Scientists puzzled over a hundred dead seals wash up on Baikal shore

admin   •   November 6, 2017   •   3868

Local environment officials reported that over 140 carcasses of Baikal seals have washed up on the shores of the world’s deepest lake in Russia’s Siberia over the last week.

According to the scientists, the seals had died in water and their carcasses did not have any injuries or signs of disease or starvation.

Russian media reported that according to the country’s veterinary watchdog, the seals have had died of heart attack, the cause of which remains unclear to the experts.

Dozens of dead seals were found ashore at the end of last month and more carcasses were found later by local residents and rangers. Many of the dead seals were pregnant females.

Irkutsk Regional Environmental Prosecutor’s Office is investigating several possible causes of seals’ mass death, but according to the scientists, it can be natural selection.

“At the moment the prosecutor’s office is looking into various versions [of what happened to the seals] including disease of Baikal seals, an attempt of illegal hunting on seals as well as human-caused disturbance. But taking into consideration earlier incidents of seal mass death, the main version is naturally occurring wildlife cycles,” said West Baikal District Asst. Environment Prosecutor Ivan Zolotukhin.

Baikal seals as species are not currently considered under threat, according to biologists. Despite hunting and pollution of Lake Baikal, the seal population is believed to be equalling the carrying capacity of the lake.— Reuters

 

Russia’s floating nuclear plant readies for Northern Sea Route

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Russia showcased to the media the world’s first floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov on Thursday (August 22).

Crew on the Akademik Lomonosov are expected to leave Murmansk for a long journey along the Northern Sea Route to Chukotka in Russia’s far east.

Rosenergoatom deputy director Dmitry Alekseenko said at a news conference that the main advantage of the new type of nuclear plant is its mobility that allows it to reach any point with demand for energy. He also said that it would do no harm to the environment.

Critics, however, warily recall Soviet-era nuclear accidents and Russia’s naval disasters such as the loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea after explosions on board, killing all 118 crew.

In 2018 Greenpeace issued a statement calling Lomonosov a ‘nuclear Titanic’. (Reuters)

(Production: Lev Sergeev, Dmitry Turlyun)

Earth to FEDOR: Russia launches humanoid robot into space

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft lifting off (left) Russian Semi-Autonomous Robot Skybot F-850 (right)| Courtesy: Reuters

A Russian humanoid robot was making its way on Thursday (August 22) to the International Space Station after blasting off on a two-week mission to support the crew and test his skills.

Known as FEDOR, which stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, the Skybot F-850 is the first humanoid robot to be sent to space by Russia. NASA sent humanoid robot Robonaut 2 to space in 2011 to work in hazardous environments.

“The robot’s main purpose it to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans onboard spacecraft and in outer space,” Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Thursday after the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The ISS is a joint project of the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Travelling in an unmanned Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, FEDOR is expected to dock at the ISS on Saturday with 1,450 pounds (660 kg) of cargo including medical supplies and food rations for the crew waiting at the station, NASA said.

FEDOR, who is the size an adult and can emulate movements of the human body, has apparently embraced his mission, describing himself as “an assistant to the ISS crew” on his Twitter page, which has 4,600 followers.

“Everything is normal,” a tweet posted on his account said a few hours into his flight. (Reuters)

(Production: Maria Vasilyeva, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber)

Investigators work on site of plane after emergency landing

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

Russians hailed a miracle on Thursday after a passenger plane carrying 233 people made an emergency landing in a cornfield on the outskirts of Moscow after striking a flock of birds shortly after take-off.

The Ministry of Health said 23 people had suffered injuries, but nobody had been killed when the Ural Airlines Airbus 321 came down in a field southeast of Moscow after striking a flock of gulls, disrupting its engines.

State television said the maneuver was being dubbed the “miracle over Ramensk”, a reference to the district of Moscow region where the plane came down more than 1 km (0.62 miles) from Zhukovsky International Airport.

The Interfax news agency cited a source as saying one person had suffered serious injuries.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid lauded pilot Damir Yusupov as a “hero,” saying he had saved 233 lives, “having masterfully landed a plane without its landing gear with a failing engine right in a cornfield.”

Some drew comparisons with U.S. Airways Flight 1549 which performed a landing on the Hudson River in 2009 after striking a flock of geese.

The engines were turned off when it made the emergency landing and it also had its landing gear up, said Elena Mikheyeva, a spokeswoman for Russia’s civil aviation authority.

An unnamed passenger interviewed by state television said the plane had started to shake violently shortly after take-off.

“Five seconds later, the lights on the right side of the plane started flashing and there was a smell of burning. Then we landed and everyone ran away,” he said.

The plane was due to fly to Simferopol in Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Safety concerns have plagued Russia’s airline industry since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, though standards are widely recognized to have sharply risen on international routes in particular in recent years.

(Production: Maria Vasiyeva, Dmitry Turlyun)

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