Big storms, lost ships, fake shrimp, and more! Weekly Salvage: September 9, 2019

Transcript provided below.

This… isn’t a blog post? We’re trying something new for our regular round-up of ocean news. Welcome to the Weekly Salvage!

Flotsam: big news from the bottom of the sea

Hurricane Dorian left devastation in its wake as it cut across the Bahamas and the US East Coast. The Islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco suffered  catastrophic damage. At least 40 people we killed as the historically powerful storm stalled out over the Carribean, delivering 220 mile-an-hour winds and 23-foot storm surges to the small island nation. The hurricane continued up the Atlantic corridor, making landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1. After picking up speed offshore, Dorian pushed north into the Canadian Maritimes, marking the first time Canada has been hit with a Category 2 cyclone since 2003. 

Among the losses from Dorian may be the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch, a small bird whose last remaining habitat was on the impacted islands. Notably untouched by the storm is Alabama, despite seemingly being the sole focus of President Trump’s hurricane response. 

34 souls were lost as fire engulfed the 75-foot dive boat Conception of Santa Cruz Island last week. Coast Guard divers have been working hard to recover bodies from the wreckage as the National Transportation Safety Board begins its investigation into the cause of the fire and why so many passengers we’re unable to exit the vessel. 

With bodies still in the water, the ship’s owner Truth Aquatics Inc. has begun taking steps to limit their liability by invoking the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, which allows maritime operators to limit their damages to the post-accident value of the ship. The act was notoriously used after the sinking of the Titanic, allowing White Star Lines to limit its financial damages to $92,000, the value of the Titanic’s lifeboats that survived the sinking. 

Marine Biologist Kristy Finstad, whose dive company had chartered the boat, was among those who were lost. 

GEOMAR reports that the Boknis Eck Observatory, a cabled observatory located at the mouth of Eckernförde Bay in about 22 meters of water, has disappeared without a trace. The 350 kilogram platform appears to have been removed from its position with great force. Only the shredded tail of its data cable remains. 

While it’s not that unusual for oceanographic equipment to be lost at sea, the team at GEOMAR currently has no leads in the case of the missing observatory. We invite you to leave your worst best guess in the comments below. 

Jetsam: what bubbled up this week

300 years later and Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge is still inspiring pirates. Divers are heading to the Supreme Court in a case over who owns the rights to images of the wreck. 

And speaking of wrecks, the HMS Terror, of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage, was surveyed this summer and is astonishing well preserved. After decades of searching, the wreck was finally discovered in 2016, when the Canadian Park Service decided to listen to a crew member from the Inuit community of Gjoa Haven, who already knew where it was. 

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg arrived in New York after a 2-week sail across the Atlantic. She led her first US climate strike last Friday. 

Meanwhile, the radioactive explosion at a Russian Naval Facility last month has sparked heated speculation, especially after Vladimir Putin revealed that the test involved a new weapons system. New images suggest that the explosion may have been the result of a botched missile recovery. 

That… seems fine. 

Finally, Tyson Foods is going all-in on plant-based shrimp. These eerily realistic shrimp-alternatives can help alleviate pressure on a global fishery rife with environmental and human rights issues. 

Lagan: science news that’s peer-reviewed

In a paper published last week, my team and I looked into the consequences of increased recreational ROV use around marine mammals and established a set of guidelines for responsible use of very small robots in close proximity to very large animals. Read the open-access paper Bot Meets Whale: Best Practices for Mitigating Negative Interactions Between Marine Mammals and MicroROVs at Frontiers in Marine Science. 

Driftwood: what we’re reading on dead trees

This week we’re reading the Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina. Urbina is a New York Times reporter who spent the last four years embedded with fishermen, activists, sailors, soldiers, and seasteaders to report on life and death on the high seas. It’s a thrilling journey through the modern industries that shape our oceans that will leave you both hopeful and heartbroken. 

Thanks for watching. We’re going to try out this new format for a month and see how it goes. If you want to see more of the Weekly Salvage, considering supporting me on Patreon at the link below.