Friday, October 12, 2007

Iceberg Update and other whackiness……

Well, I am still holding my breath and waiting for further news of the Phantom Iceberg. We are awaiting the arrival of the fishing boat that reported it in Mossel Bay sometime today, but to fill you in on what has been happening so far this week, here are a few excerpts from local news reports………

The initial report was met with some scepticism from experts …….

South Africa
'Iceberg highly unlikely'
2007-10-9 17:19
"A top marine researcher of the Weather Service, Ian Hunter, said on Tuesday that it was highly unlikely that there could be a massive iceberg off St Francis Bay.
On Monday the crew of a fishing vessel, the Ntini, reported seeing a massive iceberg - estimated at 25 metres in length and 25 metres high.
It was last seen 35 nautical miles south-east of St Francis Bay at 18:00 on Monday.
Hunter said: "It's very unlikely because of the warm Agulhas current off the east coast.
"The history of iceberg climatology in this area also shows that there has never been anything like this in the past," he said.
Hunter said the South African Sailing Direction, a book published by the Hydrographic Office under the South African Navy, mentioned that there were a few iceberg sightings near Cape Town in the 1850s.
Chances of iceberg were slim
He said there was a report from a ship in 2002 off the Cape west coast of a piece of ice, about a metre sticking above the water.
"We refer to this as a 'growler' because it is very small. Bearing in mind the cold Cape Town water, this was, to an extent, acceptable," he said.
But he said the chances of an iceberg of this magnitude to arrive off St Francis Bay were slim.
"An iceberg this big would have to drift through a considerable amount of warm water because of the warm Agulhas current. Anyway, a big iceberg such as this would be seen by ships on their radar," said Hunter.
"This was one sighting and it could be a navigation hazard. A navigation warning has already been sent out based on this report".
Hunter said it was imperative that this sighting be verified as soon as possible because if a ship hit the iceberg, the ship would sink.
He said the Air Force might not even see the iceberg because high waves could block it from sight.
NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said there had only been one sighting of the iceberg so far and could not confirm the find as the NSRI had not seen it themselves.
He said air force officials were due to fly over the St Francis Bay area on Tuesday to monitor the iceberg.

'Iceberg' keeps low profile
2007-10-09 23:24:13
St Francis Bay
- There was no sign on Tuesday of an iceberg that was reported 35 sea-miles (about 60km) off the Eastern Cape coast on Monday.
The crew of a South African Air Force Dakota kept a lookout for it while on a routine flight between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Jacques Smit, a search-and-rescue co-ordinator at the maritime rescue co-ordinating centre in Cape Town said: "Although the crew was not assigned to search for the iceberg, they were to take photos if they saw it."
The maritime navigational warning sent to all shipping was still in place.
'Crew of 22 saw it'
The iceberg was spotted by the crew of a fishing trawler, the Intini, about 35 sea-miles from St Francis Bay at 14:50 on Monday.
"The Intini, a hake trawler, was en route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Agulhas when the crew of 22 under Captain John D'Oliviera saw the iceberg," the owner of the trawler, Piet Steyl, said from Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Steyl said judging from the co-ordinates supplied by the trawler, the iceberg of about 20m high and 25m long was drifting in water about 200m deep.
It was moving in a south-westerly direction.
A senior researcher at the University of Cape Town's Department of Geological Sciences , Dr John Rogers, thought the iceberg could have been carried offshore by the Agulhas current, and was now lying on the outside of the Eastern Agulhas bank.
This was where the bank became broader and steered the Agulhas stream away from the coast.
Louis van Heerden,73, of Cape Town said on Tuesday that he and his family saw an iceberg while they were holidaying between Port Elizabeth and East London at Kenton-on-Sea, in either 1942 or 1943.
Two other icebergs seen here
"I was about eight or nine and remember it clearly. A number of us saw it. The iceberg lay about two-thirds of the way between the shore and the horizon.
Van Heerden, who studied geography and geology at Rhodes University, said at the time, the iceberg had been moving in the direction of Port Elizabeth.
Rogers remarked that the iceberg that Van Heerden saw, had been following the same route from the South Pole to the South African coast.
Rogers also referred to at least two other icebergs that had been seen here. One had been struck by the HMS Guardian of the Royal Navy on December 24 1789, and records in 1830 showed that the British East Indian Company vessel the Farquharson, had in the 1800's encountered an iceberg south of Madagascar, at the co-ordinates 39º 13? south and 48º 46? east. "

At this point, there was speculation in the media about whether it was all a hoax, and again the skipper was contacted…… (you will see later why a certain amount of scepticism was justified, given the concurrent Tornado Hoax….)

Captain insists: We saw iceberg
2007-10-10 12:09:22
The captain of the Ntini fishing vessel was adamant that his 20-member crew had spotted an iceberg off St Francis Bay on Monday evening, he told Cape Town Radio on Tuesday.
The boat's captain told the station he was certain about the dimensions and location of the iceberg. He had also taken pictures of the berg.
Ian Hunter, principal marine researcher for the SA Weather Service, said he could not go against what the captain had said, but added that an iceberg in that area was unlikely.
"I will be making contact with the German Space Agency for assistance," said Hunter.
"They have a satellite that would be able to detect an iceberg. We will call and try to twist their arm for assistance," he said.
The object was spotted by the Ntini crew at 18:00 on Monday, 35 nautical miles southeast off St Francis Bay. The crew said it measured 20 metres wide and 25 metres high.
Hunter said a vessel off the Cape west coast in February 2002 reported a "growler" - the remains of an iceberg - less than five metres long with freeboard (height above water level) below one metre.
The Ntini is expected to dock in Mossel Bay on Friday. "

This was later followed by the following….

Germans can't detect iceberg
2007-10-10 20:00
The German Space Agency does not have the imagery to detect an iceberg in St Francis Bay, a maritime expert said on Wednesday.
The principal marine researcher for the Weather Service, Ian Hunter, said he had contacted the space agency early on Wednesday but had "drawn a blank.
"The agency told me they did not have imagery over the requested area to check for an iceberg.
"I'm going to try other high resolution satellites because the satellite needed to detect an iceberg has to be suitable. Weather satellites cannot detect it," Hunter explained. …
National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Lambinon said there had been no further sightings or updates on the iceberg by Wednesday afternoon.

And so we wait…….. (however yours truly, whose middle name is SUCKER, still fondly clings to the hope that it is true, and that she can miraculously arrange a cost effective way to go and see it!!)………

And now to the other event in SA news this week, which contributed to the wariness about the iceberg, after all no-one likes to be made a fool of twice in one week!

Tornado warning untrue - SA Weather- Mon, 08 Oct 2007
Panicked Gautengers (Gauteng is the name of the Province in which Johannesberg is situated) closed up shop early and battened down the hatches in preparation for a tornado or hurricane which was rumoured to strike at 5pm on Monday.
Sapa received an emailed warning of a 5pm storm from Netcare 911 shortly after 2.30pm.
"Don't underestimate the strength of the wind on the road and avoid low-water bridges when driving," it read.
It advised people to stay indoors and to take all "loose-lying objects" inside. "Tie down anything that might be damaged by severe winds."
ER24 said it was being flooded with calls from "distressed members of the community" and distanced itself from a "warning issued by an unknown source".

(What resulted was a mad exodus of people from work, and mayhem on the roads around Johannesberg, which were totally gridlocked.)

"However, in an emphatic rebuttal of e-mails circulating this rumour, and SMS messages and newspaper reports which had people spooked, the SA Weather Service said: "There is neither a hurricane nor a tornado warning issued.
"These rumours are wildly exaggerated," said forecaster Mark Todd. "

Bid to calm public
Radio stations resorted to broadcasting updates in an attempt to calm the public.
The Weather Service said the correct warning was that thunderstorms were expected to develop over Gauteng later on Monday.
"... The SA Weather Service has said nothing about tornadoes and hurricanes," he reiterated.

In a scathing article later on in the week, Columnist Georgina Guedes made the following remarks………

“The human race takes an astonishing delight in passing on bad news. The advent of e-mail has allowed us to indulge this diabolical urge at the speed of lightning and with very little thought for consequence. ……
And so we come to Tuesday afternoon in Johannesburg. Someone, somewhere, took an innocuous mail from a Netcare employee warning about yet another storm brewing, and turned it into alternately a hurricane, tsunami or cyclone alert, and forwarded it on.
In true South African lemming style, everybody leapt into their cars and drove home, without questioning the possibility or likelihood of the mail being true.
The only disaster that took place was the traffic snarling up our roads at three in the afternoon, which I had the misfortune to be stuck in as I headed away from home to a meeting. ……..”
"Georgina Guedes is a freelance journalist. She is alarmed by the enthusiasm with which South Africans get all het up about nothing. "

Yup, I have to agree….. in a country which is now reported as the third most violent place in the world (only two war zones, Dafur and one other which I have forgotten, are ahead of us), I guess the only way we retain our sanity is by focussing on less threatening dramas, like the sports results, fake tornadoes and phantom icebergs!
It’s a whacky world, people!!


Suzi-k said...

mmmm, it is noon on Friday and I just checked up on the status of the Iceberg Saga again, it seems the crew of the Ntini has decided to extend their fishing trip and they will not be coming into port today, at this point even an optimistic sucker like me begins to smell a hoax here...ho hum!

Shirley Goodwin said...

Ah well, talking about icebergs and tornadoes adds that frisson of excitement to our lives! Actually, we had icebergs some months ago floating up the coast of the South Island but these were REAL and people chartered helicopters to go and land on them and photograph them as it was so rare.