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Images: The Ghost Mooring

Scott Worrilow, manager of the WHOI Sub-surface Mooring Operations Group, was the first to realize that a mooring in Antarctica, given up for lost, had re- surfaced after ten years underwater.
(Photo by Matt Barton, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

In 2002, scientist Bob Beardsley (left), and engineers and mooring specialists Scott Worrilow (white hat) and Jim Ryder went to Antarctica to retrieve six moorings set out in 2001. They were able to recover all but one—and that mooring disappeared for a decade. (Photo courtesy of Scott Worrilow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Mooring specialist Jim Ryder makes adjustments to a brand-new mooring float that will provide buoyancy to hold oceanographic instruments in place in the water. Ryder was part of the teams that deployed six Southern Ocean moorings in 2001 and recovered five in 2002. By an amazing chance, he was aboard the R/V Palmer in the Southern Ocean when news came about the "ghost mooring" and was able to carry out the recovery operation. (Photo by Fiamma Straneo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The National Science Foundation's icebreaker R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer,  built for the U. S. Antarctic Program, carries scientists studying the Southern Ocean, its  ecosystems, and the changing climate. This April the Palmer was in Antarctic waters for a research cruise for Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist Jim Swift, who agreed to a detour to recover the WHOI mooring. (Photo by Emily Peacock, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

WHOI mooring engineer Jim Ryder (blue hat) and two ship's crew members bring up the lost mooring float after ten years underwater. The float, which was suspended many meters beneath the surface and the Antarctic sea ice, is no longer the shiny yellow of a new float. Instead it is capped by a thick growth of marine organisms that settled on it over the years. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory )

The float from the ghost mooring proved a good home for sea squirts, squishy marine animals that settle on rocks and filter tiny planktonic animals from the water. Had the float drifted to inhabited lands, the "if found adrift, contact WHOI" message stenciled on the side might not have been legible because of the overgrowth. (Photo by Juan Botella, PolarTREC teacher)