Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It

Scientists tagged over 30 great white sharks last fall — more than they had ever done in a single season.

Courtesy Stanford University — Block Lab Hopkins Marine Station

Great white sharks have a “hidden life” that is becoming a lot less hidden thanks to a scientific expedition that has been years in the making.

Scientists used to think the apex predators moved up and down the western coast of North America, snacking in waters with lots of food close to shore. Almost 20 years ago, Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block started putting tags on the sharks that could track their movements.

She and other researchers noticed something surprising — the tags showed that the sharks were moving away from these food-rich waters and heading more than a thousand miles off the coast of Baja California in Mexico.

Satellite images suggested the area was an ocean desert, a place with very little life.

The mystery of what was drawing the sharks to this strange place set new research into motion.

“We wanted to know if there was a hidden oasis that was formed by the currents that we couldn’t see from space,” Block said.

To find out, the scientists tagged over 30 great white sharks last fall — more than they had ever done in a single season. They’ve already gotten to know some of these animals from years of research. They’ve even given them names, such as Eugene, Tilden and Leona.

Then this spring, the research team set off on a state-of-the-art ship called the research vessel Falkor toward the mysterious area, hoping to find the sharks they tagged.

“There’s a lot of expectation when you put technology on an animal and then you take an expensive ship like the Falkor with 40 people to a box in the middle of the ocean and expect that these white sharks are going to be there,” Block said, speaking from the ship.

Sure enough, the animals were indeed swimming to this remote place, which the researchers have nicknamed the “White Shark Cafe.”

“Just as we predicted, the sharks showed up right in the cruise box,” Block added.

Schmidt Ocean Institute YouTube

The tags were programmed to pop off and float to the surface right when the Falkor was there. Each tag that reached the surface gave off a signal — and kicked off what Block called an “open-ocean treasure hunt,” as the team tried to find something the size of a small microphone in an area about the size of Colorado. These sophisticated tags record temperature, pressure, light and time.

“We doubled our current 20-year data set in three weeks,” Block said. The tags have 2,500 days of data at one- to three-second intervals, allowing researchers to see how the white sharks move up and down through the water with unprecedented detail.

In early March, two months before Falkor departed for the same mission, two saildrones were deployed from San Francisco. They have been transmitting data in real time, listening for the acoustic tags that researchers attached to great white sharks and using sonar to detect other creatures deep under the surface.

SOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

The scientists will need time to parse all of this information, including new mysteries such as why male and female sharks move differently through the water. The males move up and down rapidly — sometimes 120 times a day. Females will go up to the shallow water at night, then down much deeper in the day.

“The male white shark and the female white shark are doing completely different things, and that’s not something we’ve seen so much before,” Block said. “We have to spend some time studying these behaviors to try to understand if this is courtship behavior or is this really a feeding or foraging behavior.”

And after the tags popped up, the scientists used a range of techniques to learn about the water nearby. They had a couple of saildrones, which are surface vehicles that can locate plankton and fish. They also gathered DNA from the water to figure out what is moving down there and observed creatures using a remotely operated underwater vehicle and by pulling them up in nets.

“We expected it to be the desert that the textbooks sort of advertised it would be,” said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

But this was no desert.

A layer of nutrient-rich plant life exists deeper under the ocean than satellites could detect. Tiny creatures feed on it, and larger creatures feed on them. And up and up. It represents “a complete food chain, a ladder of consumption, that made us believe that there was an adequate food supply out here for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” Robison said.

The scientists found that the “White Shark Cafe,” originally thought to be an ocean desert, actually is home to a diverse food chain.

Schmidt Ocean Institute

Robison was surprised by how diverse the area was, with animals such as fish, squids, crustaceans and jellyfish. They saw totally different patterns of life in sites just a few miles away from one another, an indication of the area’s complexity.

The fact that scientists didn’t even know this area existed until sharks led them there speaks to how much we still don’t know about the ocean. In fact, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, humans have explored just 5 percent of it.

“People don’t really get is why it’s like that — it’s because it’s really hard to do,” Block said. She added that there could be more ocean hot spots out there that scientists are not yet aware of.

And Robison said all the information they gathered could help build a case for why the White Shark Cafe should be officially protected by the U.N. cultural agency. UNESCO is considering recognizing and protecting it by making it a World Heritage Site.

NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEBSITE OF ‘GIZMODO’)

 

NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

The edge of A-68, the iceberg the calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017. (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Back in July, satellite images showed an iceberg bigger than the state of Delaware calving and drifting away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. Well, it’s summertime now in Antarctica, which means scientists are finally able to view this behemoth from up close—and the pictures are just as spectacular as we imagined.

Known as iceberg A-68, the gigantic slab of ice weighs about a trillion tons and features a surface area of 2,240 square miles (5,800 square kilometers). The berg is slowly drifting away from the Larsen C ice shelf, possibly heading towards the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. As it floats away from the Antarctic Peninsula, A-68 is splintering and forming more icebergs in the process.

This past Sunday, November 12th, members of Operation Icebridge—a NASA-led initiative to produce detailed 3D maps of Antarctic and Arctic polar ice—flew a P-3 aircraft armed with a sophisticated array of measuring instruments to take a closer look.

A remarkable shot of A-69, revealing the extent of its size. (Image: NASA/John Sonntag)

“Perhaps you know the feeling: that moment when you see with your eyes something you have previously only seen in pictures,” wrote science writer Kathryn Hansen, who participated in the trip, in an article penned for NASA’s Earth Observatory. “Before today, I knew the Larsen C ice shelf only from the satellite images we have published since August 2016.”

A wide view showing iceberg A-68B (front), iceberg A-68A (middle) and the Larsen C ice shelf (back). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Hansen said she wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the iceberg, as most bergs she’s seen were relatively small and blocky.

“A-68 is so expansive it appears if it were still part of the ice shelf,” she said. “But if you look far into the distance you can see a thin line of water between the iceberg and where the new front of the shelf begins. A small part of the flight today took us down the front of iceberg A-68, its towering edge reflecting in the dark Weddell Sea.”

Who’s up for a swim!? Larsen C ice shelf (left) and iceberg A-68A (right). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

In addition to taking photos, the Operational Icebridge scientists sought to measure the depth of water below iceberg, which they did using radar and a gravimeter.

IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz and Sebastián Marinsek from Instituto Antártica Argentino observe Larsen C from a window on the P-3 aircraft. (Image: NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

Scientists now have the clearest picture yet of A-68, which will help them track and study its progress moving forward.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Dvorsky

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Massive iceberg breaks away from Antarctica

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Massive iceberg breaks away from Antarctica

(CNN) A massive iceberg weighing more than one trillion tons has broken away from western Antarctica, according to a UK-based research team.

Scientists from Project MIDAS had been monitoring a break in the Larsen C ice shelf — the fourth largest in Antarctica — following the collapse of the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and had observed significant advances in the rift over the past 12 months.

The rift, then spanning 70 miles, on Larsen C pictured in November last year.

Experts said the separation of a 5,800 square kilometers (2,239 square miles) section of Larsen C was confirmed to have broken away between Monday and Wednesday by NASA’s Aqua MODIS satellite, which is capable of producing images in thermal infrared at a resolution of 1 km.

See Newfoundland’s ‘Iceberg Alley’ in 360° 01:26
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project said in a statement.
He told CNN the team believes the iceberg has remained intact adding, “This is part of the normal behavior of ice shelves. What makes this unusual is the size.”

Map showing iceberg detachment based on data from NASA dated July 12.

Scientists believe the iceberg — likely to be named A68 — has a volume twice that of Lake Erie in North America and is more than three times the size of the greater London area.

See how Iceland is melting in 360° 04:06
It’s half the size of the largest iceberg ever recorded: B15. With an area of 11,007 square kilometers (4,250 square miles) — about the size of the state of Connecticut or the island of Jamaica — it calved off Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000.
With the iceberg now floating independently, the area of Larsen C has been reduced by more than 12%, forever changing the landscape of the peninsula, according to experts.

An aerial view of the Larsen C rift.

Luckman said that as the sheet of ice was already floating before it carved off the shelf “there will be no immediate impact.”
“This event does not directly affect anyone, and repercussions, if there are any, will not be felt for years. However, it is a spectacular and enormous geographical event which has changed the landscape.”
“We will study the ice shelf for signs that it is reacting to the calving — but we do not expect anything much to happen for perhaps years. Icebergs are routinely monitored by various agencies, and they will be keen to keep track of this one,” Luckman added.

Back in November, a satellite photo revealed just 5 km of ice connected the ice sheet to Larsen C.

Calving is a natural occurrence but scientists have been exploring if climate change may have played a role in expediting the rift.
The team of researchers have not yet found “any link to human-induced climate change,” Martin O’Leary, a Swansea University glaciologist and member of the MIDAS project team, said in a statement.

NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER / NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Luckman added, “We have no evidence to link this directly to climate change, and no reason to believe that it would not have happened without the extra warming that human activity has caused. But the ice shelf is now at its most retreated position ever recorded and regional warming may have played a part in that.”
He continued, “This event does not directly affect anyone, and repercussions, if there are any, will not be felt for years. However, it is a spectacular and enormous geographical event which has changed the landscape

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

11:20 AM ET

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said in a new interview that America’s standing in the world was better under former President Barack Obama than it is now under President Donald Trump.

McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent who remained a vocal critic during his presidency, asked by The Guardian whether U.S. standing in the world was better under Obama. “As far as American leadership is concerned, yes,” McCain said.

He was also critical of Trump’s Twitter attacks against London Mayor Sadiq Khan following the recent terrorist attack in the city.

Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!

McCain said Trump sent the message to the United Kingdom that, “America does not want to lead.”

 

“They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica,” McCain said.

175 Km Long Crack In Antarctic Ice Shelf: Largest Iceberg In Our Lifetime Is Possible

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Plane flies along Antarctica’s giant Larsen crack

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has released new footage of the ice crack that promises to produce a giant berg.

The 175 km-long fissure runs through the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

If it propagates just 20km more, a block of ice a quarter the size of Wales will break away into the Weddell Sea.

Scientists gathered the new video while recovering instrumentation that had been placed on the ice shelf.

Uncertainty about the stability of the region means researchers cannot set up camp as they would normally do, and instead make short visits in a Twin Otter plane.

The most recent sortie enabled the researchers also to fly along the length of the crack, which is 400-500m wide in places, to assess its status.

No-one can say for sure when the iceberg will calve, but it could happen anytime.

At 5,000 sq km, it would be one of the biggest ever recorded.

When it splits, interest will centre on how the breakage will affect the remaining shelf structure.

The Larsen B Ice Shelf further to the north famously shattered following a similar large calving event in 2002.

The issue is important because floating ice shelves ordinarily act as a buttress to the glaciers flowing off the land behind them.

In the case of Larsen B, those glaciers subsequently sped up in the absence of the shelf. And it is the land ice – not the floating ice in a shelf – that adds to sea level rise.

If Larsen C were to go the same way it would continue a trend across the Antarctic Peninsula.

In recent decades, a dozen major ice shelves have disintegrated, significantly retreated or lost substantial volume – including Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller, Jones Channel, and Wilkins.

Dr Paul Holland from BAS commented: “Iceberg calving is a normal part of the glacier life cycle, and there is every chance that Larsen C will remain stable and this ice will regrow.

“However, it is also possible that this iceberg calving will leave Larsen C in an unstable configuration. If that happens, further iceberg calving could cause a retreat of Larsen C.

“We won’t be able to tell whether Larsen C is unstable until the iceberg has calved and we are able to understand the behaviour of the remaining ice.”

The removal of the ice would also enable scientists to study the uncovered seabed.

When Larsen B broke away, the immediate investigation chanced upon new species.

Under the Antarctic Treaty, no fishing activity would be permitted in the area for 10 years.

The big bergs that break away from Antarctica are monitored from space.

They will often drift out into the Southern Ocean where they can become a hazard to shipping.

The biggest iceberg recorded in the satellite era was an object called B-15.

Covering an area of some 11,000 sq km, it came away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000.

Six years later fragments of the super-berg passed by New Zealand.

In 1956, a berg of roughly 32,000 sq km – bigger than Belgium – was spotted in the Ross Sea by a US Navy icebreaker. But there were no satellites at that time to follow-up.

Many of the bergs that break away from the Weddell Sea area of Antarctica get exported into the Atlantic. A good number get caught on the shallow continental shelf around the British overseas territory of South Georgia where they gradually wither away.

The study of the Larsen C Ice Shelf is led by Swansea University through its MIDAS Project, which involves BAS.

South GeorgiaImage copyright THINKSTOCK
Image caption The remnants of many such bergs end up at South Georgia

[email protected] and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

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