At Last We Can Explore
The Ocean Bottom
By James Donahue
Jules Verne dreamed of
it in his famous novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, but other than Alvin, the small research
vessel put into service some 40 years ago and the bathyscaphe Trieste,
the concept of deep sea exploration has been almost ignored.
Now, with France, Russia and Japan
operating deep sea research vessels, and China building one, the U.S. has announced plans to build a ship that will dive to
When completed in 2008,
the new, yet unnamed ship will give scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution the ability to drop to 99 percent of
the ocean floor. Only the dark regions of the mysterious 36,000-foot deep Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, will remain inaccessible.
The new submersible will
allow us to reach “not for the stars but for the depths,” said Woods Hole president Robert Gagosian during a recent
Indeed, it has been said
that because of the money spent on our space program, we know more about the moon, Mars and the other planets of our solar
system than we do about the bottom of our great oceans.
The oceans cover about
70 percent of the planet’s surface. They are teeming with marine life, much of which we know little about.
The $21.6 million craft
is being financed by the institution and the National Science Foundation.
Why the sudden new interest
in exploring the oceans by so many nations? Think of what is happening on our planet. We are running out of natural resources,
including food and energy. It is obvious that researchers are now looking to the oceans to fill in some of these important
For example, another
remotely operated vessel is in the works at Woods Hole to explore those deep trenches and study the methane hydrate collected
there as a possible energy source.