December 29, 2013

Cruise Ship Trapped in Pack Ice

A Russian research/cruise ship Akademik Shokalskiy. has been overwhelmed by a summer blizzard off Antarctica and has become trapped in thickening ice. The Chinese icebreaker  Xue Long, unable to deal with the thickness of ice around the ship has retreated to open water leaving the cruise ship's only hope the Australian icebreaker Aurora Austrialis which is moving to assist. .


Akademik Shokalskiy stuck fast. Pic via USA Today

UPDATE: It looks like Aurora Australis is also being forced off by the abominable conditions.
This is getting serious.
Two top of the line icebreakers have found conditions too dangerous to proceed. The weather has deteriorated to the point that helicopter rescue is currently unsafe. If the ice is really over 4 meters thick, the cruise ship (which draws 4.5m) is not really floating any more. There is the very real possibility that the ship might be crushed. Complicating matters is the fact that the 'expedition' is a political stunt and PR is everything for the expedition leaders. Reports from the Akademik Shokalski indicate that those being interviewed are in denial of the gravity of their situation.The optics of this incident as well as the political and financial implications for the members of the voyage, may well be influencing them to deny the inevitable until lives are at risk.
Irony is a dish best served cold.



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December 27, 2013

Just South of Europa, it Gets Kind of Humid

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes seems a bit excited about a recent discovery by NASA.


"It's just a water vapor cloud..BUT IT'S IN SPAAACE!!!"

While examining an aurora near Europa's  south pole, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered that it is associated with a faint cloud of water vapor, presumably venting from cryo-volcanoes on Europa that have plumes 201 kilometers high.



It seems likely that the 'cloud' deposits snow on Europa's south pole. NASA scientists take the plumes as further evidence that Europa is home to a vast subterranean ocean.

via NBF

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