Blue Explorer Magazine No.7

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Issue No.7



Lofoten, islands of northern lights


The Snake Island, a tempting tiny islet of great values What did the RA expeditions prove? Ama, the fearless mermaids of Japan PORTFOLIO: Sarah Barnard

NEWS: HMS Endurance: ship will ‘decay out of existence’ unless raised from sea

«It always annoys me when they talk about outstanding sailors as if they 'conquered' the ocean. Columbus, Magellan, Nansen, Amundsen, Krusenstern, Chichester, Bombard - they didn't conquer anything. Their glory lies in their ability to find common ground with the ocean, to harmonize with it and their own efforts.» Yuri Senkevich

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4 Lofoten, islands of northern lights




Sperm Whale, the Blue Planet's greatest free diver



A must visit islands of Missouri


The Lena River, the blue artery of Siberia


The Snake Island, a tempting tiny islet of great values


There’s always something for every one in Barbados

The saltwater crocodile, the living dinosaur

34 Unveiling Matua

Island’s enigmatic mysteries: a scientific exploration



Illuminate the abyss: the innovative Inventions of Dimitri Rebikoff coloured the underwater world.



Ernest Shackleton on board the HMS Endurance, a compelling story of leadership and survival



Sarah Barnard



Ama, the fearless mermaids of Japan

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Lofoten, islands of northern lights One of the most remote places in Norway, the Lofoten Islands, is also one of the most epic places on the planet. Voted by National Geographic as one of the most appealing destinations in the world, Lofoten is an Arctic island group that has been a cruise destination since 1889. Situated just beneath the auroral oval, a belt of light that encircles the geomagnetic poles, Lofoten provides some of the best chances in the world of seeing the northern lights. Due to the northern latitude, the sun remains completely below the horizon for about five weeks in mid-winter in this area. The darkness is truly unforgettable. But you can still experience daylight in most of the winter, in-

creasing gradually to the midnight sun in summer. The Lofoten archipelago is located north of the Arctic Circle in the county of Nordland, Norway. It consists of five main islands (Austvågøya, Gimsøya, Vestvågøya, Flakstadøya, and Moskenesøya) extending about 110

km from north to south, with fjords and narrow straits in between the islands. Between the mainland and the Lofoten lies the open Vestfjord. In addition, there are many small islands composed of volcanic rocks and skerries (rocky islets and reefs). From a distance, the 175 km long and 800-1000 m high archipelago looks like one closed wall when seen from elevated points around Bodo or when arriving from the sea – hence called the Lofoten wall.

The Lofoten Islands territory has changed many times in the past. The Lofoten islands map has been modified over and over again. The chain of islands is characterized by tall peaks, naturally protected Blue Explorer Magazine


inlets, long coastlines, and large virgin areas untouched by the human civilization. The highest peak is located in Austvågøy. It’s called Higravstinden and stands 1161 meters tall. To the northeast, there is the Møysalen National Park that is situated at an altitude of 1262 meters. There is also another unique geographical feature – a collection of tidal channels with its treacherous reversing currents that flows between Moskenesøya and the islet of Mosken, called the Moskstraumen or Maelstrom. It is consid-

ered to be one of the most dangerous maelstroms in the world. The landscape is striking in its variety: wildly beautiful places of marsh and rock, green fields and still lakes, dramatic mountains, and white sandy beaches by jade seas. Lofoten is also dotted with picturesque villages and fish-drying racks, as stockfish – dried cod – has been the main export since the Middle Ages. The five main islands are linked by road, and you can easily cross all five and return in a day. Passengers can also disembark at one port and re-join the ship at another.

DID YOU KNOW? The islands got their name from a lynx. From a lynx’s foot, to be exact. Vestvågøy island, which has been the heart of the archipelago since ancient times, was originally named Lófót, because its shape looked like a lynx’s foot (“ló” translates to “lynx” and “fót” derives from the word for “foot”). Soon, it gave its name to the whole area — and that’s why the islands are now called Lofoten

Lofoten is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Frigid waters well up from the Continental Shelf, carrying nutrients that support the planet’s largest cold-water reef, along with massive populations of foundation fish attract some of the biggest concentrations of cetaceans in the world. Along with that, Lofoten is one of Europe's largest nesting sites for seabirds. Lofoten islands are the ideal place for all kind of explorers of nature-based activities. Besides the

events and festivals, on land, there is hiking at all levels, from spectacular panoramic viewpoints to remote beaches, few places on earth provide such a grand natural stage for hiking enthusiasts. Whether you want to stroll along a beach or tackle some of the most challenging hikes in Scandinavia, there's a hike for you on Lofoten islands. The westernmost island, Moskenesøy, offers the most famous trails with several adventure companies and walking guides based in and around Reine. Many of the best beaches in this part of Norway can only be reached on foot, rewarding those willing to make the hike

with some of the country’s beaches all to themselves. Yet some fabulous finds are right by the side of the road. You can also go on a cruise along the Trollsfjord. During spring, you can also go on a selfguided tour to watch whales and orcas. In the seas, killer whales (orcas) are found in large numbers during the autumn and winter, drawn by the shoals of herring. Minke whales, pilot whales, and seals are among the other species to call Lofoten their home. Moreover, you will have more chances of seeing the whales if you are on the western part of the islands. You can see them right from the beaches,

no boat ride is required. Other activities at sea including kayaking, diving, snorkelling, or surfing. The deep sea surrounding Vestvågøy island slopes off as it approaches Unstad beach, making this bay a Blue Explorer Magazine


magnet for cold water surfers. It's known in the international surfing community as one of the best spots in all of Europe to catch a wave. Sea Eagle safaris can be arranged from both Svolvær and Leknes, the two main ports in Lofoten with only one hour drive in-between. In the wintertime, you can go skiing or snowshoeing, horseback riding, or experience the magical Aurora Borealis for example. Being located beyond the Arctic Circle, northern lights, also called

the aurora borealis, are quite common in the region. Moreover, since the population is low, you also get minimal light pollution. This allows you to see the northern lights in all its glory. You can chase this celestial ballet of light dancing across the night sky from end of August until mid-April at some of the beaches of the

Lofoten Islands. The Lofoten have been continuously inhabited since at least 1120, when King Øystein built a church and lodgings for fishermen near Kabelvåg, on Austvågøya. Fishing has always been predominant. Even before

the year 900 AD, the sagas talk about boats being equipped for the journey to the Lofoten and the winter cod fishing season, where the fishermen travelled for days and even weeks in open rowing boats and sailing boats to take part in the abundant fisheries of Lofoten, throughout the entire winter. The stockfish, produced from the cod, was sold to almost all European countries, and Italy is still the most important market for the high-quality stockfish from Lofoten. Until the late 19th century, when tourists arrived on the islands, it was almost the only economic activity. Tiny settlements with typical Rorbus, a well-known building in Lofoten used to accommodate comfortable accommodations for fishermen, are found around the is-

lands. Nowadays many of them are refurbished into comfortable accommodations for the leisure visitors to the islands. The numbers of tourists visiting Lofoten in recent years has increased significantly, so much so that it has caused problems within the local communities. There's a limit to how well any of Lofoten's small communities can cope with even modest numbers of travellers, so any increase is instantly noticeable. Some hiking trails on popular routes are suffering from erosion and there have been issues around parking, congestion, and the lack of public bathroom facilities. All things considered, the

snow-capped mountains of the Lofoten region are now home to a well-managed fishery and growing tourism industry. Norwegians have not only become fiercely proud of this place, but they are also protective of the entire ecosystem, as both their culture and economy depend on it.

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NEWS Wreck of Endurance: ship will ‘decay out of existence’ unless raised from sea to” and brings forth a cavalcade of legal and logistical issues. Asked at an event in London, organised by law firm BDB Pitmans that assisted his expedition, Bound said: “There are a lot of contrasting views about [raising the ship]. We have a range of ideas on that one, and we have to remember the Shackleton family, who very likely own the ship, they have fairly strong views of their own.

Mensun Bound, who found

“Bringing it up – we’ve got to think about con-

Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, says question of raising wreck is a ‘hot potato’ Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, Endurance, will “decay out of existence” on the Antarctic seabed unless it is raised and preserved, the archaeologist who discovered the wreck has said. Mensun Bound, who found the vessel in March

serving it and the process of that, which muse-

2022, said the question of whether it should be

um is going to take that, which could take for-

hauled out of the freezing waters is a “hot pota-

ever and a day. But if we leave it there, it’s organic, it’s going to decay some time beyond our lifetime.” Shortly after Endurance was found, the ex-

plorer’s granddaughter Alexandra Shackleton said she would prefer it to remain in place. Endurance was found 3,000 metres (9,842ft) deep and four miles south of the position recorded by the ship’s captain, Frank Worsley, by the Endurance22 search team.

Shackleton and his crew set out to achieve the

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first land crossing of Antarctica but Endurance

finest wooden shipwreck” he had ever seen.

failed to reach land and became trapped in dense pack ice, forcing the 28 men onboard to

He added: “She’s the ultimate sealed box mystery,

abandon ship. The vessel broke up and sank

it’s an Aladdin’s cave. It’s like the film Citizen

below the Weddell Sea on 21 November 1915.

Kane with all the antiques, everything is there in

The crew were stuck in the ice for 10 months

that box. The technology’s there, we can have a

before escaping in lifeboats and on foot.

look through some of the gaps. “[We’re] anxious in time to conduct a proper ma-

The television historian Dan Snow said the

rine biological survey because she is this incredi-

search for Endurance, in which he took part,

ble oasis in a vast plain.”

was “lucky” as they were able to navigate

through the sea ice with “relative ease”. He said: “We had a brilliant search box that

Full story about Ernest Shackleton on board

Mensun Bound worked out, looking at all the

the HMS Endurance on next pages

data from 1915, looking at where the ship probably sunk. They were still doing readings with the sun to fix their position, latitude and longitude, and they made daily weather observations, things like that. “The plan was, if we couldn’t near the box, to use helicopters to lift – which was a crazy plan – all the equipment required, build a camp on the ice, drill a massive hole in the ice and drop the drones like VHS tapes through the ice. “Bonkers idea, because the ice is ever-shifting, it’s moving erratically.” The team instead deployed a drone off the back of the ship to

move around the area. Bound has revealed he is planning to look more closely at the wreck, which is “by far the

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Welcome on Board

Ernest Shackleton on board the HMS Endurance, a compelling story of leadership and survival The age of polar exploration provided a wealth of information for science to sift as they laid the founda-

tions that remain firm to this day. It was a heroic era when the simple act of going to places never before trod on by human feet would inevitably lead to scientific as well as geographic insights. The race to the pole has long attracted leadership experts, who like to contrast the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s focus on efficiency and innovation with Robert Falcon Scott’s more deliberate dedication to scientific pursuit. The poles had been conquered at long last, after decades of exploration during which humans repeatedly tried, failed and finally succeeded in reaching each of these most remote cor-

ners of the world. One significant polar explorer in particular — Ernest Shackleton — faced harsh conditions in a way that speaks more directly to time. The Shackleton expedition, from 1914 to 1916, is a compelling story of leadership when disaster strikes again and again. Ernest Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874 in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland, to Henry Shackleton, and Henrietta Letitia Sophia Gavan and was the second of ten children. His father was a doctor.

The family moved to London where Shackleton was educated. Rejecting his father's wish that he be-

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come a doctor, he joined the merchant navy when he was 16 and certified as a master mariner in 1898 qualifying him to command a British ship anywhere in the world and joined the Union-Castle Line and transferred to the Tintagel Castle because of the Boer War. He travelled widely but was keen to explore the poles.

In 1901, Shackleton was chosen to go on the Antarctic expedition led by British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott on the ship 'Discovery'. With Scott and one other, Shackleton trekked towards the South Pole in extremely difficult conditions, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had come before. Shackleton became seriously ill and had to return home but had gained valuable experience. In 1908, he returned to the Antarctic as the leader of his own expedition, on the ship 'Nimrod'. During the expedition, his team climbed Mount Erebus, made many important scientific discoveries, and set a record by com-

ing even closer to the South Pole than before. After the Amundsen (December 1911) and Scott (January 1912) had reached the South Pole, Shackleton thought up and attempted to carry out another great plan - to cross the 2000-mile Antarctic continent with the ship 'Endurance', leading the Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Before this, the journeys to the

pole had all been on one side, the other side to the pole was unexplored. When the Endurance set sail in August 1914, Shackleton had a bold, potentially history-making goal: he and his team would be the first to walk across the continent, starting from the coast of the Weddell Sea, traversing the South Pole and ending up at the Ross Sea. However, the trip was a successful failure. From the beginning, the expedition encountered unfamiliar challenges. In late 1914, the ship arrived at

a whaling settlement on South Georgia Island, the last southern port of call before the Antarctic Circle. Local seamen urged Shackleton to postpone his venture because of unusually thick pack ice that could Blue Explorer Magazine


trap the ship if the wind and temperatures shifted suddenly. Despite the warning, Endurance had left South Georgia for Antarctica on December 5, 1914, carrying 27 men (plus one stowaway, who became ship’s

steward), and 69 dogs. From there a small party, including himself, would set out on the first crossing of the continent, ultimately arriving at the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand, where another group would be waiting for them, having laid depots of food and fuel along the way. Impatient to get moving, Shackleton commanded the ship to continue south, navigating through the icy jigsaw puzzle. In January 1915, the vessel came within sight of the Antarctic mainland. But harsh winds and cold temperatures descended quickly, and the pack ice trapped the ship, just as the South Georgia seamen had warned. The Endurance was immobilized, held hostage to the drifting ice floes. Shackleton realized that his men would have to wait out the coming winter in the ship’s cramped quarters until summer’s thaw. Shackleton feared the potential effects of

idleness, weariness, and dissidence among his men more than he did the ice and cold. He required that each man maintain his ordinary duties as closely as possible. Sailors swabbed decks; scientists collected specimens from the ice; others were assigned to

hunt for seals and penguins when fresh meat, a protection against scurvy, ran low. He also kept a strict routine for meals and insisted that the men socialize after dinner, as a stimulant for dwindling optimism. Still, the group disappointment, and tempers,

flared. Through the routines, order and interaction, Shackleton managed the shared fear that threatened to take hold when the trip didn’t go as planned. He knew that in this environment, without traditional benchmarks

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and supports, his greatest enemies were high levels of anxiety and disengagement, as well as a slowburning pessimism. Shackleton's ship the HMS Endurance was named after a motto "By Endurance we conquer." The vessel was trapped in the ice in the Weddell Sea for 11 months, from January 1915. By June 1915 —

the thick of winter in the Southern Hemisphere — the ship’s timbers were weakening under the pressure created by the ice, and in October water started pouring into the Endurance. The Endurance sank in November 1915, leaving the men stranded on the ice with three small lifeboats, several tents and supplies, Shackleton realized that he himself had to embody the new survival mission - not only in what he said and did, but also in his physical bearing and the energy he exuded.

Shackleton kept his men’s focus on the future. The ship was gone; previous plans were irrelevant. Now his goal was to bring the team home safely, and he improvised, adapted, and used every resource at hand to achieve it. When a few crew men expressed scepticism about his plans, he acted quickly to contain their opposition and negativity by trying to win them over and keeping close watch on them. By April 1916, the ice began breaking up, and Shackleton ordered the men to the lifeboats, hoping to reach land along the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. After a week of stormy seas, they arrived at the deserted Elephant Island. Almost immediately, Shackleton began planning his next move. Along with five other men, he managed to guide a 22-foot lifeboat to South George Island; from there, a smaller party reached a whaling station and help. Then he began looking for a vessel capable of rescuing the rest of his crew. During the next several months, he set sail in three different ships, but none could cut through the pack ice surrounding Elephant Island. Finally, on Aug. 30, 1916, aboard the Yelcho, a Chilean steamer, Shackleton sailed within sight of the island and rescued the 22 remaining men. Twenty months after setting out for the Antarctic, every one of the Endurance crew was alive and safe. Ernest Shackleton never did reach the South Pole or cross Antarctica. He launched one more expedition to the Antarctic on board of the HMS Quest, at Grytviken, South Georgia. On January 5, 1922, shortly after the start of the expedition, he had a heart attack in his bunk, and died. He was just 47.

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A must visit islands of Missouri Formed by the convergence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers in the Rocky Mountains area of southwestern Montana (Gallatin county), U.S., the Missouri River, at 3,726 km in length, is the longest river in the United States. About 1,200 metres above sea level, the river played an important part in the explorations and expansion of the American West. Considered the “Center of Life” for the Great Plains, the Missouri has served as the main artery for exploration, food, trade, and transportation for millions of people over thousands of years. The Missouri River long ago garnered the nickname the

“Big Muddy,” inspired by the enormous loads of sediment it pushed through the river system. However, the amount of sediment transported has diminished as dams, levees, and channelization increased over time. Today, the river might be more accurately described as a gentle giant. Although Missouri is not the first place to come to mind when thinking about islands, the Missouri Rivers actually contain quite a few. There are 251 Islands in Missouri, most are used for a wide variety of

things such as wildlife and nature reserves, hunting and fishing spots, and mountain biking trails. Although many tiny islands can be seen in times of lower water, these 5 are noted for their size, beauty, and function. Pelican Island Considered to be one of the best remaining islands of the Missouri River, Pelican Island is a perfect

example of a pure, mature floodplain forest, hence the Natural Area status. It is the perfect spot for

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birdwatching in the spring, with large numbers of several varieties of migrant warblers coming to the island to sing their songs. Located on the eastern edge of Sioux Passage Park in north St. Louis County, the 2,260-acre Pelican Island Natural Area is made up

primarily of the island’s forest, but also includes a small strip of land and old field habitats at the base of the river bluffs. The floods of 1993 and 1995 killed a number of trees but the island’s riverfront forest is a dynamic community type and new trees have grown back in. Cottonwood, black willow, sycamore, hackberry, sugarberry, silver maple, box elder and red mulberry form forests ranging from thickets of

young trees to more mature stands. Vines are common including raccoon grape, other grape species, and poison ivy. Unfortunately, due to the dynamic nature of this ecosystem a number of invasive, exotic species occur in the understory including the exotic vine species, Japanese hops. Access is by boat only. Fishing is permitted as well as Deer hunting only through managed hunts. Howell Island

The site is a beautiful river oasis that is begging to be explored. The Missouri River surrounds this 2,547acre area on the north side, with Centaur Chute surrounding it to the south. Howell Island is a protected area purchased in 1978 and managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Located in St. Charles County, across the Missouri River from the Weldon Spring Conservation Area in Boone Township, most of the island is forested with bottomland trees such as sycamore and cottonwood, but crop and shrub/grass fields also provide important habitat for wildlife. The name of Howell comes from the early settlers, and the island was submerged during the Great Flood of 1993. At the site, camping is permitted, but limited. There are a limited number of boaters travelling during the spring and summer across the Missouri River, a 13 km hiking and biking

trail. It is also a great fishing or hunting spot, but a consult through the website for restrictions and regulations is required. Entrance to the island is by a causeway over Centaur Chute. During high water, the causeway is flooded, and access is by boat only. Goat Island Derived its name from the goat herd grazed there in

the 1940s and 50s, this prominent island, also affectionately known and referred to by locals as Jake’s Island. Goat Island is a remnant of large emergent sandbars that later developed into successional forests and sand flats. While the overall landscape has changed with time, the area’s geologic and riverine

scientific study suggests a high probability the island existed during the passage of their expedition in 1804 Blue Explorer Magazine


and 1806. Today the 800-acre property supports a wide variety of wildlife on its sandbars and within its dense forested areas of cottonwood and Eastern red-cedar. Chutes paralleling the island, free-flowing water, vegetation, and sandbars not only provide important wildlife habitat, but add to the aesthetic qualities of the Park. Goat Island provides unique recreational opportunities, as well as a place to simply pause and reflect. Situated along the Missouri National Recreational River Water Trail, the is-

land is one of only a few places in both Nebraska and South Dakota where island camping, hiking, hunting, and other pleasure activities are available on publicly owned land. As part of the National Park Service System, the island is ideally suited as a stopover point for boaters navigating the river. Similarly, Goat Island provides a natural setting to hike trails or set out on one’s own to explore and enjoy the riverine backdrop.

McLean Island Located on the border of Tennessee and Missouri, 18 km north of Caruthersville, Missouri, McLean Island is a considered one of the best spots in Missouri for duck hunting the country has to offer. The unique topography of this island represents the best and most stimulating duck hunting obtainable today. The area consists of approximately 1,200 acres of wooded land complete with roads and running water from a cased well that comprises a true island in the Mississippi River. In addition to the duck hunting, the island is host to a diverse array of other species of wildlife such as deer, turkey, raccoon, coyotes and eagles. Bangert Island An island in the south of the Blanchette Bridge, the Louis H. Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area (Bangert Island) was a partnership between the

Missouri Department of Conservation and the St. Charles County Parks Department. This 160-acre park is premier spot for mountain bikers. Located between the Katy Trail and the Missouri River just south of downtown St. Charles, it features a total of 6.7 km of single-track biking trails with varying

levels of difficulty. Guests may encounter white-tailed deer, turkey, raccoons, opossums, and a variety of songbirds. The site is a typical wooded Missouri River island, the land features cottonwood, sycamore, box elder, silver maple, and black willow trees. In addition to birdwatching, hiking, bicycling, and photography, park guests may also fish along the banks of the Missouri River that flows below the park - although state fishing regulations apply, and hunting is prohibited. The park is open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. However, the trail is subject to seasonal flooding and the park may be

closed during high river levels if the trail access is blocked by high water.

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Living Ocean

Sperm whale, the Blue Planet's greatest free diver Cases of death of marine species due to marine debris have been increasing in recent years. One of many is the discovery of a sperm whale carcass on the coast of North Kapota Village, Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi in 2018. The whale measuring 5.5 meters long and 437 cm wide was found dead and already starting to rot. Although the cause of death is not known, garbage with a weight of 5.9 kg is suspected to be the main cause of death for this protected mammal. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) is not only famous for its ambergris, but they are also the largest animal in the toothed whale group as well as the largest toothed animal in the

world. This giant marine mammal can grow to a length of 20 meters. They also have the largest brains of all known animals. Sperm whales are so named because of the milky white material found on the head of the sperma-

ceti. The large head of the sperm

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whale is the hallmark of this species, especially in males, the head can reach a third of the body length. The dorsal skin of the sperm whale is wrinkled and distinct from the smooth skin of most other large whales. Sperm whales are the same size between males and females at birth, but reaching adult, the males measuring up to 20 meters and weighing up to 57,000 kilograms or 30% to 50% longer and three times larger than females. Sperm whales have 20-26 pairs of conical teeth on their lower

jaws. Each tooth can weigh up to one kilogram. However, it turns out that they do not use these teeth for hunting. They actually prefer to swallow their prey directly without tearing it first. Ever imagined about the animal with the loudest sound in the world? Who would have thought, the title was actually owned by this marine mammal. They can create a magnitude of 230 decibels for one click they sound. That means, the sound of a sperm whale exceeds the noise of a jet engine. Sperm whales can live up to 70 years or more. They are among the most cosmopolitan species in the open ocean. They can be found in almost all ocean that are not covered with ice more than 1,000 meters deep, except in the Black Sea and possibly the Red Sea. Shallow inlets to the Black and Red Seas may explain the absence of this species. The bottom layer of the Black Sea is also anoxic and contains high concentrations of sulphur compounds such as hydrogen sulphide. In some areas, particularly in the western part of the North Atlantic, sperm whales, especially males, can be found in shallow water. Their distribution depends on food sources and conditions suitable for breeding. Sperm whale migration is not as well predicted or understood as baleen whale migration. Several populations appear to have different migration patterns based on life history status, with adult males making long oceanographic migrations to temperate waters while females and juveniles settle in tropical waters

year-round. Sperm whales form highly stable social groups based around related females


their offspring. These

groups tend to live in open ocean are-

as and are occasionally visited by males who range widely across the oceans. Calves are born after a 14–16 -month gestation period and stay with their mothers for many years. A calf will start to eat solid foods by the age

of 1 year but may continue suckling for several more years until the next calf is born. Young males will leave their female family unit when 4-21 years old and will often join a 'bachelor herd' with other males of approximately the same age and size. These bachelor herds are observed in colder waters toward the poles. Females, however, stay with their family unit of 4-21 individuals and help to care for young in the group until they are mature enough to have their own calves.

Like killer whales, they are one of the only mammal species other than humans, in which females con-

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tinue to live and play a role in family/social groups after they have stopped producing calves. Fully mature males return to the warmer waters where the females are found in order to mate, sometimes spending only a few minutes or hours with a group before moving on again Since they are marine mammals, sperm whales need oxygen to breathe. These marine mammals in-

hale/exhale an average of 3-7 times per minute depending on how active they are. Their ability to dive to depths of more than 2.9 km making them one of the deepest diving marine mammals in the world. During the hunt for food, they are able to hold their breath for more than 60 minutes. After a long, deep dive, the sperm whale comes to the surface to breathe and recuperate for a few minutes before starting the next dive. Because they spend most of their time in deep, dark water, echolocation allows them to maintain a thorough awareness of their surroundings. Sperm whale is a type of carnivorous

whale. In one day at least they can eat up to 1 ton of giant squid and fish in deep waters. Sperm whales can eat as much as 3 to 3.5 percent of their body weight per day. Killer whales have been observed attacking sperm whale pods, and large sharks are also thought to be potential predators of calves. Sperm whales in some parts of the world have a unique response to attacks, gathering into a 'marguerite' or wagon wheel formation – in which all members of the group position themselves with their heads in the center and their tails facing outward like the spokes of a wheel. They then fend off attack by slashing their tails back and forth. Sometimes a vulnerable calf or injured whale is positioned at the center of the formation.

Sperm whales face a number of threats today, including entanglement in fishing gear, ingestion of fishing gear and marine debris, and ship strikes. The latter is thought to be one of the main drivers of sperm whale population decline in the Mediterranean and a major threat to survival of sperm whales in the Canary islands. They were historically heavily hunted. Commercial whaling from 1800 to the 1980s greatly decreased sperm whale populations worldwide. The International Whaling Commission placed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986. This species is still recovering, and its numbers are likely increasing. Today, sperm whales are globally designated as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The genetically distinct Mediterranean subpopulation, however, is considered endangered, due to the fact that there are estimated to be fewer than 2,500 individuals and the persistent threat of ship strikes and entanglements throughout the area. Sperm whales are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

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The Lena river, blue artery of Siberia Begins in the east part of Lake Baikal, after a 4,400-kilometer journey north from the mountains of south-central Russia, the Lena River fractures into myriad streams that fan out across the tundra and empty into the Arctic Ocean via the Laptev Sea. The Lena river is the largest river of Northeast Siberia. The origin of the name of the Lena River is said to have been derived from the local word Elyu Ene, meaning the ‘Large River’. Its delta (43,563 square kilometers in area) is recognized in the Guin-

ness Book of Records as being third largest in the world after the Ganges-Brahmaputra and the Mekong deltas. With 20-25 kilometers wide at its mouth, the middle part of Lena river reaches 15 kilometers. Its far northern location keeps the Lena River Delta frozen for as long as seven months of the year, but during the short summer, it melts into a wetland of tremendous

ecological importance. Climate experts are interested in the area because changes in the volume of water emptying into the sea as well as the depth of the permafrost (soil that remains frozen year-round) are indicators of Arctic climate change.

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As one of the three great rivers of Siberia along with the Ob and Yenisei, the Lena river is a major transportation route in central Siberia. It was first explored in the 17th century by Cossack fur hunters led by Demid Pyanda. In 1623, Pyanda explored a 2,400-kilometer stretch of the river. Since then, a large number of explorers have ventured out onto the Lena in order to record its course and discover its potential. In 1885, an expedition funded by the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, and head-

ed by Baron Eduard von Toll and Alexander von Bunge, was carried out to explore the Lena Delta and its path of entry into the Arctic Ocean. Ever since the discovery of the river, the Lena has been used as a significant trade and transport route for cargo into the Arctic Ocean. With extremes of temperature and vast stretches of northern forests (84 percent), Lena is one of the

most inhospitable regions on the planet. Few people live in the region and there is only one city in the entire Lena basin, Yakutsk, the administrative seat of the former Yakut Autonomous Socialist Republic and now the capital of a semi-independent Yakutia, renamed the Republic of Sakha in 1991. Although the

ice has been measured at around 53 inches in the south and up to 90 in inches at the delta, Lena river is almost entirely navigable, allowing for the transport of cargo, including excavated minerals, fur, food, and industrial products, from their respective production areas to the consumption and trade centres along the banks and the rest of the world by way of the Arctic Ocean routes. This blue artery of Siberia flows mostly through Sakha, but its origins are in the Irkutsk District, immediately west of Lake Baikal. The vast tracts of land along the Lena river are protected in the form of nature reserves, such as the Lena Delta Nature Reserve, the Lena Pillars, and the Ust-Lensky Nature Reserve.

The Lena delta Nature Reserve is a scientific wildlife protected area located in the delta of the Lena River in Sakha Republic, in the far north of eastern Siberia, Russia. The reserve is divided into two subareas and has a total land area of 14,330 square kilometres, making it one of the largest protected areas in Russia. The delta itself has a size of about 30,000 square kilometres, making it one of the largest in the world. It protects large concentrations of birds, including swans, geese and ducks, loons,

shorebirds, raptors, and gulls. It is also an important fish spawning site. The geological formations known as the Lena Pillars have fascinated travellers to Yakutia since the 17th century. About 140 km upriver from Yakutsk, the

rock of the cliffs alongside the river has been eroded away into delicate shapes of reddish-brown colours. Blue Explorer Magazine


The sheer columns are made of Kimberly limestone, with the surrounding softer rock being eroded over the millennium. Today the stone rocks resemble towering creatures, pillars and columns, reaching over 150 metres high. The Lena Pillars extend along the river for about 80 kilometers. The Ust-Lensky Nature Reserve is an enormous

delta of the Lena river. With its thousands of islands, lakes, and channels, it is one of the most spectacular wonders of the Russian Arctic. The delta is the second largest in the world, fanning out over 32,000 square kilometers. The reserve was established in 1986 comprising two sites: Deltovy, in the central part of the delta, and Sokol, located in the northwest of the Primorsky Kryazh and Kharaulakhsky Mountain Range. Terrestrial communities are those of herb, and green moss tundra. Elfin willows are widespread along the shores together with the 400 vascular plant varieties, which 20 of them are rare species: Androsace gorodkovii, Corydalis gorodkovi, Saxifraga lacteal to name a few. There are also 30 mammal species, including reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), bighorn sheep, polar fox, black-capped marmot. Encompassing a region rich in wildlife and natural resources, as well as one of the world's largest deposits of gold and diamonds, as well as iron ores and deposits of coking coal, which are the two key ingredients in steelmaking. Other coal and natural gas deposits also occur in this region. The river

also holds an immense potential for development of hydroelectric power, but only a small fraction of this prospect has been exploited to date. Because the Lena is almost entirely fed by mountain snows, spring thaws can bring disastrous floods, followed by equally breakups of river ice, sizable chunks of which can destroy entire sections of the riverbank and any settlements alongside it. The annual flow of the river is very irregular, with 90 to 95 percent of all of its discharge in spring and summer, when its volume increases by as much as 10 times that of the winter months. This irregular flow has limited

the development of the hydroelectric projects in the Lena basin, though there are two large damreservoir complexes on the Vilyuy. The Lena River is well known for its pure blue water and home to many types of wildlife. Not only is the Lena River still one of the cleanest sources of freshwater on this planet, but it also flows along its natural course, as its flow has not been impeded by the large-scale construction of dams and reser-

voirs. This sets the Lena apart from many other rivers that have been exploited for their respective high hydroelectric power-generating potentials. Threats from oil spills, however, do occur, as a large number of vessels carrying cargo ply on this river regularly. In fact, 25,000 tons of oil from the Lena River pollute the Arctic Ocean each year. Even though large areas of the river basin are protected, threats from overfishing, overgrazing, deforestation of land for cultivation, and excessive water extraction for irrigation of croplands continue to be ongoing problems.

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Living Ocean

The saltwater crocodile, the living dinosaur With over 6.5 meters long and weighing over 1,000 kg, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest living reptile on the planet as well as the largest terrestrial predator in the world. Also known as saltie, estuarine or Indo-Pacific crocodile, an adult male can reach 6-7 meters and weigh between 1,000-1,200 kg while a female saltie is much smaller and do not generally exceed 3 meters. The largest one in captivity ever officially measured was Lolong, measured at 6.17 meters and weighed 1,075

kg. Unfortunately, he died of congestive heart failure in February 2013. Saltwater crocodiles have a wider snout than most crocodiles. Their skull may reach up to 75cm in length. A pair of ridges runs down the snout from the eyes. Their broad body led to early reports that they were a variety of alligator. They have oval shaped scales. Their limbs are short and strong. Juveniles are pale yellow in colour with black stripes along their body and tail. When they mature most be-

come a dark greenish colour. Some may remain a pale yellow though or may be quite dark. They have light tan and grey areas on some parts of their body. The underside on both juveniles and adults is white or tallow. They have a grey tail with dark bands. This giant creature has a heavy-set jaw with between 64-68 teeth. The saltwater crocodile lives for about 70 years. However, some specimens have also been found to

live for more than 100. They have a wide habitat range as they have a high tolerance of salinity. They can live well in fresh water. Biologists have found them living up to 235 kilometers away from the sea. Blue Explorer Magazine


As its name implies, this species can also live in salt water, but usually resides in mangrove swamps, estuaries, deltas, lagoons, and lower stretches of rivers. They are most commonly found on the coasts of northern Australia, and on the islands of New Guinea and Indonesia. It ranges as far west as Sri Lanka and eastern India, along the shorelines and river mouths of southeast Asia to central Vietnam, around Borneo and into the Philippines and in Palau, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Because of

their ability to live in the open ocean for long periods of time, they can cross vast expanses of ocean to reach new areas. Not surprisingly, their population is widespread in other areas such as the Pacific Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. Due to their formidable size and wide geographical range, saltwater crocodiles are considered to be one of the most dangerous animals on earth. They can eat anything and are easily capable of devour-

ing almost any living thing that would enter its territory, including birds, buffalo, wallabies, monkeys, cows, wild boars, crabs, fish, turtles, and sharks. They are hyper-carnivorous opportunistic predators, with the flexibility of adapting food depending on what’s available. This heavy-weight creature can also stay alive with very little food. With their ferocious and aggressive nature, and because of their mammoth size and territorial disposition, these carnivores are the largest of all crocodilians that are potentially dangerous to humans. Saltwater crocodiles are able to leap as high as 2 meters. These crocs can easily stay underwater for at least an hour since they have the ability to reduce their heartbeat rate to 2-3 beats per minute. This implies that, they would wait patiently underwater until they see their prey approaching the water’s edge. They would suddenly explode out of the water with a thrash of their strong tails, hold the prey by their jaws and drown it under water. They can move very quickly on land and in the water, as also have an excellent sense of hearing, which they utilize while locating its prey. Saltwater crocodiles are considered very intelligent and sophisticated animals. They communicate with each other using sounds, as also chemical and visual signals. Body posture also plays an important role in signalling, e.g., raising of the snout would mean

submission, while arching the tail would signal a display of threat. The glands present underneath their chins and the cloacae transude a ‘musk’, which is thought to be playing a role during courtship or marking their territories. They communicate by

barks and are thought to display four different calls, including a high-pitched distress call performed by juveniles in a series of short barks. Threat calls consist of a hissing sound made at intruders. The hatching call is performed by new-borns as a high-pitched short bark, and finally, the courtship bellow is heard as a long, low growl.

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Saltwater crocodiles shut off only half of their brains during sleep, keeping the other half alert to danger. The complex central nervous system keeps the right eye open when the left side of the brain is awake, and vice versa. They have a strong homing ability with which they would find their way back home, be it in the same river or a different another river system. Research suggested that a crocodile that has been

DID YOU KNOW? Over 400 Japanese soldiers were eaten by crocodiles in 1945 During the Japanese retreat in the Battle of Ramree Island in World War 2 in 1945, saltwater crocodiles are believed to be responsible for the deaths of over 400 Japanese soldiers. Soldiers fighting in the area had been eating small mammals during their occupation which had led to scarcity of food for crocodiles.

captured from one place and released somewhere else would return back to its original residence any-

time between 10 days and 3.7 years. The act of mating of the salties occurs underwater, which can hardly be seen. Their complex mating ritual includes rubbing their heads together with their bodies. The crocodiles mate in the wet seasons, as the water rises to the highest levels. As the water warms with the incumbent wet season, these creatures start mating frequently. The males will mate with multiple female crocodiles during their breeding season, and generally play no role in parenting. As the females select a site for nesting, both the sexes engage in defending their nests along tidal rivers or freshwater areas. The nest, normally, is a mound made of mud and vegetation. The female lays 40-60 eggs. The female croc would guard the nest for 80 to 98 days. However, they often loss the eggs because of high flooding and occasionally to other predators. As the eggs develop, the female would help its babies out as it hears their screeching sounds. Baby crocodiles are often predated by larger crocodiles, predatory fish, monitor lizards, various aquatic and raptorial birds. In some ranges, they also fall prey to leopards and tigers. Only 1% of the juveniles reach their complete adulthood. It takes almost 7-10 years approximately for a baby saltwater crocodile to grow up. This extremely territorial animals are at the

apex of the food chain. With the big cats avoiding the territories of these dangerous creatures, it is needless to say that these crocs have no known predators. The present population estimate of the saltwater crocodile ranges from 200,000 to 300,000 world-

wide and are considered to be at a low risk of extinction. The saltwater crocodile is not a threatened species. The IUCN 2.3 has categorized them under the ‘LC’ (Least Concern) species list. Blue Explorer Magazine



The Snake Island, a tempting tiny islet of great values Lost in boundless north-western part of the Black Sea, Snake Island, was once part of a border dispute between Romania and Ukraine in 2004–2009. Even though it is rather tiny, only 630 × 360 m, the islet’s uniqueness has attracted seafarers, travellers, historians, writers, scientists, and explorers. It lies about 37.5 km off the coast of Vylkove, the nearest Ukrainian town, and around 300 km west of

Crimea. The cruciform shape islet, at first sight, seems an unlikely source of dispute. Located in the Kalija channel of the Danube, the most northern of the many arms of the river flowing through the Danube Delta into the Black Sea,

the island measures less than two square kilometers in size, is surrounded by rocks and its beaches are stony. The snakes which provided its name have virtually disappeared. It has no tourist potential and economically has little to offer. Romanian officials say the harbour facilities have been out of operation for years and almost nothing can grow there. Nev-

ertheless, apart from its unremarkable features, the snake Island is one potential hot spot. This tiny landmass locations in Ukraine’s corner of the Black Sea makes it a tempting prize in an increasingly Blue Explorer Magazine


militarized maritime region. According to diplomats in Bucharest, one reason for the interest in controlling it is the possibility that oil, and gas reserves may lie in the sea floor under the forbidding cliffs. The historic past of the island is no less unique. In ancient time, Pericles, a Greek statesman, an author, and general during the Golden Age of Athens called the island Levka, Sherpilor, Makaren (the is-

land of Blessed). The Snake Island has played a role in the region for many centuries. It was one of the many sacred elements of ancient Greeks, who also called it the Island of Achilles, the mythological hero of Homer's "Iliad". It was mentioned frequently in works by ancient Greek writers, when it was called Leucos or the White Island −this is due to its calcareous geological structure, stipulated by the rocks that make up the island

that creates the colour of which varies from gray to white. According to ancient Greek legend, the island was lifted out of the sea by goddess Thetis for her son Achilles. The ancient Greeks had a military base here. They also built on the island a temple dedi-

cated to Achilles, however, the temple was destroyed in 1837 by Russian sailors who used its stones for the construction of a lighthouse. The ruins of this temple, 30 meters to a side, were discovered by the Russian naval Captain N. D. Kritzkii in 1823, but the subsequent construction of the lighthouse on the very site obliterated all trace of it. The lighthouse is an octagonal-shaped building, 12 meters tall, located near the highest elevated area of the island, 40 meters above the sea level. It was heavily damaged during World War II by Soviet aviation and German retreating forces. It was restored at the end of 1944 by the Odessa military radio detachment. In 1949 it was further reconstructed and equipped by the Black Sea Fleet (a large formation of warships of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Mediterranean Sea). The lighthouse was further upgraded in 1975 and 1984. Romanian (Moldavian and Wallachian) princes ruled over the island in medieval times, but Russian efforts to take control of it. The Snake Island was taken over by Moscow at the end of the last century. But following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Snake Island became Ukrainian territory. Also known as Serpent Island, Snake Island has a rocky, brightly coloured (due to

different sediments) and steep banks, which reach a height of four to five meters in the north-eastern part and 25 meters in the southwest. The name Serpents Island may be traced back to the 14th-century period of Genovese dominance over the

Black Sea and is apparently due to the many reptiles found by the Genovese sailBlue Explorer Magazine


ors in the ancient Greek temple's water reservoirs. The island itself lacks fresh water, however, and this is one of the reasons that until recently it was never inhabited. There are 4 beaches on the island, as well as numerous caves and cleft coming from the depths of the sea to the mainland cliff. The island’s vegetation is represented by steppe grass. The peculiarities of the climate are the winds, frequent changes in weather and high humidity. The island is currently demilitarized and under development. The Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014 has already allowed Moscow to dominate large swathes of the Black






Ukraine. Until it regains Crimea, Snake Island will remain key to Ukraine’s maritime territorial claims. Recent developments indicate that Ukraine is well aware of Snake Island’s strategic importance, as well as the island’s extreme vulnerability to Russian attack. A rural settlement on the island, Bile was

established in February 2007 with the purpose of consolidating the status of the island as an inhabited place. About 100 inhabitants live on the island, mostly frontier guard servicemen with their families and technical personnel. In 2003, an initiative of the Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University established the Ostriv Zmiinyi marine research station every year at which scientists and students from the university conduct research on local fauna, flora, geology, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, and hydrobiology.

For many decades Snake Island was closed for visitors. After passing decision about its civil use, the task of complex studies of historical legacy of the island and its valuable nature developments became of present interest. All outcrops of significance rock formations were investigated. The geological age of rocks on the island is essentially specified and defined as Upper Devonian, a geologic period and sys-

tem of the Paleozoic, spanning 60.3 million years from the end of the Silurian (419.2 million years ago − a period when a significant evolutionary milestone as the diversification of jawed fish and bony fish occurred), to the beginning of the Carboniferous (358.9 million years ago − a period that sometimes called the Age of Amphibians, during which amphibians became dominant land vertebrates and diversified into many forms including lizard-like, snake-like, and crocodile-like). Undoubtedly, Snake Island is one of the most valuable geosites. In 1985, in the book Geological monuments of Ukraine, the Snake Island

was regarded as an important geological monument of nature. Its picturesque indented rocky shores with grottoes, its famous historic-cultural past and the unique peculiarities of the geological structure deserve the stricter conservation at the level of geosites of European importance. Now Snake Island is a zoological reserve of national significance, which includes ecologically valuable part of the island with 500 m waters of the Black Sea.

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Ama, the fearless mermaids of Japan There are always interesting things about the Land of Sakura. In addition to its exotic tourist destinations, Japan also has a variety of interesting traditions to explore. One of the lesser known but fascinating parts of Japanese culture is that of their Mermaids. Mermaids have long held mysticism and fascination for many. They are believed to be aquatic creatures with the upper body of a human female and a fish tail instead of legs. The first tales of mermaids can be traced back to ancient Assyria, where the goddess Atargatis was driven by remorse after she accidentally killed her human lover and then

transformed herself into a mermaid. In Greek mythology, mermaids are considered the alluring sirens of the sea. In the movies, the mermaid is depicted as a beautiful woman who lives in the ocean. If mermaids are only fictional characters in movies, it's different with Japan. The mermaid referred to here is human specialised in

freediving some 30 feet down into cold water wearing nothing more than a loincloth. She is Ama (海女 in Japanese), literally means ‘woman of the sea’ who depend their life on the sea as pearl divers. They are also known as uminchu in Okinawan orkaito in the Izu peninsula. As yet, this freediving tradition still Blue Explorer Magazine


exists and is carried out by wo-men in Japan. An Ama is assigned to dive to the bottom of the sea, in search of seafood that will later be offered to Japanese temples and emperors. Historically, this tradition has been carried out for 2,000 years. Ama itself has appeared since 750 AD in the Man'yoshu poetry collection. Ethno-historians believe that they initially travelled with the currents from continental Asia across to southern Japan where they were divided into two types of nomadic communities. One

group travelled to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and the other, to the north Japan Sea coast. According to local legend, one group was carried away by a typhoon to the north and was shipwrecked on the shores of Noto Peninsula on the Japan Sea. Even today, descendants of the original women ama divers still practice the ancient tradition and continue with the semi-nomadic customs in the village of Osatsu along the coast of the Ise-Shima region in Mie Prefecture.

Ama's most profitable pursuit was diving for pearls. Traditionally for them, finding a pearl inside an oyster was akin to receiving a large bonus while they went about their ancestral practice of collecting shellfish. However, that changed when Kokichi Mikomoto, founder of Mikimoto Pearl, be-

gan his enterprise. Pearls from oysters are no longer the prized catch for the modern-day women ama divers. Rather these are snails, clams, local abalone, and sea urchins, depending on the season. Ama only wears a fundoshi (loincloth) to make her movements easier in the water and uses a tenugi (bandana) to protect her hair. Dressed in nothing but panties, these fearless women plunged 12meters into the frigid sea of Japan. Having good

diving skills, Ama can hold his breath for up to 2 minutes in the water. After World War II, Kokichi Mikimoto employed Ama for his famous pearl company but designed a white diving costume for them after noting the surprise of foreigners who observed their work. As a matter of fact, some are even wearing modern wetsuits. When diving, Ama carries a sukari or net which is used to carry his

catch. The sukari will be tied to Ama's body so it doesn't come off. In addition, they also tied a rope around their waist that connected them to the boat. When they were done, they signalled to their comrades on the boat to pull them back to the surface. Every day, Ama works multiple shifts, spending about two hours in the water. When the shift changes, they will sunbathe on the beach. In earliest times, Ama could spend 6-8 hours in the sea every day. They should have a tough physique

to dive without using oxygen cylinders and must be able to survive in the cold sea. Amazingly, most Ama have been divers for decades since they started when they were young. This tradition was passed Blue Explorer Magazine


down by the mother and relatives. By the time they are 14 years old, they are usually ready to dive. Not hunting with his bare hands, Ama used to be equipped with pointed bamboo to hunt marine animals. These female divers will look for oysters, pearls, seaweed, sea cucumbers, and more. These catches will vary in

number and are greatly influenced by the season. Uniquely, after diving and coming to the surface, these female divers will exhale while whistling slowly. This whistle is called an isobue. This technique is a hereditary heritage that serves to help the divers breathe. Because it has been done for a very long time, Ama have a larger lung capacity compared to ordinary people. Usual-

ly, Japanese women have carried out this tradition from early to old. Many of the Ama are up to 80 years old and still carry out this diving tradition. Also known as the mother of the ocean, Ama is only practiced by women. This is because the Japanese believe that women are more suitable for diving because they have a fatter layer, so they can withstand the body's warm temperature in cold sea. Also, in ancient times there were not many job options for women. So, diving and looking for marine products to sell, are in great demand by women in coastal areas. The area’s most famous for this tradition are Toba City and Mie. Today, the number of Ama in Japan is getting less and less. After education for women improved and Japan's economy grew significantly in the 1960's and the 1970's many Japanese girls choose not to follow in their mother's or grandmother's footsteps to become Ama. Many women in Japan have more job options and the number of Ama is declining. In the post-World War II period, the number of Ama who originally reached 20,000 people, now numbered only 2,000 people in 2017. Even so, there are also young women who want to continue this tradition and continue to dive and become an Ama into old age. They still maintain this tradition from generation to generation to other family members in order

to keep it sustainable. Women divers were first mentioned on an ancient scroll from 927. The rich and colourful ama divers' history is showcased at the Mikimoto Pearl Island Museum in Toba, which has a collection of ancient tools (like bone knives) found on the sea floor of the nearby areas that date back 3,000 years. Ama women divers do not need any modern-day apparatus like what helps deep sea divers breathe and

stay longer underwater. With their graceful movements and garbed in their traditional white uniform believed to keep sharks away, an ama diver can make any lonely sailor see a gorgeous mermaid emerging from the depths of the ocean.

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There’s always something for everyone in Barbados On Monday, 29 November 2021, Barbados has officially become a new republic. Dame Sandra Mason, the governor general of the Island of Barbados since 2018, has been named the new nation's first president. Although this island country in the southeastern Caribbean Sea is no longer ruled by United Kingdom, Barbados is still part of the British Commonwealth. The designation of Barbados as a new state coincided with the 55th anniversary of the country's independence. This event marked the severing of

the remaining colonial ties between Barbados from England, after nearly 400 years since British ships first landed on the Caribbean Island. The name Barbados originally came from either the Portuguese term os barbudos or the Spanish equivalent, los

barbados, both meaning “the bearded ones.” Although it is not 100% clear what the phrase is referring to, there are a few possibilities. One indicates to the hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree, another to the beards of the indigenous inhabitants from the island, or it possibly refers to the sea froth created when the waves crash

against the coral reefs surrounding the island, looking like Barbados’ beard. Situated about 100 miles (160 km) Blue Explorer Magazine


east of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, roughly triangular in shape, Barbados measures some 20 miles (32 km) from northwest to southeast and about 15 miles (25 km) from east to west at its widest point. Although located in the most western part

of the North Atlantic, Barbados is still considered a Caribbean Island instead of an Atlantic Island. The capital and largest town of Barbados is Bridgetown, which is also the main seaport. The town is home to the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere built in 1628. Its also a home to a 1000-year-old tree in Queens Park. It is impossible to

confuse this tree with any other. It is so large it takes 15 adults with hands fully outstretched to cover the circumference of the trunk. The area of Barbados was first settled in the 1620s and this made it one of the earliest British colonies. For this reason, the culture of Barbados is probably more British than is that of any other Caribbean island, though elements of the African culture of the majority population have been prominent. With a col-

onization history that dates back nearly 400 years, every place on the island comes with a story. The island’s cultural roots are in its plantation and slavery history, therefore there is a unique blend of West African and European heritage all over the isle. Culture and history lovers might enjoy a visit to Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which boasts wonderfully well-preserved examples of British colonial architecture. There are a total of nine museums on the island. Each museum offers a unique experience where visitors can learn lots about the incredible history of this island in an interactive and fun way, where guided tours are also available. Another historical monument in Barbados is its rustic windmills. Once home to hundreds of windmills there is only one working windmill left on the island and it can be found in the parish of St. Andrew. It is no secret that Barbados is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are more than 50 beaches around the island. The serene Caribbean coast on the west is famed for its aquamarine waters and soft sands offering the gentle Caribbean Sea. Carlisle Bay of the Platinum Coast in the west for example, is a beach with a quieter section as well as a livelier area for water sports and beach bar. While the wilder beaches in Barbados on the east coast are exhilarating to visit, with the strength and swells of the Atlantic Ocean. The Barbados National Surf Championship is held in

a small bay known as the Soup Bowl in a village called Bathsheba on the east coast every November – and that is just one of the many surfing and sailing competitions throughout the year. One of the top things that Barbados is known for is its snorkelling. With impressive visibility, warm wa-

ters, and a diverse array of marine life, the conditions for snorkelling in Barbados are ideal. From Blue Explorer Magazine


Shark Bank to Little Sandy Lane, the Great Ledge and the Bell Buoy, there is an abundance of coral reefs of all shapes and sizes just off the shore of Barbados. Teaming with tropical sea life, this natural beauty around the island is a huge draw to divers who wish to explore and witness the vibrant wildlife. Barbados is home to four species of nesting






hawksbill turtles, and leatherbacks. Snorkelers should keep their eyes peeled even in the shallows for these amazing sea creatures. Once considered to be important only for their meat, eggs and shells, the value of these creatures is now being recognised and the Barbados Sea Turtle Project care-

fully monitor the population. Flying fish are also very common in the surrounding warm waters around Barbados as the island has long been referred to as The Land of the Flying Fish. In addition to gorgeous beaches, rich marine life, and breath-taking coastal scenery, Barbados is famed for the dramatic Harrison’s Cave, a lime-

stone cavern discovered in the 18th century in the central uplands of the island, just outside the village of Holetown. It is an underground cavernous system made up of deep caves and winding passages that is around 2.3 km long in total. Packed full of stalactites, stalagmites, cascading waterfalls, flowing streams and deep pools, Harrison’s Cave is a very popular visitor attraction on the island, giving a total otherworldly experience. Barbados is also an ideal spot to satisfy the needs of a growing number of wellness travellers. Visitors will find rejuvenation, not only in the calming and reenergizing waters of the Caribbean Sea but through stays at dedicated wellness retreats or standalone experiences, such as spa treatments, yoga, or meditation classes. Active options, including hiking, biking, snorkelling, scuba diving and paddleboarding, are equally restorative for mind, body and soul.

The truth is that Barbados’ allure is not limited to its crystal-clear Caribbean waters, 70 miles of stunning sandy beaches or brilliantly vivid skies. The island has something special in store for every kind of traveller, from vacationing families to lone adventurers, explorers, history buffs, ecotourists, foodies and

more. Thankfully, Barbados is one of those islands that can be visited at any time of the year. Barbados experiences two weather seasons each year, a wet season that runs from June to December and a dry season that runs from December through to May. Although the statistics show that there is much more rain during certain months of the year, the wet season does not need to be avoided. The rain on the island during this period usually comes in the form of short downpours or thunderstorms, which while dramatic, do not typically last for very long. Plus, the average temperatures hover consistently all year round at approximately 25-28 °C. Blue Explorer Magazine



Unveiling Matua Island's Enigmatic Mysteries: A Scientific Exploration Nestled within the remote expanse of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Matua Island emerges as a treasure trove of mysteries and natural wonders, largely unexplored within the Russian Far East. This uninhabited volcanic island, a subject of territorial dispute between Russia and Japan, is administratively affiliated with the Severo-Kurilskiy urban district of the Sakhalin region. Its enigmatic name, drawn from the native Ainu language, ominously translates to "hellmouth." While the Ainu people once frequented Matua for fishing and hunting, no permanent settlement remains to attest to their presence. The first documented mention of Matua Island can be attributed to the intrepid Russian explorer Ivan Kozyrevsky, whose remarkable explorations in 1711 and 1713 took him to the northernmost islands of Shumshu and Paramushira. Kozyrevsky christened the island "Motogo," thus marking its place on the

map. Spanning an area of 52 km², Matua beckons to history aficionados and connoisseurs of wartime relics due to its extensive remnants from the Second World War that remain scattered across its landscape. One of the most striking features on Matua Island is its remarkable airfield, a testament to military engineering prowess. Comprising two parallel strips measuring 1,570 meters in length and 35 meters in

width, this airfield is paved with top-quality concrete that has defied the ravages of time, displaying

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minimal signs of wear and tear. What sets this airfield apart is its ingenious heating system powered by local thermal springs, rendering it operational year-round, even during the harshest frosts and snowstorms. The value of this asset was evident as the Americans launched repeated attempts to neutralize it during the war, resulting in the loss of numerous aircraft and at least two submarines in the process.

Access to Matua Island has historically been challenging, contributing to its aura of mystery. However, a breakthrough came in 2003 when an expedition originating from the Kamchatka

Peninsula embarked on a journey to this remote island. Over the subsequent years, fifteen more expeditions followed suit. Russian explorers uncovered numerous trenches and man-made caverns, transforming significant portions of the island into a fortress, fortified with concrete pill-

boxes, some seamlessly integrated into the rocky terrain. Fabled accounts allude to the presence of an underground city during World War II, purportedly hosting biological warfare and nuclear research laboratories.

In 2016, an unprecedented opportunity arose as the Russian Geographical Society (RGO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, orchestrated an expedition featuring approximately 200 Russian technical experts. This landmark endeavor aimed to un-

lock the island's long-held secrets and establish a historical and geographical portrait of Matua. The subsequent summer of 2017 witnessed a second joint expedition between the RGO and the Ministry of Defence, aiming to amass data for a comprehensive atlas of marine life in Matua's waters and neighboring islands, as well as underwater topographical assessments. The project's scope encompasses the continued search for historical military equipment and fortifications, along with archaeological investigations spanning various epochs, including the Ainu era. This second expedition yielded significant discover-

ies, including the ruins of a Japanese garrison commander's residence, replete with pillboxes, weapon

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ports, and subterranean tunnels. In the vicinity of Yurlov Cape, an object resembling a cigar, potentially a submarine, was detected at a depth of 110 meters, further adding to the island's mystique. One of Matua Island's most confounding enigmas revolves around the vanishing of all military equipment, leaving no trace. Despite meticulous searches since 1945, not a single aircraft, tank, or gun has

been unearthed on the island. This anomaly extends to the disappearance of pilots, sailors, and artillerymen, leaving only construction battalions and auxiliary personnel in captivity. Speculation abounds, suggesting that the Japanese may have submerged their clandestine equipment in the sea or concealed it within underground vaults, subsequently destroying access routes to these hidden caches. Intriguingly, disguised units and assemblies of military equipment, as well as enigmatic rods adorned with inscrutable threads, persist on the island, inviting speculation about their purpose. Beyond its rich historical tapestry and subterranean secrets, Matua Island enchants with its pristine wilderness. Its most iconic feature is Sarychev Peak, named after Admiral Gavril Sarychev of the Imperial Russian Navy, located in the island's northwest region. Soaring to a height of 1,496 meters (4,910 feet), Sarychev Peak ranks among the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Islands chain. Its recent eruption in 2009 stands as a testament to the dynamic geological processes shaping the island. Adventurers and devotees of volcanology find the ascent of this peak a thrilling endeavor, offering not only a challenge but also a glimpse into the geological history of the region. Matua Island equally beguiles naturalists, as it harbors thriving colonies of oceanic birds, flourishing due to the absence of natural predators. Birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, and wildlife photographers will find themselves enthralled by the diverse avian species that call this habitat home. The convergence of the warm Oyashio and cold Okhotsk currents in Matua's vicinity fosters a rich marine eco-

system, enhancing opportunities for underwater exploration and discovery. In conclusion, Matua Island, ensconced within the Pacific Ring of Fire, is a crucible of history and natural marvels, awaiting further exploration and re-

search. Its wartime heritage, enigmatic underground recesses, and pristine wilderness beckon to adventurers, scholars, and enthusiasts alike. As accessibility to this remote island improves, the prospect of unraveling additional treasures within Matua's embrace kindles the flames of scientific

curiosity and wonder.

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Illuminate the abyss: the innovative inventions of Dimitri Rebikoff coloured the underwater world. When you step into a dive shop, it's almost inevitable that the conversation will eventually gravitate toward the art of underwater photography. Scuba diving enthusiasts, at some point, find themselves eager to try their hand at capturing the mesmerizing beauty that lies beneath the azure waves. They enthusiastically display their underwater snapshots on smartphones, compact-camera screens, and various social media platforms. The widespread fascination with underwater photography owes much to the accessibility of affordable deep-sea-ready cameras, camera housings, and lighting systems available today. From compact GoPro cameras ingeniously affixed to scuba masks or extending from buoyant selfie sticks to intricate setups designed for mirrorless and full-frame digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, complete with advanced LED lighting, the primary limitation often boils down to a diver's budget. Yet, there was an era when the underwater world remained an enigmatic frontier, explored only by the boldest adventurers. Early divers embarked on daring endeavours, lugging colossal plate cameras tethered to wine-barrel buoys and manoeuvring them along the ocean floor in depths of up to 20 feet. Numerous challenges abounded, ranging from the rapid destruction of cameras and film by seawater to the optical distortions inherent in the aquatic environment. The notion of bringing lighting and electrical power into the depths of the sea remained a fantastical dream for most, seemingly Blue Explorer Magazine


reserved for the mythical city of Atlantis. However, the aftermath of World War II witnessed a transformative period when photographer and inventor Dimitri Rebikoff, along with pioneers like Jacques Yves Cousteau, reshaped the landscape of underwater exploration. This era was a breeding ground for visionaries, including Rebikoff, Cous-

teau, Émile Gagnon, and a legion of other inventors and explorers, whose innovations in lighting, cameras, and life-support systems proved reliable even when submerged. Their groundbreaking work, complemented by a plethora of popular books, films, and TV shows, ushered in a new age of underwater exploration, encompassing scientific endeavours, recreational sports, entertainment, and commerce. This legacy has continued to flourish over the decades.

In fact, we owe the spectacle of cable TV's annual Shark Week, featuring heart-pounding underwater footage of sharks, to the pioneering contributions of Rebikoff and his contemporaries. Without their advancements, this captivating event might have never come to fruition. For Dimitri Rebikoff, the journey began on the rain-soaked streets of post-war Paris. He found himself struggling as a tabloid news photographer by day and moonlighting as an engineer after hours in a city newly liberated from Nazi occupation. It was during this period that Rebikoff caught the attention of Jacques

Cousteau, thanks to his ingenious invention in 1947—an easily portable electronic strobe that also possessed waterproof capabilities, a feature tailored to his often-challenging working conditions. Rebikoff secured French and Swiss patents for his groundbreaking creation, ultimately selling an impressive 10,000 units in France alone. He ingenious-

ly adapted his water-resistant housings for use with 16-mm movie cameras. Between 1947 and 1949, Rebikoff successfully repurposed his strobe for various scientific and industrial applications. Notably, he applied it to the study of propeller cavitation in water tunnels and the examination of ships' hulls in the vast expanse of the open ocean. In recounting his journey at a 1968 SPIE conference in San Diego, Rebikoff detailed receiving a call from the French Submarine Alpine Club, requesting the adaptation of his strobe and camera for underwater photography

during scuba dives. The outcome exceeded expectations, producing the first razor-sharp, color-accurate underwater photographs of marine life, geological wonders, and archaeological treasures. Rebikoff attributed this success to the holistic design of a "complete integrated system," wherein each component—camera, corrected lens, strobe light, controls, and housings—was meticulously crafted to

work in perfect harmony, achieving the desired results effortlessly.

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In the late 1940s, Jacques Cousteau entered into a contractual partnership with Dimitri Rebikoff to create specialized equipment for his underwater expeditions. This collaboration blossomed, enabling Cousteau to produce his Oscar-winning film, "A World Without Sun," and early TV shows with the aid of Rebikoff's innovative lights, cameras, underwater housings, and one-person submarines. Rebikoff himself would go on to author approximately 27 books on the subject of underwater photography. One of their remarkable achievements was the 1949 introduction of a high-voltage battery strobe light. Housed in an elongated plexiglass tube filled with clear transformer oil, it was positioned as far forward of the camera lens as possible to prevent illuminating the suspended particles between the subject and the lens. This groundbreaking strobe not only provided excellent contrast and definition in the

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center of each frame but also showcased the vibrant colors of marine life like sponges and coral in a manner that defied description. However, Rebikoff's innovative journey did not conclude there. Studies of fish eyes had revealed that traditional flat glass or plastic portholes were inadequate for satisfactory underwater photography. The plane diopter effect caused the portholes to function as 3.4 diopter magnifier lenses.

Collaborating with Alexandre Ivanoff of the Paris Museum of Natural History, Rebikoff invented the renowned Ivanoff-Rebikoff lens. This optical marvel was a reverse Galileo Telescope meticulously designed using two new types of optical glass to fully correct all aberrations while simultaneously increasing the focal length—a breakthrough in underwater optics that could be applied to various cameras, optical instruments, and even the human eye.

Rebikoff remained steadfast in his pursuit of enhanced underwater photography possibilities, focusing on integrated systems that included cameras, lighting, and tow vehicles. According to the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, which honored Rebikoff with induction, his underwater vehicle named "Pegasus," unveiled in 1953, resembled a torpedo with handles and a camera mount. This innovation found use in scientific expeditions, where it explored and photographed fossil life beneath glaciers,

and in the oil industry for ocean floor exploration.

The Pegasus, which could be operated either manned or unmanned, and its subsequent iterations solidified Rebikoff's legacy in modern underwater photography, serving a wide array of purposes and applications. It formed the foundation for his company, Rebikoff Underwater Products, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he settled in the early 1960s and spent the remainder of his life. With these vehicles, Rebikoff championed the concept of strip-scanning photogrammetry, enabling the parallel scanning of the seafloor in adjacent strips using high-capacity camera systems. This approach

overcame the limitations of underwater visibility, which hindered large-area photography, such as that

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possible with aerial or space photography over dry land. In a lecture on photogrammetry at a 1966 SPIE conference in Santa Barbara, California, Rebikoff elaborated on the applications of this technique, including undersea cable and pipeline surveys, ste-

reophotogrammetric mapping of the seabed, photography of large submarines and marine life, archaeological surveys, and landing beach and approach assessments. Dimitri Rebikoff, who passed away in 1997, once shared with Florida's Sun-Sentinel newspaper that he conceived the Pegasus because he considered himself a "lousy swimmer" and faced difficulties maneuvering underwater while handling unwieldy cameras. His inspiration for the design came from

early aeronautical engineers who observed the physiology of birds to understand flight. Rebicoff then began observing the movements of sharks, a testament to his inventive and visionary spirit.

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Dear readers. Thanks to everyone who participates in the formation of our magazine. Responding to your wishes, we open the Ocean Art section, dedicated to artists and craftsmen working in the marine style. We hope that the articles of the rubric will find their readers and will provide an op-

portunity to look at our blue planet from a different angle and feel unity with such an important environment for us - the Ocean. Portfolio: Sarah Barnard


We are pleased to introduce Sarah Barnard, who opens our new column Her beautiful drawings and stories take us to the frosty polar regions and fill the pages of our magazine with the spirit of discovery and adventure


Sarah Barnard is a professional polar artist with experience in ocean exploration and marine biology. She has been a full-time artist since 2015. She works in pencil, watercolor, acrylic,

airbrush, ink and pastel, and also enjoys sculpture. Sarah Barnard's art education has been varied and, instead of a traditional art education, she has prioritized gaining hands-on experience in the polar expedition sector to add a solid base of interest and knowledge of the subject matter underlying the artwork she creates. She had a passion for polar research and history for many years, Sarah attended school near the Scott Institute of Polar Research in Cambridge. In March 2022, she took part in the Blue Explorer Magazine


preparation of the polar expedition in Finse, Norway, and in October 2022 she worked as an artist in the residence of the expedition beyond the Arctic Circle aboard the Antigua ship in Svalbard. Sarah studied fine arts at Cambridge, marine biology at Newquay and ocean exploration at Plymouth. She worked with the Explorers Club and created illustrations for several polar expeditions.

Sarah Barnard : “It's mid October and Svalbard's polar twilight is fast catching up with us. We make an intriguing sight: 29 artists, musicians, poets all dragging our luggage along the gangway towards the barquentine tall ship Antigua docked at Longyearbyen harbour. This is the latest in the year that the Arctic Circle Expedition residency has ever set sail from the small mining town, delayed by the Covid19 pandemic. Our suitcases and kitbags are quickly stowed by a friendly and professional crew, into our

tiny cabins which are shared between two people. We are about to embark on a two-week voyage around the coast of the Svalbard Archipelago, reaching the world's northernmost community of Ny Ålesund at 78° North. I excitedly count myself among the artists on this adventure. I am finally about to realise a dream I've had for almost 25 years, and one that my career is based around. I am an artist and illustrator specialising in all things polar – environments, history, exploration. I've worked with the Explorer's Club Great Britain and Ireland Chapter and recently had an exhibition at the RRS Discovery (Captain Robert Falcon Scott's first Antarctic expedition ship) in Dundee, Scotland. I've taken part in polar expedition training in Finse, Norway (sometimes called 'Antarctica in miniature' thanks to its history as a training ground for Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott in the early 1900s), but until October 2022, I hadn't truly experienced the Arctic. We crept quietly to our bunks, exhausted and excited, some sleep fitfully thanks to the unfamil-

iar engine noise, our captain navigating the way to our first anchorage. We wake up to one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen – pink orange sunlight illuminates snow-covered Blue Explorer Magazine


mountain tops, above a bright blue glacier. Ice pops and jostles around the ship, only audible in the complete, almost sterile, stillness. My first thought is that if there is a heaven, this is what it would feel like. Later we set out on our first landing by Zodiac and are able to walk around on land, some recording sound, others taking photographs or sketching, and others like me - just trying to take it all in. This is the routine of the rest of our expedition: daily landings, all while watched over by our fearless guides (all expeditions outside Longyearbyen town limits must have a guide trained in rifle handling in case a polar bear makes an appearance). Around 5 days before our adventure comes to an end, the sun goes down for the last time.

The result of this polar twilight is a strange, almost dreamlike feel. There is also a strong sense that we are intruding on what should be a hushed, secret time this far North. By the end of our voyage we have seen the glaciers calve, starting with a rumbling from deep within the ice, huge fragments fracturing off, sending waves through the fjord and birds escaping to safer roosts, and have been shown how far the ice has receded in a terrifyingly short number

of years. We are left with a strong awareness of the precarious future of these environments and the need to protect them. This was an important factor when planning my most recent exhibition project – called 'Out of Sight // Out of Mind', which is a collection of portraits of polar explorers and scientists with their eyes closed. The polar regions are for many of us 'out of sight, out of mind', and this is my way of trying to raise awareness of what is happening to them, having now seen it with my own eyes. My future projects will hopefully follow this theme, and I hope to travel south to Antarctica next year to continue this work.”

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