YOTO, Kyoto, Monterey, and LOS
By DON WALSH
The FY 1999 National Ocean Budget: A Positive Trend
Most federal agencies with ocean-related responsibilities received a
slight increase in funding (above inflation) over fiscal year 1998. While
it is somewhat difficult to filter out what is "ocean-related" in
some agency budget lines, the following generalized breakdown does show
a positive trend.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA received $2.1 billion for FY 1998; its FY 1999 appropriation is
$100 million higher, an increase of about 5 percent--but about 0.5 percent
less ($12.4 million) than the White House had asked for. Since this is
higher than the government's estimated rate of inflation there is a small
net increase in real spending. The administration and Congress were fairly
close on their separate NOAA budget plans.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF received $3.4 billion in FY 1998. For the new fiscal year it has
been funded at the $3.7 billion level--slightly more than a 7 percent
increase. The budget increase is almost 8.8 percent for NSF's geosciences
program elements, which fund most of the NSF's marine science activities.
The White House budget request was only 2.75 percent higher than the
total that Congress appropriated. Despite the ideological differences
that exist between the Republican Congress and the Democratic administration,
both sides seemed to agree on the need to increase the national investment
in science and technology. The NSF budget increase from FY 1996 to FY
1997 was only 1.56 percent, less than inflation. However, it was 4.87
percent for FY 19971998 and with the 7 percent increase for the
current fiscal year the trend is encouraging.
Department of Defense (DOD)
Overall, DOD received a meager 1.14-percent increase over FY 1998, less
than the rate of inflation. Within the program elements related to ocean
science and technology, the Navy Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation
(RDT&E) funding was increased by $521 million, or 6.42 percent, for
an FY 1999 total of $8.6 billion. Within the overall RDT&E program,
basic research was increased 3.9 percent and applied research by 14.5
percent. Those accounts cover much more than ocean science and technology,
but the increases clearly demonstrate that the Navy is doing well in
its research programs.
Department of Interior (DOI)
Within Interior, ocean programs are funded under the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which manage
offshore oil and gas production. USGS received a 5.1 percent increase
in FY 1999 to $797.9 million. MMS received a 13.6 percent decrease from
its FY 1998 total, and has $124 million available for the current fiscal
Department of Energy (DOE)
The ocean elements in DOE are included mostly in the "Biological
and Environmental Research" account, funded in FY 1999 at $443.6
million, an increase of 9 percent above FY 1998. Overall, DOE saw its
budget increase by only 3.3 percent to $16.4 billion in FY 1999. Because
of inflation, that is close to "zero growth."
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA's total budget increases by 2.7 percent in FY 1999--to $7.6 billion.
EPA thus is another zero-growth agency, because the increase is less
About 10 percent of NASA's massive FY 1999 $13.7 billion budget is allocated
to "Earth Science Enterprise" ($1.4 billion). This budget line
decreased slightly (by 0.25 percent) from FY 1998. There also are some
ocean-related activities in the agency's "Science, Aeronautics,
and Technology" program element, which is funded at $5.7 billion
in FY 1999, also a slight decrease (0.5 percent) from FY 1998.
Law of the Sea Repercussions?
During the Reagan Administration the United States officially informed
the U.N.'s Third Law of the Sea (LOS) Conference that the United States
would not be signing the LOS Treaty. The principal U.S. objection related
to the deep-ocean mining provisions of the treaty draft. Virtually all
of the treaty's other provisions were acceptable. However, the rules
of the Conference postulated that a signatory nation had to accept all
of the treaty or none of it.
Most of the signings by conference participants took place in the early
1980s. A decade later, two-thirds of the governments participating had
ratified the treaty, which then came into force as international law.
Now a single and fairly uniform legal framework could govern uses of
the World Ocean.
Over the decade-long period of ratifications by most of the world's
governments the ocean-mining provisions were reworked to the point where
most U.S. objections were remedied. It is now the position of all of
the U.S. federal agencies directly concerned (e.g., Defense, State, Interior,
Commerce, etc.) that the treaty is now acceptable to the United States.
The Clinton Administration urged the Senate to "advise and consent" to
the treaty so the United States will be able to take the steps necessary
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not hold hearings on the
treaty, however. Without Senate approval, the United States will be the
only major maritime power in the world that has not joined the treaty.
Being an "outsider" could make it exceedingly difficult for
the United States to exercise any influence over international ocean-related
events that have Law of the Sea implications.
The Oceans Act
At the beginning of 1998 it appeared that the so-called "Oceans
Act" would pass early in the year. Basically, the Act would create
an "Ocean Policy Commission" of nongovernment members and a "National
Ocean Council" made up of senior people from government departments
with significant ocean responsibilities. The combined thinking of these
groups would be used to develop a national ocean plan and implementing
strategies. The Commission would have a finite life, while the Council
would continue to implement and coordinate the plan.
The White House had urged such action. The Senate (in November 1997)
and the House (in September 1998) had passed their own versions of the
Act, and it seemed that there was a solid consensus. However, the two
bills never went to a House/Senate conference committee to resolve the
differences between them. In the waning days of the 105th Congress some
heavy lobbying--from the offshore oil and gas industry, apparently--against
the Act resulted in no further action being taken by the House (the second
year in a row this had happened). Supporters of the Act hope that it
will be reintroduced in the next Congress, and this time passed.
The National Ocean Conference
Among the participants in the conference (11-12 June in Monterey, Calif.)
were some 500 representatives from government (federal, state, and local),
the ocean industries, academe, and the environmental community. That
mix ensured the broadest possible base of "ocean community" participation.
The "all-star" cast from government included the president,
the vice president, and several cabinet secretaries.
A heavy and diverse program of workshops and panel discussions culminated
with a speech by President Clinton. In it he offered nine "new" national
(1) Protect America's coasts from offshore drilling;
(2) Build sustainable fisheries;
(3) Rebuild and upgrade U.S. ports to meet the needs of the 21st century;
(4) Join the Law of the Sea convention;
(5) Protect the nation's coral reefs;
(6) Explore the sea--the last U.S. frontier;
(7) Protect the nation's beaches and coastal waters;
(8) Monitor climate and global warming; and
(9) Increase public access to naval/military oceanographic data and
Although the NOC was more of a town meeting than conference, it was
nevertheless worthwhile--for several reasons:
(a) Despite political differences between the two branches of government,
the NOC was initiated as the result of a congressional initiative, but
then implemented by the White House.
(b) It was the first time that any White House had convened a national
ocean meeting--with participation by the president, the vice president,
and virtually every cabinet-level official having ocean-related responsibilities.
(c) Statements made by highest-level administration officials committed
the Clinton administration to a very proactive path (both in policy and
in funding) for the national ocean program.
President Clinton stated that his nine-point initiative would cost an
estimated $224 million. However, not all of this is new money; many of
the programs the president announced are repackagings of existing activities.
In most cases the investment is spread over a period of three years.
At the NOC it was stated that the cost of the national ocean programs
would be about $1 billion a year. Taking inflation into account, the
net increase in the national ocean program is therefore about 4 percent
over the next three years. This is not a major "bump," but
it is a step in the right direction.
The president also said that he was directing his cabinet officers to
develop an outline for a real "national ocean policy." (This
was not one of his nine initiatives, but was added to the end of his
At the end of 1998, unfortunately, no significant implementing actions
had been taken on the promises made at Monterey in June. NOC supporters
hope for better results in 1999.
The Year of the Oceans
In December 1994 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution
designating 1998 as an "International Year of the Ocean" (YOTO).
The resolution urged member states to sponsor national and international
cooperative programs and projects in support of the Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an agency of UNESCO that coordinated
the U.N. YOTO effort.
There was a vast menu of hundreds of activities (including the U.S.
National Ocean Conference) in many nations rolled under the YOTO "tent." These
ranged from serious scientific meetings on various global oceanic themes
to "theme cruises" on board oceanographic and cruise ships.
Whether or not most of these various activities would have taken place
anyway is the unanswered question.
Even if YOTO failed to meet most expectations, it was worth "celebrating." The
simple recognition by the full membership of the United Nations of the
importance of the oceans is a major accomplishment in itself. In the
past the United Nations has not been greatly concerned with the world
ocean, except through the ad hoc activities of some of its agencies.
The YOTO observances gave the United Nations the opportunity to take
an international leadership role in this area. It also focused the entire
organization's attention on the importance of the World Ocean to all
of its member states.
The Kyoto Protocol On Global Warming
There were record-breaking summer temperatures in 1998 over large areas
of the Earth's surface. For six months in a row new records were set.
And the 1990s have been the hottest decade in recorded history. The ultimate
consequences of global warming are: (a) higher average water temperatures
in the oceans (which can have an adverse effect on sealife); (b) less
production of oxygen from the sea through its phytoplankton (microscopic
plants); and (c) the melting of land-bound glaciers and ice masses in
Greenland and Antarctica--resulting in a rise in sea levels.
Precise measurements of sea levels carried out in the past few years
have shown that the levels are in fact rising. There is some diversity
in the theories about how and why levels are rising, and about what if
anything should be done. Serious sea-level problems may still be many
years away, but with so much of the world's population living near the
sea the potential consequences of a prolonged global warming would be
The intent of the United Nations "climate meeting"--convened
in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997--was to develop a treaty framework
for both developed and developing nations to cut atmospheric emissions.
The outcome was the "Kyoto Protocol," a treaty draft which
set as its basic goal the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions
to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. The target-date range for achieving
that goal was 20082012. The intent was clear, but the implementation
has caused a number of problems.
All nations generally agree that there is a global warming problem and
that much of the warming results from human activities. But the reduction
of emissions will be costly to achieve and enforce. So the United Nations
wants to put some type of measurable "tax" on the economies
of the nations required to undertake the reductions. If this tax is imposed
only on the developed nations, the developing countries will have a significant
There is considerably less agreement on how the proposed quotas for
reducing greenhouse emissions should be allocated between developed and
developing nations. Developed nations recognize in general that they
generate the most emissions and thus should be responsible for the largest
reductions. They also are concerned, however, that the costs resulting
from too-drastic actions could damage their economies and make them less
The developing nations want to be exempted from mandatory reduction
quotas. They argue that the developed nations became successful by polluting
the global environment--supposedly part of the price of progress. The
developing countries say they also want to implement their own emission
controls, but only when and if their economic development can permit
them to do so--on a voluntary basis, in other words. India and China
are among the developing countries most opposed to any imposition of
There will be several additional working sessions scheduled to attempt
to resolve the formidable questions that have been raised. Kyoto supporters
hope that full agreement can be reached by 2001, when a treaty can come
into force as international law.
At a two-week session convened in Buenos Aires in November 1998, representatives
from 180 nations worked on resolving the differing views of the developed
and developing nations. Plans are being developed for the next working
meeting--expected to be held in either Morocco or Jordan sometime in
Administration Signs Protocol
The Clinton Administration signed the Kyoto Protocol on the 12th of
November, one day before the end of the Buenos Aires meeting, bringing
to 57 the number of nations that have signed; the United States was the
last of the major industrial nations to sign.
The administration's action does not mean that all major problems with
the Protocol have been resolved or that the U.S. Senate will ratify the
treaty any time soon. It merely signifies an intent to work within the
established framework, solve whatever issues remain, and try to meet
the 2001 treaty-signing deadline.
The Clinton administration has assured Congress that it will not submit
the treaty draft to the Senate until the question of emissions quotas
on developing nations has been resolved. The administration's action
in signing the protocol was intended to keep the United States in the
discussions, and preserve the U.S. status as an active partner in the
forthcoming implementation negotiations with other signatory nations.
Industry Concerns, And Senate Doubts
An increasing number of large U.S. corporations have become convinced
that something (usually unspecified) needs to be done about global warming.
Only a few years ago the leaders of many of those same corporations seemed
to believe that the "global-warming issue" existed mostly in
the imagination of a few misguided scientists and well-meaning environmentalists.
The evidence is now too compelling, however, to ignore the basic facts
concerning what could be a major world crisis.
Many members of the Republican-dominated Senate were not happy that
the administration had signed the Protocol. Several have stated that
any "advise and consent" consideration of the Kyoto Protocol
as a treaty would depend on inclusion of a provision that requires developing
nations to meet emissions quotas. If not, then the Senate probably will
not give its approval to the treaty. In that case, the United States,
the world's principal emitter of greenhouse gases (an estimated 36 percent
of the global total), will remain outside the working framework developed
to control atmospheric pollutants.
Hot Air and the Cold Ocean
Many if not quite all scientists agree that global warming caused by
the so-called "greenhouse effect" has gradually increased the
average temperature of the oceans. This generates two results that affect
sea level. The first is that warm water expands--that is, increases its
volume. This effect can most easily be measured in oceans where there
is a seasonal heating and cooling of the surface waters. In summer the
sea level rises, in winter it falls. These seasonal fluctuations would
not occur if there were only a gradual, but continuing, fixed increase
in average sea-surface temperatures.
The second effect is the melting of land-bound icefields. These are
the giant ice caps covering the Antarctic and Greenland as well as other
glacial fields around the planet. Enormous amounts of water would be
released into the sea, with one result a significant rise in sea levels.
It has been estimated, in fact, that if all of this ice melted completely
the global sea level would rise about 300 feet--drowning hundreds of
the world's major coastal cities.
A warmer ocean also would lead to more intensive "meso-scale" marine
weather systems such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones. Computer
models show that a sea-surface temperature increase of about 4 degrees
Fahrenheit would increase wind speeds by 5 to 12 percent, and NOAA scientists
have estimated that a 10 percent increase in wind velocities could double
the damage caused by these storms. This also means that the storm surge
created by wind-pushed water from the sea would flood out even greater
areas of low-lying coastal regions. The effects, combined with a rise
in sea levels, could be devastating in the coastal areas where most of
the world's population lives.
El Niño Followed by "La Niña"
The 19971998 El Niño event was the largest ever recorded.
Although the effects were mainly adverse, there was one beneficial fallout
effect--a reduction in the formation of Atlantic hurricanes. By mid-1998
El Niño had virtually dissipated, leaving scientists to ponder
over their predictions, and those affected by El Niño to assess
the damage. An interesting side effect was that the media were left without
a "goat" to blame for every unexplained global event. It was
clear that the predictions about the timing and extent of the latest
El Niño were more accurate than was ever before possible. Much
research is left to be done, however--but numerous programs are in place
to carry out the research.
An El Niño often is followed by a La Niña event, which
has reverse climatological effects. The new La Niña started in
the second half of 1998 and will continue through the winter of 19981999.
While El Niño was characterized by much higher than average sea-surface
temperatures across the equatorial Pacific from Asia to South America,
an excessive cooling of these same waters marks La Niña--and has
resulted in variable changes in the direction of the jet stream as it
crosses the Pacific. Under normal conditions the jet stream path is relatively
fixed. But the La Niña effects mean that the West Coast of North
America can expect widely varying weather patterns as the wobbling jet
stream moves across the coast at different points.
The latest La Niña was somewhat late in starting, and experts
admit that predictions for a La Niña event are much more difficult
than for an El Niño. On average, however, the event provides a
much wetter winter for the Northwest United States and perhaps some drought
in the Southwest. Overall, however, the 1999 U.S. winter should be milder,
especially in the Southeast.
Is the Arctic Warming?
The mass and extent of Arctic Ocean sea ice has been decreasing, according
to satellite mapping studies. A layer of permanent floating sea ice up
to 12 feet thick covers the central part of the Arctic Ocean. Around
the edges of this mass there is a large region of seasonal ice--i.e.,
increasing in size in the winter, and melting away to some extent in
the summer. The white reflective surface of the ice, and its thickness,
act as insulators to keep the ocean's surface waters cold. If there is
less ice, however, more solar energy will be absorbed by the ocean, and
it will warm. This action/reaction chain of events undoubtedly would
affect the global climate. So the melting trend may be one of the better
indicators of global warming. However, the satellite sampling covered
just two decades (19791998), a rather short period of time, in geological
terms, to observe and accurately assess natural cycles. As some scientists
point out, the Arctic warming may be just part of a much longer natural
The Antarctic As Well?
Scientists reported in mid-1998 that the West Antarctica ice sheet showed
evidence of having melted sometime within the last 750,000 years. Although
most of the Antarctic ice cap is at least six million years old, it appears
that the Western area is less permanent. If this ice sheet melts again
the result would be a rise of about 20 feet in global sea levels. The
impact on Florida serves as an example of the potential effect on the
United States: About half of the state would disappear under the sea.
Other studies have shown that the average temperature in the Antarctic
has risen by about 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. There
is visual evidence of this warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, where
some of the great ice shelves attached to the land are disintegrating.
Some scientists suggest this may be an early warning of overall global
In October it was reported that a giant iceberg had been detected in
the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the continent of Antarctica. The
iceberg, 100 miles long and 20 miles wide, is the largest seen in the
past 10 years. The Southern Ocean circulates around the continent, however,
so it is highly unlikely that the berg (being tracked by satellites)
will have any effect on the sparse shipping routes in that part of the
Giant bergs are nothing new. In 1995 a chunk of ice the size of Luxembourg
(48 miles long by 23 miles wide) was sighted off the Antarctic Peninsula.
In 1986 there were three such icebergs launched into the Southern Ocean.
All of them were bigger than the 1995 giant. These ice islands, rarely
sighted by man, are now usually detected and tracked by satellites.
Only 3 percent of the water on Earth is fresh water--and most of it
is trapped in the landbound ice in the Antarctic. Other landbound ice
(e.g., in Greenland and on the numerous glaciers throughout the world)
holds another large share. The remaining 1 percent or so is what the
world's population uses. The massive amounts of fresh water trapped in
these iceberg islands would represent a massive natural resource if they
somehow could be moved to the water-deficit regions of the world--Australia,
for example, and/or the Arabian Peninsula and Northeast Africa. Many
governments, scientists, and engineers have studied the problem--and
opportunity--from time to time, but no practical ways to safely and cost-effectively
transport the ice have been found.
The Cores of Ancient History
It is well known that tree rings and the sections of geologists' cores
can tell the story of ages past. Relatively few people realize, however,
that ice cores drilled into landbound ice masses can serve the same purpose.
To cite one example: The Antarctic is the most arid continent in the
world--the South Pole receives less precipitation, in fact, than does
Phoenix, Ariz. This means that the layering of the ice mass took place
over hundreds of thousands of years. The relatively shallow top crust
shows when the industrial revolution began. Distant volcanic events can
be recognized from the traces of ash in the ice. And the beginning of
the "atomic age" is found at the point where elevated levels
of radioactivity are found. The ice core thus serves, in effect, as a
valuable "log" of the Earth's climatic changes over long periods
Scientists recently have found, from cores taken in both the Antarctic
and Greenland, that, in general, both ends of the planet respond similarly
to global climatic changes. The cores show, for example, that during
the past one million years both northern and southern hemispheres have
gone through long ice-age "events" at approximately 100,000-year
intervals. There is evidence, however, that north and south may have
been somewhat out of step during the last ice age. Variations in ocean
currents are suspected, and work on that theory is continuing. The ice-coring
program will continue, and will undoubtedly help mankind, through more
accurate knowledge of the past, understand future climatic events.
The Sounds Of Global Warming
The velocity of sound in any medium is determined primarily by the density
of the medium. In seawater, salinity ("saltiness") and temperature
are the two primary factors determining density. Over a path length of
several thousand miles salinity usually can be disregarded, and temperature
becomes the sole significant influence on sound velocity. Using this
principle, scientists recognize, it should be possible to measure ocean
warming (or cooling) by sending sound pulses across long distances for
a prolonged period of time. Sound moves faster in warm water. If the
ocean is warming, then the time it takes for sound to travel from a specific
transmitter to a specific receiver will decrease over a period of time
All of which is the basis for the U.S. "Acoustic Thermometry of
Ocean Climate" (ATOC) experiment, which started in 1991. Initially
there was some concern that the very-low-frequency sound pulses would
harm or at least disturb marine mammals. After extensive tests and routine
operation of the system, however, there has been no evidence of any harmful
impact on animals. The ATOC sound source is located off central California
on Pioneer Seamount, and the receivers are in Hawaii, New Zealand, and
Christmas Island (in the central tropical Pacific). On the longest acoustic
path (about 3,000 miles) it takes a sound pulse about one hour to make
A 15-month operational period has shown that the theory works in practice.
Ocean warming trends can be detected within a few hundredths of a degree
Fahrenheit. Even with measurements of that precision, however, it would
take about 10 years of transmissions to definitively map any trends of
global warming. The present experiment, which ended in 1998, is being
followed by tests with a second array system that started operation in
Hawaii in mid-1998 and will transmit until the end of 1999. The success
of these experimental systems may well lead to the establishment of a
permanent operational array to help answer the question, "Are the
From the Seafloor to Jupiter
The unmanned submersible AUTOSUB 1 undertook its first mission outside
Britain in December 1997. The autonomous untethered vehicle (AUV) is
operated by Britain's Deacon Laboratory of the Southampton Oceanography
Centre. The first mission, in the Atlantic off Florida, was designed
to test the vehicle's autonomy, reliability, and navigational accuracy.
During one 19-hour autonomous dive it achieved a range of 66 miles and
dove to a maximum depth of 650 feet. The project was supported and coordinated
by the Deacon Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, the University
of South Florida, and the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research.
In June 1998 a second U.K.-U.S. mission was carried out in Bermuda with
personnel from the Bermuda Biological Station participating. In addition,
scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara joined
with those from the two Florida universities who had worked on the 1997
Atlantic mission. The project's objective was to take physical oceanographic
and bio-optical measurements in the vicinity of the Bermuda Testbed Mooring.
This time, the dives reached 1,500 feet.
To the Jovian Moons
Deep Ocean Engineering (DOE) of San Leandro, Calif., builder of the
Phantom and Phoenix submersibles, has received a study contract from
NASA to design a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to support the agency's
planetary missions. The first submersible, a tethered ROV, will be tested
at Lake Vostok in the Antarctic.
NASA hopes to eventually launch an autonomous untethered vehicle (AUV)
on board a spacecraft to land on one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, which
is believed to have an "ocean" under its frozen surface. Jupiter's
second moon, Calisto, also may have an ocean of this type--which could
be 5 to 10 miles deep; the deepest ocean on Earth is only seven miles
deep. A "space submersible" will be needed to explore Jupiter's
Exploring America's Marine Sanctuaries
In April 1998, Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, National Geographic Society's "Explorer
in Residence," received a five-year $6 million grant to conduct
submerged studies of the 12 national marine sanctuaries. These vast marine
areas are the nautical equivalent of national parks.
The program combines public and private sources of funding; the Goldman
Foundation of San Francisco is providing $5 million, National Geographic
$775,000, and the U.S. government (NOAA) $2.5 million--in in-kind support
(e.g., ship time, loans of personnel, equipment, etc.). It is expected
that oceanographic institutions near the sanctuaries being studied also
will contribute time and services.
The principal tool for the studies will be two "Deep Worker" one-person
submersibles capable of diving to 2,000 feet. They will be built by Nuytco
Research, a company in Vancouver, Canada. Pilot training for the scientist
pilots began in Monterey, Calif., in October 1998, using two earlier-model
Deep Workers. The Monterey Marine Sanctuary, one of the nation's largest,
will be the first operating site.
Oceans--The Next Playground of Choice
Although a broad sandy beach is considered by many to symbolize nature
at its best, the real truth is that most of the world's best beaches
need to be maintained by "nourishment"--i.e., the dumping of
sand at regular intervals.
California has nearly 300 miles of beachfront, which generate about
$10 billion of tourist-related revenue for the state economy. In 1998,
El Niño-generated seas washed away an estimated 5,000,000 cubic
yards of sand, enough to fill 250,000 dump trucks. Some beaches lost
up to 15 feet of height and many ended up with no sand at all, just rocks.
Those beaches will have to be restored. It will be expensive, about $5
per cubic yard of sand. But the economic benefit of beach-related tourism
outweighs the cost of rebuilding the damaged beaches, many of which still
show damage from the last major El Niño event, in 19821983.
Bacteria and Bathers
In other parts of the world many innocent-appearing beaches may be harmful
to the health of humans. In the Mediterranean, for example, nearly 30
percent of the beaches pose health risks to bathers who go into the water.
A recent survey showed that nearly 40 percent of the beaches in Great
Britain are polluted to the point that some of them may pose significant
health risks. Waterborne bacteria from land runoff and sewage dumping
are the principal culprits making leisure-seekers ill.
Two companies were formed last year to undertake adventure diving to
famous seafloor sites: Deep Ocean Expeditions (DOE), a British company,
and Zegrahm DeepSea Voyages, an American company based in Seattle, Wash.
The two companies are leasing manned submersibles and support ships and
will offer adventure cruises and dives to tourists. The first such cruise
took place during the first two weeks in September 1998, with dives to
12,500 feet to visit the wreck of the Titanic. The well-known Russian
MIR submersibles (capable of diving to 20,000 feet) were used on the
Both DOE and Zegrahm are busy developing adventure diving projects for
the year 2000. The Britannic, Lusitania, and Bismarck wreck sites are
being considered as well as such nature-related sites as underwater volcanoes,
precious coral forests, and some deep-ocean hydrothermal vent fields.
Zegrahm is offering two Y2K expeditions, one to HMS Breadalbane (350
feet down, on the floor of Canada's Northwest Passage), the other on
a search for the huge six-gilled sharks off Vancouver Island. DOE is
planning year 2000 programs: (a) to visit the Titanic; and (b) to explore
submarine volcanoes near the Azores.
Oceanographic research will be carried out during the expeditions. Experts
with research interests in the project site will be invited to participate,
the companies say, both as scientists and lecturers--and expedition participants
will have the opportunity to become involved in the research work. At
expedition's end the participants thus not only will have experienced
a "true-life" adventure, they also will undoubtedly be much
more "ocean aware"--and that alone will make the expeditions
DON WALSH served 25 years in the Navy, during which time he was involved
in many aspects of Navy oceanographic activity. In 1975, he founded and
chaired the Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies at the University
of Southern California. He left that post in 1983 to devote full time
to International Maritime Inc., which he founded in 1975 and still heads.