Wednesday, May 17, 2006


End of the Line

The mighty French warship, the short aircraft carrier Clemenceau, has been towed back to Brest, France where its fate is unknown. It has too much asbestos in it to be broken up anywhere in Europe, or, it turns out, in India, where it sailed (was towed) but was turned back by a decree of the Indian Supreme Court. Why don't they just sink it?

UPDATE: Why don't they spray the few areas where the asbestos is (about 20% of the inside of the ship) with a hard resin fixative and then sink the ship in deep water?

Dear Mr. Fraley,

We at Cousteau United object strenuously to your suggestion that the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau be sunk anywhere. The presence of asbestos on the sea floor will have unknown or deleterious effects on marine fauna and flora.

Please do advocate such irresponsible behavior.

Very truly yours,

Cousteau United
Yes, Roger, please do advocate such ... behavior.


Now, why would anyone assume that the asbestos* "will have unknown or deleterious effects on marine fauna and flora"? We are obviously intended to draw an inference that "unknown" can't be "beneficial", but that aside, why would you assume that the asbestos would have any effect at all? Can you point me to a strong, peer-reviewed study? (A study reviewed only by Cousteau United is unlikely to be convincing, BTW.)

Even if we assume that the asbestos would cause a significant problem, we know from many examples that shipwrecks and sunken hulks are quite beneficial to marine fauna and flora. Can you point me to a cost/benefit analysis?

* Asbestos, like plutonium, is all-natural. Heck, it's dang near "organic**".

** Using the term in the perverted way it is used by "organic foods" people, not its "carbon-hydrogen compound" initial meaning.
Dear Mr. Sundseth,

Peer reviewed studies have shown that asbestos causes cancer in limpets.

Very truly yours,

Cousteau United
So sink it somewhere deep where there are no vent communities. How about down that big crack off the coast of Japan?

You wouldn't want fish to get cancer.
Lacking more information about where this study might be found, I'm afraid I find its citation less than thoroughly convincing. But, for the argument, let's assume it is as you report and that it is actually convincing.

Since you make no comment on the balance of cost and benefit, am I to assume that you have no such data, that the data you have supports a position that you'd rather not support, or something else?

Let me just say that I don't find diminishing the quality of life of a few limpets (which might not actually be alive in the absence of a sunken ship -- IIRC, limpets don't grow in mud) to be an especially high cost. And we know that ships sunk in battle (that is, ships sunk without any cleaning of contaminants) make fine habitats for undersea life.

The benefit seems high and the cost low to me.

I could continue but won't. Cousteau United is a soccer team, I think.

You are right about cost v. benefit, but Gotcha anyway.

Huh; it's remarkable how difficult it is to tell the difference between your usual stuff and parody. I'm sure it's just me, though.

Had me going.
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