Radio Waves

This week saw the highest equinoctial spring tides of the year around the UK. Professor Philip Woodworth of the National Oceanography Centre appeared on Radio Lancashire and Radio Merseyside to explain what causes tides and also talk a little bit about why predicting future tides and calculating historical sea levels is important. For instance, tides played an large role in Julius Caesar’s decision to attempt a landing in Kent in 54BC and also the timing of the battle of Hastings.

A very large equinoctial spring tide will occur in September 2015, which should make for a powerful tidal bore in the Mersey Estuary.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

Tidal bore on the River Mersey. Photo by Colin Bell.

You can hear Prof Woodworth using the listen again feature at the BBC Radio Lancashire website (02:41:00) and the BBC Radio Merseyside page (02:50:39).


Finalising OERs

As mentioned in an earlier post (“Students at work”), we have created Open Educational Resources (OERs) based on the digitised historical sea level data, our aim being to publicise the recovered data. We each created an OER based on a specific area of interest; these were

  • Sea level data and its uses (focusing on the principles, perception and mathematical uses of the data)
  • Extreme events (focusing on principles of storm surges and how to use historical data to identify them)
  • Tidal formation (focusing on the physical principles and using the data to identify tide trends)

Graph showing sea level readings

These OERs have been made accessible to everyone so that anyone interested in sea level, history, etc, can learn the basic principles, which they can then build upon if they choose to. Creating OERs has been interesting and we have learnt a lot through doing this. It has been enjoyable to have free reign over the subjects chosen within this area. Each OER is very different from the next even though they tie together.

Being students ourselves we have first-hand experience and current knowledge of how students like to study. We know there are a variety of ways to learn and have tried to incorporate these into the OERs. We are grateful for being involved in this project with the British Oceanographic Data Centre and hope that what we have created will be helpful to the public in enhancing their interests.

Shoot first, ask questions later

Recently we began filming our end of project case study video. We decided to start by interviewing the students who worked on the Open Educational Resources about their experiences. We also spoke to their supervisor, Senior Lecturer Dr Harry Leach from the University of Liverpool. We asked him to tell us why he thought saving historic sea level data was important.

Interview room

We put our newly developed filming skills to use – we used two cameras, a video camera and a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR), to capture the interviews from two different angles.

Our colleagues at the National Oceanography Centre had filmed in a room in our building recently and created a diagram for others to use, showing where to put the camera, lights, interviewer and interviewee in order to make the best use of the natural light. This made it quick and easy for us to set up. We had to deviate from their instructions slightly as they’d designed a setup for filming one person, while one of our interviews was with three people.

Layout of equipment for filming the interviews

We’d planned our interview questions beforehand and managed to film about 15 minutes of footage, which should give us plenty to edit down into a five minute video. The only problem we had was some very noisy seagulls outside, but I think they’ll lend a suitably maritime atmosphere to the piece!

Conference Call

We would like to announce a forthcoming workshop on Major Research Topics in Sea Level Science. It’s being held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) and will take place at the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum on the 28th and 29th of October. The workshop is open to all, but free registration is required by the 16th of September.
Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) LogoThe workshop will focus on aspects of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group I), but there will also be a session on Data Archaeology, including talks and a poster session, where we will highlight the work we carried out for this JISC project.

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool (photo credit: Ian-S, flickr)

This workshop precedes the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) Group of Experts (GE) meeting, where we will present a progress report on techniques for the digitisation of archived mareograms (tide level recordings).

Counting the Cogs – The Mystery Machine

Today I attended a meeting of the Sea Level and Ocean Climate group at the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, where Professor Philip Woodworth gave a short talk about tide prediction machines.

Prof Woodworth started with a brief history of tide predicting machines. The concept was demonstrated by Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) but Prof Woodworth argued that Edward Roberts should also be considered for the title of ‘Father of tide predicting machines’. Roberts was a mechanical engineer who built many of the machines put into use. Only around 25 machines were ever built and 20 of them were made in Britain. The very first machine is now in the Science Museum in London.

One of the very interesting aspects of the talk was a bit of detective work that Prof Woodworth and his colleagues had been involved in. I blogged recently about a film of a tide predicting machine that we’d had digitised; this machine was initially thought to be the Roberts-type machine currently in storage in Liverpool. However, upon closer inspection (including carefully counting the gears) it transpired to be a mystery machine. The Roberts machine in Liverpool could analyse 42 tidal constituents but the machine in the video only had 30 wheels. After a lot of questions and emails Prof Woodworth discovered that the machine in the video was actually a Roberts-type machine that had been built for the Soviet Union, which ended up in Moscow.

Other tidal prediction machines are preserved in museums around the world. These include the biggest machine ever built, in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

Prof Woodworth is now investigating where the other missing machines are and if they are still in working order. He has started to contact the various agencies around the world who were known to operate them. We hope to get the Roberts or Doodson-Légé machine back out on display in the future.

Model tide predicting machine

The photo is of a functioning model of a tide predicting machine built by engineers at NOCL to illustrate the principles of a machine. The model was running at the talk.

Lens is more

I mentioned at the end of last week’s post that I’d like to try time lapse photography. This week, I’ve been doing a bit more research. We’ve got a couple of Canon DSLRs at work so I had a look on the Canon website for more information on time lapse photography. There are four tutorial videos by award-wining photographer and “Canon Explorer of Light” Vincent Laforet.

From the website:

“Vincent Laforet introduces basic time lapse concepts including what to look for when searching for the ideal time lapse subjects, how to ensure smooth movement during playback, and other useful tips to get started.”

I found the videos really informative and now think I could probably have a go at shooting a time lapse movie. Here’s a photo that might give a bit of a clue as to what I’d like to film…

Crosby beach - photo by Bev Goodwin

Photo by Bev Goodwin

The only slight issue is that I don’t think we have any of the lenses that Vincent recommends in his tutorial videos. I had a quick look online and they all seem to cost about £1500! I’ll have to see if I can do it with a cheaper wide-angle lens instead…

Talking Shop

The National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, holds a weekly seminar every Wednesday during university term time. Though the lab specialises in shelf sea and sea level science, the seminar series is broad in scope, covering all aspects of oceanography, climate science and geophysical fluid dynamics. Seminars are attended by Ph.D. students, researchers and senior scientists from NOC and the University of Liverpool.

The Joseph Proudman Building, home of the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool. Image credit: Rept0n1x (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Joseph Proudman Building, home of the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool. Image credit: Rept0n1x (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Next week, I will be giving the seminar, the title of which is “Marine Data Management: Past, Present and Future”.

Read the abstract:

The first section of the talk will focus on data archaeology and I hope to explain the importance of recovering, quality controlling and distributing historic data. I’ll be discussing the JISC Sea level project as an example. It will also help raise awareness of this project within the lab and at other organisations and let people know there will be more data available soon.

Tide Films II: This time it’s on Youtube

In September, we blogged about unearthing some historical films in our archive. Since then, we’ve been able to digitise the footage and investigate further.

One of the films is now on YouTube. “The Progression Of The Tides” is a film made by the Liverpool Tidal Institute some time in the 1960s. An educational film, it explains how the sea level around the UK changes over the course of the semi-diurnal tidal cycle. Below are screenshots from the video.

Progression Of Tides screenshot

Progression Of Tides screenshotWatch the complete film on YouTube.

Fluent ENGrich

This week we had a meeting with the JISC ENGrich project group, based in the School of Engineering at Liverpool University, about producing Online Educational Resources (OERs). As the group are located in the building just across the road from us, we decided it was about time we went and saw them.

Brodie Tower, University of Liverpool

They gave a very informative presentation about the group’s past, present and future projects, including the CORE-Materials repository. As the staff there have so much experience of producing OERs, as well as pioneering student-led learning, we decided to ask for advice as to how we might put our OER plan into action. We learned a lot about the strategic upload of resources!

We had happened to pick a day where the ENGrich team were filming their final report video, so were able to ask questions about the techniques they used and what equipment and editing software they recommend. We picked up a few tips on how we might produce our own video.

Let’s hope this is the start of a very productive partnership.