Entries Tagged as 'Science'

Icelandic volcano can’t stop P&O Ferries

Eyjafjallajökull volcano

John Hillman looks back on previous eruptions and discovers some remarkable similarities between then and now

The last time that the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted was back in 1821. At the time it had very little impact on Briton’s travel plans, as ferries to France were, and still are, completely unaffected by volcanic ash. The concept of being strapped in to a hurtling metal box at 35,000 feet hadn’t yet caught on.

Yet a look back on the events of 1821 leads to the discovery of a number of events that bear an uncanny resemblance to goings on today.

George IV was crowned King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. A rather pitiful character, he is remembered for his extravagance and licentiousness during a time of extreme financial difficulties for the country. It is said that as an underemployed prince he often visited Parisian brothels, where he was entertained in a specially commissioned bath filled with champagne.

Prince Harry, who was recently accused of similar profligacy, when allegedly seen splurging £10,000 on champagne in fashionable South Kensington nightclub, would do well to heed the obituary written for his ancestor in the Times. It was a less than endearing eulogy, one which could easily apply to another recently departed leader, one G. Brown of Dunfermline East:

“There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? … If he ever had a friend—a devoted friend in any rank of life—we protest that the name of him or her never reached us”

But the cyclical similarities don’t end here. The summer of 1821 saw the people of Greece in open revolt against their foreign rulers, openly fighting in the streets in a ferocious attempt to gain independence from the Ottomans, an empire famed for being every bit as greedy and bloated as the banking empires that have brought the people of Greece again, 189 years later.

Elsewhere a one of Europe’s great symbols of its empirical ambition lay dying on the Island of St Helena. As the ash cloud of Eyjafjallajökull continues to blow across Europe, the second pocket sized conqueror of the EU, namely the euro, looks in severe danger of going the same way. Its demise would probably be greeted with as much mirth on this side of the Channel as Napoleon’s undoubtedly was all those years ago.

There’s no doubt that the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull heralds a time of great change and upheaval. But it’s nice to know that some things remain constant, and P&O Ferries passengers can rest assured in the knowledge that, whatever happens at 35,000 feet, ships will still be linking Britain to the continent just as they always have been.

Image credit: fridgeirsson

High speed crossing without the ferry


Crossing the English Channel to France has been P&O Ferries’ area of expertise for many years now. Throughout that time it has risen to many challenges and faced down a lot of stiff competition, but, says John Hillman, the latest cross-channel innovation could just prove to be the final straw.

What is the point of P&O Ferries? Getting your car from one side of the English Channel to the other would appear to be the main reason. So it is with heavy heart that we report on the fact that a Swiss inventor has developed a car that simply, er, doesn’t need the ferry.

Passengers on board a P&O Ferries crossing to Calais may soon be witnessing the incredible sight of men such as Mr Frank M. Rinderknecht , boss of the Swiss design company Rinspeed, driving their super fast hydrofoils, simply zipping along on their way to the duty free shops of Calais without a care in the world.

Mr Rinderknecht set the Guinness Book World Record for his English Channel crossing from the British port of Dover to the French town of Sangatte in a time of 193 minutes, 47 seconds. The sight of his sports coupé whizzing along the top of the sea must have come as quite a shock to travelling ferry passengers.

He described the crossing as being like a rather perilous slalom on an Alpine piste, as he had to navigate his way between ferries and super tankers on what is one of the busiest stretches of water anywhere in the world.

So it looks like P&O Ferries can breathe a sigh of relief for now. With all the will in the world there are very few motorists out there who feel confident enough to navigate their way across such a obstacle course, especially with a couple of arguing children on the back seat. Best off sticking to the benefits of P&O Ferries’ Club Lounge for now, we say.


Image Credit: Rinspeed

Stop the grenoucide!


Every year millions of innocent little kermits are being boiled, sizzled and fried to extinction – and all for the sake of a rubbish unsavoury snack. John Hillman thinks that it’s all gone a tad too far.

What is it about frog’s legs that the French find so dammed irresistible? Greasy little slithers of tasteless meat, its flavour dependent on the accompanying sauce, they have about as much point to them, once parted from their unfortunate owners of course, as alcohol free beer and diet cake.

Yet for some reason our friends from over La Manche appear to be intent on eating them to oblivion. Having munched these amphibious absurdities to the brink of extinction in their own region they now seem to be steadily working their way through the entire Anuran population of Asia.

Chefs will tell you that frog’s legs are a rare delicacy, a thing of exceptional beauty; it’s worth remembering that these are the same people who consider spending 18 hours a day in a boiling hot unventilated windowless prison, whilst getting screamed at by an overweight malodorous alcoholic, as some sort of aspirational lifestyle choice.

The French import 4,000 tonnes of frog’s legs each year from Asia. Coupled with climate change, increased use of pesticides and the destruction of their natural habitat they have little or no chance of surviving in any meaningful way.

I’m absolutely convinced that a people as sophisticated as the French, who have given so much to the world through art, philosophy and culture, are unaware of the effect that this pursuit-of-the-pointless-peccadillo is having on these poor helpless little green men.

Surely if they did they would desist from the destruction of an animal whose hind quarters have been made famous throughout the world but can no longer keep on giving. Surely enough is enough? Perhaps they could turn their attention to a new yet equally silly gastronomic proclivity. Badgers testicles perhaps?

Image credit: JoshMe 17

Get back on the boat!

Jersey Channel Islands 2008 - christmas time by jorbassa

P&O record a sharp seasonal increase in sales, reports Peter Moore


With a trip on a British aeroplane increasingly resembling a stint in Bergen Belson Concentration Camp, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that more and more of us are opting to take to the seas instead.

P&O Ferries recorded a late surge in ferry passengers in the last part of August, as thousands of Britons decided to head to Calais to enjoy a late summer holiday in the north of Europe.

The sharp increase hit its peak over the bank holiday weekend. Speaking earlier in the month Simon Johnson, P&O’s sales and marketing director had predicted:

‘We’ll be a few percent up on the number of passengers, cars and coaches carried over the Bank Holiday. Our ferries to France, from Dover alone will carry close to 140,000 passengers over the weekend.’

Now one can only speculate, but it’s probably not just the delicate lure of French cheese, the historic Norman coastline, a weekend of glamour and romance in Paris or an expedition into deepest Belgium that has managed to attract us across the Channel.

No. It could be that we’re fed up with the Orwellian horrors of the typical British airport, where we are searched, poked, prodded and scrutinised before being lined up to board the plane as if we were about to complete a lap of the parade ground.

In comparison to this, a voyage on a P&O Ferry appears faintly idyllic. Driving into the belly of the boat in your own car, watching the deck hands cast off from the quay, bobbing gently over to Calais with the white cliffs melting into the horizon behind you.

It’s a choice that many Britons have chosen over the past month, with people preferring the romance of the waves to the oppressive sterility of Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.

Mr Johnson said:

“As the peak season draws to a close we can be confident that we’ll finish this year slightly ahead. That’s a considerable achievement in the so-called year of the staycation. We’ve been highlighting the affordability of ferry fares for self-drive family holidays compared to the cost of flying and the message has clearly got through.”


image credit: jorbasa

Marine Conservation and P&O


P&O Ferries has a lot of policies to decrease carbon emissions, pollution and waste; they also play an active role in marine conservation through a number of innovative partnerships. Murali Podila takes a look at who they are and what they do to help the seas we sail over.

P&O Ferries, as an industrial company, tries to play a major role in decreasing its environmental impact both on and off the sea. Examples of this include the sulphur scrubbers on board the Pride of Kent and a stringent attitude towards dumping waste and recycling.

Their role in marine conservation is no less active. P&O Ferries actively participates in the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme, Marine Conservation Seasearch and also assists the National Oceanographic Centre Southampton (NOCS) in their research.

The partnership with NOCS serves a very important purpose, as it undertakes vital scientific research into marine organisms, ecosystems and oceanic behaviour, particularly looking at the effects and behaviour of their currents.

Oceanography, or marine science, is an earth science that covers a vast number of topics such as Geochemistry, ocean biology, ecosystems and ocean currents and behaviour. The NOCS make use of the Pride of Bilbao by putting equipment on the ferry to measure properties of the ocean water such as temperature, salinity and the density of plankton.

The equipment used, a FerryBox, is an automated instrument that is filled with different sensors and analysers, providing a valid alternative to buoys, which are often both expensive and very high maintenance. The complexity of the instruments in the FerryBox is usually dependant on conditions in and around the ship. These measurements help scientist’s at NOCS learn more about the oceanic conditions and how they affect the wider environment.

The NOCS is a world renowned oceanographic research institute that achieved international recognition after its contribution towards understanding the ocean’s role in the global climate system, and continues to work closely with P&O Ferries as mankind struggles to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st Century.


Image Credit:  State library and Archives of Florida

P&O Ferries unveil Disneyland offer

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at twilight by Loren Javier

Shaking hands with Mickey Mouse has become a rite of passage in the western childhood, and Peter Moore suggests that this summer could present you with the perfect opportuntity.

For the average eight year old growing up in Crouch End, Disneyland Paris really does represent the end of the rainbow.

Whether it’s strolling through landscaped gardens, whizzing around in teacups, gazing up at the pointed spires of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle or breakfasting with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, there is plenty to fire the childhood imagination.

And, for the parents who have long been considering a trip to cartoon nirvana, the latest P&O Ferries offer could be just enough to encourage them out of their tree-lined suburbs and get them on their way.

Until 30 September P&O Ferries are offering free adult entry to Disneyland with each ferry ticket that is bought for crossings between Dover and Calais.

It’s a flexible, alluring offer. The ticket is valid for one day, lending itself perfectly to day-trippers or for those who would like to combine the fun and thrills of a theme park with a few days’ of culture and art in the nearby city of Paris.

And because you’ve crossed the Channel by ferry, you’ll be able to have your car along with you for a true European road trip. No longer will you be at the mercy of airport queues, paying through the nose for dry sandwiches and warm fizzy drinks.

No. You’ll have the freedom to mix a day out at Disneyland with whatever else it is that you’re after. You could picnic in the Champagne region, pay homage to the battle fields of the western front or plan a stop in Lille, Bruges or Brussels.

All told, a trip across the Channel with a free ticket to Disneyland in your pocket is a good start. From then on, the rest is up to you.


P&O Ferries’ great Disneyland offer could help you safe substantially on your summer holiday. For £23 (or £33 on Saturdays), you can get a Dover-Calais ticket for a car and up to nine people (which is worth £35) and a FREE adult hopper Disneyland Paris ticket.

The Disney ticket alone would cost more than £45 on the gate.

To find out more about this offer, please follow this link.


image credit: lauren javier

A free holiday for a local hero

friends / amigos by pasotraspaso

Peter Moore looks at P&O’s search for an unsung-hero.


As a company, P&O Ferries’ unwritten mission, as modern capitalism goes, is quite admirable: to get as many of us as possible to take a holiday.

And, in an extension to their usual strategy of low fares and excellent service, they have just launched an online offer which encourages members of the public to nominate local heroes who ‘deserve a free holiday.’

It strikes me as a fine idea. By nominating a local hero we are prompted to think about individuals that really make a different in our community, and it drags our attention away from the popular media and their unbending focus on celebrities and their bizarre culture with which it is almost impossible to relate.

As any ancient Egyptian would tell you, societies are not built by bronzed narcissists strolling along a beach. They are built by community-spirited people: by nurses, policemen, vicars, teachers, doctors and shopkeepers. And these are precisely the people that P&O Ferries has set out to reward.

A description of the offer, a family holiday in Normandy, has been set out on the P&O website:

“Who do you know that gives up lots of their time to help others? Is there someone who is a community champion in your local area? Is it a hard working mum or dad who runs a sports club? Or a fund raiser who’s tireless efforts raises money for local causes?

Let us know who’s hard work and dedication deserves a holiday, and thanks to P&O Ferries’ Local Heroes campaign the winning family will be transported from Dover to Calais courtesy of P&O Ferries and then onto the Residence MGM Houlgate, Normandy resort.”

To learn more about this promotional offer and how you can nominate someone from your community, all you have to do is visit the P&O Ferries website today.


Image credit: pasotraspaso

The real final frontier?

diagram-of-solar-wind-effect-on-the-earths-magnetic-field by Chriss Purgeon

New research could revolutionize our understanding of our oceans and change the way we look at them forever, says John Hillman

New scientific research has been published with suggests that our planet’s magnetic field is being produced by ocean currents rather than molten metal swirling around at the Earth’s core.

If this is correct it means that the movement of salt-water is the only thing protecting us from a nasty encounter with high levels of solar radiation that wants to burn up our atmosphere and destroy all life on our planet.

And magnetism is also what makes all our electronics work, so if correct does this mean that the sea is underpinning electronic communication? Weird.

Despite scepticism from many quarters of the scientific community, the report, published by Britain’s Institute of Physic’s New Journal of Physics (now that’s what I call a snappy title!) puts forward ideas that could revolutionize our understanding of geophysics and show that we have badly underestimated the effect caused by the continuous movement of large amounts of salt-water around the planet.

It would also present a possible explanation for the mysterious behaviour of the north and south poles which swap places every 800,000 years or so. Ocean currents change and adapt according to external factors, such as climate change and the movement of tectonic plates, so this could alter the strength of the magnetic field in different parts of the world from time to time.

The magnetic field has always been thought to have been generated by the Earth’s core, a thick ball of white-hot iron surrounded by liquid metal which, as they move together, generates the magnetic field that penetrates 1000s of miles out into space and keeps us all safe and healthy – it sounds completely logical.

However if correct the new research will blow this orthodox hypothesis out of the water and make everything we thought we knew about geophysics irrelevant. It could be wrong, but at the very least it demonstrates just how much there still to understand about the world around us and especially about that big blue wobbly thing that our genetic ancestors crawled out of all those millions of years ago.

image credit: per ola wiberg

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