ocean science

Is This the Year Governments Protect Antarctica’s Seas?

The odds world governments will finally agree to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean are looking better than ever.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is one of the most diverse, fragile, and poorly studied ocean ecosystems on Earth. But as far as marine protection goes, it’s the Wild West. That could soon change, as representatives from 24 countries plus the European Union sit down this week to discuss the establishment of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters off Antarctica. If the proposed protections go through, they will be the first of their kind for Antarctica’s marine environment. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Making Monster Waves in the Lab

Rogue waves are rare in nature, but new research is making them perfectly common.

They seem to come from nowhere, walls of water towering above the sea, and then disappear without a trace. Rogue waves can swamp huge ships, lighthouses, or offshore structures without warning, and are among the most terrifying threats facing people at sea.

Rogue waves—waves that are more than twice the height of the surrounding waves—have been blamed for many wrecks. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Keeping Track of Deep-Sea Mining

A new website uses ship location data to track deep-sea mining exploration.

Mining companies have claimed more than a million square kilometers of ocean around the world and soon—maybe sooner than you think—will begin sending huge robotic diggers to grind up the seafloor and extract gold, copper, manganese, and other metals to feed our growing hunger for raw materials. Read more in Hakai.

Are we ready for the gold rush on the sea floor?

One firm reckons its planned sea-floor mines are more sustainable than those on land. But the diggers could destroy rare life and more.

THE submersible Alvin encountered its first “black smoker” 2000 metres deep off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. It was 1977, and the realisation that life could survive in pitch darkness next to deep sea hydrothermal vents was about to stun the world. Now we are returning to those vents, this time on the other side of the Pacific – and armed with diggers.

The hot water shooting out of these vents contains all sorts of dissolved precious metals. On contact with the cold ocean water, these immediately precipitate out, showering the vicinity with gold, silver, copper and more. Some want to tap into this booty, arguing that deep sea mining is not only lucrative, but also a more sustainable alternative to mineral extraction on land. But not everyone is convinced we can exploit the deep without damaging it. Read more in New Scientist.

No, Britain Isn’t Naming a Ship RRS Boaty McBoatface

The British people have spoken, and they really want to name their new, US $290 million polar research ship the RRS Boaty McBoatface.

In what probably seemed like a nice piece of public outreach, the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) invited the public to suggest names for its new vessel, which is scheduled to sail in 2019. The funding council asked for names that were “inspirational and about environmental and polar science,” suggesting things like Endeavour, Shackleton, and Falcon.

But you can’t trust the Internet. Read more in Hakai.