10 jaw-dropping photographs of undersea life

10 jaw-dropping photographs of undersea life

The seascapes of Ivan Aivazovsky or J.M.W. Turner, both Romantic painters from the 19th century, are unquestionably beautiful. They captivate and mesmerise the viewer. However, they fail to portray the true beauty and character of the sea, which lie deep under the waves, hidden from the eyes of most mortals.

From the image galleries of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, I have selected 10 of the most astounding photographs. Click on each one for a larger view. For more information about the NOAA oceanic expeditions, please visit the OER website. A wealth of stunning pictures and scientific knowledge awaits the curious.

Octocoral
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts

A symphony of sights is constantly playing under the sea. These octocoral are gloriously beautiful like the the ‘Ode to Joy’ chorale in the 4th movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Comb Jelly
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana

No need for hallucinogenic drugs to experience the strange and beautiful. The marine animal known as the comb jelly can stupefy the observer with its gelatinous body and mind-boggling shape. It is no fantasy, however, but a living reality.

Jellyfish
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Windows to the Deep 2018

Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish surrealist painter, would probably have liked the image of this jellyfish. It seems out of this world, like a satellite floating silently in space against a giant tapestry of stars.

The coral, Chrysogorgia, under regular white light (left) and with bioluminescence (right)
Image courtesy of NOAA Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015

These twin images of a coral pale in comparison with Vincent van Gogh’s iconic 1889 painting, The Starry Night. Nonetheless, they would have charmed the great Dutch post-impressionist artist. He loved the sea and nature in general.

A sea toad hanging out, waiting for its next meal to swim by, 2016
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deepwater Wonders of Wake

Steven Spielberg’s E.T. has some strong competition in the depths of the ocean — creatures that look weird, funny and adorable. 

Lophelia Coral
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Windows to the Deep 2019

The sea has its own forests made up of corals which provide food and shelter to countless living creatures. What if all the corals were to disappear? It would be as apocalyptic as the earth losing all its forests.

Hard Rock
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts 2014

Some corals thrive even on a rocky seabed, a fact that may remind the religious-minded of the popular verse in the Bible: 

And why take ye thought for raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin:

(Matthew 6:28, King James Version)

A shrimp and a squat lobster share the same soft coral host
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Hohonu Moana 2016

Creatures of the sea are either predators or preys. However, the undersea world is also characterised by peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. The shrimp and lobster shown in this photograph have both found a home in a coral, which is like them a living animal. 

Dinner Plate Jelly (Solmissus)
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Deep-Sea Symphony: Exploring the Musicians Seamounts

This jellyfish was probably given its common name because of its dish-like body. But it could also be on account of the fact that the solmissus actively hunts for prey instead of waiting for plankton to pass by. It does not want its plate empty. 

Whitetip shark
Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 Laulima O Ka Moana

This shark seems more frightening than the one in ‘Jaws’, a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg. The tips of its fins are aglow due to the biochemical emission of light, a phenomenon seen in organisms such as fireflies, glow-worms and some deep-sea fish. 

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

If you liked this article, feel free to share it with your friends on social media.

EMSA inspections and the Filipino seafarer factory

EMSA inspections and the Filipino seafarer factory

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has visited what I call the Filipino seafarer factory seven times from 2006 to 2017. Those following the visits must be growing tired by now. Will the inspections go on ad infinitum? When will the European Commission, on whose behalf EMSA conducts the audits, make its final verdict on whether Manila has given full and complete effect to the STCW convention?

These are perfectly valid questions. However, those asking them seem to forget that there is no such thing as pass or fail in an audit. Never has EMSA used these terms in its inspection reports to the European Commision. And rightly so.

Audits are conducted to determine how well an organisation or system is performing and what measures can be taken to improve it. If the EMSA inspectors have kept coming back to Manila, it is because of perceived (an adjective EMSA likes to use) deficiencies in the Filipino seafarer factory. The machinery is still not well oiled. Some gears have broken teeth. There is rust in some of the equipment.

The more important question, I believe, is whether the prolonged series of EMSA inspections has had a long-lasting impact on the seafarer factory. Will it benefit Filipino seafarers in the end?

On the upside, EMSA has served as a gadfly to keep Philippine maritime authorities on their toes and prod them into action. Some reforms have indeed taken place, not the least being the passage of Republic Act No. 10635 making the Maritime Industry Authority the sole national authority on STCW matters. Perhaps more important, there is apparently an increased awareness on the part of the maritime schools that they need to adhere to international quality standards.

EMSA has served as a gadfly to keep Philippine maritime authorities on their toes and prod them into action.

On the downside, the never-ending EMSA visits have bolstered the perception that the European Commision and the 28 EU member states it represents will never get around to banning Filipino ship officers from working on board EU-flagged vessels. They will not, they dare not. It is a mindset that has produced a certain complacency amongst the Filipinos. How else explain the 41 deficiencies the EMSA team reportedly found during their last visit?

Most Filipino seafarers don’t give a hoot about the final outcome of the EMSA inspections. They care more about work and wages and how much manning agents are stealing from their dollar remittances. Deep in their hearts, they probably think that the seafarer factory and the people who manage it will not change significantly..

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

If you liked this article, feel free to share it with your friends on social media.

A letter to the readers of Marine Café Blog

A letter to the readers of Marine Café Blog

Dear Friends and Followers,

Marine Café Blog will turn 10 years old this August. It is one of the most popular maritime blogs around with a broad–based readership.

The blog continues to be guided by the belief that the greatest challenge faced by the shippiing world in the 21st century is how to reclaim its humanity.

For this reason, it has been focusing mainly on seafarer issues as well as marine art and culture. It has done so with originality, style and courage.

I aim to keep this website running for as long as possible. Advertising banners help, but it is always good policy not to be beholden to any business interests.

Editorial independence. This, ultimately, is what matters or should matter to readers. It is what sets Marine Café Blog apart. 

If you believe in what Marine Café Blog is doing, please consider making a donation of 3, 5 or 10 dollars or whatever amount you can afford to help ensure its continuance.

Sincerely,

Barista Uno (BU)
Marine Café Blog

Support
Mariné
Cafe Blog





Sea ghosts: amazing underwater photographs of shipwrecks

Sea ghosts: amazing underwater photographs of shipwrecks

The sea — this truth must be confessed — has no generosity. No display of manly qualities — courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness — has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power.

Thus wrote the Polish-born author and merchant ship captain, Joseph Conrad, in his 1906 novel, The Mirror of the Sea. The following underwater photographs reflect the power that Conrad spoke of. However, they do much more. They are powerful reminders of the brevity of life, the fickleness of fortune and the hubris amongst sailors and men in general.

Wreck of cargo ship E. Russ located north from Hiiumaa island in Estonia, 2013
Photo credit: Juha Flinkman, SubZone OY (CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

The ship’s wheel of the SS E. Russ stands forlorn at the bottom of the sea — a stark reminder of the natural and man-made dangers faced by sailors. During stormy weather before dawn on 15th September 1919, the 1909-built merchant ship struck a floating mine off Tahkuna Peninsula in Estonia. Fortunately, everyone on board was saved with one crew member reported injured. Details of the ship and the accident can be found here.

View of the bow of the RMS Titanic, 2004
Photo credit: NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island

Whoever thought that the RMS Titanic would sink barely five days after starting her maiden journey on 10th April 1912? She was the largest ship afloat at the time. Unsinkable! the world exclaimed. Yet, a nondescript iceberg in the North Atlantic would spell her doom. What better symbol of maritime hubris and human folly than her decayed corpse?

View of bathtub in the RMS Titanic captain’s bathroom, 2003
Lori Johnston, RMS Titanic Expedition 2003, NOAA-OE

Captain Edward Smith did not get to use his bathtub very often as the RMS Titanic sank on 15th April 1912 — just a few days after she began her maiden voyage from Southhampton, England, to New York. By all accounts he went down with the ship.

Lamp in the engine room of the Rio de Janeiro Maru, 2017
Photo credit: montereydiver, Truk Lagoon 2017 (CC BY 2.0 licence) / Flickr.com

The light went out for the engine room crew of the Rio de Janeiro Maru, a passenger liner converted to a submarine depot ship (sub-tender) around midnight of 18th February 1944. The ship sank in Truk Lagoon after being bombed by American airplanes. More about the ill-fated ship here.

Beer bottles on the Rio de Janeiro Maru in Truk Lagoon
Photo credit: montereydiver, Truk Lagoon 2017 (CC BY 2.0 licence) / Flickr.com

The most ordinary artefacts can tell a poignant story about the sailors who were killed in shipwrecks. Crates of beer bottles can still be found on the Rio de Janeiro Maru. Did the Japanese crew drink beer to bolster their fighting spirit and desensitise themselves to death?

A skull embedded in the Yamigiri Maru engine room, 2017
Photo credit: montereydiver, Truk Lagoon 2017 (CC BY 2.0 licence) / Flickr.com

This haunting image of a skull calls to mind what French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her 1970 book, The Coming of Age: “It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.”

The wreck of the Severance, Lady Elliott Island, Australia, 2005
Photo credit: Viv Hamilton (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

The Severance yacht sank in 1998, but it is fully intact like a mummified Egyptian pharaoh. Most of her rigging is still in place as though she were preparing to make another voyage.

2015 sonar image of the wreck believed to be the SV Inca, which vanished
en route from South America to Australia in 1911
Photo credit: Australian Transport Safety Board (CC BY 4.0 Australia licence)

Without modern technology, this shipwreck would not have been discovered in December 2015 during the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Southern Indian Ocean. Technology, however, is no magic wand. The Malaysian plane disappeared on 8th March 2014 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. It was never found despite what has been described as the most expensive search in aviation history. 

Two Muusoctopus appear to wrestle for space inside a wreck
Photo credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018

It is a bizarre thought. But human bodies are practically useless in death unless the cadaver is used for study by medical students or forensic doctors. On the other hand, wrecked ships continue to serve a purpose. They are home to corals, fishes and other aquatic animals. 

The Green Lantern Wreck, unknown wreck so named because a green lantern with the Spanish word “ESTRIBOR” (“starboard”) was found stamped on the bow. Paramuricea (a kind of deep sea coral) is located along the edge of the hull. Gulf of Mexico. 2009
Rob Church / NOAA Photo Library (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Wrecked ships and dead sailors undergo an amazing metamorphosis in the depths of the ocean. As William Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
                                             Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them,ding-dong, bell.

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

If you liked this article, feel free to share it with your friends on social media.

Interview: Frankie on depression and wellness training

Interview: Frankie on depression and wellness training

Long-time readers of Marine Café Blog are familiar with Frankie. I call him the Sage Cat — known for his snooty self-assurance and sardonic remarks, yet endearing in some ways. Frankie has been featured several times in this blog. This is my first interview with him in 2019.

Frankie the Sage Cat

Barista Uno: Hey, have you heard about the wellness training for seafarers?
Frankie: Of course. The maritime charities are all over the place babbling about depression and calling for wellness training.

BU: So what do you think about the whole thing?
Frankie: It’s a lot of hot air.

BU: But isn’t depression a serious matter? They say the number of suicides amongst seafarers has been rising because of it.
Frankie: If you’re depressed enough to commit suicide, you need psychiatric help — not some stupid training course!

BU: The maritime charities probably want to try a new approach to the problem.
Frankie: That’s sheer nonsense. I know you’ve been visiting the website of the American Psychiatric Association. Do those folks ever talk about training patients to beat depression?

BU: Well…
Frankie: Just say yes or no.

BU: Don’t you think the charities should be credited for their good intentions?
Frankie: You know the old saying about good intentions and where they lead to. Besides, you’ve said it yourself. This wellness training will only add to the training overload of seafarers.

BU: Overall, the charities are doing a great service to seafarers. Do you agree?
Frankie: Absolutely. I just wish that those making ship visits wouldn’t post selfies on Facebook. It’s kind of narcissistic.

BU: Going back to depression at sea, what would you suggest to address the problem?
Frankie: First of all, men and women who cannot stand loneliness and isolation should not be working at sea. They would be better off working at a call centre, selling merchandise or even farming. Every nation needs food security, especially in the wake of global warming.

BU: But those jobs you mentioned don’t pay as well as seafaring.
Frankie: True, but that’s exactly the problem with many seafarers. They’re after the dollars and don’t have a real love for the sea and sailing. Have you noticed? Some young Filipino ship officers are sitting behind a small desk as crewing managers or fleet superintendents. If I were a mariner, I would be sailing the seven seas even in old age!

BU: Come on, I need to hear some concrete solutions to depression.
Frankie: A hot foot bath will do if it’s just the blues. I would recommend a good book, but how many seafarers are into reading books? If it’s real depression, seek professional help.

BU: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Frankie: Go ahead.

BU: Have you ever suffered from depression?
Frankie: Me depressed? I get plenty of sleep and spend time in the garden. Besides, you serve me shrimps, salmon or KFC chicken for lunch. All shipowners and manning agents should be generous and compassionate like you.

BU: You flatter me.
Frankie: When are you going to order KFC?

~ Barista Uno

The Marine Cafe Blog

If you liked this article, feel free to share it with your friends on social media.