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U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Makes First Visit to WHOI

June 16, 2011

On June 10, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) hosted a visit from Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, marking the first such appearance by a serving Chief of Naval Operations.

“This is, of course, a great honor for us,” WHOI President and Director Susan K. Avery told an assembled group of WHOI employees and students. “It has also been an opportunity to celebrate our historically long and productive relationship with the Navy, and to showcase the many ways in which WHOI has been able to contribute to Navy programs.”

Each year, approximately 10 percent of the WHOI sponsored research budget comes from contracts with the U.S. Navy.

During his visit to WHOI, Admiral Roughead toured several of the Institution’s labs and had briefings on its submersible vehicle programs–many of which have been developed with Navy support. Among those vehicles is the REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle; Sentry, another autonomous underwater vehicle and part of the National Deep Submergence Facility, and upgrades to Alvin, the storied human occupied vehicle. The CNO was also briefed on WHOI’s education program and efforts to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

The visit also served as an opportunity for the CNO to address the WHOI community, describing his vision for the Navy and its future needs, and reviewing the Navy’s operational deployments around the globe. He discussed the impacts climate change will have on the Arctic sea ice, sea levels around the globe, and Navy operations; the recent catastrophes such as in Japan and Haiti and the Navy’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance; and the Navy’s marine security and antipiracy efforts. Referring to the recent discovery by a WHOI-led team of the wreckage of Air France Flight 447, Admiral Roughead reported that when meeting with his French counterpart or other senior French officials, they thank him for the all the efforts to find the wreckage.

“I accept their thanks on behalf of you because you are the ones who have done the incredible work and were driven to solve that problem,” Roughead told those assembled.

At the close of his address to the WHOI staff, the CNO presented Susan Avery with a letter commending the Institution for its 50-year history of deep submergence and ocean research vehicle development. The letter makes special mention of WHOI’s use of robotic technology in response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and in the 2011 successful search for the wreckage of Air France flight 447.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment.