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Building a National Ocean Exploration Program: 

Building a National Ocean Exploration Program Presentation by Paul Kelly Senior Vice President Rowan Companies, Inc. Member U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Capitol Hill Oceans Week Washington, D.C. June 10, 2004


Introduction Ocean exploration missions conducted during the 19th and 20th centuries were the first attempt to document how deep the oceans are, to chart key bathymetric features, and to identify and study marine life. Previously, the oceans were viewed as mere highways for maritime commerce, void of life below 1,000 feet. But despite the important discoveries made during these missions, we still have only a cursory understanding of the deep ocean. Photo compliments of Ocean Commission


The Value of Ocean Exploration About 95 percent of the ocean floor remains unexplored, much of it located in harsh environments such as the polar latitudes and the Southern Ocean. Photo compliments of Pew Commission


Advances in deep-sea technologies have also made it easier to locate shipwrecks and historical artifacts lost in the ocean depths, such as the stunning discovery of the RMS Titanic in 1985. Photo compliments of Oceaneering


Preliminary evidence indicates that immense new energy sources exist in the deep sea. The amount of carbon found in frozen gas hydrates on the seafloor is conservatively estimated to be twice the total amount of carbon existing in all other fossil fuels on Earth. Photo compliments of MMS


Ocean exploration also offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage the general public in marine science and conservation. Given the importance of the ocean in human history and in regulating climate change, guaranteeing food security, providing energy resources, and enabling worldwide commerce, it is astounding that we still know so little about it. The ocean and its depths need to be systematically explored to serve the interests of the nation and humankind. Photos compliments of Ocean Commission

Growing Calls for a National Program: 

Growing Calls for a National Program Ocean exploration remains a relatively minor component of U.S. ocean science and is a missing link in the national strategy to better understand Earth’s environment. U.S. leadership in ocean exploration will increase what we know about all aspects of ocean life and resources and make it possible to reach management decisions based on more complete scientific information. Photo compliments of Oceaneering


In 2000, the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration called for a robust national ocean exploration program propelled by the spirit of discovery. These recommendations led to the establishment of the Office of Exploration within NOAA, at a modest funding level of $4 million in fiscal year 2001, and $14 million in each of fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Photo compliments of Pew Commission


A 2003 National Research Council report reiterated the need for a comprehensive national ocean exploration program strongly linked to traditional research, with broad international partnerships, and a commitment to educational opportunities. NOAA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), by virtue of their missions and mandates, are well positioned to lead a global U.S. ocean exploration effort. Photo compliments of Oceaneering

Ocean Commission Recommendations:: 

Ocean Commission Recommendations: Congress should appropriate significant funding for an expanded national ocean exploration program. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation should be designated as the lead agencies, with additional involvement from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research. Public outreach and education should be integral components of the program. An expanded national ocean exploration program will require a budget of approximately $110 million annually, plus additional funds for required infrastructure.

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