"DEEP" APPRECIATION OF BOB BALLARD
Our VISIONS'05 cruise captures the spirit of change rapidly unfolding across multiple facets of Ocean Science. In many ways we are moving into an entirely new era of 'tele-presence' in the ocean that will allow us to interact routinely with rapidly unfolding, unpredictable processes that represent a broad spectrum of activities in the ocean basins. Unquestionably, we are indebted to a number of folks who have gone before us in developing early ideas and approaches required to work 'transparently' within the ocean.
Initially, the goal is to function in such a fashion that the public could electronically watch over scientist's shoulders as we struggle to succeed, as we sometimes fail, and as we try again, and again to confront the challenge of conducting human inquiries into the behavior of a massively powerful, unsympathetic ocean as capable of swatting us down with a major storm, as it is of delivering fair winds and following seas.
Years ago, a visionary explorer well-known for his scientific, archeological, and educational contributions to public awareness of the oceans, began talking about the power of 'tele-presence' in the ocean. As early as 1989-1993, Bob Ballard actually set in motion some key elements necessary for conducting ship-submersible operations on the seafloor with the goal that subsea activities could be viewed live by many thousands of people on land. We acknowledge the ideas that Bob has brought to the field of Marine Sciences and Public Education over the years.
On the VISIONS'05 cruise, we are on the threshold of sending the first High Definition Television signals from volcanically driven submarine hydrothermal systems on the Juan de Fuca Ridge to the Internet2 Users across the nation and to higher speed networks around the world.
In the 1980's, Bob played the central conceptual and fund-raising role of developing the JASON I Remotely Operated Vehicle, as the predecessor to JASON II, the system we have on board with us now. Further, and perhaps as important, many of the key players on this cruise are 'charter members' of the early Ballard Team: Dana Yoerger (Robotics Engineer and ABE Director), Andy Bowen (Expedition Leader), Bob Elder (Electrician), Jonathon Howland (Software Lead), Tom Crook (Navigator), Steve Gegg (Navigation-Data Processing) all worked closely with Bob in the early years of JASON exploration in the deep sea. Each of those gentlemen is onboard the VISIONS Cruise with us today carrying on that compelling tradition.
In 1993, Bob hosted by through the JASON Program, originating from the Gulf of Baja where submarine hydrothermal systems and whales were examined by a team of at-sea researchers working closely with land-based scientists collected at the University of Rhode Island. The 'dry' scientists were in continuous communication with the JASON I operating team at sea directing sampling and survey activities. Veronique Robigou, our REVEL Director here at sea on the VISIONS Cruise, was the co-host with Bob on that program; she was the on-board Chief Scientist. During the 1993 program, we hosted a 3-hour workshop linking researchers at-sea to marine scientists at 26 down-link sites across the country.
This past summer Bob was at sea with an ROV on board the Research Vessel Ron Brown at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, while his co-chief, Deb Kelley (also co-Chief on this cruise) and a team of scientists assembled on the University of Washington Campus were in close communication with Bob's crew on the Brown. The scientists on land directed most of the research activity on that cruise which featured mapping, sampling, educational and public outreach components.
One variant on this 'ocean transparency' theme that is especially close to my heart, is the concept of 'tele-presence writ large' in the form of the NEPTUNE Program. We hope soon to enable comprehensive tele-presence via optical fiber in the form of thousands of autonomous robotically driven sensor arrays and vehicles that can operate continuously through out the ocean volume for decades as extensions of science laboratories, educational classrooms, and infotainment centers in living rooms around the world. Arguably this concept grew from the seeds of Bob's early visions.
John R. Delaney