NOAA’s Journey In Ocean Exploration

NOAA’s Journey In Ocean Exploration


>>Craig McLean: Good morning. And thank you for having me. And thank you for
setting up this forum. I also want to start off with
just a quick note to recognize that that very gracious
introduction would probably be undermet with the nature
of this presentation. There’s several really dynamic
people that are here today that I also wanted to
thank and acknowledge. And one is Alan Leonardi,
who is currently the Director of Ocean Exploration
Program in NOAA. Another is Mike Walker, who helped me put this
presentation together. And a third one is Ola
Armor [assumed spelling], who is part of the NOAA
General Council Team. Who has been working with us on all these matters
of exploration. International Law, and
Shipwreck preservation. We’re not just about shipwrecks. We’re not just about
any one thing. We’re about everything, and
when it turns to the oceans. So let’s dive in. What if you were to notice a
planet in this solar system or the next, and you were
to recognize of this planet that it had a toxic, or
hostile atmosphere to humans. At least the majority of it? If you were to find that it was
unmapped to human-known origins. Or our ability to
surveil and quantify. If we knew that there
was life on this planet. If we knew that there was
non-photosynthetic life as the dominant life
form on this planet. If methane was a huge
driver, not oxygen. And if we knew that we could
harvest anti-cancer compounds from this planet, how much do
you think that we would spend to go to and explore
this planet? But truly, that is planet Earth. That’s one causation I’d ask you
to consider, as to why we need to explore the Earth’s oceans. And if there’s any of those
attributes I just mentioned that you don’t feel comfortable
with, I’m happy in the Q & A’s to take your question and to recognize this
is a mapped planet. This is a planet
dominated by an environment that is hostile to human beings. We cannot breathe sea water. People experimented
with that in the 60s. And it was pretty interesting, but not effective
and not productive. And this is a planet
on which we have found in those oceans anti-cancer
compounds. And because the origin of human
life came from the oceans, the chemical processes, in
those primitive organisms, are the basis of our chemistry. So that which goes wrong in our
body, could be better understood by understanding the early
evolutionary stages of life that are found in the ocean. Well we’ve been at
this for some time. This is not NOAA’s earliest
program of ocean exploration. This, I think, comes — come on
I’m trying to waken you up here; liven you up early
in this morning. This was not our
Mod one; mark one. But it goes back pretty early. And humans have sought to answer
questions about the ocean. And understand the oceans
better, for quite some time. We’ve had some pretty
cool old ideas. Which have become some
pretty cool new ideas. And even some contemporary
systems. And the one you’re looking at, at the lower right
is actually a part of the current US
Navy/Submarine rescue system. That puts a diver in a
one-atmosphere, flexible suit. That idea came about
in the early 1900s — which you see on the far left. But the concept and the
engineering has been perfected up till current days. Now a lot has changed over time. And this is NOAA’s pedigree. This is NOAA’s roots and origin. This shot is of a coast and
geodetic survey officer. And those of you who enjoyed
Skip Theberge’s presentation — Captain Albert Theberge’s,
for — who’s currently with the
NOAA library, but had retired after a very honorable
career serving with the NOAA Commission
Corp. This young lad — you might note what
his grade is. He doesn’t have that
many stripes on. You can also consider him
potentially expendable. Because what he has in
his hand is a package of explosive material. Basically a bomb. That’s in his right hand. And in his left, is a stopwatch. So he’s going to start that
fuse — light that fuse — throw the bomb over the
side, and wait for the bomb to settle into the seawater. Hopefully at some
distance from the hull. It will then explode, and the
explosion will send a sound wave to the sea bottom, and then
back up to a hydrophone on the ship that’s
listening for it. And we will then map a very
deep part of the ocean, based on the delay time return,
between explosion and echo. Are you with me so far? When this goes wrong, it
goes really bad wrong. But when this goes right, we get a depth determination
of the ocean. Well fast forward. Today we have electronic means to produce a little chirpy
sound rather than a big bang. And that little chirpy sound
can be with a single transducer. Or with a multi-phased
transducer. And we can get pretty much
an underwater photograph of the sea bed. And we could really understand
a high degree of resolution of the sea bed — what’s
underneath the water. We’ve not done that with very
much of the world’s oceans. We’ve only done that
with about 18% to 20% of the United States’
exclusive economic zone. 20% of the United States
exclusive economic zone. We are underperforming,
unfortunately. But that’s a public choice. That’s not a recognition
of anything that’s going on within the Department
of Commerce or within NOAA. But for commercial interests,
we should pay attention to that. We’ve heard many people cite
that there are better maps of the moon and the planets
than there are of planet Earth. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography hosted a mapping
colloquium several years back. And they produced this very
illustrative graphic that shows, on the left-hand side, a piece
of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. A submerged feature
on planet Earth. Not too far away from where we
might vacation on Eastern shore. And then a comparison with
an equal sized area — same square number of nautical
miles — on the right-hand side. And you could just see the level
of definition and the fidelity of a mapping product that
is rendered for a planet, rather than our own home. There’s a little
problem with this. When you try to map in oceans,
you’re mapping through water. When you try to map a
planet, you’re mapping through often the
vacuum of space. Or just an open atmosphere with
very minimal gaseous components. Physically, it’s easier
once you propel a rocket up to that planet. But the complexity of working to map the Earth’s oceans,
deals with pressure. Deals with temperature. Deals with many other
facets physics, that fluids like
water present to us. That gaseous atmospheres don’t. So it makes sense why we have
better maps of those planets, but it’s an embarrassment
for us as humans, to say that we know our own
neighborhood quite poorly. May I ask, how many people
might be familiar with this map? Very good. Very good. Would you be surprised to learn
that most of the seabed features on this are interpretive
— artistic interpretation. Rather than solidly-founded,
scientific knowledge to affirm each location? And that is the truth. This was produced as an
artistic, supplemented rendition of the Earth’s oceans. It is remarkably accurate, but it is not absolutely
foolproof, proven, or positive. This map lends the public
a mistaken impression that we know a lot more
about the oceans than we do. And it is not illogical what
features have been hand painted into this. But these features
are not affirmed by scientific surveillance, in order to confirm the
facets of the oceans. What you’re looking at in the
blurred background is satellite surveilled fidelity
— or relief — of a particular area of
ocean in the Atlantic. What you’re looking at on the
inset is from a surface vessel, using the transducer-like
device I described earlier. An electronic chirping device — a fathometer, or a
multi-beamed fathometer. We could see the difference
in the fidelity of the detail that we can detect
on the seabed. And this is in about
1,500 meters of water. So it’s not insignificant. It’s off the Continental Shelf,
and it’s in deeper water. But satellite oceanography
answers some of our questions. It is a proxy for our ability to
really know what’s in the ocean. So we could detect that
there is a Washington DC, under water for example,
from a satellite. But we can’t know
the neighborhoods. We can’t know the complexity. And we can’t know the
life that lives within it. So this comparison shows us
the distinction between mapping by satellite — which
adds to our knowledgebase. But it doesn’t complete
our knowledgebase, because you could see the
difference in the features that we’re looking at. Here’s another example. And now I’d like to twist
this around a little bit to further remind you
of, not chest thumping, and tell you how much we
know about the oceans. But I’d really like to
humble myself and explain to you how little we really
do know about the oceans. And what marvelous discoveries
we’re making very late in the game; very recently. Consider the Galapagos Islands. Anyone here been there? To the Galapagos by chance? I highly recommend it. If you’re interested
in eco tours, and more understanding your
planet; understanding evolution. Darwin’s papers on
evolution were rooted in observations he made
in the Galapagos islands. But one of the most absolutely
startling discoveries that came for evolution of life on
earth, came not immediately in those Galapagos islands, but within the exclusive
economic zone, in an area called
the “Galapagos Rift.” So let me digress
for just a moment. I’m a proud graduate
of a responsible, academic institution
in New Jersey. I’ll not embarrass that
institution, but I’ll tell you that when I received
my degree in 1979, as I stepped off the podium, I realized that it was
completely obsolete. And my degree in Zoology was
remarkably underprepared. Because just two years
earlier had been the discovery of tubeworms. An exotic, extreme life
form, we called worms. Which really aren’t worms. Because we didn’t know
what else to call them. And that discovery totally
turned on its ear the idea that we have plants and animals. And then we’ve got these little
squiggly things in the middle. The little squiggly
things in the middle turn out to be a far more dominant
life form than any collection of plants on dry land. Or any collection of
animals wet or dry. They are the more dominant
life form on Earth. Not tubeworms, but
the whole collection of microbial colonies
that exist. And actually, those
worms are not worms. They’re not polychaetes. They are aggregates
of single-cell and multi-cell organisms that
come together in a community. They look like, but they
aren’t what we think they are. That could go as an
accurate description of just about everything
that’s under the sea. So in the Galapagos Rift,
let’s talk now about where that discovery took place. Think of that first
shot I showed you. How big or how wide
Google Earth — or any other representation
you might want to look at — zeroes on in. And I was telling you we don’t
know much about the Earth — about the submerged
portion of the Earth. So we’re on the Galapagos Rift. In there, we’re looking
at an area in that rift that basically is equal — if
you could see the orange line in there — maybe somebody in
the back just give me a wave if you could see the orange line
in that superimposed circle? Thank you. That’s the distance
between DuPont Circle and the Key Bridge
— to make it local. That is the distance equal
to the portion of the rift that we examined with human
occupied submersibles. And also with robotic
vehicles that were manipulated and operated from a surface. That is the neighborhood within which we found
hydrothermal vents, that were producing the
release of minerals. Mineral-laden hot water. And that was the environment that we found these
tubeworms in. And we continue to find them. The more we look;
the more we find. But this isn’t a
walk in the park. It’s hard to get there. It’s also not a walk in the
park in terms of discovery. Because a lot of that bottom
is just flat and unremarkable. Geologically charismatic — in other words, lumps
and bumps and things. It’s not just flat sand. But the areas where the vents
are found are interposed; intermittent. Not continuous. So it is really an
exploratory venture to go down and find these. But the killer is, think
about how small that area is. From a metro stop to a
bridge in Washington, DC. That’s the area covered
to find this dramatic and remarkable discovery. That we have this whole other
life form that’s not based on light. It’s not based on
photosynthesis. It’s based on chemosynthesis. And it’s a much earlier
form of life in an evolutionary prospect. And we only discovered
this in 1977; 1978. That’s remarkable. How much we don’t know. Tubeworms for the illustration. So how much of our
planet remains unexplored; undiscovered, and undocumented? As technologically sound
as our society is, 95%. We have not laid human
eyes on far more than 95%. But as an accommodation
of what’s been mapped. What’s been studied. What’s been digested. We have a long way to go. That we could only discover
something as dramatic as tubeworm colonies and hydrothermal
vents in the late 70s. That’s pretty remarkable. This is the Tamu Massif. Massif is a geological term
for a very large structure under the sea, kind
of like a mount. And Tamu — in case any
of you are graduates of the Texas A&M University,
that’s what’s that’s all about. And Texas A&M was the discoverer
of this particular feature. It’s the largest geological
feature under the sea — not tallest, but largest. You don’t sneak one
of those things in, if you really know
your neighborhood. And only in the past
decade was this discovered. Now’s about the time that
we need to recalibrate where we are, and think
about what’s going on here. How much we do know and
how much we don’t know. So Ola may I borrow you? You’re probably not
familiar with this device, but I would just describe it
generally [background laughter]. Ola and I play in
a band together. So you can surmise anything else
you want [background laughter]. Now we’re going to put a clear
beverage in here, just to the — don’t drink it —
just to the amount.>>He knows me well.>>And could you read
the label please?>>It says water. Water.>>Completely.>>Sea Water.>>Thank you. Sea water [sloshing
water sounds]. Can you fathom the notion that
there are a million microbes in a shot glass of sea water. Anyone disbelieve that? You’re a very trusting
group [background laughter]. But it’s true. The compression of life in
just a shot glass of sea water, at a microbial scale,
it’s remarkable. It’s absolutely remarkable. But that’s our planet. And because we don’t see it, we’re not inclined
to believe it. And we’re not inclined to
have curiosity about it. We only seem to really enjoy
and pursue our knowledge on the things that we can see. But there are millions
of microbes in small quantities of water. And they do dramatic
things to our earth. And they do dramatic
things to our life. They basically give us what
is most precious to us. And I’m going to show you right
here a zoom of stained microbes. You don’t normally see
microbes with such color. You have to stain them
in order to look at them. But what I’m calling out
to you in the very center, is a gene that’s
called pelagibacter. Pelagi is open ocean. Bacter as in bacterium. And the pelagibacter is
a pretty unique critter. It’s got the smallest
genetic package of any single-celled organism. Now viruses are smaller,
wrapped up packages of DNA. But for a microbe, this is the
smallest known package of DNA. Interesting. Anecdotal. But the importance of
pelagibacter is that these bugs, these critters, range anywhere
from 25% to 50% of the bugs in that shot glass I showed you. They are remarkably abundant. They must have an important job. What they do is digest
organic material in order to make available the minerals that plankton needs
in the ocean. That’s nice McLean. What’s that have to
do with anything? That plankton produces 50% of
the oxygen we breathe — 50%. Do we know how pelagibacter
responds to matters like oil spills,
or climate change, or increased sea temperature. Not yet. 50% of the oxygen
we breathe is dependent upon these bugs. The most abundant bugs, in
the ocean, doing their job. We just discovered these. We, not NOAA. University — Oregon
State University and other scientists discovered
these within the past decade. The past decade. How much do we know
about this planet? How much do we know
about this ocean? We survive on these bugs. And we just figured out that
they exist and what they do. We have a ways to go. Now what could this
possibly have to do with ocean exploration? Let’s go back to the bugs. Let’s go back to the microbes. A compelling question for
NOAA, which has quite a bit of responsibility in scientifically
assessing oil spills and helping the Coast Guard to
clean them up, or to get ahead of the progress of a spill. Oil and oil-based products
were liberated at depth, to the surface, and
into the atmosphere. We had a magic group of
atmospheric chemists who figured out what the flow rate of
that was from the atmosphere. That’s a whole nother
talk that we could give. But in terms of the oil that
was entrained in the sea bed at about 1,500 meters. And it floated on into a, what
was described in newspapers by lay press as a plume of oil. It actually was carbon
compounds of six chain rings. And it was part of the material
that came out of the well. Other parts float
to the surface. Other parts were
atmospherically evaporated and constrained in
the atmosphere. But the part that stayed in the
sea bed was digested by bugs — bacteria — that we
did not anticipate. We did not know could
do that job. And a remarkable, if
not marvelous amount of that material was digested. It had environmental
consequences. And that’s being proven and
litigated now as we speak. Those environmental
consequences are not the subject of the debate. The fact that there was a
microbe that was capable of digesting such a
voluminous quantity of these six-chain carbon rings
shouldn’t be a mystery to us if we really know
this environment. This was right in our back yard. This is our own exclusive
economic zone. This is where we harvest
and recover resources to contribute to our economy. Well here’s another one
I want to share with you. I’m very proud to say I
took this picture myself. And it’s a no-light rendition of
what the under sea looks like. It’s dark. You lose light at
about 1,000 feet. Certain places, like where
I grew up in New Jersey, diving there, you lose light
a lot sooner than 1,000 feet. I’m talking about in
the water now, right? [Background laughter] and you —
it’s a tough place to operate. That’s one of the reasons why we
don’t know what we don’t know. But another reason is because
we just haven’t looked. So let me travel to a
different place now. What do we know about the ocean? So tough questions. In fact, I was invited
to a forum where I was told this mystery
voice out in the distance — a very deep, tonal baritone, would be introducing
the speaker list. And they said, “This
god-like voice will emerge and introduce each speaker.” And I thought, “Well
that’s pretty interesting, because I’m going to lead
with four god-like questions.” And they are these. How many fish are in the ocean? What will the weather
be like tomorrow? What will the weather
be like, 30, 50, 100, 1,000 years from now? And this one. Does a wise man build
on shifting sands? So consider those four
god-like questions. And we have this very
proud agency inside of the US Department of
Commerce, called NOAA. And our principal mission is
to answer those four questions. That is what we do. We in NOAA, an environmental
intelligence agency, as Dr. Sullivan, our
administrator, would remind you. These are our missions. How many fish are in the sea? That’s our ocean
mission by and large. We manage the nation’s
marine fisheries. What’s the weather going
to be like tomorrow? You hear from these
good folks every day. The National Weather
Service — part of NOAA. As far as the weather,
100 or 1,000 years from now, or 30 years from now. That’s climate science. And that’s what we are very much
a backbone of inside of NOAA for the United States
government. We join other agencies
in performing this task. But most of it is INOAA science. And coasts building
on shifting sands. The national ocean service
of NOAA is responsible for addressing those issues. And making sure that
we have a sound, and robust coastal
management policy for all the coastal states
in the United States. That’s our mission. That’s what we do in NOAA. We’re very proud to see,
for at least the first time in my 33 years in NOAA,
that NOAA is included in the Department of
Commerce Strategic plan. And I applaud any of you here who had anything
to do with that. ‘Cause we’re now
part of the family. NOAA’s about 50% of
the commerce budget. About 50% of commerce people. And it’s really nice to be in
the plan [background laughter]. So we’re proud of that. We’re proud of that. And we appreciate the support. Secretary Pritzger has
been a remarkable advocate for NOAA in the department. And we feel it. We appreciate it. We see it. And we’re embraced
by a reception through the entire process
that we have never — I have never seen before. And I just want to express my
gratitude to anyone who’s part of that commerce family
who’s contributing to that. But we are tied to
the Department of Commerce Strategic Plan. We are a major component,
if not the component of the environment objective. Data — we produce big data. We also make it available
to the public so that economies
can be built on it. There’s a multi-billion
dollar industry in after-market weather
services, that come on what NOAA provides through the National Weather
Service to the public. And then of course in terms
of operational excellence, we’re all contributing
to that objective. But that’s very much one
that we take seriously because of the significant
complications in our operations. So as an environmental
intelligence agency, we start with basic
observations. And that’s really what the
Ocean Exploration Program does. We explore to observe. We record what we find. And those observations lead
to long-term observations in the same or similar places. Which then lead to
an assessment. To modeling. And eventually to forecasts and
predictions of the environment. Our current priorities
right now for NOAA, and Cathy Sullivan’s leadership, is to make our communities
more resilient. That’s wet and dry communities
— coastal, inland, etcetera. To evolve the weather service. Produce more modern products
or enable the weather service to improve its extension
of forecasts. And to invest in
operational infrastructure. A lot of this is satellites. A lot of this is
wet infrastructure that helps us in our mission. And of course, back
to the commerce goal, achieving environmental
excellence. We do that across NOAA by
putting people in the water to look at bleaching
coral and other subjects. We have a proud fleet of
NOAA ships that travel, certainly throughout
the United States, EEZ, but also throughout the world. Answering tough science
questions. We have satellites that
surveil planet Earth and bring us information
that adds to our knowledge and understanding, and gives
us our weather forecasts route information. And we also work with
ships or unmanned, or unoccupied platforms. This basically is — I declare
it a perpetual motion machine. It’s pretty amazing. There’s a second half of
this little device that’s under the water. And this is commercially made
by some really smart people out in Silicon Valley. And they’re working with the
ocean community quite widely. And we’ve used these
devices quite often. If we could take sensors that
we formerly had put on ships, and put them on devices
like this. And still get the
same science answers, we’re saving the public
a whole lot of money. So we’re looking at that. More on that to follow. We’ve even recruited
some willing — in some cases, not so
willing — oceanographers. But we’re looking at a marine
mammal in the upper left — who duly permitted under the
Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act
— is carrying a transceiver. And we’re finding that as the
animals traverse the marine environment, they are actively
collecting science information that we would find
remarkably expensive if we were sending a ship to sea
to gather that same information. It also gives us information about this animal
and its cohorts. What their population
is all about. What they feed on. What they need for environmental
conditions and the like. So it’s a win all
the way around. And then finally, the
supercomputer environment. NOAA has been enabled over
the past couple of years and budget cycles to
increase its access to high-performance computing. This is giving us the means
to improve our forecast. And to produce better models. And to be serving the public
in a far more accurate way. A dollar spent on high
performance computing has multi-dollar returns on
it in a remarkable way. So a little bit about NOAA. A little bit of background. Now let’s get back
to why we explore. How much money does the
coastal economy generate? I’ll just let you read
through these, but please, the notion here — and
I hope you take it — is that we have a
remarkable amount of our economy concentrated
on the coasts and in the ocean environment. The transport of
all of our goods. We’re giving you 75% of tonnage
coming into the United States. But over 90% of goods come into the United States
by ship and by sea. We are a maritime nation. We’re a hungry nation. We feed ourselves with many
things, including fish. We have a seafood appetite, and we are a net
importer of seafood. Globally we have to manage fish. It’s a huge economic driver
for many coastal communities. And there are a lot
of a people and a lot of dollars engaged in that. Economic facts of energy. In the Gulf of Mexico alone, 30% of the nation’s
energy is produced there. And that number’s probably going
up, as we improve our ability to handle gas rather than oil. And that’s the Gulf
of Mexico alone. This probably would be
the surprise to you. The numbers — a trillion
dollars contributed to the USGDP for tourism — marine-based
tourism. So why do we explore? Why do we want to know more
about this environment? Think of the bugs. Think of the examples
I’ve just given you about what we don’t know. Compare that to the
environmental benefit that we’re extracting
from the ocean. Do we have any basis
of knowledge to think that we are optimizing
that extraction? Do we have any basis
to really think that we are maximizing our
protection of that environment to sustain that economic
harvest? If we don’t know the things I’ve
just cited that we don’t know, what else don’t we know? I’m starting to sound
like somebody. I’d better stop right there. So back to planet Earth. Another approach in concept. How much water is
on planet Earth? Would this illustration
surprise you? That if bundled up all the
water — fresh and salt — and put it into a
three-dimensional graphic and compared the two spheres. One sphere, all the water. Which you see right over
the central United States in this image. And the balance of
the planet is now dry. Relatively speaking, the
oceans are not that deep when you consider the
dimension of our planet. Yet that thin veneer of sea
water that’s distributed to 70% of the surface of Earth — or
to constitute 70% of the surface of Earth — remains the barrier
for us really understanding and knowing, number one,
the biology of what’s in it. Most of which is microbial and we can’t see it
without microscopes. And the balance of which
is obscuring our ability to surveil the other
parts of the planet. How about the atmosphere? Our atmosphere is
really quite thin. It’s just that, once
again, another thin veneer. Only in this case it’s gaseous. 60 miles thick. Some would argue
maybe even 100 miles. But by the time you get
to 100, you have nothing. You have no chemical
constituents. You have vacuum of space. Consider how remarkable it is, that in just a couple hundred
years, we’ve managed to pollute that thin, veneer of gas,
upon which we are dependent, based on our CO2 productivity
since the Industrial Revolution. That is remarkable. I mentioned earlier, I
grew up in New Jersey. I think I mentioned I
grew up in New Jersey. I lived on one of the most
polluted rivers on the planet. That river today is
a super fun sight. It was very disappointing —
disheartening to me as a kid who had a lust for
ocean-related stuff. To realize that I couldn’t
swim in that river. And that if I got river
water splashed in my face, my dad would take that
bottle of whiskey. And make sure that I washed my
mouth out with scotch whiskey. The cheaper stuff. The better stuff I learned about when I got older
[background comment] [laughter]. Good eye. It was
disheartening to me to realize that that water mass
that my dad swam in when he was a teenager,
I couldn’t swim in. It was too heavily polluted. I was able to wrap my
mind around the notion that what we do to
a localized river, can result in remarkable
levels of pollution. To the point where the
productivity of the water. The stuff that lives in the water is totally
turned upside down. I got that. I could understand
that scale and scope. Particularly growing
up in New Jersey, where I could see how dense
the population was that lived around the watershed
that fed into that river. I have a hard time putting my
mind around the scale and scope that we have polluted
the atmosphere. That we are polluting
the ocean in the way that we are addressing
planet Earth. And we don’t know the simple
stuff that I’m trying to convey to you, that we don’t know. The harms we’re doing, we haven’t really
fully comprehended. And the harms that we’re doing,
without minding our manner of living, is something that
we need to get our arms around. So please, the point
I’m trying to make here to really convey is, exploring
the oceans is very important to our own survival, ultimately. So we’ve come a long
way in doing this. And not just through the
history of NOAA’s program, but NOAA’s program goes
back pretty early, to 1807. Back to Skip Theberge’s talk. But back to the creation of
the coastal geodetic survey. The very first science agency
in the United States government. We went from sail to steam. And from steam to
diesel in our fleet. And we’re slowly
making progress. Some ideas have popped up. And, as I showed you earlier with the diving suits,
they keep coming up. Up on the left-hand
side is FLIPP. FLIPP is an academic vessel that
can be transported horizontally. But then half of it sinks to have a depth profile
capability through the water. And it can occupy as an ocean
station, much like a buoy would, only you can have people
living on that buoy. On the right, is
the Sea Orbiter. Which is a design from a
group of French imaginers. But also ocean engineers
and ocean scientists. That is underway, and I understand they’re
actually cutting metal and starting to build this. And there’s a lot of
sponsorship around the world to help this become a reality. How many divers in
the room today? Very good. Very good. I think you’d recognize that that’s not our
common diving suite. And that’s not how we —
most of us started diving. That’s a re-breather that
is recreationally available. Military’s been using
rebreather’s for some time. But our extended depth range,
because of mixed gasses and these types of
tools becoming available to the late public, are
a remarkable opportunity for scientists as well. So things are changing. Well let’s look at the
timeline for exploration. The continuum from
left to right deals with precursor agencies
before NOAA. You can see that
NOAA started in 1970. And the Alvin — which recently
celebrated its 50th birthday up on Capital Hill — that
was quite an exciting time. The Alvin was one of the early
deep submergence vehicles that was available to the
global scientific community. And now we have many. We have in Jamstec, and we
have a distinguished delegate representing Jamstec. Our close partner in Japan. Japan — excuse me, Jamstec is
the NOAA analog I would say — or NOAA is the Jamstec
analog in the United States. And we have a very close
partnership in Jamstec, and they have the Shinkai,
which is a very capable, deep submergence vehicle. We have China. Russia. France. We have other nations that
have human-occupied vehicles. We look also at the
autonomous vehicles. They started quite early. I suppose you could consider that the first autonomous
vehicle was the military torpedo. But start replacing that
payload, instead of munitions, with science-sensing equipment,
and we can really get a lot of work done with these devices. Back to what I said earlier. If we could replace those
observations from ships, where we have to play for cooks, and engineers, and
deck officers. And line handlers,
with just a vehicle that can mind its own
business and traverse the seas, and come on back with
that information, we’re going to save
a lot of money and force multiply
quite quickly. That started that early. And we’re still working to perfect those
inside of our community. We start with the
Manned Undersea Science and Technology Program. Which was pretty much
an underwater NASA. A series of explorers,
divers, and equipment, including habitats and the like. That really put people in the
water and looked at a future where humans might actually
even live under water for long periods of time. If you think about
that, we do that today. Oil; maintenance in the Gulf
of Mexico and the North Sea, involves saturation divers
who live 2 plus weeks in pressurized chambers. Sometimes those chambers
are under water. Sometimes those pressurized
chambers are at the surface. But they are at a deep sea
pressure, and live their lives to a significant
extent, that way. These early experiments helps
to develop that technology and enhance our economy,
through diving technology to maintain the oil
infrastructure. North Sea. Gulf of Mexico. And the rest of the world. Our habitat world continued
on with the creation of the NOAA Undersea
Research Program. Karen Cohonowich [assumed
spelling], who is an aquanaut, and is sitting over
there in our audience. Karen thank you for being here. Karen came over from
the Navy and then helped to run our Aquarius,
Habitat, and other missions of the Undersea Mission Program. So putting people in the water, and having people
live in the water. A lot of economic gain
came from those experiments and that initial understanding. We then start to move
over into combinations. The autonomous and the
steady-state monitoring through buoy systems. We do a lot of that today. We don’t have to send
oceanographic research ships to the same place so many times
a year to gain observations which are pretty narrow
in the time scale. We can put buoys in place. Maintain those buoy networks
with a ship that would just go out once, twice a year,
to maintain those buoy’s, recover the information, or bounce the information
off of satellite. But we also then get ourselves
from this very humble beginning, all the way up to the creation of the Ocean Exploration
Program in the year, 2001. That largely came from the
Under Sea Research Program. And National Marine
Sanctuary Program. Energy and Initiative. And we had a NOAA
administrator at the time, called Scott Goudes
[assumed spelling]. And Mr. Goudes had worked also
on Capital Hill for the Senate. And he very much understood
the appropriations world and mechanisms. And he was able to give
us $4 million in 2001 to start the Ocean
Exploration Program. So with $4 million and a new
program, noting the expense of ships and the like,
the key question was, what square nautical mile
of ocean are we going to go and explore with $4 million? [Background laughter] but our
community is not a financially rich one, but it an
intellectually rich one. And we were able to
build partnerships with other federal agencies. Other nations. And other players. So that we took that $4 million and accomplished
12 initial projects in our first year of activity. We were also able to obtain
what was recommended for us by a presidential panel. A dedicated ship
for exploration. This is the NOAA ship,
Okeanos Explorer. And the way it works is this. We don’t use human-occupied
submersibles that much anymore. We use largely robotic devices. So we have this device called
the “Remotely Operated Vehicle” that is on the sea bed. It’s about the size of
your compact Ford Explorer. Not the full Expedition,
but the Explorer size. And it has a tether
that reaches back to an underwater suppressor. Deadweight. With lights and cameras. So it’s a chandelier
light, in effect, for the device to operate under. Provides an additional source of
light and intelligence by seeing where the vehicle is operating. And that transmits up to
the surface on a hard cable. And I have a piece
of the cable here which you could go
up and pass around. This cable — we have
6,000 meters of it. It can take a lot of weight. And it conducts the electricity
down to operate the vehicle. And it conducts the
image back up. And it’s not an insignificant
piece of equipment. And it’s pretty heavy. But that goes up to the ship. From the ship, in
the control room, we bounce that satellite image
and distribute it on land to many different locations. The result of this is — and
here’s the real-life version of what that cartoon was. The result of this, is that
we have many more scientists participating than are
trapped in the control room. Grainy picture. I apologize. That’s — during our
“Titanic” expedition. I’m going to get
to that shortly. But the discovery of the
Titanic is on the left. And a badly aged image
of me on the right. Our control room on
the Explorer is this. And you would think that we
were actually conducting a lunar landing. The complexity of the
operation is about the same. Only we’re doing it here
on our planet, Earth. Mirroring our activity
are academics. Technologists. Graduate students. High School students. On the other end of an internet
connection all around the world. And the growing number of
these centers where we team up with academics,
and get the benefit of their knowledge applied to the observations
we’re making real time, is giving us a huge reach
across the science community. It’s a very different
way of doing business. And we’re proud to say that
we now have really two ships in our program. We have the NOAA ship,
Okeanos Explorer — dedicated federal ship. And we have a private ship
on the right, the Nautilus, which is operated
by Robert Ballard. And the foundation
that he has created. A legendary explorer, and
huge advocate of what we do, and we do it together. But now, we’ve got
people like Google. And we have other
private investors who have acquired wealth
through many means. And they were investing
in oceans themselves. So the challenge for us is,
can we harness that energy and those dollars, and apply
them in a concerted way, where we can gain benefit by working together
rather than independently. All right. So I was asked by the
sponsors to say a little bit of something about my self. And these are my beginnings, in
the center and the upper left. Diving as a 14-year-old kid,
on shipwrecks in New Jersey. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity
through NOAA to make a tour through the whole diving
program and the like. But I also spent 25
years driving ships. That’s probably a good day. Most of the days you’re
hanging on for dear life on George’s Bank, because
it’s pretty rough up there. And I didn’t age gracefully, but that was during
our Titanic expedition. We — I’ve spent some time in
these deep sea submersible, which are tightly cramped. Here’s a picture with
the Russian pilot. This is the Mir submersible. One of several I’ve been
able to make dives on. And on the right-hand
side is George Bass. Anybody familiar with
George Bass or his name? You’re cheating. Dr. Bass is recognized
as the father of Maritime archeology,
globally. And we were making dives to the
Titanic to pursue some activity that Congress asked
us to investigate. And if you’re going to look
at a shipwreck for the purpose of historic preservation,
you either bring (Ola Armor), or you bring (Georg Bass). And Ola was busy, so I got
George [background laughter]. Tight, tough, cramped. You and your two other
friends are going to be together inside an
area about the interior of a small car for the
next 12 to 18 hours. Something else — this
is the Aquarius Habitat, which NOAA has proudly
owned for decades. We’re just in the
process of transferring that to Florida International
University. Where we hope the academic
community can pick up and run what had been a
cutting edge body of technology, and still will continue
to contribute to our science community. And this is also
something I was very pleased and proud to be part of. This is the turret of
the ironclad “Monitor”. The Civil War Ironclad Monitor. If any of you go down Route
64 on your way to Outer Banks, or anywhere near it, I implore
you to take the opportunity to stop in at the
Maritime Museum — the Mariner’s Museum in Newport
News, and see the artifacts that came off of the “Monitor”. They’re right off the
highway; easy for you to visit and you’re back on the
road before you know it. But you’ve been enriched
with a significant chunk of maritime and US history. So the recovery of the “Monitor”
from off of Cape Hatteras, is a project that we
did with Sanctuaries. With the Exploration Program. But also with the
United States Navy. I think we all need to be proud
of the Navy’s contribution in this, because
without the US Navy, that turrets would
not have come up. Now what has this small
program accomplished? I started to tell you
that we were year 1, 2001. We had $4 million. We’re hovering around
$20 a year. If you multiply that
by 1,500 times, one thing is that’s
a lot of money. The second thing is that’s
about how much NASA’s budget has for human space exploration. So compare ocean exploration
with space exploration. 1,500 X is the delta. And I’d invite you to
draw your own conclusions; do your own math. Given the problems that we have
to manage here on planet Earth. Given what we don’t
know on planet Earth. That is more than a
rhetorical question. Whether or not there’s
a distribution that we need to be mindful of. So this program has mapped — and actually that’s
a stale number. It’s in excess of $600,000
square nautical miles. We need to show you a
map of the United States, and show you how big 600,000
square nautical miles is. That’s huge. That’s about the whole
eastern seaboard. That’s a big chunk
of the United States. We’ve mapped that with
this program since 2001. The ship itself, the Explorer, the dedicated ocean
exploration ship that you pay for as taxpayers has
done about half of that. That’s pretty remarkable. One little ship doing
all of that. Over 1,100 surveys. The number of dives we’ve done. In 2014 alone, we’ve
had 9 canyons. 5 sea mounts explored. The number of scientists is
exponential, and you can’t carry that many on one ship. But our telepresence
lets us do that. Five historic shipwrecks
discovered just this year alone. And this is key. This is really key. We’re challenged to manage
— as I mentioned earlier, that how many fish
in the sea question? We’re challenged to manage
the nation’s marine fisheries. We have to do that with
information reliable enough to set quotas that an entire
industry is dependent upon. Our ability to do that
is in cases limited. Because as I pointed out
earlier, all the challenges of working in the sea, and then
having to extract that number from living populations of fish. But when we can discover
new habitat for the fisheries
managers to be aware of. To incorporate in
their regulations that protect that habitat. If that’s a nursery. Or a point of a fishery
that really furthers and enhances the stock,
you want to protect that. You want to be careful of that. If we don’t have good maps of
the ocean, how could we be sure that we’ve got all of that
essential fish habitat known and quantified? This program has done a lot for, and I think we are
the new best friends of several fishery
management councils in the Gulf and East Coast because
of work we’ve been doing over the past 2, 3 years. They’re realizing that as we
start getting a little bit farther off of the — off the
beach, on the Continental Shelf. And we start looking
at that shelf edge. In the canyon communities,
there’s a lot of habitat that people never
realized was there. And habitat — when
I say habitat, it’s not flat, empty sand. There are charismatic
components of geology. In other words, in
technical term, lumps and bumps on the bottom. And what lives on
lumps and bumps? Corals. Soft corals. Other types of organics
that fish can feed upon. Or small micro environments
can get established and help raise fish
up to their adulthood. We had a pretty remarkable
return in the number of gas seeps that were
detected this past year on the East Coast. And in a cooperative that
NOAA performed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we found a remarkable
number of these gas seeps. 300 or so. Scientists who spend their
careers studying this, would surmise that these are not
immediately harvestable sources of gas, much as we have in the
Gulf of Mexico under salt domes. But these are, in fact,
degradation of most likely, methane deposits
that are part of a — effectively, a frozen
methane mass in the sea. And a number of countries are
looking at the feasibility of harvesting methane
hydrates, as they are known, as an energy source
for natural gas. This one, I think you might
want to pay attention to. The Ocean Explorer — if
you have a pen and a pencil, the thing to write down
is, Oceanexplorer — all one word — .noaa.gov. Really cool website. It’s won Webbies and
other kinds of awards. But the most fascinating
thing is it’s a window to the ocean for this program. 10 plus million visits. And this one blew me away. I was notified by our team
over in ocean exploration, that we were approaching
1 million downloads of classroom curricula. So one thing that we do in
order to foster stem education and get people plugged
into an ocean awareness, is to produce for teachers. Made by teachers. Classroom lesson plans. I’ve got a couple
of nieces who are in the educational system
in Montgomery County. An they impart to
me the challenge of producing a lesson plan. The amount of time it takes. And all the hours
that are invested in order to be a good teacher. If we can give the
teacher the lesson plan that they can teach from,
we’re reducing their time. And we’re helping them
to bring ocean subjects into the classroom and satisfy
state-mandated technology subjects in the classroom. So we were all ready to
buy a birthday cake — I was even going to
spring for the cake. And put 100 candles on it and celebrate the 1
millionth download for the classroom lesson plans. And then my bubble burst. I realized — once I
started listening — no. No. No. McLean, that’s
not for the whole program, that’s just this year. And while I was wildly ready
to celebrate, then I hit me with that this year, that we’ve
got only 2 million classroom education lesson
plans downloaded. Put in the hands of kids. Put in the hands
of school systems. And I would venture to say, there’s at least one
kid per lesson plan. Maybe more than one
kid in a class. We’re reaching a lot of
youngsters with this. It’s something I would
encourage you to look at. Something else you can see on the Ocean Explorer
is this digital atlas. Every one of those little
dots is a major project that we have undertaken
over the past 10, 11 years. And as you zoom in on
it, you can even look at where the ship’s tracks are. And you could see the degree
of coverage that we have in the most important areas. Which is the continental
shelf edge and shelf slope. And you could see where we’ve
been working all the way up to the Canadian border, out
to the east and sea mounts. That are part of
our US fisheries. Because the fish stocks don’t
know geopolitical boundaries. They get raised in other
places, and they come and swim into the US waters. And a lot of work in
the Gulf of Mexico. I could show you a similar
image for the West Coast and other parts of the world, but I’d encourage
you to look at that. Another project that this
program has been working on, in cooperation with the
O ocean service of NOAA. And also with the
State Department and Interior Department,
is to expand under the law of the Sea Treaty — which
even though we’re not a member; ridiculous that we’re not — but
even though we’re not a member of the law of the Sea
Treaty, we still abide by it. And in the law of the Sea
Treaty is a formulaic method of calculating where
thee extension of our continental
shelf might be located. Now we have an exclusive
economic zone. And we have the opportunity
to harvest resources and have control over
those, out 200 miles. But we can extend
beyond that for resources that are on or in the sea bed. And that’s what the Continental
Shelf Extension is about. I want to thank Peter
Oppenheimer in the second row with the General Council here
at NOAA, and Olav for work on that project as well. Well we’ve got some neat
stuff that you can see. If these were extraterritorial
or extra — excuse me, extraterrestrials, we’d get pretty bugged
out over them. But effectively friends,
they are extraterrestrials. They are not of the land. They are not from here. But they are undersea creatures. This is a chimera and
it’s a cartilaginous fish. There’s no bone in this critter. One of the oldest
fishes that’s in the sea. A dumbo, not elephant,
but dumbo octopus. And quite unique in
its form and formation. It’s got its — he or she,
has their tentacles wrapped up ball-like, in order
to more hydrodynamically propel themselves. We’re finding sea mounts. I won’t say everywhere we look, but something that’s really
remarkable is to be able to get proximate to
an undersea volcano. And these volcanoes
in the water allow us to get science observations
right close to them, and figure out what minerals
are coming out of them. When we want to study mineral
expansion or volcanic bursts in dry land, the scientists have
to get the heck out of there and you hope that your
instrument doesn’t melt. With sea water, the heat
is rapidly dissipated, and allows get right non
top of volcanic eruptions. The real key is, how
do you know where to go in order to find an eruption? And several of our
science components within the exploration program, and our Pacific Marine
Environmental Lab. And Oregon State; several of
the university collaborators, we figured out how to do this
by tracking heat in the ocean. Heat signature. And then going to those areas
where heat’s being liberated, and hope you’re going to
get close to a vent that’s about ready to let go. This is one. We’ve had scientists
under the ice realizing that the biological community
under ice is more contributing to the stability of sea ice, then perhaps maybe the
temperature above it. And the biological
communities that live in there are remarkable. Here’s a small venting system. It’s a little grainy;
I apologize. But this is an example
of the kind of venting, short of a volcanic eruption. But the kind of venting that introduces minerals
to sea water. And it’s coming from the
inner parts of the earth. And it’s a fashion that
really was not — excuse me. It was a fashion of making. It was really not
understood at the time that — at least I took biology. And we were taught that salt
water is salt water is salty because of all the land
runoff of rain water. Don’t think so. This is the mechanism that introduces minerals
into the sea water. All the creatures that
have evolved to live in our oceans are dependent
upon the introduction of these minerals. [ Background Siren ] A goose fish. A very timely acoustic
announcement of goose fish. This guy is found
in shallow and deep. It’s a pretty common life form. That primary dorsal spine
that he’s got right here, has a little fleshy
protuberance on it that wiggles in the current. And small fish are attracted
to it, and then he just opens that big mouth of his
and gobbles it on up. I wish I had a moving
image of it for you. This guy is very
extraterrestrial. This is an isopod. They’re about as big as my shoe. They’re pretty remarkable. Some of them are really small. Some of them are big. But the point I want
to make to you here is, these are pretty odd life forms, but they’re very much
a part of our planet. Many of you scuba divers
may have seen these. Nudibrachs. Familiar to some of you? They’re beautiful. They exude a chemical
compound that keeps stingers and other types of
co-evolved marine threats to them away from them. As beautiful as they
are, they have chemistry that basically doesn’t
allow other types of cells to hurt them. Anti-cancer compounds. Stopping uncontrolled
cell growth. There are many components,
that as we look, we learn more about our own health
from marine organisms. This is a siphoning organism. A siphonophore. Related more to a jellyfish. Looks more floral. This guy I love. This is a Venus flytrap anemone. Kind of a convenient
name because of its look. But what’s amazing about these
is the abundance in number of places that you
can find them. Including, settled
on the back of crabs. Now you would think this is
like a 1 in a million shot. I have — and I’ve not been
everywhere, but I have seen that in the deep sea five times. And what happens apparently,
is that the anemone settles on the back of anything. Maybe a piece of sand. It’s not going to grow. It’s going to die. Previous slide you saw it
settle on a piece of hard coral. It can live and grow there. And here it’s on
the back of a crab. He’s probably growing very fast. Because as the crab eats, little bits of food escape the
anemones is enjoying digesting that food. And as the crab moves
around, they both are happy. Eventually, the anemone
will grow big. Slow the crab down. The crab dies. The anemone will die. But it’s an interesting
phenomenon to see where these things have landed. These are polychaete worms
that actually eat methane. Frozen methane. And this guy just
had an attraction to the manipulator arm of the
Woods Hole submarine Alvin. So in summary, why
do we explore? Let’s go to the National
Ocean Policy. That’s something that President
Obama has really underscored and put a lot of the
administration’s energy into. And exploration is
able to support each of the key objectives — the 9 priorities in the
National Ocean Policy. So we’re following the
direction of our President. You may recall, this
past summer, Secretary Kerry led an ocean
— Our Ocean’s Conference. And also announced, as we
were able to later implement, the creation of some
Pacific marine preserves. Many of those preserves
were created on the maps that were made by the
Ocean Exploration Program. Going back to 2001, we
had a presidential panel that created the need — or defined the need for
an exploration program. That’s another reason
why we explore. This was put into —
eventually put into law. And the four key objectives
are listed for you. Probably the most
important one is to be mapping this underwater
environment that we have. We’re also working on new potential solutions
and new technologies. Replacing traditional methods
of trying to count how many fish in the sea, with
more automated means. Unmanned vehicles that can
traverse the ocean waters and still count those fish. In terms of charting, this image
shows you this multi-beam I described earlier. But do we need to keep
the multi-beam on a ship? Or could we put it on an independent vehicle
and force multiply? Traditional oceanographers
are collecting water at various depths in order
to calculate components of heat exchange,
climate change, etcetera. We can also do that by
just using unmanned, autonomous buoys, floats,
gliders, and drifters. And for our ship, and is it
possible to replace our ship with an autonomous vehicle
that can do all of the above? Can we take this blank
vehicle and send it to sea and have it collect
through other means, the answers to science questions
that we are right now solving by traditional methods? Here’s one cute way of doing it. Instead of bringing
a sample home — which is pretty hard to get
with a manipulator arm — take an image of it, and
print it in a 3D printer. That’s on the Explorer
right now. And how about labs on a chip? If we could use,
through metagenomics, and studies of genetics. And the appearance of genes
rather than individual species, what the components of a
biological community are, we could answer many
of the questions that we have right
now, sought to answer by towing a trawl net behind
a ship to catch the fish. To cut them open. To analyze their tissues. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We may be able to forecast fish
populations, just by looking at the genetic refuse
that’s in the water after a fish population
swims through it. So as we get farther forward
and far more advanced, you don’t want to lose the
excitement of being inside of a submersible and the nature
of what that work is like. Or the ability to first
hand humans put eyes on creatures like these. But we — whatever we do,
we have to do more of. So I’m doing a time check
right now and I’m going to just hold you in temptation
for maybe the possibility to come on back another time
and talk a little bit more about the Titanic
side of this question. So I’ll just leave you
with that temptation. But Congress asked us to do
certain things with the Titanic. We did. And maybe that’s a
future discussion to have. But let’s go explore the oceans. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]

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