Our research vessels and vehicles had another impressive
year of operations in 2005, with nearly 800 days at sea and
more than 100 Alvin and Jason 2 dives. Atlantis
and Knorr were both equipped with new satellite communication
systems providing 24-hour Internet access that enhance science
activities, enable better ship-to-shore communication for
crew and scientists, and provide better education opportunities
for students and the public.
In September, a camera mounted on WHOI’s remotely operated
vehicle Jason 2 broadcasted real-time, high-definition
video from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean via satellite to
a worldwide audience.
This demonstration provided a glimpse of the future, when
networks of sensors will telemeter data from anywhere in the
world’s ocean in real-time back to a scientist’s laboratory
24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Despite exciting advances in sea-going technology, the nation’s
research fleet continues to operate under increasingly difficult
conditions. Funds to operate the fleet have been flat since
2004. This, coupled with skyrocketing fuel prices, increasing
regulatory requirements, and higher personnel costs have squeezed
fleet operating budgets.
As a result, the National Science Foundation will reduce
the number of ship days it funds from almost 3,000 days in
2005 to just over 2,000 days in 2006. Ship funding by other
federal agencies is also flat or decreasing. This means some
funded science programs will be delayed one or two years before
going to sea, and most ships will operate on partial-year
schedules. The prospects for 2007 do not look much better.
We need to redouble our efforts to persuade decision makers
in Washington and the American public of the importance of
ocean research, and the necessity of maintaining a strong
research fleet to provide researchers with access to the sea.
Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations