Maritime Monday 213

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May 9, 2010

Welcome to this week’s installment ofimage You can find last week’s here »


National Geographic Daily News – A dead Portuguese man-of-war floats on rust-colored oil off the Louisiana coast. Photo by Eric Gay, AP


 SATURDAY: Staten Island Ferry Crashes Into Dock Mechanical failure caused a Staten Island ferry to crash into the St. George terminal pier shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, police, fire and Coast Guard officials said. Thirty-seven people were injured, Janette Sadik-Khan, the city transportation commissioner, said at a news conference on Staten Island.

imageEmergency workers walk through the destroyed interior of the Staten Island Ferry / AP »

Problems Even Before a Ferryboat’s First Voyage

image The Andrew J. Barberi first set sail across Upper New York Bay in August 1981 after a pomp-filled send-off from Staten Island by Mayor Edward I. Koch. Its engine promptly failed, the steering mechanism went dead, and the vessel ran aground near Governors Island.

The mammoth orange ferry, the second-oldest in the Staten Island Ferry fleet, had problems even before that first voyage. And in 2003, the Barberi was involved in the worst accident in the ferry’s history, when a captain who had been taking painkillers blacked out and the ferry rammed into a pier at St. George terminal on Staten Island, killing 11 people and injuring scores.

On Saturday, the Barberi again crashed on its approach to Staten Island, apparently because the system that slows the boat failed, causing the ferry to slam into a pier, injuring about three dozen passengers. Its hull cracked in two places, the Barberi was once more taken out of service.   (photo source)

Acidic Powder Leaks from Cargo Container at Port of LA

May 4, 2010  – Los Angeles Fire Department personnel sent to the Port of Los Angeles today determined that no one was injured aboard a ship where a chemical described as a "dry acid-type powder" leaked from a cargo container.

Firefighters and paramedics were sent to Berth 303 about 3:30 a.m. to examine up to 16 members of a crew arriving from India after a 40-foot shipping container sprung a leak, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Jauregui of the Harbor Station. A hazmat squad boarded the ship, and found that the powder apparently was inert, and that no one was injured, a fire department spokesperson said. (KPCC Wire Services)


BP Is in the Spotlight for Now, but 3 Other Companies Could Share the Blame

As Congress prepares to hold hearings into the April 20 explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a billion-dollar question is bobbing on the oil-slicked waves: Whose fault is it?

So far, BP, the British company that leased the deepwater rig, has commanded the spotlight. But the oil giant is emphatic about blaming the rig’s owner and operator, a Swiss company called Transocean, for the accident.

BP Hits Snag with Containment Dome

image Crystal formation plugs pipe inside structure

BP has reported a major setback with the containment dome that’s supposed to collect most of the oil gushing from a damaged pipe in the Gulf of Mexico after ice-like crystals clogged the steel and concrete box.

"I wouldn’t say it’s failed yet," BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Saturday. "What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work."

image Oil Spill: US Failing to Tighten Ecological Oversight, Say Activists

SUNDAY: The Guardian – The Obama administration waived environmental reviews for 26 new offshore drilling projects even as the BP oil disaster spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, environmental activists said today.

British Nuclear Subs Head to Sea with Potentially Disastrous Safety Problem

image Information Dissemination – Safety valves designed to release pressure from steam generators in an emergency were completely sealed off when the nuclear hunter killers Turbulent and Tireless left port, a leaked memo discloses.

The problem went undetected on HMS Turbulent for more than two years, during which time the vessel was on operations around the Atlantic, and visited Bergen in Norway, the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and Faslane naval base near Glasgow…

Cargo Ship and Barge Collide; 8 Missing

imageIn the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, May 4, a cargo ship and a barge collided off north China’s Tianjin coast.

One of nine crew members aboard the barge was rescued before it sank, the other 8 are still missing. The crew aboard the cargo ship was unharmed. A dozen Chinese rescue vessels are searching for the missing crew.  (MarEx)

Charles River Dredging Begins

image BOSTON — Workers are preparing to dredge the Charles River Thursday in search of clues to what caused part of a water main to burst last weekend, cutting off clean water supply to two million residents of Greater Boston.

Crews were unable to start dredging Wednesday as originally planned, because they first had to shore up the land along the river to ensure that it could support a crane. State officials say finding all or part of the pipe collar that apparently broke off will provide key evidence to what caused the rupture.

Clay Maitland: Time to Raise Seafarers up the Social Scale

imageThe week before I joined my first ship, there was an encouraging headline in the local paper:

“Seafarers the scum of the earth, says judge”

He was, if I recall, dealing with the aftermath of what appeared to me a low-level riot in Southampton, with a Cunarder’s crew celebrating in an unrestrained fashion, in the course of which part of the city was wrecked.

Well, that was more than a half century ago, but it often seems that in a world even more dependent upon shipping for its food, fuel and fashionable consumer goods, the seafarers does not appear to have greatly advanced up the social scale.


Secretary Napolitano and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen listen to Coast Guard Station New York Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald Robinson talk about driving the Coast Guard’s new 45-foot Medium Response Boat in New York Harbor. U.S. Coast Guard photo/Berlin)

Could Outgoing Commandant, ADM Allen, be the Incoming DHS Secretary?

image Damn, and we were hoping to get him to be a guest blogger here at gCaptain!

Unofficial Coast Guard Blog – Some Friday food for thought based on a hypothetical situation… I came upon a great piece yesterday in The New York Times titled Crisis-Tested Veteran Gets Arduous Final Task which essentially takes the same position I did in my last piece on the subject as to why ADM Allen was named the NIC. However, it dives a little further into his past which oddly enough reads as a retirement award…

Five Offshore Oil Hotspots Beyond the Gulf That Could Boom – or Go Boom

image 80 Beats/Discover Mag – After the fallout from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—the dispersal agents, the containment domes, the apologies, the blame game, the court rulings over who should pay, the know-nothing punditry, and all the environmental wreckage—offshore oil drilling will go on. The cold truth is that we need the oil, and under the sea is one place we can still find it—in part because extracting it is sufficiently difficult that companies focused on easier-to-get deposits in the past.

There’s plenty of oil under the Gulf, which became perfectly clear when responders couldn’t stem the flow of the current spill, allowing thousands of barrels to leak into the water every day. But other undersea sites are loaded with oil—and are similarly expensive and risky to exploit. Here are five that might be particularly promising, and prone to trouble.

ALSO: Big Science News this Week! Human-Neanderthal Mating Left Its Mark in the Human Genome »

image Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology first sequenced the entire Neanderthal genome from powdered bone fragments found in Europe and dating from 40,000 years ago–a marvelous accomplishment in itself. Then, they compared the Neanderthal genome to that of five modern humans, including Africans, Europeans, and Asians.

The researchers found that between 1 & 4 percent of the DNA in modern Europeans and Asians was inherited from Neanderthals, which suggests that the interbreeding took place after the first groups of humans left Africa.

History of the Oil Industry, pt. 1 by Bowsprite

click image to see full sizeimageMarco Polo wrote about the oil laden ships of the Caspian Sea.

Inquiry Into Ady Gil Crash with Whalers’ Ship Inconclusive

image Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has labeled a report into the collision between a Japanese whaling ship and a high tech protest boat in January a political cop-out.

Herald Sun AU – The report by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority is inconclusive after failing to determine who was responsible for the crash between the anti whaling vessel Ady Gil and the Shonan Maru 2. The investigation failed to find which party was to blame after the Japanese government refused to cooperate and video footage proved inconclusive.


Iranian Warships Foil Attempted Hijack of Cargo Ship

image TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian fleet of warships present in the Gulf of Aden nipped in the bud several attempts by Somali pirates to hijack an Iranian cargo ship.

"Last night an Iranian cargo ship was attacked by pirates twice and both their attempts failed," Iranian Army’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced on Saturday.

Sayyari mentioned that the first attack by the Somali pirates occurred at 1:00 hours local time and that the Iranian vessel came under a second attack by Saturday morning. He added that the Iranian warships rushed to the scene and made the buccaneers flee.

imageFILE: Irving drydock at Halifax Shipyards (source)

Irving Dry Dock Sinks, Isn’t Dry Anymore

Crews from J.D. Irving Ltd. are working on raising a dry dock platform that sank Saturday in Halifax Harbour.

The massive platform was being submerged to accommodate a tugboat for maintenance, but instead of lifting the tug out of the water, it kept sinking. An oil boom has been deployed around the sunken dock, but harbour officials said there was no visible slick on the water.

The tug was safely removed and no one was injured. Luke Gaulton, spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Ocean, said there was no need for the Coast Guard to respond. A generator and a couple of winches were on the dock when it sank. (CBC News)


Judge: Boat Thief Should be Charged with Stupidity

FALL RIVER, Mass. – Robert Nunes, 21, of Wilbur Street, Taunton, stood before Judge Gilligan, charged with breaking into the Somerset Marina, fighting with a 71-year-old marina worker, stealing a work boat, colliding with a brand new yacht and then diving into the Taunton River far from shore when the work boat ran out of gas.Nunes had to be rescued from the 55-degree water and taken to Charlton Memorial Hospital to be treated for hypothermia before he could be charged.

Just a Drill in Boston, Plane and Simple


If a plane really crashed into Boston Harbor you’d be reading this on the front page, not wherever this little tale has landed. Like all the hubbub in the harbor yesterday, this is just a simulation.

BOSTON HERALDMassPort staged a plane crash yesterday morning, tossing dummies into the water and casting about 100 Massachusetts Maritime Academy students in the role of jet fuel-soaked crash victims.

MassPort spokesman Phil Orlandela said the operation involved rescue units from 50 federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and EMS, as well as state police. He said the outcome was deemed a success. Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the agencies stage drills once a year to stay sharp in case the worst should come to pass.

imageOil-slicked water at the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Globe and Mail »

Media Mitzvah: Thank You, New York Times

image An article in today’s New York Times had done a service to the merchant mariners of the Oil & Gas industry who survived the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 2oth, 2010.

DEEP WATER WRITING – I have several friends who work for the affected drilling company and know that this event, while not affecting any of them directly, has surely given cause for their families to contemplate the inherent risks of seafaring and the exploitation of natural resources.

imageHowever unfortunate the ensuing spill is to the ecosystems and economies in the Gulf of Mexico the loss of eleven men who were doing their work in a world dependent on fossil fuel should not be eclipsed.

  • more »
  • See also: Tanks »

    What do fuel oil, lube oil, slops, ballast, gray, black and potable water all have in common? All are stored on board ship in tanks. Tankage is an inherent structural necessity for large ships and represents a significant portion of overall vessel volume.



Mothers’ Day Gift Turns Into Nautical History  image Foray

Searching for Grandma

Mari Sagi, my grandmother, boarded the Cunard Line’s RMS Caronia in the port of Fiume, Hungary on Saturday, December 18, 1909 to begin a new life in America. Fiume is modern-day Rijeka, Croatia on the Adriatic Coast and is more than a thousand miles from her home in the Carpathian Mountains.

My family research went off on a slight tangent as I uncovered the fascinating history of this ship that carried my grandmother to her new home.

imageOil washes ashore on New Harbor Island, Louisiana. Photo Alex Brandon, AP

NatGeo: Nature Fighting Back Against Gulf Oil Spill

For starters, crude is like butter for oil-munching bacteria.

National Geographic NewsDriving down Highway 23 last week in the southern Louisiana fishing town of Port Sulphur (map), David Ojeda could smell that something wasn’t right. Turbulent winds over the approaching Gulf of Mexico oil spill were blowing strong odors inland, the 68-year-old shrimper suspects.

"Everybody’s worried," he said Wednesday at the Port Sulphur harbor, which was filled to capacity with fishers rendered idle by the spill. "Nobody knows what will happen."

Unpleasant though it may be for those on the shore, that smell could be a sign of Mother Nature doing her own dirty work: It’s the pungent scent of evaporating surface oil, which rises into the atmosphere and gets broken down by sunlight.

Navy Times: LCS Freedom Heads for 5-day Dry Dock Repairs

imageThe littoral combat ship Freedom, built by defense giant Lockheed Martin, is due to enter a shipyard owned by LCS rival General Dynamics this weekend so engineers can repair a problem with one of the Freedom’s water jets, Navy officials said Tuesday.

Freedom’s Blue Crew — which re-took the ship upon its arrival in San Diego last month — discovered a problem with its outer starboard waterjet, said Lt Cmdr. Chris Servello, a spokesman for Naval Surface Forces. So the ship is being taken to a dry dock at San Diego’s Nassco shipyard, owned by the company that hopes its own ship design, the aluminum trimaran Independence, will win the Navy’s LCS competition this summer.


Sea Fighter Aids in Oil Disaster – One of the Navy’s most unique new and versatile platforms, the FSF-1 Sea fighter (fast sea frame and catamaran) is in Pensacola, Florida, utilizing its peculiar shallow water talents to help out.  MORE »

New Wars: Sea Links »

  • Speech by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition
  • Gates questions long-term need for 11 Navy carriers
  • Gates to the ship industry: Shape up
  • Gates Signals Tough Budget Season for Sea Services
  • See also: Off the Shelf Arsenal Ships »
  • See also: The Admirals Refute Sec. Gates »

NOAA Expands Commercial and Recreational Fishing Closure in Oil-Affected Portion of Gulf of Mexico

NOAA has modified and expanded the boundaries of the closed fishing area to better reflect the current location of the BP oil spill, and is extending the fishing restriction until May 17.

Coast Guard News – The closed area now represents slightly less than 4.5 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The original closure boundaries, which took effect last Sunday, encompassed less than three percent. This leaves many areas that are still available for fishing. The vast majority of Gulf waters has not been affected by the oil spill and continues to support productive fisheries and tourism activities.

Norwegian Epic Fire Could be Deliberate, Says Yard

imageCruise News – Following the fire onboard NCL‘s new Norwegian Epic last week in the shipyard, an investigation has now been launched into whether the blaze was started deliberately.

In a statement, the shipyard — STX France — said that French authorities are looking into how the fire was started at its St. Nazaire shipyard on Monday night.

"It appeared that … some findings could indicate that the fire might have been started deliberately," such as "non activation" of an automatic fire extinguishing system and the fact there was no work being done at the time likely to cause a fire.

imageOil Biz is Risky, Duh !

THE MONITOR: I came across this insightful article from my February 2010 Offshore Engineer magazine, and thought it would be well worth sharing, in light of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, with Transocean’s Horizon semisub rig.


imageCapt. Alwin Landry, whose ship was nearby when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire, assisted with his crew in the rescue of survivors. The April 20 explosion made him think of a piece of advice from his father, a volunteer firefighter: Be calm and give concise directions. Photo: Carol Guzy/The Washington Post

On the Rig: Boredom, Then Sudden Terror

Workers recount the first moments after the oil rig explosion claimed 11 lives and launched a disaster.

BELLE CHASSE, La. – Before the explosion, the oil spill, the declarations of "environmental crisis" or the emergency visit by President Obama, 126 oil riggers were passing another quiet night on the Gulf of Mexico. The skies were clear and the seas calm on April 20. Boredom and loneliness were the primary concerns.

They called the Deepwater Horizon their "floatel," because the rig was a world unto itself: an isolated tower on 5,000-foot-deep seas, with only scratchy satellite phones and the occasional helicopter to bridge the 50 miles to Louisiana shores.

Wyman Wheeler, a 39-year-old oilman, was busy packing. He was 20 days into a 21-day hitch, scheduled to fly back to Houma, La., by helicopter at 6 a.m. and then drive four hours to his home in Mississippi.

Like most of the men, he worked on the rig for 21 days at a time, enduring 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, so he could spend the next 21 days at home. He called his wife, Rebecca, and spoke to their two young children. "One more night," he said.

Wheeler hung up the phone, changed into his coveralls and walked out of his room and down the hall toward the tool room, then stopped. The hall reeked of gasoline. The lights flickered. Popping sounds echoed from overhead. Suddenly the door to the tool room seemed to be breathing…

Ontario: Great Lakes Feeder Lines Adds Second Ship

image Great Lakes Feeder Lines has taken delivery of its second ship MV Arctic Sea in Malta.

The ship, which made headlines last summer after becoming the centrepiece of an alleged hijacking off the Swedish Coast, is a 1992 build Ice Class 1a vessel designed to operate in some of the most stringent ice conditions.

  • more »
  • SEE ALSO: Russia: Sentence in Ship Hijacking – A Moscow court gave a five-year sentence on Friday to one of the men charged with hijacking a cargo ship off the coast of Sweden last summer, the court said in a statement, the first verdict in a rare case of European piracy. Andrei Lunev, 44, an Estonian citizen, pleaded guilty to charges that he and eight other men commandeered the ship, the Arctic Sea »

Panama Canal Can Confront Accidents

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has the necessary capacity to confront different kinds of accidents similar to the fuel leak that took place this week at one of the locks, executives of the entity reported.

ACP Administrator Alberto Aleman recalled that about 12 accidents are reported every year, which is a low rate compared to over 14,000 ships that go through the canal…

Piracy and Maritime Crime: Historical and Modern Case Studies

image OLD SALT BLOG – The US Naval War College has published a collection of essays on Piracy and Maritime Crime: Historical and Modern Case Studies, edited by Bruce A. Elleman, Andrew Forbes, and David Rosenberg. 

The essays look at piracy around the world and throughout history ranging from Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates in the 18th Century to the ongoing conflicts with pirates off Somalia. 

The thirteen essays are available free on line at the Naval War College Press.

Port of Manila: Only “Billionaire Port” with April Collection Surplus

The Port of Manila (POM) under the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said it posted the highest surplus collection among the country’s major ports in April, a report showed.

BOC district collector Rogel C. Gatchalian said in his report that the POM collected P4.8 billion for the month, posting a surplus of P1.23 billion.

“Remarkably, among the billionaire ports, only the POM hit and surpassed the assigned revenue target for April 2010,” Gatchalian said in his report.

Rare Early Color Photographs


Albert Kahn, a French banker, philanthropist and early photography lover, funded one of the earliest color photography projects on record.

In the early 1900s, Kahn armed a team of photographers with the very latest image-making breakthrough: cameras that could shoot autochrome plates, which are these really sharp, saturated color slides (kinda like Kodakchrome, only decades earlier).

He sent these photographers all over the world to capture “human life on Earth,” and boy did he ever, amassing some 72,000 autochromes, now housed in the Albert Kahn museum in Paris. You can find a few more autochromes on the Albert Kahn website. Here’s hoping they put the whole collection online!

imageHMS Belfast in London. Photo: mostaque, via Flickr

Rule the Waves on World War Two British Battleship

LONDON – Stride the bridge like a captain, trawl through the massive engine room and learn all about how Britain built the ships which ruled the waves onboard a British battleship that survived World War Two.

Climb aboard the HMS Belfast, which is permanently moored on London’s south bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge to see its "Launch! Shipbuilding Through the Ages" exhibition, which is on until the end of the year.

Salvage: Flight 447 Black Boxes Found, but Recovery may be Impossible

Brazil — The black boxes of Air France flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009 en route from Rio to Paris killing 228 people, have been located by the French navy, but investigators say they may not be able to retrieve the devices.

Shen Neng 1 on the Move Again

image The bulk coal carrier that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef over Easter will be towed to calmer waters on Sunday night, for the last stage of the salvage operation.

The Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 will be moved from waters off Gladstone to a deep, protected anchorage further south, between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. Australian Maritime Safety Authority ordered the move to allow salvage experts to unload around 19,000 tonnes of coal from the damaged vessel over the next two weeks.

Shipyards: Once Mighty Sector Feels a Rush Along its Keel

When asked recently about Brazil’s shipping industry, a Greek engineer working in a South Korean shipyard replied: “I didn’t know they had one.”

imageFINANCIAL TIMES  – This has been a forgivable misconception. Until very recently, the last ship built in Brazil to help meet the sizeable demands of Petrobras, the national oil company, was contracted in 1987. But it is a perception the country is hoping to change.

On Friday, the Estaleiro Atlântico Sul shipyard, in Pernambuco, is set to launch an oil tanker for Petrobras. The vessel, which can transport 1m barrels of oil, is the first of 49 ships to take to the seas for Petrobras as part of Promef, a program launched by Transpetro, Petrobras’s logistics subsidiary, in 2004 to revitalize the country’s shipyards.

imageMay 6, 2010 – Russian anti-submarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov has freed the Moscow University, a Russian oil tanker that had been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Thursday.

Somali Pirates Hijacking Russian Tanker Released

MOSCOW, May 7 (Xinhua) –The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday that some Somali pirates detained one day earlier for hijacking the Russian-owned oil tanker MV Moscow University have been released, local media reported.

Defense Ministry spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said the release was "due to imperfections in international law."

Anatoly Kolodkin, President of the International Maritime Law Association and a judge of the UN International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea, said the decision "was negotiated with the Russian authorities."


imageMY EYES!  MY EYES!!  Psychedelic Nightmare, er, I mean, this week’s photo by Joel – On a warm spring evening Donjon’s Meagan Ann is inbound to Gowanus with a light scow. Above them, a near-miracle is occurring; traffic actually moving well in both directions on the BQE/Gowanus Expressway mess.  Joel, step away from the HDR button, oh the humanity!

Towmasters: Watertight Doors: Close Them & Dog Them!

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued yet another safety alert regarding the risks and consequences of running around with your doors wide open, improperly secured, and/or poorly maintained. On this occasion it cost one man working in the engine room his life and two others barely escaped the same fate after spending what was no doubt a terrifying 10+ minutes in an air pocket in the berthing area before getting out through a broken window.


Tugster Whistles Past the Graveyard

I read about this place almost 20 years ago in this NYTimes piece and clipped it, saved it, still have it somewhere.  The Witte family, Norman Brouwer, and Arthur Kill – all mentioned in the article, were just names then.  Above, the 1944-launched Bloxon. 

* Thanks to fellow water-blogger frogma. See her graveyard posts here, here, and here.

UK: Plymouth Tall Ship Sails Back Home Again

image An historic tall ship could once again be based in Plymouth if a suitable berth is found, writes Maritime Reporter Tristan Nichols.

The Bessie Ellen, the last wooden tall ship to be built in Plymouth, is back in the city having been based in Denmark for the past four years. Its owner, Nikki Alford, is now applying for various licences to re-register it as an English vessel. It is then hoped the 106-year-old gaff-rigged sailing ketch, will be based in Plymouth operating day cruises and day passenger work.

USCG: Audit Finds Problems with Coast Guard IT Controls

A new DHS Inspector General audit of the U.S. Coast Guard’s information technology system has identified 20 IT deficiencies, of which 11 were new findings and nine were repeat weaknesses.

WTF of the Week: World’s Biggest Beaver Dam Discovered

image It’s more than eight football fields long and visible from space, a Canadian ecologist says.

TORONTO – A Canadian-based ecologist said Friday that he has located the world’s largest beaver dam in northwestern Canada using Google satellite technology. Ecologist Jean Thie located the 2,788-foot dam using Google Earth and NASA technology while researching the rate of melting permafrost in the country’s far north.

Situated in northern Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border, the dam stretches more than eight football fields long, said Thie.

"I couldn’t believe it when I saw it — it’s a vast, vast area. There may be longer dams out there, but this, by far, is the largest I have seen so far. And, it would not have been possible to view it without something like Google Earth,"

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