According to the Web site wordorigins.org, “Scuttlebutt is an early 19th century nautical term for an open cask of water kept on deck for use by the crew. The term comes from scuttle — to cut a hole in — and butt — a large cask. Sailors would gather about the cask and trade stories and gossip, much like modern office workers do at the water cooler or coffee pot. By the turn of the 20th century, American sailors began using the term scuttlebutt to refer to these sea stories and gossip. Eventually the term became associated with any gossip or rumor.”

Maritime Academy training cruise to visit European ports

CASTINE — Maine Maritime Academy students, officers and crew will visit ports in Europe this spring as part of the college’s annual two-month training cruise. According to a Feb. 8 press release, this year’s training cruise itinerary includes Marseille, France; Gibraltar; Kiel, Germany; and Portsmouth, England. The ship will make a brief stop in Rockland for a family day sail on the return leg to Castine.

The training ship, State of Maine, will depart from Castine Harbor at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 4.

Follow the Voyage, MMA’s annual online ship tracking and training cruise activities Web site, will be coordinated by students and staff as part of this year’s training activities. In its ninth year of operation, the site covers the academy’s annual training cruise from a variety of perspectives. Once the ship is underway, the public is invited to join the voyage by visiting mainemaritime.edu and following the Cruise 2010 link.

Complementing the educational focus of MMA’s training cruise, students and staff sailing aboard the State of Maine will work for the fourth consecutive year with the Belfast-based organization Educational Passages to launch small sailboats at various locations. Educational Passages uses 4.5-foot-long unmanned sailboats to enable the study of ocean wind and current patterns by school or community groups.

Designed with assistance from an experienced naval architect, the boats are made of molded fiberglass and are capable of making long ocean passages. They are crafted to sail indefinitely downwind and will transmit their location and boat speed for up to one year. The boats rely solely on wind and current power and need no outside assistance.

Coordinated by program founder Richard Baldwin, Educational Passages will work with local schools to facilitate this year’s program aboard the State of Maine. For more information about Educational Passages, contact Baldwin at richard.baldwin@educationalpassages.com or 338-4087.

For more information about Maine Maritime Academy and its training ship State of Maine, visit mainemaritime.edu.

Study finds flame retardants, stain repellents, banned pesticides in Casco Bay birds of prey

GORHAM — The BioDiversity Research Institute released a new report Feb. 3 documenting harmful contaminants in osprey living in Casco Bay. The report describes the highest level of a stain repellent ever recorded in Maine birds, and potentially in bird eggs worldwide. Additionally, the flame retardant known as “deca” was found in all eggs.

“These results are surprising,” said the report’s author, conservation biologist Wing Goodale of Lincolnville. “The level of stain repellent was so high I immediately checked with the analysis laboratory to confirm the result.”

Flame retardants, industrial stain and water repellents, transformer coolants, and pesticides were found in all osprey eggs sampled in Casco Bay.

The flame retardant deca-BDE, banned in 2007 in Maine consumer products, was found in nearly all osprey eggs tested, indicating it is accumulating in wildlife. Additionally, the study found that 75 percent of the osprey eggs have stain repellent levels that can cause harm to the developing chicks.

“These results are significant because many of these contaminants can interact to create effects more harmful than one toxic pollutant alone,” said Goodale. “Furthermore, our results suggest birds in Casco Bay may have higher levels of contaminants than Midcoast Maine.”

“Since we continue to find that levels of contaminants increase simultaneously, these compounds may cause top predators such as osprey to have greater difficulty hunting and caring for young,” said Chris DeSorbo, director of the BioDiversity Research Institute’s Raptor Program.

The mission of the BioDiversity Research Institute is to assess ecological health through collaborative research, and to use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers.

For a study summary and full report, contact Goodale at wing_goodale@briloon.org or visit briloon.org/contaminants.

Send scuttlebutt to Herald Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello at sauciello@villagesoup.com or call 207-236-8511.