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Deputy Prime Minister of England to Visit WHOI April 23 to Discuss Deep-Sea Research, International Collaboration

April 16, 1999

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, will visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) April 23 to discuss potential collaboration and to learn more about deep sea research.  His visit will follow meetings earlier in the week with Vice President Al Gore and leaders of Congress in Washington, DC, and an Earth Day lecture on sustainable development at the United Nations in New York City.

Prescott will spend the day at WHOI meeting informally with scientific and engineering staff, learning about deep submergence science and imaging capabilities, biodiversity, climate change and coral reef research underway at the Institution.  He will also tour facilities and speak with other Institution staff and students later in the day before departing for Boston and returning to London.

A former merchant seaman and a Member of Parliament since 1970, Prescott is particularly interested in speaking with members of WHOI’s Deep Submergence Laboratory, which conducted an extensive survey of the wreck of the M/V Derbyshire, the largest British merchant ship in terms of tonnage ever lost at sea.  Members of the Deep Submergence Laboratory, which found the wreck of the R.M.S Titanic in 1985 and the World War II German battleship Bismarck in 1989, conducted the survey in March and April 1997 at the request of the British Government and European Commission.  They used a variety of towed imaging vehicles that are part of the U.S. National Deep Submergence Facility operated by WHOI.  Prescott will see the remotely operated vehicle JASON, one of the vehicles used during the 1997 survey, during his visit to Woods Hole.

The 964-foot Derbyshire, a bulk ore carrier built in 1976, sank in Typhoon Orchid near Okinawa in September 1980 while carrying some 157,000 tons of iron ore from Canada to Japan.  All 44 people on board were lost.  According to British Government reports, in the period between 1980 and 1994 worldwide, 149 bulk or combination carriers were lost at sea with a total loss of life of 1,144.  Prescott called the WHOI effort to survey the wreck “one of the century’s greatest feats of underwater detective work.”

Prescott hopes to strengthen research and engineering collaboration between the Institution and other U.S. research laboratories and British oceanographers.

Photo Opportunities available

For additional information, contact:

British Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Phone: 44-171-890-3387 (after hours 44-171-873-1985)

Related sites:

Press Release Results of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Survey of
Largest British Merchant Ship Ever Lost Released In Great Britain