Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Exploring Undersea with Google Earth

Google Earth is a wonderful tool for exploring the Earth. Since version 5.0, even underwater photos and deep-sea videos have a sense a place, because Google Earth can georeference these images to real topographic and hydrographic data. This is a powerful tool for outreach and education because the software literally provides a window on the deep.

Consider the recent Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill event. Anyone interested in the seafloor communities thriving within the vicinity of the spill need only to load the 'Explore the Ocean' layer produced by Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue for Google Earth to witness the fish and corals in the environments surrounding the wellhead site.

The same technology could be used proactively to highlight the potential impacts of unregulated tailings disposal from say, Ramu Nickel Mine in Papua New Guinea, if only we had video of those deep-reef communities. Perhaps this could help.

One excellent example of the narrative utility of Google Earth for deep-sea exploration is here below by NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. The creators mix a slick narrative tour with a geography lesson and live video from the incredible INDEX-SATAL Mission in 2010. The effect is a good one, with good integration of seafloor topography data and 3D buildings on land. Nice work, NOAA-OER. Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Smithsonian researchers dive Substation Curacao

Online friends of Substation Curacao can see a terrific night shot on Facebook of Smithsonian researchers Drs. Carole Baldwin and Lee Weight diving into the Caribbean deep-sea in the new Substation Curacao three person manned submersible. The submersible is a tourist vehicle, classed to 1000' foot depth and insured to very strict and extensive regulations. These types of commercial operations could bring a Renaissance to deep-sea science because they provide access to the deep-sea at relatively low cost.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest post at Deep Sea News!

I've been holding out, saving up the good stuff for Deep Sea News, the number one ocean blog on the Nature Blog Network. Go there to learn the mysterious 'Secrets to Flexibility in a Glass Sponge'. 

Seamount comic

This comic at xkcd captures the seamount story pretty nicely.  More than 100,000 large (really big, > 1 km) seamounts are uncharted and unexplored, according to recent estimates based on ship soundings and satellite altimetry data. Up to 25 million small mounds (> 100 m) may be out there, too...

See the full article by Wessel, Sandwell, and Kim (2010) in Oceanography's special online volume "Mountains in the Sea."