The Ocean Network: Oceanographers enable a high speed connection to the mysteries of the deep sea

Posted: 10/05/2011 in all marine news

By Captain Patrick Donovan – 

As mariners we encounter them all the time… a yellow buoy, a white ship, the daily routine of transmitting weather observations. 

They are references to scientific research taking place in our world, a world habitually focused on trade, commerce, profit, and loss. Sometimes unnoticed, the commercialized aspect of life on the sea comes in contact with the academic pursuit of knowledge.

Often these references arrive in the form of a Notice to Mariners.  An update to a chart, a submerged mooring, plotted somewhere along our track line. A concern? Maybe.  But then you see the depth, 2600 meters. Your deeply laden vessel only draws 12m. No problem.

But what is this mooring, and why would someone put it there? What is so interesting at that depth that someone would travel out into the middle of nowhere, a place that in normal seagoing life is often part of a route but never a destination, and install a subsea mooring in 2600 meters of water?

The answer is almost infinite. Ocean waves, swell, temperature, sea life, chemical makeup of the water column, salinity, gravity, motion, oxygen, nitrates, sediment, etc. You name it, and there is an instrument for it, or at least one in development.

The ocean environment is still so vastly unknown, there are new and unexplainable things happening on a daily basis. We know more about the moon than we know about our own ocean, and in turn have a shared responsibility to find out more.

Though it can be one of the most tranquil, docile, and beautiful environments, the ocean can in a matter of minutes turn into one of the harshest, most unforgiving places on earth. Our ability to understand and predict weather patterns on the surface has led to increased safety for mariners by 100 fold, but understanding the weather is only part of the problem. 

We don’t have, and never will have the ability to control it. And thus lies the greatest challenge in attempting to study a particular region. Access.

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