Tag: NOAA (page 2 of 2)

The NOAA Looks Back at Failed Whaling Expedition

The whaling industry, once booming, was already declining when a whaling expedition in 1871 became a disaster. This expedition consisted of 40 ships, sailing near Wrainwright, Alaska. The crew of 32 of the ships were forced to evacuate and abandon them in the ice, creating a disastrous loss to the whaling industry. For years following, expeditions were sent to this area to try and recover remains from the lost ships and to learn from what was found. In 2005, archaeological researchers were sent by the National Geographic Society, The National Science Foundation, and the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium on a similar mission to find and study the failed expedition. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration later documented the results of their findings.

The archaeologists were tasked with this four year project not only to benefit future offshore surveys but also to discover exactly what happened during the failed expedition. In order to do this, they had to adjust their understanding of the shoreline near which remains of the vessels were found, as it would have been different at the time of the 1871 expedition. They also had to estimate where ship remains may have traveled over the course of over 100 years. The researchers built on the findings of past archaeologists who had explored the sights to develop conclusions about both of these factors.

The researchers were tasked with uncovering remains that spanned almost 100 miles by searching both the land and the water. They used technology such as remote sensors and techniques such as scuba diving with underwater metal detectors to explore the area under the water. Their exploration above the water consisted of searching for signs of wreckage and miscellaneous artifacts from the 1871 ships. They also were able to study the shoreline from above by flying over the land.

As time passed, the archaeological researchers were able to learn more about the erratic behavior of this Alaskan water and adjusted their methods accordingly. They located which area of water was most likely to hold wreckage based on the water’s behavior and changed the technology they were using to get a clearer view of the underwater space. Unfortunately, they were faced with uncooperative conditions. For example, erosion in the wreckage area is high, and the ice building and moving over the years most likely entrapped remnants of the 1871 fleet ships.

No matter how much specific areas in the large wreck site were singled out, no one piece of wreckage could be matched to a specific ship. This is not only because many of the remains were lost, but also due to the fact that all of the whaling ships were highly similar. Furthermore, many artifacts washed ashore from the wreckage could not be claimed by the researchers because nearby Inupiat villages used pieces of the ships for construction or in personal collections. Thankfully, the villagers took the researchers to the sites and allowed them to inspect the artifacts.

Study of the 1871 whaling ‘disaster’ is important in both archaeological and ocean exploration contexts. The wreckage holds a lot of insight into the past, and it also holds knowledge about the dangers of that specific portion of waters near Wrainwright, Alaska. Although whaling is now generally frowned upon, this information is key in further water travel and ocean exploration in that area.

NOAA Explores The Oceans Depth

Researchers and exploration enthusiasts are both very excited for the upcoming dives by the NOAA. A group of scientists will be boarding the Okeanos Explorer and head out to the Caribbean and Atlantic oceans and dive up to 3.7 miles to understand and observe the depths. The unmanned vessel ROV is expected to dive deep to explore the unknown which will be available for live stream as it dives into the abyss.

The reason for the dive according to the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is, “In order to understand and sustainably manage the ocean’s resources, we first have to survey what resources exist.” Many are particularly excited for this dive since the success of ROV’s previous dives in the troughs of Puerto Rico and the fact no live stream has ever recorded so deep in the Atlantic and Caribbean. A dumbo octopus displays a body posture never before observed in cirrate octopods. Unprecedented sights like this are one of the reasons dozens of scientists (and hundreds of thousands of members of the public) follow live video from the seafloor during each Okeanos Explorer expedition. Image courtesy of the NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. (http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1402/logs/highlight_imgs/media/dumbo.html) Even the members of the NOAA are excited to see what is in store for the dive since they truly cannot determine what they will be encountering. They do know about the area they are diving and the habits, they understand this is an area with high seismic hazards which include earthquakes and tsunamis. Also the amount of coral and deepwater geological mud volcanoes are active in the region.

In past dives, the team has come across strange creators including a dumbo octopus displaying postures and notions which most dumbo octopus rarely exhibit.The live stream is expected to begin the morning of April 9, 2015 EST. To tune in you can head over to www.oceanexplorer.noaa.gov.

For more ocean exploration news and updates, please visit Dr. Larry Mayer‘s official website.