Access to the Sea: Technology at Work

WHOI was born of the idea that the ocean held tight to some of the greatest mysteries of our planet, and that scientists had an obligation to explore the seas, unlock those mysteries, and communicate their findings to the public. In the 80+ years since WHOI ships first left our dock, our scientists and engineers evolved the field by combining cutting-edge science and technology with sea-going expertise. Ship-based expeditions are now complemented by fleets of free-swimming vehicles and networks of instruments permanently installed in the ocean to continuously monitor large areas over long periods of time. This is the essence of WHOI’s leadership in oceanography: Access to the Sea. Below is a small sampling of the ways in which our scientists and engineers tackle the challenges of exploration.

AlvinAlvin: Making Ocean Science History
Alvin is the world’s longest-operating deep-sea submersible. Its most famous exploits include locating a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966, exploring the first known hydrothermal vent sites in the 1970s, and surveying the wreck of RMS Titanic in 1986. Throughout 2011 and into 2012, Alvin is undergoing a comprehensive overhaul and upgrade funded by the National Science Foundation that will greatly expand its capabilities.

A Shelfbreak Observatory for Coastal OceanographyThe Atlantic Shelfbreak
Dr. Glen Gawarkiewicz, a WHOI physical oceanographer, explains how studies along the shelfbreak—the transition from continental shelf to slope—in the Northwest Atlantic are revealing connections between physical processes in the ocean and the things that live there.

Watching the Earth's CreationWatching the Earth's Creation
Oceanographers using the remotely operated vehicle Jason recorded the first video and still images of a deep-sea volcano actively erupting molten lava on the seafloor at West Mata, a submarine volcano in the South pacific near Samoa.

Between the Cracks: Holography and OceanographyBetween the Cracks: Holography and Oceanography
Now plankton have paparazzi, too. MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Nick Loomis has engineered a way to use holograms, or laser-generated three-dimensional images, to reveal private details of tiny plankton in seawater.

Learn more about Access to the Sea projects