Wednesday, June 30th 2004 - 21:00 UTC

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Headlines:
Live spectacle by killer whales; Tanker involved in Magellan Strait accident abandons yard; Punta Arenas fishermen honor St. Peter; Ambitious energy program in Magellan Strait.

Live spectacle by killer whales.

A herd of six killer whales led by an adult male attacked and forced the grounding of an eight meters long minke whale that finally died in a beach of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, where a huge crowd gathered to see the unbelievable and bloody spectacle. The deadly hunt occurred last Monday when the minke whale severely bitten and bleeding finally ended on the rocky side of Golondrina bay while the predators circled fifty meters away waiting for her to return to the Beagle channel. Much of the chase and attacks by the killer whales were filmed and photographed by many of the Ushuaia tourists and residents who gathered for a once in a lifetime experience, some moaning and crying each time the defenseless victim was attacked. The peak of action was when the leader of the gang closed in and grabbed the minke's tail mercilessly pulling and pulling in a desperate attempt to liberate the huge cetacean that would then have been devoured by the waiting predators. However the whale finally died of asphyxia caused by the heavy weight of her own body on the lungs.

Tanker involved in Magellan Strait accident abandons yard.

The French flagged liquid gas tanker involved in a collision in the Magellan Strait last May finally left Chile after undergoing repairs in Talcahuano ship yard. "Berge Nice" a state of the art gas tanker suffered the accident May 12 when a Punta Arenas "Seacor Laredo" tug rammed against her seriously damaging one of the ballast tanks which caused an oil spill of approximately 100 tons of fuel. The leak was contained by pumping fuel into another tank causing the "Berge Nice" to list. However it was a miraculous accident since she was fully loaded with natural gas. Following the accident and the oil spill both vessels owners had to make a 600,000 US dollars guarantee deposit in a Punta Arenas court in the framework of the Defence of the State bill. Further more, and while an investigation into the accident is in course, both owners also had to leave a "Letter of Undertaking", extended by their insurers in the event of any civil demands. However these Letter of Undertaking documents are not an admission of responsibility in the accident; they simply authorize the vessels to continue working, otherwise they would be restrained to a Chilean port.

Punta Arenas fishermen honor St. Peter.

A thousand people in twenty vessels participated last Monday in the annual Punta Arenas bay procession in honor of St. Peter patron of fishermen. The festivity began with a procession and service in Punta Arenas cathedral by the local bishop Monsignor Tomas Gonzalez. In his homily Monsignor recalled that while the biblical humble fisherman Peter great enemy was Herodes, today "Punta Arenas fishermen face the rough high seas and even the uncertainty of fair prices when they return", which they undertake "with love for their wives and children and to build a new world". Following the service the procession marched to Punta Arenas port escorted by the Chilean Navy's III Zone band where the image of St. Peter was taken on board the Chilean Navy tug "Lautaro". The tug made a brief cruise of the bay followed by other vessels and at midday, close to the naval pontoon, held a service to the memory of those fishermen who lost their lives while flower wreaths were dropped in the bay. A further evening Eucharistic service in the chapel of Jesus Nazarene closed this year's festivities.

Ambitious energy program in Magellan Strait.

The University of Magallanes, Umag, with its main campus in Punta Arenas, has embarked in an ambitious alternative energy program involving wind (aeolic) and tidal hydraulics. Umag Dean Victor Fajardo said the program which has the purpose of drafting an alternative energy matrix for Magallanes is based on research from the Energy Resources Centre and the School of Engineering which have been collecting information for the last ten years. The tidal energy alternative, which is mainly an initiative from the School of Engineering, is considering the feasibility of tide hydrodynamics in the Atlantic side of the Magellan Strait, more precisely in Angostura zones, where some of the largest tidal movements are recorded. Tidal technology was pioneered by France and Canada in the sixties but these dams were costly and environmentally unfriendly. Now technology has advanced and single turbines have been recently developed in the United Kingdom. "Our tides are among the largest in the world with an amplitude of 12,9 meters compared to the 14 meters which is the maximum known and the six meters in the south of Chile", said Juan Oyarzo, Dean of the Magallanes School of Engineering. Mr. Oyarzo argues that these single (tidal) turbines generate less than conventional hydroelectric dams but "cost less to build and are less unfriendly to the environment", and "estimates indicate that in the Atlantic side of the Strait we have approximately 2,100 square kilometers with an average tidal amplitude of six meters". Mr. Oyarzo and academic Fernando Harambour said that the turbine technology is still been tested but could be available by 2008/2010, "sufficient time to map the hydrodynamics of the Magellan Strait and to build a model with all the information about tides and currents". Both academics also feel optimistic about technology transfer when the moment comes, particularly given the experience of Enap, Chile's government oil company, which has been working and drilling in the Magellan Strait area for the last three decades.

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