Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution News

16 Oct 2019

NATO RV Alliance is not just quiet, it’s ice-capable

NATO’s 3,100-ton, 305-foot research vessel NRV Alliance has been a leading platform for underwater acoustics research to the benefit of NATO navies. Photo: NATO CMRE

An interview with Ian Sage, director for marine operations, NATO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation, La Spezia, Italy.NATO’s 3,100-ton, 305-foot research vessel NRV Alliance has been a leading platform for underwater acoustics research to the benefit of NATO navies. The ship operated with a civilian crew under the German flag for many years for the NATO SACLANT Center, later renamed the NATO Undersea Research Center, and now known as the NATO Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation. Now Alliance flies a new flag, and has a broader mission.

10 Oct 2019

Study: Sunlight Degrades Polystyrene Faster than Expected

Polystyrene pollution at the tide’s edge. Photo by Jayne Doucette, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A study published by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) shows that polystyrene, one of the world’s most ubiquitous plastics, may degrade in decades or centuries when exposed to sunlight, rather than thousands of years as previously thought. The study published October 10, 2019, in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.“Right now, policy makers generally assume that polystyrene lasts forever in the environment,” says Collin Ward, a marine chemist at WHOI and lead author of the study. “That’s part of justification for writing policy that bans it.

14 Dec 2018

LRAUV: Arctic Oil-Spill-Mapping Robot Put to the Test

An artist’s depiction of LRAUV under sea ice. Using photo-chemical sensors, the robot scans the density of a billowing cloud of oil coming from an ocean floor well. The red and yellow objects are parts of a communication system consisting of antennas suspended under ice from a buoy installed on top of the ice.  Graphic by ADAC.

As commercial shipping and energy activities picks up in the Arctic region, the prospect of accidental oil spills in this pristine environment remain a concern. In response, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking the lead – through the U.S. Coast Guard – to develop a subsea robotic system to map and report on spills.“Because of ice coverage and the tyranny of distance, it is difficult to get resources and assets up in the Arctic in a quick manner,” said Kirsten Trego, Executive Director of the Coast Guard’s Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research.

31 Aug 2018

Ben Lecomte: a 5,000 Mile Swim Across the Pacific

Image: The Longest Swim

After becoming the first human to swim across the Atlantic in 1998, Ben Lecomte has taken on a new challenge: going from Tokyo to San Francisco, swimming 8 hours per day.Right this minute, Frenchman Ben Lecomte is hard at work on his second ocean crossing. After becoming the first human to swim across the Atlantic in 1998, he’s taken on a new challenge: going from Tokyo to San Francisco, churning his limbs eight hours a day in the cold Pacific for six months, accompanied by his team on the support boat.

03 May 2018

US Navy-owned Research Vessel Back in Action

RV Thomas G. Thompson (Photo: University of Washington)

Research vessel (R/V) Thomas G. Thompson (AGOR-23) has gained a new lease on life following a recently completed 18-month upgrade to improve operating systems, bolster its research capabilities and extend its working life for the U.S. Navy and scientific organizations.The Navy-owned vessel has been operated and maintained University of Washington since 1991, under a charter lease agreement with the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-which manages the ship on behalf of the service.The $52 million refit…

26 Jan 2018

New Virus Found in the Ocean

Electron microscope images of marine bacteria infected with the non-tailed viruses studied in this research. The bacterial cell walls are seen as long double lines, and the viruses are the small round objects with dark centers. (Courtesy of researchers)

Researchers from MIT and Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered a new type of virus that dominates water samples taken from the ocean but has long escaped analysis because its characteristics are not detected by standard tests. The newly identified viruses have long been missed by previous studies due several unusual properties including a lack of “tail” found on most catalogued and sequenced bacterial viruses. This research, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Ocean Ventures Fund…

26 Apr 2016

El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder Located

Voyage data recorder next to El Faro mast on ocean floor (Photo: NTSB)

The voyage data recorder (VDR) belonging to sunken cargo ship El Faro was found early Tuesday morning in 15,000 feet of water, about 41 miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced. A specialist team comprised of investigators and scientists from the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Tote Services, the owner and operator of El Faro, located the VDR using remotely operated undersea search equipment. Video footage showing El Faro's VDR is available here. At about 1 a.m.

18 Apr 2016

Search Resumes for El Faro Data Recorder

The National Transportation Safety Board is set to resume its search April 18, 2016, for the vessel data recorder of the sunken El Faro cargo ship. The U.S. flagged El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015. All 33 of the El Faro’s crew perished in the accident. The mission for the second search is to retrieve the ship’s vessel data recorder and better document the wreckage to help determine exactly why and how the ship sank. The second search is being conducted in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

07 Apr 2016

RV Neil Armstrong Arrives in Woods Hole

The research vessel Neil Armstrong was met by a jubilant crowd at the WHOI dock Wednesday, as it arrived to its homeport for the first time. (Photo by Daniel Cojanu, WHOI)

The research vessel Neil Armstrong arrived to its home port at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) dock for the first time Wednesday, escorted by the WHOI coastal research vessel R/V Tioga, two Coast Guard vessels and fireboats from neighboring towns. “What a wonderful day for Woods Hole, for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the entire ocean science community,” enthused WHOI President and Director Mark Abbott. “We’re very proud to have been selected by the Office of Naval Research to operate the Neil Armstrong. Six years ago, the U.S.

04 Apr 2016

Research Vessel Neil Armstrong Joins WHOI Fleet

R/V Neil Armstrong sails into San Francisco Harbor at the conclusion of the first leg of its inaugural voyage in late 2015. (Image by Aerial Productions, ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

I woke up the first night out of Anacortes, Washington, when the ship dropped out from under me and I levitated off my bunk. Then came the sound of shuffleboard in the conference room one deck above. The only trouble was, there's no shuffleboard on the research vessel Neil Armstrong. It was Halloween 2015 in the Northeast Pacific. We were in the first hours of the first voyage of the newest ship in the U.S. academic research fleet, and we were already plowing through 15-foot waves. But the ship’s motion made it feel more like we were facing much heavier seas.

07 Mar 2016

Fukushima Site Still Leaking After 5 Years

Map shows the location of seawater samples taken by scientists and citizen scientists that were analyzed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for radioactive cesium as part of Our Radioactive Ocean. Cesium-137 is found throughout the Pacific Ocean and was detectable in all samples collected, while cesium-134 (yellow/orange dots), an indicator of contamination from Fukushima, has been observed offshore and in select coastal areas. (Figure by Jessica Drysdale, Woods Hole Oceanographic Insti

Five years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, there is still no U.S. federal agency responsible for studies of radioactive contaminants in the ocean. But scientific data about the levels of radioactivity in the ocean off our shores are available publicly thanks to ongoing efforts of independent researchers, including Ken Buesseler, a radiochemist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), who has led the effort to create and maintain an ocean monitoring network along the U.S. West Coast.

19 Feb 2016

“ProteOMZ” Surfaces Findings in Low Oxygen Ocean Waters

The ProteOMZ expedition team; Courtesy Schmidt Ocean Institute

Dr. Mak Saito from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, along with his research team have just returned from a 22 day expedition, called “ProteOMZ”, aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor. During this voyage the team implemented the first large-scale deployment of a new protein biomarker technology. The “targeted metaproteomics” approach will be used to diagnose marine microbial populations and their interaction with ocean chemistry. Using underwater pumps, the upper 1 kilometer of the ocean’s microbial microbiome was sampled by filtering 85…

11 Feb 2016

NTSB to Search for El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder

EL Faro sits in 15,000 feet of water near the Bahamas (Photo: NTSB)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it will initiate a second search expedition to the wreckage of sunken El Faro in an effort to gather further evidence in its investigation of the loss of the containership, which sank in the Atlantic during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015. A key objective of the mission, which is expected to begin in April and last about two weeks, is to locate the voyage data recorder (VDR) and to provide investigators with a more extensive and detailed survey of the shipwreck, NTSB said, adding the exact launch date will be announced later.

18 Dec 2015

New Deep-Sea Vents, Volcanic Activity Found in Mariana Back-Arc

The autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry (yellow, at left) is prepared for deployment off the stern of the RV Falkor, after a trace-metal CTD instrument package and water sampler is recovered (lower right). Photo credit SOI

Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor returns from the first ever expedition to systematically characterize the rarely explored Mariana Back-Arc. HAGANTA, GUAM – A diverse team of scientists are returning from a 28-day expedition onboard R/V Falkor that has more than doubled the number of known hydrothermal vent sites in the Mariana Back-arc region. This area, west of the Mariana Trench, is where plate spreading and submarine volcanism are concentrated. Several momentous findings were made, including the discovery of one of the deepest vents ever found.

18 Aug 2015

Examining the Fate of Fukushima Contaminants

Researchers deployed time-series sediment traps 115 kilometers southeast of the nuclear power plant at depths of 500 meters and 1,000 meters. The two traps began collecting samples on July 19, 2011—130 days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami—and were recovered and reset annually. (Makio Honda, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology)

An international research team reports results of a three-year study of sediment samples collected offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in a new paper published August 18, 2015, in the American Chemical Society's journal, Environmental Science and Technology. The research aids in understanding what happens to Fukushima contaminants after they are buried on the seafloor off coastal Japan. Led by Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist and marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)…

06 Aug 2015

Richardson Confirmed as Next CNO

Adm. John M. Richardson (U.S. Navy photo)

Adm. John M. Richardson, director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, was confirmed by the Senate as the 31st Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Aug. Richardson will replace Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert who has been CNO since September 2011. Vice Adm. Frank Caldwell, who was also confirmed by the Senate today, will succeed Richardson later this month as the director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. "I am honored and humbled to have been nominated and confirmed to succeed Adm. Greenert as our Navy's next chief of naval operations," Richardson said. "Adm.

06 Aug 2015

Allied Marine Crane Outfits R/V Neil Armstrong

(Photo: Allied Marine Crane)

The U.S. Navy’s research vessel Neil Armstrong (AGOR-27), scheduled for completion this year, is equipped with a modern array of oceanographic research equipment. To handle this equipment, Allied Marine Crane, a division of Allied Systems, Co., was chosen to design and manufacture two cranes, one A-frame, one davit, two handling systems and two hydraulic power units. Allied Marine Crane equipment was specified based on their history with research equipment handling, their proven design and build capabilities, and strong working relationship with marine winch supplier Markey Machinery.

03 Aug 2015

Climate Change Boosts Galapagos Penguin Population

A new study compared sea surface temperatures with endangered Galapagos Penguin population counts and found that the penguin population doubled while waters cooled around their nesting islands. (Courtesy of Snowmanradio/Flickr)

Shifts in trade winds and ocean currents powered a resurgence of endangered Galapagos Penguins over the past 30 years, according to a new study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). These changes enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding—an expansion that could continue as the climate changes over the coming decades, according to the study. The Galapagos Islands, a chain of islands 1,000 kilometers west of mainland Ecuador, are home to the only penguins in the Northern Hemisphere.

14 May 2015

Nomination for Next CNO Announced

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announces during a Pentagon press briefing that he has recommended Adm. John M. Richardson as the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1s

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced today during a Pentagon press briefing that he has recommended Adm. John M. Richardson as the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). A career submarine officer, Richardson is currently director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. If confirmed, Richardson will replace Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert who has been CNO since September 2011. Greenert will retire this fall after 40 years of naval service. "John Richardson is one of our finest officers and I have great confidence that he is the right leader for our Navy," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

01 May 2015

USN Announces 2015 Young Investigators

Department of the  USN

It's a career-defining moment for 36 college and university faculty April 30, as the Department of the Navy announces the recipients of its 2015 Young Investigator Program, one of the oldest and most selective scientific research advancement programs in the country. Collectively, awardees will receive $18.8 million in grants to fund research across a range of naval-relevant science and technology areas. This is a banner year for the program, administered by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which increased funding by 50 percent over last year.

08 Apr 2015

Oil Under Ice

Helix Oil Skimmer being deployed off the USCGC HEALY.

The U.S. How did an urgent requirement to build a road to Alaska end up helping to design submarines and to recover oil spills in the Arctic ice? The Army Corps of Engineers was faced with a monumental challenge of building a highway to connect the “lower 48” to Alaska during World War II to keep America’s northernmost territory secure from invasion. The road crossed hundreds of miles of wilderness, and much of the roadbed sat up permafrost, presenting challenges to America’s roadbuilders.

02 Feb 2015

Research Shows Iron's Long Ocean Journey

Photo courtesy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) points to the deep ocean as a major source of dissolved iron in the central Pacific Ocean. Researchers found that iron can travel long distances, highlighting the vital role ocean mixing plays in determining whether deep sources of iron reach the surface-dwelling life that need it to survive. Iron is readily soluble in low oxygen regions at hydrothermal vent sites and along continental margins, but it was believed iron remained in these localized spots and contributed minimally to the ocean's overall iron content.

06 Jan 2015

US Research Ships Ready to Cast Off in 2015

Arctic-bound Sikuliaq (Photo: U.S. National Science Foundation)

Two new U.S. research vessels are going full steam ahead: the U.S. National Science Foundation will formally commission its Arctic-bound Sikuliaq, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Neil Armstrong will begin science operations. Live Science reports that two new U.S. research ships will take to the seas in the Arctic and Atlantic in 2015, allowing scientists around the world to explore the geology, biology and health of the oceans. The ocean researchers said that the U.S. National Science Foundation has commissioned the Arctic research vessel Sikuliaq.

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