A Long, Frozen Rescue and Sharks on Twitter

A helicopter from the nearby Chinese icebreaker Xue Long arrived to pick up the first batch of passengers from the stranded Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy.

Nobody had a longer week than the 52 scientists, journalists and tourists waiting to be rescued from a vessel trapped in the frozen waters of East Antarctica. But for fishermen in Maine, where the shrimping season has been canceled because of a dearth of the crustaceans, it will be an even longer winter.


Exploration: An Effort to Rescue the Rescuers

It took eight days, but the passengers of a chartered ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, were finally rescued Thursday when a Chinese helicopter deftly landed on ice near the vessel. The ship became stuck on Dec. 24 after pack ice driven by high winds froze it in place about 1,700 miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.

But on Sunday, the United States Coast Guard sent an icebreaker to retrieve 120 crew members aboard two similar ships — one from China, one from Russia — that became trapped in ice while trying to rescue the original ship. The Coast Guard ship, which had been docked in Australia, should take about a week to reach Antarctica, officials said.

Marine Life: For Shrimpers, a Lost Season

New England fishermen hope that the decision to cancel the shrimping season in the Gulf of Maine will help replenish the supply, even as they struggle to bear the winter without work. Rising water temperatures and loose restrictions have chipped away at the Gulf’s shrimp population for years, and regulators are betting that a season off will help revive it.

The shrimp typically found in the Gulf, Pandalus borealis, are small and sweet, with a delicate, edible shell that is popular in Europe and Scandinavia. Some believe that rising temperatures cause the shrimps’ eggs to mature too fast and hatch too early.

Medicine: Vitamin E and Alzheimer’s

After years of inconclusive research into the effects of vitamin E on Alzheimer’s patients, a new study suggests that high doses do carry some benefit for some people. For people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, 2,000 international units of vitamin E daily slowed their functional decline for about six months over a little more than two years. The vitamin did not slow their decline in cognitive or memory functions, but it did seem to temporarily preserve the patients’ ability to perform daily tasks like bathing and dressing themselves. Also, the high doses were found to be safe, countering an influential 2005 analysis that said they could increase the risk of mortality.

Entomology: Bad ‘Breath’ Saves a Caterpillar

Researchers in Germany may have discovered the insect equivalent of smoker’s breath, Phys.org reports. The tobacco hornworm is a caterpillar with a fondness for its namesake plant. The researchers, whose study appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that when they introduced a reduced-nicotine tobacco plant to the hornworms’ diet, they soon became defenseless against wolf spiders.

The study found that the caterpillars vent some of the nicotine through their skin to produce a sort of pesticide fog that drives away some, though not all, predators.

Space: 1,058 Finalists for Mars

Mars One, the Dutch nonprofit that plans to send people on one-way trips to the red planet starting in 2024, winnowed its applicant pool last week to 1,058 from 200,000, CBS News reported. The initial cut was used to separate “those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously,” like those who were nude in their video applications, said the group’s co-founder. The next culling will occur later this year.

Coming Up

Marine Biology: Foiling Sharks by the Tweet

This summer in Australia, beachgoers looking to avoid sharks can just follow their activity on Twitter. Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with transmitters that alert a computer when they swim within half a mile of a beach, NPR reported. The computer then sends out a Twitter message with the shark’s location. You can follow their activity on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia account at @SLSWA. Happy surfing.

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