Archive for July, 2015

Flotsam and Jetsam

July 29, 2015

What’s the difference between flotsam and jetsam?  Flotsam floats upon the surface of the ocean waves, while Jetsam is stranded on shore by the receding tide.  So when an unaffiliated flaperon appeared in the waves at Saint-André near Redwood Pond on Wednesday morning, did it really matter whether the sub-alar component was bobbing in the ocean swell or already ashore? Not very much:

C’est une étrange découverte qu’ont fait les membres de l’association 3E travaillant sur le littoral de Saint-André, devant l’étang de Bois-Rouge. C’est vers 9 heures qu’ils ont vu cette pièce poussée par les vagues contre la rive. Ils l’ont sortie de l’eau sans difficulté. Ils ont en effet retrouvé un morceau d’aile d’avion mesurant environ 3 mètres sur 1, vraisemblablement son extrémité.

Free translation: {Members of 3E made a strange discovery while working on the Saint-André coast near Bois-Rouge Pond. At around 9 o’clock they saw something pushed by the waves onto the shore. They got it out of the water no problem (without difficulty) and found that they had retrieved part of an airplane wing, apparently the wingtip, measuring about 3 x 10 feet.}

Xavier Tytelman, an expert in aviation security, said it [was possible] that the wreckage belonged to MH370, which vanished without trace in March last year. He noted that local media photos showed “incredible similarities between a #B777 flaperon and the debris found,” referring to a Boeing 777 — the type of aircraft in service on MH370.


Until today Reunion Island generally appeared in mass media for two types of news stories: chikungunya or shark attacks.  Now you can add the Indian Ocean Gyre to the shortlist.


Let’s see what those oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island can do with this mystery.  Let’s see them walk back 16 months of Indian Ocean current data to model the path of this floating sub-alar component … back to the vicinity where it originally separated from the main assembly (MH370) on 8 Mar 2014.  U.S. Navy has the ocean data and NOAA does too.  Unleash the hydrodynamic modellers!


O, The Humanity!

July 25, 2015

It’s “official”: the cause of mid-July’s beach blast at Salty Brine State Park was as basic as Element Number One: hydrogen.

A mysterious blast on a Rhode Island beach likely was caused by the combustion of hydrogen gas that had built up because of a corroded copper cable under the sand, investigators announced Friday.  Scientists at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography [concluded] the hydrogen had been released by the corrosion of an abandoned copper cable that previously was used by the U.S. Coast Guard.


URI’s Arthur Spivack said scientists tested more than 300 samples of [Salty Brine] sand last week and found some pockets that had about 10,000 times the expected level of hydrogen.  “Hydrogen combustion is about the simplest chemical reaction there is.  All you need is hydrogen and oxygen in the right mixture and it can combust,” he said. “Everything we observed is consistent with hydrogen combustion.”

Rhode Island officials believe Salty Brine is the only state beach with Coast Guard cables running underneath the sand.  The Coast Guard is trying to determine if there are cables under any other beaches in Rhode Island and how many, said a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

OK, so the Coast Guard is (sort of) taking the rap for this one, but they’re basically pleading guilty to a lesser charge.  No one on active duty is admitting to unauthorized deployment of a sonic cannon, but they’re willing to point the finger at whatever nameless Coast Guard officials (now long retired) left old communication cables to rot under Salty Brine Beach.

Oh well –better than nothing. It’s the most you can hope for.  All’s well that ends well.  But what about all those abandoned copper cables under the beach at Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area?  I guess we should be hearing from them any day now …



Hell Off The Beach

July 15, 2015

I haven’t been “down the shore” in quite some time, even though some beachgoers have been having quite a blast this year:

A loud boom knocked a Rhode Island beachgoer out of her chair on Saturday. The blast at Salty Brine beach in Narragansett [sic] was so strong that Kathleen Danise was hurled from her beach chair near the water line and thrown against a rock jetty 10 feet away.  She suffered two fractured ribs and numerous bruises.  Witnesses that morning said they heard a rumbling and loud bang that sounded like a large firecracker, a grenade or a gas explosion, and noticed a sulfur or butane smell.

However …

The blast left behind a furrow in the sand and little else.  State Police Col. Steven G. O’Donnell said there was no physical evidence of an explosion, such as charring or debris. Dogs and chemical swipes detected no explosive residue. Officials also determined there was no natural gas line running underneath.  Scientists noted that methane explosions sometimes occur in nature, but pointed out that it is typically in places like swamps or areas in the Arctic that produce high levels of methane. “I’ve never heard of a methane explosion on the beach,” said Stephen Porder, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University.

It’s surprising, given the beach’s location –between Jerusalem and Galilee, RI– that two or three additional hypotheses haven’t been publicly discussed.  Perhaps they’re considered too outlandishly improbable:

  • An uninvited appearance by Ol’ Scratch himself.  Loud bang.  Sulphurous odor.  Human hurled headlong into the abyss.  Just what you’d expect from Satan, Lucifer, or whatever you prefer to call him. It’s enough to make a believer out of almost anyone.


  • A sonic cannon, aka Long Range Acoustic Device. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have been using this technology in the Caribbean for more than a decade –to knock out the engines on drug smugglers’ go-fast boats. The device certainly has the capability to knock a middle-aged woman out of her beach chair. And guess what? The Naval Undersea Warfare Center is right around the corner from Point Judith, in Newport, RI.  Just the place where you’d expect to find ongoing research into maritime applications of near-lethal weaponry.


So was some bored swab-jockey or Coastie in Block Island Sound tempted to have a little harmless fun on Saturday afternoon?  Did he impulsively aim that LRAD at the shore and tap that big red button?  We’ll probably never know.  But when ONI finally comes to investigate, he can always claim in his defense: “The devil made me do it!

  • Or perhaps he can point the finger at shadowy figures lurking in the shrubbery: angry Mossad agents incensed by Team Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. After all, according to the Biblical legend of Judith,

… a daring and beautiful widow is angry with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from the invading forces of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Nineveh and Assyria. She goes to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved.

Hebrew versions of the Book of Judith place its events in the Hellenistic period when the Maccabees battled the Seleucid monarchs.

Take your pick of these three improbable hypotheses, or conjure up a few of your own.  It’s a great way to while away the hours during a rainy day at the beach.

WWII All Over … Again

July 3, 2015

The fix is in: for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII those canny Swiss ‘neutrals’ at FIFA have orchestrated a distaff rematch of Axis-vs-Allies in the semis and final of the Women’s World Cup.  United States v. Japan for world domination.  England v. Germany for consolation prize.  Was it in the script all along?


The referees played their usual solid supporting roles, with a penalty kick here and a penalty kick there … together with a few strategic non-calls along the way. We can probably expect more of the same in the final.  FIFA officials seeking to avoid extradition to the U.S. Department of Justice may tip the scales toward a Hollywood ending for the neon yellow Nike hose of the good ol’ USA.  Let’s just wait and see.

Meanwhile, in the Andean fringes of southern Mercosur, the beautiful game will be played at its pinnacle by slightly less beautiful players than in Vancouver.  Chile and Argentina will be ignoring their mutual history as post-war havens for the losing team, and will instead emphasize themes close to the heart of a certain former Porteño — Jorge Mario Bergoglio:

“Chile and Argentina are brother countries, we have to show mutual respect,” said Argentine defender Javier Mascherano.  “Sport is about trying to be healthy and having fun, not a war.  If we stoop to aggression and violence, we lose that message of respect.

His Chileno counterpart Jose Rojas agreed: “Argentina is strong but nothing is impossible.  We have hunger and desire to achieve something important for our country.  We are playing at home, with our people behind us, and we have something to say.  You have to throw all the meat on the grill,” Rojas said.


Meat on the grill?   Sounds like an appeal to San Lorenzo!  On Saturday we’ll see who’s really running the barbeque in Sant’Iago.  I’m thinking it’s gonna be Lionel Messi.