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Mero, J. L. 1963. “The Sea as a Source of Insoluble Chemicals and Minerals."
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ings, Subcommittee on Oceanography, Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House of Representatives, 88th Cong., 2d sess., Serial No. 88–23,
PRELIMINARY PLAN FOR EXPANSION OF OCEANOGRAPHIC RESEARCH AS A CONTRIBU
TION TO THE PEACETIME ECONOMY OF THE UNITED STATES UNDER CONDITIONS OF A COLD WAR THAW
A SPECIAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON OCEANOGRAPHY OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY
OF SCIENCES NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL I. Introduction
Oceanography has grown and developed because of its direct and indirect bearing on the many applied problems of those who must operate in the sea, and those who harvest its resources, in addition to the curiosity of marine scientists. In his letter of April 15, 1964, to the Committee on Oceanography, the
1 App. A.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy raises another and potentially major reason for oceanographic activities; that of helping to maintain an active and productive U.S. economy if the economic stimulus provided by the necessity of maintaining a large defense force is reduced by a thaw in the cold war. The letter asks the committee to help in preparing a 5-year plan, dealing with oceanographic research, which would be prepared under the following ground rules :
a. During the 5-year period there would be adequate qualified personnel to manage and support such a program.
b. Such a program would contribute to the national and international goals of the United States.
c. Such a program would be beneficial to the peacetime economy of the United States.
d. Money is not a limitation providing the above three ground rules are carried out.
The ocean engineering aspects of the plan were assigned to an industry organization under the same ground rules.
Some of what follows may be interpreted as “engineering" instead of "research.” We have included some applied activities with the research programs for two main reasons : In several cases the engineering must be done before the research projects can be carried out and, secondly, a major increase in marine engineering is feasible without the long leadtime required to recruit and train research scientists.
We understand that a large reduction in Navy and Navy-supported activities would free a large number of well-trained Navy personnel, scientists, and engineers. During an initial period, therefore, efforts must be made to relocate these highly trained technical personnel. The best solution would be to retrain them for familiar occupations and for employment in oceanographic endeavors. The economy of the Nation would benefit in two ways. First, industry would remain at a high level of production and new occupations would be created for Navy personnel to be released by the Navy Department and for civilian technical personnel presently employed on military contracts. Second, the programs outlined in this document offer long-term benefits to the national economy through increased knowledge and utilization of the resources of the sea.
What follows is not limited to Defense Department-supported programs. Although, at first, a major portion of these programs would be sponsored by the Department of Defense, other departments have basic needs for marine knowledge and technology. Thus, this report, while based on marine research, includes some developmental and engineering components and is based on broad national objectives involving several departments. II. General statement and summary
The existing national program in oceanography is, to a large extent, an outgrowth of the 12-chapter report, “Oceanography 1960 to 1970,” prepared by the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Oceanography (NASCO) as interpreted and somewhat modified by the Interagency Committee on Oceanography (IOC) of the Federal Council for Sciences and Technology. In arriving at its recommendations with respect to the effort and funds which should be expended on the various problem areas in oceanography, NASCO gave consideration to the restrictions imposed by the limited number of qualified personnel in the field, and by the rate at which new scientific and technical personnel could be trained. It is probable that ICO, in preparing its report, “Oceanography—The Ten Years Ahead" 2 took into consideration the realities of probable limitations on Federal expenditures in arriving at recommendations on the effort and funding for oceanography. The ground rules given us for this evaluation, as outlined above, remove the limitation of funds, but can only modify the restriction imposed by the number of qualified personnel. The primary requirements placed on the program outlined here are that it contribute to the national and international goals of the United States, and that it be beneficial to the peacetime economy of the Nation.
A Committee on Oceanography report now in press, “Economic Benefits from Oceanographic Research," estimates the cost-benefit ratios for the costs of oceanographic activity (as projected by the ICO report, “Oceanography-The Ten Years Ahead") in the area where expected benefits may be obtained due to increases in fisheries production, utilization of marine minerals, marine recrea
2 ICO pamphlet No. 10, June 1963.
tion, sewage disposal, improved ocean shipping, and better long-range weather forecasting. Benefits expected to the United States in international prestige in defense are not estimated. The overall benefit-to-cost ratio is about 412 to 1.
In the following we do little more than list studies that meet the objectives outlined above. The list does, however, have implications too complex to develop fully here. Very briefly, what is needed are studies in ecosystem changes, maintenance, and development in the oceans. To plot the physical and chemical environment of organisms is only the beginning, involving far too simple a model of causal relations. The "new ecology” demands studies of variations within populations and the evolution of ecosystems before real understanding (and hence predictability) of marine productivity is achieved.
The following is a listing of specific problem areas which we recommend be included in an accelerated oceanographic program in the event of a cold war thaw.
A. Detailed geophysical exploration of the Continental Shelf, the continental slope, and the ocean basins.
B. Drilling and coring the sediments of the Continental Shelf, the continental slope, and the ocean basins.
C. Detailed sampling and analysis of known mineral deposits on the sea bottom to evaluate their economic potential.
D. Oceanographic surveys of areas of marked data deficiency, such as the South Pacific, to include physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical measurements.
E. Detailed studies on the temporal and spatial variations in the circulation pattern and dynamics in areas in which reasonably good general survey data are available.
F. Tracking ocean currents with ships and drifting buoys.
G. Oceanwide synoptic observations of lower atmosphere and upper water layers using recording and transmitting buoy systems.
H. Detailed studies of the exchange of momentum, heat, and water between the ocean and atmosphere.
I. Large-scale experiments in the modification of ocean-atmosphere exchange processes.
J. Geochemical studies of the input of elements into the sea, history of such elements in the ocean, and the exchange of these elements through the ocean boundaries.
K. Detailed studies of temporal and spatial variation of standing crop, and productivity of pelagic organisms in areas where general survey data are avail. able.
L. Pilot-plant experiments in marine aquaculture.
M. Use of merchant vessels with automatic instrumentation for measurement of specified physical, chemical, and biological properties of the surface layers of the oceans and atmosphere.
N. Development of new and perhaps exotic methods and equipment for more effective attack on these scientific problems.
The expansion of these and other research programs will, in turn, require the following additional facilities, special tools, and training.
1. Construction of new shore facilities at existing oceanographic laboratories, the establishment of appropriate new centers, and conversion of existing shore facilities from their primary military use to research and technological use.
2. Development of buoys as data-gathering devices capable of using satellite and other communications systems for reporting oceanographic, meteorological, and other geophysical observations.
3. Development of manned and automated deep-diving submersibles with capabilities that would make them useful for scientific and exploration purposes.
4. Construction of new oceanographic resea vessels, both as general-purpose replacements of existing obsolete vessels, and as special-purpose platforms.
5. Conversion of certain types of existing naval vessels, including submarines, for research, survey, and exploration.
6. Development and procurement of oceanographic instruments for routine measurement of physical, chemical, and biological properties of the ocean waters and bottom sediments, of current velocities, and of the properties of the air-sea boundary.
7. Installation of high-precision navigation systems having extended coverage.
8. Training of new scientific and technical personnel, and retraining of such personnel presently engaged in other pursuits who would be assigned to oceanographic efforts.
Such an increase in research effort will require an increase in our capabilities in education and training. We interpret the ground rule, as stated in Secretary Wakelin's letter, that there must be adequate qualified personnel to manage and support any otherwise justifiable increased program, to mean that personnel with the necessary basic background in the primary sciences and in engineering need to be available. This can only be accomplished in the short time period contemplated by transfer to oceanographic programs of scientists, engineers, and other technical personnel now engaged in defense-related pursuits. In order for such personnel now engaged in other branches of science and technology to be effectively incorporated into the expanded oceanographic program, there will still be required an efficient means of imparting to them the fund of knowledge and techniques peculiar to the ocean. The existing educational and training programs will require considerable expansion.
III. Preliminary budget estimates for research, survey, and applied-research
programs warranting expansion as an aid to the peacetime economy In the following, the specific problem areas, listed in section II, are treated in slightly greater detail, and budgetary estimates made for each area.
It is assumed that, in addition to the expanded efforts recommended here, existing programs associated with the peacetime economy, such as oceanographic fisheries investigations, oceanographic studies related to peacetime use of nuclear energy, and near-shore oceanographic studies associated with the public health and welfare (including recreation) would also be funded at somewhat increased levels consistent with increase in needs and opportunities in these areas.
The specific areas recommended for substantial increase in effort follow.
A. Detailed geophysical and geological exploration of the Continental Shelf, the continental slope and the ocean basins. The ultimate exploitation of the mineral resources under the more than two-thirds of the earth's surface covered by the oceans requires a firm basic understanding of the geologic structure and of the sediment layers. The Continental Shelf offers a likely area for early exploitation, and an expanded program of detailed geophysical study should start here. This work could extend concurrently or in sequence to the next most accessible area, the continental slope, and to the more economically inaccessible ocean basins. These basic geophysical studies would provide the information necessary for adequate planning of a drilling program in the sedimentary layers, and for the ultimate exploitation of the mineral resources of these layers.
A comprehensive field program designed to provide detailed geophysical data on the continental margins of the United States would require 200 ship-years of effort at a cost of $200 million. If this effort were scheduled over a 5-year period, the annual cost of making the field study would be $40 million. In addition, evaluation of the results of the field measurements would require $20 million per year, for a total annual budget, over a 5-year period, of $300 million.
B. Drilling the sediments of the Continental Shelf, the continental slope, and the ocean basins. In order to make full use of the geophysical data describing the thickness and extent of the various sedimentary layers on the shelf, the slope and in the ocean basins, samples of each of the layers must be obtained by means of core drilling. This sampling of the sediment layers will also provide direct evidence of the mineral content of the sediments. A systematic program of drilling, based on information supplied from the geophysical studies, would require several special drilling vessels, though for work on the shelf and at least part way down the slope, these special platforms would not have to be as complex as is now planned for the Mohole project. A comprehensive drilling program for the Continental Shelves (less than 1,000 fathoms) of the United States would require 30 ship-years at a total operating cost of $45 million. Orer a 5-year period, the anual cost of obtaining the cores would thus be $9 million, to which would be added $5 million per year for analysis of core material and evaluation of the results, for a total annual cost of $14 million. Total 5-year program, $70 million.
C. Detailed sampling and analysis of mineral deposits on the sea floor to evaluate their economic potential. Deposits of phosphorite nodules, manganese nodules, and perhaps other minerals exist on or near the surface of the sea floor and offer a large potential for the mining industry, but detailed sampling and analysis of the more promising of these deposits is required in order to evaluate their economic potential as ores. This will involve the designe of equipment for very closely spaced sampling, in a controlled manner, of these deposits, in an economical and efficient fashion. In the shallow water of the Continental Shelres, this can undoubtedly be accomplished by the use of samplers on the ends of wires lowered from the ship. In the deep ocean, however, it is probably essential that we develop free instruments to be used from surface ships so that a series of samples may be taken with greater rapidity. The large number of samples required for this sort of study would be subjected to routine processing in appropriate chemical and mineralogical laboratories.
* For just the continental margins. Double the figures to include the deep ocean.