Saturday, June 12, 2021

JONAH 2021!

 12 June 2021: This story has made the rounds this week on many news media sites but we couldn't not post it, just based on the amazing tale it tells. The following is an amalgam from several sources, including the AP and Fox News.

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It was sunny and clear on Friday morning and the water was calm off the coast of Provincetown, Mass., where Michael Packard was diving for lobsters.

His longtime fishing partner, Josiah Mayo, was following him in their fishing vessel, the J&J, tracking him through the bubbles that rose from Mr. Packard’s breathing gear to the surface of the water.

The men had already caught 100 pounds of lobster, and Mr. Packard was about 40 feet underwater, looking for more.

Suddenly, the bubbles stopped, Mr. Mayo said. Then, the water began to churn violently. A creature breached the surface and for an agonizing split second, Mr. Mayo thought it was a white shark.

“I immediately thought it was the shark encounter that we’d unfortunately been preparing for for years,” he said in an interview on Saturday.

Then, he saw the fluke and the head of a whale. Moments later, he saw Mr. Packard fly out of the water.

Humpback Whale

“‘It tried to eat me,’” Mr. Packard sputtered, according to Mr. Mayo. The whale, a humpback, swam away as Mr. Mayo and another fisherman helped Mr. Packard back into the boat.

Such terrifying encounters are virtually unheard-of, according to Charles Mayo, Josiah Mayo’s father and a senior scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, a town of about 3,000 people on the tip of Cape Cod. There is an account of a woman who was pulled down by a pilot whale. There are reports of sperm whales that were harpooned and then attacked. And in 1896, The New York Times reported the implausible tale of a whaler who was found in the belly of a whale in October 1891 and rescued alive.[ed: hmmm]

“I’ve never heard of that ever happening,” Dr. Mayo said of Mr. Packard’s ordeal. Still, the encounter is explainable, he said.


The whale, possibly a 32- to 35-foot juvenile that had previously been seen swimming in the area, was most likely diving for food when it inadvertently caught Mr. Packard in its enormous mouth.

Humpback whales spend much of their time in that part of New England, searching for and engulfing small schooling fish, said Jooke Robbins, director of the humpback whale studies program at the Center for Coastal Studies.

They lunge fast, open their mouths and use baleen plates to “filter” the water out before swallowing the fish, Dr. Robbins said in a statement.

When the whale realized it had caught something that was not its typical prey — in this case, an unsuspecting lobsterman — it responded the way a human who accidentally ingested a fly would, Dr. Mayo said.

“We certainly don’t eat anymore,” he said. “We spit the food out, and some of us would leave the restaurant.”

 Michael Packard, 56, of Wellfleet, was released hours later from a Cape Cod hospital following his scary encounter.

"All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black," Packard recalled Friday afternoon, according to the Cape Cod Times. "I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth."

"I was completely inside (the whale); it was completely black," he added. "I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead. All I could think of was my boys, they’re 12 and 15 years old." 

Packard said he thinks he was in the whale's mouth for about 30 seconds. He was able to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus.

In an effort to save himself, Packard said he began shaking the whale's head before the animal surfaced and ejected him. In a Facebook post, he said the whale "spit me out" and that he escaped with bruises and no broken bones. 

Packard's mate, Josiah Mayo, plucked him out of the water and headed back to shore.

Experts told the newspaper that humpback whales are not aggressive animals, especially toward humans. 

"Based on what was described this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback," said Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

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Probably no one will have a story like that to tell. We suspect he likely wont have to buy a drink for himself for a long time! Well done, Mike!

See you all next week!

                                  Fair Winds,

                                            Old Salt

 



Friday, June 4, 2021

GHOST SHIPS - AUTONOMOUS VESSELS

4 June 2021: OK maybe the title of this post is a trifle misleading; we're not talking about the Flying Dutchman or the Mary Celeste or any of the other mythical and real ships which plied the oceans of the world with no crews. But we are talking about a ship - two actually - plying the oceans with no crews aboard and successfully negotiating such things as the Panama Canal, unmanned. The following from US Naval Institute:

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An experimental unmanned surface vehicle has transited the Panama Canal on the way to its new home in California, USNI News has learned.

Nomad, a former offshore patrol vessel retrofitted with systems to allow the ship to operate autonomously, passed through the Panama Canal this week, according to ship spotters tracking data from Marine Traffic.com. A Navy official also confirmed the transit.

Web cameras at the canal’s Miraflores locks showed Nomad en route the Pacific late Tuesday night.

A spokesperson for Naval Surface Forces Pacific referred USNI News to the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office when reached on Tuesday. A SCO spokesman acknowledged a request for additional information from USNI News but did not provide comment.

Based near the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., Nomad was underway extensively in the Gulf Coast and traveled as far away as Norfolk, Va., for its testing program, according to ship spotters.

Nomad, formerly known as Riley Claire, is one of two known ships SCO created for its Ghost Fleet Overlord experimentation program to test the viability of at-sea autonomous ships.

SCO contracted with Gibbs & Cox and L3 ASV Global in 2018 to convert one craft each into unmanned prototypes. The Pentagon used special contracting rules to prevent disclosure of the contractors and the cost of the Overlord program.

The other known Overlord ship, Ranger, completed its own transit to California late last year.

Ranger, the other Overlord Ship

“During this voyage, the vessel traveled over 4,700 nautical miles, 97 percent of which was in autonomous mode — a record for the program. Ghost Fleet Overlord will continue fleet experimentation to inform the Navy’s unmanned concept development,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Josh Frey told USNI News at the time.

Like Ranger, Nomad is eventually headed to join the Surface Development Squadron based out of San Diego, Calif. SURFDEVRON, the Navy’s surface experimentation unit, also operates two Sea Hunter medium USVs, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, early Littoral Combat Ships and other unmanned assets.

The Sea Hunters and the Overlord vessels were transferred to the SURFDEVRON to act as test beds for the Navy to craft a concept of operations for unmanned surface vessels – which the service has argued will be a key component of the future fleet.

Earlier this year, the Navy held its first major exercise utilizing unmanned ships and aircraft along with crewed ships and planes as a proof of concept.

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Amazing stuff! And could well the be solution to the Navy's continuing manning issues with not enough people to properly man the fleet. Satellite and radio control offer huge possibilities! I wonder if they're subject to jamming by folks who don't like us?

As a matter of interest (mostly to us here at Maritime Maunder) we are now at 122,300 readers! We continue to be humbled and astonished at the growing number of folks who enjoy (hopefully) what we post. Thank you all.

See you next week!

                                     Fair winds, 

                                         Old Salt