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Strange Reactions Throughout History and the Animal Kingdom

Aug 21, 2017

From the wrath of God to an abbreviated workday, humans have attributed some unusual meanings to eclipses over the years.  Other members of the animal kingdom aren’t too far behind when it comes to strange reactions.

With today’s eclipse just a few hours away, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at a few of the unusual situations eclipses have created for both humans and animals.

Hysteria and The Sublime

Since perhaps our beginnings, eclipses have had an impact on the human psyche.  Eclipses have inspired everything from awe and bewilderment to fear and confusion to even human sacrifice.  As our understandings of eclipses changed throughout the ages so to have our reactions to them.

Records suggest that ancient Babylonians and Chinese were able to predict eclipses as early as 2500 B.C.  However the knowledge of how to predict an eclipse, or what one even was, was not understood by the common person throughout much of history.


Bed Time

When a solar eclipse hit London shortly after sunrise on May 14, 1283 A.D., it caused a great deal of confusion.

12th Century historian Roger of Wendover wrote, “…an unusual eclipse of the Sun took place very early in the morning, immediately after sunrise and it became so dark that the labourers [sic], who had begun their morning’s work, were obliged to leave it, and again returned to their beds to sleep; but in about an hour’s time, to the astonishment of many, the Sun regained its unusual brightness.”

In Europe it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press in the mid-1400’s that information on eclipses became widely disseminated.


Knowledge and Power

At times individuals who understood eclipses have used that knowledge against those who didn’t.

On June 25, 1503, Christopher Columbus beached his fleet on the north coast of Jamaica.  Columbus and his men would spend the next six month forcing the local Arawak Indians to trade their food for trinkets such as tin whistles.  Growing tired of this arrangement (and the occasional murder perpetrated by Columbus’s men), the Arawaks said no more.

Armed with detailed astronomical tables, a reference which had become crucial for seafarers, Columbus knew they would soon witness a lunar eclipse.  Columbus met with the Arawak chief and told him that his Christian god was greatly displeased with the Arawaks’ treatment of his men.  In three day’s time, he told him, the moon would disappear shortly after sunset as a sign of the coming wrath that God would inflict upon the Arawaks if they did not continue to supply the Spaniards with food.  The Arawaks were terrified upon witnessing the eclipse and conceded to Columbus’s demands.

When the moon began to reappear, he announced that God had pardoned the Arawaks as long as they remained faithful to their promise.  Columbus would spend another four months on the northern coast of Jamaica, exploiting the natives.

Although most of us today have at least a basic understanding of what an eclipse is, it’s perhaps telling that the human mind can still remain fascinated with something that has been reduced to a mathematical equation.


The Animal Kingdom

Humans aren’t the only ones who have exhibited strange behavior during eclipses.  During solar eclipses, birds have been known to drop from the sky.  Bats and mosquitos come out.  Dairy cows have been observed returning to their barn for the night.

In Mexico, researchers observed orb-weaving spiders during a solar eclipse.  Exhibiting normal behavior until the eclipse reached totality, they suddenly took down their webs, only to start rebuilding them a few moments later when the sun started reappearing.

Perhaps one of the most touching stories comes from how a captive group of one of our closest relatives, the chimpanzee, reacted to a solar eclipse.

As the sun began to darken during an annular eclipse (a solar eclipse in which the moon appears smaller than the sun creating a ring of fire effect), females, some carrying babies, were observed moving to the top of a climbing structure.  As the eclipse progressed more and more chimps congregated on the top of the structure, orienting their bodies toward the sun and moon.  The group had never been observed exhibiting similar behavior during normal sunsets.

While gazing at the sight, a juvenile stood upright and gestured at the sun and moon.

A Moment to Reflect

Although our scientific knowledge has detached us from the animal kingdom in certain ways, it seems plausible that we continue to be affected by the world we inhabit in manners we don’t clearly understand.  And, in some cases, it appears that we are not the only ones who possess a sense of wonder of it.

Whether or not you find yourself somewhere where you can witness today’s special event, we hope you have a moment to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the universe around us.  Despite what we know (or don’t know) about it, it continues to captivate the human spirit.

Wishing you the best,

Aqua Survey

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CASE STUDY: 2,825 Sediment Cores in 3 Weeks

Aug 08, 2017

Time was running out for the State of New Jersey.  They needed it done and done right.

Client Needs: As a result of Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey’s channels experienced massive sedimentation. The question was, how much was directly attributable to the superstorm and what was the result of normal buildup processes? FEMA would provide the state with 75% matching funds for the dredging of any Sandy-related buildup. The State needed close to 3,000 sediment vibracore samples to be taken at sites up and down the New Jersey coast in order to properly characterize sediment profiles and get the Federal funds. And they needed them fast. The deadline for submitting these results to FEMA was October 31st. Aqua Survey wasn’t contacted until early October. Other teams had been tasked with the core collection earlier in the year, but had only managed to collect a few hundred samples. The clock was running out.

Solution: Aqua Survey mobilized ten vessel-based, vibracoring teams. All crews were OSHA trained with each captain holding a United States Coast Guard operator’s license. We deployed our fleet of coring vessels in locations ranging from lower Raritan Bay all the way down to Cape May and much of the NJ coast in between.

Aqua Survey coordinated our daily efforts with State geologists that needed to dissect each core, looking for an “out of place” strata of “fresh” plant life. Below the plant strata was considered pre-Sandy existing sediment buildup (not FEMA’s concern). Anything above the churned-in plant strata was judged to be Sandy-deposited sediments needing to be removed. In three weeks, Aqua Survey collected 2,825 sediment cores for the State of New Jersey. Data was submitted to FEMA before the October 31st deadline, allowing the state collect 75% matching funds.

Obstructions: Sediment wasn’t the only thing being moved around during Sandy. Cars, boats, even sections of buildings ended up in waterways, presenting serious navigational hazards. We were tasked to locate these strike hazards. Fifty-six areas required detailed assessment.

Solution:
Deploying Aqua Survey’s side scan sonar towfish, our survey vessels created digital images of the bottom’s relief on each of 56 different areas. Sonar data was processed and our geophysicists provided the State with precise GPS positioning of each obstruction as well as high-resolution imagery.

Do you have sediment sampling or survey needs?

Contact us today: 908-788-8700

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Case Study 19: Amityville Handgun

Jul 04, 2017

With the recent release of the latest reboot of the Amityville Horror franchise, we thought it’d be interesting to revisit this case study from a few years back.

Client Need: A documentary filmmaker was producing a three part series exploring the real-life case history of the 1974 homicide case which inspired the Amityville Horror franchise. Entitled Shattered Hopes, the series examined some never fully answered questions in the murder investigation.

After extensive research of police files, the filmmaker suspected a second firearm was never recovered from the crime scene. It was his belief that the gun, a snub-nose .38, was discarded in a nearby canal.

Solution: Aqua Survey performed a survey of the section of canal in question. Towing an EM (electromagnetic) array behind one of our vessels, 317 metal objects were located and mapped to within inches of accuracy.

Using advanced computer analytics, Aqua Survey’s geophysicists generated a small list of high-priority targets.
Using DGPS, an Aqua Survey vessel placed the recovery team over each target location. An EM-tipped probe was then hand-pushed into the sediment to further pinpoint each object. Once the probe was in close proximity to the target, a diver was splashed to investigate it.

Result: Upon diving on the third target, the remains of the trigger/receiver section of a top-break revolver, seemingly of .38 caliber, was discovered. The gun was promptly bagged and tagged by the Suffolk County Police, who supervised the recovery.

What If:
What if Aqua Survey was brought in to survey a crime scene that was only hours or days old? How would the retrieval team handle the recovery differently and why?

What If Solution: Great care would be taken by the diver to place the item and surrounding material into the evidence bag with minimum disruption. Not only could the item have trace amounts of DNA or partial fingerprints from its owner, but, in the case of a gun barrel, could actually have the victim’s DNA, due to a phenomenon known as blowback. When a bullet is fired, it creates a vacuum, pulling air into the gun. When used at close range, the barrel may contain blood and tissue from the victim. Additionally, sometimes even a single strand of fiber found on an item can be enough to trace back to a piece of clothing owned by a particular individual or even to his or her car’s interior carpeting.

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Aqua Survey Lunch and Learn Tour - Back with a New Twist

May 16, 2017

Question: What does the French Algerian War, Cleopatra’s Palace and Bomb-hunting ROV’s have in common?

Answer: They are all part of Aqua Survey’s newest Lunch and Learn.

Our mixed-media, informal presentations inform and entertain (after all, who said learning has to be painful). Travel around the world with us over lunch (or dinner).

Topics include:

-Sediment Coring
-Bathymetric and Side Scan Sonar Surveys
-On-Water Geophysical Surveying
-Environmental Toxicology Tests/Studies
-Unexploded Ordnance (Bombs) Surveys
-Geophysical-Based Treasure Hunting
-Globe Trotting Adventures
-And More

We can come to you with hot pizza, relevant information and interesting stories.

However, if you’d prefer, your company is invited to spend lunch or dinner at the Aqua Survey gallery located in Flemington, NJ, enjoying authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. Don’t forget, bring your own PowerPoint on your companies activities. We’d love for you to walk us through what you do so we can better work together when the time comes.

Our current display features antique traditional Lao silk textiles, some over a hundred years old.  Any or all of the above mentioned topics can still be covered if you’d like.


Schedule your Lunch (or Dinner) and Learn today.

908-788-8700 or

We’ll come to you or you can come to us.

Aqua Survey - Your Sediment and Survey Expert.

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CASE STUDY #38: UXO Unearthed During Construction

Apr 04, 2017

Client Needs: An engineering firm was in the process of refurbishing a relatively small ferryboat terminal in the Northeast.  In this process, an intact, massive (and potentially explosive) Rodman cannonball was unearthed by a backhoe.  To provide worker safety, the work zone had to be surveyed for other unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Services Provided: Aqua Survey utilized their customized military-grade electromagnetic induction (EMI) metal detection electronics (marine and terrestrial platforms) to locate ferrous and non-ferrous objects within the work zone.  None of the detected targets were UXO.  EMI was used because of its ability to detect both ferrous and non-ferrous objects.  UXO objects often have very little ferrous content and are often undetectable with a magnetometer.

Submerged UXO on or protruding from the surface can be detected by side scan sonar.  Terrestrial UXO laying on the ground can often be detected by eye.  However, when UXO is potentially fully embedded in the soil or sediment, invasive electronics, such as EMI, are required.

What If: The survey indicates the probability of more UXO? 

What if Solution: Aqua Survey uses RTK-GPS (accuracy within a couple of inches) to identify all target locations.  An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team would evacuate all non-essential people from the area, reacquire the target and then carefully expose the object to determine if it is UXO or metal debris.  If underwater, an Aqua Survey EMI-tipped jet probe would be used to aid in reacquisition.  If it is UXO, the EOD team would determine the safest way to eliminate the risk, which could range from Blow in Place (BIP) to removal to be detonated in a safer environment or deactivating its fuse.

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CASE STUDY #37: 50 Mile Pipeline

Mar 21, 2017

Client Needs: A client south of the Mason-Dixon Line needs to pinpoint a 50 mile pipeline in XY&Z dimensions.  It’s a 16 inch, ferrous pipe believed to be buried under about 3 feet of sand.  The water depth is 3-9 feet.

ASI’s Solution:
Aqua Survey would trailer a shallow draft survey vessel to a boat launch near the survey area. Using Hypack software on our Panasonic Toughbook for track and control, a vessel-mounted RTK-DGPS system for positioning, we would tow a single Geometric 882 Cesium Magnetometer towfish to locate the pipe and follow it for the needed 50 miles. If the area is known to have bridges or other metal structures, we would use a Gradiometer Magnetometer configuration of two magnetometers. This arrangement reduces the interference caused by metal structures. With processed data in hand, a water-jet-probe would then be used to accurately determine the pipe’s burial depth at key locations along the survey route.

What If:
What if the client wanted to locate a copper cable?  Can it be found with a Magnetometer?

What If Solution:
Magnetometers can only detect ferrous objects. Therefore it will not be able to find a copper cable. However, an Electromagnetic Induction (EMI) Metal Detector can identify and map both ferrous and nonferrous (e.g., copper) objects. EMI systems are commonly used to detect unexploded bombs and gold. Processed EMI data can be mapped and, if applicable, safely jet-probed to determine burial depth.

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Jacques Cousteau and the Assassin

Mar 09, 2017

Whenever we deploy our inflatable Rossfelder barge, it’s amazing to think that Jacques Cousteau’s son, Phillipe, used to go bombing around the South Pacific with it tucked away in Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. When I watch our field techs using one of Andre Rossfelder’s vibracore units, I think about some of the James Bond-like stories Andre told me about his youth, including his attempts to assassinate Charles De Gaulle.

Andre was a fascinating man. If you have a few minutes, read on and watch the video above.

-Ken Hayes

August 15th 1964, Provence, France – French President Charles de Gaulle takes the stage and begins his opening remarks in commemoration of the Allied landings in Provence. Several feet away, concealed in an urn, are 30 kilos of plastic explosive, a radio-detonation device and another 3 kilos of TNT for good measure. It’s Andre Rossfelder’s latest creation.

With the previous month’s attempt having gone sour (an OAS agent failed to carry out his reconnaissance mission), one can only imagine what was going through Andre’s head at that moment.

Maybe it seemed like the perfect plan. A rare instant when the culmination of one’s life events came together in a manner that held meaning and for once felt fair and just.

Andre’s device was about to deliver the death blow to the man who had betrayed his homeland. Two students hidden within the crowd would activate the radio device, detonating the bomb and forever altering world history.

And then. Nothing.

One man orating to a quiet crowd. Perhaps the sound of birds.

No explosion.

De Gaulle had just survived his 29th assassination attempt and his second by Andre.

What had happened? Was the bomb a victim to a simple mechanical failure or did de Gaulle know? Was there a mole within Andre’s organization and, if so, how much did they know? Were Andre and his conspirators now in mortal danger?

Andre would make one more attempt on de Gaulle the following year, this time with two radio-controlled bombs. Unfortunately for Andre, a police informer had ratted him out. Two of his associates were arrested, but they never caught Andre.

In 1966, Andre Rossfelder was tried in absentia and sentenced to death for his role in the third assassination attempt.

Already an exile of his homeland of Algeria, Andre was now a criminal in the two countries he loved most and, from his perspective, had fought tirelessly for, for many years.

Andre resurfaced in Rome, a frequent safe-haven for OAS operatives, and took a job with the United Nations. Within the year, Andre immigrated to the United States where he took a job at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography focusing on marine geology and ocean technology.

In 1968, De Gaulle, a man known for bravado and who had weathered 31 assassination attempts by this point, pardoned Andre.

Andre went on to have many globe-trotting adventures with his old war-time buddy, Jacques Cousteau. He invented a specialized inflatable pontoon barge to be deployed by Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. The Rossfelder, as it came to be known, was used by Andre and the Cousteau family for mineral exploration among remote tropical islands.

Andre also became an award-winning author. Writing eleven books, topics ranged from his own personal history to a book on the 16th century explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan, an innovator in his own time for his contributions to the art of seafaring navigation, was one of Andre’s heroes.

Andre also developed the electro-vibracore, a dependable solution for sediment vibracoring. Aqua Survey owns and operates many Rossfelder vibracore units to this day. Aqua Survey also owns the original Rossfelder barge used by Andre and Cousteau all those years ago. The Rossfelder has been a proven workhorse for us over the years, allowing us to collect sediment samples in extremely remote areas, including the time a client needed us to vibracore in a remote pond located deep within Daniel Boone National Forest in Winchester, KY.

Andre’s complex and storied past leaves one feeling conflicted. On the one hand, he was a man who lived life on his own terms and with steadfast conviction. On the other, his associations with the OAS and Radio Algeria left him with a controversial past. Amazingly, the very man he tried to kill multiple times pardoned him only few years later.

Andre was also an innovator, providing important tools that facilitated the modern environmental industry into becoming what it is today.

Andre lived through a troubled time in history with no clear heroes. What is clear is that he lived a life of conviction and innovation.

Aqua Survey greatly appreciates Andre’s contributions to the fields of marine exploration and sediment sampling.

We continue to make use of his dependable tools to this day.

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