Picture of the week: Ghost shark

This picture of an Oceanic shark was taken by Nick More near Big Brother island in the Red Sea. Nick used panning: that is moving the camera in the same direction as the shark.  With backward blur creating a somewhat surreal, ghostlike image of a speeding shark.

News: Stunning 102 Megapixels medium format mirrorless camera

Fujifilm  just brought a stunning medium format mirrorless camera on the market. The GFX 100  (CMOS sensor 43.9mm X 32.9 mm, 102 Megapixels ) is expensive, with a prime wide angle lens it will costs around 10.000 Euro in Holland.  Which still is cheap, as compared with the legendary Hasselblad medium format. The professional UW photographers will probably give the GFX 100 a serious look, although I wonder if they really are waiting for a big and heavy  102 Megapixels camera,  even when a UW housing becomes available.  I once owned a Mamiya 645 film camera in a Hugy housing which indeed produced amazingly sharp pictures. It has now become a collector's items for sale for around 600 Euro with a  Secor 35 mm lens. The nostalgic Extachrome  64 ASA  roll films are still available.

Highlighted: Mass tourism at Mount Everest

This picture taken by climber Nirmal  Purja shows the queuing of 320 climbers on their way to the summit of Mount Everest last Wednesday. Many climbers suffered from frozen limbs and mountain sickness during the long waiting periods. An American and Indian climber died during the event.

News: Wolves returning to Holland

Wolves  are returning to The Netherlands after 140 years, crossing the Eastern border from Germany The first couple has recently been spotted with a camera trap in the Eastern less densely populated part of Holland (female leading). They might already have pups, it is said.  The growing population of wolves in the mountains of France and in North East Germany where wolves are protected has become controversial because of wolves killing sheep and farmers asking for compensation from the State.  Some even have started shooting wolves despite their being protected.  The more woody part of Holland, however, called the Veluwe has many wild boars. Too many they say. A pack of wolves could help to restore the balance. One hopes they don't get shot or hit by a car.

The deep (2): Worms of the deep sea

The abyss of the deep sea still remains largely unexplored. At a depth of 3,700 meters (12,000 feet), dozens of natural chimneys stick up from the seafloor in the Gulf of  California emitting hot fluid at 290 degrees Celsius (554 degrees Fahrenheit). A   research team led by Marine biologist Greg Rouse from the  Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla explored these hydrothermal vent fields at Pescadero Basin at   150 kilometers off the coast at La Paz in Mexico. The brought back detailed maps of the place produced with high-resolution video via underwater robots (ROVs) and specimen of animals that live down there. 'Xenoturbella profunda' — also called purple socks or sock worms is a species found in that area. They have a very simple body and probably represent a species that split off from other species in a  very early stage of evolution. Some animals do live well under pressure but die quickly if you take them out of that pressure. There are also bacteria that can only exist under very high pressure. But no fish can live below 8,000 meters or 26,250 feet.

The deep (1): In the deep, dark, ocean fish have evolved superpowered vision

Fish that live in the sea at depths greater than sunlight can penetrate have developed super-vision. They owe this power, evolutionary biologists have learned, to an extraordinary increase in the number of genes for rod opsins, retinal proteins that detect dim light. Those extra genes have diversified to produce proteins capable of capturing every possible photon at multiple wavelengths—which could mean that despite the darkness, the fish roaming the deep ocean actually see in color. This was recently discovered in the retina of the silver spinyfin (Diretmus argenteus, see left) that has an unusual arrangement of low light–sensing rod cells, which house diverse photoreceptor proteins. Some of the rod layers are stacked to best capture the few photons available below a depth of 1000 meters

News: UN report warns for ecological disaster

Through Daniel Beltra’s work, the transience of our ecosystem is reflected. His most distinctive large-scale photos are shot from the air. This perspective gives the viewer a wider context of the beauty and the destruction of nature.”The unique perspective of aerial photography helps emphasize that the earth and its resources are finite.”  His picture left shows a small piece of Amazon rainforest still standing in agricultural land created by deforestation in North Brazil. A recent 1800 pages   UN report on biodiversity warns for the extinction of 1 million species of plants and animals if pollution of land and the oceans, deforestation, and overfishing can’t be stopped. The reason why we are now confronted with these drastic changes could be that environmental damage caused by pollution (that probably already started 250 years ago) does not follow a linear but exponential trend. 

Highlighted: China’s new silk route

China has formally incorporated the Arctic into its plans for maritime cooperation under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’(see insert). This new  Arctic silk route as China envisions it, leads up to Europe via the Arctic Ocean. Its 6000 km shorter than the southern route via the Suez canal. Important targets are  Iceland as a future hub for cargo vessels along the Arctic route, exploitation of Greenlands rich minerals such as uranium, and the rich oil and gas reserves in the Arctic ocean,  becoming more accessible due to melting polar ice.  So now two big countries are eager and ready to exploit the Arctic Ocean, Russia and China. President Putin seems content with China's  'creative approach'. US foreign minister Mike Pompeo, however, is worried.  Not because of the involved risks for the environment (in fact, Mike is happy with the economic perspectives of the melting icecap) but because of Chinas increasing dominance in the world economy.

Highlighted: Can the Great Barrier Reef survive?

Marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 destroyed around 40% of the coral of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR)/ The tragedy of the dying corals will continue as long as the catastrophic  ‘domino effect’  of rising seawater temperatures and water pollution cannot be stopped in the near future. Both factors are believed to affect the symbiosis between the coral polyps and algae  (called zooxanthellae)  providing oxygen to the polyps. According to the 'Godfather of Coral',  Charlie Veron rising carbon dioxide levels in the water is the major factor limiting the growth of the coral skeletons (deposition of corallite).  Others think its the water temperature. Line Bay from AIMS,  for example, believes that repair and restoration of the coral are possible using gene modification, that could make future Australian corals more resistant to rising water temperatures. Scott Heron from NOAA believes that the GBR can still be saved if global warming of the atmosphere can be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius around 2050. Taken together,  the picture as far as presented by these experts in the field is not very assuring.

Left: the condition of the Great Barrier reef in colors (Source: ARC Centre of Excellence For Coral Reef Studies