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Seafloor Jigsaw Puzzle

In 1974, Project FAMOUS (French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Study) would take humans to explore the seafloor for the first time, using the human-occupied submersible Alvin. To reconnoiter the target area on a mid-ocean ridge, the U.S. Navy dispatched a top-secret deep-sea photography system called LIBEC (LIght BEhind Camera), which collected 5,250 images of the seafloor. In those pre-computer days, the images were fitted together and laid across the floor of a Navy gymnasium in Washington, D.C. Scientists wandered over the giant jigsaw puzzle of photos to get their first glimpse of conditions they would encounter on the seafloor. On the first day of Women's History Month, we note that Project FAMOUS was also an historic breakthrough for women scientists—the first significant female participation at sea in a large oceanographic program. (Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Archives)


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