Magazine article Oceanus

WHOI and Access to the Sea

Magazine article Oceanus

WHOI and Access to the Sea

Article excerpt

In the mid-term future, two WHOI ships (Knorr in about 2006 and Oceanus in about 2009) will reach the end of their planned service lives. There is general agreement that WHOI should work to replace them with two vessels. One ship would likely fall between their two sizes at about 200 feet, as the existing large UNOLS ship fleet adequate. This vessel should have 25 scientific berths and offer plenty of deck space for vans and such operations as component-intensive moorings. It should cruise at about 12 knots be able to stay at sea for 30 days, and have a small crew to reduce the daily rate. There is less consensus on a second, small vessel that is likely to be used cooperatively by several organizations (see preceding article). It should probably be 65 to 100 feet long, possibly of SWATH design, if that design proves appropriate for oceanographic research in the northwest North Atlantic. It should offer 10 to 12 science berths, a small crew (1 to 2 in port, 3 to 6 underway), seakeeping for safe year-round operations in the Northeast, and a dynamic positioning system.

The National Deep Submergence Facility operated by WHOI has consistently provided US and international scientists with the ability to reach and study the abyss for some three decades. Alvin, the first vehicle in the facility, is ageless, having been continuously modernized over its life span. It is currently rated to dive to 14,764 feet carrying two observers and one pilot. The submersible is overhauled completely every three years, resulting in a vehicle system that is the best in the world in terms of efficiency, ease of operation, reliability, safety, and cost effectiveness. One option for improving Alvin's capabilities would be to merge Navy's Sea Cliff with Alvin after Sea Cliff is taken out of service in 1998. Sea Cliff has a 6,100-meter sphere and considerable peripheral equipment that could upgrade Alvin. The Office of Naval Research and other federal agencies have indicated a desire to explore various options related to Sea Cliff. Since 1993, the facility has included the fiber-optic based, tethered, remotely operated vehicle team Medea/Jason and the towed Argo-II and DSL-120 Sonar mapping system. These vehicles (developed with Navy and institution funds) are now routinely requested by scientists, and supported by the funding agencies to carry out multidiciplinary research in the oceans down to 6,000 meters. This suite of tethered and submersible vehicles is unique in the world, and offers US scientists investigates synergy that provides unprecedented access to the deep ocean to carry out a spectrum of biological, geological, physical, chemical, and technology related experiments. …

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