Edible vegetable oil, produced from oil palm and soybeans, is a key ingredient in junk food like chips and ice cream. Although these foods have little to no nutritional value, global consumption is on the rise, resulting in an increase in demand for vegetable oil. This has become a serious issue because large areas of land in Southeast Asia and South America have to be cleared to make way for oil palm and soybean crops.
The MIRAGE research team returned from their month-long expedition, almost two months ago on 30 July 2016, with a great deal of data that was collected directly from the seafloor of the Wharton Basin.
The Ratu River Expedition, a documentary on earthquakes in Nepal, has won several awards at film festivals around the world. Most recently, the 25-minute film won a Platinum Remi prize at the WorldFest-Houston International Film and Video Festival held in April 2016. It also been screened in more than 10 film festivals worldwide.
The 1883 eruption of Krakatau (also widely known as Krakatoa) volcano in Indonesia has captured the imagination of many people – from the first Malay account of the eruption by Muhammad Saleh (Syair Lampung Karam – published in Singapore) to the 1969 film Krakatoa, East of Java, starring Maximillian Schnell.
It has been almost a month since we left the port of Colombo to make our way to the Wharton Basin, a place so remote that I can count on one hand the number of container ships and fishing boats I saw during our three weeks there.
Last Saturday was barbecue night on the R/V Marion Dufresne, a chance for passengers and crew to mingle, cook their own dinner, and wear flip-flops on the ship’s main work deck, which is normally a safety-shoes-only zone. But rules relax on barbecue night, when everyone stands happily around a pair of open flames, sparks flying in the night as the ship pitches and rolls.
The first thing you need to know about the R/V Marion Dufresne’s engine room is that it is not a room at all. In fact, the engine — or engines, to be more precise — occupy an entire section of the ship, encompassing numerous decks from starboard to port. These decks are noisy and hot places, packed floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with ton upon ton of heavy machinery.
Some people collect stamps, while others collect the cancellations on stamps, from “fancy cancels” to first-day issues. Within the world of cancellation collectors, there is a smaller, but no less enthusiastic, group of people who collect ship cancellations, which bear the seal of the vessel and are sometimes accompanied by the signature of its captain.
This week, the lab was buzzing with anticipation as we approached a seamount (an underwater mountain formed by volcanic activity), a small section of which had been mapped during last year’s MEGATERA cruise. The presence of the seamount was hardly a mystery, but details about its bathymetry were. We were about to get the first good look at this distinctive feature of the Wharton Basin.
When the prospect of joining the MIRAGE team was dangled before me this spring, I was briefed on the nature of the survey we’d be conducting, the importance to the region of understanding why enormous earthquakes were occurring in the middle of a seafloor plate, and the impressive resumes of the scientists who would be on board. But in every conversation, there was always this promise — it’s a French ship, so the food is going to be amazing.