What caught my eye: March 2023

Well here’s another collection of slightly off-piste marine-related stories that might have passed you by during March.

Philippines charges 15 crew members for smuggling P400 million worth of sugar

Now here’s a strange tale indeed. Smuggling the ‘white stuff’ usually has a very different connotation, but in this instance, it refers to nothing more harmful than sugar! Apparently, on Friday 17th February, the Philippines Agricultural Department charged 15 crew members of a cargo ship for smuggling sugar. The sugar cargo with a value of P400 million led authorities to charge the captain of MV Sunward and the rest of the crew with smuggling.

The incident happened in Batangas. The arrested persons’ identities are said to be 7 Chinese, 6 Indonesian and 1 Filipino national. They were charged under the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

Ship lost in storm 139 years ago washes up on Massachusetts Beach
Photo credit: NY Post/YouTube
Photo credit: NY Post/YouTube

The remains of a shipwreck discovered on a beach in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in February have been identified as a schooner that was wrecked in 1884 in the area. Footage captured by Jesse Ahern reflects a significant section of the wreck on Miacomet Beach.

According to the Nantucket Current, the wreckage was later identified as the Warren Sawyer’s stern, a three-masted schooner reportedly which was lost on the night of 22 December 1884 after gale-force winds blew it off course.

The reason that shipwrecks similar to the Warren Sawyer reappear suddenly on nearby beaches includes shifts to the sedimentary environment.

Proposals to ban powered boats on the Montgomery Canal

The Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust has sparked concerns recently when it put forward a proposal to ban all powered craft on the Montgomery Canal. These concerns sparked a number of reports in the local press, with both sides of the argument urging supporters to take part in online surveys set up to gauge public opinion on this matter.

The highly emotive proposal is to ban all boats that are propelled using any method other than by the use of horses! Really? The aim is to minimise the damage caused to the environment of the waterway due to the canal supporting the nationally scarce aquatic plant, floating water-plantain, which is listed as a UK priority species.

This is an interesting proposal. We see some larger commercial ships slowly returning to a bygone era by adapting to use wind power, but horsepower? That really takes things to an all-new level and one I suspect that will not be popular with many narrowboat owners, most of whom probably don’t own a horse!

Wind farms are not the cause of multiple bird deaths suggests a new study
Photo credit: Vattenfall
Photo credit: Vattenfall

Some people get to do some fascinating and unusual work. I am envious of Henrik Skov, who led the recent in-depth study to try and understand if wind farm rotors were trashing the local bird population.

Offshore wind energy critics have often cited the risk of collision with birds as an argument against the use of wind power. But this new study, conducted by European energy giant Vattenfall, shows that offshore wind turbines at one UK wind farm are much less dangerous to birds than previously thought, a step towards debunking common claims that turbines are a major contributor to bird mortality.

Vattenfall’s study looked at seabird behaviour over a period of two years at the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm located in the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland. The company describes the study as most comprehensive and technologically advanced in the field to date, using radar and cameras to monitor how birds behaved. The results show that birds’ movement patterns adapt to rotor blades at approximately 120 meters and become increasingly precisely adapted the closer the birds come to the rotors.

What did the study find? Not a single collision between a bird and a blade was recorded. In fact, seabirds actually deliberately avoid wind turbine rotor blades offshore it seems. Well, that’s good news then!

Often flooded Venice suddenly has no water!

Well, here’s an unexpected sight and not one I was expecting to see. Venice has, it seems, run low on water. The city has long had difficulties with high tide flooding but in late February it had the opposite problem: dry canals (as the picture reveals).

A rare anticyclone wind system over the Mediterranean, combined with tides and currents, left the Venice Lagoon about 26 inches below average. This is so low that many of the city’s busy waterways became impassable to boat traffic at low tide, creating logistical issues for many. It has been 15 years since the last time that there was such a prolonged low-water event.

The low water level in Venice had everything to do with the weather, according to meteorologists, but not necessarily with the climate. Europe experienced an exceptional high-pressure zone (anticyclone), which has endured for weeks. This has reduced rainfall levels across Italy, lowering the amount of water flowing into the Venice Lagoon from the shore side. Venice is better known for its regular flooding at high tide, often immersing low-lying areas like the famed Piazza San Marco.

That’s a wrap for another month.

Mike Schwarz
IIMS Chief Executive Officer

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