The Unexplored World

While we all have our heads stuck in some ‘hand-held device,’ the world is swirling around us with SO much to know to and see that we all miss because our world is limited to what we can suss-out on FB or some social networking site. If you can’t fit it into 144 characters, we are out of luck! Wow. As limitless as technology has made our world, it has also confined it to predictable sites that just seem to reaffirm what we already know and think. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? So let’s try something new today. You game? Come with me as I take you on a journey to some still vast and unexplored areas of our world and outer-world: undersea and outer space. Vast, mysterious and unexplored, they hold so many secrets to all we are and might become, so let’s get started! Mapping the World’s (Few) Protected Seas You guys may need to consult a map of the world for this article…which I encourage you to do…we live in a BIG world…so make it your business to get acquainted with it!!! Gabon and the U.S. have new marine reserves, but just a fraction of the seas is protected. By Daniel Stone, National Geographic The nation of Gabon recently created a first-of-its-kind network of marine protected areas in central Africa, putting 18,000 square miles (46,600 square kilometers) of coastal water off-limits to commercial fishing. The area is home to threatened species such as great hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and whale sharks, and comes shortly after the Obama Administration announced the establishment of the largest marine reserve in the world. The announcements from each nation were substantially supported by research and documentation from National Geographic’s Pristine Seas expeditions. Working with key partners, Pristine Seas aims to explore, survey, and protect some of the last wild places in the world’s oceans. The project “looks for the wildest places in the ocean, to inspire leaders to save them before it’s too late,” Enric Sala, who leads the initiative, said after last week’s Gabon announcement. “Gabon was probably the only such place left in West Africa.” (See pictures of Gabon’s new marine sanctuary.) Still, just over 2 percent of the world’s oceans fall under some sort of official protection. “Although 71 percent of our planet is covered with salt water, we have protected much more of the land than the ocean,” says David Helvarg, founder of the oceans advocacy group Blue Frontier Campaign. New Plan Will Protect 770,000 Square Miles of Ocean, Working With World’s Governments By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic The National Geographic Society recently announced a major expansion of its campaign to help protect the planet’s most species-rich marine areas, with a goal of convincing governments to officially safeguard more than 770,000 square miles (two million square kilometers) of ocean. The Society aims to help designate more than 20 new underwater locales as marine reserves in the next five years. “Preserving our oceans is essential for protecting biodiversity,” former President Bill Clinton said as he announced the Society’s efforts at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. “The ocean is the world’s largest natural resource,” Clinton said, noting that it contributes more than $20 trillion to the global economy. Yet, “human impact on the ocean is undeniable.” The expanded effort will build on National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, which has financed 10 scientific expeditions to remote areas of ocean around the world, including in the South Pacific and off Africa, Russia, and South America. New efforts will target the Seychelles—an archipelago in the Indian Ocean—northern Greenland, and South America’s Patagonia region, Clinton said. As a result of the program’s work, government leaders have protected areas in the United States, Chile, Kiribati, and Costa Rica that cover more than 150,000 square miles (about 400,000 square kilometers). “A few country leaders have already shown tremendous leadership in ocean conservation by creating the largest marine no-take areas in history,” says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who launched Pristine Seas in 2009. “National Geographic Pristine Seas and our partners are excited to inspire other leaders to protect what’s irreplaceable: the last wild places in the ocean.” Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s chief science and exploration officer, pointed to overfishing, pollution, and climate change as major threats facing the ocean. If the campaign is successful, it will help countries meet the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s target of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. The Pristine Seas team is already working with national governments to help them create several new marine reserves. One would expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in U.S. waters, making it the largest region of protected area anywhere in the world, on land or sea. Another Pristine Seas project would create a reserve around the United Kingdom’s Pitcairn Islands. Partners announced for Pristine Seas include the Waitt Foundation, Prince Albert of Monaco, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Jynwel Foundation, the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust, Blancpain, Davidoff Cool Water, Lindblad Expeditions, Dynamic Planet, former President José María Figueres of Costa Rica, and individual donors. Plane Search Shows World’s Oceans Are Full of Trash Search for missing Malaysian plane shines spotlight on giant ocean garbage patches. By Laura Parker, National Geographic Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, sea trash was not a global headliner. But as hundreds of objects sighted off the Australian coast as possible aircraft debris turn out to be discarded fishing equipment, cargo container parts, or plastic shopping bags, a new narrative is emerging in the hunt for the missing plane: There’s more garbage out there than you think. Most of it is plastic. And marine life ingests it, with catastrophic consequences. “This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it’s a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps,” says Kathleen Dohan, a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. “This is a problem in every ocean basin.” Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean’s garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia. The term “patch” suggests this floating detritus is packed together in an oceanic version of a landfill. Instead, these “patches” are actually huge zones where debris accumulates but floats free, circulating continuously. So it’s possible for sailing ships and other small boats to inadvertently sail into a garbage patch region and encounter rubbish. Great Pacific Garbage Patch the Largest That was the case in last summer’s Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, when logs, telephone poles, and other wood debris from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami drifted into the Texas-size Great Pacific Garbage Patch halfway between Hawaii and California. “There were a dozen or more reports about collisions, and some of the boats were damaged by this floating wood,” says Nikolai Maximenko, an oceanographer at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, who has been studying the earthquake debris’ drift across the Pacific. Maximenko estimates that 100,000 to one million large wood objects, including timber and beams from houses, are still floating in the area. “There is an analogy between that and the Malaysian plane,” he says. “In both cases, we were not able to find anything identifiable on satellite images. We do not have an observation system to track individual objects. This system needs to be built.” Although the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted in the 1970s by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it wasn’t documented until 1999 by a sailor named Charles Moore, who competed in the Transpacific race. Plastics Ingested by Birds, Turtles, Whales About 90 percent of the debris in all five garbage patches is plastic, says Marcus Eriksen, a marine scientist and founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, which works to reduce pollution from disposable plastics. “This is relatively new if you think about plastic. Only since the 1950s [have] consumers [used] plastics. Now, a half-century later, we are seeing an abundant accumulation of microplastics from all single-use, throwaway plastics like bags, bottles, bottle caps, kitchen utensils. I have pulled cigarette lighters from hundreds of bird skeletons.” He says sea turtles and California gray whales are also big unintentional consumers of plastic. “You can see fish bites, so gradually, the plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces,” says Maximenko. “After it reaches certain sizes, it can be ingested and then it quickly disappears.” The highest concentration of plastics can be found in the North Atlantic garbage patch, which receives most of its content from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Indian Ocean Garbage Patch a Mystery Because of its remoteness, the Indian Ocean garbage patch remains more of a mystery. It was discovered in 2010 by Eriksen and his crew, who sailed west from Perth, Australia, toward Africa to document it. Eriksen says it comprises a massive area, at least two million square miles (about five million square kilometers) in size, but with no clear boundaries. “It’s very fluid and changes with the season,” Eriksen says. “You could drag nets in one spot and come back the next day and it’s different.” It also has gaps near Indonesia with very little debris. Maximenko theorizes that much of the marine debris generated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami has been salvaged by people living along the Indonesian coastline. The contents of the garbage patch circulate constantly, riding the current known as the Indian Ocean gyre from the Australian side to the African side, down the African coast and back to Australia, Eriksen says. The full rotation takes about six years, unless the debris gets stuck in the center of the patch, where it could remain indefinitely. If the Malaysian Boeing 777 crashed into the zone off the west coast of Australia where searchers are now looking, and if some of that debris remains undiscovered, it is already on its journey west toward Madagascar to join the rest of the junk in the Indian Ocean garbage patch, arriving in about a year. It is pretty amazing that humans seem hell-bent upon destroying our planet WHILE WE STILL ARE LIVING ON IT…which makes NO sense! Anything YOU can do to help eliminate or reduce this terrible and growing problem is just the right and socially responsible thing to do. Good work and thanks for making the effort to help! Now let’s turn our eyes and attention skyward (although undersea exploration IS pretty fascinating, don’t you think?). I went to visit a planetarium recently (and highly recommend you do the same btw!) and was just mesmerized by the vastness of space and by how much we STILL do not know. Meteors that could ruin our DAY are spinning-around out there and could ‘drop by’ to visit at any moment (insert running or screaming emoji here please!)…and yet we go about our day completely oblivious about what is happening far above us in the abyss we call ‘space.’ Sometimes I think we all fail to remember that we are a speck of sand on the giant beach of life, so let’s look skyward for a few moments and see what is new in space that might one day be as routine as your morning breakfast. The article below SHOULD peak your interest! Aspiring Space-Based Nation to Start with Baby Steps recently published a (more than) rather ‘interesting’ article…but I will let you judge for yourself! The proposed space-based nation Asgardia will launch its first satellite this fall to store data for the nation’s newly selected citizens. While it plans to someday host a moon colony and space station, the proposed space-based nation Asgardia is starting small: The project will launch its first satellite this fall to store data for the nation’s newly selected citizens. Some 200,000 were chosen from the more than 500,000 applicants. During a press conference in Hong Kong on June 13, Asgardia’s founder, Igor Ashurbeyli, revealed concrete details about the satellite: Asgardia-1 will be deployed from Orbital ATK’s Cygnus OA-8 resupply spacecraft launching in September (2017). The satellite is 10 x 20 x 20 centimeters (3.9 x 7.9 x 7.9 inches) and has eight batteries and four deployable solar arrays. It will orbit at up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) above Earth. Texas-based space-services firm NanoRacks acts as the satellite’s prime contractor and operator. Someday, Ashurbeyli said, he hopes to create a planetary-defense constellation that will help protect against asteroids, solar flares and human-made space debris; this satellite is just the first step. During the conference, Ashurbeyli also described plans for a space station and moon colony. “We plan to have this station in space and on the moon,” he said. “It will be a four-level orbital station. I think the technical details will be defined by the Ministry of Science, which I hope we will have in the autumn of this year.” Insert pic #8 here: space station details Ashurbeyli didn’t provide additional details, but Asgardia has released imagery of the potential off-Earth locations. One image shows a rotating-wheel space station alongside an interplanetary rocket, and another shows, presumably, the interior of that space station with a wall of windows, a canal and greenery. The rocket has a habitation module and a lunar lander that looks like a cross between the NASA Orion spacecraft and the 1960s Apollo program lunar lander. The approved applicants for Asgardian citizenship will be invited to vote on a constitution for the space-based nation on June 18. At that time, Ashurbeyli said, the organs of the proposed state — the ministries, parliament and executive branch — should be created. Ashurbeyli is calling June 18 Asgardian National Unity Day, and the date will be a public holiday if the state is realized. More than 500,000 people applied for Asgardian citizenship online within 20 days when the project was announced in October last year. The organizers removed ineligible people, such as children, and were left with almost 200,000 people from about 200 countries. (Now, the website lists more than 210,000.) The approved applicants have each received personal certificates of Asgardia and can vote to approve the lawyer-designed constitution on June 18. The constitution was published on June 13. Of the citizenship applicants, 80 percent are men, and the largest demographic comprises 18- to 35-year-olds. While there are applicants from almost every country on Earth, China has the most applicants, followed by Turkey, then the United States and then Italy. People can register as prospective Asgardians on the website. Asgardia is being funded by Ashurbeyli’s nonprofit Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC), based in Vienna. He said he expects that once Asgardia’s constitution is approved, the state will be built by its citizen volunteers and Asgardia will become self-funding. Ashurbeyli said he expects to file for United Nations recognition by April 2018, if Asgardia’s parliament and government have been set up and the satellite launched before then, he said during the conference. In the meantime, AIRC owns Asgardian intellectual property. The company will collect, analyze and fund ideas and startups in space technology for the benefit of Asgardia. Ashurbeyli is also offering 300KB of free data storage on board Asgardia-1 for Asgardian citizens. Family members, up to a maximum of 400,000 people, will get 200KB. Another 1 million people will get 100KB. “Sixty years after the launch of the first-ever artificial satellite, Sputnik, our own space satellite, Asgardia-1, will mark the beginning of a new space era, taking our citizens into space in virtual form, at first,” Ashurbeyli said. Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law in Montreal, is the Asgardia project team legal expert. During the conference, he told the press that the Asgardian data stored on Asgardia-1 would be subject to U.S. privacy laws. The Asgardians’ data will also be stored on future Asgardian satellites. Call me crazy (or chicken!!!), but I think I will wait to see how this all works-out before I book my flight lol! Let’s come back down to earth for our next article!