Lake Baikal. Nerpas are the only living species of seal that is exclusively fresh-water in its habitat and are rudely successful there, gobbling up copepods by the ton in one of the most productive aquatic biomass factories on the planet. They do this with the help of teeth that can puncture straight through a human thumb, as my pal Russ the Fish showed me yesterday. Seals: not cute to copepods, penguins etc. It seemed appropriate for the Russian Navy Военно-морской Флот Российской Федерации to name a nuclear hunter-killer submarine after such a creature and the keel was laid down for K-152 Nerpa in 1993. It was the tail end of a production line that had been building subs against armageddon all through the years of the Cold War. But with the fall of communism, there was less need for such toys and K-152 almost didn't get built. Construction was put on hold until 2004, when the Indian Naval Service stumped up the money to complete the project.
I've written recently about the effectiveness for inert gases like sulphur hexafluoride and halons as fire-suppressants. Halons are related to the CFCs which are depleting the ozone above our heads, but instead of being ChloroFluoroCarbons, they tend to be BromoFluoroCarbons in which the ozone-potent Chlorines are replaced by less destructive Bromines. Halons are also chemically stable even under extremes of temperature and denser than air so they are really useful for displacing oxygen from around flaming objects and so stopping combustion.
Empress of Ireland. Naval and Merchant Marine discipline can be draconian but at least it trains the crew to do the right thing when it matters. The lung-freezing gave me a little frisson myself because something similar happened to my own grand-father when he was left up in an observation balloon over the North Sea in winter.
Nothing daunted by the deaths, Nerpa was renamed INS Chakra and commissioned into the Indian Naval Service in due course.
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