Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Defrosting a 1 ton squid!

I know it may be the other side of the world from Ireland and Cork Harbour, but I couldn't help posting this story about a 1,089 pound (494kg) squid from Antarctica which is being defrosted live on a New Zealand based webcast.

The Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) can grow up to 46 feet (14m) and is found only in the icy waters of Antarctica. The specimen in question was netted by fishermen who were fishing for the Patagonian Toothfish which is sold as Chilean sea bass. They stuck it in their freezer and brought it back to New Zealand where it was preserved by the National Museum who now plan to defrost it and examine it in detail before eventually preserving it permanently and putting it on display in a 1,800 gallon tank of formaldehyde. Highlights of the dissection will be shown on New Zealand television and the whole thing including shots from several different angles can be viewed on webcam from the National Museum of New Zealand's website at

If you like calamari (squid rings) don't, the animal has ammonia in it's system naturally and the rings would be the size of tractor tyres and I'll bet they'd be just as tough, especially after a year in the tank

Photo above is from the National Museum of New Zealand.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bring Back the Swansea Cork car ferry

The Old Blog Cabin is happy to lend its support to a new web-based campaign called Bring Back the Swansea Cork car ferry (www.bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com). They have an online petition and I would urge everyone to sign it.

Being without a direct car-ferry link to Britain has seriously affected the south-west of Ireland's tourist industry and has led to significant job losses in the region, not just tourist jobs but maritime and industrial jobs too. Let's hope the people of Cork get behind this campaign and the people of Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

World's biggest cruise liner on way to Cobh

Next weekend (3/4th May 2008) will see the world's largest cruise liner the Independence of the Seas visit Cork Harbour on her maiden voyage and tens of thousands of people are expected to head to Cobh to see the giant ship.

The photo above shows her smaller sister ship Navigator of the Seas which still ranks among the world's largest cruise liners. The Navigator is seen here on a visit to Cobh in June 2007 which attracted huge crowds.

The statistics for Independence of the Seas are breath-taking. She has a total of 18 decks and carries 4,370 passengers along with a crew of 1,360. At 160,000 tonnes and 339m (1,112 feet) long this is an enormous ship by any standard and will present a major challenge to the whichever of the Cork port pilots who gets the job of bringing the ship from Roche's Point to its berth at the Deepwater Quay. The pilots have of course become used to handling large liners in the port and are eminently qualified for the job, but still it is no easy feat manouevering such a big ship in limited channel space.

No doubt thousands of photographs will be taken of the event and this author for one will be looking for a good perch for my camera.

Independence of the Seas is due in Cobh at 15:00hrs on Saturday, 3rd May and is due to sail at 18:00hrs on Sunday the 4th May.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cork ship dispute settled - problem still remains

Having been overseas for a short trip I arrived back in Cork to discover that a Cambodian registered ship mv Defender had been detained in Cork Port and was at the centre of a pay row with the International Transport Federation. I have highlighted the question of "Flags of Convenience" before and Cambodia is one such Flag of Convenience. The ship's crew hadn't been paid and were on strike. They were being supported in their action by Cork dockers and the ITF. The dispute has now been settled with four of the crew on their way home, but the problem of Flags of Convenience still remains.

For all the talk of the EU, it has done prescious little to protect the rights of seafarers affected by the Flag of Convenience issue. The Defender is owned by a company based in Latvia - an EU member state, but the ship's registry is in Cambodia - a FOC state. I for one will be voting NO to the Treaty of Lisbon in the forthcoming Irish referendum as the EU institutions are not looking after the rights of European seafarers. There are many other reasons of course for my No vote but workers rights have seriously fallen down the EU's priority list in recent years.

Another thing, in some recent coverage of the Defender debacle, reference was made to this being "the first stand taken by a local labour force in Ireland in support of seafarers" (RTE News). This is patently untrue and Irish dockers have supported foreign crews on many occasions when they were in dispute with their employers, not least the dockers of Cork Port who have an excellent record of solidarity towards their fellow workers, Irish or otherwise. Whether it was the striking British Miners in 1983, the Liverpool Dockers in the 1990s or Latvian seafarers in 2008, Cork dockers were never short of helping out and often put their hands in their own pocket to help out fellow workers.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Piracy on the High Seas

It may sound like something from the distant past but piracy at sea is still a problem in some waters, most notably off the north-east coast of Africa with regular attacks on vessels of all types, from busy freighters to luxury yachts.

Yesterday there was news of another attack with the seizure of a large French yacht off the coast of Somalia but in recent times piracy has become even more common. On February 1st of this year a Danish-owned tug, the Svitzer Korsakov was attacked and boarded by up to 20 heavily armed men, also off the Somalian coast. The crew were captured, including a 68 year old Irish engineer, Fred Parle. They were held for a total of 47 days and nearly all their personal possessions were taken by the pirates who had demanded a ransom for their safe return. It is not known whether that ransom was paid, but some newspapers reported that up to US$700,000 was paid over for the release of the crew.

Late last year a Korean freighter was taken over by pirates but was retaken by the crew after a deadly struggle which left several pirates dead and crew members injured.

Modern piracy is less romantic than the swashbuckling stuff we all learned in our youth. There are no parrots or gold doubloons but ransoms can be just as valuable any crock of gold. In fact modern piracy is deadly serious and no joking matter. It just goes to show that life on the sea can be dangerous and challenging.

Roald Amundsen storm video

Recently the Old Blog Cabin featured the story of the German sail training vessel Roald Amundsen which survived a major storm (Storm Johanna) off the south coast of Ireland, suffering the total loss of 11 of her sails. Johanna has been described by meteorologists here as being the worst storm of Winter 2007/208. This morning I spotted a video made by the crew which was on another maritime blog Sea Fever (). So here it is:-

The Roald Amundsen is currently in her home port of Eckernförde in the western Baltic.