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Ocean Research


June 2016 Issue

Arctic May Have Been
Ice Free During Summer

An international team of scientists led by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has managed to open a new window into the climate history of the Arctic Ocean. Using unique sediment samples from the Lomonosov Ridge, the researchers found that 6 to 10 million years ago the central Arctic was completely ice free during summer and sea surface temperature reached values of 4° to 9° C. In spring, autumn and winter, however, the ocean was covered by sea ice of variable extent. These new findings from the Arctic region provide new benchmarks for groundtruthing global climate reconstructions and modeling.

Some scientists believe that the central Arctic Ocean was already covered with dense sea ice all year round 6 to 10 million years ago, roughly to the same extent as today. The new research findings contradict this assumption.

New US Research Vessel Will
Move to Construction Phase

The design phase for a project to construct a new Regional-class research vessel (RCRV) to replenish the U.S. academic fleet is complete, and Oregon State University (OSU) issued a request for information (RFI) in May to shipyards that may be interested in the vessel construction phase.

In January 2013, the National Science Foundation selected OSU as the lead institution to finalize the design and coordinate the construction of the vessel, and possibly up to two more, a project considered crucial to maintaining the country’s marine science research capabilities.

The design phase has been completed by The Glosten Associates, a naval architecture firm based in Seattle, and the RFI is a chance to generate market interest and to get feedback from industry on the design and other project documents.

OSU plans to issue a request for proposals (RFP) in two phases beginning this summer: a technical phase to establish a competitive pool of qualified shipyards and a cost phase to elicit vessel cost proposals.

This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, more capacity for instrumentation and less noise. The design also has green features, including an optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting, and variable speed power generation.

RCRVs are designed for studying coastal waters out to beyond the continental rise. The 2017 presidential budget calls for building two RCRVs, but until a final budget is passed by Congress the plan is to make ready a shipyard contract to build one RCRV, with options for additional vessels.

After reviewing the proposals from industry, OSU will select a shipyard in early 2017. The NSF will assume ownership of the RCRVs, but Oregon State expects to operate the first vessel constructed, which will conduct science missions primarily in the eastern North Pacific Ocean basin.

Additional vessels would operate in the Atlantic and Gulf regions of the U.S. by other institutions that the NSF would select in late 2017.

Exploring the
Marianas Trench

Two FAU Harbor Branch scientists are lending their expertise during a NOAA-funded expedition to the Pacific Ocean’s Marianas Trench. Dr. Deborah Glickson, associate director of the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT), located at HBOI, was the geology science lead on leg one of the cruise, which ran through May 11. Dr. Shirley Pomponi, executive director of CIOERT, is the biology science lead on leg three of the scientific cruise from June 20 through July 11.

The mission is to characterize unknown and poorly explored areas by mapping the seafloor and searching for undiscovered biological and geological features such as hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, fish and coral reef habitat, and deep-dwelling organisms.

Researchers and students are following along and participating in the cruise from Harbor Branch’s Exploration Command Center, a facility that allows for real-time access to all of the action via telepresence. High-definition cameras capture video imagery from the ocean floor that is transmitted in real time via satellite (http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/media/exstream/exstream.html).

Researchers and students can also communicate with the scientists aboard ship via chatrooms and teleconference during the dives.

El Faro Voyage Data
Recorder Found

The cargo ship El Faro’s voyage data recorder was located in 15,000 ft. of water, about 41 mi. northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, by an investigative team comprising specialists from the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Tote Services, the owner and operator of El Faro.

The ship was lost at sea October 2015.

The search employed a suite of WHOI vehicles working together in a “nested” fashion to map the search zone, identify targets of interest on the seafloor, and ultimately enable the team to locate the VDR.

New Push for Advancement
In Subsea Storage Tech

The U.K.’s National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI) is launching a drive to develop technology that will make underwater factories and storage more viable, helping to increase the recovery of hydrocarbons in the North Sea.

NSRI held a workshop aimed to stimulate investment in and encourage the development of emerging technologies to speed up the shift from costly surface platforms to subsea plants that will be more cost-effective and enable recovery from smaller, harder to reach fields. Technology developers and the wider industry came together to address the challenges in commercializing new subsea storage technology and discover ways to progress concepts through to infield implementation.

The outcomes will help NSRI develop a technology roadmap to get new technology off the ground and ready for market.


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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.