2007-03-01 / Letters to the Editor

Exploring the ocean's depths

Just wanted to let you know that a Jamestowner (me - David Robinson) is going to be working on Dr. Robert Ballard's upcoming Secrets of the Gulf expedition of research and discovery in the Gulf of Mexico.

I will be making the first of the expedition's dives in the U.S. Navy's nuclearpowered deep submergence vehicle, NR-1, and serving as watch leader for the remainder of the research cruise on board the SSV Carolyn Chouest.

You can learn more about the project, see photos of the NR-1, and read a pre-project interview of me by visiting www.immersionpresents. org, and clicking on the Secrets of the Gulf icon (manta ray). On this website, you can also watch nation-wide broadcasts and follow the expedition online by visiting the website from March 4- 9 at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. These broadcasts will use state-ofthe art "telepresence" technology to enable students, educators, scientists and the general public back on shore to follow the Secrets of the Gulf expedition 24/7 in realtime. These broadcasts are being presented daily at the URI-GSO Narragansett Bay Campus all week as well.

My employer, the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL), and its Educational Programs department, is a project partner/sponsor (along with the U.S. Navy, NOAA, National Geographic, URI, UConn, the Institute for Exploration, and others). I will be representing us on an interdisciplinary team of scientists who will explore the fascinating undersea landscape of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS).

One of the 13 U.S. national marine sanctuaries, the FGBNMS is located approximately 115 miles off the Texas/Louisiana coast. Named for its colorful corals and sponges, the sanctuary was targeted for exploration because of its unique geology and biology. PAL's part of the project revolves around the sanctuary's geological history, which also makes it a viable location to search for evidence of early human habitation that would predate current evidence of North America's first inhabitants.

The project will use two ships - the U.S. Navy's NR-1- the nation's only nuclear-powered submarine dedicated to underwater research, and the 238- foot SSV Carolyn Chouest, which will tow the remotely operated vehicle Argus, to explore coral reefs, brine seeps, mud volcanoes and ancient shorelines.

This deep water expedition is a unique collaboration between the U.S. Navy, the National Marine Sanctu- ary Program, and researchers from academic, Native American, and applied research institutions, such the Rhode Island-based PAL.

I will be bringing a copy of the Press to take a picture in the NR-1 submarine while we're on the bottom of the ocean!

David Robinson


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