ROCKET MAN: MORE MUSKY GIFTS TO ABACO’S PRISTINE BEACHES
THE STORY SO FAR
In early December a SpaceX (prop. E. Musk) Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral. As it sped off purposefully into Space, the usual associated bits and pieces were jettisoned to fall with great precision into (a) open ocean and (b) a part where shipping was fortuitously absent. In due course (very quickly in fact), chunks of rocket debris turned up on the peaceful shores of Abaco. This is not unheard of: for example in 2012 we had a 12-foot fairing from the Curiosity Mars launch on the beach at Delphi (HERE); and in 2015 other space debris was found on Elbow Cay:
A CHUNK OF SPACE HISTORY, ELBOW CAY, ABACO, BAHAMAS (2015)
The latest space-debris festival on Abaco’s shorelines in December was first discovered at Bahama Palm Shores. ID was established from the partial red SpaceX / Musk logo visible in the below. The new arrival added to the ongoing excitement there of a huge 50′ and (sadly) dead sperm washing back onto the beach in a state of unattractive and ‘stay-upwind-at-all-costs’ decomposition…
Falcon 9 Rocket Fragment on the beach at Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco (2018)
This was quickly followed by a report from Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay. You can read the details of these 2 events as follows: BPS HERE and Elbow Cay HERE.
Falcon 9 Rocket Fragment on Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay Abaco Bahamas
As I mentioned in the Tahiti Beach post, a report from the west side of Abaco had just reached me from Charlotte Dunn, Director of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) at Sandy Point, Abaco. This was a surprising location because – with space-junk washing up on both sides of Abaco – an inference might be that the ‘drop’ area for nose-cones, fairings and the like might be somewhat wider than expected. Possibly wide enough to include a direct hit on land? Anyway, as promised, Charlotte has now had time to take some photos of Sandy Point’s involvement in the saga.
The top photo shows a long strip of space rocket, curving at one end. It’s obviously part of a larger part that was ejected after launch. In the Falcon 9 image below (note the logo matching the BPS part), the eye is drawn to the booster rocket fairings. Maybe it’s part of one of those. It’s not my area, so correction is invited, and probably welcomed if polite…
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad
WHERE ARE THE LOCATIONS IN RELATION TO EACH OTHER?
WILL THERE BE ANYMORE SPACE TREASURE WASHED UP ON ABACO?
With 3 sites now involved, and on both sides of the island, it seems very likely that more has washed up. However, there is so much unfrequented or inaccessible shoreline on Abaco that there may be no further reports from this launch. High tides will most likely take debris back out to sea and relocate it elsewhere.. We’ll have to see…
CAN I ‘BORROW’ A BIT OF ROCKET TO JOIN MY SEA GLASS COLLECTION?
That’s a very interesting question, thank you for raising it. We are in a grey area here, somewhere between things that (seem to) have been thrown away / discarded / abandoned by their owner (res nullius), which may be fair game; and items where it is safest to assume that – despite the careless and indeed haphazard nature of their ‘loss’ – they might still be of value, use or significance to the owner. Each case has to be looked at on its merits; overall, I suspect Mr Musk would like his parts back; alternatively that he may not want anyone else to take possession of them… He is litigious. Your call! In the UK people are bidden to take lost property to a Police Station. You could try that.
WHAT OTHER SPACE-X FLIGHTS OVER / NEAR ABACO ARE PLANNED?
Thanks to Jack Bowers who sent me the link to the SpaceX schedule. Here are some recent completed missions. Note the top one, a launch on 11th January. Now check your local beach…
DO YOU HAVE ONE OF YOUR MUSICAL DIGRESSIONS?
CREDITS: Jack Bowers & others at BPS; Mary McHenry (Elbow Cay); Sandy Walker (Delphi); SpaceX / Space News + Spaceflight Now (unclassified) online material; random debris from OS material
Mars Curiosity Launch: fairing on Delphi beach, Abaco 2012 (Sandy Walker)
ROCKET SCIENCE ON ABACO (2) / ELON-GATE: MORE SPACE DEBRIS
Having seasonally gifted Bahamas Palm Shores the benefit of the debris from his recent Falcon 9 rocket launch (see last post from BPS HERE) it turns out that Mr EM has spread his munificence rather wider on Abaco. And there may be still more to come.
I pressed the ‘publish’ button re BPS a couple of days ago. Within hours, a further report was posted on the resulting FB thread. From Elbow Cay came the news that more space-related debris had washed up on beautiful Tahiti Beach. Mary McHenry posted 2 photos of a strange chunk of junk. I think we can reasonably assume that is from a rocket; and the timing is consistent with it being related to EM and his recent SpaceX program activities.
Mary’s photos show both sides of the gently curved item. I’ve no idea what part this is or what it does, but I hope that we can find out. It looks like a bit of fuselage, and presumably it is one of the parts that detach in the aftermath of a launch and falls back to earth to make an attractive and thought-provoking addition to the ocean and to whichever beach it turns up on.
In this case, it was Tahiti Beach (above), one of the most beautiful locations on Abaco. It is a beach in which I have a particular interest, because each year rare piping plovers hang out there in singles and pairs. It doesn’t seem to be their home, more like a little short-break destination for some quality foraging away from their usual stamping grounds. And to check out any space-based embellishments, of course.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad
ANY MORE ASTONISHING ABACO SPACE HQ REVELATIONS IN THE PIPELINE?
Yes indeed. Within a few more hours I was contacted by Charlotte Dunn, Director of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) at Sandy Point, Abaco. They too had found some space stuff on their beach. This is interesting because, whereas Bahama Palm Shores and Tahiti Beach are on the east side of mainland Abaco, Sandy Point is on the west side. Somehow the debris seems to have spread surprisingly far and wide to both sides of Abaco
I’m waiting for some photos from Charlotte, then I’ll post Part 3 of what may be quite a long sequence. I say that in particular, because yesterday day there was news that another SpaceX Falcon 9 had been launched from Cape Canaveral carrying military hardware into space. I think we can guess where some of the components of this enterprise may wash up – those large pieces that detach over the ocean as the rocket ascends through the earth’s atmosphere into space. Keep your beach-combing shoes** handy… and a camera, maybe.
Tahiti Beach (drone’s-eye view)
CREDITS: Mary McHenry (1, 2); Samantha Regan; Bruce Hallett (bird); SpaceX + Spaceflight Now (unclassified) online material; David Rees (drone view); cartoon, OS; festive Christmas Tree Worms, the wonderful Melinda Riger (without whom… etc etc)
** Mmm. I don’t think these are a ‘thing’ at all; in this context I probably just mean ‘feet’
FINALLY, A VERYHAPPYXMASTO ALLTHOSETHATTOLERATETHISBLOGANDKINDLYCOMEBACK FORMORE
December has seen two remarkable events on Abaco. First, a huge dead sperm whale (estimated 50′ long) washed up at Bahama Palm Shores. Sharks had already had a go at it, and it was beginning to putrefy. An autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death (ship-strike is presumably a contender). It continued to decompose on the shoreline, becoming extremely… well, best kept at a distance. And upwind of it. I’ll post about the sad end of this magnificent creature – the largest marine mammal in the Bahamas – in a couple of weeks, after the festivities at Rolling Harbour Towers have calmed down.
STOP PRESS 🚀 you haven’t even reached the rocket part of this yet, but just to say that a few hours after posting this article, other reports of bits of Mr Musk’s rocket debris washed up on beaches are coming in – Tahiti Beach EC, and just now from BMMRO at Sandy Point. I’ll update tomorrow. 🚀
The second big news event for South Abaco was the discovery of a massive piece of (formerly) airborne debris drifting onto the BPS beach. Everyone was hoping the item wasn’t part of a plane fuselage, as it initially appeared to be. From the initial photos it looked to me like something from a rocket launch, maybe part of a booster rocket. It reminded me of the 12 foot part of a booster rocket fairing from the Atlas 5 rocket which launched Curiosity on its Mars mission, that washed up on the Delphi beach in early 2012. The men in black eventually came to reclaim it… More on that HERE
THIS REALLY IS ROCKET SCIENCE THEN?
Quite soon the mystery of the object’s purpose and origin began to get clearer. Luc Lavallee was quick to recognise the red external markings as matching Elon Musk’s logo, as used by his SpaceX venture. Events moved quickly. Contact with Musk’s operation confirmed that this was indeed “one of theirs”, a part from the latest launch a few days before.
AFTER a large chunk of strange space debris of (initially) unknown origin
BEFORE Elon Musk’s complete Falcon 9 Rocket – note the red ident
SO WHAT ON EARTH* WAS THIS CHUNK OF SPACE DEBRIS?
In the end the item was identified as part of the shroud from a Falcon 9 rocket. There was plenty of opportunity to take a good look at some of the workings. There’s potential here for some quality beach-combing (who would not want an ‘Actuator Latch Right’ rod in their living room?). There are interesting legal considerations in this type of situation… [Worried reader: please, no, I beg you]. Moving on, here’s a selection of rocket bits for contemplation.
More info was gathered, including the discovery of an astounding video from a camera fastened to a Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing, showing the nose cone spinning through space after its separation on a satellite launch earlier this year.
WHAT DOES A ROCKET SHROUD DO?
The nose shroud shields satellites during final preflight preparations and the early stages of launch. Once the rocket reaches space — an altitude above 100 kms / 62 miles — it jettisons the payload fairing to fall back into the ocean. The Falcon 9’s fairing is released in two halves, like a clamshell.
*This is the sort of occasion when people write ‘no pun intended’, though in fact they generally intend one, just rather a feeble one. Like mine, in fact.
CREDITS: Jack Bowers and others from the BPS community for photos, info and investigative acumen; SpaceX + Spaceflight Now (unclassified) online material + videos generously posted on YT; USA Today
MAPPING ABACO: READ A NOVEL, TALK RUBBISH OR DISAPPEAR
I am probably the last person to twig the topological significance of Abaco’s location in the world. An email tipping me off about a TV programme led me to investigate further. There turn out to be 3 ways in which Abaco’s position in the Atlantic Ocean is of special interest. Two are geographic fact; and one is located in the grey area between myth and putative evidence-based supposition (if such a nebulous concept exists…). If everyone knew this already, sorry for being so late into the game. But you get some nice maps to look at, gratis, like the wonderful van Keulen map of 1728 above. About the only marked location on Abaco is ‘Hole Rok’ (now ‘GAP ROK’). For a history of Hole-in-the-Wall in historic maps, click HERE
1. THE DISAPPEARING TRICK?
Until the recent email, I hadn’t taken on board that Abaco is within the Bermuda Triangle. The island and its cays are contained snugly into the 60º tip of the western angle of an equilateral triangle based on Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico. The NOAA map below could not be clearer: Abaco is squarely within the triangle, if that is geometrically possible.
I wrestled with whether to write an earnest discourse along the lines “Towards a Greater Understanding of Triangle Phenomenology”. Then I thought, Nah! If it’s a myth, what’s the point in examining its credibility. If it’s all true, I would’t want to worry you more than I already have by mentioning it… So you can do the hard graft if you wish by checking out the links below. Or you can just move on to section 2. Or relax in the sun, go fishing, find some nice birds, or have a Kalik or 3.
THE WIKI ANGLE Excellent potted overview dealing with supposed position, the main ‘unexplained disappearances’, and the possible causes of these – both natural and supernatural. Frankly, this should do it for all but the most persistent, who probably are more widely informed already.
SCIENCE CHANNEL The top ten Bermuda Triangle theories. Note: may not include your own pet theory of aliens from Planet Tharkron with their Pukotic Missile Rays
HISTORY.COMComes complete with spooky-music video presentation. NB blurb nails its colours to the mast by using words like ‘Mythical’ and ‘Fanciful’ so if you are a believer you won’t want to go here, I suspect.
TEN WEIRD FACTSAn informative video for those who want a bit more sensation.
2. WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH
Rowing through the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch (sandiego.surfrider)
Abaco also finds itself at the western edge of the Northern Atlantic Gyre. Strictly speaking the Gyre comprises a combination of four main currents: the Gulf Stream in the west, the North Atlantic Current in the north, the Canary Current in the east, and the Atlantic North Equatorial Current in the south. It is not synonymous with the infamous North Atlantic Garbage Patch, which is contained within the geographical boundaries of the Gyre. The top image gives a broad-brush idea of the central area of concentration of the Garbage Patch within the Gyre. Abaco looks to be well clear of trouble. But don’t be too optimistic.
North Atlantic Garbage Patch (12Degreesoffreedom)
Looking at various sources, there is some variation in the precise boundaries of the Gyre, though Abaco is plainly within it. Q: is it safely beyond the edges of the plastic peril? A: as any resident will know, the naturally pristine beaches tell a tale of constant plastic and other debris brought in on the high tide almost daily. The incidence depends to an extent on weather and wind direction, but the overall picture is of a relentless intrusion of rubbish on golden and white sand expanses. There is an extent to which what the tide giveth, the tide taketh away; and of course many beaches are scrupulously kept clean. NB I’m not trying to propagate anti-visitor publicity – many people will have experienced the same situation elsewhere.
North Atlantic Gyre Garbage Patch (wired.com)
The research map above shows that, although the garbage hotspots and warmspots are well away from Abaco, the ever-widening circulating soup of plastic, rubber and metal has reached the island. Abaco is in the pale blue zone. Yellow is not that far off. Imagine what the orange or red areas must be like. This sort of thing:
In some places the junk stacks up to form islands with hills
Texas has become a standard ‘unit’ for large area comparisons. I notice that several sources describe the main area of the NA Garbage Patch in terms of Texas. But how big is that (BIG!)? To get an idea, I created a map overlaying Texas on an area centred on the Bahamas. So, Texas is this big…
I’ve got more about some very specific rubbish to discuss another time, so I’ll leave you with the most interesting piece of marine debris to wash up on the Delphi Beach, a 12 ft ROCKET FAIRING from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch! Click link for more details.
3. A NOVEL PLACE TO BE?
The Sargasso Sea is named for theSARGASSUMseaweed found in large concentrations in the area. Columbus was the first person to sail right across the Sea, in 1492 (well, he and the crews of his 3 ships Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria). He noted the large areas of seaweed that his expedition’s ships had to plough through. Eventually he made landfall on San Salvador, Bahamas.
This fine Krümmel map from 1891 shows the extent of the sea, and you’ll see that its western fringes reach the ocean side of Abaco. Have you seen the seaweed pictured below the map? That’s Sargassum.
Sargasso See Map – Krummel -1891
A close-up of Sargassum – maybe it washes up on a beach near you…
EIGHT FACTS ABOUT THE SARGASSO SEA TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS
Jean Rhys’s famous 1966 novel ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ is actually set in Jamaica (nb the Sea is mentioned!)
The Sargasso is the only ‘Sea’ to have no land boundary, being entirely in the Atlantic Ocean
It is vital to mass migrations of eels, where they lay their eggs
Young loggerhead turtles are believed to head for the Sea for seaweed protection while they grow
Much of the debris trapped in the NA Garbage Patch is in the Sargasso, and is non-biodegradable plastic
The Sea is protected by Commission established in 2014 involving at present 5 countries, including (unbelievably) Monaco, the second smallest country in the world at 0.75 sq miles. Green Turtle Cay is about twice the area!
Cultural references include the track “Wide Sargasso Sea” on Stevie Nick’s “In Your Dreams” (2011)
There are loads of other literary & musical references but I lost the will to pursue them when I saw the inclusion of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
If you want to find out more about Jean Rhys’s novel, read it or clickHERE
While writing this post I have had a song thrumming annoyingly inside my head. It’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’, with its coyly rhyming ‘look at it from my angle’. Now it’ll be inside your head too! I couldn’t remember who it sang it. Rupert Holmes? No, that was the egregious “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (1979). Ah yes. Barry Manilow. Bazza Mazza. The Bazzman. As you’ve finished with the maps etc, here’s a musical memory with a counterbalance of the Stevie Nicks song mentioned earlier…
Those cover the Triangle and the Sargasso; what of the Garbage? Try some Fresh Garbage from Spirit…
OPTIONAL MUSICAL NOTES Randy California’s fingerpicked intro to ‘TAURUS‘ is remarkably similar to the later, far more famous guitar work of Jimmy Page’s intro to ‘STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN‘. And Spirit happened to tour with the early Led Zep. Legal action was commenced last year for copyright infringement, as yet unresolved… You be the Judge!
Credits: As credited above; open source; NOAA; mail.colonial; telegraph.co.uk; Sandy Walker;Bogdan Giușcă, Youtube self-credited; Wiki; Random Researches and Magpie Map & Fact pickings
One of the first colour images from the Mars rover Curiosity – a composite panorama 9 August 2012 (NASA)
STIMULATING CURIOSITY IN ABACO
THE DELPHI CLUB’S PART OF THE MARS ROVER MISSION
One of the first images from Mars
CURIOSITY landed on Mars today. This is the best chance yet of answering Ziggy Stardust’s rhetorical question “Is there life on Mars?”, and doffing an astronaut’s helmet to space pioneer Major Tom along the way… Assiduous readers of the blog will both recall that a while ago, the Delphi Club was privileged to be involved in a small part of the ‘Curiosity’ Mars Rover project. It’s a prime example of what one might call “extreme beachcombing…”
“One small part for a space program, one giant chunk of junk for the Delphi beach…” (S Walker)
Here are the links to the 3 short illustrated reports (rockets, boys!) in this blog from early 2012
1. ABACO BEACHCOMBING: MYSTERY OBJECT FROM THE DELPHI CLUB BEACH HERE 1
The discovery by Sandy Walker of the item above on the Delphi Club beach, Abaco: 12 feet of conical mystery
2. ‘SO LONG, ARIANE’: FROM ROCKS TO ROCKETS ON THE DELPHI CLUB BEACH, ABACOHERE 2
News of a positive ID by serial number as rocket débris from the Mars Program Curiosity Rover launch
3. BEACHCOMBING ‘CURIOSITY’ ON ABACO: OUT OF THIS WORLD TO THE RED PLANETHERE 3
Confirmation of this item as part of the booster rocket fairing of the Altas V rocket used to launch Curiosity in Nov 2011
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
The episode had a slightly bathetic ending. Initial lack of official interest in the cone, which I personally hoped could then be planted deep in the coppice or pine forest for future generations to discover and wonder about, suddenly changed. In due course a team of astro-science persons (in a large black truck and white protective suits, I’d like to believe) came and took it away. This forestalled my other idea: cutting it up into hundreds – or thousands – of small pieces and selling them on eBay (possible in aid of the Abaco Parrots). A 12 foot cone of gleaming heat-resistant secret Abaconite space material. 5000 tiny pieces @ $100 each… Hmmmmmmmmm
More news about the the space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club beach, Abaco. The booster rocket fairing found by Sandy fortunately had a serial number on it. Various inquiries have been made and a definitive explanation of the item has now been given by the NTSB. It turns out that the fairing was not, after all, from the Ariane 5 launch in French Guyana. More exciting than that – it comes from a Mars Program launch to put the Space Rover Curiosity on Mars. There’s an excellent Wikipedia article on the mission to be found at WIKIMARS
Bob Swaim at the NTSB has emailed Sandy to say “The serial number of the fairing fragment is from a part that was on a Delta V [sic – it was in fact an Atlas V, see comments] rocket launch of November 26, 2011. In August, a new car-sized rover will touch down on Mars and you’ll have something from the mission!” He has kindly provided a link to the launch – see image below and direct linkHEREHe has also given a direct link to theNASA MARS PROGRAMsite from which I have taken the screen clip below. You will see an image of the Mars Rover Curiosity, and the time countdown until touch-down at the exact moment I took the shot…
I contacted Bill Ailor, Principal Scientist/Engineer, Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, The Aerospace Corporation AERO CORPthinking a booster fairing might be of interest for their rocket debris database. He writes
Thanks for the notification (and for your excellent web page – looks like a wonderful spot). On the website, we catalog debris that has reentered from orbit and don’t include payload fairings, solid and first stage rocket boosters, and other “range” debris, since these are suborbital and the launch is designed so that the debris impacts is in known safe areas. That debris can sometimes float outside of the safe area and wash ashore.I should mention that we recently reentered a small device that might one day float to your beach. I’ve attached a description. Let us know if you see that one
Although the device he mentions may have in fact have landed a long distance away (the South Pacific even), best keep an eye out for this…REBR Fact SheetBy a strange coincidence in a huge world, the Aerospace Database shows that in 1965 reentry debris was recovered from a beach on Abaco:
In early 1965 an object having the appearance of a space fragment was reported washed ashore on Abaco Island in the Bahamas
Possibly from the Atlas-Mariner I booster which was destroyed by the range safety officer shortly after launch on 22 July 1962, and landed in the designated ocean impact area
Apologies if I have got sidetracked from normal beachcombing duties – shells and stuff – but wildlife blogging doesn’t get more exciting than this – well, unless they find a colony of Abaco parrots on Mars…
STOP PRESSRocket part now positively ID’d by serial number – and it’s not from Ariane 5. More exciting – it’s from the Mars Program launch of the the Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’. See latest post at CLICK IMAGE
‘SO LONG, ARIANE’
52 meters / 170 feet, to be precise. The space rocket Ariane 5 is most likely source of Sandy’s mystery object washed up on the Delphi Club beach. See recent post===>>>SANDY’S MYSTERY OBJECT for a full explanation. And here are 2 useful comparative pictures (plus apologies to Leonard Cohen for a feeble pun)