Britain’s most famous ships, provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on wind power. Built in 1869, its cutting-edge sailing technology was soon challenged by faster but coal-reliant steamships. As sail gave way to steam, it quickly lost its place in the lucrative tea trade.
Join our expert panel of historians and naval architects to discuss the key issues. How can wind-assisted ships help combat climate change? What can the transition from sail to steam teach us? Is there an ongoing role for wind and sail in the future of maritime transport?
Maritime History & Culture Seminars 2018/19:
- 23 October 2018
- 6 November 2018
- 4 December 2018
- 29 January 2019
- 26 February 2019
- 12 March 2019
- 21 May 2019
- 18 June 2019
All seminars start at 5.15pm in Wolfson Room I, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London, WC1E 7HU.
Sunday, February 24, 2019
|NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa is back home after successfully completing research that covered all areas of Ross Sea Marine Protected Area ecosystem - from whales to bacteria.|
New Zealand's research vessel, Tangaroa (named for the Polynesian god of the sea) traveled more than 11,800 kilometers since leaving Wellington on January 8 -- a voyage that took the ship almost as far south as the Tangaroa has been before.
Twenty-one scientists made the trip to the icy continent – their focus: gathering baseline information to monitor the year-old Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA).In total, 4,700 samples were preserved while almost 33 hours of video and 8,000 still images were collected to look at animals living on the sea-bed.
It wasn't all work for the scientists as they also got to witness the local wildlife in action such as Adelie penguins and the 36 whale sightings that were logged and included more than 190 individual whales from various species.
Dr. Richard O'Driscoll says favorable conditions and a lack of sea ice meant work was uninterrupted. And this work will, in turn, benefit the New Zealand science communities, he adds.
The Tangaroa had 227 gear deployments during the trip, and this included 78 plankton tows where a bongo net was towed in water at depths down to 1000 meters.
A mesopelagic trawl net was also deployed to sample mid-water fish and krill. O'Driscoll's team made 41 fish trawls and collected a combined catch of 1,946 kilograms that was made up of 110 different species.This was the second of three voyages planned for the crew of the Tangaroa.
O'Driscoll says New Zealand plays a leading role in monitoring the MPA, adding that the latest voyage was a "key contribution".
"By increasing our understanding of Antarctic and Southern Ocean responses to past climate conditions, it will allow improved modelling of future changes," he says.
He says New Zealand scientists are working alongside other nations within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to establish a long-term monitoring program inside the MPA.
|Bongo net, used to sample plankton|
"It's the largest MPA in the world ... and represents a major contribution to global marine protection."
|Temperatures were unusually warm and sea-ice scarce during the expedition|