‘Exosuit’ mission to 2,000-year-old shipwreck begins

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The high-tech Exosuit is being put to good use this month: Marine archaeologists will use the metal diving outfit to explore the famous Antikythera shipwreck off the coast of Greece. (Courtesy of Brendan Foley)

A group of marine archaeologists kicked off a mission this week to explore an ancient shipwreck at the bottom of the Aegean Sea not with a sub, but with a semi-robotic metal diving suit that looks likes it was taken straight out of a James Bond movie.

Sponge divers first discovered the 2,000-year-old shipwreck off the Greek island Antikythera in 1900. They recovered fragments of bronze statues, corroded marble sculptures, gold jewelry and, most famously, the Antikythera mechanism, a clocklike astronomical calculator sometimes called the world’s oldest computer. Teams led by Jacques Cousteau pulled up more artifacts and even found human remains when they visited the wreck in the 1950s and 1970s.

But none of those previous expeditions had access to the Exosuit, a one-of-a-kind diving outfit that weighs 530 lbs., and can plunge to the extraordinary depths of 1,000 feet and stay underwater for hours without the diver being at risk of decompression sickness. [See Photos of the Exosuit and AntikytheraShipwreck]

Brendan Foley, a maritime archaeologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts, is co-director of the 2014 Antikythera mission, in partnership with the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

“It’s likely that sediment will hold the kind of stuff we can’t even imagine,” Foley told Live Science back in June, when the team was preparing to observe and collect bioluminescent organisms off the coast of Rhode Island. “Our eyes light up thinking about it. It’s the kind of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night. These are artifacts that have never been seen since the time of Caesar.”

The Antikythera wreck settled more than 200 feet below the surface during the 1st century B.C., but some of the cargo onboard dated back to the 4th century B.C. Historians have speculated that the vessel was carrying loot from Greece to Rome during the era of Julius Caesar.

An Exosuit-clad archaeologist could unearth artifacts that help scholars learn more about the ship’s story. During a preliminary expedition to the site in 2012, Foley and his colleagues used sonar to detect intriguing targets at the wreck site, which look like boulders but could be huge statues, according to WHOI’s Oceanus magazine. The team also plans to explore a second wreck nearby that could have been the Antikythera ship’s traveling companion, as well as the bottom of an undersea cliff potentially around 400 feet deep where additional artifacts from the wreck may have slipped over the years, beyond the reach of divers.

Made by the Canadian company Nuytco Research, the Exosuit hasfour 1.6-horsepower thrusters that can propel a diver up, down, forward, backward, right or left. The Exosuit protects its wearer from decompression sickness because it maintains the level of air pressure humans experience at the surface. Without the threat of the bends, a diver can be pulled up to the surface in just two or three minutes if anything goes wrong.

Florida resident dies from flesh-eating bacteria, officials confirm

 Image result for Florida resident dies from flesh-eating bacteria, officials confirm

A Florida resident has died after contracting “flesh-eating bacteria,” officials confirmed Tuesday.

The unidentified patient was middle-aged and had chronic health problems, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

The victim contracted the bacteria after saltwater entered an open wound, the spokesperson said. It is not clear when the incident occurred, and officials did not release what body of water the patient contracted the bacteria in.

The bacteria, called vibrio vulnificus, is potentially fatal for victims with chronic health conditions.

“For someone who is immune-compromised, or has chronic liver disease, it could be a life-threatening situation. And it’s as simple as going in the water with open cuts or wounds to your skin,” Steve Huard, a spokesperson for the Hillborough County Health Department told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Florida officials released a warning for swimmers and consumers of raw oysters amid concerns about the bacteria thriving in warmer water during the summer, the news station reported.

According to Florida Health Department officials, 41 people contracted the bacteria in 2013, resulting in 11 deaths. Officials have recorded 11 cases in 2014, with 3 fatalities.

Mind-blowing surf shots

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Riding the wave in Waimea Bay.Clark Little

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Clark Little moved to the North Shore of Oahu in the 1970s. His skill as a surfer, combined with his talent at capturing the Waimea Bay shorebreak through a lens, creates breathtaking results.

Little’s photographs from inside the swell are as mesmerizing as they are fearless, and reflect the beauty and majesty of the Pacific Ocean. Click through the slideshow to check out a few of our favorites.

Cousteau lauds scientific research accomplished during 31-day underwater living experiment

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    Fabien Cousteau waves from inside Aquarius Reef Base, a laboratory 63 feet below the surface in the waters off Key Largo, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Tuesday, June 24, 2014.AP

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Fabien Cousteau has a week left in his 31-day underwater living experiment in the Florida Keys, and he’s not exactly eager to return to the surface.

“If anything, I’m panicking about the lack of time we have left,” he said. “I’m feeling really comfortable and happy down here.”

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press inside Aquarius Reef Base, 63 feet below the surface of the waters off Key Largo, Cousteau said the scientists from Florida International University and Northeastern University who joined his “Mission 31” have had unprecedented access to a coral reef.

“The FIU researchers have accomplished more than six months’ worth of data gathering in just two weeks because they were here, living under the sea in this undersea habitat,” he said. “This highlights how important a habitat is for scientific research as well as outreach.”

A team of filmmakers and researchers dove with Cousteau on June 1 to Aquarius. At the mission’s mid-point, the FIU researchers traded places with researchers from Northeastern, who will return to land July 2 with Cousteau. They’ve been studying the effects of climate change and pollutants such as fertilizers on the reef.

Aquarius, federally owned and operated by FIU, allows researchers to dive for hours without needing to return to a boat or go through decompression. The lab — about the size of a school bus and encrusted with coral — includes living quarters for six.

Cousteau conceived of “Mission 31” as an homage to the Conshelf underwater living experiments orchestrated in the 1960s by his grandfather, ocean exploration pioneer Jacques Cousteau.

The three Conshelf missions were partly aimed at exploring the possibilities for colonizing the oceans. After almost a month without sunlight, Cousteau said living underwater long-term was technically possible for humans, but it may not be financially feasible on a large scale.

“If it’s for science, education, outreach, filmmaking, those sorts of things, this is a great platform for that,” he said.

The mission has been broadcast live online, and it has proceeded without any serious medical or technical problems, aside from an air conditioning failure one night that left the aquanauts sweating as the temperature inside Aquarius rose to 98 degrees with 100 percent humidity.

“It was extraordinarily uncomfortable, like sleeping in the Amazon, minus the bugs,” Cousteau said.

There’s been so much work to do on the reef that no one has had time to be too homesick or to develop cabin fever, he said.

“Getting out there is so entertaining and so different every time that you’d be hard pressed to think that you’ve started to go crazy,” he said.

A bioluminescent bay has mysteriously turned dark

A bioluminescent bay has mysteriously turned dark

Vieques island is shown here, though this is not a shot of Mosquito Bay.AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Puerto Rico’s Mosquito Bay has long awed visitors with its magical glow, the result of plankton called dinoflagellates that “shimmer.” This year, however, whatGizmodo dubs “one of the world’s most spectacular natural sights” has gone dark.

In January, the bay—located about 10 miles from the mainland on the island of Vieques—stopped glowing, and experts don’t know why, the New York Timesreports.

And though the glow has recently returned somewhat, it’s quite dim. That’s bad news, of course, for the environment: Such bioluminescent sites are a rare phenomenon.

It’s also bad news for a tourist-dependent economy; hundreds of tourists normally gather daily at the bay. One theory is that winds in the area recently shifted northward, which could have propelled the dinoflagellates into the Caribbean Sea, says a marine biologist.

The winds also increase the bay’s turbidity, impeding bioluminescence. The blackout has heightened tension between locals and tourist companies that visit the area. Tourists still have permission to visit, but locals now have to pay the companies to see the spot, too, says a fisherman.

As for whether the bay’s current weak glow will strengthen again, history may not be much of a guide: Some of the planet’s bioluminescent bays have resumed their glow after darkening; others have stayed completely dark.

(In the meantime, check out four other neat places to swim, including one where you’ll be alongside “monster jellyfish.”)

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Mind the Gap: New evidence for Alaskan tsunamis found

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LiveScience

By Becky Oskin

 

A tidal marsh bank exposed during low tide on Sitkinak Island, Alaska. The bank reveals ledges of alternating peat and silt. Abrupt uplift and subsidence during large megathrust earthquakes is interpreted to be the cause of the alternating layeRICH BRIGGS, USGS

This century’s deadly tsunamis kicked off an intense search for buried clues to prehistoric killer waves along Alaska’s southern shores. The coastal geology there has unleashed some of the biggest tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean, but the historical record of past earthquakes and waves is sparse.

Now, new evidence uncovered at several spots along the scenic coastline reveals that many tsunamis have flooded Alaska’s islands and fjords in the past several thousand years, according to research presented at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, last week (April 30-May 2).

The findings will help researchers fill the gap in Alaska’s earthquake record and improve tsunami prediction models in the Pacific Ocean. Earthquake hazard models, which forecast future shaking, rely on an accurate understanding of the size and location of past earthquakes and tsunamis. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is currently updating its seismic hazard map for Alaska.

“There seems to be more frequent tsunami inundation than the models presume, but that’s because we have no data,” said Rich Briggs, a USGS researcher who was involved in the studies.

Mega-earthquakes along Alaska’s subduction zone send deadly waves throughout the Pacific Rim (countries bordering the Pacific Ocean), primarily affecting Hawaii and the west coast of North America. Alaska’s subduction zone, where the Pacific and North America tectonic plates collide, unleashed the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, in 1964.

[Gallery: The 1964 GreatAlaska Earthquake]

“Ultimately, we hope our research helps Alaskans and coastal communities around the Pacific Ocean prepare for future tsunamis and thereby reduce the tragic losses like those witnessed in recent disasters,” said Rob Witter, a research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, who was a study co-author.

Search for sand
Witter and his colleagues presented evidence for several past tsunamis in the so-called Unalaska seismic gap. A “seismic gap” is jargon for a portion of a fault that has not produced an earthquake in recent history, even though surrounding sections have unzipped.

Nearly all of the Alaska-Aleutian megathrust, the name for the subduction zone fault, has ruptured in the past 100 years, producing earthquakes stronger than magnitude 8, but the Unalaska seismic gap has not done so.

At Umnak Island in the Unalaska seismic gap, Witter and his colleagues discovered drift logs stranded up to 75 feet (23 meters) above sea level. There were sand deposits in the island’s marshes from nine past tsunamis in the last 2,200 years. The team also found evidence of six past tsunamis on nearby Sedanka Island in the last 1,600 years. The tsunami sediments imply repeated earthquakes in the Unalaska seismic gap every 280 to 325 years, Witter said. (By modeling potential seismic wave sources, geologists can determine whether a tsunami was likely triggered by a landslide or an earthquake.) A separate USGS study reported six tsunamis in the past 1,770 years on Unalaska Island, which is also in the Unalaska seismic gap.

The drift logs, combined with evidence for several prior tsunamis, suggest that the Unalaska seismic gap isn’t a gap at all, Witter told Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet. Instead, this part of the fault broke in 1957 during the magnitude-8.6 Andreanof Islands earthquake, he said. (Thanks to an early warning system, the tsunami from this quake did not cause any deaths, though it did destroy buildings and boats along beaches in Alaska and Hawaii.)

A true gap
Farther east, however, the Shumagin seismic gap seems to be one of the calmest zones along this hazardous fault. In a separate study, Simeonof Island within the gap shows no evidence of uplift (or land-level change) from earthquakes in the past 3,400 years, nor signs of damaging tsunamis, Witter and his colleagues reported April 9 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Instead of rupturing in large earthquakes, the Shumagin gap looks to be creeping, a type of movement in which each side of a fault slides past the other without storing up powerful earthquake energy. The central segment of the San Andreas fault also creeps, as do portions of Indonesia’s subduction zone near the Batu Islands, Briggs said.

While evidence for earthquakes in the Shumagin seismic gap could be buried offshore, the lack of evidence for changes in height or for tsunamis limits the possibility that mega-earthquakes occurred in the gap, the researchers said.

“We found no evidence of great earthquakes in the Shumagin seismic gap in the past 3,400 years,” Witter said. If such events had occurred, “the earthquake and its tsunami would have left clues along the shoreline.”

‘Shipwreck’ is actually rare tar volcanoes

Newser

One of the “tar lilies” under the Gulf of Mexico.NOAA

Scientists searching for shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico found something a lot stranger last week: a pair of rare “tar volcanoes” spouting asphalt. The formations, the first of their kind to be found in the northern Gulf, left behind solidified eruptions that scientists nicknamed tar lilies because the eruptions resemble petals.

“It’s kind of like Play-Doh being pushed through a mold,” one researcher explains to the Houston Chronicle. “As [the hot asphalt] came out it hit cold water, probably quite rapidly, and fractured in a way that made it splay onto the sea floor like a flower.” The substance is believed to be part of an ancient oil deposit.

The 20-foot-wide, 10-foot-high volcanoes, which at first looked like man-made objects on sonar readings, are islands for life in the frigid, deep waters around 175 miles off the coast of Texas.

“The more we look, the more weird features we find, and each of these features is a separate habitat for the creatures that live there,” a marine biologist says.

The find was made by archaeologists and marine biologists using underwater robots to explore three nearby shipwrecks believed to be pirate ships that sank around 200 years ago, KHOU reports.

(An actual 1888 shipwreck was recently found—sitting upright in San Francisco Bay.)

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American students developing underwater drones to hunt for explosives

Groups of American college students are help making the seas safer – one less explosive at a time.

The Department of Defense gave $15,000 last February to the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and four other schools to develop underwater drones that can detect unexploded bomb, missiles and mines off U.S. shores.

“Some of it dates back to the Civil War. Some of it is World War II,” Michael Delorme, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, told Fox News. “And the DOD is taking responsibility to go around and find these lost items and make sure they are safe and inert.”

A drone that has been built and is currently undergoing testing at the school can be controlled wirelessly and contains a metal detector.

“Its got a suite of sensors — eyes ears nose mouth, just like you and I do,” Delorme said.

More than 30 million pounds of abandoned explosives reside off the coasts of the U.S.

“It was really great being on this project where we’re helping the Navy solve this real problem of having unexploded ordnance on the seafloor that could potentially hurt somebody,” Joe Huyett, a 22-year-old student at Stevens Institute of Technology, told Fox News.

Fox News’ Douglas Kennedy contributed to this report.

Mysterious ocean ‘quack’ finally identified

Image result for Mysterious ocean 'quack' finally identified By Rob Quinn

By Rob Quinn

Newser

A mysterious quacking noise in the ocean that has baffled scientists for decades has finally been identified, researchers say. Acoustic recorders placed on Antarctic minke whales have produced what NOAA experts say is “conclusive evidence” that the sound is their chatter, the BBC reports.

The sound was dubbed the “bio-duck” when it was first picked up by sonar operators on submarines in the ’60s. It’s since been heard in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and western Australia, typically in winter and spring.

Still a mystery: why the whales make the sound. Researchers did note, though, that the vocalizations were always recorded when the whales were close to the surface, before making deep dives to eat.

The discovery is good news for whale conservation, because acoustic monitoring “can give us the timing of their migration—the exact timing of when the animals appear in Antarctic waters and when they leave again—so we can learn about migratory patterns, about their relative abundance in different areas and their movement patterns between the areas,” the lead researcher says.

The hardest part of the study was attaching the recorders to the whales with suction cups, another researcher tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Similar recording devices are used on other whales, “but minke whales were a huge challenge,” he says “They’re very difficult to approach closely because they’re fast. They’re like big dolphins—they zip around.” (Speaking of whales, researchers recently discovered the planet’s deepest-diving mammal.)

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Watch live: Scientists explore life in the mysterious depths of the Gulf of Mexico

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LiveScience

By Becky Oskin

 

Marine life, including tubeworms, clusters on the shore of a brine pool in the Gulf of Mexico.NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER PROGRAM, GULF OF MEXICO 2014 EXPEDITION)

This month, you can fly along the Gulf of Mexico seafloor and explore a strange ecosystem fueled by chemicals instead of sunlight, all from your computer.

The journey to the deep sea comes courtesy of a remotely operated vehicle and camera sled that will send back live video to the Okeanos Explorer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research vessel. Scientists aboard the Okeanos are exploring the Gulf of Mexico’s deep underwater habitats, which include mud volcanoes, methane seeps, brine pools, submarine canyons and shipwrecks.

The planned exploration will occur roughly south of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, offshore of Galveston, Texas.

[Watch Live: Life in the Deep Sea]

Live video feeds will broadcast from the shipwrecks on April 15, 16 and 24, according to a statement from NOAA. Researchers will explore a deep-sea canyon on April 22.

Video feeds and images posted at the expedition website have already featured the unusual marine life that feeds on hydrocarbons burbling from the seafloor. On the first dive, which occurred Saturday (April 12), researchers discovered oil and gas bubbles seeping from the seafloor and near a large brine pool very salty water ponded on the seafloor. (The briny water comes from salt deposits beneath the seafloor.)

Anemones, fish, corals, sea stars, crustaceans and tubeworms were clustered next to the brine pool, which was about 32 feet wide and 328 feet long.

The 59-day expedition runs from April 10 to May 1, and is the third leg of a three-part mission to explore the gulf. Researchers with the mission are both aboard ship and participating remotely via the live video feed.