Oceanography in the News 2005

This is a selection of stories, subject to the following rules. First, I don't guarantee close daily coverage of everything that happens (because I have a job to do apart from maintaining this Web page). Second, the site has to be generally accessible. (Many journals make their pages accessible only to people who have paid a subscription to the written version.) Third, I try to choose sources that tend to keep their pages accessible for more than two weeks over those that do not. For example, I've had to give up on the New York Times. It is a fine paper, but its new policy is to take off its stories within DAYS and then charge for access to them. If you want to keep an article, DOWNLOAD IT NOW!

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Oceanography in the News 2005

  • December 27, 2005. Methane bubbling out of the ocean floor off the coast of Maine. ABC News

  • December 24, 2005. The invasive sea squirt Didemnum on the northeast coast. Science News. More information:

  • December 22, 2005. Norway increases its planned whale kill by 30%. BBC News OnLine

  • December 16, 2005. Salt marshes along the SE coasts of the US are being decimated by snails. National Geographic News The paper is in Science, so will eventually be freely available on the Web.

  • December 14, 2005. A squid looking after its eggs. Another example of the fact that cephalopods continue to surprise us with their complex behavior. National Geographic News

  • December 13, 2005. New ideas on the tusk of the narwhal. National Geographic News This is unpublished research, due to be presented at a meeting. That means it has not had peer review. If the story is correct, it ascribes a function to the narwhal tusk that as far as I know is not found in any other vertebrate tooth, anywhere, any time. That doesn't mean the story is wrong: it means that the story had better be backed by very good evidence!

  • December 13, 2005. Tidal power plant in the Bay of Fundy. BBC News OnLine

  • December 12, 2005. Huge new hydrothermal "plume" found on the Indian Ocean floor. National Geographic News. National Geographic loves using the prefix "mega"!

  • December 10, 2005. Continuing disintegration of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. Press release

  • December 5, 2005. Trying to protect the gray whale breeding lagoons in Baja California. Christian Science Monitor

  • November 30, 2005. The Gulf Stream is changing. Specifically, the Northern Atlantic circulation seems to be going about 30% less than it was 50 years ago. We don't know what that means, but it's unlikely to be good news. The paper, by Bryden et al., will be in Nature tomorrow, though it's unliikely to be freely available on the Web. National Geographic News

  • November 25, 2005. US mercenaries join Somali pirate saga. $50 million is a lot for a bankrupt dysfunctional non-Government. I have a nasty feeling that my tax dollars have been diverted into these pockets. BBC News OnLine Previous stories:

  • November 24, 2005. Sealevel is rising at twice its historical rate. This is cherry-picked from a review paper in Science that reviews sea-level change over the fast 500 million years. I'm not disputing it, however! Live Science

  • November 10, 2005. Senator Ted (clearcut the Tongass) Stevens of Alaska wants more oil tankers in Puget Sound. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • November 9, 2005. Filming the Humboldt ("red devil" squid. National Geographic video news item with video clip

  • November 8, 2005. The storm surge from Hurricane Wilma hit the Bahamas hard. National Geographic News

  • November 8, 2005. Invading species in ships' ballast: the Pacific Northwest faces a grim new world. Opinion piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • November 8, 2005. It's that time of year: The Japanese whaling fleet sets off for the Antarctic again. This year's "scientific" catch will be close to 1000 whales. BBC News OnLine

  • November 7, 2005. Why does the Atlantic croaker croak? National Geographic News

  • November 4, 2005. Giant iceberg B-15A breaks into three pieces. Live Science site We've been following this story since 2000!

  • October 21, 2005. California surfer bitten by shark. San Francisco Chronicle

  • October 20, 2005. Russian trawler kidnaps Norwegian fishing inspectors. BBC News OnLine. They were released six days later, after the trawler was safely inside Russian territorial waters. Obviously the Russians were doing something illegal (apart from kidnapping!).

  • October 19, 2005. Florida tourist agency doesn't like red tide warning posted on beaches. Gainesville Sun. Well, of course they don't. A tourist might read the signs and prevent himself from getting sick. After all, it's only the worst red tide in Florida for 50 years... I always thought Carl Hiassen wrote comic novels. Now I realize they're probably true. Also see this story from Polk County, Florida.

  • October 18, 2005. Bone-eating marine worm found off Swedish coast. This is Osedax, already known in the Pacific. It somehow manages to find and colonize whale carcasses on the sea floor. BBC News OnLine

  • October 20, 2005. The Bush folks support the idea of Makah Indians killing whales. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This comes from the committee of Richard Pombo, who wants to gut the Endangered Species Act and to sell off dozens of pieces of the National Park system. You don't need any further comment, do you? Previous stories:

  • October 8, 2005. Northwest coast oyster industry booms after Hurricane Katrina. The reason is that Katrina wiped out a lot of Louisiana's oyster farms. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • October 5, 2005. A lot of deep-sea phosphorus is recycled DNA! The Scientist

  • September 28, 2005. A giant squid filmed live in deep water. This is a first.

  • September 28, 2005. Arctic sea ice cover is now less than it has been for more than a century. BBC News OnLine

  • September 28, 2005. A cleaner shrimp cleans the teeth of a predatory fish (great image!). BBC News OnLine

  • September 28, 2005. Red tide still affecting Florida coast. St. Petersburg Times. Previous stories:

  • September 28, 2005. Surface tension supports a paperclip (great image!). BBC News OnLine

  • September 26, 2005. The biology of the whale shark. BBC News OnLine

  • September 19, 2005. Katrina essentially destroyed the Chandeleur Islands. National Geographic News, with images.

  • September 15, 2005. Warming oceans are causing stronger hurricanes. National Geographic News

  • September 7, 2005. A fluorescent shark. National Geographic News

  • August 29, 2005. A splendid coral reef in the remote Pacific. San Francisco Chronicle

  • August 26, 2005. Australian research biologist killed by shark. Times OnLine

  • August 25, 2005. Tsunami waves travelled the global oceans last December. LiveScience. Link to great map.

  • August 24, 2005. Armies of warrior anemones fight pitched battles!! TerraDaily. Work by Rick Grosberg of UC Davis. I give it a Purple Prose Award. Rick says he doesn't know where the story came from.

  • August 22, 2005. Introduced parasite of mud shrimp may threaten West coast ecosystems. Press release

  • August 22, 2005. More fisheries in crisis: this time it's Africa. BBC News OnLine

  • August 20, 2005. New hydrothermal vents on the Arctic Ocean floor.

  • August 19, 2005. Ocean bacterium with the smallest genome of any free-living organism. It's also the most abundant species in the ocean. The human parasite Mycoplasma genitalium has the smallest genome, but it relies on human skin (guess where) to provide it with nutrition. The paper is in Science, so will be freely available on the Web soon. Giovannoni, S. J. et al. 2005. Genome streamlining in a cosmopolitan oceanic bacterium. Science 309: 1242-1245. BBC News OnLine

  • August 17, 2005. Fears of piracy linked to terrorism in the Straits of Malacca. Christian Science Monitor. Previous stories:

  • August 17, 2005. A humpback whale that migrated between oceans. Nature news

  • August 15, 2005. Remote-controlled robots explore the Lost City vents. National Geographic News. See also this major NOAA site with images, daily logs, and movies

  • August 12, 2005. California goes head-to-head with the Bush administration over offshore California oil drilling. San Francisco Chronicle

  • August 11, 2005. Exploring the relatively unknown South Pacific ocean floor. NOAA. Check out underwater Giggenbach Volcano

  • August 10, 2005. Slaughter of endangered sea turtles in Mexico. BBC News OnLine. Two comments: first, you don't have to kill turtles for their eggs: you just dig them up after they've been laid; second, you know as well as I do that the Mexican authorities are useless in protecting these beaches.

  • August 9, 2005. The future looks grim for the black abalone of the West Coast. National Geographic News

  • August 9, 2005. The more you know, the worse it looks. The pollution of America's beaches. (You are completely free to deny there's a problem, and jump in, and get sick.) Christian Science Monitor

  • August 8, 2005. It's not much fun being a Manx shearwater. BBC News OnLine

  • August 4, 2005. The largest waves ever measured: they were generated by Hurricane Ivan last year. That's not quite true, of course: tsunami waves are MUCH bigger when they hit the shore. But these are the largest ever open-water waves and they are truly enormous.

  • August 3, 2005. Major algal bloom in the Baltic Sea. Press release

  • August 2, 2005. Overfishing on the coast of Washington: this time it's dogfish. Seattle Times

  • August 1, 2005. The how and why of beach erosion. National Geographic News

  • July 29, 2005. Jellyfish plague on the California coast... and across the world's coasts. AP story from San Francisco Chronicle. And it may not be a once-off story: read this article in The Blobs of Summer in OnEarth magazine, Summer issue 2005.

  • July 26, 2005. Building offshore oil rigs that will survive hurricanes. Christian Science Monitor

  • July 25, 2005. Mapping the sea floor off Massachusetts. ENN News. Page Valentine was one of the first Ph.D.s to graduate from the UC Davis Geology Department, by the way :)

  • July 23, 2005. People get sick from inhaling the air around a red tide.

  • July 21, 2005. The sex life of the lemon shark. National Geographic News

  • July 21, 2005. Speed limits for ships, to protect right whales? It either won't happen, or it won't work. Anyone who has ever driven must know that: it's a "feel-good" gesture. What might work (I suggest) is an underwater directional beeper that would warn right whales out of the way. National Geographic News

  • July 21, 2005. An ecosystem under the floating ice shelves of Antarctica. ENN news

  • July 21, 2005. Basking sharks are cleverer than we had thought. BBC News OnLine

  • July 20, 2005. Florida beachfront erosion. ENN News. It just underlines the fact that everyone should do Geology 1. Read down at least as far as the remarks of Gregory Stone and Orrin Pilkey.

  • July 19, 2005. The biology of bull sharks. National Geographic news

  • July 15, 2005. The "red snapper" at the fish counter or the restaurant is 75% likely not to be red snapper.

  • July 11, 2005. How the humming midshipman fish doesn't go deaf. Nature news online. Listen here to test your ears.

  • July 9, 2005. Australia burns the boats of illegal Indonesian fishermen. BBC News OnLine

  • July 8, 2005. And speaking of State-supported terrorism: it's twenty years this Sunday since the French blew up the Rainbow Warrior. BBC News OnLine

  • July 8, 2005. The North Atlantic Ocean reached record warm surface temperatures last year. ENN news site

  • July 7, 2005. A siphonophore that attracts prey (fish) by light. We know of many deepwater fishes that do this: but siphonophores are blind cnidarians!! The paper is in Science, so will be freely available on the Web in a few months.

  • July 6, 2005. Attempt to extend marine sanctuaries of the California coast. San Francisco Chronicle

  • July 5, 2005. Shark attacks and how to avoid them. Live Science

  • July 4, 2005. Dramatic collapse of a sea stack in Australia. BBC News OnLine Great pictures, before and after...

  • July 4, 2005. Underwater eruption near Iwo Jima.

  • July 3, 2005. The red tide recedes in Massachusetts. ENN News. For previous stories see June 7, 2005.

  • July 3, 2005. It's a good year for baby right whales. ENN News

  • July 1, 2005. How to fit a GPS transponder to a great white shark. National Geographic News

  • June 28, 2005. Florida shark attacks; update and perspective. National Geographic News

  • June 26, 2005. Girl killed by shark on the Florida coast. Miami Herald

  • June 26, 2005. Girl killed by shark on the coast of Vanuatu. New Zealand Herald

  • June 26, 2005. The International Whaling Commission continues the current whaling regime. That is, it is officially banned, but several nations hunt whales "for research".

  • June 23, 2005. Whale burgers. In Japanese restaurants, I need hardly add. Even the Japanese can hardly claim this is authentic traditional Japanese diet. BBC News OnLine. And here's the answer to your question, What does whale taste like, anyway?

  • June 17, 2005. Sharks are moving northward in the eastern Atlantic. BBC News OnLine

  • June 13, 2005. Shark facts from National Geographic. National Geographic news

  • June 10, 2005. Fishing nets kill 1000 marine mammals a day. National Geographic News. And don't forget the air-breathing reptiles too: the turtles.

  • June 10, 2005. How to mess about until it's too late. BBC News OnLine

  • June 9, 2005. An unexpected source of nutrition for sea-floor ecosystems: larvacean houses. Nature news site. The paper was in Science: Robison B. et al. Science 308: 1609 - 1611, so will be free access on the Web in a few months.

  • June 8, 2005. The Bush administration calls for massive extension of fish farms offshore. Christian Science Monitor. Well, I think we can assume that they are not thinking about the dietary welfare of the American people. So we should look at this very carefully, and sniff it too.

  • June 7, 2005. Largest red tide in 30 years off the coast of Massachusetts: and it's growing. ENN News. Previous stories:

  • June 6, 2005. J. Craig Venter sails the world in his yacht, collecting genes. San Francisco Chronicle

  • June 4, 2005. The growth of the Yellow River delta (images). BBC News OnLine

  • June 2, 2005. Beached whales saved in western Australia. BBC News OnLine

  • June 1, 2005. Ecuador lifts a ban on sea cucumber fishing in the Galapagos. ENN News. This is bad news for three reasons. First, the sea cucumbers are overfished already (which is why the ban had been instituted in the first place); second, the fishermen bring human pollution to the islands; and third, it shows the Ecuadoreans have no guts when it comes to hard decisions that will maintain the status of the Gapalagos as an evolutionary icon‹‹even though that also brings a lot of hard cash to the national economy. Don't forget that the only reason the sea cucumbers have any value at all is because they are eaten by the ton in Asia, for prestige rather than calories.

  • May 31, 2005. The Canadians arrest a Portuguese trawler for illegal fishing. BBC News OnLine. Previous story from last year: BBC News OnLine, May 2004.

  • May 29, 2005. Gearing up for the annual fight over commercial whaling. BBC News OnLine

  • May 26, 2005. A double whammy: a new underwater volcano, and a hot vent with hundreds of eels around it. Press release from Scripps

  • May 26, 2005. What to do with a leatherback turtle caught in your fishing net. ENN News

  • May 25, 2005. Update on the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. National Geographic News. Previous story: Dead zones" are increasing around the world The Independent, May 15, 2005.

  • May 24, 2005. Australia warns Japan not to increase its whale kill. BBC News OnLine

  • May 24, 2005. Disney restaurant plans to serve shark fin soup. ENN News. I sincerely hope that Walt is spinning in his grave. Just to remind you:

  • May 24, 2005. Blackbeard's last ship. MSNBC

  • May 23, 2005. The Farallon Islands: California's Galapagos. ENN News

  • May 18, 2005. The continuing path of havoc wrought by Iceberg B 15A. Press release. For previous story, scan down to April 19th.

  • May 15, 2005. Oysterville, Washington: the life of oyster farmers trying to stay in business. Pacific Northwest Magazine

  • May 10, 2005. The Gulf Stream is changing and Western Europe will freeze... Well, maybe. Remember, you read it on CNN!

  • May 10, 2005. An on-board account of a Norwegian minke whale hunt. BBC News OnLine

  • May 7, 2005. The last remaining US sardine packing plant. Seattle Times

  • April 26, 2005. Tsunami risk in the Caribbean? Discover magazine

  • April 25, 2005. Career day: how about a job dissecting whales? MSNBC

  • April 25, 2005. Toxic ship heading for break-up in India. BBC News OnLine

  • April 22, 2005. New coral reefs found in Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria. BBC News OnLine. I'm not clear about this one. The reefs are in relatively murky, relatively deep water. So they won;t be like the Great Barrier Reef. Even so, this is a neat discovery. The only things Mornington Island is famous for (in my world view at least) are (1) that they had to evacuate it a while back because it ran out of beer in a typhoon; and (2) there are an astonishing number of Cowens living there. probably Aboriginals I would guess, though I'm sure someone will correct me if they are indeed blue-eyed Brits of Northumbrian heritage.

  • April 19, 2005. Iceberg B15A hits the Drygalski ice tongue. BBC News OnLine, with great satellite photo. For previous stories scan down to April 11.

  • April 19, 2005. It's opening day for the only "legal" whaling fleet in the world: the Norwegians. ENN news

  • April 17, 2005. Rogue wave hits cruise ship. CNN

  • April 14, 2005. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is worryingly large already this spring. Press release. The worry is that it is increasing in extent over the years.

  • April 13, 2005. How overfishing sharks can wreck reefs. Press release. The study will eventually be published in PNAS.

  • April 12, 2005. Japan proposes to kill even more whales. BBC News OnLine. For many previous stories, see June 2, 2004.

  • April 11, 2005. The latest on iceberg B-15A. Press release. Previous stories:

  • April 8, 2005. A potentially dangerous experiment with alien oysters. ENN news

  • April 7, 2005. Fishing wars across the world's oceans. Commentary on ENN site

  • April 5, 2005. Shipping company deliberately dumped waste at sea. Seattle Times. And they had the gall to name the company Evergreen International!

  • April 4, 2005. Using oil rigs as fish farms? AP story in Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • The world's largest iceberg is moving again. ENN news site, April 4, 2005.
  • Giant iceberg has stopped movingNature news service, January 25, 2005.
  • The end of iceberg B-15A Press release, November 12, 2003: and it wasn't the end of B-15A!
  • Prediction of the break-up of giant iceberg B15A. NSF press release, February 20, 2002.
  • Another huge iceberg breaks off from the Antarctic ice shelf. SpaceDaily site, November 18, 2001. This page leads you to previous stories over the past two years.
  • Science News, May 12, 2001.

  • April 2, 2005. Did a tsunami hit Britain in 1607? BBC News OnLine. Though labelled as science news, this is an unmitigated plug for a BBC TV program. Two geologists claim that a flood disaster around the Bristol Channel in southwest England was in fact caused by a tsunami. No matter that this is not an area prone to the LARGE earthquakes that you need to generate a tsunami; no matter that there are no records from anywhere but the Bristol Channel (i.e. nothing from the English Channel). This inlet is funnel-shaped, and is liable to strong storm surges that are amplified toward the narrow head of the Channel. There's even a famous river bore on the River Severn, the main river draining into the Bristol Channel. Obviously, I am underwhelmed, and so are many people discussing it on-line in blogs and discussion groups. The original paper was published in that world-famous journal, Archaeology in the Severn Estuary. More details are given here. You can't persuade me that a tsunami 13 feet high in open water would not have been recorded elsewhere in Britain as it steepened on reaching shore. And the shores of Britain were teeming with sailing ships at that time because the roads were so bad.

  • April 1, 2005. The Monterey Bay Aquarium releases its white shark. ENN news

  • April 1, 2005. A judge orders the EPA to regulate ballast water in incoming ships. San Francisco Chronicle

  • March 30, 2005. Minke whale songs. National Geographic News

  • March 29, 2005. Very few female fish produce all successful offspring. Press release. This is astounding: every generation is a genetic bottleneck. There are all sorts of implications, especially for conseving healthy fisheries. I wonder if it's true for many fish, or just the "rockfish" on which this primary study was done.
  • March 29, 2005. Spread of lice from farmed salmon to wild ones. BBC News OnLine

  • March 28, 2005. Massive shore erosion from last year's Hurricane Ivan. ENN site

  • March 22, 2005. British beach litter is getting worse. BBC News OnLine. This story seems to come around every spring, and every time it's the same... For example, here's last year's story

  • March 21, 2005. Cod fishing in the 1850s. Press release. Underlines what many people know: we have so degraded our fisheries that we don't really have a CLUE what real healthy ecosystems looked like.

  • March 12, 2005. Searching in vain for an underwater eruption. It might be happening where an earthquake swarm is occurring on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, in the Northeast Pacific. Seattle Times

  • March 10, 2005. The fight to save the Great Barrier Reef. Christian Science Monitor

  • March 4, 2005. A dolphin-friendly fishing net. Discover magazine

  • March 2, 2005. A 22-pound lobster is not going to be cooked. The National Geographic News heart-warming story of the week, with image of Bubba himself.

  • February 28, 2005. The songs of whales. BBC News OnLine

  • February 28, 2005. Britannia ruins the waves. The Independent

  • February 25, 2005. What happens as the Arctic Ocean becomes more ice-free? National Geographic News

  • February 24, 2005. Tsunami damage to prawn farms. BBC News OnLine

  • February 23, 2004. Clear evidence that human activity is warming the ocean. Press release from Scripps Institution

  • February 23, 2005. More about squid strandings. National Geographic News. Previous story: Invasion of (dead) giant squid on the California coast. San Francisco Chronicle, January 20, 2005.

  • February 22, 2005. A new sport: surfing tidal bores. National Geographic News

  • February 17, 2005. The sad state of our knowledge of the ocean floor. National Geographic News. Previous story: US nuclear submarine runs into uncharted seamount. National Geographic News, February 1, 2005. I thought these things carried sonar...

  • February 9, 2004. When dead whales fall to the ocean floor...

  • February 1, 2005. Serious losses of North Atlantic right whales this winter. National Geographic News

  • January 28, 2005. Surfer killed by sharks off Adelaide, Australia. National Geographic News

  • January 22, 2005. Bad behavior (illegal, actually) by American fishermen. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  • January 21, 2005. Retrospective on the tsunami that hit Crescent City, California, in 1964. National Geographic News. Notice that it's well hidden in this article that those folks had GONE TO the harbor for a party AFTER the tsunami warning was issued. I have read (can't remember where) that people actually went to the harbor specifically to watch the tsunami!!!

  • January 18, 2005. THE TSUNAMI. You can't have missed the relentless coverage on TV and in newspapers, so I won't post much of that. I'll concentrate on science, and on implications.
    First, the horrendous death toll. This is nowhere near the death toll in the worst geological catastrophe ever, which was likely the 16th century earthquake in North China (I'll look it up for you some other time). That was over 500,000 deaths, as far as we can tell from the records. But there is no question of the scale of this tsunami disaster, with estimates over 125,000 as I write today. That's not likely to be a final total, as cyclones (hurricanes) in this same region have killed over 250,000 people several times this century. (And killed them the same way, by a huge rise in sea level that impacted a crowded, low-lying coast line.)
    Second, warnings. People are talking about a tsunami warning system like the one that operates well in the Pacific Basin. It would be impractical right now to set one up: it would cost a great deal of money to set up a universal warning system along the coastlines of these third-world countries. Much of the current death toll is going to be in small towns and villages, where frankly, a warning system would be very difficult to maintain in the face of weather: it needs reliable power supplies or frequent changes of batteries, maintaining clean terminals, frequent testing, and so on. This is a region where people die of disease, cyclones, civil wars: tsunamis are way down on the list. We'd do the area a favor by spending money on health (especially clean water, AIDS prevention, malaria vaccine) rather than a tsunami warning system. Third, there is always a bright side. The tsunami has done the world a favor by wiping out many of the world's shrimp farms.
    Fourth, I suspect that the country that has suffered the greatest *relative* damage will turn out to have been the Maldives, a country that consists entirely of small, low-lying coral atolls. I have heard no news from there, except that 2/3 of the only town in the country went under water. Why do I say that? See this prospective from BBC News Online , July 2004.The damage to the Maldivian population may have been dreadful, but we won't hear much because it is a small population compared with Sri Lanka.
    OK, enough. Here are some Web links:

  • January 17, 2005. New information on the Pompeii worm that lives in deep-sea hot vents, plus a quick primer on metagenomics. National Geographic News

  • January 12, 2005. Sperm whales get the bends. Press release

  • January 10, 2005. Why swordfish heat up their eyeballs. All the better to see you with.... Nature news service

    For current stories from 2006, go to current ocean news

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    FOR STORIES FROM 2002, go to 2002 news archives

    FOR STORIES FROM June to December 2001, go to June to December 2001

    FOR STORIES FROM January to June 2001, go to Jan-June 2001

    FOR STORIES FROM 2000, go to 2000 news archives

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