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Images: At Deepwater Horizon, Basic Research Was Applied

In the late 1930s, basic research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution led to surprising findings about sound propagation in seawater. The scientists, including Al Vine (above), immediately applied this new knowledge to build devices (bathythermographs) that sailors in World War II used to avoid detection by sonar—the first of many applications that revolutionized submarine warfare. (Courtesy of WHOI Archives)

In the 1950s and 1960s, WHOI scientist Al Vine led efforts to build deep-submergence vehicles, including the submersible Alvin, which located a hydrogen bomb on the seafloor for the Navy in 1966. (Courtesy of WHOI Archives)

In 1977, scientists diving in Alvin on a basic research mission unexpectedly found seafloor hydrothermal vents that sustained chemosynthetic organisms. the discovery rearranged our concepts of where and how life could exist on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. The technology developed to study vents proved useful for research on the deep-sea oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. (Courtesy of WHOI Archives)

In 1969, WHOI biologists Howard Sanders (left) and George Hampson mobilized a concerted study of the impacts of an oil spill off West Falmouth, Mass., on marine organisms. (Courtesy of WHOI Archives)

Biologists Howard Sanders and George Hampson collaborated with chemist and gas chromatography pioneer Max Blumer to study persistent coastal impacts from the West Falmouth oil spill in 1969. Successive generations of WHOI biologists and chemists have followed their footsteps, continuing to break new ground studying oil spills in the marine environment. (Courtesy of WHOI Archives)

WHOI’s expertise and technology, including the deep-sea robot Sentry, combined to tackle difficult questions about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. (Photo by Ken Kostel, WHOI)