Archive for: January 2012

A tale of two shipwrecks

One in Brittany, France, the other in Cape Breton, Canada. One cleaned up in a month, the other untouched after four, with no cleanup in sight.

Here’s the TK Bremen shortly after it grounded on Kerminihy Beach, near Erdeven, Brittany, France, on December 11. 2011.

And here’s the M/V Miner after it grounded on Scatarie Island, Cape Breton, after a towing cable parted on September 14, 2011.

The much larger Miner was under tow, bound for a scrapyard in Aliaga, Turkey. Here are the two ships’ specifications:

M/V Miner TK Bremen
Launched 1965 1982
Type Bulk carrier General cargo & bulk carrier
Built in Quebec, Canada Pusan, South Korea
Length (LOA) 222.5 m 109 m
Beam 23 m 16 m
Draught 8.2 m 6.74 m
Gross tonnage 17,831 3,992
power 8,000 bhp 4,000 bhp
Shipwrecked on Sept 20, 2011 Dec 16, 2011
Shipwrecked at Scatarie Island, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada Kerminihy Beach, Erdeven, Brittany, France
Flag * Malta
Owner Pella Shipping Co., Thessaloniki, Greece Blue Atlantic Shipping Ltd., Malta


The Bremen was much more accessible than the Miner, having grounded on a mainland beach, while the Miner fetched up on remote, unpopulated, forbidding Scatarie Island. Though very different, the two areas share one thing in common besides shipwrecks: The dunes adjacent to Kerminihy Beach are a nature preserve, and Scatarie is a provincially protected wilderness area.

There the similarities end. As detailed in a photo spread on website, 40 men worked day and night for two weeks to dismantle the Bremen and clean up the beach, at a cost of nearly €10 million euros (CDN$13.2 million).

“One month after the wreck,” reports The Atlantic, “the cleanup process is nearly complete.”

The French cleanup began:

The work continued:

Here’s all that remained of the TK Bremen as of Monday:

I won’t attempt to draw any lessons. I’m no expert, and the Miner is a much larger vessel in a much dicier location. But it may be worth noting that three weeks after the Miner went aground, NS Premier Darrell Dexter hadn’t been able to get any federal agency to take charge of the disaster. And I can’t recall any Canadian shipwreck being cleaned up the way France cleaned up the Bremen, let alone in two weeks flat.

Makes you wonder.

The website details numerous collisions, groundings, and accidents experienced by the Miner its previous incarnations as the Canadian Miner, the LeMoyne, and the Maplecliffe Hall. More information about the Miner here and here, and about the Bremen herehere, and here.

* According to Boatnerd, the Miner’s Canadian registry was cancelled last June. I was unable to determine its registry for the aborted trip to Turkey.

The online NS journal that breaks all the net’s rules

Harvard’s prestigious Nieman Foundation for Journalism has cast its discerning eye on a Nova Scotia online journal that succeeds while disdaining all the internet rules:

How a tightly paywalled, social-media-ignoring, anti-copy-paste, gossipy news site became a dominant force in Nova Scotia

Every morning, the business and political elite in the biggest province on Canada’s East Coast turns to an unlikely source of information about their own world.

Among all the online news organizations trying to find a way to profitability, consider, which has just celebrated 10 years online and now challenges its historic print rival for the attention of the province’s leaders.

It’s done that by not following the rules: It has a nearly impenetrable paywall, no social media presence, no multimedia, and only rare use of links. It doesn’t cover crime and barely covers sports and entertainment.

It is astounding that AllNS has succeeded so throughly while flouting so many Internet conventions—astounding, and often irritating. I wish it were less paywalled and more open to the sociable aspects of the web that seem to me enlivening and enriching. But this is a position publisher David Bentley and his editor-daughter Caroline Woods view with ill-disguised contempt.

it’s hard to argue with the results. AllNovaScotia doesn’t prove that other models can’t work on the internet, but it affirms something at least as ennobling: that there can be a profitable market for dogged, meaty reporting.

Commenter Gavin Anderegg shares my irritation at the deliberate impediments to sharing, but adds:

I was missing the point while focusing the platform. This site wasn’t for me. Sure they could fix these issues (and probably should), but all everyone else cared about was the content. And for such an aged looking site that doesn’t care about social media, AllNovaScotia beats Twitter to the punch when delivering certain types of local news.

After a while I started to understand: people are willing to pay read well written, properly investigated, and timely content. This is especially true when you can identify a niche group and write specifically for them.

Content comes first at AllNovaScotia. That’s the key.

The 1,700-word piece is written by King’s journalism professor Tim Currie and [disclosure] briefly quotes Contrarian.

Statistician’s guide to darts – updated

[Update below.] Software designer Nick Barry used the mathematics of probability to calculate the optimal darts strategy for players of varying skills, and turned the results in a series of infographics:

The critical issue is: Which part of the board should players of varying skills aim for?

Should they aim for the triple 20, with a big payout on a success, but a low score from a miss? Or, should they aim for the bullseye?

Alternatively, is there some other optimal location on the board they can aim for that, whilst not the highest scoring region, has a large expanse of middle-of-the-road point values. Would aiming for this region, even with an inaccurate shot, get a reasonable number of points such that, on average, the expected score is the highest that can be achieved?

The true answer to this riddle, as we will see, is that “it depends…”

Read more »

A.G. Bell-inspired flying art

Little Shining Man, a kite sculpture created by Heather and Ivan Morrison, takes flight from a beach at St. Aubin’s Bay, on the Bailiwick of Jersey.

Videography by James O’Garra. H/T John Hugh Edwards.

Dollar Store chic

From the moment I first stepped inside one, I have regarded dollar stores as miraculous institutions, unappreciated by the cognoscenti. In this morning’s New York Times, reporter Jesse McKinley describes how he outfitted his new apartment in Albany, NY, entirely from items purchased at  the various dollar stores that abound in the area (with a slide show). The daring Mr. McKinley does not observe my only rule of dollar store consumption: Avoid items intended to be ingested.

Dracula at Dalhousie: The mystery of the pilfered documents

Lauren Oostveen, Nova Scotia’s tweeting archivist, today unearthed a clipping from The 4th Estate, Halifax’s one-time alternative weekly, about a vampire conflab that took place at Dalhouse 39 years ago this month. The 4th Estate story is good, but the yarn Oostveen dug up to go with it is even better.

Organized by English Professor Devendra P. Varma, a renowned Dracula-lit buff, the goth-before-its-time conference boasted “the largest gathering of vampire experts ever presented in Canada,” and featured a screening of the classic 1931 movie Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

The Himalayan-born Varma, who died in 1994, was apparently quite a character. According to Oostveen, he “had a ten­dency to believe in con­spir­a­cies, secret police, and other forces” who, he believed, harboured an unsavoury interest in his collection of vampire books and memorabilia. At his insistence, “the really important stuff” was kept in a locked cabinet at the departmental library.

Time passes, [and] the library peri­od­i­cally asks about his use of their space, does he really need this secure storage, and so on. He says yes, and the cab­inet gets moved a few times as the library moves divi­sions and departments.

The Berlin wall falls, the world is more open, evil forces are in retreat, and Varma decides he can take home his trove of vam­pire doc­u­ments and literature.

He comes to the library with the one and only key, and of course, it’s an empty cabinet.”

Oostveen professes not to know who to blame for the pilferage: Abraham van Helsing or Dracula. I suspect Cletus Hollohan had a hand in it.