Skip to comments.Cartographers Redrawing Maps After Tsunami [Straits of Malacca 4K feet deep before, now 100 feet?]
Posted on 01/05/2005 4:20:40 PM PST by Mike Fieschko
Water depths in parts of the Straits of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping channels off the coast of Sumatra, reached about 4,000 feet before last month's tsunami. Now, reports are coming in of just 100 feet too dangerous for shipping, if proved true.
A U.S. spy imagery agency is working around the clock to gather information, warn mariners and begin the time-consuming task of recharting altered coastlines and ports throughout the region.
Officials at the Bethesda, Md.-based National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency say the efforts will take international cooperation over months, if not years.
Thousands of navigational aides, such as buoys held in place by mushroom-shaped anchors, were carried off to new locations by 50-foot to 100-foot waves. Old shipwrecks marked on charts have been relocated, joined by new wrecks that will have to be salvaged, moved or charted.
But there might be a silver lining in the devastation.
"Maybe there's less pirates now," says Peter Doherty, who works at the agency and is chairman for the International Hydrographic Organization's commission that sends out radio navigational warnings.
He and others are hoping that the waves carried away the modern-day Blackbeards. These thieves trolled the waters in high-speed boats, armed with guns, knives and grappling hooks, which they used to climb the sides of ships to steal them and their goods.
Just how different the ocean floor looks remains largely a mystery. The bulk of the tsunami recovery effort has gone toward humanitarian relief. Gradually, however, attention will turn to what it will take to make the region's waters safe. Among the first priorities will be making the channels safe for relief shipments.
The U.S. agency, which analyzes spy satellite imagery and produces maps and charts for the Defense Department, has so far sent out two tsunami-related warnings on a Pentagon (news - web sites) messaging system and made them available publicly on its own Web site.
Ports of call may be heavily damaged "to include unknown new bottom configurations, ship wrecks, shoreline changes and depth limitations," according to a warning from Dec. 29.
"In addition," the notice said, "aids to navigation may be damaged, inoperable, off station or even destroyed. ... Proceed with extreme caution."
The agency has received an unconfirmed report that one area of the Strait of Malacca, which divides Malaysia and the devastated Indonesian island of Sumatra, had its depth cut from 4,060 feet to just 105 feet.
In another area of tsunami-effected waters, a merchant marine ship has logged that the depth was cut from 3,855 feet to just 92 feet.
The agency's chief hydrographer, Chris Andreasen, said experts may find that whole channels were moved by the earthquake that preceded the tsunami, shifting the ocean floor many feet, rather than the inches seen during the 1989 California quake during the World Series (news - web sites).
"When the plate moves, everything on it moves," Andreasen said. "There could be some pretty serious shifts."
Warnings about the new oceanic landscape go out right away. But the agency waits to update its charts until it gets final confirmation.
Among other international operations, the Navy is sending two ships to begin efforts to rechart the waters. One, the USNS John McDonnell, could arrive by next week.
It is expected to be followed by the newer USNS Mary Sears, which is awaiting final orders to head out from Japan. On board will be sonar, a dozen scientists and 34-foot vessels used to rechart the shipping channels.
The initial goal is not to study every square foot, but to understand what happened to the channels so the ports can be used to deliver relief supplies. Now, helicopters and airplanes are the primary means, said Capt. Jeffrey Best, commanding officer at the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The Navy does not know what it will find. "We may have buildings or buses in the channels of the harbors," Best said.
On the Net.
the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Maritime Safety Information: http://pollux.nss.nga.mil/index/index.html
impressive if true
impressive if true
As Dan Rather would say, "Impressive even if untrue!"
The following is a summary of the daily reports broadcast by the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre to ships in Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean Regions on the SafetyNET service of Inmarsat-C from 27 December 2004 to 3 January 2005.
Recently reported incidents
|03.01.2005 at 0120 LT in posn: 01:14N - 103:25E, Phillip Channel.
A craft named "golden sphere sc-375" followed a tanker underway for 50 minutes. Suspecting it could be a pirate boat; master activated anti-piracy measures and craft moved away.
|31.12.2004 at 2300 LT in posn: 15:48N - 042:29E, Red Sea.
D/O on a tanker underway spotted an unlit fast craft 10 metres long closing in on port quarter. Alert crew directed searchlights and craft turned and moved in direction of a container ship eight NM away.
|Actual or attempted incidents
|02.01.2005 at 2120 UTC Kandla outer anchorage, India.
Robbers boarded a general cargo ship, broke into forward
locker and stole ship's stores. D/O raised alarm and robbers escaped in their boat.
|02.01.05 at 0730 LT in posn: 26:13.2N - 056:52.2E, Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf / Arabian Sea.
Several persons armed with guns in six blue speedboats about 6 - 8 meters long crossed a container ship from starboard to port. They were dressed in black clothes with facemasks. D/O raised alarm and crew mustered and activated fire hoses. Boats followed the ship but later moved away.
|31.12.2004 at 0330 LT at CBM Rio Haina terminal, Dominican Republic.
Two robbers armed with long knives boarded a LPG tanker tied to mooring buoys. Duty watchman raised alarm and one robber jumped overboard. The other robber threatened D/O with a knife and also jumped overboard. Port control informed.
|29.12.2004 at 1720 UTC in posn: 22:05N - 091:43E, off Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Eight pirates armed with knives in an unlit boat boarded a bulk carrier underway. Alert crew mustered and switched on deck lights. Pirates broke in to aft locker and stole ship's stores. They jumped overboard and escaped in a waiting boat.
|27.12.2004 at Kandla inner anchorage, India.
Robbers boarded a general cargo ship from a small boat. They stole ship's stores and escaped.
Big news...... If the congested straights become more narrow, More congestion and navigation problems for captains.
Most big ports would be happy to have a 45 foot channel. A hundred foot depth is not a factor in shipping. - tom
The Abe Lincoln passed through the Straits of Malacca without incident after the quake.
I'd like to know exactly where these twits say the Straits of Malacca were 4000 feet deep before and now only 100 feet deep.
At the narrow point near Singapore, the Strait was always shallow.
To the northwest, perhaps it was (is) deeper. It certainly is much wider.
If a water column in the Straits of Malacca of several thousand feet were displaced as described, the ensuing tsunami within the Straits of Malacca would have wiped the coasts abutting the Straits from the face of the earth, including Singapore.
But, we know that there was NO significant tsunami effect in the straits.
From this we can conclude the obvious. The story is unadulaterated BS, and nothing more.
Agreed. Mother Earth doesn't move this quickly.
I once had a friend who had been in the Merchant Marines. He told me that on long ocean voyages they would put the ship on the "Iron Mike," leave the bridge totally unattended and go about other business on the ship that had to be done. Once in a while someone who happened to be passing near the bridge would look around to see if there were other ships in the area then go about his business. I suppose that's why some of these pirates are successful. No one on the ship sees them until already onboard and making noises.
It is true. Parts of the straits were 4000 feet before, and parts are now only 100 feet deep. Trouble is, not the same parts. The parts that were 4000 feet are still 4000 feet, and the parts that were 100 feet are still 100 feet. Some of the straits are also 1 foot deep. The part just by the beaches.
YAWN. Can't wait for the Gonzalez battle to get Tsumaniland off the news.
Thanks for the comment. Got to admit it sounded plausible when I first read it.
These guys prefer a little bit more depth than the container ships do.
That is a cool graphic.
Make sure you provide a link to http://www.nmic.navy.mil/
Wow! I never knew George Bush was THAT powerful!
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