Being seasick is not a problem for scientists on a major expedition now under way in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Thats because most of the researchers investigating the eerie Lost City hydrothermal vent field are working "aboard" a landlocked science command center in Seattle.
Only four scientists are with University of Rhode Island oceanographer Bob Ballard aboard the Ronald H. Brown, a research vessel operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the expeditions major sponsor. The other 21 are with University of Washington oceanographer Deborah Kelley in a classroom on the UW campus that has been outfitted so scientists can direct sampling efforts and can be in constant contact with pilots and navigators on the Brown. Ballard is the missions principal investigator and Kelley is chief scientist. Operations are supported by a command center at the University of Rhode Island.
The expedition marks the return to the Lost City vent field discovered in 2000 during a National Science Foundation cruise. The field, formed in a very different way than the black smoker vents studied since the 1970s, includes a massive 18-story vent taller than any seen before.
Major partners in the expedition are NOAA, University of Washington, University of Rhode Island, Institute for Exploration, Jason Foundation for Education, Immersion Presents and National Geographic. The public can follow the voyage at:
Immersion Presents broadcasts are being seen at select Boys and Girls Clubs, aquariums and museums.
"This summers expedition to Lost City could be the prototype of many voyages envisioned for the newly converted NOAA vessel Okeanos Explorer, unique to NOAA and the federal fleet as the only U.S. government ship dedicated to exploring the Earths oceans," Kelley says.
"I hope that the students from Woodstock High School in Chicago, who came up with the Okeanos name in a nationwide contest, might one day sail on the vessel," Ballard says. "Perhaps one of them will be a scientist or operator of deep-sea robots, or a teacher whose class takes advantage of the educational activities that bring the excitement of expeditions such as this into the classroom."
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