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Technological revolutions in sensors, robotics, and telecommunications allow new views of ocean

Washington DC Scientists can now visualize the ocean floor in remote areas of the Arctic, observe rockfish hideouts, and see live images of coral cities thousands of meters under the sea's surface. Soon their robots will be able to "live" on the bottom of the ocean - monitoring everything from signs of tsunamis to the effects of deep sea drilling.

"We have very complex problems in the ocean, but we've been looking at things through a narrow straw," explains James Bellingham of the Monterey Bay Research Institute. "We're trying to expand this view - this is about turning the ocean transparent."

In an American Association for the Advancement of Science press conference on February 19th at 2 PM, scientists will discuss innovations in underwater research and how they are advancing both science and management.

"For every tool we have to explore outer space space stations, tethered missions, rovers, mapping we have a comparable tool for ocean exploration," says James Lindholm of the Pfleger Institute. "This suite of technologies allows us to study an environment that is equally hostile to human life."

"It's exciting," adds Les Watling of the University of Maine. "There hasn't been this level of true exploration in the ocean for a hundred years."

New Powers of Mapping

In the past, seafloor maps were constructed based on individual depth measurements, taken laboriously at discreet points in the sea. These points formed a connect-the-dots type picture that scientists could use to draw maps, but that was as good as it got. "You can connect the dots and get an outline, but this is like the difference between a dot-to-dot outline of someone's face and a photograph of the person," says Larry Mayer of the University of New Hampshire.

Today, multi-beam sonar sprays sound waves to scan the ocean floor, revealing everything from 3 centimeter sand ridges to 4,000 meter undersea mountains - from gun barrels off the
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Contact: Jessica Brown
jbrown@seaweb.org
202-497-8375
SeaWeb
19-Feb-2005


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