NOAA Exploration at the Bottom of Lake Huron

Summer makes me think of water. Water makes me think of the ocean, and the ocean is just begging to be explored. So what is new these days in deep sea exploration? Well for one thing, not all of it is taking place in the sea. From August 16-27 2010 a team from NOAA, (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) conducted a hunt for shipwrecks in Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes in the Northern Midwestern section of the United States. Joining NOAA was the Applied Research lab at the University of Texas at Austin.  They will be using an advanced sonar device which will be fitted onto a REMUS 600 autonomous underwater vehicle.

The exploration took place at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which was created in 2000 in order to protect what is considered to be one of America’s most significant collections of shipwrecks. Because of the cold, fresh water of the lake, the wrecks are in a particularly excellent state of preservation, making them a true treasure for archeologists and historians. Visit the website and explore the bottom of the lake with the NOAA.

Perseids Perform Positively Perfectly

Did you see any shooting stars in the past few nights? If you did it was because the earth once again passed through the dust-tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle in its annual orbit of the sun, creating a wonderful show of meteors burning up high above our heads in the beautiful summer sky.

Don’t feel bad if you think you missed it, because the earth is actually in the dust of the comet for several weeks, and shooting stars, or meteors, will be  visible during the entire time, until about August 24th. Although the peak time for viewing is on Wednesday night until Friday morning, August 11-13, you can still enjoy a breathtaking sight by finding a dark spot with the minimal amount of light pollution, lying back on a blanket, and staring up at the night sky. With luck you should be able to see about 60-80 meteors/hour.

The reason this meteor shower is called the Perseid shower, is because the majority of meteors will appear to be originating in the constellation called Perseus. Percy Jackson fans, please take note.

Perseids Visible with No Moon in Sight

This year we are lucky that visibility for the annual Perseid meteor shower will be ‘stellar.’ That is because the shower, which always falls from the 11th to 13th of August, this year will not have a moon ruining the visibility, which can sometimes happen. Where will the moon be, perhaps you are asking. Well, the phases of the moon are well known by all; the fact that the moon starts out each month as a tiny crescent resembling the tip of a thumbnail and grows to be a bright, full circle two weeks later, and then shrinks again until the moon disappears altogether is noticed by all. But what many people do not pay attention to is that the moon rises and sets later and later each night. When the moon is small, at the beginning of the lunar month, the moon sets about the same time as the sun. About two weeks later the moon is full, and rises at about the same time as the sun sets, and sets at about the same time as the sun rises. That is why, when the moon is full we see it  the entire night.  At the end of the month you would need to wake up just before sunrise to witness the moonrise, and the only time the moon is in the sky is during the day, when it’s view is washed out by the brightness of the sun.

This year the Perseids happen to fall during the first few days of the lunar month, and the moon will have set shortly after the sun, and will no longer be visible in our nighttime sky. Watch for it this Thursday evening, August 12th, setting in the west an hour or two after the sun has set. It will just be a tiny crescent, but it will be there.

Hunley Project Celebrates Ten Years of Research

For the past 10 years the “Hunley Project” has brought together mystery, history, science and technology, creating interest that is not just regional, or national, but international. What is this project of which I speak? It is the story of the world’s first successful combat submarine, which was raised from the bottom of the sea four miles from Charleston Harbour in South Carolina in the year 2000.

The H.L. Hunley was a top secret, private project built in Mobile, Alabama in 1863. It was designed by an engineer from New Orleans named James McClintock, who was hired privately by a group of investors who believed they could make a fortune getting through the blockade which the North had imposed on the South during the Civil War of the United States. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley detonated an explosive charge into the hull of the USS Housatonic, which created a hole in the ship  large enough for a train to pass through. The ship sank within minutes, killing five crewmen and leaving over 100 stranded in the sea. Shortly after that the Hunley disappeared. Its whereabouts were not known for 131 years, until a diving team discovered it four miles off the coast of Charleston in 1995.

At the time of its discovery the sub was buried under five feet of sand and 27 feet of water. It took five years to recover the sub, coming to the surface after 136 years underwater, on August 8, 2000.

Today, ten years later, the Hunley has so far earned about $120 million for the state of South Carolina as thousands of tourists from all over the world flock to gaze at it every year. As scientists and researchers continue to examine and learn from the Hunley and find ways to better preserve it, this amazing bit of history continues to reveal more about itself and the times from which it came.