Friday, March 4, 2016

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Nationwide Power Blackout Hits Syria - Cause Not Known?!

The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 270,000 lives (AFP Photo/Youssef Karwashan)

March 4, 2016 - SYRIA - War-torn Syria was hit Thursday by a nationwide power cut, state television reported, but the cause was not immediately known.

"Electricity has been cut across all provinces and teams are trying to determine the reason for this unexpected cut," the station reported, citing a source within the electricity ministry.

Damascus residents said power in the capital had been out since 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) and that mobile Internet connections from some private providers were also not working.

Syria's state mobile provider said its Internet service had been "partially cut due to part of the network unexpectedly malfunctioning".

Since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, various areas across the country have experienced intermittent power outages as a result of clashes or air strikes and many regularly rely on generators for power.

Syria's parliament had on Monday called in electricity minister Imad Khamis for a special hearing on the power sector.

Khamis told parliamentarians that the cost of "direct damage" to the country's power stations and the electricity network from 2011 until the end of 2015 was estimated $3.75 billion.

In statements carried by Syria's state news agency SANA, Khamis said five out of the 13 main power stations in Syria had been "directly damaged" in the war. - Yahoo.

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Ferry Capsizes Near Bali, Indonesia - Throwing Passengers Into The Sea; Was Carrying 51 People; Major Rescue Operation Underway! [VIDEO]

Western Embassy officials were on stand by in case any of their nationals were caught up in the disaster  

March 4, 2016 - INDONESIA - A major rescue operation is underway after a ferry carrying 51 people capsized between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java.

Dramatic footage shows the vessel rolling over in calm waters, throwing passengers into the sea, after it was believed to have sprung a leak.

It was not immediately known if tourists were aboard the vessel, but Western embassy officials were on stand by in case any were caught up in the disaster.

Rescue officials said they were confident that most people – if not all – on board had been rescued.

Many are understood to have been picked up by other vessels that were in the vicinity.

The footage shows the ferry on its side after capsizing in calm waters in Bali Strait

But amid confusing reports, it was suggested that up to 10 people were missing including two crew members.

It was not known if anyone had been trapped inside.

'This will not be known until we can send divers down to check the ship,' said Lieut-Col Wahyu Endriawan head of the local naval base.

Rescuers now face the prospect of searching for survivors in the dark.

Added to the confusion was uncertainty as to just how many people were on board the vessel, named the Rafelia II.

Many of those rescued had suffered injuries jumping or falling into the sea, said local media.

The ferry that runs between Gilimanuk port in north west Bali and Banyuwangi on the eastern tip of the main Indonesian island of Java carries both cars and passengers.

The ship was en route from Gilimanuk port in Bali to Banyawangi on Java when it capsized in the Bali Strait

While it is not a route popular with tourists, the ferry is sometimes used by adventurous backpackers island-hopping across the Indonesian archipelago.

Bali is particularly popular among Western tourists at this time of the year, now that most of the severe mid-summer storms have passed.

Over the years, hundreds of people have died in ferry disasters in Indonesia, which has a poor reputation for travellers on land, sea and in the air.

Ferries are often poorly maintained and frequently sail when they are overloaded. - Daily Mail.

WATCH: Dramatic footage - Ferry sinking caught on cam, people jump off deck.

DELUGE: Towering Storm System Forms Over Oman Sea - Bringing Thunderstorms, Heavy Rainfall And Flash Flooding To The United Arab Emirates! [VIDEOS]

© YouTube / javeed khan (screen capture)

March 4, 2016 - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - System also brings deluge and rain to neighbouring Oman

Heavy rains and thunderstorms have lashed Fujairah since Wednesday evening, with residents reporting waterlogging in the emirate even as a flashflood warning remains in place for surrounding wadis.

The UAE's National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) issued a weather warning: "Chance of towering clouds forming over the Oman Sea and the east coast of UAE, associated with thundery showers and fresh winds."

 WATCH: Flooding in UAE.

The stormy weather has continued into the morning hours of Thursday, with heavy rains reported in Khor Fakkan, Dibba and Masafi this morning, while overflowing wadis have seen some roads blocked for the interim.

NCMS tweeted: "Now #Rains and floods and runoff valleys in the eastern region." Neighbouring Daba, a province of Oman, along with Muscat and surrounding areas have been witnessing thunderstorms since past 48 hours.  - Emirates 24|7.

GLOBAL COASTAL EVENT: Anomalous Giant Waves Strike The Coast Of Chile - Waves Reach As High As 15 FEET HIGH! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Giant waves in Chile.

March 4, 2016 - CHILE - Dangerous and anomalous tidal waves are currently hitting the Chilean coast.

The ports of Iquique, Mejillones, Tocopilla, Chañaral, Hanga Roa, Quintero have been closed. Strong waves in Vina del Mare:
Fuertes marejadas reportadas hoy en ViñadelMar Chile, ordenan evacuación total imagen de @ExtraChile

— FAUSTO ADRIÁN (@fauadrian) March 3, 2016

Destruction in Mejillones:
Esta tarde embarcación menor es destruida por marejadas en #Mejillones. (Vídeo Nicole Navarro)

— Cristhian Acori A. (@CristhianAcori) March 3, 2016
Strong waves in Taltal:
Fuertes marejadas en #Taltal, como todo el verano. @radiomaderofm @ObreroDelMic @GustavoRoldan
— Alvaro Roldán C. (@aRolasx) March 3, 2016
The event that started on March 3, 2016, has been classified as anomalous by the National Weather service of Chile.

The dangerous situation is enhanced by strong wind blowing offshore which could finally trigger giant and strong storm surges. Numbers of major ports are now closed.

The giant waves are now already 4.5-meter (14.76 feet) high.

It's a real emergency so don't go out!

- Strange Sounds.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: "We Don't Know Why The Water Is Rising" - Scientists Baffled By Relentless Rise Of Two Caribbean Lakes That Are Swallowing Up Communities In Haiti And The Dominican Republic?!

The Haitian village of Lunettes appears to float in Lake Azuéi, also known as Étang Saumâtre. The lake's water level has risen so much
that it has swamped thousands of acres. © Alessandro Grassani

March 4, 2016 - CARIBBEAN - In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the lakes are flooding farmland, swallowing communities and leading to deforestation.

On a recent calm day, the surface of Lake Azuéi has no waves, not even any ripples. Pillars of pastel-colored concrete break the still surface, the tops of what once were houses. They are all that's visible of the community that once thrived here.

Alberto Pierre, a skinny, wide-eyed 25-year-old, said the submerged village where he grew up wasn't even near the lake. "The water used to be many kilometers from here."

Lake Azuéi, the largest lake in Haiti, lies about 18 miles east of Port-au-Prince, the capital, nestled along the border with the Dominican Republic. Also known as Étang Saumâtre, the lake rose so much between 2004 and 2009 that it engulfed dozens of square miles.

"At first we put rocks so it wouldn't come into our houses," Pierre says. "But then the water just overran the rocks." Families in the village of Letant began abandoning their houses, building huts on higher ground using wood, tarps, whatever they could find. By 2012, all 83 houses had been vacated.

"We don't know why the water is rising," he says.

In fact, nobody does. There seems to be no logic to the lake's rise. Experts from the United Nations, a French engineering firm, a Dominican Republic university, a New York City college and many others have looked for clues to explain the rise of Lake Azuéi and neighboring Lake Enriquillo, just across the border in the Dominican Republic. But few of the theories seem to hold water. Some now hypothesize the phenomenon is related to climate change, but the evidence is counterintuitive: Unlike ocean levels, which rise with climate change, lakes tend to shrink.

Two boys row past the remains of houses that lined a street in Lunettes. About a hundred families once lived in the village, which was also ruined in 2006 by a cyclone.© Alessandro Grassani

For the estimated 400,000 people living in the watershed of the two lakes, the fallout has been severe. Lake Enriquillo rose an incredible 37 feet in less than 10 years, doubling in size and swallowing at least 40,000 acres of farmland.

Most of those who lost their land are poor farmers.

Displaced from their farmland, some are turning to a nefarious occupation: charcoal. Illegal loggers are cutting down trees in the Dominican Republic to produce 50,000 tons of charcoal annually, which they sell in Haiti. The U.N. estimates it's a $15 million a year business. They transport it under the cover of darkness on small boats across Lake Azuéi, which has risen high enough to straddle the border.

Meanwhile, the water is destroying a fragile ecosystem. Cao Cao birds (Hispaniolan Palm Crow, or Corvus palmarum) and other bird species lost their habitat as trees where they once nested died, their roots drowned by the water. Endangered Hispaniola ground iguanas (Cyclura ricordi) and rhinoceros iguanas (Cyclura cornuta) were forced to flee the protected island in the center of Lake Enriquillo for higher ground above the shoreline where they compete with humans and other wildlife.

"The crocodiles can't lay their eggs there anymore, so they climb higher, onto the rocky hillsides," explains Adifer Miguel Medina Terreras, 23, who works with conservationists at the national park that encompasses the lake, offering boat rides to the island for tourists eager to see iguanas and crocodiles. "But there the eggs break. Cats, mules eat or trample the eggs." At the turn of the century, Terreras says, you could ride a motorcycle to the island during dry season—the water was that low. Back then, he says, "everyone thought the lake was going to disappear."

The waters' rise is also hurting the economy of both nations. Stuck together on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, trade between the countries is a billon dollar a year business. The main thoroughfare is a low-lying highway that passes next to the lakes.

When Antonio Perera arrived in Haiti in 2008 with the U.N. Environmental Program, he would drive this highway between the countries nearly every weekend. "The first time I crossed was a nightmare," he recalls. "The road was under the water, 20 or 30 centimeters below. You have to look not to lose the water or else you will fall into the lake." On one trip an SUV in front of him toppled in.

Rising Lakes

Since 2004, two lakes on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean have been growing. Some scientists attribute the growth to climate change; however, others feel the Yaque
del Sur River is to blame. The government plans to dam the river to control flooding of agricultural canals, which it claims are channeling water to the lakes. 

Over the years, the water flooded customs and immigration buildings at border checkpoints, including one that was submerged two years after it was built. "I remember one building, it was a two-story house—it became a one-story house," he says.

Often, the water would flood the twice-weekly market at the border crossing, forcing hundreds of vendors to carry the food, clothes and other items they sold through a narrow, overcrowded strip of land. Perera says that on several occasions, the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Haiti piled gravel on top of the road to raise it above the water level, only to see it disappear underwater once again.

In 2008 Perera dispatched a team to survey Haitians affected by Lake Azuéi and to review existing research into its causes. "I remember the estimation of the land that was flooded in Azuéi was around 15,000 hectares [about 6,000 acres] of agricultural land. That's a lot in Haiti," Perera says. "This is a phenomenon that cannot be stopped."

He says Haitian farmers "were in desperation." "They had to go to other places they could cultivate. So you can imagine, they went to private land," he adds, explaining that spurred conflict between farmers and landowners.

Michael Piasecki, professor for water resources engineering at the City College of New York who has done research in both countries on the island, says, "On the Dominican side, people are a lot more vocal, a lot more demanding and willing to go out on the street and protest—at least to be loud enough for the government to do something." But in Haiti, he says, "There's a lot more resignation. We got the impression that the Haitian government isn't doing anything, literally, for the people, other than trying to keep that road above water level so that trade can continue."

Since Lake Azuéi flooded her home, Ata Pierre, 40, has lived with her daughter Jennifer in a home built by the charity Love a Child. Her husband died years ago,
and she struggles to pay Jennifer’s school fees.  © Jacob Kushner

In Haiti there has been "no aid for people being displaced, no idea of compensating them, of moving villages." The only relief has come from a Florida-based Christian charity called Love a Child, which gave homes to some of the Haitian families whose houses were lost to Lake Azuéi. Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, an entire town was built from scratch to house residents in danger.

Retreating to Higher Ground

An hour's drive east into the Dominican Republic, a hillside with hundreds of identical concrete-block houses painted in bright pastel colors overlooks the dark waters of Lake Enriquillo. This is the new Boca de Cachón, a $24 million community built by the government to house people on the verge of losing their homes to the lake.

One of them is Emilio Perez Nova, 48. Sitting on a plastic chair in front of the small army office he oversees, Perez finds the lake's rise difficult to fathom.

"You have to understand—when I was growing up, Boca de Cachón was not a lakeside town. The lake was a kilometer away!" Perez says.

He laments how he was forced to sell his cattle when water flooded the land they grazed. Relocated into a pop-up suburban community with no land to his name, Perez says he and hundreds of others here are struggling to earn a living.

Children stand on the shore of Lake Azuéi near a submerged hotel in Thomazeau, Haiti, near the border with the Dominican Republic. The lake now straddles
the border between the two countries.   © Dieu Nalio Chery, Associated Press

"You can move to a new place, but life is not the same," Perez says, noting that many who moved used to have at least an acre or more to farm. "Imagine—you have seven, eight, nine tareas of land. And now you have nothing?"

The road between the new Boca de Cachón and the old one passes through a forest of dead trees. On a cloudy day, their tangled branches look gray and dark, giving one the eerie feeling of walking through a bombed-out no man's land. For years, a maze of hand-made fences demarked each family's property. Now all that's left are the tips of wooden fence posts poking up through the water.

Griselda Cuevas is 44, but her wrinkled skin makes her seem much older. Cuevas is one of only seven or so families, out more than 500, who didn't move. She grew up farming maize, rice, and beans. Now, instead of growing them, she buys those crops from a nearby market and resells them.

There aren't many buyers. What just five years ago was a poor but bustling community is now a mostly uninhabited field of rubble with about a dozen houses. As a condition for accepting the new houses, the government destroyed the old ones.

Her husband, Martin Cuevas, 60, worries that the water might soon flood the house. "If you put a stick in the ground," he says, "water shoots out."

Turning to Charcoal to Make Ends Meet

At the center of the town of Duvergé on Lake Enriquillo's southern side is a park with a giant statue of an iguana. The small metal fence that surrounds the fake animal seems like a joke—until you look a bit closer and notice that the fence is actually there to pen in the dozens of very real iguanas crawling around the statue and living underneath it.

The iguana pen is a symbol of the pride the town's residents take in their wildlife. But now some of these residents say they have no choice but to destroy their precious ecosystem: Many looked to higher ground to make a living—to land that is unsuitable for farming but perfect for the illegal production of charcoal.

On an overcast morning in December, a small clearing in the shrubbery above Lake Enriquillo is scorched black—soot from a charcoal oven that once burned there. A few yards away, smoke billows out of tiny holes in a large mound of dirt—an active charcoal furnace. It smells of sharp, smoldering spices.

Fishermen row near the former migration and customs offices in Jimani, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti. Lake Azuéi has repeatedly
swamped the main thoroughfare between the countries.
© Orlando Barra, EPA

The perpetrator is probably someone like Demetrio, a round-faced Dominican who declined to provide his full name out of fear of prosecution. A farmer by trade, Demetrio remembers the wet morning in 2007 that found him scrambling to recover his employer's crops as they became engulfed by the lake's rise.

"We had to go carry out the sacks of juandules [lentils] with water up to our knees—rapido," he says. "The lake killed all the mango trees—they all died. Sugarcane too."

In the weeks that followed, "we were hungry," he says. "It was a big crisis. So we dedicated ourselves to charcoal. We had to live."

Demetrio knows that cutting down trees to make charcoal is bad for the environment. But he says there's little alternative. "We make charcoal only because we don't have any other way to live." Demetrio is one of 28 farmers on the lake's southern edge who recently found work planting and harvesting molondrones (okra) at a local cooperative, allowing them to leave the charcoal business, at least for now. "But if we lost our job today, you'd see all of us tomorrow out there making charcoal again."

Searching for an Explanation

Lake Enriquillo and Lake Azuéi have always been anomalies. For starters, their water is not fresh, but saline, even though they have no known connection to the ocean. Lake Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Caribbean, and it is also region's lowest point: in 2013 its surface was 112 feet below sea level.

"The topography is unfortunate," explains Piasecki. "Both lakes are flanked on the north and the southern side by steep mountains. It's like a bathtub."

In a tiny, windowless office in Santo Domingo, Yolanda León sits behind a desk piled high with books and reports. León is a professor at the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo and for years has been the leading researcher studying the lakes.

"Here it was chaos," León recalls of the many attempts to explain the lakes' dramatic rise. "Everybody had a hypothesis, and there was no data behind it."

One Dominican professor has been working to show that the 2010 earthquake had something to do with it, hypothesizing that it disrupted the underground aquifers. But that wouldn't explain why the water started rising in 2004.

Demetrio, who declined to provide his last name, began illegally making charcoal when Lake Enriquillo flooded his farmland. He knows it's bad
for the environment, he says, but there are few alternatives.    © Jacob Kushner

Another Dominican professor hypothesizes that erosion from deforestation has caused mud to pile up on the bottom of the lake, displacing the water to higher levels. But León finds that hard to believe because there's little topsoil on these mountains to begin with.

She says locals tend to blame the rise on drainage from the vast web of canals that flush the land with freshwater. But that too seems implausible. "We visit a lot of these canals and they don't really reach the lake. The water is consumed by crops," explains León.

Complicating matters is the possibility that the two lakes are connected by an underground waterway. If true, Lake Azuéi, with its higher elevation, may be slowly draining into Lake Enriquillo. "But we can only speculate about this because we don't know what the water table actually looks like," says Piasecki. Absent funding that would allow scientists to drill the 40 to 50 boreholes he says would be necessary to find out if it's true, the subterranean river mystery will remain just that.

For its part, the Dominican government asserts that the crux of the problem is that too much water is reaching the lake from the Rio Yaque del Sur, the nation's second-longest river. But the Yaque doesn't feed directly into the lake. Instead, officials suggest that during times of heavy rainfall, such as tropical storms and hurricanes, the river unleashes high amounts of water into a small lagoon located about 15 miles southeast of Lake Enriquillo, and that from there water trickles down freshwater canals into the lake.

If true, the solution would be a simple matter of engineering: the river must be dammed. And that's precisely what the Dominican government is doing. In 2012, officials contracted to build a $401 million, 7.8 megawatt dam on the Yaque at Monte Grande. The reservoir will displace three communities. Luis Cuevas, a Dominican official working on the project, did not respond to requests for comment.

"Many people think that dam will solve the problem," says León. But she says there's no indication that more water has flowed down the Yaque recently than in years past, and no evidence that damming it will solve the problem of the lake.

To León, the most likely culprit is climate change.

"With climate change, the sea has risen in temperature. This creates more clouds," explains León. When clouds pass over the mountains that surround the lakes, they drop their load as rain. But León admits that because there haven't been weather stations to monitor rainfall, "we don't know for certain."

Fishermen in Lake Enriquillo float in a sea of dead trees where farmers once grew crops near Villa Jaragua, Dominican Republic. The lake rose
37 feet in 10 years, swallowing at least 40,000 acres.   © Jason Henry, The New York Times, Redux

In 2012 and 2013, León and researchers at the City College of New York installed a handful of weather stations to monitor future rainfall and humidity. They also installed sensors at both lakes to measure daily changes in water levels, which they hope to compare to rainfall data.

Apart from a U.N. survey of Haitians affected by the lake, just one study has focused entirely on Haitian side. Produced in 2011 by EGIS International, an engineering firm controlled by the French government, it endorsed the notion that increased rainfall has led to Lake Azuéi's rise. It too speculated that climate change might be to blame.

Hoping for a Solution

If the water's rise could somehow be reversed, the sunken land could probably be restored to its original state.

Dalbes Garcia Borques, a landowner in Duvergé, says that about four of his acres have resurfaced in the last two years as the lake receded slightly. He paid some workers to dig small irrigation trenches from nearby canals to "wash" away the salt residue left by the lake. One year later, he's harvesting potatoes.

"It's an expensive and arduous process," says Borques.

And yet, it could be cause for optimism: If scientists and the island's governments could work together to reverse the lakes' rise, the land, barren and destroyed as it may look, could once again resemble the land that has not yet succumbed to the water's grasp—lush with palm trees and tall grasses upon which fat cows graze.

For now, farmers seem hesitant to invest in the labor it would take to wash the re-emerged land and replant. With no solution in sight, most expect the water will continue to rise—flooding even more of the limited land on this small island.

The reporting for this article was made possible by support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

- National Geographic.

FIRE IN THE SKY: "As Bright As The Moon" - Large, Bright Meteor Fireball Seen From Maine To Philadelphia!

File photo of Taurid meteor showers. © Ame Danielsen.

March 4, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Keep your eyes on the skies.

Wednesday night, just before 10 p.m., sky-watchers from Maine to Philadelphia — and more than a few in the Lower Hudson Valley — caught a glimpse of a fireball, a meteor, burning up to dust as it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

The American Meteor Society keeps a map of public meteor sightings and, according to Operations Manager Mike Hankey, about 34 reports were received from across the Northeast, including one from Dobbs Ferry and another from Ardsley.

"It seemed to burn out at a low angle above the horizon," said Andrew Ploski, of Nyack. "My 9-year-old son and I were traveling back home last night after a visit with his grandmother in Yonkers. We were traveling north on the Sprain Brook Parkway near the Ardsley Road overpass. There appeared a large, very bright fireball with trail about the brightness and size of a car headlight. It streaked across my field of vision very quickly from my upper right to lower left — east to west."

Ploski was lucky, according to seasoned sky-watchers. "To see a meteor in Westchester is a little bit unusual," said Larry Faltz, president of Westchester Amateur Astronomers. "You have to be looking up at just the right moment."

Faltz explained that, when you see a fireball in the sky, you are not actually seeing a meteor but the ionization of the Earth's atmosphere as the object heads toward the ground. For that fireball effect to be visible, an object only needs to be as big as a grain of sand.

"It's impossible to say how big it was," Hankey said, though he speculated — considering reports from public sources that described the fireball as "about as bright as the moon" — that it was "a significantly bigger rock," perhaps "as large as a basketball."

Brother Robert Novak, chairman of the Physics Department at Iona College in New Rochelle, said visible meteors are not all that uncommon in the Lower Hudson Valley, but that it tends to be more common when there is a meteor shower like the Perseids in August or the Leonids near Thanksgiving.

This chart shows the number of reports of meteor sightings per day by public sources to the American Meteor Society.© AMS

"They follow two cycles," he said. "One is a yearly cycle. The other cycle depends on the meteor itself." "Rogue meteors," Novak said, are far more rare and more unpredictable. "From time to time they come into the Earth's atmosphere," he said.

But it's not unheard of. Hankey there was a similar event, recently, also in the Northeast not too long ago. 'We had an event about a month ago in the same region that generated almost 900 reports," he said.

Faltz explained that "A 'meteor' is what we see in the sky. If it hits the ground, which only a few of the larger ones do, it's a 'meteorite.'" Uncommon as they may be, The Lower Hudson Valley has experienced an actual meteor.

"There was a large one that smashed into a car in Peekskill in 1992," Falz said. "The car sold a few years ago for $69,000." - The Journal News.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: "You've Never Seen A Snowstorm Quite Like This" - Rare "THUNDERSNOW" Storm Hits Montreal, Canada?! [VIDEO]

A rare "thundersnow" storm hit Montreal earlier this week.© Xtrem Chase Quebec/YouTube

March 4, 2016 - MONTREAL, CANADA - A rare weather event known as "thundersnow" was captured on Feb. 29 in Montreal.

Combining a unique mix of snow, lightning and thunder, the snow shower came just before a major storm hit the city.

Thundersnow events are rare: less than 1 percent of all snowstorms are associated with thunder, according to ABC News.

They require just the right mix of atmospheric instability and upward motion of warm air that make both snowstorms and thunder unique.

Thundersnow has also proved helpful for meteorologists predicting future storms. "Thunder and lightning existing in the storm are usually a symptom of something else," Patrick Market, associate professor of atmosphere science at the University of Missouri, told ABC News. "That's usually a harbinger of somebody getting a significant snowfall later on."

WATCH: Rare "thundersnow" storm hits Montreal.


ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Migratory Patterns And Disaster Precursors - Southern Right Whale Found Dead On Beach In Cape Town, South Africa; Rare Albino Whale Spotted Off Coast Of Mexico; Whale Shark Found Dead At Palghar, India; And Unknown "Ghostly" Octopod Discovered Off The Coast Of Hawaii?! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

A 10-metre long Southern-Right whale has washed up on Melkbosstrand beach. The carcass was spotted early on the 4th March, 2016. © Louise Geldenhuys/iWitness

March 4, 2016 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Southern right whale found dead on beach in Cape Town, South Africa

A 10 metre long southern right whale has washed up on Melkbosstrand Beach.

The carcass was spotted early this morning.

The City of Cape Town's Gregg Oelofse said, "The has initiated and mobilised its whale removal protocol and all teams are heading in that direction and we'll try and remove the carcass as effectively and efficiently as we can.

"The national government from the department of Environmental Affairs is also on their way take samples from the carcass."

#BeachedWhale Oelofse says it's unclear how the whale died. Image: Facebook - Louise Geldenhuys

— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) March 4, 2016
The City asked the public to stay away from a section of beach where the whale carcass washed up.

Teams from the City and the national Environmental Affairs Department were at the scene.

Oelofse said the carcass would be removed as quickly as possible.

"We will update the public as the day progresses, but we would ask people to keep clear because we'll be bringing in heavy machinery." - EWN.

Rare albino whale spotted off coast of Mexico

A rare, albino grey whale has been spotted off Mexico's Pacific coast. Marine biologists from the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) captured footage of the magnificent, white mammal swimming with her normal-coloured calf during an annual census off the coast of Baja California.

The bright white whale, which actually belongs to the grey whale species, or Eschrichtius robustus, has been given the nickname Gallon of Milk. Gallon of Milk was first spotted during the 2008/09 season as a juvenile with characteristics of albinism, hence the name. The whale and her calf were sighted in the area known as Isla Alambre, in la Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

WATCH: Rare albino whale spotted.

Albinism is a genetic disorder caused by mutations, resulting in a reduction or complete absence of the pigment melanin. This condition has been recorded in different mammals, birds and reptiles, both in wildlife and in captivity. However, there are few documented records of albino marine mammals.

Researchers have been conducting biological monitoring of the Biosphere Reserve El Vizcaino for 20 years. They have recorded the annual migration of grey whales off the coast of the Mexican Pacific during mating and reproduction season.

During the seventh census carried out this season, 2,211 specimens of grey whales were seen in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in the Biosphere Reserve El Vizcaino. Of these, 1,004 correspond to calves born in Mexico. The monitoring activities carried out by CONANP have documented the successful recovery of grey whale populations, ensuring the survival of this species for future generations. - IBT.

Whale shark found dead at Palghar, India

Dead whale shark

A 7.3 metre long whale shark washed ashore off the Palghar coast, near Mumbai today. The Maharashtra forest officials rushed to the site to take measurements of the dead fish which attracted many curious locals to the area.

"The whale shark was found dead near the Palghar shore. We will have to ascertain the cause of its death.

It is a matter of concern that so many big sea creatures like whales, dolphins and now whale shark are being found dead on the coasts so frequently," said the chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell) N Vasudevan.

He added that two days ago, a 10 feet long dolphin was found at Vasai, while on Tuesday this week, an over six feet long dead dolphin was found at the Gorai coast of Mumbai."So far in the last two years we have found at least six dead whales in and around Maharashtra coast.

The latest whale shark found near Shirgaon village in Palghar was apparently in a decomposed state. We have asked for a post-mortem to know more about it," said Vasudevan.

Environmentalist D Stalin of the Mumbai based NGO Vanashakti, said: "There can be multiple reasons why such large marine animals are being spotted dead along our coasts. It could do be the increasing sea pollution, and also hectic trawler fishing activities near the shore, which may directed injure dolphins, sharks, whale sharks and also large turtles."

Stalin added that it is sad and tragic that no proper policy is being drafted by the central and state governments to prevent such unfortunate incidents.

"It is a matter of high concern and priority that proper steps are enforced, with the help of expert guidance to see that such lovely marine creatures like whales, whale sharks and dolphins are protected in the sea. Also, a proper research should be carried out in this regard," said Stalin. - Times of India.

Unknown 'ghostly' octopod discovered

Scientists with NOAA found an unknown species of octopod on the ociean floor while mapping uncharted waters off the coast of Hawaii.

WATCH: Unknown 'ghostly' octopod discovered.

- CNN.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Rare Undulatus Asperatus Clouds Create Stunning Wavelike Formation In The Skies Over Alabama! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

March 4, 2016 - ALABAMA, UNITED STATES - It was all eyes to the sky in Alabama after a rare cloud formation known as "undulatus asperatus" formed, creating amazing wavelike formations.

© James Spann / Facebook

The clouds caught the attention of early risers, who posted images on social media sites, with many simply describing them as "stunning".


One YouTube user even managed to capture the clouds as they moved overhead, creating this mesmerizing time-lapse.

WATCH: Wavelike cloud formation over Alabama.

This an ongoing argument among cloud fanatics as to whether these so called "undulatus asperatus" clouds should be recognized as a separate formation or just a subset of "undulatus" clouds, which look very similar.

The World Meteorological Organization is currently collecting evidence to decide on the matter as part of its revision of the International Cloud Atlas. The Cloud Appreciation Society, based in the UK, is leading the charge to have the "asperatus" (Latin adjective meaning 'rough') officially recognized as a unique formation.

They have identified the "well-defined, wavelike structures in the underside of the cloud" as being "more chaotic and with less horizontal organization than undulates." - RT.