Our oceans are dying

I’ve been reading some interesting ocean articles this week. First up is the harrowing tale of an Australian sailors recent journey “The Ocean is broken”, second is Tim Flannery’s exceptional must-read “They’re taking over!” and lastly this crucial study investigating the impact of climate change on our oceans:

“It was very sad to see all the responses were negative. We were hoping there might be some safe havens….The study found that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are overheating the oceans, turning them acidic and reducing the amount of oxygen in seawater. This is happening too fast for most marine species to adapt and ocean ecosystems around the world will collapse. By 2100, no corner of the oceans that cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface will be untouched. The impacts of climate change will be felt from the ocean surface to the seafloor. It is truly scary to consider how vast these impacts will be,” said Andrew Sweetman of the International Research Institute of Stavanger, Norway.

New Zealand is a marine nation, heavily dependent on, and with a deep and significant relationship to our waters. Yet with the International Energy Agency saying we cannot afford to burn 70-80% of fossil fuels already discovered if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the National-led Government’s plan to drill farther, deeper for some of the riskiest oil is total folly. The Government can’t negotiate with the physics of climate change and needs to take it seriously and act accordingly. This starts with an oil reduction plan, not National’s oil production and dependency plan.

Thankfully, the Greens know that we can protect our marine environment and build a richer New Zealand, selling the world clean energy technology.

49 thoughts on “Our oceans are dying

  1. Having seen the disturbing report featured in “The Ocean is Broken” can we at least initiate serious international support with a clean up. I would infinitely prefer to see any proposed taxpayer funding for the next America’s Cup and other largely unproductive events deployed toward an effort that is in EVERYONE’S best interest. The climate change debate has gone on for so long and does not appear to be heading into a mutually agreeable resolution phase in any hurry.So,at least work with what could be done.

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  2. Every bit of research I read on the oceans is scary. The huge floating trash areas, the dead zones, the decimated fish species, the changed ecosystems, the bottom destruction, the acidification, the warming, the reduced uptake of CO2 and probably a bunch of other issues. Nothing looks good (apart from the odd tiny success story about one species or another).

    But don’t think this can all be cured by selling the world a technological miracle with clean energy, or that New Zealand can become an ocean paradise if only the Greens took over. It’s going to take a very long time for the oceans to recover from the hell we’re putting them through. A very long time indeed.

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  3. Callum Roberts book ‘The Ocean of Life’ is another readable, but stark warning about what humans have done to the oceans. He spoke to Kathryn Ryan earlier this year.

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  4. Gareth says “….build a richer [country], selling the world clean energy technology.”

    The is nothing that hasn’t been said in every other country.

    Why would NZ be a leader in this compared to companies in other countries with tens of thousands of employees, far more expertise, and a century of experience in green technology? (and the ability to bulk produce IN the market – not on the far side of the planet from it).

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  5. turning them acidic
    Sorry to be pedantic, but it has not, and will not, turn them “acidic”. The pH of sea water is around 8, which is still extremely basic. Not acidic.

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  6. “Our oceans are dying” says Gareth.

    Which is apt considering the interview on National Radio today on how environmental groups are worse at telling lies and exaggerating than oil companies are. See
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2573510

    For example, after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, environmentalists told commercial fishermen they would never fish again.

    However now they ARE all fishing again, except for those who committed suicide because they were told they’d never fish again.

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  7. A ph of 8 is slightly basic. 7 is regarded as neutral. Solutions can go up to 14 easily so that would be regarded as extremely basic, not 8. Add enough CO2 and 8 can be changed to below 7 which would make it acidic.

    However ocean acidification means reduction in ph, i.e. making it more acidic or less basic. It does not actually imply that it is making the ph below 7, just that that is the direction of the change, and that is bad news.

    Trevor.

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  8. True, that oil is a natural product and ultimately bio-degradable.
    So long as you do not put too much in one place.

    But

    You forgot, Photo, about the health problems from the dispersant, which was used to sink the oil to hide the extent of the spill.

    Dispersant which we were told not to use years ago.

    Dispersant which AMSA and MNZ still have stocks of.

    I wouldn’t eat fish from there.

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  9. “”Why would NZ be a leader in this compared to companies in other countries with tens of thousands of employees, far more expertise, and a century of experience in green technology? (and the ability to bulk produce IN the market – not on the far side of the planet from it).””

    Why would NZ be a leader in agricultural technology and farming compared to countries which produce many times the farm products we do and are much closer to markets?
    Just as well there were not to many Photos in influential positions, when we developed our agriculture industry.
    It costs many times more dollars to ship farm produce across the world than technological ideas and green tech products.

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  10. Nice of Photo to explain the fallacy of the idea of “free trade” “”The is nothing that hasn’t been said in every other country””, above. The idea that every country is going to get rich by out exporting every other country.

    Which makes it even more important that we build up capacity to make things for ourselves within New Zealand. especially clean tech, energy saving technology and fossil fuel substitution.

    .

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  11. If you know anything about the ocean and what is happening to it and the extent to which we humans rely on it, you have to be scared spitless. The problems are just starting.

    “I’ve got bills to pay and children who need clothes
    I know there’s fish out there but where God only knows
    They say these waters aren’t what they used to be
    But I’ve got people back on land who count on me”

    – Billy Joel “The DownEaster Alexa”

    The waters aren’t what they used to be. The catch is smaller fish now, and the demand is growing. We’re scouring the oceans for food, and wiping out the supply in the process. We’re pushing the pH down faster than it has ever done in any known history. Using them as a big sewer. Dumping trash. Reckless and heedless in the drive to profit today and defer the problems to future generations.

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  12. There is something you could do that might cheer you up and which will help provide you with evidence that the ocen is not in a state of collapse.
    Go up to Tauranga and take a dive near the Rena wreck on the Astrolabe reef. The fish stocks in the area have recovered and fish are now there in much larger numbers than before the ship ran aground. The fish actually do much better with an artificial reef like the remains of the Rena. This may persuade you that all is not doom and gloom and that the hysterical claims about what would happen to the fish stocks in the area after the wreck were simply false.

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  13. Actually Trevor if the pH goes from 8.2 down to 8.15 (which is about what they have), then it is neutralisation, but that doesn’t sound scary enough.
    And work out how much CO2 is needed to drop the seawater pH to 7.0 taking into account the Calcium and Magnesium ionconcentrations. The numbers are astronomical.

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  14. There a word that we ignore at our peril : ‘SUSTAINABILITY’
    the more we plunder the earth & ignore this word, the closer we get to ‘Global death’.. the concept of Gaia rings true; the earth is a living, breathing system & WE are only a part of it. just like all living things, poisons & pollutants will SURELY kill us all !
    the truth is, we will likely be gone long before the earth….

    kia-ora

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  15. You forgot, Photo, about the health problems from the dispersant, which was used to sink the oil to hide the extent of the spill.

    Oh pish, Kerry!

    Radiation is also ‘natural’ don’t you know – the sun makes tons of it and we all like a bit ofsunshine, don’t we?

    Radioactive material is also naturally biodegradable.

    I pity the poor misguided greenies who say it’s “dangerous” to consume fish from the several thousand square kilometer area of the Eastern Pacific near Fukushima.

    Preposterous!

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  16. Why would NZ be a leader in agricultural technology and farming compared to countries which produce many times the farm products we do and are much closer to markets? Just as well there were not to many Photos in influential positions, when we developed our agriculture industry.

    Perhaps if we had listened to “Photos” back in the day then we wouldn’t have such massive greenhouse emissions: 48% of our emissions are from agriculture, compare with 12% Australia and 12.5% UK.

    Perhaps if we had listened to “Photos” back in the day then we wouldn’t have such a poor standard of living; by pretty much every measurement, and reflected nicely in GDP per capita, our standard of living has declined and continues to decline, because we are still led by old agriculture, whereas the rest of the OECD has moved on in their productive capabilities.

    Being good at agriculture has allowed the country to rest on its laurels, to our overall detriment.

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  17. those big shots/rich and powerfuls in Nat-led govt think they can be
    exempted from climate change as they can just fly away to another
    country…damn those who got nowhere else to go…
    No surprise to me at all as Key govt has very consistent policies and
    political phylosophy to screw the weak and the vulnerables

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  18. Tony,

    That story has been published in many places, however there is something missing from the article?

    Not a single photograph, not a single frame of film was shot, not a single “peer reviewed” observation was made.

    Remember the single whale spotted? Had a large tumour on its head? Well no photograph, naturally so no one can review the validity of the observation. Was it a tumour or was it natural barnacle growth very commonly seen on whales?

    http://scienceline.org/2010/03/how-do-barnacles-attach-to-whales/

    Remember the rubbish observed was “layers deep”? Yet not a single photograph from the entire journey to show the rubbish.

    Yes there are plenty of photographs showing rubbish at sea. But not one, not a single one from this man journey he wrote about.

    Strange eh.

    So dont believe everything you read, be mindful that without corroborating evidence (especially evidence so easily obtained by photography or movie – technology available on virtually every cellphone and hand held device in creation) it is just a story from a fertile imagination.

    An unfortunate trap easily fallen into by people like Gareth Hughes.

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  19. Gerrit,

    without corroborating evidence … it is just a story from a fertile imagination”

    That’s not true, at least with the last four words. However, it’s not exactly in fantasy land, is it? The state of the oceans is dire and getting worse, with human induced climate change adding on top of what humans are already doing (in terms of over-fishing, bottom trawling, rubbish dumping, nutrient run-off, and so on). The oceans absorb 90% of the extra heat that is retained with the energy imbalance, and a third, or more, of the CO2, making it more acidic (at the fastest rate in 300 million years). Suggesting the story is pure fabrication just because you didn’t get a nice photograph or video is ridiculous. I’m not saying you’re not right, but it certainly can’t be deduced from the story or the research on ocean degradation.

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  20. Tony,

    The points I was trying to make was that Gareth Hughes has a habit of quoting reports or “news” stories that lack any corroborating evidence.

    Be it fracking causes earthquakes (they dont) or ocean floor vacuum mining is banned in Namibia (it is not).

    This is but another example of him quoting suspect sources. He would be better consulting Clint Smith for advice and at least getting fact checked stories to publicize the Greens environmental concerns.

    Yes, I agree that the oceans are not pristine. But irresponsible promotion of unverifiable stories make them either fantasies or conjuncture.

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  21. Gerrit, it doesn’t make them fantasies or conjecture. It makes them unverified (as yet) stories.

    By the way, fracking does cause earthquakes (see here and here).

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  22. Tony, Tony, Tony,

    You are as naive as Gareth Hughes, reading headlines not content. Did you not read the bit in your first link about

    Seismologist Brian Baptie at the British Geological Survey (BGS) says that very few quakes are caused by the actual hydraulic fracturing process. The only known examples occurred in Blackpool, UK, in 2011, and in the Horn River Basin of western Canada between 2009 and 2011.

    ??????????????????????????????????????????????

    and the second link you did not even read the headline

    Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma,

    Did you not comprehend the word POTENTIAL?

    You may want to read the comments on this Gareth Hughes posting where he used a news item (by an unpublished scientist looking for money to carry out his “research”) based on unpublished scientific reports to falsely claim fracking causes earthquakes.

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2013/07/16/more-fracking-earthquakes/#comments

    Especially my comment and complete fisking of his airy fairy and non existing data at 10.06PM on July the 16th.

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  23. Gerrit,

    Fancy accusing me of not reading. Let me quote the bit you quoted:

    The only known examples occurred in Blackpool, UK, in 2011, and in the Horn River Basin of western Canada between 2009 and 2011.

    That is, fracking does cause earthquakes. Even if there was only one example and there were none “potentially” caused by fracking, your earlier claim is shown to be incorrect. With the potentials, it’s probably even more certain that your claim is incorrect. The point is that even if there was just one case where a fracking operation may have resulted in an earthquake, your statement, “fracking causes earthquakes (they dont)” is incorrect.

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  24. Tony,

    I guess you did not read the previous post by Gareth Hughes. That Blackpool earthquake (2.3 something) was never proven to be casued by fracking. It was so small that its source is unknown.

    However if you did the research yourself you would find this little gem

    The two geologists who wrote the report ran detailed models to show that the fracking could – and most likely did – provoke the quakes.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21120-how-fracking-caused-earthquakes-in-the-uk.html#.UmhHJ1MuHGg

    Note the word COULD. So no definiative answer on that one. “Most likely” is not a scientific terminology.

    Also they have had more earthquakes in Blackpool and guess what. These are not attributed to fracking.

    http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/community/community-news/quake-aftershocks-could-be-felt-for-days-1-5986140.

    So we have a region experiencing earthquakes (piddly little things at 2.3 and 1.4) and people hop on the fracking causes earthquake bandwagen, without any concrete scientific foundation.

    When the earthquakes are actually a natural occuring event.

    Much like the fanatasy story from a Australian yachtsman who did not even bother to visual document his observations.

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  25. Gerrit,

    Science is never certain. I don’t know why you think it can be. At least you’d have to admit that fracking could cause earthquakes (including a 5.7 in Oklahoma) and so cannot state, categorically, that fracking doesn’t cause earthquakes.

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  26. I thought we’d all accepted that fracking causes small earthquakes. Certainly, here in Canterbury, a frack-induced earthquake of two point something wouldn’t cause anyone’s eyebrows to be raised…….

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  27. You’d think so, dbuckley. It may also cause, or be the trigger for, much larger ones. From that study I linked to:

    Significantly, this case indicates that decades-long lags between the commencement of fluid injection and the onset of induced earthquakes are possible, and modifies our common criteria for fluid-induced events. The progressive rupture of three fault planes in this sequence suggests that stress changes from the initial rupture triggered the successive earthquakes, including one larger than the first.

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  28. Gerrit. How many photos of rubbish in the ocean do you need?

    I have a few, and I was not even trying to take specific photos of rubbish.

    Including rubbish strewn beaches on the windward side of islands, hundreds of miles from anywhere.

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  29. Kerry,

    I dont need any as I see “rubbish” for myself.

    My point was that this AUS sailor wrote a very emotive piece of literature but forgot to illustrate the findings. Hence my call that the written piece is highly embellished and that it needs to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

    For example that tumour struck whale, how do we know it was not barnacles? The AUS sailor is not a veterinarian or an scientist that studies whales.

    Did some training the other day way off Takapuna (past Rangitoto lighthouse and towards Motutapu) and saw a large dead bottlenose dolphin. Now as a sensationalist writer one could claim that the coastal waters around New Zealand are polluted and killing dolphins.

    The realist would say, yep dead dolphin, old age or maybe shark attack? One needs to be a scientist and researches to get to the truth.

    Mind you a pod of Orcas sure looked interested in the dead dolphin for a while. Bit unnerving to be hiked out and with the posterior inches from the sea to have large Orca’s swim past just metres away. Those fins are humongeous from really low down.

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  30. I think it should be noted that the sailor’s story is for one part of his trip, the 3,000 miles from japan to the US. He wasn’t claiming that all parts of his trip were like this (though we don’t have information on that).

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  31. Not sure what your point is, Gerrit.

    Even if that particular person exaggerated his own observations, the oceans are still full of rubbish. Not so obvious around NZ as ours disappears to the East and there is no populated land to the SW.

    And! the weather around NZ is getting more unsettled. Noticeable when you have taken 4 hourly weather observations around the coast for many years, and work in jobs were the weather is rather important.

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  32. Kerry,

    I’ll repeat just for you, seeing you are not reading or understanding was I wrote in earlier comments.

    As there is no illustrative record of the trip and what was observed, no “peer reviewed” analysis of the observations made is possible and thus the whole emotive story is highly suspect.

    To me the story is an embellishment of the truth simply as it is unsubstantiated by evidence.

    Nice story that is repeated ad infinitude in the press, but how much is emotive writing and how much is true.

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  33. Kerry,

    if your interpretation of lying is embellishing the truth, then yes. To me embellishing the story turns it into a fable or fairy tale. Slight difference.

    I’m sure he saw rubbish out there. Debris from the Japanese tsunami most likely.

    Did he spot a whale with a tumour? As it is unsubstantiated, I call it a fairy tale.

    By the way, floating debris become FAD’s (Fish Aggregation Devices) Actually good for fish life. As are sunken wrecks, etc.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/HIMB/FADS/

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  34. Well. I can substantiate the amount of debris in the water anywhere near, or down current from, centres of population from my own observations. I would say he was understating the problem myself. Especially in Asia. Auckland harbour is nothing to skite about either. I can send you some Photo’s of the stern of the ship taken last week in Auckland.

    Plastic is not good for FAD’s. Nor are oil and chemicals.

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  35. I agree that shipwrecks make good artificial reefs.

    Removing the Rena appears to me to be a waste of money.

    Should have just put a light on her, and used the money to fund decent oil spill response equipment, instead of our current joke of a response capability.

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  36. Gerrit,

    By the way, floating debris become FAD’s (Fish Aggregation Devices) Actually good for fish life. As are sunken wrecks, etc.

    I don’t think that floating debris are good FADs but it’s a great leap to thinking that because some of the debris may help fish in some places, then there is nothing wrong with dumping stuff in the oceans. I know you didn’t say that but it’s the impression you give with your flippant remark. Plastic debris, in particular, is a real danger to fish stocks and the food chain.

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  37. Tony,

    Anything that floats is a FAD, fish don’t care if it is made of plastic or kelp or a floating container or a dead whale carcase or an upturned boat.

    Somehow you got this long bow that I approve of dumping rubbish into the sea. Never have and never will say that is acceptable. If you think it is a flippant remark, your problem, not mine.

    Let me state another point to consider. Unsubstantiated reporting by the AUS sailor actually does more harm to the environmental cause as it is so open to scorn due to its lack of substance.

    Now if Gareth Hughes had consulted his minder mate Clive (Cliff ?) and did some proper research he would have found this to be a far more valuable article to demonstrate the rubbish problem in the oceans. Here we have proper reporting, proper graphic and photographic evidence, well researched and presented information, to consider.

    http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/waste-and-recycling/news-north-pacific-gyre-100-million-tons-garbage-and-growing

    Now that would have been a smart move. But no instead we get from Gareth Hughes a light weight, unsubstantiated, uncorroborated report from a AUS sailor.

    What a waste of an opportunity to highlight problems in the oceans.

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  38. So. Eyewitness accounts by sailors do not count.

    That reminds me of an academic that said it could not possibly be a flying fish we saw off the West coast because they do not live that far South. We knew they were not supposed to. that’s why we reported it.
    The academics that were sure that rogue waves were just sailors exaggeration until one was seen climbing the legs of an oil platform on a satellite picture.
    Or the Naval architects that discovered cold brittle fracture of steel in the 50’s, after several all welded ships broke in half. Soldiers and sailors knew about it for centuries. Google, Napoleons soldiers tin buttons.

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  39. Gerrit,

    That’s a “good” story (in that it highlights a real and pressing problem/predicament) but it’s 4 years old and starts with the 14 year old story of a sailor. There were no photos from that initial journey, as far as I can tell. The other photos weren’t attributed so I guess you’d be satisfied if the story above had inserted library photos of the great pacific garbage patch?

    If you’re concerned about the state of the oceans, as we all should be, then why instinctively jump on this story and the reporting of it in a blog? It’s a very believable story, about one sector of this sailor’s journey, given what we know of the state of the oceans. Really, just because it had no photos to look at?

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  40. Kerry,

    If you are a MP doing a posting on a political blog would you be better to have Clint (the correct name for Gareth Hughes minder came to me last night changing the brake pads on the old Toyota – strange what you think off when under a jacked up car!) come up with substantiated reports (preferable peer reviewed) on ocean rubbish rather then an unsubstantiated and highly emotive one from a single person?

    Gareth Hughes has been fisked so many times now, on feeble stories he has promoted, that one would think the Greens management and communications team would have a better control of his postings (his Rena postings ended up an embarrassment for him and on badly reflected on the Greens).

    That is why my reference to the very good article earlier of what he COULD have used as reference material to promote his cause. And yes Tony, it is four years old but it is an EXAMPLE of what good reporting that was available to Gareth Hughes and the Greens communications team on this subject.

    By the way, welded steel hulls broke earlier then the 1950’s. Remember the fully welded liberty ships of WW2? They broke in half due to ship design and fully welded technology not being on the same page. Once the strengthening beams were added fore and aft on the deck forward of the centre accommodation and wheel house structure, the welding was fine. Or as best you could get with welding rods and high amps.

    Now with argon gas shielded welding, weld contamination is no longer a problem.

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  41. Google MOL Comfort.

    Yes it was the 40’s when the first all welded ships. Fully welded T2 tankers and liberty ships started breaking in two in the Atlantic. Two T2 Tankers within days and miles of each other and one of the most daring US coast guard rescues.
    It was in the 50’s that the Naval architects and academics finally “explained” it.
    Interesting study I read on the Titanic a while back. Higher tensile rivets were used forward where access was difficult. The ones that broke and sunk her. Losing notch toughness in ship building grade steels starts at 10 degrees C.
    Didn’t stop them from experimenting with high tensile steel, in the 70’s. Initially to gain sufficient deck tensile strength, with less weight in OBO’s. Berge Vanga, Berge Istra, and the Darbyshire. All lost at sea. And having another go recently. MOL Comfort etc. Union Company had one of the few high tensile steel bulkies which didn’t break. Union Auckland. Probably due to being the only one of her class operating in warm Pacific waters and knee high doublers added after her classmates broke.

    Now of course, we are guinea pigs, testing cheap and nasty Chinese steel.

    And yes. Gareth could have used a great many articles and research. However he was giving an example.

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  42. Kerry,

    You might be interested to see ships being glued together with two pack, Methacrylate type adhesives. http://www.parsonadhesives.com/partite-parbond/methacrylate-adhesives.htm

    Especially with fixing alloy superstructure to steel hulls in war ship.

    Use it a lot for gluing dissimilar materials (alloy to carbon especially).

    Strange getting your head around not clamping a glue line and instead leaving a 1 to 2mm gap.

    Used extensively in the aircraft and car industry to glue alloy components where welding would alter the temper of the metal.

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