Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Monday, October 29, 2007

The best of times! -- Update

A month ago I blogged a post entitled "The best of times!" in which I observed rather unscientifically that
"There's only one named tropical storm in North Atlantic so far became a hurricane. (Tropical storm Dean was upgraded to the first hurricane of the 2007 season on August 16.)"
Well, the 2007 hurricane season has still one month left, Ryan Maue, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University just prepared a fabulous summary of the 2007 yearly tropical cyclone activity that shows 2007 hurricane season may rank as the most "inactive" one in 30 years and made this morning's headline in Drudge Report. Here's one of his charts:
Are we really in the midst of global warming? Hurricanes are certainly not cooporating with that contention!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Perilous Algarve

According to this guide, the Algarve is the most southern region of Portugal and it's one of Europe's favourite holiday destinations well known for glorious year round sunshine and excellent sandy beaches. But this news in Telegraph.co.uk on Wednesday reporting that "Three Britons and a German have drowned while trying to save three children who got into difficulties while swimming off the coast of the Algarve in Portugal" certainly put a large shadow over the vacation place. The news even being reported on radio in U.S.
An article by David Brown in today's Timesonline.co.uk provided some details on what had happened as told by a survivor, Mr. Dean Plumb, who was there.

“We spent a lot of time in the water, body-boarding and swimming. It was perfect, the waves were great fun and we did a rota with the children, with some of us with them as they swam or played football and one of us always looking after our stuff on the beach,” recalled Mr Plumb, of South Marston near Swindon.

“I was looking after everything when some of the children went back in the water. It was probably the last swim of the day before we would have gone home.”

As the reporter noted that about that time the tide had begun to change and the outgoing water had created a whirlpool close to a rock in the middle of the cove. Although the water was only chest height, the children began to be dragged out to sea. Mr. Plumb said:
“There was a sudden commotion down on the beach. One of the children was crying and I realised something had gone very wrong. I ran down and saw my eldest son Sam was in the water.

“I stripped off and swam towards him. I shouted, ‘I will meet you half way’. He shouted, ‘Dad the waves are taking us farther out’. We were hit by a big, aggressive wave and I knew exactly at that point that we were in a lot of trouble.

“I reached Sam and somehow pulled him forward, but it seemed like every five seconds we were hit by another large wave. They were so strong that you couldn’t get air, it was disorientating.”

There were two surfers nearby who managed to grabbed his son while Plumb tried to return to the beach and his ordeal continued:

“But from that point on I was just in a constant fight with the rip-tide. You can see it coming towards you like an Exocet, but you can’t do anything about it. The waves just hit you and hit you. When they clear, you are somewhere totally different because they’ve tossed you around.

“There was a time when I managed to climb on to the big central rock and then I thought I would be OK. But I was too exhausted, I didn’t have the strength, and another wave knocked me off and smashed me over the rocks. I went from elation to absolute despair. I tried to claw back on to it but I couldn’t resist the strength of the waves and they took me farther out.”

“I don’t know how long I was out there but it felt like at least half an hour, and the waves kept breaking over me. One time I surfaced near a surfer, but I was out of reach. I finally got to him and he shouted, ‘Grab the board, grab the board’, but then this almighty wave hit us and sent us both spiralling.

“I was losing all strength. I could feel I was coming up for air and breathing out water I had breathed in. It felt like it was in my lungs. My legs and arms were so tired. I tried to swim on my back because I didn’t have the strength to keep doing front crawl, and that did seem to get me closer to the beach.

“The next thing I remember is people dragging me forward. Without them I didn’t have the orientation or the energy to even drag myself to shore. From that point I just closed down. I remember people were comforting me. I could see my youngest son Harry and I could hear Sue. I didn’t know then that Sam was safe, but I saw him later. The next thing I remember was paramedics giving me an oxygen mask.”

Mr. Plumb was still one of the lucky ones. His friends Mr. and Mrs. Fry and a German tourist were swept to their deaths, left the two Fry children 9 and 11 lost both of their prents. That was a sad, sad story.

So its not only freaque waves that might ruin a perfect vacation, tidal currents and rip currents are also extremely dangerous on the beach. Again I can't help wondering -- what if they could all have their life vest on . . .?

Sir Francis Chichester and Cape Horn

I find the story of Sir Francis Chichester inspiring and exhiarating. In his mid sixties, he successfully solo circumnavigated the globe in 1966-1967 for a 274 day voyage with 226 days in sailing in his Gipsy Moth IV. About waves, according to bbc.co.uk, he said:

"There is something nightmarish about deep breaking seas and screaming winds. I had a feeling of helplessness before the power of the waves came rolling down on top of me."

That's really from someone who knows what he's talking about. After rounding Cape Horn in huge waves, he said further:
"Wild horses could not drag me down to Cape Horn and that sinister Southern Ocean again in a small boat."
But he is already "been there, done that!" What a modern day Sir Francis Drake! As a matter of fact he was knighted by the Queen in 1967 - and she used the same sword that Queen Elizabeth I used to knight Sir Francis Drake.

I don't think I have an ambition to rounding Cape Horn even in a big boat. The Montreal Gazette yesterday reprinted a 2004 article by Ashley Ford described an experience of rounding Cape Horn on a big boat:
It's the deadliest tip of the world and, as we approach Cape Horn, it bares its fangs.
Howling, savage 40-knot winds, gusting to 50 knots out of the west- northwest kick the sea into a boiling pot of 13-metre waves that pound themselves against our ship.
And while equal to the task, Celebrity Cruise Lines' Infinity and all her 593 feet and 90,000 tonnes shudders, dips and spirals as the mighty southern sea sends out a not-so-gentle message of just who is in command down here.
The ship's master, Captain Dimitrios Kefetzis, calmly breaks in to give the latest navigational report and ends with his usual cheerful "this is the captain . . . out!"
Two hours later, he is on the blower again saying conditions have forced a course change to get into the Magellan Straits. An hour later at dinner we all get a personal message. A rogue wave smashes into us, sending food like missiles through the air -- food all over the place and some passengers literally under the table.
Here is another case of unrecorded freaque wave in 2004. May be 2003, as the reporter did not gave the size of the wave or exact date of its occurrence.

Anyway, that's enough for me just reading about it. At my age I have no desire of doing something to lay a claim on "been there, done that!" I am satisfied to bejust an admirer of other brave heroes who had "been there, done that!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Pink Lady story

Shortly after I started this blog, I started to compile a list of known freaque wave encounters that can be found on record. That was a daunting task just trying to do it through surfing the internet. I managed to get to it as much as possible and it was published this year as a professional paper in Geofizika entitled "A chronology of freaque wave encounters."

One thing that any chronology compiler can not claim is completeness, no matter how much efforts one devoted. There were no encounter listed during the years 2003 and 2004. That certainly does not mean that there were no freaque wave occurrence in those years. Today I just came across a 2004 case that I missed. Here's part of the story from an article in the August 9, 2004 Telegraph.co.uk by Richard Alleyne:

Four British rowers rescued from a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic have described the moment a freak wave smashed their boat in two.

The men, 39 days into an attempt on the century-old record for a crossing from Newfoundland, Canada, to Falmouth, Cornwall, were 300 miles from home when they were caught by the tail end of Hurricane Alex yesterday.

They had abandoned rowing and battened down their vessel, the 30ft Pink Lady, hoping to ride out the 70mph winds and 45ft waves.

But just as it looked like they were over the worst, a huge wave hit the carbon fibre boat, splitting it in half and ripping out the back.

They were picked up by a container ship and are expected to be dropped off in Foynes, southern Ireland, today.

In other reports that huge wave had been described as 60 ft high freaque wave. They were poised to break the old crossing record of 55 days when the freaque wave hit. One of the crew, Jonathan Gornall, 48, a journalist from London said "We are all very grateful to be alive. It is a shame we didn't make it, but at least we can assure ourselves it wasn't anything we did wrong." He proceeded to say:
"We thought we were going to get through the night, the weather was going to moderate.

"We were in the rear cabin when this rogue wave struck us. We were trying to sleep and the next thing we knew we were under water and fighting to escape the rear of the vessel which had been smashed.

"When we surfaced we looked at the boat and it was obvious we had been hit by a tremendous wave. It was unlike anything we had experienced before.

"You take on nature and you take what she delivers - and on this occasion she dealt us a killer blow.

"I just remember hearing it coming - unlike anything we had experienced before."
Mark Stubbs, 40, a former Reyal Marine and skipper of the boat Pink Lady, said:
"I have never seen conditions like it. There was a force 11 wind and huge seas.

"We heard two cracks and then the boat sheared in half. There was a bit of a struggle getting out of the boat and into the life-raft and that was when we suffered the minor injuries.

"We climbed into the life-raft and got away. We had a bit of a heavy time in the raft because of the huge seas and screaming winds."

The four rowers were successfully rescued by the 400 ft Scandinavia Reefer, a container ship transporting bananas across the Atlantic. Probably the skipper Stubbs described their feelings best when he said:"We got out in one piece and that is the main thing. We are OK and we just want to get back to our loved ones."

Of course, this is one of the good stories to blog. Because, thank God, it's a happy ending and a happy story to tell for every one!

Now one of the crews, Peter Bray, is currently planning a new boat for a single-handed attempt on the North Atlantic route from Newfoundland to Britain according to this latest BYM Sailing ans Sports News.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The encounter of Bencruachan -- been there!

I blogged last year in this post about the cargo ship Bencruachan that encountered a freaque wave off South Africa in 1973. Of all the infomations I can find, there was just no indication of the size of wave they encountered. I commented that I wish "to know how big was the freak wave that hit Bencruachan." I am thrilled to receive the following email from a Mr. Robert Hicklin of U.K. the last weekend:
Bencruachan. I was 2nd Radio Officer on this vessel at the time of the freak wave incident in 1973. If you wish to contact me I may be able to add to any info you may have. With regard to the size of the wave I do recall the officer of the watch commenting later the wave 'cleared over the top of the bridge'. The time was early A.M. if my memory serves me well. Fortunately there was no one on deck. I believe the speed we hit was 19.5 knots.(Service speed was 21 knots). As you will be aware this vessel is 'stern accommodation' so if the officers description is accurate the minimum wave height should be calculable. Of note is we were the first vessel to activate a radio auto alarm system that alerted the Coast Guard and Durban Life Boat. The station had only been commissioned the day before. The tug that came to our assistance was the 'Marjon 3' which was being delivered I believe to the Gulf. It was replaced by another tug several days later, as the harbourmaster would not let the vessel be towed into port as it may sink and block the channel. The Marjon 3 went on to be delivered. When the wave hit it stove in the forward hatch, and had sufficient force to fracture the bulkhead between No.1 and 2 hold. We lost the forward crane and some containers. The bow section folded and perforated. We finished down by the bow, the fore deck being awash. The salvage people were Schmitt’s of Holland, so they should be able to assist you with information. Durban lifeboat came to our assistance. Some of us became friends with two of the lifeboats crew during our subsequent stay. They were Johnnie Hemsley (Engineer - Kiwi), and Dougie Murphy. We stayed with their families occasionally whilst undergoing temporary repairs. Many years later the 'Durban Mercury' furnished me with copies of their pictures and stories, so they may also be able to assist you.
Now my wish has been answered along with many more details about the encounter from one who was really there! The eyewitness account of "the wave 'cleared over the top of the bridge'" is certainly providing a valuable indication of the size of the wave height. Not knowing the measurements of Bencruachan and not a sea-going person in general myself, I am not in position to make an accurate estimate of the wave height. But at any rate from Mr. Hicklin's description I surmise that the wave height is probably around 35 m or more. (Please correct me if I am off base on this guesswork.) That's a big wave for certain, but it should not be surprising especially considering the encounter took place near the renown Agulhas current.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It happened -- a sad beautiful story

This is an exceedingly sad story but it is also an extraordinarily beautiful story. I first read about it from the transcript of a TV tabloid program through Google Alert. My first reaction was "Please, not again!" Then I tried to discount it because the tabloid neglect to tell when and where. I need further confirmation. My fellow blogger Rob Stormer kindly sent me five different news reports about the case completed with pictures and all who, what, where, and when. There's no more doubt, it is true and it really happened!

The center of this story is this picture:
As this article in ZanesvilleTimeRecorder, by L. B. Whyde, tells:

The candid photo, taken Sept. 27, reveals her standing on a rocky cliff in front of maddening white surf, the wind blowing her hair as she points with one hand toward something she sees.

In that frozen moment, Sarah Scherer had been doing what her husband, Christopher, knows she did best: pointing out the beauty in her surroundings.



"She was in her element when we took that picture," Christopher said of the image taken only seconds before Scherer, 28, a 1997 Newark High School graduate, was swept by a large wave into the Mediterranean Sea, unable to be rescued despite efforts Christopher and others made to save her.

"Her head and her arms were above water. She had a lot of blood flowing down her head," he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "She was struggling to stay afloat, and she started to do the backstroke."

Christopher Scherer, who had just taken her picture, tried to help her but was pulled in himself; another wave threw him back ashore. He somehow managed to end up back on the rocks, breaking a rib and cutting his arms and hands.

Now, Christopher's last photograph of his wife standing on the rocky cliffs is a bittersweet reminder, he said.

"It's difficult (to look at) because the images of what happened after are so vivid ... In the same sense, when I look at the picture, she is so full of life she's doing what she always wanted to do."

It is that beautiful rocky shore. Don't we all eager to have a picture taken there? Do we ever think for a moment about the possible danger lurking behind it? The ZanesvilleTimesRecorder calls it an accident as they report: "The accident occurred September 27th along the Cinque Terre coast." I tend to think it's more than an accident, but I don't think our language has a term for what happened there yet. I said it's also a beautiful story just let this Newhouse News Service report, by Jesse Tinsley, tells it
The best day of Sarah Scherer's life was her last.

On some steps overlooking the Mediterranean in northern Italy, she posed as her husband took a snapshot.

It was Sept. 27, the second day of the Madison, Ohio, couple's trip to Cinque Terre, or five villages, famous for Via dell' Amore — a Lover's Lane that winds through the villages.

Vineyards and olive groves stretch from the hillsides to the sea. And Mediterranean sunsets, charming seaside villages and small-town hospitality draw lovers from all over to this slice of paradise.

"It was a trip she always wanted to take," her husband, Christopher, said. "She always wanted to walk the Cinque Terre."

But as he snapped another photo, a huge wave rose from the sea and swept her away.

"I started screaming and ran to where she went in," said Christopher. "The water just pulled her down, back into the sea ..."

A second wave hit Christopher, crashing him into the rocks and taking him under.

A third wave tossed him out of the water and onto the rocks, breaking a rib and cutting up his hands and arms.

Scherer followed his wife along the coastline, yelling for help.

One of those who joined him threw a life preserver, but she was too far out, he said.

"I saw her head bleeding, blood washing down her face," he recalled. "She was struggling to stay afloat and she started to do the backstroke." Then she disappeared beneath the waves.

Both 28, they met six years ago at a mutual friend's home.

Christopher worked as a team leader for Avery Dennison in Lake County. Sarah was working on her master's degree in art therapy and community counseling at Ursuline College.

Their two-week European vacation was long overdue. The Scherers had visited Paris, Venice and other cities before taking a train to Cinque Terre.

At one point, they stopped at a path with paved steps that led down to the rocks. She took his photo, and she stood at the same spot so that he could take hers.

"I took one picture and the second one that I have is her getting struck by the wave," Christopher said.

My sincere sympathy goes to Christopher and their family. Words are no longer adequate. The only question in the back of my mind is what if -- what if they could all have a life vest on?!

Update

A further development and some further words reported in the News-Herald by Jason Lea:

The president of Cinque Terre State Park is setting up two plaques in memory of Sarah, Christopher said. One will be the picture of her pointing to the sea.

Sarah's mother said: "Sarah was a romantic. If she had to die, being taken out to sea ... she would approve."

"I don't take anything for granted anymore," Christopher said. "Any of the time we ever wasted, I wish I could have just a minute of it back. All my friends who have spouses, I'm going to remind them to treasure them and love them while they still can."

Update September 12, 2008

In about two weeks it will be one year anniversary of the happening of this sad beautiful story -- the lost of Sarah Scherer at the Cinque Terre coast on September 27, 2007. Christine, Sarah's Mom, recent emailed me some detailed information about the event beyond those reported in the newspaper:
We spoke with many of the sailors in Manarola-some who witnessed the whole ordeal there. They called it a rogue wave that hit her. It was at least a 30 foot wave. I did take pictures of the cliff from the side view and will include it here. The sailors also talked of the time of the day they were there that the currents change right around noon. Chris had been where Sarah was before she was standing there for her to take pictures of him. The sailors said that the sea probably looked quite ok when they first got there, even though it was a rough sea that day and then when the current changed-the waves came in 3-the first one took her. She did not drown—but died of the head injuries that came from being smashed on the very rough rocks there and was probably dead in 3-5 minutes. If she wouldn’t have hit the rocks-she may have made it as she was an expert swimmer-and life guard and swim instructor. Chris dropped the camera after taking the picture of the wave hitting her---you could see that it was over her head in the picture. He was taken by the next wave, but had run to the edge of the rocks so didn’t get smashed on them…then the 3rd wave threw him back onto the rocks—and before this happened-he thought he was also dead as was under awhile. Once he hit the rocks, he hung on and then crawled out and up the walk and summoned help from an American woman and her daughter---but Sarah was probably already or close to death—they threw out a life preserver to her and she didn’t respond.
Christine and Christopher, Sarah's loving husband, attended a ceremony in July organized by local Cinque Terre to remember Sarah's case "because of a fierce wave in Manarola last year" with details and a video here.

What struck me was the fact that Sarah was not drown
but "died of the head injuries that came from being smashed on the very rough rocks there." My general reaction that they may need wearing a life vest while out there should be revised. In addition to a life vest, may be a helmet should also be wearing while out on those rocky shores.

I have been alluded frequently that we don't know how, where, or why those fierce freaque waves happen and there are different kinds of freaque waves depends on where it happens: deep sea freaque waves, nearshore freaque waves, and onshore freaquer waves. For the onshore freaque waves, there must be distinctions between sandy shore and rocky shore. All these phenomena happen out there all the time we don't really know much about them. We only heard them when there are trigedies or disasters occur.

I have a proposal for the academic world: give the onshore freaque waves hitting a rocky shore a new designation: call it the Sarah wave!

I came across this Youtube video which did not indicate where it took place. It is not the same as Cinque Terre coast, but I think it would be a good example of a Sarah wave at the end!

Irish waves generate electricity

Trials of a unique Irish ocean wave energy converter, the Wavebob, yielded exciting results this week with Wavebob Ltd's announcement that it's prototype device is now producing electricity
I found the above news form here mildly exciting.
I have never heard the company Wavebob before. I salute them! I think they are doing a very commendable effort. There are waves all over the globe. It's about time someone trying to harness and make good use of them.

For those chicken-little scientists only trying to imply larger wave height measurements in recent years are results of global warming -- shame on you!

A storm in a teacup

I always admire the weather forecasters for the service they provide and often not being duly appreciated. Making a forecast is a risky thing, because there is always the chance that it does not come through. But I really did not know much about the history of weather forecasting and how risky it can be when I read the story told in this Timesonline article earlier this week:
Ever since Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy set up the world’s first national meteorological office in England in 1854 forecasters have been blamed for getting the weather wrong. In fact, FitzRoy was so widely ridiculed whenever he made a wrong forecast that he committed suicide.
It's been over 150 year since then. With the advances of science and technology, I am sure Admiral FtizRoy would enjoy the many accomplishments of the profession he started and probably will not take his own life again. Of course perils remain. As reported in this same article:

So you have to feel sorry for Michael Fish. Every anniversary of the Great Storm of October 1987, out trot the repeats of his legendary forecast about “don’t worry, there is no hurricane on the way”, just hours before the big storm struck. Actually he meant a hurricane in Florida, and added it would be windy in England that night. But everyone went to bed thinking there was nothing to worry about. So there was national horror when 100mph winds felled 15 million trees, power and transport links collapsed and 19 people died, the most devastating storm in England for more than 250 years.

The Met Office was roasted. It had forecast the storm, but thought it would largely miss England. Crucial weather observations were missing after weather ships had been withdrawn as part of financial cutbacks. Though its big weather forecasting computer was not up to tracking highly explosive storms, the human forecasters were too enthralled by it to question its results.

Things changed afterwards. Satellites beamed down more information, a bigger computer was bought and run on better models, and forecasters dissected the 1987 storm to learn every lesson. Only three years later the Met Office correctly forecast the huge Burns Day storm that battered the country with even greater devastation.

Forecasts are now better, and we are told another 1987-type fiasco is highly unlikely. But blunders still happen. In January 2003 the Midlands was brought to its knees when the Met Office predicted snow and councils gritted their roads.

Then unexpected rains washed away the grit and a cold snap froze the roads into sheets of ice. In 2004 seaside resorts were left seething on May Bank Holiday when heavy rain was predicted, only to see glorious sunshine but no visitors.

The list can go on and, of course, the forecasts that go wrong are more memorable than the majority that are right. But the Met Office is now entering some murky waters with its seasonal forecasts made months in advance. Last winter was billed as milder than average but colder than in recent years, which led some media to conclude that we were heading for an Arctic freeze with icebergs floating down the North Sea. And what happened to predictions back in May that this summer’s temperatures would be above average, with “70 per cent certainty”? As it turned out, temperatures were just below average, but that was the least of our worries when the rains crashed down.
It is a very informative and educational Times article well worth a detail read. With this being the 20th anniversary of the 1987 storm, it is probably a hard time period for the famous Michaeel Fish. An article entitled "A storm in a teacup" by U.K.'s Channel 4 News has this to say:
Twenty years ago, on the eve of the big storm of 1987 which killed 18 people, Michael Fish, BBC weatherman, said these immortal words: "Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well don't worry if you're watching, there isn't". Not long after, the storm hit - and Fish was left with egg on his face. 20 years on, he's still trying to wipe it off. The clip's played over and over on YouTube, adding to his misery. The name of the woman who rang in was even an answer in Trivial Pursuit.
Fish, now retired, has just published a book "Storm Force -- Britain's Wildest Weather" presumably trying to clarify things. Reading this Channel 4 article it does not seem that's very successful. Being the most famous weatherman in Britain and two songs written about him, I think Channel 4 think Mr. Fish should be satisfied and get on with it.

Twenty years ago this time U.K. had their great storm, this side of Atlantic in U.S. a different kind of storm was brewing -- the October 19, 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. With the resilience of U.S. economy in the last two decades that essentially rendered that '87 crash insignificant, not too many people are likely to pay attention to that date any more. One thing I remember about it was a Dr. someone, his name escaped me, who claimed that he predicted that crash and probably got his instant fame. He was a perpetual pessimist, his bleak forecast came through for that day. At least I was not aware that anyone had ever characterized that crash as a freak wave!

At any rate this post today was inspired from being amused by the charming title "A storm in a teacup."

Update:

On this day, October 19, 2007, a good commemorate of the day may be the comment given by Andy McCarthy on the Corner on National Review Online: "When the Dow closes down 367 points and everyone yawns?" with the title "How bad can it be?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Circumzenithal Arc -- the smiling sky?

From the Chinese news site, epochtimes, there's a report of up-side-down rainbow happened in the Yangku County of Shangtung Province in the afternoon of October 14:
It is indeed an unusual phenomenon but it is not a rainbow! It is a beautiful halo, called the "circumzenithal arc" (CZA), caused by sunlight shining through a thin, invisible screen of tiny ice crystals high in the sky. There was a good article about it by David Perlman in San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year. Wikipedia also has a good article with pictures. More detail pictures here.

CZA is generally considered a rare phenomenon, superstitious Chinese tend to regard this kind of rare happenings may be harbinger of some impending events. As the concave up arc sometimes resembles a grin in the sky, but why would the sky grining over a country being oppressed by a tyrannical, totalitarain, commie regime for nearly six decades, with more than 80 million of its own people being killed throughout the years, and catastrophic persecutions continued daily? Well, on the day before the opening of the 17th commie party kingpin's national congress, the grin in the sky is clearly not a random thing. It is in fact telling the long suffered Chinese people that up above there the sky is seeing the coming demise of the commie regime, a free democratic country with liberty and justice for all will not far behind. That's why the sky is smiling!

Update

I mentioned
above the 17th commie party kingpin's national congress, it is going on right now. There's very little about it being reported by our media. Here I would like to show two tidbits:

First, here are two pictures:

The country is called the "Pe0ple's Republic." This is the big 17th people's congress being held in the People's Congress building shown in the background of the first picture. But where are the people? Well, people are the real enemy of the regime so real Chinese people need to be firmly kept away by these thugs and beasts shown here. Military in the second picture is preparing for war against people!

Another amusing point is that Chinese people, generally passive, tend to vent off their frustrations through playing with words. Here's a latest:
The top line says "Chinese Communists' 17th big congress." The lower line actually phonetically sounds exactly the same as the top line, but it means "Communist is terminated and its death moment is arrived!" Isn't this another good reason that the sky is smiling?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Swept out to sea

I found this following story from here, complete with this nice nearshore wave picture:
Here's the story:
Standing near the edge of his boat that was gently rocking with the waves, Greg Hartley made the final adjustments to his scuba gear. Satisfied all his equipment was just right, he stepped off into the frigid waters of Queen Charlotte Strait. Queen Charlotte Strait is a long deep channel of water that runs between the northern part of Vancouver Island and Canada. Greg's co-workers on the boat watched his trail of air bubbles for a few moments before they resumed working on other duties.

With a series of kicks with his flippers and a sweep of his hands, Greg propelled himself to the bottom of the strait. The amount of life he saw during these dives never ceased to amaze him. Through his mask he saw red rockfish, green ling cod, multitudes of starfish, crabs and eels. On the floor of the strait he was looking for sea urchins.

Whenever he would see one, he would grab the spiny little creature in his hand and then drop it in a bag made out of netting tied to his belt. Sea urchins were a favorite food of sea otters. Many people considered them a delicacy also, and Greg made his living by diving for them.

Once His dive went well and bag was bulging with the red and sometimes purple little urchins. He checked his watch, it was time to surface. Upwards he swam, when he broke the surface, he did a 360 degree turn looking for the boat. It was nowhere in sight. Slowly it dawned on him that the tidal current had swept him along while he was diving and now his boat was nowhere near. The current moving as fast as a man might jog had been carrying him out to sea. What a fool he had been for diving when the tide was rushing out!

He must do everything possible to stay afloat until someone spotted him. He knew he couldn�t swim long with the heavy equipment so he undid the latches and the belt and let his expensive equipment slip from him and sink into the depths. After treading water for what seemed a long time he saw a log and swam to it. He pulled himself up and straddled it like a horse. The log would keep him floating but he wasn't out of danger for the relentless current was still carrying him out to sea.

The hours passed and the sun dipped beneath the horizon. By the light of the moon and the stars overhead, Greg could barely see the faint outlines of the waves as they washed up against the log.

This reminds me the movie I once watched about a couple went on a diving trip on a commercial boat. The couple lost track of time while underwater and the boat lost count of total passengers. When they surfaced, their boat had already left without them. In the movie the couple were never rescued. I did not expect an ending like that and I was very dismayed by it. But in this story Greg was luckier:

Greg didn’t perish in the water that night. Through out the long hours of darkness he sang songs like “Home on the Range” to keep himself awake. Then out of the darkness of the night he was startled to see a giant freight ship bearing down on him. The prow of the ship was slicing through the water like a giant knife. Huge waves of foaming white water curled up its sides. To his dismay the ship was headed directly towards him. It would crush him and snap the log to pieces as easily as if it was a toothpick. Wildly Greg waved his arms and yelled with all his might. Just when all seemed lost, the boat turned slightly to the side and slowed to a stop. The captain hearing that a man had been lost at sea had prudently placed a sailor to act as lookout on the bow of the ship. He had seen Greg and notified the captain with just enough time to avoid hitting him. They picked him up out of the water and Greg was saved. It was a night he will never forget.
It was a night he will never forget! You can certainly say that again, and again. This is a better story than the Hollywood movie I wasted my time to watch!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

News the drive-bys passed up

On the day when all the drive-by media in U.S. are bent forward and backward hyperventilating about a washed out politician winning an award that put him in the same company as Yasi Arafat and Jimmy Carter, the real climate/meteorology authority of the world, Dr. William Gray, gave a lecture at the University of North Carolina telling the audience that humans were not responsible for the warming of the earth. We have to go all the way to Australia to read about the news of Gray's lecture. I guess the words of an authoritative scientist means nothing to the drive-by gang.

Here's from the Sydney Morning Herald:
ONE of the world's foremost meteorologists has called the theory that helped Al Gore share the Nobel Peace Prize "ridiculous" and the product of "people who don't understand how the atmosphere works".

Dr William Gray, a pioneer in the science of seasonal hurricane forecasts, told a packed lecture hall at the University of North Carolina that humans were not responsible for the warming of the earth.

His comments came on the same day that the Nobel committee honoured Mr Gore for his work in support of the link between humans and global warming.

"We're brainwashing our children," said Dr Gray, 78, a long-time professor at Colorado State University. "They're going to the Gore movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and being fed all this. It's ridiculous."

His speech was given to "a crowd of about 300 that included meteorology students and a host of professional meteorologists" by telling them
. . . a natural cycle of ocean water temperatures - related to the amount of salt in ocean water - was responsible for the global warming that he acknowledges has taken place.

However, he said, that same cycle meant a period of cooling would begin soon and last for several years.

"We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realise how foolish it was," Dr Gray said.

And

"The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures," Dr Gray said.

He said his beliefs had made him an outsider in popular science.

"It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong," he said. "But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out. I don't care about grants."

These opinions of a real working scientist is clearly politically incorrect. The last comment is especially a sad fact well-known among the science community today. Grants, or fundings, dictate everything and it can make or break a career. At the end of the day, however, it's neither how much grants you have, nor how popular you are, nor whether or not you are an insider or outsider. It is still the truth of the knowledge that is really what science is all about.

Update:

I have been using the term "drive-by" media in the sense that's the kind of so-called "main-stream" media reporting driven by their own agenda without much concern of the truth or accuracy of their contents. They can ignore important happenings if it does not fit in with their agenda -- such as not reporting Dr. Gray's lecture. And they can make up things to fit their agenda. Strangely they really do believe "fake but true" can be justified. Dan Rather is gone, but his former comrades kept his spirit alive and well. The original use of the term "drive-by" media can be found here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Inconvenient happenings

The freaque waves news front has returned to quiescent once again, the occurrences of the freaque waves in the open ocean, nearshore, and onshore regions have thankfully not interfering with human lives as we hope where it should always stay.

Today I would like to call attention to two recent news items That has strangely been ignored by the "drive-by" main stream media.

The first one was in the October 7, 2007 Washington Post, Page B01, an article entitled "Chill out" written by the Danish Economist Bjorn Lomborg, in which he reported the case which a new study shown that the Kangerlussuaq glacier of Greenland is growing.

The other one was an ESA (European Space Agency) news release on october 3, 2007 reporting that "The ozone hole over Antarctica has shrunk 30 percent as compared to last year's record size."
Both cases are exciting scientific results, but unless you are closely following and searching the news on the internet, you are unlikely to be informed by the "usual suspects" of your news sources. That is unfortunate. In Lomborg's article he has this to say:

We have to rediscover the middle ground, where we can have a sensible conversation. We shouldn't ignore climate change or the policies that could attack it. But we should be honest about the shortcomings and costs of those policies, as well as the benefits.

I boldfaced the one beautiful English word, honest, that seems to have been missing from our news source for some time now. What a pity! Not only the word has not been used positively from the news media or understandably the political arena, the word has not been quit popular among the main stream scientists either. Who cares about honesty as long as fundings can continue to pouring in!

It is of interest, may be just poetic justice, that this two piece of important happenings preceedes today's announcement of Nobel Peace prize to IPCC and Albert Arnold Gore Jr.
"for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".
What they failed to mention is the measures their experts laid out to counteract the changes are not working, and the nature quietly reduced the ozone hole by 30 percent and no one knows why! It can't be happening!

A final point, in the Nobel foundation announcement the peace prize is awarded to IPCC first and Albert Arnold Gore Jr. second. You may think that's a mistake, because what your favorate MSM reporter have told you was the other way round.

I am wondering what Dr. Alfred Nobel might think about all these!


Update:

Here's what I found from Rush's web here:

Regarding what Dr. Nobel might think, this article in Unionleader.com have shed some light:

Alfred Nobel felt horrible about the uses to which his invention -- dynamite -- was put. So he endowed the Nobel Peace Prize and instructed that it go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

Al Gore has done exactly none of those things.

Gore, however, did write a book and make a film about global warming. He has become the second environmental activist to win the peace prize in the past four years. Wangari Muta Maathai won it in 2004 for planting trees.

Thus we have indisputable confirmation that the Nobel Peace Prize is no longer a serious international award. In 1994 the five Norwegian politicians who award the prize gave it to the murdering thug Yasser Arafat. Two years before that they gave it to literary fraud Rigoberta Menchu, whose autobiography was largely fabricated. (An example: The brother she supposedly watched die of malnutrition was later found by a New York Times reporter to be very much alive and well.)

On Friday the prize was given to Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change. Two days before, a British judge ruled that Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," contained so many errors (read: lies) that it could be shown in British public schools only if accompanied by a fact sheet correcting the errors.

The Nobel Peace Prize is worse than a joke. It's a fraud. It is such a transparent fraud that the five Norwegian politicians who award it have been reduced to defending their decision by concocting elaborate rationalizations. This year they laughably claimed that Gore deserves the prize because, well, global climate change" may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the Earth's resources," and "there may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars."

It is sad to think the Nobel Peace Prize is "worse than a joke." But I really don't think Dr. Nobel have any strong ground to disagree. Especially when a British judge considers that Gore's film is full of errors. By the way, that's another news item the drive-by media did not allow American to hear or read -- by not reporting it.

Update II:

This New Scientist article: "Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: Unscientific?" explained that:
. . . over in the UK, a judge criticised Al Gore's Oscar-winning movie An Inconvenient Truth for a series of inaccuracies. The ruling concludes a case brought to the UK High Court by Stuart Dimmock, a parent of two who was concerned to find that the UK Department for Education and Skills had distributed a copy of Gore's film to every state secondary school in the UK.

He argued that the film was political material, had no place in the classroom, and that its distribution to schools should be made illegal. Moreover, his legal team pointed out a list of alleged scientifically inaccuracies in the film.

The judge, Justice Burton, declined to make it illegal. In his ruling, however, he says Gore committed nine counts of scientific inaccuracy.
That's one impressive judge. Read all the details in the article. Note that the title of the article has a question mark on "unscientific". The author, Catherine Brahic, will not provide an answer. In the sea of political correctness, and probably being brain-washed by Algore's "overwhelming number of scientists," may be it's clever for New Scientist not to take a position.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Aftermath of a tragedy

I was a little dejected yesterday by the first trasgedy in a while caused by a neashore freaque wave, I did not feel like to go into the details in the blog. Today another local article provided some further information about the lost of two good friends: David Gwyn Richards and Paul Meredith died when their 14ft sea angling vessel, Shane, was hit by a freak wave, which knocked the crew overboard. As the skipper of Shane, Chris Williams was, plucked from the sea near Gower's Whitford Lighthouse by the crew of fishing vessel the Stargazer. The bodies of Richards and Meredith were found two-and-a-half hour after the first emergency call. According to the local coastguard:
It is thought a freak wave breaking over the side of the vessel caused it to capsize in the Loughor Estuary.

A coastguard spokesman said: "They did have safety jackets on board, but were not wearing them."

Spencer Davies, operations manager of the Burry Port inshore lifeboat, which took part in the rescue, said the area where the accident happened was notorious for big swells.

He said: "The waves go over a sand bank, which leads to swells and, occasionally, a really big one breaks over the bank."
I guess the most upsetting part of the whole story is that "They did have safety jackets on board, but were not wearing them." That is a giant lesson to be learn. Echoing what I commented yesterday, there is just no excuse whatsoever for not wearing safety jackets, especially when they have them onboard. Hopefully we can all learn a lesson from this case and never ever to let it happen again!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tranquility desisted

The tranquility of no freaque wave this summer, which I talked about a few days ago, momentarily desisted this morning with the appearance of two tragic news from U.K.: The first one "Two sea-anglers drawned" happened off the Welsh coast, and the second news was about the inquest of a case that was actually happened on New Years eve.

These stories are really not new. I have blogged quite a few cases here over the past year about similar kind of happenings in nearshore area around the world. So I'll spare the details of these two cases this time and leave them to their original articles.

I just wish to reiterate some of my personal thoughts that I have alluded to times and again: the ocean beach nearshore area is really one of the most hazardous places in life, it can be deceiving with its natural attractiveness and charm and easily for us to temporarily lose sight of the possible danger, but dangers really can happen without prior notice and then it's too late!

Another of my repeating mantra is that no tangible research has yet done to alleviate this particular hazard that so deeply connected to our pursue of happiness. Yes, there are academic departments doing nearshore researches. But that's only those can be neatly put together in a set of equations, solved by computer and results conveniently plotted as impressive animations. After all have said and done, we still have not the slightest idea on what's going on with those onshore and nearshore freaque waves.

I have one other sincere hope for the naval architecture academia. I think their researches are mostly aimed at giant ships, large, larger, and largest. I hope someone can also willing to pay attention to improve the safe design of smaller boats, those have size 100 feet or smaller where most of the pleasure boats and fishing vessels lie. They are the kind of widely accessible boats most vulnerable to unexpected or even expected storm waves.

I have other thoughts about the political hindrance toward solving this hazardous problem people face daily all around the world. I better keep them to myself. Suffice to say, I think the one single, best advise I have seen and would readily advice my family is simply wearing a life vest or life jacket whenever and wherever near the shore and beach area! This is not an advertisement for life vests. Just wish every one can do it for their own safety and the safety of their love ones. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone not to wear a life vest or life jacket on a boat, especially those smaller ones.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What wave is dangerous?

I consider myself easily get excited, but I have not gotten excited for quite some time. I think I am just now getting excited on reading this brief UPI Science news yesterday:
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Everyone knows big waves in fierce storms are dangerous, but now U.S. scientists are discovering smaller waves might be just as threatening.

University of Michigan researchers have developed a computer program and method of analysis that makes it easier to understand how a series of smaller waves -- a situation much more likely to occur than the development of monster waves -- might be just as dangerous.

"Like the Edmund Fitzgerald that sank (on Lake Superior) in 1975, many of the casualties that happen occur in circumstances that aren't completely understood, and therefore they are difficult to design for," Professor Armin Troesch said. "This analysis method and program gives ship designers a clearer picture of what they're up against."

Troesch and doctoral candidate Laura Alford presented their findings Tuesday in Houston during the International Symposium on Practical Design of Ships and Other Floating Structures, also known as PRADS 2007.
The idea that "a series of smaller waves . . . might be just as dangerous" is what refreshingly new, no one has ever considered and paid attention, and could be leading to exciting new researches that has not come to light for a long time. Some further introduction of their method can be found in this U. Mich. Press Release:
Today's ship design computer modeling programs are a lot like real life, in that they go from cause to effect. A scientist tells the computer what type of environmental conditions to simulate, asking, in essence, "What would waves like this do to this ship?" The computer answers with how the boat is likely to perform.

Alford and Troesch's method goes backwards, from effect to cause. To use their program, a scientist enters a particular ship response, perhaps the worst case scenario. The question this time is more like, "What are the possible wave configurations that could make this ship experience the worst case scenario?" The computer answers with a list of water conditions.

What struck the researchers when they performed their analysis was that quite often, the biggest ship response is not caused by the biggest waves. Wave height is only one contributing factor. Others are wave grouping, wave period (the amount of time between wave crests), and wave direction. "In a lot of cases, you could have a rare response, but when we looked at just the wave heights that caused that response, we found they're not so rare," Alford said. "This is about operational conditions and what you can be safely sailing in. The safe wave height might be lower than we thought."
In this era of faster and faster computers with larger and larger storages, computer modeling is relatively easy and convenient to do. But good new ideas even in the academe are considerably rare and hard to come by. I congratulate Prof. Troesch and his students for this new endeavor. As indicated in their press release, it is expected to help spur innovation. I think that's what most certainly will leading to. I don't think their new approach will nullify freaque wave as we know it, especially the freaque waves that happen during calm conditions. But I think they may provide alternate viewpoints regarding whether or not the claim of freaque waves during storm conditions is veracious. Ever since the discovery of the recording of a freaque wave on the North Sea Draupner Platform on 1995 New Year's day, the freaque wave community and the media at large have been all but predetermined most of the ship sinking disasters were resulted from large monster waves, mostly unknown and without substantiation. Now for the first time we have seen creditable indications that those are not necessarily only because of the largest waves.

Let the spur of new innovations begin!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A storm in Bay of Bengal

I first noticed this news, that has not received worldwide attention, from this brief Reuters report by Liz Kennedy:
Sep 23 - More than 100 Bangladeshi fishermen are missing after a storm in the Bay of Bengal.

Fishermen who managed to return to port reported seeing more than a dozen boats sink during the storm.

Low-lying Bangladesh is frequently hit by cyclones and monsoonal floods.
And then some further details here:
Bangladesh's meteorological department said in a special weather bulletin that the monsoonal deep depression, which hit the Bay of Bengal on Thursday (September 20) night, was moving north-north-west and had reached India's eastern coastal state of Orissa.

The latest bulletin said the monsoonal low had crossed the Indian coast near Paradeep on Sunday and the weather system was now over Orissa and adjoining areas.

It said squally weather might affect the ports of Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Mongla.

Flooding was reported in Orissa and the neighbouring state of West Bengal, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people living in low-lying areas, including in the city of Kolkata.

Heavy seas were preventing rescue operations, but authorities said they would start a search as soon as the stormy weather subsided.

Surviving fishermen said they saw several boats sink. In Cox's Bazar, about 10 fishing boats with nearly 100 fishermen capsized. About 80 fishermen made it back to shore.

Officials also warned of flooding, with low-lying areas of several coastal districts, including Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and their offshore islands, likely to be inundated by water surges up to 4 feet (1.2 metres) high, driven by high winds.

Hundreds of Bangladeshi fishermen die and many go missing in storms in the Bay of Bengal every year.
A loss of 100 fishermen is certainly shocking, but two days later the number doubled in this local report as:
Around 200 fishermen on 15 fishing boats that went down in the turbulent Bay of Bengal last Thursday are still missing. Rough weather has made rescue efforts impossible and loading and unloading of goods the country's southwestern Mongla Port remain suspended for two days due to bad weather.
Luckily, another later news from Indo-Asian News Service on September 25th, entitled "700 Bangladesh fisherman take shelter in India" may provide some hope that those missing fishermen are just missing, may be sheltered somewhere, but not lost. Let's hope and pray that all of them can eventually be rescued and return to their love ones!

It has been said that the job of Alaska fishermen is known as the "most dangerous job in the world." I think fishermen's life anywhere in the world should all be considered as dangerous. They are all at the mercy of the nature that conducts all the uncontrollable storms. Most of us have been taught to remember and respect the hard-working farmers that brought us the food we eat when we were young. For us sea-food lovers, however, we certainly should also never forget the dangers the fishermen face everyday in order to bring us our culinarily favorites.