Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Reading

As always, begins with Maritime Monday 155 wherein Fred Fry literally covers the waterfront and much more of our maritime world.

Salamander finds someone taking Mexico seriously.

Chap finds an interesting invention.

Illegal migrant boat sinks off Libya

When greed, desperate people seeking a better life, and an over loaded boat meet you have a recipe for a disaster at sea. Like the one reported here:
Initial reports suggested that at least 300 — and possibly up to 500 — people may have perished.

Later, however, another official from the International Organization for Migration, Laurence Hart, said in a telephone interview from Tripoli, Libya, that the number of fatalities may have been lower than first thought.

One vessel carrying 356 migrants was towed back to Libya after reporting it was in difficulty. It was helped to safety by personnel on an oil-drilling platform who sent a rescue boat, Mr. Hart said.

A second vessel, carrying 257 people sank, he said, and up to 23 people were rescued. The rest were listed as missing some 30 miles offshore. Rescue operations by the Libyan authorities have been halted, Mr. Hart said.

Mr. Hart said there had been a huge exodus of would-be migrants from Libya in recent days. Some had landed in Italy, some had been intercepted and some had perished, he said..

Most of the migrants pay smugglers relatively large amounts of money for a place on the ships, but are often abandoned at sea. The vessels frequently are not seaworthy and do not carry life rafts. “They are mostly overcrowded which makes them unseaworthy and puts the people traveling on them at severe risk,” Mr. Hart said.
That still leaves 200+ people in the water and presumed dead.

Somali Pirates: Mistakes Happen

Some Somali pirates have been captured after they mistook the German Navy oiler FGS Spessart, a civilian manned German navy support ship, for a commercial vessel and attacker her, as reported here:
USS BOXER, At Sea – In a show of international sea power in the Gulf of Aden, seven nations representing three task forces coordinated efforts to pursue a skiff after the pirates on board opened fire on a German oiler, the Federal German Ship (FGS) Spessart, March 29.

At approximately 3 p.m. yesterday, FGS Spessart, reported that they were being attacked by pirates who may have mistaken the naval supply ship for a commercial merchant vessel. An embarked security team aboard the ship returned fire on the suspected pirates during the initial attack.

Subsequently, Spessart pursued the skiff while providing additional details of the attack to a variety of international naval vessels operating in the area. A number of naval ships and aircraft joined the pursuit, including: the Dutch frigate HNLMS Zeven Provincien, an SH-60B helicopter assigned to the Spanish warship SPS Victoria, a Spanish P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, two Marine Corps helicopters from the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 flagship USS Boxer (LHD 4) and the European Union’s CTF 465 flagship, the Greek frigate HS Psara.

Supported by an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter and a UH-1 Huey assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), “Evil Eyes,” embarked aboard Boxer, the international naval forces contained the armed suspects until Psara arrived with a German boarding team.

Upon boarding the skiff, the team found seven suspected pirates and their weapons. The suspected pirates were disarmed and transferred to the German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz where they will remain until a final determination is made regarding potential prosecution.

While this event showcased the incredible international naval capabilities operating in the Gulf of Aden, it also highlighted the complexity of counter-piracy operations. The crew of Spessart and the embarked security team provided the critical first line of defense, utilizing defensive measures that are essential for all ships operating in the region. Moreover, nearly five hours transpired between the time Spessart’s armed security team thwarted the initial attack and when an armed boarding team was within range of the pirate skiff. In the interim, armed coalition aircraft kept the suspected pirates from getting away.

This incident in the Gulf of Aden happened at a time when other pirates have been operating well off the eastern Somali coast. The area off the coast of Somalia and Kenya when combined with the waters of the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles, roughly four times the size of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined. In a region this large merchant mariners must often serve as the first line defenders against pirates, because naval forces will likely not be close enough to respond.
You know, it occurs to me that but for the embarked security team, the pirates might have been able to pull off an embarrassing feat of arms. FGS Spessart's crew consists of "12 officers and 34 seaman" normally unarmed . . .

Monday, March 30, 2009

Somali Pirates: A Disagreement

A few days ago I posted this, which contained a quote about the anti-pirate forces lacking "cultural ruthlessness." The speaker of that gentle phrase also had a few thoughts on a way in which the Somali pirates might be paid to stop their evil ways.

For the reasons he sets forth in Modern Day Pirate Tales: Paying Somalis to stop piracy?, Daniel Sekulich takes exception to the suggestion that the "pay not to play" as described is realistic.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What We Used to Laugh At

Sunday Ship History: Ship Propulsion - Steam Turbines

A few weeks ago, Sunday Ship History took a look at early steam powered ships that used the walking beam engine. Now it's time to look into the basic steam cycle as it developed in ships using high pressure and low pressure steam turbines.

Mostly, this is about steam turbine. As set out here, steam turbines are a logical progression from the waterwheels that have long been used by mankind:

The waterwheel is an ancient device that uses flowing or falling water to create power by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel. The force of the water moved the paddles, and the consequent rotation of the wheel is transmitted to machinery via the shaft of the wheel.
Improvements to the waterwheel included refinement of the paddles into curved blades, apparently an Arab innovation:
A primitive water turbine, which had water wheels with curved blades onto which water flow was directed axially, for use in a watermill, was first described in an Arabic text written in the 9th century, during the Arab Agricultural Revolution.
Modern hydroelectric dams use variations on this ancient concept to produce electricity by using the water stored by the dams to flow through water turbines, which are connected to generators (see here). See also here.

The steam turbine is a logical follow on to water turbine technology, though it has a long history:
The first turbine of which there is any record was made by Hero of Alexandria, 2,000 years ago, and it is probably obvious to most persons that some power can be obtained from a jet of steam either by the reaction of the jet itself, like a rocket or by its impact on some kind of paddle wheel
While there were early versions of steam turbines, it was in the 1880's that the modern steam turbines were developed by, among others, Sir Charles Parsons:
. . . Dr de Laval of Stockholm undertook the problem with a considerable measure of success. He caused the steam to issue from a trumpet-shaped jet, so that the energy of expansion might be utilized in giving velocity to the steam. Recent experiments have shown that in such jets about 80 per cent of the whole of the available energy in the steam is converted into kinetic energy of velocity in a straight line, the velocity attained into a vacuum being about 4,000 feet per second. Dr de Laval caused the steam to impinge on a paddle wheel made of the strongest steel, which revolved at the highest speed consistent with safety, or about half the velocity of the modern rifle bullet, for the centrifugal forces are enormous. Unfortunately, materials are not strong enough for the purpose, and the permissible speed of the wheel can only reach about two-thirds of that necessary for good economy, as I shall presently explain. Dr de Laval also introduced spiral helical gearing for reducing the enormous speed of rotation of his wheel (which needed to be kept of small diameter because of skin fraction losses) to the ordinary speeds of things to be driven, and I shall allude to this gear later as a mechanism likely to play a very important part generally in future turbine developments.

In 1884 or four years previously, I dealt with the turbine problem in a different way. It seemed to me that moderate surface velocities and speeds of rotation were essential if the turbine motor was to receive general acceptance as a prime mover. I therefore decided to split up the fall in pressure of the steam into small fractional expansions over a large number of turbines in series, so that the velocity of the steam nowhere should be great. Consequently, as we shall see later, a moderate speed of turbine suffices for the highest economy. This principle of compounding turbines in series is now universally used in all except very small engines, where economy in steam is of secondary importance. The arrangement of small falls in pressure at each turbine also appeared to me to be surer to give a high efficiency, because the steam flowed practically in a non-expansive manner through each individual turbine, and consequently in an analogous way to water in hydraulic turbines whose high efficiency at that date had been proved by accurate tests.
Photo caption:
Until the invention of the steam turbine by Charles Parsons (1854-1931) in 1884, steam engines could not turn fast enough to produce electricity efficiently on a large scale. Used at the Cambridge Electric Light Station, this radial flow turbine-generator was the first to prove that turbines could be run as economically as the best steam engines. It used the energy of high-pressure steam at 200 degrees centigrade to run the turbine. Turning at 4,800 revolutions per minute, it had a power output of 100 kilowatts a second and operated for 30 years. Steam turbines still drive most generators today.(photo credit Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
In addition to being used for the generation of electricity, steam turbines began to be used for ship propulsion:
As Parsons saw it, his invention of the steam turbine had direct application to marine propulsion and electrical generation. Both of these require high efficiency and have steady loads. Marine propulsion had the added benefit of requiring smooth operation and a high power density engine.
By 1892 the power of his turbines had increased from the very first prototype of 4 kW in 1885 to a respectable 100kW. But there were still no buyers and no market. By now his engines were powerful enough to power small boats. He decided to build a boat that would demonstrate the potential of his machine. In 1894 Parsons took out patent No. 394 for 'Propelling a vessel by means of a steam turbine, which turbine actuates the propeller or paddle shaft directly or through gearing'. The steam turbine blasted jets of high-pressure steam against blades inside a wheel, producing a continuous rotational motion instead of the push-pull action of previous steam engines.
In pursuance of this objective, after experiments with model boats, the company constructed Turbinia. Built of steel, She was 100ft long, 9ft broad and with a draught of 3ft had a displacement of 44.5 tons. She was fitted with a double-ended water tube boiler working at 210 psi. The first set of machinery consisted of a single radial flow turbine driving a single shaft, which at 2400 rpm developed 960 horse-power. The speed of the boat proved to be much less than hoped for. The highest speed recorded was less than 20 knots. The complication was due to the high rotational speeds of the propellers which caused the phenomenon of cavitation to occur. Like the Wright brothers developing the aeroplane a few years later, the turbine design was pushing many technological limitations simultaneously. Parsons had to remedy this problem also. Cavitation was a phenomenon recognised and named by William Froude. The propellers were spinning at 18,000 rpm, so fast that the water pressure decreased, forming bubbles, a cavity. The power was going into making bubbles instead of pushing the boat.

The remedy was to operate at lower rpm with more turbines and propellers. The radial flow turbine was replaced by 3 parallel flow turbines, one high, one intermediate and one low pressure, to reuse the same steam in succession, each driving a separate shaft having 3 triple bladed screws, there being 9 propellers in all. With steam at 157 psi the speed of the central shaft was 2000 rpm and 2230 on the wing shafts. On trial with this new configuration a speed of 34.5 knots was obtained, or about 4 knots more than the fastest destroyers afloat. The results were spectacular, but still nobody was listening.

The Royal Navy authorities immediately realised the great advantages of steam turbines and after negotiations an order was obtained from the admiralty for a turbine driven destroyer in 1898 - HMS Viper. Parsons's investment of 24,000 pounds to get to this point had paid off. On a massive scale, turbines were adopted for Navy ships and the large ocean liners. By 1904, 26 ships had been engineer by parsons direct drive turbines. Famous ships like the Mauretania, Titanic and H.M.S. Dreadnought were all powered by Parsons turbines. Electric power generation on land also almost exclusively adopted steam driven turbine generators. In 1909 it was shown that geared turbines, that is reducing the high turbine speed to a more usable shaft speed by means of gears, gave a significant saving in coal consumption of about 15%. In 1912 Parsons wrote to Lord Fisher stating 'I have come to the conclusion that gearing between engines and screw shafting will be essential.' As a result the destroyers HMSs Badger and Beaver with partial gearing (1911) and HMSs Leonidas and Lucifer with fully single reduction gearing (1913) were produced.
Information on HMS Viper here - this "torpedo boat destroyer" was capable of speeds in excess of 34 knots, though suffering from excessive low speed fuel consumption. Turbine powered ships could go faster because they were not constrained by thephysical limitations of the steam pistons in reciprocating steam engines ships.

The first major U.S. Navy ships with steam turbine propulsion were Florida-class battleships. In an odd footnote to history, USS Texas (BB-35) and USS New York (BB-34)though built after the completion of three U.S. turbine powered battleships were built with reciprocating steam engines as the result of a dispute with turbine manufacturers.

In 1917, midshipmen at the Naval Academy were provided with this book largely about steam turbines.

It is safe to say that from the early 1900's through WWII, the marine steam turbine propulsion dominated fleet applications. Even later nuclear powered ships use their power plants to generate steam for steam turbines. However, in more recent days the steam turbines have been giving way to gas turbines (jet engines) and diesel power plant or some combination thereof.

With the retirement of USS Kitty Hawk, steam powered ships may have seen their final days in the U.S. fleet, replace by more efficient power plants:
As the USS Kitty Hawk sails its final course, it marks the close of an era for steam power in the U.S. Navy.

The aircraft carrier, which is scheduled for decommissioning in 2009, relies on its 1,200-pound-per-square-inch steam boilers to launch aircraft, propel the ship and provide hot water for showers and washing dishes, the Navy said in a news release.

The boiler system was first introduced in 1948 on experimental Mitscher-class destroyers. Although it was temperamental and complicated, it replaced the less powerful 600-psi boilers of the day, according to the Navy.

Sixty years later, the Kitty Hawk and its steam technology soon will be replaced by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington.

The old carrier’s boiler technicians might be the last sailors to operate the conventional — and challenging — steam power system, the Navy said.

"This is the last time you’re going to see eight conventional boilers for a steam plant," Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Gwinn of the Kitty Hawk engineering department was quoted as saying in the release.
While the steam era lasted, however, tens of thousands of young men and women were trained in the operation of modern marine boilers and in the application of the steam from those boiler to the steam turbines that propelled thousands of Navy ships. Part of the training was material like this:
The function of a boiler in the steam cycle is to convert water into steam. Reliability in operating naval boilers and associated equipment is important for the power plant to operate at maximum efficiency.
And there was a time when all surface officers had to memorize the basic steam cycle (see also here to understand what was happening down in the vital heart of the ship (click to enlarge).

But the basic function of the boilers on any steam powered ship was to generate steam for use in the engine - whether that engine was reciprocating or turbine.

And in the boiler spaces and the engine rooms (the U.S. Navy generally kept the spaces with the turbines separated from the boiler spaces), the work was hot, dirty, noisy and, to top it off, dangerous. But without the dedication of the Boiler Technicians and the Machinists Mates there would be no high speed torpedo runs or racing to engage the enemy or to launch aircraft or sprinting for recovery of downed pilots.

The world of the "snipe" on a steam ships was almost like working in an underground mine - with no windows on the world and all to often the only words from the command level were complaints. Boiler Technicians (BT's) and Machinist Mates (MM's) loved the bridge watch officers who could and would brief them about what was anticipated up above and when to expect the need for more steam and more burners to be cut in. This is one of the many reasons it was vital for the bridge officers to understand the basic steam cycle and the flow of steam to the turbines.

They are a dying breed, so render up a salute to the old steam snipes!

Notes: Turbina photo source.

Turbina drawing source.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

North Korea: April Missile Launch - Defensive Pieces Moving Into Place

As noted at the blog DPRK Studies by Richardson, North Korea is continuing preparations for whatever missile launch it is setting up:
As I noted a few weeks ago, there are several advantages to launching a satellite rather than an ICBM with a payload. Briefly; 1) To focus the nascent Obama administration on the issue. Went off like clockwork. 2) Iran received little criticism after launching a satellite in early February. 3) An SLV is technically easier but tests the exact same technology needed for an ICBM, which could potentially be armed with a nuclear weapon.

The director of U.S. National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, on Tuesday stated that North Korea appears to be preparing to launch a SLV (also see OFK). What South Korea notes, and what Blair failed to emphasize, is that any launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions. Whatever the outcome - success or another miserable failure - North Korea will use the launch (portrayed as a success, or course) for internal propaganda
In response, Japan and South Korea (and the U.S.) are placing Aegis-class ships in useful positions, considering the announced flight path of the North Korean effort. Good coverage at Closing Velocity, a blog by a missile defense insider, see especially here, here and here. As for the U.S., see here:
Two U.S. Aegis-equipped destroyers will detect and trace North Korea's long-range missile to be launched between April 4 and 8, Yonhap News Agency reported Sunday.

USS John S. McCain and another U.S. Aegis destroyer that participated in the large-scale South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve exercise remain in the East Sea in response to the North's upcoming missile launch, a military source was quoted as telling Yonhap.

The 12-day command-post exercise, which involved 14,000 U.S. troops stationed outside the peninsula, ended Friday.

The two U.S. warships are ready to intercept what the Stalinist North claims a satellite if it is deemed to pose a threat, the source said.

Korean-American officer Jeffrey Kim commands the USS John S. McCain, whose four radars can detect any object within a radius of 1,000 kilometers, he said.

The 9,200-ton destroyer is also capable of shooting down the North's rocket with its SM-3 interceptor missiles, according to the source.
More than a little irony in that report.

Closing Velocity also reports on a "timely" BMD missile test run by the U.S. Navy off California March 27. Photo caption:
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 26, 2009) The San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) fires a missile Thursday, March 26, 2009 during training exercise Stellar Daggers in the Pacific Ocean. Benfold engaged multiple targets with Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA and modified SM-2 BLK IV missiles. The overall objective of Stellar Daggers was to test the Aegis system's sea-based ability to simultaneously detect, track, engage and destroy multiple incoming air and ballistic missile threats during terminal or final phase of flight. The Benfold's Aegis Weapons System successfully detected and intercepted a cruise missile target with a SM-2 BLK IIIA, while simultaneously detecting and intercepting an incoming SRBM target with a modified SM-2 BLK IV. This is the first time the fleet has successfully tested the Aegis system's ability to intercept both an SRBM in terminal phase and a low-altitude cruise missile target at the same time. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
A little BMD promo featuring USS Lake Erie:

Water Torture Device

Well, not torture per se, but a trainer for crashed helicopter escape:

Photo captions:
The 9D6 Modular Egress Training System, recently installed at Aviation Survival Training Center Jacksonville, is scheduled to begin training fixed-wing and rotary aircraft aircrew by the end of April. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam K. Thomas/Released)

Civilian technician Sean Glase uses a hand-held remote control to lower the new 9D6 underwater egress trainer during a test at Aviation Survival Training Center Jacksonville. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam K. Thomas/Released)
About the training system here. And about the "why" here:
METS™ devices simulate underwater disorientation caused by a rapidly sinking, inverted helicopter. Statistically, one helicopter ditching can be expected every 100,000 hours of flying time. In 92% of cases, aircrew will experience less than one (1) minute warning, and 78% will experience less than 15 seconds warning. A realistic aircraft ditching training program and underwater escape trainer must, therefore, be made available for aircrew and passengers who fly over water.
More here on training.

Aircrew have to go through this sort of trainer regularly. As do Marines.

I hereby propose that all member of Congress who fly in Navy helicopters or aircraft also go through this training before being allowed to fly out to ships at sea. "This way to the egress..."

NATO Piracy Report as of 28 March 09

From here, and reflects the release of MV Longchamp and the capture of the tankers Bow Asir and Nipayia:

Click on it to make it bigger.

Somali Pirates: Tanker Crew Freed

The crew of German LPG tanker has been freed from Somali pirates after payment of a ransom and is enroute to safety - as reported here:
A ransom has allegedly been paid to free a German-owned gas tanker seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden in January, an environment watchdog that also monitors piracy said Friday.

An unknown sum of money was delivered by aircraft on Friday afternoon and the MV Longchamp, captured on January 29, was set to be released afterwards, Ecoterra International said in a statement.
Initial report of capture here, with follow-ons here and here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Somali Pirates: U.S.Navy sees a new pattern

Reported in Latest Ship Seizures Broaden Counter-Piracy Challenge:
By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Two ship seizures in the Indian Ocean in recent days appear to indicate that pirates have broadened their focus beyond the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden.

Pirates hijacked two chemical tankers: the Bahamian-flagged, Norwegian-owned vessel Bowasir March 25 and the Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned Nipayia March 26, a Navy spokesman confirmed.

Bowasir and its 23-member crew were operating more than 380 nautical miles southeast of Kismayo, Somalia. Nipayia and its 19 merchant mariners were pirated 490 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, the official said.

The seizures were the farthest yet from the Gulf of Aden, where the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet and the international community stepped up patrols after piracy soared last year.

"This appears to be a new round of attacks well off the east coast of Somalia vs. in the Gulf of Aden where we had seen the majority of attacks last year and in 2009 to date," the official said.

The latest hijackings expand the pirates' operating area, creating what the official called "a monumental challenge" to those working to prevent piracy.

"To put the challenge into geographic perspective, the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles," he said. "That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined."

To better confront the problem, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, who commands U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, stood up a multinational, anti-piracy effort known as Combined Task Force 151 on Jan. 1.

Task force members have national mandates to conduct counter-piracy operations and work together "to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events," Gortney explained as the task force became fully operational in mid-January.

CTF 151 operates primarily in and around the Gulf of Aden but also in the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

At any given time, 12 to 16 warships from the task force as well as non-coalition nations are operating in the region.

"The international presence there is significant," the Navy official said. "We are working with everybody who is there."

But the vast size of the region would require 61 ships just to control the internationally designated shipping lanes, he said. "And that's a small portion of the area we are talking about."
In 2008, Somali pirates attacked about 25 ships off the east coast of Somalia, capturing about 15 of them. However, last year the attack were spread out through the course of the year.

UPDATE: Some early indications of a changing pirate pattern here, here, here, here, and here. Okay, the last one is just about winds, but does contain a projection that the wind levels being lower off the east coast of Somalia are slightly more favorable than those in the Gulf of Aden...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Somali Pirates: Another Tanker Off East Coast Nabbed

Somali pirates appear to have grabbed another tanker (see here) off Somalia's east coast as set out here:
Pirates armed with machine guns pursued and captured a Norwegian chemical tanker off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, the owners said, less than 24 hours after a smaller Greek-owned vessel was seized in the same area.

The U.S. 5th Fleet, which patrols the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, confirmed both hijackings and said they happened in the same area but separate from the gulf, one of the world's busiest — and now most treacherous — sea lanes.

The 23,000-ton Norwegian-owned Bow Asir was seized 250 miles (400 kilometers) off the Somali coast on Thursday morning, and the 9,000-ton Greek-owned Nipayia, with 19 crew members, was attacked about 450 miles (720 kilometers) off Somalia on Wednesday afternoon, the European Union's military spokesman said.

Norway's shipowner's association said the Bow Asir had a crew of 27 with a Russian captain, but the 5th Fleet said there were 23 crew on board. Fleet spokesman Lt. Nate Christensen said the Norwegian ship was Bahamian-flagged, but he did not know its cargo. U.S. Cmdr. Jane Campbell confirmed the hijacking on Wednesday of the Nipayia.

Both vessels are chemical tankers but their cargoes were not immediately made public

A Nairobi-based diplomat said the Nipayia had 18 Filipinos on board and a Russian captain. He said the ship is managed by Athens-based Lotus Shipping, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The owner of the Norwegian Bow Asir, Salhus Shipping AS, said it received a security alert message from the Bow Asir at 0729GMT saying the ship was being chased by two small boats with suspected pirates on board.
More later.

UPDATE: Revised Piracy map. Lightning bolts show latest hijackings. Yellow push pin another attack. Click to enlarge.

Somali Pirates: Tanker nabbed

Lloyd's List reports Somali pirates seize tanker off Hobyo:
SOMALI pirates last night captured a tanker in a position 380 miles off Hobyo, according to reports from private security sources in the region.

The seizure was confirmed by the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, which did not release the name of the vessel.

An IMB official said that the ship was Greek-owned and Panama-flagged, and with 19 crew on board.

He warned that a pirate mothership is thought to be on the prowl in the waters off southern and eastern Somalia, an area with no coalition warships currently in place, after reports of ten attacks over the last ten days.

“The weather is favourable to the pirates and the desperately looking for ships [to hijack],” the official added.
About that weather.

UPDATE: Interesting report from here:
23.03.2009: 1740 LT: Posn: 02:28N - 050:49E: 212nm off Mogadishu, Somalia.

While underway a general cargo ship sighted a mother vessel ahead launching two skiffs with length about 6-7m. The pirates were armed with automatic weapons. The skiffs chased the vessel and opened fire at it. The master increased speed, activated fire hoses, fired rocket flares and made evasive manoeuvres which prevented the pirates from boarding. The vessel sustained some damages but continued passage. Crew and vessel safe.
I would think that merchant shipping should proceed with extreme caution on routes into Kenya and through the normal sea lanes around northern Madagascar. There have been at least 7 pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean area off Somalia (200-500 nm) since March 11, 2009.

UPDATE2: Traded out maps. Hobyo indicated by red arrow.
UPDATE3: Pirate attacks off the East Coast of Somalia in 2009 (click to enlarge):

Monday Reading on a Thursday

Just in time to while away the hours before the weekend's big games, I offer up some choice reading.

As always, Fred Fry leads the pack with his Maritime Monday 154 with photos from the American Canadian Caribbean Cruise line and links to all that made the news of things that float and some that don't. Anymore.

Steeljaw Scribe links into the 2009 Report on China's Military Power here. See below for Fortress Guam.

Read The Sub Report, from whence comes this link regarding China's new Hainan Island submarine base. And much more.

gCaptain has a post on Exxon Valdez - Economics and Risk On The 20th Anniversary that's worth a look in terms of consequences to an industry.

Chap hits the US Naval Institute Blog with a short look in on what some bubbleheads were doing back in the day.

Fortress Guam . . . got a good plan?

North Korea continues to play a dangerous gsme that is affecting regional power relationships.

Somali Pirates: Lawfare and the Lack of "Cultural Ruthlessness"

Longish piece from here on the legal difficulties of bringing captured pirates to trial:
“International law is very clear about giving any warship from any sovereign nation the right to suppress piracy in international waters,” said John Kimball, a maritime expert at law firm Blank Rome LLP in New York. “But it’s a messy burden. They need to be processed and given trials. Not many governments are willing to do this.”
I've covered this many times before.

However, a good friend sent on a nice little quote from the 25 March Fairplay Daily News Service which sums up the real problem in polite words:
SOMALI pirates could be undone by Al-Shabaab youths when they overrun Mogadishu, as they are expected to do within months, according to one leading analyst.

Simon Sole, CEO of London-based Exclusive Analysis, told the Connecticut Maritime Association that he expected Middle Eastern nations – which have been the hardest hit by the pirate scourge – will likely pay the ‘junior’ unit of Somalia’s Islamic Courts to re-subdue the seagoing criminals.

Professor Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics opined that the same end could be accomplished if Western troops reoccupied the country. “But that’s not going to happen,” Coker said, adding that “the West doesn’t have the ‘cultural ruthlessness’ needed to defeat piracy. They can only manage it.”
"Cultural ruthlessness?" Whatever could he mean?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Somali Pirates: Winds

Wind charts for the Gulf of Aden and East of Somalia from here:

Reading wind barbs from here:
Each short barb represents 5 knots, each long barb 10 knots. A long barb and a short barb is 15 knots, simply by adding the value of each barb together (10 knots + 5 knots = 15 knots). If only a station circle is plotted, the winds are calm.

With the lighter winds offshore Somalia to the east, more pirate attacks would be expected in that area over the next few days, though it depends on the number of pirate operatives in that area.

UPDATE: Another wind barb explanation from here:

Somali Pirates: Yacht Hijacking

Reported as Somali pirates hijack Seychelles yacht:
Somali pirates have hijacked a yacht from the Seychelles with two men on board, a maritime official said on Wednesday.

The yacht left the Seychelles in February en route to Madagascar but disappeared soon after, Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme said.

He named the two men on board as Gilbert Victor and Andre Conrad, both from the Seychelles.

'The ill-fated yacht is presently under tight security, anchored next to Garacad, Somalia,' he said.
The pirates have been extending the range of their attacks, and the taking of the Seychelles boat looks like another long-distance strike.
Inside whose OODA loop?

Thailand: Yacht Owner Killed by Sea Robbers

The murder of a British yacht owner by thugs inshore Thailand, reported as British yachtsman 'beaten to death' by pirates off Thai coast:
A British man has been murdered aboard his yacht off the Thai coast, after his killers locked his wife in the cabin.

Malcolm Robertson, 64, was sailing with his wife, Linda, off Satun near the Thai-Malaysian border when three men are alleged to have clambered aboard and attacked them.
Thai police said that three fishermen, migrant workers from neighbouring Burma, had confessed.
Mr. Robertson had a blog from prior voyages.

My condolences to his wife and family.

UPDATE: Wife tells story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Somali Pirates: Zero for Three

Pirates move southward, but go zero for three, as noted here:
In the other attacks Sunday, pirates in two small boats fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns for 30 minutes at a Hong Kong container ship. The vessel managed to escape by increasing speed and carrying out evasive maneuvers.

An hour later, the bandits fired at a Greek bulk carrier but aborted the attempt after the ship took anti-piracy measures, including evasive maneuvers, Mr. Choong said.

The Japanese cargo ship was attacked four hours after the Greek carrier.

"Fortunately, no one was injured and killed," Mr. Choong said. "It is believed to be the same pirate group, and it shows they are now operating in the southern part of Somalia."
You know, where the coalition naval forces aren't...

Monday, March 23, 2009

China-U.S. Confrontation South China Sea

Videos of recent confrontation between Chinese vessels and U.S. civilian survey ship (see here, here and here)are posted here.

There are several videos available at YouTube or connect through this site.

Somali Pirates: Japanese Car Carrier Attacked 500 miles east of Somalia

In recent weeks, as the number of military vessels patrolling the Gulf of Aden continues to grow, there have been an increasing number of attacks reported 400 to 500 miles off the east coast of Somalia (see here) including a recent attack on a Japanese owned car transport as set out here:
An automobile transport ship operated by Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines was attacked by what appeared to be pirate boats off the coast of Somalia on Sunday but managed to escape, the Japanese transport ministry said Monday.

The windows and ceiling in the car carrier’s pilothouse were hit by bullets, but no one on the ship was hurt, the ministry said. The vessel, registered in the Cayman Islands—a British overseas territory—had on board 18 crew members, all Filipino.

After the attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. Sunday Japan time around 900 kilometers east off the coast of Somalia, the car carrier zigzagged for about 40 minutes and got clear of two boats that were chasing it, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

Japan has sent two destroyers to the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia to escort Japan-related commercial ships, including ones operated by Japanese shipping firms, through the pirate-infested gulf.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers are expected to begin the escort mission in the waters around March 30, several days earlier than previously planned.
Information on the attacked ship, Jasmine Ace here.

UPDATE: See also this report of another attack in the Indian Ocean about 580 miles off Somalia.
UPDATE2: On the other hand, attacks still occur in the Gulf of Aden, as seen in this 20 March 09 NATO Shipping Centre report (click on it to enlarge) with 3 attacks,(one hijack) shown for 19 March. Attempts in gray:

Image of ship from Shipspotting.com by West-JP.

Somali Pirates: Indian ship captured by pirates - then released

Reported here:
An Indian ship with 16 crew was hijacked Saturday off the coast of Somalia, said local newspaper Hindustan Times on Sunday.

The hijacked ship, Al Rafiquei, was taken to an undisclosed location after being hijacked on its way to Mogadishu from Dubai, said the local daily.

The ship was carrying a cargo of rice, refined oil, wheat and general cargo, said the newspaper quoting Mumbai-based Director-General Shipping, a shipping management authority.

Such vessels have just basic gadgets and their crew members are not certified, according to the newspaper.
Which may be a way of saying to the pirates,"Don't expect too much ransom."

In any event, a follow on report says the ship and crew were released:
SOMALI PIRATES released all the sixteen Indian sailors on board a hijacked vessel off the Somali coast on Saturday night (March 21).

The directorate general of shipping later confirmed that all the sailors are safe.

The vessel, MSV Al Rafiquei was hijacked by Somali pirates at 10:30 am on Saturday. But pressurised by some unknown reasons, they had to release the ship by 18:30 pm (IST).

The DG also reported that the sailors were beaten up by the pirates before being released. They also snatched away the mobile phones from the sailors, five barrels of petrol and twenty barrels of diesel.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Ship History: Operation Highjump

For a couple of these Sunday Ship History episodes, the focus was on the Arctic or northern Greenland - except for mention of Richard E. Byrd's use of the retired Revenue cutter Bear in Antarctic exploration. While Byrd's early South Polar expeditions were largely private financed, he was, in 1946 named the "Officer in Charge" of a major U.S. exploratory push of Antarctica called Operation Highjump. "Operation Highjump" was huge undertaking - 13 ships, 4700 sailors, 23 aircraft. The list of units involved is impressive:
Eastern Group commanded by Captain George J. Dufek
* Seaplane Tender Pine Island
* Tanker Canisteo
* Destroyer Brownson

Western Group commanded by Captain Charles A. Bond
* Seaplane Tender Currituck
* Tanker Cacapon
* Destroyer Henderson

Central Group
* Comms-ship Mount Olympus
* Icebreaker Burton Island
* Icebreaker Northwind
* Supplyship Yancey
* Supplyship Merrick
* Submarine Sennet

The aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea also participated, although it was not assigned to any of the groups.
The mission of these groups was to familiarize the Navy with cold weather operations and to map by air and sea the Antarctic continent. While the adventure was scientific, it also seems to have been part of a Navy drive to gain experience with "arctic" operations. As set out here:
In December 1946 Operation HIGH JUMP began. This was an exploratory expedition to Antarctica.
During the fall and winter of 1945-1946 an operation to determine the feasibility of a large naval force in polar conditions was conducted.
Admiral Richard E Byrd USN (Ret) was a Naval Aviator and in addition to flying over the North Pole he had conducted three expeditions to Antarctica between 1928 and 1941. During World War II, Byrd, a close personal friend of President Roosevelt, had been appointed a special assistant to Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations. With the war over, it was Admiral Byrd who persuaded Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and the Chief of Naval Operations, Chester Nimitz, into launching a huge naval expedition to the Antarctic. Congress approved and provided funds. It was emphasized that the expedition would be a Navy operation with naval interests predominating over scientific studies. During the summer of 1946 orders addressed to commanders in chief of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets established the Antarctic Developments Project. It was code named Operation High Jump. High Jump was carried out during the 1946-1947 Antarctic summer. Instructions were for twelve ships and several thousand men to make their way to the Antarctic rim to:

(1) Train personnel and test material in the frigid zones;

(2) Consolidate and extend American sovereignty over the largest practical area of the Antarctic continent;

(3) Determine the feasibility of establishing and maintaining bases in the Antarctic and to investigate possible base sites;

(4) Develop techniques for establishing and maintaining air bases on the ice, with particular attention to the later applicability of such techniques to operations in interior Greenland, where, it was claimed, physical and climatic conditions resembled those in Antarctica;

(5) Amplify existing knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electromagnetic conditions in the area.

It was planned to construct an American base on the Ross Ice Shelf near Little America III, home to Richard Byrd's 1939-41 expedition. When the base, known as Little America IV, was established, a systematic outward radial expansion of air exploration would be conducted by ship-based planes operating along the Antarctic coastline and by land-based airplanes departing from the base camp.. Although not specifically stated in the August 26, 1946 orders, a central objective of the project was the aerial mapping of as much of Antarctica as possible, particularly the coastline.

RADM R. H. Cruzen was the Task Force Commander and RADM Richard Byrd, who based his operations at Little America IV, headed up the scientific and technical work of the expedition. *** the commanders of the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets each designated six ships for the expedition. A conference was held in early autumn to prepare charts and navigational aids. Cruzen, Byrd and others gave serious thought to the goals and priorities of the expedition and agreed that the primary objective should be the complete mapping of the Antarctic coastline and as much of the interior as possible.

The expedition was divided into three groups with the central group, led by the USCGC NORTHWIND (photo nearby) thrusting into the ice pack of the Ross Sea. Following close behind were the cargo ships USS YANCEY and USS MERRICK, the submarine USS SENNET, and the flagship USS MOUNT OLYMPUS. The Navy's newly launched icebreaker USS BURTON ISLAND was undergoing sea trials and did not arrive until late in the final stages of the operation. On either side of the center group was the Eastern and Western Groups. The Eastern Group, built around the seaplane tender USS PINE ISLAND, rendezvoused at Peter Island and moved towards zero degrees longitude. With the PINE ISLAND was the oiler USS CANISTO and the destroyer USS BROWNSON. The Western Group was built around the seaplane tender USS CURRITUCK. With the CURRITUCK was the oiler USS CACAPON and the Destroyer USS HENDERSON. The Rendezvous point was the Balleny Islands. Each of the seaplane tenders carried three PBM flying boats. The aircraft carrier USS PHILIPPINE SEA was used to deliver six specially equipped R4D aircraft for operation out of Little America IV. The Navy purchased three additional HO3S helicopters for the expedition. One was assigned to the USS Philippine Sea and one to each of the seaplane tenders. A forth HO3S was carried by
the USS BURTON ISLAND when she joined the Task Group. Two of the HO3Ss were lost. The USCGC NORTHWIND had a J2F-6 amphibian and a HNS-1 helicopter aboard. The helicopter was aboard at the insistence of the commanding officer, Captain Charles W. Thomas. A HNS-1 had been used during Operation Nanook, in Artic waters during the past Summer and proved to be of significant value to the operation.

The NORTHWIND departed Norfolk Virginia on December2, 1946 bound for the Antarctic via the Panama Canal. The J2F made reconnaissance, liaison and supply flights and acted as a standby rescue and medical evacuation aircraft. The helicopter served admirably in finding leads in the ice for the NORTHWIND.

The Central Group rendezvoused at Scott Island on December 30, 1946 to follow the NORTHWIND through the pack ice into the open waters of the Ross Sea. RADM Cruzen shifted his flag to the NORTHWIND and the convoy, strung out at 100 yard intervals, headed south along the 180 degree meridian. The HNS-1 operated from a specially built platform and was put into immediate use. The Helicopter flew at 600 feet and surveyed the packed ice that barred entry into the Ross Sea.
The sun shone 24 hours a day, a condition that made possible the maximum utilization of the helicopter. As the NORTHWIND began to buck the ice pack the helicopter would fly slowly in front of the caravan scouting the vast area ahead looking for ice leads; - the cracks in the pack which made penetration by the convoy possible. When it became apparent that the ice presented a serious danger to the USS SENNET, the NORTHWIND towed and escorted the submarine back to Scott Island and then rejoined her convoy. It took 18 days to wedge through 600 miles of ice and reach the Ross Sea and proceed to the Bay of Whales. The Central Group reached the Bay of Whales on 15 January, with the NORTHWIND breaking out a harbor for them. RADM Cruzen shifted his flag back to the USS MOUNT OLYMPUS. Vital time had been gained because the NORTHWIND did not have to slow up when the helicopter was searching for leads.
Upon arrival construction began immediately. An assortment of vehicles including tractors, jeeps, weasels, bulldozers and other tracked equipment were used in the undertaking. By the beginning of February Little America IV consisted of many tents, one Quonset hut, three compacted snow runways and a short airstrip made of steel matting. Once at Little America the mission broadened for both NORTHWIND aircraft to include photo flights and the transfer of personnel. Special floats were made for support in the snow. Jim Cornish was the first aviator to fly a helicopter in and out of Little America. A total of 128 flights were made in the helicopter during Operation High Jump. Gershowitz wrote that the Emperor penguins stared at them in ill-concealed astonishment whenever they took off and landed. They named the HNS-1 the "Flying Penguin."
On 25 January The aircraft carrier USS PHILIPPINE SEA rendezvoused with the NORTHWIND, the oiler USS CACAPON, the destroyer USS BROWNSON and the submarine USS SENNET near Scott Island. The PHILIPPINE SEA had six R4D which were placed on the flight deck and along with 57 tons of construction material that was transferred by high-wire to the NORTHWIND for delivery to Little America. After transfer the NORTHWIND proceeded to point midway between the PHIILIPPINE SEA and Little America and acted as a rescue and weather station for the R4D Flights through the 30th. Two aircraft departed for the flight to Little America on 29 January and the remaining four departed the following day. JATO assisted takeoffs were required. Upon arrival of the R-4Ds in Little America NORTHWIND proceeded to the Bay of Whales and off-loaded cargo. The carriers objective being completed she departed for her home port. The USS SENNET had served as weather and radio relay station after being escorted out of the ice pack and after acting as stand-by rescue vessel for the R4D flights from the PHILIPPINE SEA to Little America proceeded to Wellington New Zealand completing her involvement in Operation High Jump.

At Little America IV, every opportunity was taken to keep the aircraft flying. Several photographic missions were flown including a two aircraft flight to the South Pole, but by 22 February air operations were terminated for the duration of the expedition due to poor weather conditions.

The Western Group reached the edge of the ice pack northeast of the Balleny Islands on 24 December. The USS HENDERSON and the USS CACAPON fanned out to act as weather stations and flight operations from the USS CURRITUCK began. A few flights were attempted but fog plagued them until 1 January. The fog lifted and the first mapping flight of about seven hours was flown along the Oates Coast and was completely successful. Weather held and utilizing ice bays in the ice pack for wind protection, flights were made on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th over the continent and their staging area. Operations were eminently successful and with the first assignment completed the CURRITUCK proceeded past the Adelie Coast on to Wilkes Land along the Sabrina, Knox, and Queen Mary Coasts. No flights were possible until January 22 due to a huge northerly swell. Over the next week, long and successful photomapping missions progressed to the west.

On February 1 a PBM piloted by LCDR David Bunger USN lifted off and headed south for the continent. Reaching the Coast Line, Bunger flew west and began photomapping. Suddenly in the barren white below there appeared blue and green lake among brown barren hills. The PBM landed but was without technical tools to examine the water but did collect a sample of water in a bottle. It turned out to be brackish indicating that the "lake" was actually an open arm of the sea.

Weather turned typically Antarctic limiting flights to only three days for the rest of February. On March 1 the final flights were made in the vicinity of the Ingrid Christensen Coast. On March 3 the USS CACAPON, the USS HENDERSON, and the USS CURRITUCK sailed for Sydney Australia.

Operations of the Eastern Group commenced in the vicinity of Peter Island north of the Bellingshausen Sea on 23 December. Fog, Blizzards, heavy swells and frequent snow squalls plagued the USS PINE ISLAND operations. Weather suddenly cleared in the afternoon of 29 December and a PBM was lifted over the side and fueled without difficulty and departed. When weather proved to be satisfactory over the continent a second PBM was launched followed later by the third. The first aircraft, after three hours of flight at 400 feet above the ice climbed to 1000 ft. It began picking up ice in fine driving snow. The plane suddenly entered an "ice blink"; -in which streams of sunshine trapped beneath the clouds bounced off the snow in a million directions. To make matters worse the fine snow had obscured the ground below. The aircraft was gently banked to reverse course and leave the area when a crunching shock reverberated along the hull. The plane had obviously grazed something. Full power was applied and an immediate climb was initiated. The aircraft began to rise and then blew up. Inclement weather precluded search flights until 11 January. The survivors were located and supplies were dropped. It was ascertained that they could travel to open water ten miles to the north. A second PBM landed on the open water and transported a sled and supplies to shore and proceeded towards the survivors. They were located and the entire party returned to the aircraft and flew to back to the PINE ISLAND and from there back to the United States. Three crewmembers died in the crash, six survived but one of the survivors, LeBlanc, legs had to be amputated.

Further photomapping flights from the USS PINE ISLAND were conducted covering the Getz Ice Shelf to the vicinity of Thurston Island. In early February the ship moved to the northeast of Charcot Island and flights were made to Charcot and Alexandria Islands and Marguerite Bay. By March 4, the Eastern Group had departed Antarctic waters.
Arguably the greatest achievement of Operation High Jump was the acquisition of approximately 70,000 aerial photographs of the Antarctic Coast and selected inland areas. The Navy had proved its capability of operating in the harsh polar climates. From the operational stand point the use of and need for helicopters in polar operations was firmly established. The following account of operations was written by Captain Charles W. Thomas, Commanding Officer of the USCGC NORTHWIND.

" Facing the worst pack in Antarctic history, the central Group began its penetration of the ice at approximately the intersection of the Arctic Circle and the 180th meridian on a generally southerly course. Since the Northwind was in the van, Rear Admiral R.H. Crusen, the Task Force Commander, shifted his flag to the icebreaker.

In a well organized ice convoy, the commander needs to know what his ships will encounter within the next day. The skipper of the icebreaker is interested in the picture within the next hour or two and the officer of the deck, within the range of his own range of visibility. Of these, the intermediate situation is the most important, because conditions may change with amazing rapidity. Moreover in Operation High Jump, the Admiral had no means of making a long range reconnaissance. Hence helicopter reconnaissance within a radius of twenty five miles was essential.

The Central Group began working its way through the pack on 31 December 1946. It reached its destination - the Bay of Whales - on 17 January, 1947. Battering a track through 650 miles of ice in eighteen days would not have been possible without helicopter reconnaissance. I have no doubt that the Central Group would have reached its destination. After all, late February is optimal as far as sea ice is concerned. But for shore based operations, the weather has begun to deteriorate before this time.

Had the Task Group penetrated the pack without "eyes" it would have arrived too late in the season to establish a base; then conduct an aerophotographic exploration of a hidden continent. In other words, the Central Group would have been obliged to turn about and get out of the pack before being able to erect Little America No. 4.

A word about the Sennet. About mid-way trough the pack, it became obvious to everyone she would never make it. She had to be towed out of the pack- and by the Northwind. Here again the icebreaker's helicopter proved it indispensability. The submarine had to be towed to safety in the shortest possible time. Otherwise, the other ships of the group were in immediate danger of being crushed. Indeed, the two cargo ships, helpless in absence of the Northwind, were badly holed and would likely have been sunk, but for the timely return of the icebreaker.

This proven success of our helicopter impelled me to send the following message to the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard: HELICOPTER BEST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT EVER CARRIED IN ICE VESSELS..."
Sennet was not the only distressed vessel during the ice operations:
Threatening ice conditions forced the retirement of the communications and supply ships 8 February. Three days later Merrick’s rudder was damaged by ice; Northwind (WAGB‑282), a Coast Guard icebreaker, took her in tow, but before they had cleared the ice, her rudder was completely sheared off. The perilous tow ended at Dunedin, Now Zealand, 22February. After repairs, Merrick departed for California 22 March, fought boiler failures and fuel shortages during her passage, and reached San Francisco.
The use of RD-4s (an RD-4 is a DC-3 or C-47 in Navy plumage)was unique:
Jan 29 From a position 660 miles off the Antarctic Continent, Philippine Sea launched to Little America the first of six R4D transport aircraft which she had ferried from Norfolk as a part of Operation Highjump. The first plane off, which was also the first carrier takeoff for an R4D, was piloted by Commander William M. Hawkes and carried Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd as a passenger.
Seaplanes offloaded from the seaplane carriers, traveled far:
March 4--Operation Highjump--Air operations in the Antarctic ended. From 24 December 1946, six PBM's, based on seaplane tenders, operated in the open seas around the continent of Antarctica, and from 9 February, six R4D's operated ashore from the airstrip at Little America. Together these aircraft logged 650 hours on photographic mapping flights covering 1,500,000 square miles of the interior, and 5,500 miles of coastline, or the equivalent of about half the area of the United States and its entire coastline--Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts combined.

Top photo caption:
Magnetic observatory at Little America IV. Tent used for absolute observations while center building used for variation
We should offer up a salute for the men of Highjump and the hard work they put in.

Now, I would sadly remiss not to mention the wacko conspiracy crowd that apparently believes that the Antarctic is/was home to Nazi flying saucers and some secret base that took in Hitler as WWII ended. See here, here, here or here for examples. Some of these "investigators" assert that ADM Byrd's expedition was really an invasion of Antarctica that was repulsed by the UFOs.
A refutation of these ideas can be found here:
In January-February 1939, a secret German expedition visited Dronning (or Queen) Maud Land, Antarctica, apparently with the intention inter alia of establishing a base there. Between 1943 and 1945 the British launched a secret wartime Antarctic operation, code-named Tabarin. Men from the Special Air Services Regiment (SAS), Britain's covert forces for operating behind the lines, appeared to be involved. In July and August 1945, after the German surrender, two U-boats arrived in Argentina. Had they been to Antarctica to land Nazi treasure or officials? In the southern summer of 1946–1947, the US Navy appeared to ‘invade’ Antarctica using a large force. The operation, code-named Highjump, was classified confidential. In 1958, three nuclear weapons were exploded in the region, as part of another classified US operation, code-named Argus. Given the initial lack of information about these various activities, it is not, perhaps, surprising that some people would connect them to produce a pattern in which governments would be accused of suppressing information about ‘what really happened’, and would use these pieces of information to construct a myth of a large German base existing in Antarctica and of allied efforts to destroy it. Using background knowledge of Antarctica and information concerning these activities that has been published since the early 1940s, it is demonstrated: that the two U-Boats could not have reached Antarctica; that there was no secret wartime German base in Dronning Maud Land; that SAS troops did not attack the alleged German base; that the SAS men in the region at the time had civilian jobs; that Operation Highjump was designed to train the US Navy for a possible war with the Soviet Union in the Arctic, and not to attack an alleged German base in Antarctica; and that Operation Argus took place over the ocean more than 2000 km north of Dronning Maud Land. Activities that were classified have subsequently been declassified and it is no longer difficult to separate fact from fancy, despite the fact that many find it attractive not to do so.