Farraigí na hÉireann


Farraigí na hÉireann is an Irish marine science documentary currently being broadcast on TG4, Ireland’s Irish language TV channel. Almost two years in the making, this is the first Irish Ocean wildlife series to be broadcast and is very unique in that it was predominantly filmed underwater around Ireland. Farraigí na hÉireann was produced entirely in Ireland for TG4 by independent Irish production company Sea Fever Productions from Lahinch in Co. Clare. TG4 are showing ‘Farraigí na hÉireann’ on Tuesday. Feb. 19th at 8pm and then the same time every week for six weeks. Tonight it is the second episode about the seabed! You can watch it on the TG4 Player under the “documentaries” tab, if it is available in your country.

Is the Earth in need of a good lawyer?

British earth lawyer Polly Higgins discusses whether the Earth is in need of a good lawyer and whether ecocide, the extensive damage, destruction or loss of an ecosystem, should be considered a crime. The concept of creating an international crime of ecocide has actually been around since the 1970s. Although this seems like a radical idea at first, Polly Higgins argues widespread destruction of the environment is leading to resource depletion, which leads to conflict, which can then lead to war, which of course leads to more damage and destruction and more resource depletion.

Ecocide is already considered a national crime in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Vietnam. Further discussion about her argument can be found in a UK newspaper article  and the eradicating ecocide campaign. The Guardian newspaper also lists the top 10 ecocides in pictures.

Guest Post by Damien Guihen of British Antarctic Survey

Tabular Iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean
Tabular Iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean

My name is Damien Guihen and I work for the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. I am an oceanographer and study the interaction of physical processes with biological systems. At the moment I am part of a project called GENTOO, which stands for Gliders: Excellent New Tools for Observing the Ocean. The project is named after a species of penguin and is a partnership between the University of East Anglia (UEA), the British Antarctic Survey, Caltech in the US and the University of Cambridge. Together we are trying to use special robots that dive as deep as 1000 m underwater to learn more about how the ocean works in the Antarctic and particularly around the Antarctic Peninsula, that part of land that juts out of the frozen continent and stretches towards South America.

The robots being used are called ocean gliders. These gliders use changes in an oil bladder to sink or float and have short wings that move them forwards. We put the gliders in the water for periods as short as a day or as long as six months. They are very efficient and can take measurements for long periods using a range of sensors. A glider uses a satellite to call home every time it comes to the surface. It phones a computer in the UK and uploads its data. Then it asks for new instructions. This way, we can see the data very quickly and can control it from anywhere in the world.

Damien with an ocean glider
Damien with an ocean glider
Ocean Glider deployment map
Ocean glider deployment map shows the path taken by the ocean glider, west of the South Orkney Islands. The breaks between the red lines are when the glider is at the surface

The partners in the project are investigating different aspects of the ocean. UEA are using the high resolution temperature and salinity data from gliders to understand the different layers of water and how they interact. The Southern Ocean is very cold and dotted with countless icebergs, great and small. The cold causes water to sink and this sinking drives a lot of ocean flows. Using the glider allows UEA to take hundreds of thousands of measurements that help them to build a better picture of what is happening. Caltech are using the gliders, along with some floating instruments called drifters, to measure how the water in the southern ocean is mixing and moving. They have tracked some drifters for thousands of kilometres, from the Antarctic Peninsula to South Georgia. The University of Cambridge team are using the data collected to help build better mathematical models of how the water moves so that they can better describe and predict the mixing, particularly on slopes and near the icebergs.

At the British Antarctic Survey, we are using a special instrument that has been built into the glider. The instrument, called an echo sounder, sends little pings of sound. It then listens to the echo that comes back from small animals in the ocean. As the glider moves around, we collect a lot of data from the pings in different locations and at different depths. We can then use this data to build a picture of the distribution of these animals throughout the ocean. Using the data from the other groups, we can get a better idea how the ocean currents push the animals about and how a changing climate might effect the Antarctic marine ecosystem.

king penguins
King penguins

Working on a ship or a base in the Antarctic is always fascinating. Sometimes we have to crash our way through thick ice to get to where we need to go. We see a lot of ice bergs too and each one looks different. We often see large storms that keep us up at night as the ship rolls its way through big waves. We are fortunate too to see a lot of wildlife such an albatross, giant petrels, cape petrels, skuas, orca (killer) whales, elephant seals, crab-eater seals, Weddell seals, fur seals, and penguins such as gentoo, chinstrap, king, Adele and Magellanic. It’s a wonderful experience and each time I come back I count the days until I can go again.

Albatross in the sunset
Albatross in the sunset

A very big thank you goes out to Dr Damien Guihen of the British Antarctic Survey for sharing his experiences and photographs from the Antarctic with us the readers of this blog! The post has given a fascinating insight into the work of BAS in one of the most remote and undiscovered continents on the planet.

MAREANO – revealing the secrets of the seabed

MAREANO maps depth and topography, sediment composition, biodiversity, habitats and biotopes as well as pollution in the seabed in Norwegian coastal and offshore areas. The Programme aims to provide answers to questions such as:

How is the seascape of the Norwegian continental shelf?

What does the seabed consist of?

How is the biodiversity distributed on the seabed?

How are habitats and biotopes distributed on the seabed?

What is the relationship between the physical environment, biodiversity and biological resources?

How much contaminants are stored in the bottom sediments?

via Mareano – The Sea in Maps and Pictures.


Planet Ocean

Can we imagine a film that would change the way people look at the ocean? Can we explain simply, to everyone, the greatest natural mystery of our planet? And lastly, can we help our children believe in a better and more sustainable world tomorrow?

This is the triple challenge of a new cinema adventure signed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and editor- in-chief Michael Pitiot, who brings with him the scientific missions of TARA, a unique pool of researchers, oceanographers and biolo- gists from several countries. Thanks to its astonishing photography, the film takes us on a magnificent and unprecedented journey into the heart of the least known regions of our planet.

The film narrates the most marvelous and also the most terrifying human experiences of our time. Filmed in extreme geographical conditions all over the globe, it describes the modern Odyssey of people who go out to discover their blue planet.

The film is also a plea for humanity to respect the world in which we live. It serves a noble and universal cause that will be defended at the next Earth Summit, in Rio, in 2012.


Virtual dive in the Great Barrier Reef

Heron Island is a coral cay located near the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern Great Barrier Reef, 72 km north-east of Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, and 539 km north of the state capital Brisbane. The island is situated on the leeward (western) side of Heron Reef, a fringing platform reef of significant biodiversity, supporting around 900 of the 1,500 fish species and 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef (Wikipedia).

Google have partnered with The Catlin Seaview Survey, a major scientific study of the world’s reefs, to make these amazing images available to millions of people through the Street View feature of Google Maps. The Catlin Seaview Survey used a specially designed underwater camera, the SVII, to capture these photos.  For further views please see the Google Street view Ocean gallery. For more information about the Catlin Seaview Survey please view their website.