Humour – The Queen’s Riddle

QueenThe Queen’s Riddle

When the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada met with Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of England he asked her. “Your Majesty, how do you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give me?”

“Well,” said the Queen, “The most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people.”

The Minister frowned, and then asked, “but how do I know if the people around me are really intelligent?”

The Queen took a sip of champagne. Oh, that’s easy; you just ask them to answer an intelligent riddle. Watch.

“The Queen pushed a button on her intercom.”Please send in the Prime Minister would you?” The Minister walked into the room and said, “Yes, your Majesty?”

The Queen smiled and said, “Answer me this please. Your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?” Without pausing for a moment, the Minister answered…”That would be me.” “Yes! Very good.” said the Queen. Continue reading

Trial Island Lighthouse

A lot of people who visit Victoria, British Columbia (on the southern tip of Vancouver Island) never get to see Trial Island lighthouse as it is not visible from the town core. One must travel to the Oak Bay waterfront to see the lighthouse.

Trial Island_Doug Clement

Photo credits – © 2013 Doug Clement Photography

 

Photo credits - © 2013 Doug Clement Photography

Photo credits – © 2013 Doug Clement Photography

Although it is only about half a mile from Oak Bay, most people see only the radio station antennas of BC TV on a black rock be it day or night.

An interesting article on the web is Trial Island Lighthouse & VE7DQA – describing the life of a Ham Radio operator living and working there.

Trial Island is NOT an isolated station compared to West Coast Vancouver Island lightstations like Carmanah Point, Pachena Point and Cape Beale, but it is an interesting place to work.

Google Interactive Map showing the location of Trial Island.

It’s Old, But Not The Oldest!

On September 21, 2013 I wrote Message in a Bottle which described a 107 year old message-in-a-bottle find. Later on October 29, 2013 I wrote More Messges in Bottles which described more messages found in bottles. It seems that everybody loves to do it!

Today I found this story in The Local – Germany’s News in English dated March 07, 2014.

Fishermen find oldest message in a bottle

German fishermen made a surprising catch this week when they pulled the oldest recorded message in a bottle out of the sea. A man from Berlin scribbled the note 101 years ago. . . . more

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What initially looked like a normal, discarded beer bottle, nestled among fish in the Maria I’s nets, turned out to be a record-breaking find – as it contained a postcard dated May 17th, 1913 written by a man named Richard Platz.

A modest Danish postcard with two German stamps on it and a polite message asking the finder to send it on to his address in Berlin; it appears that Platz could have been trying to save on international postage fees.

But the card never arrived, instead landing in the hands of fishermen from Heikendorf in Schleswig Holstein, on Tuesday – over 100 years later.

“I had it in my hand, but then a colleague told me there was something in it,” skipper Konrad Fischer told regional newspaper the Kieler Nachrichten, explaining he was ready to throw it back into the Baltic.

“When I saw the date I got really excited,” he said.

Until now, the oldest message in a bottle listed in the Guinness Book of Records was 97 years old when found in 2012, making Fischer’s a potential record breaker.

“If the message is really this old, maybe a museum would be interested,” said Fischer, who will be taking his bottled post to experts for them to take a closer look.

Fischer has been a fisherman for 50 years and in that time has found mines, bombs, torpedoes and a corpse in the sea.

He told news agency DPA that he was not sure yet what he would do with the bottle but would “maybe auction it to the highest bidder”. [/private] Continue reading

Light at the End of the World

Light at the End of the World
Three Months on Cape St. James, 1941

by Hallvard Dahlie (orig from Raincoast 18, 1998) with notes from Jim Derham-Reid (last keeper on Cape St. James before automation)

Image1A strange interlude in my brief seafaring life took place in the fall of 1941, when I signed on as assistant lighthouse keeper at Cape St. James, a light perched on top of a three-hundred-foot rock at the very southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. I had quit school earlier that year, at the age of sixteen, and found a job on the CGS Alberni, a lighthouse tender operating out of Prince Rupert. But when she had to go into dry dock at the beginning of September for a new wartime grey paint job and a bit of refurbishing, I chose to take a stint out at the lighthouse rather than scrape barnacles and paint for three months. Continue reading

Mise Tales Thirty-Five

 

For an update on what a Mise Tale is then please see Mise Tales One.

Britain StormsJanuary 07, 2014 – People watch and photograph enormous waves as they break, on Porthcawl harbour, South Wales, Monday Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Ben Birchall) . . . more

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LONDON — What used to be Winter Storm Hercules has moved across the Atlantic and is now hammering the United Kingdom with high winds and winter weather.. Britain’s western coast is being lashed by high winds and strong rains following a month of unusually frequent winter storms.

A steady procession of storms has battered the island nation over the past few weeks, making December the windiest since 1969. Monster waves up to 27 feet (8.3 meters) high washed across the British coast on Monday, prompting evacuations and rescues.

“This latest storm actually originated as Winter Storm Hercules in the U.S. just after the New Year’s holiday,” said weather.com Senior Meteorologist Jon Erdman.

(MORE: Dangerously Cold Temperatures Hit U.S.)

The nearly non-stop storms have crumbled long-standing sea cliffs and damaged waterfronts.

“It’s been one after the other with no break,” Nicola Maxey, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Meteorological Office, said Tuesday.

More than 100 flood warnings remain across England and Wales.

“This latest Atlantic storm will slowly wind down and weaken over the Norwegian Sea off Scandinavia through Tuesday, giving way to a well-deserve reprieve from the stormy barrage the rest of the work week,” said Erdman.

Heavy winds and rain have also battered the French coast, driving large waves into southwestern town of Biarritz on Tuesday. [/private]

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Vanishings – The Missing Lighthouse Keepers

These two tales on Youtube were brought to my attention. Quite the mystery! 

 

  Continue reading

Ship Movements – It Keeps Getting Better!

On August 08, 2013 I wrote Canadian Firm Tracks Earth’s Ships From Space which also refers to another 2012 article What Ship Is That? Now we have an even better program, free, and online, called Marine Traffic.

Live Ships Map   AIS   Vessel Traffic and Positions   AIS Marine Traffic(1)

The screen shot above of Marine Traffic for 05:30 UTC (Z) for November 30, 2013 shows the freighter Axios (bottom left) off my area, Negros Oriental Island, Philippines, heading for Guam.

With this  free program you can locate ships in your area, determine their destination, speed, nationality, etc., and even see a photo of the ship.

The program shows Vessels, Ports, Lights, and Aerial Photos of the ports. The “Lights” portion lists and shows photos of navigation lights and lighthouses in the areas.

If one is interested in the sea, vessel traffic, ships, lights, or just navigation, this program is for you. Please take a look here at MarineTraffic.com.

 

 

Reprint – A Sailor’s Journal

LaurierThe Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) carries lighthouse keepers and their supplies (groceries, mail, household goods, etc) usually by ship or helicopter. This story describes the inner workings of the Canadian Coast Guard light icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier as told by my friend Abe Van Oeveren. I have been on several ships and they are indeed a complicated piece of machinery run by very competent men and women.

Abe’s comments to me about the story when I asked permission to reprint:

The account is based on material gathered on several trips blended together to make a story that flows end to end. To make it readable I avoided talking about too much crappy weather which keeps everybody on board the ship unable to fly up to Van, Naden or Barry, or how the ship’s crew’s collective mood changes as the 28 day typical patrol proceeds.  Continue reading

Who Says Lighthouses Are Old Fashioned?

Boston_and_Graves_Lights

Boston_and_Graves_Lights

 

Can you imagine a lighthouse being used as an aeronautical beacon? Well there is one. It is in the United States at Boston’s Logan Airport and it uses the Boston Lighthouse as a visual marker for Visual Flight Rule (VFR) landings. See the copy of the aeronautical chart below:

Boston Logan Airport aeronautical chart

Boston Logan Airport aeronautical chart (not for navigation)

Continue reading

Canadian Firm Tracks Earth’s Ships From Space

In 2012 I wrote an article called What Ship Is That? which listed a group of programs for tracking ships worldwide. Why would one want to do that? For myself I like to keep track of what ships are sailing on my home coast (the Philippines right now) or for that matter, on the British Columbia coast (my old workplace). It is interesting and informative to anyone that lives on or by the sea. The following story came in from CBC News:

Canadian firm tracks Earth’s ships from space
Data mining with tiny satellites offers new business opportunities
By Emily Chung, CBC News Posted: Aug 12, 2013 5:33 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 12, 2013 12:59 PM ET

 hi-852-ship-aground-00659755-8col.jpg

ExactEarth’s data allows authorities to monitor whether ships are following maritime traffic laws or straying into protected areas. For example, it could have provided visual data on the Panamanian-registered ship MV Double Prosperity, which ran aground and destroyed a large portion of a marine sanctuary in Sarangani Bay in 2011. (Sarangani Information Office, Cocy Sexcion/Associated Press)

More information here.

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Want to know the location of every freighter and cruise ship plying the Earth’s oceans? That data isn’t easy to get, but a Canadian company can sell it to you, thanks to its view of the Earth from space.

Since 2010, Cambridge, Ont.-based exactEarth Ltd. has been “mining” data about shipping traffic on Earth using satellites — a technique that could potentially be used to collect other, new kinds of valuable data.

‘The ultimate goal is to build out a cluster of businesses around this platform.’—Glenn Smith, Communitech

“Until we started doing this…you had little bits of information, but you really didn’t have a complete domain awareness of what’s out there,” said Philip Miller, the company’s vice president of engineering and operations.

“Once a ship leaves the shore, essentially they’re a sovereign entity …. A captain can go where he wants. And from shore you didn’t know what was happening unless you contacted the ship and asked — whereas now we’re watching, and we know where they go.”

100,000 ships per day

ExactEarth sells information about the more than 100,000 ships it detects per day to over 50 customers on five continents, including ports, navies and governments.

The data can be used for a wide variety of applications, such as:

  • Identifying and tracking ship traffic through specific areas, such as the Arctic routes that are opening up as the sea ice melts
  • Monitoring whether ships are following maritime traffic laws or straying into protected areas
  • Detecting illegal fishing and piracy, or coordinating search-and-rescue operations during natural disasters.

Last year, the company doubled its customer base, doubled its revenues from $4.8 million to $9.6 million and had total order bookings of about $13.6 million, according to the 2012 financial report from its parent company, COM Dev, a satellite equipment maker that trades publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

COM Dev predicted that by the end of 2013, exactEarth would become “a positive contributor to our cash flow.”

Not designed for detection from space

ExactEarth gets its marketable data by detecting over five million messages a day from automatic identification system (AIS) signals that passenger ships and ships over 300 tonnes (Class A vessels) are required to send out under international law.

The VHF radio signals, mandated by the International Maritime Authority since 2002 to reduce the risk of collisions, provide information about a vessel’s course, speed, position, size, destination and identification to nearby ships and monitoring and navigation stations. ExactEarth can also detect signals from some smaller vessels that use a lower-powered version of AIS.

ExactEarth detects five million messages a day from more than 100,000 ships around the world. ExactEarth detects five million messages a day from more than 100,000 ships around the world. (exactEarth)

AIS was designed for close-range communication and not for detection from space, Miller said.

But such detection was plausible — satellites have the ultimate bird’s eye view of Earth, without the obstructions that get in the way on the surface. Our eyes can spot thousands of car headlights and streetlights from an airplane, but with the right detectors, satellites in space can scan a wide area as they orbit and detect signals that have relatively short ranges on Earth.

Miller said ExactEarth started at a time when smaller satellites — suitcase-sized or smaller as opposed to car- or bus-sized — were starting to become more available and affordable. COM Dev began looking for things that it might be able to detect from space with such satellites, beyond traditional environmental monitoring and imaging.

In collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory, the company launched a satellite in 2008 to prove it could detect AIS from space.

Glenn Smith of Communitech and Robert Zee of UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory hold a life-sized replica of a nanosatellite like one they will be launching in collaboration with exactEarth next year to provide more timely information about ships near the equator. Glenn Smith of Communitech and Robert Zee of UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory hold a life-sized replica of a nanosatellite like one they will be launching in collaboration with exactEarth next year to provide more timely information about ships near the equator. (Emily Chung/CBC)

ExactEarth began commercial service in 2010, using satellite technology from other suppliers. It launched two additional satellites of its own in 2011 and 2012.

ExactEarth’s satellites aren’t the only AIS detectors in space — Rochelle Park, N.J.-based Orbcomm sells data subscriptions similar to ExactEarth’s and already has AIS satellites in both equatorial and polar orbit. Norway launched its AISSat-1 in 2010 and the German Aerospace Center DLR’s AISSat is scheduled to blast off on an Indian launcher later this year.

Miller said most AIS satellites process a lot more data on the satellite than exactEarth’s do, making them substantially different.

“By doing the processing on the ground, we cannot only do more processing, but we can also evolve it over time,” he said, adding that it’s difficult to change anything that’s already in space.

New kinds of data to mine

Some organizations are now interested in trying to mine other types of data from space.

Satellites like those launched by ExactEarth have the ultimate bird's eye view of Earth, without the obstructions that get in the way on the surface. With the right detectors, they detect signals that have relatively short ranges on Earth, the way our eyes can spot thousands of car headlights and streetlights from an airplane. Satellites like those launched by ExactEarth have the ultimate bird’s eye view of Earth, without the obstructions that get in the way on the surface. With the right detectors, they detect signals that have relatively short ranges on Earth, the way our eyes can spot thousands of car headlights and streetlights from an airplane. (ExactEarth)

For example, DLR is currently testing a satellite that detects aircraft signals called ADS-B, which are somewhat similar to AIS. If it works, it will allow continuous monitoring of aviation routes, including areas without radar stations, such as the poles, where airplanes are currently untrackable from the ground.

In Canada, the Waterloo Region’s startup incubator Communitech is collaborating with exactEarth and UTIAS on a project called Data.base, which aims to use exactEarth’s expertise to expand Canada’s “data mining from space” industry.

In 2012, the collaboration received $6.4 million from the federal government to:

  • Research new applications and markets for the technology that exactEarth has developed to collect, package and view satellite data;
  • Work with other businesses that might be interested in getting into the area;
  • Improve the satellite technology; and
  • Design and develop new software.

“The ultimate goal is to build out a cluster of businesses around this platform,” said Glenn Smith, director of digital media projects management at Communitech.

Data.base thinks that AIS technology can be used outside the shipping agency to track other things. The technology to transfer data between Earth and space securely may be useful to industries such as finance, to transfer sensitive data from place to place on Earth via a satellite in space.

Smith said the group has already had discussions with a number of businesses and “there’s definitely a lot of interest.”

For its part of the collaboration, UTIAS is developing a new 15-kilogram microsatellite with a beefed-up power system that will produce and transmit more data more quickly, for both exactEarth and other companies doing similar work, said Robert Zee, managing director of the space flight lab.

Upcoming nanosatellite launch

Meanwhile, exactEarth wants to improve its detection of the weaker AIS signals of Class B ships and its ability to scan ships near the equator more frequently.

Currently, the company’s satellites are in polar orbit — in the same plane as the north and south poles — and can view only a small part of the equator each time they circle the Earth. That means there are “gaps of multiple hours” where ships near some areas of the equator will not be detected, Miller said.

To address that, exactEarth will launch a new seven-kilogram nanosatellite satellite, built by UTIAS, into orbit around the Earth’s equator. EV-9, which may incorporate some of the new technology that exactEarth is working on with its collaborators, will piggyback into space on the launch of a larger satellite. That launch was originally scheduled for this summer, but is now delayed until early 2014.

The new satellite will allow exactEarth to collect updated data about ships near the equator at least once per hour.

That will allow exactEarth to mine more data more quickly. But as in conventional mining, that’s just the first step.

It’s the refining of the data back on Earth that generates a marketable product that clients will pay for.

“You can collect all this data, and it’s valuable,” Miller said. “But you have to turn it into information and knowledge.”

AIS provides information about a vessels' course, speed, position, size, destination and identification to nearby ships. ExactEarth can detect the AIS signals from space and use them to track individual ships, as in this data from Sept. 2011. AIS provides information about a vessels’ course, speed, position, size, destination and identification to nearby ships. ExactEarth can detect the AIS signals from space and use them to track individual ships, as in this data from Sept. 2011. (exactEarth) [/private]