Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Call me crazy


The waves brewing in the "Graveyard of the Pacific," the stretch of coastal region that spans from Oregon to Washington state, are getting larger and more powerful according to scientists.

The culprit behind the relentless waves is thought to be climate change. Scientists are using buoy data and models based on wind patterns to determine whether their predictions are correct. They are reporting that the waves off the coast of the Pacific Northwest as well as the Atlantic seaboard are steadily increasing in size. Similar increases have been documented in the North Atlantic off the coast of England.

This is just another fingerprint that climate change has put on Earth. Kind of scary.

Apparently this has been studied since the mid 1970s, with data showing increases of four inches per year, which would now add up to be 10 feet total. However, some scientists are skeptical about whether there's a link to climate change, citing the fact we don't know enough information about the ocean to make that judgement. One of my personal favorite quotes regarding this is from Richard Seymour, head of the Ocean Engineering and Research Group at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California:

"It has always surprised me that we know more about the surface of Mars than the floor of the Pacific Ocean."

That makes two of us.

I just hope we don't one day have to deal with this:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Underwater forests

Simply beautiful.

Out of tissues

Over the past few months scientists have been studying what they call "slime-snot" (ew) on the seafloor, which they believe to be is where a lot of the oil went following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Vernon Asper, a professor of marine sciences at University of Southern Mississippi, and his colleagues wanted to figure out what this slime-like substance was on the seafloor. So, in turn, they used BP's funds to buy a multicorer, which obtains underwater oil samples.

One of the cylinders. It's probably in your best
interest to never Google Image "slime snot"

In the first cylinder, the scientists found just mud. However, in the second, they found a thin dark layer that tested positive for oil; in between, a substance that is presumably oil, and lastly a two-inch thick layer of this "slime snot," which they believe is basically a mixture of oil and the bacteria feeding on it.

Although they said this will take time to find out exactly how much damage is being done, they presume a fair amount of the ecosystem has been affected by this thick sludge atop the seafloor.

$uck it, BP.

Ulterior motives

One of the cables released a few weeks ago by the wonderful Wikileaks stated that the record breaking marine reserve built by the U.K. in the Indian Ocean was built more or less to prevent former islanders to return to their homeland.

The reason? In the 1960s and 70s the United States displaced around 2,000 inhabitants of Chagos Archipelego to build a military base on an island called Diego Garcia. Since their displacement, the islanders have wanted to come back to fight for their rights in European Court of Human Rights.

The cables ensured the building of the island would guarantee security for both British and Americans.

"We do not regret the removal of the population, since removal was necessary for the BIOT to fulfill its strategic purpose," Official with the British Foreign Office, Colin Roberts said. "Removal of thepopulation is the reason that the BIOT's uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters are in "pristine" condition."

Roberts added that Diego Garcia's excellent condition reflects the responsible stewardship of the U.S. and UK forces using it.

Uh, since when did our country care about pristine waters?


When I was 14 I was not doing anything brave such as this. White water rafting was probably the most extreme thing I ever did at that age. To go sailing solo around the world would have never crossed my mind. This Dutch chick has been lost and found a few times according to Google searches, however I haven't really been able to find any exact information. She arrived in St. Maartin just earlier this week and said that has always been her dream to sail there alone. 

Apparently she was born on a sailing trip her parents were having, and has been quoted as saying she feels as though she's in prison when she's in a house and prefers the sea because it makes her feel free in this article. Pretty cool girl! Dangerous, but cool.

Ancient Balloon-Headed Dolphin discovered

The remains of a 2.5 million year-old dolphin with a spoon-shaped snout and large head was pulled up by a Dutch fisherman in the North Sea in 2008, and scientists now think it is a distant relative of the pilot whale. They believe its large head may be used for echolocation, which is a biological form of sonar that allows dolphins and certain whales to navigate murky waters.

Photo via National Geographic

For more information on the newly discovered mammal, click here for the article in Dutch journal Deinsea.


I am posting another water themed song that I thought of. I've always wanted to see this song live. He played it last time he was in Chicago but alas, I wasn't there. YouTube videos will have to suffice in the meantime.


This song just came on shuffle on my iTunes and when I YouTubed the song, a video of an image from the ocean accompanies it. It'd be way cooler if it was an actual video, but whatever the song still rules.


Click HERE to learn about Chromium! This is serious. Chromium in our tap water means cancer causing toxins in everything. Beer... Cucumbers... You know, everything!

This is a poem my friend Shayna wrote:

A flowing miracle that must be preserved 

But there's an industrial population to be served 
Chemicals, pesticides in our water, reside 
Pharmaceuticals have been found in wildlife 
Landfills, air pollution, animal factory waste
Now how does your tap water taste? 
Atrizine is illegal in Europe but number one in United States 
Ironically they sell it to us by the mass in crates 
People in other countries are running out much quicker 
Water in Bolivia and India is making them sicker 
Billions of gallons a day are pumped and bottled 
Voices of American people continue to be throttled 
Humans are on the brink of the 6th mass extinction 
We depend on nature; nature does not depend on us 
It’s important for all of us to know this distinction 
The industry of water is 400 billion dollars 
Little do most know that bottled water is squalor 
Biologists tested over 100 different brands 
And found that it's no safer or cleaner than our tap water at hand 
A flowing miracle that must be preserved 
But an industrial population to be served 
How can we sell the sky?
If we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water,
How can they be for sale to buy? 
In other parts of the world these things are truly sacred 
We can no longer let this go on, water shall not be wasted.  
This flow is life, and life is this flow 
There are ways you can help, but first you must know 
Indeed, ignorance is bliss 
But bliss only lasts 'till our species is 6 feet below

West Virginia, Mountain Mama

So this isn't really about oceans, but has a tie in with water, which I am going to let slide because this issue is a big deal. It has recently come to my attention just in fact how damaging mountain top removal is. I had always heard about it from friends and progressive media, however, I never really looked that much into it. When I did, my eyes were opened. I wrote an article about it (which could probably use a lot of editing buuuut will suffice for now.)

Coal mining, one of America’s biggest economic activities to date, could be destroying the second most bio diverse forest in the world, according to scientists. The technique causing an upset among a West Virginia mountain town is mountaintop mining, also called mountain top removal, which has damaged 2,000 miles of streams and could potentially destroy up to 1.4 million acres of forest by 2020.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mountaintop mining is a surface removal practice that uses explosives to remove mountaintops in order to expose coal seams, or beds of coal thick enough to be profitably mined. The debris and rubble are then disposed into nearby valleys and streams, an environmentally damaging process called valley fills, which causes irreversible damage and contamination to the streams.

Bo Webb, a Coal River Mountain, WV resident, has tirelessly attempted to stop coal companies to stop mining near his home. Webb said he and his neighbors live in constant fear that the mountain above may split apart and damage their homes.

Webb, a 7th generation Appalachian to call the West Virginia mountains home, lives in a hollow that can be traced back to his ancestors since at least 1823. Forced to leave the property at age 12 due to lack of jobs, his family moved to Cleveland, OH, but they returned every weekend as well as holidays and vacations to be with the rest of his family.

After the passing of his grandmother in 1984, Webb purchased the property from his uncle, and moved back to the hollow permanently in 2001 to enjoy early retirement and enjoy the connection with the mountains that he had when he was younger. However, shortly after the move is when he started experiencing the effects of the mining. He said one of the major issues in his community is flooding because there are no topsoil, trees or understory to absorb the rain.

The mountain stream that runs at the edge of my property has been wiped out of all aquatic life within the past two years,” Webb said.  “As a kid we used to catch fish bait in that stream--lizards, crayfish and such.  It was a living incubator of life, probably for at least the last couple hundred million years.  Mountaintop removal wiped it out within two years, transforming it into a tomb of death.”

On Nov. 10, Webb was one of 10 people awarded the celebrated Purpose Prize in which he was given $50,000 for his efforts to end the Big Coal destruction to his homeland. He said he frequently travels to Washington D.C. with justice groups to urge the EPA to take stronger action against the mining that he said is destroying his community and his heritage and will not stop until something more is done.

“Our mountains are our connection with our heritage and our culture,” he said. “If we allow them to be destroyed we are allowing ourselves to be destroyed. The EPA could call a press conference tomorrow and declare a moratorium on all mountain top removal stating that in the interest of public health all mountain top removal operations are on hold until the EPA conducts a complete scientific study on the total impact of [the practice]. At the very least the EPA could enforce the Clean Water Act. That alone would end it.”

According to a press release from [name asked to be withheld] of the EPA’s Press Office, the EPA will use its Clean Water Act to guarantee that future mining will not cause significant environmental, water quality and human health impacts. He added that they are creating a permit tracking Web site so that the public can determine the status of mining permits to ensure transparency.

Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia chapter of The Sierra Club, said valley fills and mountain top removal go hand in hand and agrees if the federal laws were better enforced mountain top removal would be banned.

“You can’t do much more damage to a stream than to obliterate it with millions of tons of debris,” he said. “This is the worst ongoing environmental disaster in the U.S., hands down. There are two disasters happening, one is damaging the mountains, the other being the eradication of thriving, pristine streams. Our protective agencies have admitted if everybody had to obey the letter of the law, most coal mining would have to stop.  It is only by turning blind eye or teasing out the loop holes that this goes on.

According to the web site of Massey Energy Co., the regions largest coal producer, the company is committed to the safety of their employees.

However, the company has been cited for numerous safety violations over the years. A statement released by The Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, states they responded to three separate complaints regarding hazardous conditions at mines owned by the company within the month of March 2010 alone. 

Some of the violations listed included failure to maintain the minimum air ventilation requirements, accumulation of combustible materials and roof control violations. According to the report, in one instance, the operator failed to follow the approved roof control plan by illegally mining 8 feet beyond the allowable depth of 20 feet.

In another instance, inspectors also found a mine operator not providing adequate ventilation to reduce risk of explosions after responding to an anonymous complaint about hazardous conditions at a site following a small fire. Proper ventilation is required by the law to prevent mine explosions and black lung.

A number of deaths have also reportedly happened on various company-owned sites. The most recent accident was an April 5 explosion that took the lives of 29 miners at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine, making it the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40 years.

The company’s CEO Don Blackenship was scheduled to testify Dec. 14 before a federal panel investigating the deadly blast. However, after announcing that he will retire from the company at the end of the month in early December, he has joined other Massey employees by exercising his Fifth Amendment right and refuses to testify.

Repeated phone calls and e-mails to Massey Energy Co. headquarters were not returned.

Sconyers said although he and other Appalachia residents fighting to end mountain top removal have kept permits for new mining sites from being approved, he’s not sure if it means the end for coal mining in West Virginia.

Who knows where it’ll go from there—the fact of the matter is that all the analysts that don’t work for coal companies are seeing that the handwriting's on the wall,” he said. “I’m up close and personal to it, so I know what it is what it looks like. If you haven’t seen it, it’s disgusting and tragic. It needs to stop.”


Ken Feinberg, Chief of BP said today that there will be a full recovery of the waters and no long-term effects. That definitely makes me feel way better, considering there has been little to no damage in the first place, right? You know, it's not like the nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersant his corporation was using had a chance at causing irreversible damage to the delicate ecosystem or anything. Yo dude, f$$k you.

About Me

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I am a senior at Columbia College as well as an ocean fanatic. Whether it is environmental issues, discoveries of new species or just general news, I have a deep compassion for the sea.