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Lifeguard Builds Blimp to Scan Australian Beach for Sharks

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Australian lifeguard Kye Adams is using an old-school piece of aviation technology to spy on sharks from above. As reported by the Illawarra Mercury, project AIRSHIP (Aerial Inflatable Remote Shark Human Interaction Prevention) consists of a camera-equipped blimp used to spot sharks lurking offshore before they can do harm to swimmers.

The 16.4-foot craft took flight for the first time on Friday, October 7 above the waters of Surf Beach in Kiama, Australia. Using onboard survey cameras, the blimp relays real-time coverage of the ocean surface to a lifeguard-monitored laptop on land. If any shark-shaped shadows are seen swimming in the water, lifeguards can evacuate the beach before any unwanted shark-human interactions occur.

Kiama beachgoers are familiar with the threat posed by sharks: In March, a surfer sustained serious injuries when he was attacked roughly 300 feet offshore. On the other side of the continent, beaches in Western Australia are about to launch a three-month trial of a shark-spotting drone that will work similarly to Kye’s AIRSHIP. The major difference is cost: while $88,000 is being invested in the drone’s trial run, the blimp only costs $5000 plus $500 to $1000 a month for helium.

The shark-scanning blimp's official test run is set to take place from late December though February, coinciding with Australia’s summer vacation season.

[h/t Illawarra Mercury]

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John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia
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New Plankton Species Named After Sir David Attenborough Series Blue Planet
John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia
John Phillips, Getty Images for Tourism Australia

At least 19 creatures, both living and extinct, have been named after iconic British naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Now, for the first time, one of his documentary series will receive the same honor. As the BBC reports, a newly discovered phytoplankton shares its name with the award-winning BBC series Blue Planet.

The second half of the species' name, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, is Latin for "blue planet," likely making it the first creature to derive its name from a television program. The single-cell organisms are just thousandths of a millimeter wide, thinner than a human hair, but their massive blooms on the ocean's surface can be seen from space. Called coccolithophores, the plankton serve as a food source for various marine life and are a vital marker scientists use to gauge the effects of climate change on the sea. The plankton's discovery, by researchers at University College London (UCL) and institutions in Spain and Japan, is detailed in a paper [PDF] published in the Journal of Nannoplankton Research.

"They are an essential element in the whole cycle of oxygen production and carbon dioxide and all the rest of it, and you mess about with this sort of thing, and the echoes and the reverberations and the consequences extend throughout the atmosphere," Attenborough said while accepting the honor at UCL.

The Blue Planet premiered in 2001 with eight episodes, each dedicated to a different part of the world's oceans. The series' success inspired a sequel series, Blue Planet II, that debuted on the BBC last year.

[h/t BBC]

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'Angry Badger' Terrorizes Scottish Castle, Forcing Closures 
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Portions of the 16th-century Craignethan Castle in Scotland were shut down last week after a less-than-friendly badger holed up there and refused to leave. Historic Environment Scotland, which manages the site in South Lanarkshire, sent out a tweet last Friday notifying visitors that the property's cellar tunnel would remain closed over the weekend “due to the presence of a very angry badger.” Staff tried to coax it out with cat food and honey, but the badger did what it wanted, and they were unable to move the mammal.

A spokesman for HES told the BBC, "The castle is surrounded by woodland and we believe the badger may have become lost. Staff first spotted some dug-out earth on Wednesday evening, and later spotted the badger on closer inspection."

On Saturday, staff used a GoPro camera to check out the tunnel from a safe distance and learned that the badger had left voluntarily, but not before making a mess. The critter dug through both soil and stonework, according to The Scotsman. The castle, an artillery fortification erected around 1530, is already partly in ruins.

Craignethan Castle in Scotland
Sandy Stevenson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Badgers are not typically dangerous, but they can become aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened. They can be seen year-round in Scotland, especially during spring and summer. Earthworms, bird eggs, small mammals, fruit, and roots are among their favorite meals, and they can even be “tempted into your garden by leaving peanuts out—a tasty snack for our striped friends,” the Scottish Wildlife Trust says.

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