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Friday, July 29, 2011

OUR NEXT FRONTIER: THE OCEAN--Some Early Pioneers












This is Part 3 of Our Next Frontier:  The Ocean.

The 15th through 17th centuries were the age of ocean exploration.  The first country to test the waters was...China, as Zheng He (above at top) visited west to Africa and east to America between 1405 and 1433, and was, of all the things, a Muslim.  Reportedly, He had 62 treasure ships, each larger than a football field, with up to 5 masts.  In comparison, Christopher Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria (the right one on the left) was all of 25 yards long, or one-fourth the length.  More than a century after He, Ferdinand Magellan's (right) globe circling ships were one third the size.  But China gave up and Europe conquered the world.



 The British Empire became the largest ever, controlling almost a quarter of the world population, not as large as the Mongol Empire circa 1300, which commanded over 26%, but the land area of the British was slightly bigger.  While British colonies went on to generally do well (as, for example, the USA), the human toll was devastating, as diseases, slavery and loss of freedom crippled many of these subjugated countries.  Let's face it, colonization was not undertaken to improve the welfare of the conquered peoples.

The 21st century age of ocean development, though, will have no humanitarian downsides, although environmentalists will argue that we have screwed up our atmosphere and lands, so let us preserve our oceans.  The key to success will be a balanced approach involving all stakeholders.

Three early pioneers influenced my thinking:

Athelstan "Spilly" Spilhaus and I talked about colonizing the sea.  He was an amazing man, and only one accomplishment was his creation of the Sea Grant Program.  I remember when he was well into his 80's we sat down to discuss the future of the ocean over my bottle of Chivas Regal, and, in particular, his enormous capacity for scotch.  I sat in on a similar drinking session with the next marine visionary over a liter of Canadian Club in Kyoto...


...but John (left) was even more remarkable, for well into the evening, and maybe early next morning,  Jim Collins (right, we finished his bottle), John and I pontificated on all things nautical, and I had a couple of drinks, so did Jim, which means that John must have....  John Pina Craven had a dream about floating cities, and built a prototype, which, unfortunately sank in Kaneohe Bay.  It might still be there.  John is responsible for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, was Chief Scientist of the Polaris Program and is "famous" for deep sea intrigue involving a Russian submarine and the Glomar Explorer.  I can only regret that he was not elected to Congress, for, if he beat Cec Heftel, the oceans would today already be well into the Blue Revolution.


Kiyonori Kikutake, a Japanese architect, designed Craven's floating experiment, but earlier in 1959 proposed Marine City (above right) and was responsible for Aquapolis, the showcase exhibit of the Okinawa Expo in 1975.  I discussed with him the possibility of restoring and towing Aquapolis to the follow-up Lisbon Ocean Expo in 1998, which had nothing worthy.  More recently, he designed the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

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The Dow Jones Industrials continued to sink, down 97 to 12,143, with world markets also mostly down.    Yes, another all time record, as gold jumped $11/toz to $1627, while oil prices are easing down, the NYMEX at $96/barrel and the Brent Spot at $117/barrel.
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There are five marine storms, but only Muifa will attain hurricane status:

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I spent my Friday lunch on Magic Island under a coconut tree, and enjoyed the following view:

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