Article: Wired on deep sea robots

Wired magazine published a short piece on a robot that roves along the ocean bottom, called The Benthic Rover. It’s able to stay down for extended periods of time (like a whole month or more), and monitors conditions on the ocean bottom. This enables scientists to compare surface conditions with what’s happening down below.

The robot can go down to 4 kilometres beneath the seas, and operates with little to no direction from its handlers. The conditions under which it works are in some ways similar to outer space, given their inaccessiblity and hostility to human life!

The full article is to be found here.

Article: Wired on salvage

Here’s another fantastic article from Wired magazine that describes the process of trying to salvage a cargo of motor cars from a listing vessel off the Alaskan coastline. Until one realises how valuable that cargo is, it simply doesn’t make sense that anyone would go to so much trouble to recover it. The story aptly refers to “sea cowboys” – the courage and enterprising nature of the teams who do this work is awesome.

The Cougar Ace off Alaska - courtesy of
The Cougar Ace off Alaska – courtesy of

The article is written like a thriller, and the characters and motivations of the salvors are described in some detail. There are diagrams showing how the ship was leaning, and cross sections of the interior. This provides good detail on the logistics of the entire operation.

Read the full article here. The photographs are stunning, too!

Article: Wired on fish snot

Mucous cocoons from parrotfish
Mucous cocoons from parrotfish

Here’s a gorgeous nugget of information from Wired magazine: some coral reef fish, such as parrot fishes and wrasses, blanket themselves in a layer of mucous when they go to sleep. This protects them from isopod and copepod parasites that would otherwise suck their blood and irritate them much as mosquitos irritate humans. Nice.

The full article is here.

Article: Wired on stripping a container ship

In case you hadn’t noticed, I have a fascination for container ships and large ships in general. Here’s a short article from about what it takes to strip a container ship at the end of its seagoing life.

Article: Wired on the journey to the bottom of the sea

Wired magazine, source of many things interesting, published an article breaking down the depths of the sea according to who – or what – can get there. Check it out here.

Unfortunately it’s in imperial units (feet). A useful converter can be found here. Otherwise Google will do it for you: search for “3937 feet in metres” (that’s the maximum diving depth of the leatherback sea turtle – 1.2 kilometres!).

Article: Wired on caves and robotics

Wired magazine profiled a fascinating character called Bill Stone in 2004. An inventor and explorer, he has invented both diving and robotic gear, mostly focused on reaching inaccessible locations. The article describes both his inventions, and an expedition into a cave in Mexico to recover the body of his companion. Shades of both Sheck Exley and Dave Shaw! The full article is here.

Article: Wired on filming shark kills

Great white sharks move fast when making a kill. If you’ve watched Air Jaws, or the BBC Blue Planet series, or visited Seal Island, you know this. Wired featured an article on filming animal kills for nature documentaries, and great whites came under the spotlight.

It requires some expensive equipment, some ingenuity (think bicycle wheel…) and a lot of time and patience to get even a few seconds of decent footage. Wildlife filmmaking isn’t for instant gratification seekers!

Read the full write up, and see the video, here. The filming was done in South Africa.

Article: Wired on basking sharks

I have a bit of a soft spot for this article, since it’s the one I sent to Tony just after I left Mozambique (where I met him) and which kicked off our email correspondence which eventually concluded in us getting married late last year. When I sent him this he accused me of being a “secret scientist”, but in truth I am just someone who browses the interweb… a lot!

It’s a short piece describing new research that has uncovered where basking sharks spend their winter months. Like our local broadnosed sevengill cowsharks, a baby basking shark has never been seen. No one knows where they go to breed, or indeed where they spend large chunks of their time. So this is novel stuff.

Visit the link just to check out what a basking shark looks like – awesome!

Magazine: screenshot screenshot isn’t strictly speaking a magazine – it’s more like a global scuba diving internet portal. It’s divided into a few sections, each of which is huge and comprehensive.

  • Forums – very active discussion pages on everything to do with scuba
  • Gear – scuba gear for sale by, as well as a few user reviews
  • Classifieds – buy and sell scuba gear
  • Photos and Videos – huge numbers of user-submitted photos and video clips
  • Dive Sites – brief summaries on dive sites all over the world (including quite a few South African ones)
  • Dive Shops – look up dive centres in the city you plan to visit. Learn to Dive Today is listed here!
  • Articles – articles on scuba and more… you could spend hours browsing here

There’s also an iPhone app, if you’re into that sort of thing! This is a lovely site to while away a few hours when you want to be in the water but can’t…

Article: Wired on container ships

Wired Magazine often comes out with total gems of stories, deeply researched and providing information about something you might not otherwise know about or think about.

Here’s one I read when it came out in 1999, as a dewy-eyed university student fascinated both by technology and the ocean. Almost all the goods that are imported from anywhere arrive at their destination by boat – it’s only time-sensitive items like flowers and vegetables that have the honour of being flown from place to place. In order to facilitate handling of the vast quantities of goods, shipping containers are of standard size. This leads to considerable savings on infrastructure and allows fast processing.

Container ship in Table Bay
Container ship in Table Bay

The standardisation inherent in the container shipping process is analagous to a computer network that transmits packets of data from location to location. These packets are of standard size and format so that the receiving computer knows when they begin and end, and how to decode them. In the same way, shipping containers are of standard size to facilitate loading and unloading of the ships, as well as onboard packing, pricing and onward transport. It delights me that something so large – shipping containers – has so much in common with something so small – packet data on a network.

Read the full article here. Highly recommended, even if you THINK the topic sounds pretty dry!