Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson, RIP


This music video says about itself:

Ronald StevensonPassacaglia on DSCH“, Mark Gasser: Piano (Live in Australia – 2012)

21 September 2012

The Passacaglia on DSCH is a large-scale composition for solo piano by the British composer Ronald Stevenson. It was composed between 24 December 1960 and 18 May 1962, except for two sections added on the day of the first performance on 10 December 1963. The composer presented a copy of the score to Dmitri Shostakovich, its dedicatee, at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival.

The work takes the principle of the passacaglia or chaconne – namely, strict variations on an unchanging subject, usually a ground bass, and applies it across a very large single-movement structure that divides into a cumulative design of many different musical styles and forms. It is based on a 13-note ‘ground’ derived from the musical motif D, E-flat, C, B: the German transliteration of Dmitri Shostakovich‘s initials (“D. Sch.”). (Shostakovich used these four notes as a musical ‘signature’, for example in his Eighth String Quartet).

Stevenson’s work takes more than an hour and a quarter to perform and may be the longest unbroken single movement composed for piano. It is extraordinary in its scope, the range of its reference to historic events, and the musical influences absorbed. The work includes a Sonata form first section, a suite of dances (incorporating a Sarabande, Jig, Minuet, Gavotte and Polonaise), a transcription of a Scottish bagpipe Pibroch, a section entitled To Emergent Africa involving percussive effects directly on the piano strings, a section resonating to Lenin’s slogan ‘Peace, Bread and the Land‘.

The penultimate section is a huge triple fugue over the ground bass, the first fugue on a 12-note subject derived from the bass, the second combines the DSCH motif with Bach’s monogram BACH (B-flat, A, C, B), and the third, on the Dies Irae chant, is inscribed In memoriam the six million (a reference to the victims of the Holocaust of World War II). The work ends with a series of variations on a theme derived from the ground marked Adagissimo barocco and organized on the principle of Baroque ‘doubles’, with the basic unit of metre halving with each variation.

Plan of Work

Pars Prima Sonata Allegro
Pars Prima Waltz In Rondo-Form
Pars Prima Episode 1. Presto
Pars Prima Suite. Prelude.
Pars Prima Suite. Sarabande.
Pars Prima Suite. Jig.
Pars Prima Suite. Sarabande.
Pars Prima Suite. Minuet.
Pars Prima Suite. Jig.
Pars Prima Suite. Gavotte.
Pars Prima Suite. Polonaise.
Pars Prima Pibroch (Lament For Children).
Pars Prima Episode 2. Abaresque Variations.
Pars Prima Nocturne.
Pars Altera Reverie-Fantasy.
Pars Altera Fanfare.
Pars Altera Forebodings. Alarm.
Pars Altera Glimpse Of A War Vision.
Pars Altera Variations On ‘Peace, Bread And The Land’ (1917).
Pars Altera Symphonic March.
Pars Altera Episode 3. Volante Scherzoso.
Pars Altera Fandango.
Pars Altera Pedal Point. ‘To Emergant Africa‘.
Pars Altera Central Episode. Etudes.
Pars Altera Variations In C Minor
Pars Tertia Adagio. Tribute To Bach
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass: Subject 1. Andamento
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 2. Bach.
Pars Tertia Triple Fugue Over Ground Bass. Subject 3. Dies Irae
Pars Tertia Final Variations On A Theme Derived From Ground (Adagissimo Barocco).

By David Betteridge in Britain:

RONALD STEVENSON, composer, pianist and writer March 6 1928-March 28 2015

Wednesday 8th April 2015

FOR many reasons, the name of Ronald Stevenson, who died on March 28 at the age of 87, should be more widely known.

He composed the epic Passacaglia on DSCH, one of the longest works in the piano repertoire, which is a comprehensive survey of a whole world of music and includes homages to Dmitri Shostakovich, Johann Sebastian Bach and an anonymous drummer whom Ronald once heard practising on a home-made percussion set in a South African township.

That 80-minute single movement work, once heard, is never forgotten — as is the case with many other works forged in Stevenson’s creative furnace.

These range from a violin concerto commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin through choral works — including a group of peace motets and his more recent Praise of Ben Dorain, performed at a Celtic Connections concert in Glasgow — to a rich body of piano works, where the long tradition associated with such giants as Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni is furthered in a novel way.

There was too a cornucopia of songs, settings of Scottish folk songs and works by Hugh MacDiarmid, William Soutar, William Blake and other favourite poets, among them the pure gold of A’e Gowden Lyric to words by MacDiarmid, a friend and collaborator.

This miniature, in the words of one critic, constitutes a sort of gift from Scotland to itself.

Ronald leaves a huge gap in the lives of an international network of “comrades in arts,” as he called them, with whom he corresponded over many decades, as well as in the lives of his family and close friends.

Any comrades-in-arts who made their way to the door of his house in West Linton, on the flanks of the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh, were certain of a kind welcome both from Ronald and from his lifelong partner, his wife and archivist Marjorie Spedding.

As in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, this was a latter-day “house of the interpreter,” where the visitor is shown “excellent things, such as would be an help to me in my journey.”

One such fellow traveller was Percy Grainger, the Australian-American folklorist, composer, and pianist. The letters that they exchanged, recently published by Toccata Press, take the reader on an intricacy of fascinating journeys, notably the life and work of Walt Whitman, whose embrace of the world in all its contradictions was a big influence on both men. Like Whitman, Ronald could have said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Born into a working-class home in Lancashire in England, settled in Peeblesshire in Scotland and a wandering scholar and sometimes professor on several continents — he worked in Cape Town, Shanghai, New York and Melbourne — Ronald was an advocate and precursor of world music, along the lines of Goethe’s world literature.

Here, east and west meet, folk traditions and classical traditions inform one another and all barriers of genre and style and class and ethnicity are removed in an open conversation.

In a book that he wrote half way through his career, Western Music: an Introduction, Ronald nailed his colours to this democratic and peace-loving mast.

In his closing chapter, he envisaged a kind of music “which is created by a musician aware of the unity and conflict of the different musics of different nations,” and which, while conscious that “conflict is the law of divided society,” is aware also that “unity is equally a law of that great harmony which is music and which one day will reflect the reality of society united.”

Unsurprisingly, this mountain of a musician was for a while vice-president of the Workers’ Music Association where, along with his friend Alan Bush, he pursued through music the causes of peace, social justice and internationalism.

He is survived by his wife Marjorie and by his daughters Gerda, a playwright, poet, singer, actor and theatre director, Savourna, a clarsach player and composer and by his son Gordon, an instrument maker and repairer.

His funeral will be held at the Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh on Tuesday April 14 at 1pm.

EDL nazi flop in Oxford, England


This video from England says about itself:

Many English Defence League (EDL) supporters have extreme views, and many have shown to support Nazism. Here is a compilation showing EDL supporters giving the Nazi salute.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Anti-racists beat back EDL thugs in Oxford protest

Monday 6th March 2015

THE racist English Defence League (EDL) flopped miserably when it tried to demonstrate in Oxford at the weekend.

Hundreds of trade unionists, students and anti-racism campaigners were joined by Oxford’s Mayor Councillor Mohammed Abbasi, councillors and parliamentary candidates when they staged a counter-demonstration against EDL thugs on Saturday.

More than 300 people attended the counter-demonstration against the EDL’s gathering of 100.

Police mobilised 500 officers — meaning that yet again the EDL added to the tax burden of residents in the communities it targets.

A police officer was injured by a missile thrown from the EDL demonstration and three men were arrested.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “A Thames Valley Police officer sustained a minor head injury during the operation. He suffered cuts to his head after objects were thrown but is okay.”

The counter-demonstration was supported by trade unions and anti-fascist groups including Unite Against Fascism (UAF).

UAF joint secretary Weyman Bennett said: “The response from the town was brilliant. The mayor and councillors came, trade unionists came.

“The EDL tried several times to attack the counter-demonstration. What was clear was the fact that it failed to divide the town and also that the EDL failed to intimidate the anti-fascists mobilised against the members. It failed in numbers and the anti-racist message prevailed.”

Several thousand people joined “Say no to racism” demonstrations last Sunday, opposing anti-Islamic and racist “Reclaim Australia” rallies called by extreme right-wing groups in 16 capital and regional cities across the country. The largest turnout was in Melbourne’s Federation Square, where about 2,000 people outnumbered the 500 or so anti-Islam protestors: here.

ISIS opponents are ‘terrorists’, Australian government says


This video about Kurdish northern Syria says about itself:

Anarchy in Rojava: A libertarian revolution in the Middle East

21 February 2015

In this edition, we look at the fierce men and women, who have been fighting the head chopping Islamists of I.S.I.S. to create [a] libertarian commune along the border between Syria, Iraq and Turkey. On the music break we have Kurdish rapper Rezan with “Em Kurdin.” Our guest this week is Chris Dixon, author of “Another Politics” a book about anti-authoritarian organizing in Turtle Island.

In Iraq and Syria, there is the terrorist organisation ISIS. A result of George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s Iraq war, as President Obama said. For the Pentagon and its allies, they are the pretext for re-starting the Iraq war and starting war in Syria (officially against ISIS, in practice about oil).

The government of NATO country Turkey has often helped ISIS, as even United States Vice President Joseph Biden admitted in a moment of honesty for which he later wrongly apologized.

The government of NATO country Turkey considers the Kurdish opponents of ISIS ‘terrorists’. So do the governments of other NATO countries, like the Netherlands.

So does the government of another NATO country, Great Britain. They recently jailed a Kurdish-British girl for ‘terrorism’ for plans to fight ISIS.

Now, to Australia. Not a NATO country, but usually considered to be a part of the self-styled ‘free world’. Also a military ally of NATO in the re-started Iraq war; though most Australians oppose that.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Former Labor party president Matthew Gardiner arrested at Darwin airport

April 5, 2015 – 7:19PM

Eryk Bagshaw

Matthew Gardiner, the former Northern Territory Labor party president who joined Kurdish forces to help them fight Islamic State, was detained at Darwin Airport on Sunday before being released without charge, the Australian Federal Police have confirmed.

Mr Gardiner, 43, left his wife and two sons in Australia to leave for Syria in January, after making connections with others on social media who were sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. …

The Kurds, who Mr Gardiner was helping, have been involved in a bitter battle with Islamic State since the jihadist group invaded their territory last year. …

The Attorney-General’s department has long maintained that Australians who leave Australia to engage in an illegal conflict and then come back, will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. …

Under the current legislation it is possible for Australians to join the armed forces of a foreign country. However, the Kurds are not recognised as a legitimate armed force. …

Mr Gardiner served with the Australian army in Somalia during the 1990’s and had over a decade in military experience before becoming a senior Labor figure.

He was also the treasurer of the peak body Unions NT and the secretary of hospitality, childcare and emergency services union United Voice in the Northern Territory.

Friends were shocked when they discovered the dedicated father and vocal unionist had left to join the conflict.

Federal [Labor party] Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was relieved Mr Gardiner was back home in Australia despite fighting in an overseas conflict which he does not entirely agree with.

“I’m concerned anyone thinks they should be getting involved in these foreign conflicts, no matter what their intentions,” Mr Shorten told the ABC.

“The message has to be to Australians: We’re not going to fix those issues by becoming a foreign fighter and the law’s going to have to take its process.”

Mr Shorten should apply these words to the Australian government’s participation in the re-started Iraq war, rather than for stabbing his party colleague Gardiner in the back; Mr Gardiner, who now may get a long jail term because of governmental hypocrisy.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands, 6 April 2014:

Al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, has kidnapped 300 Kurdish men in northern Syria. According to an official in the Kurdish region Kobani the men were with women and children on their way from the city Afrin to Aleppo when they were stopped. Only the men were taken.

Australian priest blames victim for her murder


Jill Meagher, who was murdered in Melbourne. Photograph: Facebook/PR Image/AAP

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Jill Meagher‘s family criticise Catholic priest over ‘disgusting’ claim

Priest reportedly told students at a Melbourne primary school that if Meagher had been more ‘faith filled’ she would have been home and ‘not walking down Sydney Road at 3am’

This victim blaming is even worse for being part of a sermon to primary school children.

Merran Hitchick

Sunday 29 March 2015 06.36 BST

A Catholic priest in Melbourne has reportedly been criticised for a speech in which he said Jill Meagher would have been at home instead of out on the night she was raped and killed if she was more “faith filled”.

Meagher was murdered by Adrian Bayley after a night out Melbourne in September 2012. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The priest delivered his homily at an end-of-term service for a Catholic primary school in Melbourne on Friday and radio station 3AW reported he held up a newspaper article with a picture of Bayley on it to make his point. The report says he told a crowd of about 100 that if Meagher had been more “faith filled” she would have been home and “not walking down Sydney Road at 3am”.

Meagher’s family were outraged by the report and said it was a “stupid thing to say”.

“Adrian Bayley was out there that night looking for a victim and found her,” Joan Meagher, Jill Meagher’s mother-in-law told the Irish Independent. “He was looking for anyone, it didn’t matter to him who the person was.

Thomas Meagher, Jill’s husband, put a statement on Facebook calling the comments “disgusting”.

“What a truly abhorrent lesson to teach a child,” he wrote. “How a human being with such dangerous and misogynistic views can be allowed pass those messages onto children is depressing. Shameful.”

The Catholic Church has apologised for the comments, the Age reports, with one official saying the church did not support the “totally inappropriate” and offensive” comments.

Monsignor Greg Bennett, vicar-general of the archdiocese of Melbourne, went on radio to apologise.

“I’ve spoken with the priest; he acknowledges that the homily wasn’t appropriate and apologises for the offence and upset it has caused,” he told 3AW.

“The reference to Jill Meagher in particular was offensive and inappropriate and the people of Victoria and Ireland mourn her sad and tragic death.

See also here.

Great Barrier Reef fish conservation works


This video from Australia says about itself:

Coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus, gather to spawn at dusk around the new moon in spring and early summer at Lizard Island on the northern Great Barrier Reef. Substantial research into the biology and ecology of this highly sought-after table fish has been conducted at the Australian Museum‘s Lizard Island Research Station.

From Science News:

No-fishing scheme in Great Barrier Reef succeeds with valuable fishes

Coral trout thrive but protection has less effect on other reef residents

By Susan Milius

12:15pm, March 26, 2015

An ambitious, hotly debated system of no-take reserves inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has boosted the population of its most commercially valuable fishes, says the first 10-year progress report.

Coral trout (Plectropomus species) are now more common and bigger in protected spots than in comparable places still being fished, researchers say online March 26 in Current Biology. The no-take zones also gave these fish populations more resilience, with ample coral trout that had grown large enough to survive when severe tropical cyclone Hamish hit in 2009.

Turkish World War I commemoration abused for militarist propaganda


This music video about Australia and the first world war is called The Pogues – The band played Waltzing Matilda.

The lyrics are:

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

By Halil Celi in Turkey:

Centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign: Turkish elite commemorates imperialist bloodbath

25 March 2015

Turkey marked the 100th anniversary of the naval battle at Çanakkale last week.

During the 1915 battle, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign or the Dardanelles Campaign, Ottoman artillery held off British and French warships from taking the capital Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul). This would have given the Allied powers control of the Bosphorus and entry into the Black Sea, securing access to Russia against Germany.

The main ceremony was held in Çanakkale, attended by Turkish politicians, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and military and civil officials from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Official ceremonies were held in other cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir, attended by Turkish military officers, representatives of the political parties and civil society organisations. The Religious Affairs Directorate organised prayers across Turkey for those who died, who were described as martyrs.

As well as those killed in battle, thousands died from infection, enteric fever, dysentery, diarrhea and various fly-borne diseases. Others were burnt to death in out-of-control scrub fires. Some drowned in sewage, and others died from poor food and disease. While the exact number of casualties in the Gallipoli Campaign, which lasted about 10 months, is not known, one estimate puts the number of casualties on the Ottoman side at 250,000, with a similar number from the Allied forces. It was one of the most horrific slaughters of World War I.

In a Twitter post on March 18, Richard Moore, the British ambassador to Turkey, “congratulated the people of Turkey for the victory.”

In an attempt to cover up and sanctify the imperialist slaughter, he wrote, “Both the parties bravely fought during the war and Turks deserved the victory, Çanakkale is impassable!”

This was no different from the official propaganda, launched by the Turkish media weeks ago, that branded the imperialist slaughter of the Gallipoli Campaign as the beginning of the Turkish people’s struggle for independence.

Speaking during the ceremony at Çanakkale, Prime Minister Davutoğlu blessed the martyrs and said, “Turkish soldiers from different origins, including Kurdish, Bosnian and Circassian, started and won Turkey’s war of independence in unity and brotherhood.”

He used the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign to make broader and more topical political points, saying threateningly, “Turkey is not a country that would succumb to either internal or external threats. It has the ability to immediately respond to any kind of treachery.”

Davutoğlu’s words followed the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General of Press and Information accreditation ban on media outlets critical of the government, including the Cihan news agency, one of the largest news agencies in Turkey, and the Zaman daily.

The centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign gave the Turkish government and the media a welcome opportunity to deflect the mounting anger of working people away from the burning social and economic problems at home, as well as to legitimise Turkey’s embroilment in the imperialist interventions and civil wars in the Middle East, in North Africa and potentially—as a NATO ally—in Ukraine.

As part of this broader campaign to distract working people’s attention away from deteriorating living conditions and prepare Turkish public opinion for impending military interventions in Iraq and Syria, all the bourgeois parties and media have joined in the official campaign of rewriting the history. There have been a series of activities, including conferences, lectures, films, and sporting and cultural events, with millions of dollars of government funding.

Ankara has used its best endeavours to rewrite the history of the Gallipoli Campaign to glorify the Turkish nationalist officers who years later waged the War of Independence against Britain and Greece, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk, founder and president of the Turkish republic. Ataturk first rose to prominence as a commander during the battle at Gallipoli.

Thus, the Turkish ruling elite has promoted the glorification of the imperialist bloodbath of Gallipoli as “the defence of the motherland.”

The pretence that the position of the Ottoman Empire in the Gallipoli Campaign was “the defence of the motherland” is bogus. The Gallipoli Campaign of March 1915-January 1916 was not a part of the Turkish national liberation war of 1919-1922. It was a tragic episode in the imperialist slaughter of World War I for raw materials, markets and geostrategic interests that resulted in the deaths of millions, in which the Ottoman Empire, albeit not itself an imperialist power, actively participated on the side of the Central Powers.

By the eve of World War I, the Ottoman Empire, described by Tsar Nicholas I as the “sick man of Europe,” had been weakened by economic crisis and military defeats by the imperialist powers, rival dynasties and national liberation movements. It had become a semi-colony of German imperialism, which enthusiastically supported the Young Turks’ regime led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), since 1908.

Germany provided significant financial aid and investment, training and re-equipping its army. In December 1913, Germany sent a military mission to Istanbul, headed by General Otto Liman von Sanders, who would serve as adviser and military commander for the Ottoman Empire during the war, and organise and lead the defence of the Dardanelles.

On July 30, 1914, only two days after the start of war in Europe, the CUP decided to accept Germany’s offer of a “secret alliance” against Russia. On October 27, the alliance was put into practice when two German warships set sail for the Black Sea and bombarded the Russian navy in Odessa. Three days later, the Ottoman Empire, with a view to recovering territories it had lost in previous wars in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, officially entered the war on the side of the Central Powers led by Germany.

In early 1915, Tsarist Russia, then in combat with Ottoman forces and the German military in the Caucasus, appealed to Britain for relief. With the Western Front deadlocked, the British government decided to mount a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, the narrow and strategic sea-lane near Istanbul separating the Aegean and Black Seas. The aim was to capture Constantinople, knocking Turkey out of the war, and link up with its tsarist ally.

The first attack on the Dardanelles began February 19, 1915, when a strong Anglo-French task force began the bombardment of Ottoman artillery along the coast, launching their main attack on March 18, 1915. The slaughter reached its peak as imperialist troops landed on April 25, after the failure of the naval attacks, commemorated by Australians and New Zealanders every year as “Anzac Day.”

In the following months, little progress was made and the Ottoman army took advantage of a British hiatus in the campaign to bring as many troops as possible onto the Peninsula. In a speech in April 1915, Atatürk told his soldiers in the 57th regiment, “I do not order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can come forward and take our places.”

Few of the regiment survived the war.

The standstill was to lead to a political crisis in London in which the Liberal government was replaced by a coalition.

The deadlock in Dardanelles dragged on into the summer amid disease-ridden conditions. Nevertheless, the British government continued its attacks. It decided to end the campaign only after the unsuccessful landing of early August, finally evacuating the troops in January 1916.

In November 13, 1918, almost three years later and after the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both sides, the Allied Forces would occupy Constantinople in accordance with the Armistice of Mudros that ended Ottoman participation in the First World War, as they hoped, a prelude to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey itself.

The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the most tragic battles of the imperialist slaughter, a war worthy not of glorification but of condemnation. It should act as a spur to opposition in Turkey and internationally to the ongoing eruption of imperialist militarism and war-mongering.

Erdoğan plan for super-presidency puts Turkey’s democracy at stake. The Turkish president’s attempted power-grab is slated from within his own party as divisions between the country’s executive and legislature deepen: here.

Marine biology discoveries off Western Australia


This video from Australia says about itself:

Deep-sea secrets of the cryptic Perth Canyon unveiled

15 March 2015

Scientists have completed a successful two-week mission unlocking the secrets of Perth Canyon, a deep ocean gorge the size of the USA’s Grand Canyon.

From LiveScience:

Huge Underwater Canyon Is Home to Amazing Deep-Sea Creatures

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | March 23, 2015 03:51pm ET

A two-week-long seafaring mission off the coast of western Australia has helped illuminate a deep and dark underwater abyss the size of the Grand Canyon.

During the trip to Perth Canyon, researchers encountered countless deep-sea organisms, including Venus flytrap anemones and golden coral. They even found a lost piece of equipment — an autonomous ocean glider that had gone missing two years earlier.

The scientists, from the University of Western Australia‘s Oceans Institute, began their mission on March 1 on the Falkor, a research vessel owned by an American nonprofit organization. Once aboard, they sailed about 19 miles (30 kilometers) from Fremantle, a city on the western Australian coast. They then used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to explore the underwater canyon, which extends from the continental shelf for more than 2.5 miles (4 km) to the ocean floor. [Marine Marvels: Spectacular Photos of Sea Creatures]

“We have discovered near-pristine, sheer-drop cliffs of over 600 meters [1,968 feet] and mapped structures that are rarely found in other parts of the ocean,” Malcolm McCulloch, the project’s leader and a professor of earth and the environment at the University of Western Australia, said in a statement. “It is truly a huge canyon.”

The canyon likely formed more than 100 million years ago, the researchers said. Back then, it appears that an ancient river cut the canyon during rifting that separated western Australia from India. Nowadays, the submerged canyon is a hotspot for marine life, attracting blue whales and other sea life in search of a tasty meal.

Researchers knew little about the canyon’s structure and the creatures that inhabited it until this expedition. Using the Falkor’s cutting-edge mapping systems and ROV, they explored Perth Canyon at depths of more than 1.2 miles (2 km). By the end of the mission, the research team had traveled more than 1,118 miles (1,800 km) to map the canyon’s 154 square miles (400 square km).

The canyon’s deepest point is 2.6 miles (4,276 m) below the ocean’s surface, McCulloch said.

“It is at a depth where light can’t penetrate, making a dark water column where there are no signs of light from above or below,” he said.

Still, the researchers found a surprisingly rich community of deep-sea creatures that cling to the canyon’s walls. For instance, about 1 mile (1.6 km) below the surface, they found brisingid seastars and mushroom soft corals. Other researchers have documented these animals living in Perth Canyon before, and now these creatures have been found in other deep-sea areas around the world.

The team also used the ROV to collect samples of the deep-sea corals. In the coming months, the scientists plan to determine the coral‘s age, how fast they grow, and whether global warming or ocean acidification has changed their habitat.

The work may also help other researchers, especially those who study deep-sea ecosystems and the factors that threaten survival in these places, they said.

During the project, the researchers also stumbled across an old piece of equipment — an autonomous ocean glider that went missing while it was exploring the canyon more than two years ago. When the team spotted the bright-yellow glider at a depth of about 0.4 miles (700 meters) underwater, everyone celebrated, said Chari Pattiaratchi, a professor of coastal oceanography at the University of Western Australia.

Next up, researchers will use the Falkor to test underwater robotic vehicles at Scott Reef, off the coast of northwestern Australia.