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aries1988 : sea   21

The devil’s lottery: the perils of diving for ‘Baltic gold’

The rush for Baltic gold, which sometimes sells for more than the real thing, has been driven by consumers in China, where it is mainly used as jewellery for both men and women. From soyabean fields on the fringes of the Amazon to copper mines in the south of Congo, Kaliningrad is one of the many regions being reshaped by China’s voracious demand for commodities.

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is the epicentre for the world’s amber trade, with the region holding about 90 per cent of the global reserves of the fossilised tree resin. It also boasts some of the oldest amber in the world — the product of a coniferous pine forest that fell into the Baltic Sea between 40m and 50m years ago.

At the time when Mr Krupnyakov and his gang were offering their services to illegal miners, the market was booming. Amber dealers say prices increased as much as 10 times between 2012 and 2016 on the back of strong demand from China. Although used for little other than jewellery and ornaments these days, amber has been a prized commodity in China ever since the days of the Ming dynasty and is seen as carrying healing powers and good fortune.

In May last year, Hong Kong Customs seized about 50kg of suspected smuggled amber, which it said had an estimated market value of about $1.5m, making the amber worth about $30 a gramme. The white amber, dealers say, can be sold to China for as much as $40 a gramme, and if the piece is really special, up to $50 or even $100 a gramme. That is more than the current market price of gold: about $41 a gramme.

Amber jewellery for adults has gone out of fashion in the west over the past decade, but necklaces for babies have become popular, having been lauded for their ability to relieve teething pain. But after a one-year-old was strangled, the US Food and Drug Administration put out a warning in December about the safety risks of such necklaces.

The authenticity of amber can be tested by burning, drilling into or even rubbing it. If genuine, it should give off a pinelike smell. It can also be tested to see if it floats in salt water (it should), while a UV lamp shone at it should show up as blue or green. Amber divers who go out to sea at night take UV torches with them.
russia  history  today  china  consumer  death  sea  diving 
march 2019 by aries1988
A bord de l’« Auvergne », en mer de Chine du Sud

Les nations qui comptent dans le Pacifique (Etats-Unis, Chine, Russie, France, Australie) assurent toutes ici une présence militaire visible en mer. Ce vendredi, trois frégates russes anti-sous-marines viennent d'arriver à Manille, à la veille d'une réunion des ministres de la défense de l'Asie du Sud-Est.

Le risque est de voir un jour la mer de Chine du Sud se fermer comme un lac, prenant en otage les intérêts des autres puissances. En naviguant dans ces eaux chaudes et lointaines, les marins espèrent retarder l'échéance.
français  military  sea  mission  china  world  challenge 
november 2017 by aries1988
In the Tonnara
In these buildings, every scrap of the tuna was used, even the blood and the fat, just as my people butchered their hogs in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The choice cuts are obvious, and the dried roe (bottarga) is especially prized, but in the tonnara, the fish’s entrails and offal also were salted or preserved in oil for various uses, and difficult portions such as the joints and buzzonaglia were accorded care. Even the lattume, the male Bluefin’s sac of seminal fluid, was kept for the table.

I was drawn again and again to the tonnare. Only now do I realize I was fatigued by the endless palazzi and cathedrals of the rich that one is pointed to in Italy. It was refreshing to encounter a place where typical people—workers—lived and made a living.

For all we romanticize the notion of “work” in America, and as much as the politicians shill for it, the daily life of a laborer is the first thing to slip the collective memory. Instead, our children are taken to visit the mansion, the cathedral, or the art museum where the dirty money was poured. The factories corrode. The roof falls in. The weather comes. I remember bored teenage friends throwing rocks at the high windows of Dalzell-Viking Glass—their people had surely worked there blowing glass, but no one had a sense that it was of any importance. I didn’t either, not at the time. I probably would have thrown a rock had I any athletic ability.
sicily  italia  factory  renovation  city  village  gentrification  local  life  region  essay  love  fish  sea 
october 2017 by aries1988
The Sucker, the Sucker!
Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith Collins

octopuses – and to some extent their cephalopod cousins, cuttlefish and squid – frustrate the neat evolutionary division between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates. They are sophisticated problem solvers; they learn, and can use tools; and they show a capacity for mimicry, deception and, some think, humour.

Consciousness – the possession of an ‘inner’ model of the ‘outer’ world, or the sense of having an integrated, subjective perspective on the world – is, on his view, just a highly evolved form of what he calls ‘subjective experience’.

the Medawar effect: natural selection tends to weed out mutations whose harmful effects appear early in an animal’s life, but it is less likely to weed out mutations whose harmful effects manifest later on.
instapaper_favs  animal  ocean  intelligence  human  sea  biology  nature  book 
october 2017 by aries1988
Simon Schama on the tirelessly versatile Hokusai
https://www.instapaper.com/read/913165263

the supply of woodblock prints — costing about the price of a double helping of noodles — transformed how art was consumed. It was a genre invented to satisfy the cultural appetite of the biggest city in the world, the million-plus population of Edo (now Tokyo).

as at Versailles, an emasculated, over-dressed, politically pointless class compensated for its impotence with stupendous conspicuous consumption. That led to the rise of a merchant class to service their ever more extravagant needs.

Like all brilliant entertainment cultures drenched in feel-good fantasy, it gorged on sex and celebrity, sentimental romance and over-the-top dramatics.

'Dragon in rain clouds' (1849) © Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet, Paris
art  artist  japanese  scenery  painting  sea 
may 2017 by aries1988
Comment le Sahara nourrit la Méditerranée
« A chaque arrêt, l’eau sera récupérée et mise dans des mésocosmes [réservoirs recréant les conditions d’un milieu naturel]. On augmentera la température de 2 degrés ainsi que la teneur en CO2 pour voir comment le phytoplancton réagit. De cette manière, nous recréons les conditions que nous aurons en 2100 », résume Karine ­Desboeufs. Malgré un appui ­météo au sol, le Pourquoi-Pas ? n’a aucune garantie de croiser la route d’une pluie de poussières sahariennes. En cas de malchance, la campagne ne sera pas vaine pour autant. Des appareils de ­mesure enregistreront simultanément les paramètres chimiques, physiques et biologiques de l’air et des eaux de surface. La comparaison des données permettra de ­rechercher les interactions.
mediterranean  europe  research  science  atmosphere  sea  biology 
may 2017 by aries1988
An elderly man dedicates himself to saving lives at Japan’s ‘suicide cliffs’ | Aeon Videos
‘Their cries, their wishes, their hopes... I feel a sense of duty towards them.’
With about 70 suicides per day in 2015, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world. At Tojinbo in Fukui Prefecture – notorious for its ‘suicide cliffs’, where numerous people have ended their lives – the retired policeman Yukio Shige has taken a hands-on approach to addressing the social issue. Alongside volunteers at his Tojinbo Nonprofit Organisation Support Center, Shige patrols the cliffs for anyone who looks distraught, and invites them to his nearby café, where he offers food, an opportunity to talk over their problems and longer-term support if necessary. Over the past 12 years, Shige’s organisation has been credited with saving some 550 lives, even as more and more people have flocked to the cliffs, which have become something of a morbid tourist attraction.
story  japan  japanese  sea 
march 2017 by aries1988
‘Pool to table’: on the leisurely challenge of indoor shrimp fishing in Taiwan | Aeon Videos
Taiwan is one of the most densely populated islands on Earth: its 36,000 square kilometres are home to more than 23 million people. Historically, fishing and seafood have been central to Taiwanese culture, but with the country’s economy and population increasingly urbanised, many in Taiwan have sought a new, leisurely and convenient way of connecting with the sea: indoor shrimping. In this short video, the director Tim Cheng visits one of Taiwan’s many urban shrimp pools, where patrons go to catch their next meal – or just for the relaxation of it all.
fun  urban  city  leisure  animal  sea  taiwan 
august 2016 by aries1988
Lost at Sea on the Brink of the Second World War - The New Yorker
When Berta Doff met Ben Cohn, in 1936, she was twenty-one years old, tall and confident, with the diction of an elocution instructor, which in fact she was.…
instapaper_favs  victim  war  ww2  sea  children  ancestor 
may 2016 by aries1988
A Speck in the Sea - NYTimes.com
A few weeks after his son’s rescue, John Sr. got a tattoo on his arm: a pair of big green fishing boots, and between them, the G.P.S. coordinates where his son was found.
instapaper_favs  story  sea 
january 2014 by aries1988
The Eunuch Admiral | CAA
A Ming cup leads to a Berkeley scholar and the marvelous tale of China’s greatest seafarer. http://www.instapaper.com/read/313186837
china  history  story  sea  ming  navy 
august 2012 by aries1988

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