This is a city born on the wrong side of the Nueces River. It was founded more or less as a trading post that quickly turned into a smuggler's lair and a place of escape for both Mexican citizens and Texas citizens who were running from the law, and they all met and mixed here. The Spaniard who first saw the river named it the Nueces, or the river of nuts. And it wasn't entirely irrelevant for the early period. As a matter of fact, if you attend some of our local elections, you will know we still have a few of them around.
I want to especially welcome the new members. We saw them last night and heard something about them, and I want them to look us over. I know you're disappointed because we don't look much like philosophers. The truth of the matter is, we aren't real philosophers. We are all in transit. Some are further down the road than others. Some of us have barely reached the city limits sign. But we all are lovers and seekers after knowledge and wisdom. And this group of people, in my opinion, represents the dynamic of this state in every field--in science, in medicine, in the judiciary, in the arts, and in business. We invite the new members to relax and become one with us. Although we don't take ourselves too seriously, we do take this Society seriously. We sought you out. You didn't ask to join. And since you accepted, we expect from you full participation and attendance every year, if at all possible.
When I was taking Philosophy 101, I learned two things that I remembered about philosophy, that is you have the philosopher of the road and the philosopher of the balcony. We don't have any balcony philosophers here. These are all men and women who've struggled in life and succeeded, elbowed their way sometimes through the main streets to get there. So, again, we have got a great gold vein in this Society to be tapped together. Get out your tablets, take your notes, and prepare for it.
At this time, Texas's answer to Will Rogers--Cactus?
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And the gray mist on the sea's face and a gray dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
["Sea Fever" by John Masefield]
William Crook: It is my observation that the greater the individual, the more tedious his introduction. He or she gathers so many honors, so many degrees, fills so many positions, that you can list them all and still not know the individual. Such is the case with Bill Moyers. My wife read his vita the other night. We were both awed by it. And she said, I believe Bill Moyers is the only truly, truly humble man I've ever met. I waited. It was not amended, and it was not extended.
Bill has gathered by his voice to America so many honors that it would be a tedious introduction if I read them all, and he wouldn't have time, and the panel wouldn't have time, to speak. He has written six national best-sellers, non-fiction. He has received thirty Emmys. He has been called the most significant voice in television news, the communicator of the decade, and a great conversationalist.
It's easy for me to say this because my wife did not amend her statement. So I want to tell you that, in spite of all his virtues and his accomplishments, Bill Moyers sails under false colors; it doesn't make any difference that he didn't raise the colors. He sails under them: the concept that he's a great conversationalist. It takes two to make a conversation, or three, to exchange ideas and information. If you were to meet Bill out in the hall or somewhere, you'd go home to your spouse or your friends and say, I've just had the greatest conversation I've ever had in my life with Bill Moyers. And they would say, What did he say? And you would have to say, Well, not very much. But I was brilliant. I waxed eloquent. I spoke the definitive word definitively. I soared with my concepts and my ideas.
And that's Bill's dark secret. He listens. He listens, not because he is doing a poll or seeking information. He listens because he respects what you have to say, what the elevator operator has to say. And, as far as his being humble, he sometimes carries bags for the porter, and he listens to the porter and learns interesting things about him.
Let me give you one clue, one thing to watch for. On the fateful day when Air Force One took off from Dallas with its terrible burden, Bill was aboard for the swearing in of the new President. They were strapped in, and, once they reached the altitude, he unstrapped himself and went forward to find the president gazing at the blind that was pulled down, as they all were on the plane.
I know what I would have said. I suspect you would have said the same thing. I would have said, "Can I get you something, Mr. President?" Bill Moyers asked, "What are you thinking, Mr. President?" And the answer he received, to me, is a key that would unlock the burdens that the presidents throughout the Cold War had carried. So watch him. He will learn a lot about you, but he will treat it with great respect. I give you Bill Moyers.
I begin with a confession. I am not here because I know anything about the oceans that would justify my presence on the platform with these experienced and knowledgeable scientists. I am here because my friend Bill Crook, your president, asked me to come. Over the course of our forty-year friendship I have never been able to say no to Bill. So blame him for having a landlubber as the moderator for a weekend of discussions about the oceans.
I take my cue for this assignment from the humorist, Robert Benchley. He arrived to take his final exam in international law at Harvard to discover that it consisted of just one question: "Discuss the abstract of the international fisheries problem in respect to hatcheries protocol and dragnet and procedure as it affects (a) the point of view of the United States, and (b) the point of view of Great Britain." Benchley was desperate but he was also honest. So he wrote: "I know nothing of the point of view of Great Britain in the arbitration of the international fisheries problem and nothing about the point of view of the United States. I shall therefore discuss the question from the point of view of the fish."
That is my point of view this weekend. When I interviewed him on PBS, the literary critic George Steiner compared the role of the literary critic to that of a pilot fish. The pilot fish points the way to the giant creative specimen coming along behind it. It is an exciting role but a distinctly minor one. Journalism is like that. The important work this weekend belongs to the giant creative specimen whom it will be my pleasure to introduce. I've said on other occasions that we journalists are beachcombers on the shores of other people's experience and knowledge. I expect to go home with a treasure trove after listening to the experts Bill Crook and this Society have assembled this weekend.
Speaking of treasure troves, the New York Times reported this week that the Navy has begun to release a rich collection of data about the oceans that was clandestinely gathered during the long decades of the Cold War.
For almost half a century our government deployed thousands of ships, airplanes, submarines, and satellites to collect readings on ice depth, ice shape, ocean depth, sediment composition, sea-surface height, salinity, bioluminescence and the transmissibility of light. It was all done in secrecy because the information gathered was vital to the quiet war against the Soviet Union by vessels gliding stealthily through the sea hunting out the hidden assets of our adversaries.
Some of the most recently released data, for example, came from a Navy satellite that in the 1980s made gravity measures over all the world's oceans in an effort to increase the accuracy of long-range missiles fired from submarines. Some came from the frigid arctic where to improve our side's ability in the deadly serious hide-and-seek games of nuclear-armed submarines the Navy amassed huge amounts of information about that coldest theater of the Cold War, where the Soviets tried to hide their missile-carrying subs under the icecaps while the American attack subs tried to track them, ready to destroy them if the war turned hot.
Now the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union belongs in Davy Jones' locker and this classified information is being gradually released. Scientists are ecstatic at how all this might add to our understanding of the environment, geology, climatology, weather forecasting, pollution, marine engineering, and mineral exploration.
Incidentally, a summary of what may be revealed in this long-hidden treasure can be found in the report this summer of the Medea Group, a team of some sixty scientists from the academy and industry who advise the nation's intelligence agencies on how secret data can be used to study the environment. You can get a copy of the Medea Report by voice request at (703) 883-5265, or by fax (703) 883-6190.
I got those numbers from the New York Times, where I have always gotten much of my top secret information--even when I was White House press secretary. No kidding. In the mid-sixties I once asked the Pentagon press office to send over clippings from newspapers around the country reporting on a certain defense policy. A few days later I received several cartons of clippings and every carton--all containing only published clippings--was marked TOP SECRET!
But as I said, this is a subject I leave to our specialists. The hidden secrets of the sea are not my expertise. President Crook asked me, rather, to reflect in these minutes of prelude not on the mysteries that lie in the ocean's depth, but on the mysteries the sea has left in all of us. He said, "Talk about The Ocean Within." And I will.
Perhaps you saw at the museum last evening that exhibit marked "Secrets in Concretions." A concretion is a crust of shells, coral, and minerals formed around metal objects in the sea. They look like a rocky mass. But the shape of the concretion doesn't always betray what it contains. Only x-rays can do that, and if you pushed the button on the exhibit, as I did, a rear panel lighted up to reveal an x-ray which clearly showed the iron objects embedded in the concretion. I understood at that moment precisely what Bill had in mind when he said, "Talk about The Ocean Within."
Our lives are concretions. And deep within us are metaphors and images, memories and visions, deposited there through the millennia by the power of the sea acting on the human imagination. They have shaped our personal and collective responsiveness to the world as surely as the seismic shifts of tectonic plates rebound on distant shores.
I was a landlubber. The insular world that nurtured me was bound north and east by the Red River, and to the south was the Sabine. The only ocean I knew for twenty-one years was the sea of blue horizon that opened above Highway 80 as we left the piney woods of East Texas and headed west toward the skyline of Dallas which soon appeared in the distance like the mast of a mighty-sheeted schooner.
A landlubber--no question about it. And yet even in landlocked East Texas we understood that "they that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep." Now, my only exposure to watery depths was the baptismal pool of the Central Baptist Church, but I knew from Job that "God maketh the deep to boil like a pot." And Isaiah laid upon us the "burden of the desert of the sea." And with the Preacher of Ecclesiastes we pondered how "all the rivers run into the sea, and the sea is not full." And no one who heard our own Newman McLarry preach doubted that upon the arrival of "the new heaven and the new earth" the sea would "give up the dead which were in it."
Miss Selma and Mrs. Hughes made it possible for even high school seniors to see with Byron "the tender azure of the unruffled deep" and with Walt Whitman to imagine no stranger miracles than "the fishes that swim . . . the motion of the waves . . . and ships with men in them." When Inez Hughes read "Thanatopsis" I swear we shivered at those "eternal whisperings around desolate shores." And such ancient echoes reverberated from Childe Harold:
Dark-heaving--boundless, endless and sublime--
The image of eternity--the throne of the invisible;
Even from out of thy slime the monsters of the deep are made . . .
So quietly and unseen, as the oyster spins the pearl, the imagination formed. In my mind's eye I can still see the melancholy but charismatic woman who took Milton from her parlor shelf and introduced innocents from Tulia, Dripping Springs, and Nacogdoches to the "wild and wounded waters" of Paradise Lost:
Before their eyes in sudden view appear
the secrets of the hoary deep, a dark
Illimitable Ocean, without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height,
And time and place are lost . . .
She had come home one afternoon, then a much younger woman, to find her husband, the father of their twins, dead at the bottom of the well. And turning to Edwin Markham she recognized in herself what he saw in the sea:
She knows all sights and she knows all sinning,
And they whisper out in her breaking wave;
She has known it all since the far beginning,
Since the grief of that first grave.
She shakes the heart with her stars and thunder
And her soft low word when the winds are late.
For the Sea is Woman, the Sea is Wonder --
Her other name is Fate.
How is it that in the dust of Denton County, in the crustaceous insularity of a life far from the rising and falling tides, the gifts of the sea find hospitality?
How is it we own the sea which in turns owns us?
Perhaps it is that in the unconscious, embedded like the oxidizing iron within the ocean's own concretion, are primal memories of that phantasmagorical Deluge spun by storytellers of many cultures through time. For it is true that deep calls to deep, and the sound of the sea resonates in you and me. After all,
The hollow sea shell, which for years hath stood
On dusty shelves,
When held against the ear
Proclaims its stormy parent, and we hear
The faint, far murmur of the breaking flood.
We hear the sea. The sea? It is the blood
In our own veins, impetuous and near.
Now to our first specimen. She comes from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It was founded in 1902, somewhat before Mary got there. But since her arrival in 1992, she has added so richly to its honored and venerable reputation. If you read the summary of her remarkable accomplishments in your program, you will understand why I am so honored to introduce Mary Altalo.
Modern research now suggests that all humans on the face of the earth come from a common ancestry that can be traced back to the plains of eastern Africa, and that during the last 200,000 years our ancestors journeyed forth from their birth place to populate the planet. First across the large Euro-Asian land mass and finally into the new world during the waning years of the Great Ice Age just a few tens of thousands of years ago.
Many factors led to the global expansion of our forefathers, the excitement of exploration, a driving desire to escape oppression, a lust for economic gain or simply in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their loved ones. For whatever the reason, the fact remains our species now dominates the planet, we have all but conquered many of the forces that held us in check for oh so many millennia. Instead of being controlled by the forces of nature, we are now beginning to control nature itself. Our activities have altered the ozone layer, led to a buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere, begun the destruction of the rain forest, and the continued premature extinction of many plants and animals we once lived in harmony with.
Some demographers now tell us that there are more people alive today than have ever died since our species began to populate the planet, and that number will double again while we struggle through the next century. Despite the rhetoric of the need for population control, we continue to multiply, entering an era where reproduction is now endangering our existence instead of ensuring our survival. During the Rio Convention on the Environment, for example, the impact of global population on the environment was not a major topic of discussion. It is still not a politically correct issue to raise. Perhaps the tombstone of our species will read, "The human race came and went because it was politically correct."
But I am not here to tell you how to control the world's population. Even repressive measures in some countries have failed to accomplish that. I am an undersea explorer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who would like to talk about man's relationship with the sea and what I think the future holds based upon our continued growth and need for more space.
Despite our globe-trotting abilities, our species has not colonized any new land masses on the planet since the colonization of the new world which began in the fifteenth century. And let us not forget that the new world was already inhabited by our species long before Columbus first arrived in the Bahamas in 1492.
Today the primary activities of our species are still confined to less than twenty percent of the planet, historically held at bay by an aquatic world that resisted our colonizing ways.
Instead of turning to the sea, we turned our eyes and our hearts to the heavens, convinced that if we only tried we could swim in the canals of Mars or grow tomatoes on the surface of Venus. Like superman's race, which, despite its intelligence, destroyed its mother planet of Crypton and escaped Earth, for many years we have been telling ourselves that we could escape our destruction of the earth and flee into space. Space was a convenient way out--a way we could avoid facing up to the destructive consequences of our unchecked behavior.
To me, however, the most important image to come out of the space program was when an astronaut on his way to the moon trained his cameras back on Earth and captured an image of a very small green-blue planet imbedded in a black velvet void of nothingness.
Mars has no canals to swim in, the atmosphere of Venus is deadly to us, and we can't even land on Jupiter. And, if we could, we lack the muscles in our body to stand up and walk around. Space may be the ultimate last frontier, but with the public's disenchantment in the space program reflected in President Clinton's recent reductions in the Space Station program, we are forced to conclude that Earth is the immediate frontier we must explore.
Ironically, we now have better topographic maps of Venus than Earth. We know more about the physiography of small volcanic cones on the far side of the moon than of similar features in our own exclusive economic zone off America. When President Reagan signed the bill creating the EEZ, the size of America doubled, yet most of this modern-day Louisiana Purchase remains unexplored. And vast expanses of ocean floor in the Southern Hemisphere have never had an oceanographic research ship pass overhead.
The largest single feature on the surface of the planet is the Mid-Ocean Ridge, which runs around earth like the seam of a baseball, covering almost one quarter of the planet's total surface area. Yet, despite its tremendous size and the critical role it plays in the origin of the earth's outer skin, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and others played golf and drove around in cars there before the first human entered the largest feature on Earth, when they dove to the Mid-Ocean Ridge's great rift valley in 1973.
There are more active volcanoes underwater than on land, great plains that dwarf those in America, canyons far grander than the Grand Canyon, and the mighty Rocky Mountains would fit into a small portion of the Mid-Ocean Ridge.
Given the emergence of advanced robotic technology, fiberoptics, micro-processors, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, telecommunications, and many other new advances, the ocean is no longer a barrier to human activity. The deep abyss is now our backyard and working at 20,000 feet, which represents 98 percent of the world's oceans, has become routine.
Given our exploding population, given our diminished interest in the promises of the space program, and given the continued development of advanced technology, I truly believe the 21st century will usher in an explosion in human activity in the sea. I am convinced the next generation will explore more of earth, that is the 71 percent that lies underwater, than all previous generations combined.
Just as Lewis and Clark's exploration of the Louisiana Purchase led to the settling of the west, the exploration of the sea will lead to its subsequent colonization. The gathering and hunting of the living resources of the sea, an activity characteristic of primitive societies on land, will be replaced at sea by farming and herding. High-tech barbwire in the form of acoustic, thermal, or other barrier techniques will emerge to control and manage the sea's living resources. The same debates over the destruction of the rain forest's diversity on land in favor of ranching and farming will repeat itself as the great bio-diversity of the barrier reefs of the world are threatened by large-scale farming of the sea.
Oil and gas exploration and exploitation will continue moving into deeper and deeper depths. We have already discovered and mapped oil and gas reserves down to 12,000 feet, which represents the average depth of the ocean, and each year the oil industry brings production wells on line in waters deeper than the previous year.
Underwater parks, memorials, and reserves will expand in size and scope until the Titanic, if there is anything left, is easily visited by tourists using teleoperated robots from the comfort of their home-based telecommunications center. When ships and other pieces of human history fall into the deep sea, they enter a deep freeze characterized by eternal darkness, freezing temperatures, and enormous pressures. Some estimate that there is more human history preserved in Davy Jones' locker than all of the museums in the world combined.
During the six centuries that marked the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Imperial Rome lost more than 10,000 commercial ships in the deep waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a small sea off the west coast of Italy. Last year we discovered and explored many of the allied and Japanese ships lost in the cold deep waters of Iron Bottom Sound--ships which still have their camouflage paint clearly visible, their torpedo tubes still loaded, and depth charges resting in their racks--ships with their main guns still pointed at one another as if the battle was still going on.
The Black Sea and its anaerobic bottom water will give up some of the oldest and best-preserved wooden ships in the world, perhaps lost in similar time that Jason and his Argonauts traversed these same waters in search of the Golden Fleece.
On a far less glamorous note, landfills will give way to the placement of waste in the vast abyssal deserts of the deep. Perhaps the storage of nuclear material will follow. We cannot continue to place our waste material in our backyard only to have it pass through the drinking glasses of our children on its gravitational journey to the sea. We continue to hope for solutions to our waste problems, which are not coming fast enough to keep up with our exploding population and the creation of complex waste products.
Our present strategy goes something like this. If we force people to live in their waste, they will think of ways to clean it up. By placing it in the sea, it's out of sight, out of mind, and a solution will not be sought, even if placement in the sea is a wise choice. Present law now forbids us from even the opportunity to find out if it is dangerous to place some of our waste in the deep sea.
Dare we gamble with the lives of the next generation on a prayer and a dream by continuing to pollute our drinking water? Even when you include the heavy taxation on gasoline, high octane at the pump costs less per volume than Perrier and the price of drinking water will only rise, until wine is a cheaper alternative. People are already living in their waste and solutions still elude us.
In recent years, we have discovered major mineral deposits in the deep sea similar to those mined for centuries on the island of Cyprus. They contain high concentrations of copper, lead, and sulfur, as well as silver and gold. And their formation continues today in the vast hydrothermal vent systems of the Mid-Ocean Ridge. These mineral deposits will be processed using the very geothermal energy that drives the crustal processes that lead to their formation. Some of these magnificent vent areas will also become the Yellowstone Parks of the deep sea leading to future arguments over their commercial versus tourist value.
The unique chemosynthetic life forms that presently process the toxic material associated with the vent communities will hopefully be bio-engineered to convert a portion of our waste products into less harmful or even commercially valuable by-products. These exotic creatures will also help us understand the early origin of life on our planet as well as the potential for life on other planets we once ruled out for their lack of friendly nearby sun. Other marine forms will prove to be important players in future pharmaceuticals. We know, for example, that hydrothermal-vent animals process carcinogenic material yet have no tumors.
Whether this all occurs during the next generation's time on earth, time will only tell. But the seeds of all that I have said can already be found in programs presently underway.
Last summer, for example, I traveled to the waters off the Irish coast where the great luxury liner Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1917 helping to precipitate America's entrance into World War I. That expedition, which was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, is just the first step in a long-term program to not only explore this historic shipwreck in hopes of solving a long-standing controversy over its potentially lethal cargo, but also to begin the process of making the Lusitania the first in-situ museum on the floor of the ocean accessed from shore-based visitor centers using remotely controlled robots.
But if America hopes to play a leadership role in this brave new future, we must prepare the next generation to meet this challenge. For the last five years, the JASON Foundation, which I helped create, along with EDS and National Geographic, has sought to prepare that generation by taking hundreds of thousands of young students on live voyages of exploration and discovery to the far reaches of our planet. A few months ago, during our exploration of the rain forest and great barrier reef of Belize, more than 400,000 students and 10,000 teachers studied a difficult science curriculum for the opportunity to explore live the beautiful bio-diversity of these unique ecosystems, using satellite downlink sites around the world from which they were also to take control of our exploration robot and operate it from thousands of miles away.
Better understanding the oceans and the land surface beneath it is critical to our understanding of the planet as a whole. For I think of Earth as a live, breathing organism on whose back we live. Yet the collective actions of the human race now threaten Earth's very existence.
The continued growth of our global population is the single most important issue facing our survivability. And although study of the oceans is important, they will not provide the human race with a place to expand. The vast majority of our planet lives in total darkness, in freezing cold water, under tremendous pressure, and covered with featureless mud plains. No human should be sentenced to live there. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to live in the dead sea.
The more I explore the ocean, the more I appreciate that small segment of Earth that is green and sunlit, that small segment our unchecked population growth is rapidly destroying.
The rain forests of the world, which cover over five-to-eight percent of our planet's surface area, contain 80 percent of all the green vegetation of the continents. Yet we are cutting them down at a rate of 21 million acres a year. In eighty more years they are gone, and so is the tremendous diversity of life that lives there.
Preserving one acre of land in Minnesota is a wonderful act of preservation, but in no way is it equal to protecting one acre of rain forest.
We must wake up to the fact that Earth is a small planet in the heavens and the space upon which we can live is smaller still. So I ask all of you to think about this issue and what steps you can take to save us from ourselves. First and foremost is the education of the next generation since the actions they take may be the most important actions to be taken in the history of the human race.
Thank you very much.
Bill Moyers: And he finished on time at 11:35. Tell us when the last judgment is coming and we'll be there with you to watch it.
You said that you wanted to leave these human artifacts there because you felt they should be undisturbed as a kind of soliloquy to history. And I'm wondering what the archaeologist would say about that since so much of what the archaeologist can do can only be done with what you bring up from the depths.
Robert Ballard: I made a distinction, a very important distinction, between grave-robbing and archaeology. These are fundamentally different. When you have the engineering drawings of the Titanic, when you have all the artifacts you could possibly want from her sister ship, the Olympic, this is not an archaeological site. The Olympic was meticulously disassembled. All of her finery was collected and is available in museums, and private collections.
There wasn't anything truly to be learned. When I found the Titanic, I went to the Smithsonian. I went to the British Museum. And I asked the professionals if there was any value in us recovering anything from the Titanic, and they said, No.
But ships of antiquity--pages in human history that are blank--are another story. I have no problem working with archaeologists. There were a lot of blanks to fill in. So that's the distinction I make.
Also, more importantly, when we saw the Titanic's bow sitting upright on the bottom, or the Bismarck, or Titanic's other sister, the Britannic--they are all in a high state of preservation.
Britannic is the most beautiful ship I've ever seen on the ocean floor. She is completely intact. Nothing has ever been taken from her, and, fortunately, she's in Greek waters so she's under legal jurisdiction of a contiguous state.
I'm working now with the Greek government and the Liverpool Museum--Maritime Museum to use our technology to make the Britannic the first in-situ museum. Let Mother Nature, at no cost, provide the electricity to freeze her and to keep her in a state of suspended animation, accessible electronically.
The Monitor, which was sunk off of Hatteras--and the Arizona in Pearl Harbor, are other examples of ships that have historical value but not archaeological value and should be left on the bottom.
Guadalcanal is a battlefield that could easily be visited on the information highway in the next decade. Hertz and Avis will begin renting robots on the information highway, and you will visit these places electronically. But if there's a place, if there's a piece of history that we do not understand and do not know about, archaeological excavation is certainly appropriate. In fact, I strongly encourage it.
But the person who's now selling the coal from the Titanic is a used-car salesman. With absolutely no history in archaeology, maritime history, oceanography--he has absolutely no credentials. And I would say, as a society, that when you play with human history you should have some credentials.
Barto Arnold: Well, when we started the discussion session, I was sitting in awe of the potential of the deep ocean, archaeologically and historically. The distinction is to be made between fairly modern wrecks and wrecks that are historic sites or grave sites. The Titanic should be considered a tomb. And an archaeological site would have more antiquity (than the Titanic). There are still people around whose parents died on the Titanic, and that requires a different kind of treatment.
Robert Ballard: People who were born are still alive.
Barto Arnold: And the ships that sank in World War II are literally war graves. There are agreements between the countries that they're to be considered war graves and not messed with.
Robert Ballard: So that's a huge difference.
Bill Moyers: Bob, can you give us some measure of the cost of one of these expeditions?
Robert Ballard: Surprisingly, not terribly expensive.
Bill Moyers: You're in Texas, remember. I mean, all things are relative.
Robert Ballard: Well, thanks to the National Geographic Society, thanks to Nova, they invested less than a million dollars in various projects and recouped it all.
Bill Moyers: From?
Robert Ballard: From the video and television specials that they have made on exploration, and the home distribution of the TV specials. They actually netted a profit. But all the expeditions I've ever done with National Geographic, they've turned a profit. And there's nothing wrong with that.
This last summer's expedition in search of the Roman shipwrecks, the total cost of the expedition was about $200,000 total cost. So they're not terribly expensive.
Bill Moyers: You hear the murmur from the crowd. I mean, how can it cost so little.
Robert Ballard: First place, with the technology we have, we don't have to stay very long. The whole expedition searching the Roman trade routes lasted ten days. We were able to take advantage of the Navy going over there, using one of their ships. We paid all the costs the Navy incurred, which was mostly gasoline and expendables, and any costs they incurred.
But even our oceanographic ships, the robot Jason, costs about $5,000 a day to use. And you're working 24 hours a day. That's the important thing. You're on the bottom 24 hours a day round the clock.
It's a powerful technology. We did an expedition recently where we networked all the scientists from shore. They were in their laboratories. So we didn't have to pay to send them out there. We didn't have to pay to have them sit around and wait for their opportunity. We call them up and say, We're ready to do your experiment. We did this in the Sea of Cortez with scientists.
We called up a scientist at the University of Washington, Russ McDuff, and said, Russ, we're ready for your experiment. And we did his experiment in eight hours. He came in on the satellite, worked for eight hours, did his experiment, and went back to work. And we networked other scientists as well.
So the ability to network people and not cause them to have to go out to sea and sit around and wait is the real power of our emerging technology.
Barto Arnold: I would take issue just mildly in terms of cost. Working at sea in oceanography is several times--several orders of magnitude more money than most archaeologists or historians can get their hands on. So, even though the efficiencies are being multiplied tremendously, and I certainly agree with that, most archaeologists and historians don't get their hands on this kind of money.
Robert Ballard: Correct. But most of them don't have to go to 20,000 feet either.
Barto Arnold: That's right.
Robert Ballard: And so it's a question of balance. There's a huge difference between zero and something, and these were the first ships ever discovered in the deep sea. So it isn't like there's a lot of it going on. There's just a few of us.
Bill Moyers: I may have missed it. Did you say that in the cellar of the Black Sea . . .
Robert Ballard: There's no oxygen.
Bill Moyers: I heard that. But do we know yet what the effects of that are? Do you have any pictures?
Robert Ballard: Well, we know the effects of an anaerobic setting in total darkness in cold water. You couldn't ask for a better preserver. The average depth of the central portion of the Black Sea is 7,000 feet. We know that it's been traversed for millenniums. The Greeks went into the Black Sea, much like the Hudson Bay Company into Canada, around 850 B.C. and began to trade with the barbarians. And we know that they lost a good percentage of their ships traversing from the Crimea to the tip of Turkey called Sinop.
No one has ever searched those trade routes ever. It wasn't a friendly place for America until fairly recently. But now we can go in, and I'm very excited about being the first person to explore those trade routes because I think we have the potential of making some really truly fundamental discoveries.
Barto Arnold: Though I think that's right, there are a couple of wrecks from the War of 1812 in the Great Lakes that still have the masts standing and so on.
Robert Ballard: That's fresh water, right.
Barto Arnold: That's fresh water. And in the anaerobic environment, I fully expect to see the masts standing and the ships intact.
Robert Ballard: Sailors draped over their oars.
Barto Arnold: Archaeologists joke about the public having a concept of shipwrecks with the captain lashed to the wheel. Well, you may be finding that coming up pretty soon.
Robert Ballard: I think it's--well it's exciting, and that's what exploration's all about.
Bill Moyers: Until I heard you a moment ago, I never understood the meaning of that poetic reference to old indefatigable. Time's right-hand man--the sea. And I see that the sea is an ally of time there.
Robert Ballard: Very much so. More so than I ever thought, and I think more than any of us ever thought until we began to find human history in the deep.
Bill Moyers: There's a microphone here if any of you would like to move to it and ask a question.
Question: What is the deepest point on the face of the earth? Where is that?
Robert Ballard: It's the Marianna's Trench.
Bill Moyers: Where is that?
Robert Ballard: It's off Guam. It's in Challenger Deep. The Marianna's Trench--and the spot is called Challenger Deep because it was found by the H.M.S. Challenger--is 35,800 feet.
Bill Moyers: How does that compare to the Gulf?
Robert Ballard: A bit deeper. I think the Gulf bottoms out about 15,000.
Tony Amos: 3,900 meters.
Robert Ballard: Yes, so 10,000. So it's one-third.
Steve Harrigan: I'd like to ask Robert Ballard and Mary Altalo the same question concerning potential unknown creatures. In this century, we discovered--or somebody's discovered the sea coelacanth or rediscovered this fish that was thought to be extinct off the Indian Ocean. In the last decade, the megamouth shark was discovered. As far as I know, no one had ever known about him before.
What about in the bottom of this great trench where life is being created in these thermophilic organisms. Where do you speculate that food chain ends up? Is there, you know, an abominable snowman down there in these underwater mountain ranges?
Robert Ballard: Mary? She's the biologist.
Mary Altalo: Yes, but he knows about the deep sea organisms.
Robert Ballard: Well, we'll do it together. You first.
Mary Altalo: The food-chain dynamics is a very, very interesting question. And, again, it's one of those things that we have to keep going back to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It's very difficult to speculate, and I think what we're finding, too, is that various localities and the various regions, because they have such different populations, very often you can't totally extrapolate between the food-chain dynamics of one area and another. I really can't speculate on the top grazer, so to speak.
Robert Ballard: The fascinating thing about hydrothermal vent systems is that they occur in very primitive volcanic terrain. In fact, most of us now are recommending that when future probes go to Mars, go inside the lava tubes and look around. Don't look on the surface. What's wonderful about the ocean is, because it's fluid it has an incredible coupling capability. It does it acoustically, but it does it chemically. Lobsters are able to send out a scent when the female is ready to reproduce. And this is sent off into the water.
You could have an extremely sophisticated life-driven chemical system that we can't even think of right now that could be existing in that trench. It's certainly been around a long time. It's been around billions of years.
Wes Tunnell: Part of my training is in malacology. That's not malecology, bad ecology. It is the study of the phylum Mollusca, the shells of the sea. And one of the areas of study, the cephalopods, show us the largest invertebrates to go to this giant size we may be thinking about. The largest cephalopod that is known is the giant squid that lives in the deep sea, and the largest one of record is about 60 feet in length. The body is 12 of those feet, and the tentacles or arms are 48 feet.
The whalers have noted that the giant squid will leave scars from the suckers that they hold onto--sounds kind of Jules Verne's here, doesn't it--onto the side of the sperm whale which feeds upon the giant squid. Whalers tell us that they have found scars that are 9 inches in diameter on the sperm whale. So can we multiply it by three and assume that there are 180 foot squid, or invertebrates, out there? Jules Verne might have been right.
Robert Ballard: I also understand their growth is tied to El NiÒo, the absence of it. They're basically food-chain driven--that is, they grow to large dimensions if the food's available and don't otherwise.
Steven Weinberg: I wanted to ask Robert Ballard what happened to the guns on the Bismarck? They seem to be missing.
Robert Ballard: The guns on the Bismarck, her four main guns, Anton, Bruno, Caesar, and Dora, were gravity seated. And when she scuttled herself, she uniformly flooded all her compartments, and, as a result, she rolled over instead of pitched down like Titanic. The last time everyone saw her, she was completely upside down. At that moment, they fell free--they fell out of their gravity seats. We found them on the bottom upside down.
But then on the way down after the scuttling holes flooded out all the air and she was fully flooded, she remembered her bottom was heavy, and she rolled back and landed upright.
William Levin: I'd like to ask Robert Ballard what is the genesis of the anaerobic environment of the Black Sea, and are there other seas that are anaerobic?
Robert Ballard: Well, the Black Sea is a very unique body of sea. Think of it in the form of a bath tub. It's very much like a bath tub. It falls off very quickly off the coast of Turkey. You're in very deep water within a few miles. Think of a bath tub with an overflow valve where the water only gets out when you fill it too high and it floods out the top. It doesn't have a main plug you can pull out. So the water can only get out of the Black Sea along the top.
The Black Sea is saline. It's a salt-water body of water. The water coming into it is fresh water from the rivers of Eurasia. So you have a fresh body of water coming onto a saline body of water. The fresh water floats in the top of it. It only drains at a 90-foot sill.
More importantly, the rate of influx of water into the Black Sea is equal to the outflow plus evaporation. So it takes 2,700 years to turn it over once. As a result, below 200 meters, 600 feet, it's oxygen free.
Question: I would like to ask Robert Ballard a question. Recently in the Gulf of Mexico, Alvin has been down and poked one of its arms on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, and they have witnessed oil coming to the surface. My question is--first, a two-part question. Have you actually been down in the Gulf of Mexico in any of your dives, and, secondly, do you believe that oil does, in fact, flow freely without any kind of a jogging action by something, like Alvin's arm?
Robert Ballard: Well, I'll give that a shot. I've been in the Gulf of Mexico. I haven't dove in areas of organic concentrations. But I have dove in the Sea of Cortez, the Gulf of California. And there you have hydrothermal vents that have been buried by a tremendous amount of organic material coming out of the Colorado River.
You have thousands of feet of very rich organic sediments that have buried these underwater hydrothermal vents. Despite the fact that they've buried them, the hot water still finds it way up through that organic mass. It's coming out at a temperature of about 400 degrees centigrade, so it's hot enough to melt lead.
And on its way up, this geothermal energy has cracked out petroleum. As Mother Nature does it over a much longer period of time. Around the hydrothermal vents in the Sea of Cortez you have natural oil seeps of organics that are just flowing out of the bottom of the ocean without us having to poke our hands into them.
So I know that it occurs there. We all know that natural oil seeps are very common phenomena, having gone to school at U.C.-Santa Barbara and walked the beaches.
Question: I wanted to ask about what happens when the magma comes up. It's being depleted, I would suppose. And is this having any impact on the volume inside and the crust of the earth?
Robert Ballard: Yes. A very good question. You would think that the earth is bleeding out its insides and might become hollow inside. Where the plates come together, one of the plates, and normally the oceanic plate when it hits a continent it goes under the continent. It recycles that ocean floor and puts it back into the earth to make up for the difference.
So it's a beautiful global balance. You have Earth being formed and a equal volume of Earth being destroyed. It's in a beautiful steady-state balance. The earth is neither expanding nor contracting as best we can determine.
Now, creation on the Mid-Ocean Ridge may be compensated by consumption of old ocean floor thousands of miles away.
Bill Moyers: I have the last question. I was thinking as I saw your photographs there on those sunken mountains how ecstatically enraptured the world was when we watched the first man walk on the moon and how woefully unaware we were when you were down there prowling the genesis of our planet. It leads to a practical question. Can you compare the amount of money being spent right now on basic research of the science into space to the basic research into the ocean?
Robert Ballard: Well, the investment in our oceans is small. In fact, the royalty that oil companies pay to drill oil is not, by our government, reinvested. The government is doing ocean work at the profit. If they just gave us what the oil companies gave them, we would be in great shape.
To me the most important thing to come out of the space program was when the astronauts looked back over their shoulder on their way to the moon and saw Earth. They saw this little green marble in this giant void of nothingness. And all of a sudden the world became very small. I think we've not totally come to grips with how finite our world is, particularly when you realize we only live on 28 percent of that which is called Earth.
We're about to enter a new millennium and I hope in the next couple of years we start thinking about our mission as a species. We're entering a new millennium. What are we going to do in it? And I'd like to see some big thinking start to take place.
William Crook: We're going to break now for lunch. We have a rather light lunch for you, which helps us at a certain age to stay awake in the afternoon.
I want to mention tonight and some of the problems we're going to have with traffic. This is a big day for Corpus Christi with the lighting of the harbor lights tonight, which you'll see. They have parades all day long. So those of you who are going to drive out, please talk to Colleen. She has a map for you. If you can possibly go by the bus, we suggest that you do so. But it's going to require a little detour rather than straight down Ocean Drive.
Please be prompt. You were this morning. We appreciate it. We've deliberately planned a short afternoon. The business meeting today will be brief but very, very important. We're entering that new century Bob was talking about. We've got a lot of decisions as a society to make. Elspeth Rostow was saying yesterday about her committee--we're planning what this society should be in the state of Texas for the next hundred years.
We want you to participate. I especially invite the new members because it will give you a glimpse of the inner workings of the society. Enjoy your lunch.
William Crook: Sorry if I sound a bit pushy, but I'll never have this chance to influence such a crowd again, so I'm going to enjoy it. Come right on in.
I introduced Judith Moyers this morning and said she was the 60 percent asset in their partnership because she has shared in every accomplishment that Bill has made. I want to introduce my 60 percent partner, Eleanor, if she will stand please.
I should have known you wouldn't let me get by with what I told you this morning about Bill Moyers's question on the airplane--on Air Force One when he asked the President, "What are you thinking?" The President replied, "I'm wondering, Are the missiles flying?" Those four words, I think, describe the burdens that our presidents in the past fifty years have had to carry, burdens that we've been very much unaware of. But they also tell us that they aren't flying.
This would be a wonderful time to catch up with the research, move ahead with world hunger, move ahead with the other problems of disease confronting the earth. The money spent and wasted on the Bismarck alone would go a long way toward that. If we don't tear this republic to shreds by the shrillness that we're hearing now, by the alienation that seems to be taking place, this country has nothing but a great, great future.
We started with the oceans in the broadest sense. I did not know the interconnectedness of the sky and the sea and the earth. Mary Altalo has put it in terms that even I can understand. We moved on to be more specific as to what's down there. Now, this afternoon we come to study something very special to every Texan's heart--that's the Gulf of Mexico.
Corpus Christi now has the sixth largest port in the United States. We know what the Gulf means to us in terms of commerce and resources, and we need to hear as much about the future of that Gulf, and what we may be doing to her, as we possibly can. I turn the program back to Bill Moyers.
Bill Moyers: Thank you, Bill. Bill and I retreated upstairs during lunch to evaluate the morning's event and to collect our thoughts for the afternoon and the finale tomorrow. And at a moment while he was on the phone, I stood at the window of the room looking at an angle through which I could only see the Gulf. I couldn't see the room to the left or to the right. I couldn't see the beach below me. For a moment the only world that existed for me was the world of the Gulf, which so many of you know so intimately and so fondly on a daily basis.
And I suddenly realized what it was like to be the fish I talked about earlier, to live so uniquely affiliated to this body of water. It was the only view I had of the world at that particular moment.
On any one of the last 2,420 mornings, if you had gone for a walk on the beaches of Port Aransas some twenty miles from here, you would have come upon the solitary figure of Tony Amos. Regardless of the elements, wind, rain, temperature, he walks the shore to collect the telltale evidence that nature presents to the vigilant eye concerned for even the most microscopic change in the health of our environment.
I should think it boring duty for a man who has cruised all the world's oceans and most of its seas, the veteran of thirty-two expeditions to the Antarctic and five to the Arctic, including several months floating on the polar pack ice. But for eighteen years now, out of love and not duty, he has been making a long-term study of Mustang Island gulf beach. He is widely known in the scientific community for having introduced scientific rigor to the study of beach litter along the Gulf.
He's the only man I know who actually holds a permit to handle sea turtles, dolphins, and migratory birds. And given what we now know about the ecology of our planet, he must sometimes think that when holding one of these creatures, he indeed has the whole world in his hand.An Englishman by birth, he is now the official United States weather observer for Port Aransas, Texas, and he always gets it right. Tony Amos.
It's truly an honor for me to be here. I am in awe in many cases of my distinguished co-panelists. Bill, I am very glad that you don't know anything about the sea in that when I make mistakes you won't be able to correct me.
Bill Moyers: Oh, I will anyway.
Mary Altalo: Please do. In meeting many of you last night and speaking with many of you at that lovely reception, I realized that there is such a general interest in the sea as Bill has said. And what I would like to share with you is my vision, my experience, my feeling of the sea and how the ocean is a critical player in our universe, in our earth system.
When I think of the sea (I guess the sea is in my blood, or water is in my blood as I was born and raised in Michigan around the Great Lakes) I remember as a child listening to my grandfather--he used to be a first mate on a freighter--telling me stories about the sea. My grandmother would not marry the man until he had quit the sea, but he procrastinated until he was 40 and then finally quit to marry my grandmother.
What I am finding more and more as I explore my interests in the sea is that I can't talk about the sea unless I talk about the atmosphere and I talk about the geosphere--the earth. They are linked and it is impossible to pull them apart. I am continually struck by the similarities in the ocean and the atmosphere and the geosphere.
When I first came to Scripps, one of my first jobs was to attend a conference in Los Alamos, and the topic of that particular conference was atmospheric modeling. Now, I am a biological oceanographer. I work with microscopic plankton, red tides. They are the food source for things like whales and fish. What am I going to say and what am I going to contribute at an atmospheric modeling conference?
But as I sat and looked at the slides and I looked at the view graphs and I started to recognize that many of the problems, many of the patterns, many of the cycles which we see in the atmosphere, in the clouds, in the changes of the earth, we see in my planktonic organisms. I saw the same patterns, and, actually, I was delighted because I could actually ask questions, and that's what it is all about. That's what getting to know anything is--understanding it enough to ask questions.
The other fundamental understanding I had was for my own phytoplankton and how they grew and how they formed patches and how they formed "clouds" and red tides in the ocean. I could see similar patterns in the cloud formations in the atmosphere. We were all, in many cases, at the same stage of our problem solving. We all needed finer and finer observation systems--new tools. Man is the ultimate tool maker, as well as tool user.
And we have all this wonderful technology now at our disposal which we can utilize and combine and integrate to really study the atmosphere, the ocean, and the earth simultaneously. We get a lot of our data in real time, and this is extremely important to things like prediction.
As an undergraduate when I was at Smith, hypotheses about the tectonic processes and sea-floor spreading were coming about (I know Bob will tell us a lot more about the geology). And I can remember feeling at that particular time that Earth was this dynamic rotating place, and the physical earth was a rotating process.
Some of my earliest work was in estuaries, and in an estuary, or a small enbayment, you cannot study the oceanography, you cannot study the water without studying the atmosphere, the effects of the winds, the effects of the day/night cycle, the effects of the thermal warming and cooling on the surface waters. And you cannot study them without the effects of the resuspension of the sediment, without the effects of the bottom, the changes in topography causing upwellings and downwellings. It's impossible. So my feeling is I was blessed in being able to start out with research in estuaries because it gave me the unifying concepts that I see in the ocean, the atmosphere, and on land.
The other aspect, because I am trained as an ecologist, I think I am trained to see connections, to see patterns, to see webs and interactions. And I can remember realizing in an introductory ecology course, for which there was a textbook written as Energy Flow in Biology, that these patterns and connections are really nothing more than energy flow. You put energy in a system and it organizes that system. And that's what I want to talk to you about today.
I call this talk the Engine Room of the Planet. Why? My visions of engine rooms. I used to spend about one hundred days a year at sea before my twins were born, and they've kept me busy at home now. But I can remember going down in the bowels of some of the coastal vessels, and what your first impressions and your first feelings are--the vibrations, the heat, the smells, and the noise that you hear. You know something critical is going on in an engine room. And the earth has an engine room, and that engine room, I believe, is the ocean.
There are gears and belts and pulleys, valves, thermostats, levers. They transform energy into motion, transform different types of energy into motion. There is a fuel, as a fossil fuel is, as well as the fuel of the sun. There are cooling systems, there are gaskets, air filters, strain gauges, and releases. And through this talk, I'll try to give you a feeling that a lot of what we see going on in the ocean is very similar to the types of things we do see in an engine.
What I want to talk about is how energy organizes our system. And so what we're going to do is we're going to start with the energy sources of the earth. There are two energy sources for our earth. We've got the sun, the fusion reactor, which is providing energy to the earth. But you've got another source of energy to the earth, which is extremely important. That's its internal source, its internal core. And the difference is that the core is formed and the energy sources of the core are formed really by three major processes--crystallization, isotopic decay, and gravitation. Again, for an ocean, there are two different energy sources that are impacting it.
And when you take these energy sources and you put them into the ocean, or you put them into the water, they will tend to organize the system. What you wind up having is differential motion and cycling. You have cycles that occur within cycles. You have similar patterns of motion in the earth, the atmosphere, and the ocean. And these phases are all interconnected.
When you look at Earth from outer space, the very first thing you see is motion. You see cycles, you see eddies, you see the clouds, which are actually tracers for a lot of the currents that are going on. There is movement going on. There is a lot of cycling. And the atmosphere is the halo around this glow which allows our energy to be accumulated.
That particular process of accumulation is extremely important. If we look at the sun and we look at the moon, the sun will impinge upon the earth as well as the moon. They are about the same distance from the sun. But the actual temperature of the surface of the moon is zero, whereas the earth is about 57 degrees, and that is really due to the atmosphere. It acts as a natural greenhouse effect.
The composition of the atmosphere is extremely important. We have carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, water vapor, and these are the types of gases which actually trap the heat. So the composition of the atmosphere around the earth is very important.
Greenhouse gases which trap a lot of this energy, a lot of this atmosphere, are not the predominant ones. Nitrogen and oxygen are. Now, oxygen has evolved significantly over time. And millions of years ago, the first oxygen was produced in the water by a lot of the bacteria. They produced oxygen, which became released out of the ocean into the atmosphere. But what happened? It didn't stay there.
This was at the time when the earth was forming. And you have these crusts being pushed up through the water. A lot of the crust was iron. What happens when you put iron and oxygen together? It rusts. So the very first thing that this released oxygen that came out of the water into the atmosphere did, it didn't stay there. It rusted everything on the planet. And only after the planet was totally rusted was oxygen then allowed to increase in the particular atmosphere, allowing our planet to warm.
And once our planet could warm, and once there was enough oxygen in the outer area to get rid of the UV radiation, then the organisms could crawl out, out of the ocean onto the rusted land. Before that, they couldn't go out because of the UV, and the only way to escape that UV was from the surface waters.
The next thing I want to talk about is how the atmosphere is organized. And let me give you a little bit of idea of this atmosphere and the dimensions of it. Mount Everest, if you look in the center diagram, is about a little less than about 8 or 9 kilometers tall, and most of the clouds are in this area. And if you look at the altitude of the left side--I have it in a logarithmic scale. Closest to Earth is about 10 kilometers out, and this is the troposphere, and then 100 kilometers, and then the farthest layer we have, in the 1,000 kilometer range. Most of the action is in the area very, very close to the planet. And, again, this is greatly expanded.
But there are some interesting concepts that are occurring here. For example, if you look at the temperature near the planet, we have a very nice environment. As you go up, it gets colder. But you go up a little bit further, it starts getting warmer again. Why? Again, because of this greenhouse effect. So there's a temperature difference as you go up through the atmosphere.
And what we have is we have a series of temperature gradients, temperature differential, which cause a lot of circulation. And it's the circulation which I really want to tell you about next.
I told you the concentration of oxygen was changing in the atmosphere. A number of years ago, some interesting stories started to accumulate of what is going on with carbon, and many of you have seen this diagram. These are multiple-decade concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which were taken from the island of Maui at an observing station. And over the time periods it has gone up significantly. And this has caused great concern, great alarm, about a significant warming of the atmosphere.
The second change in the atmosphere is the apparent influx or change in the distribution of ozone around our planet. Now, ozone, as I had mentioned, is the major factor which is causing the UV to be absorbed. And as the ozone is decreasing the UV is increasing and coming in. And these are extremely important concerns for our time period.
If we look at the circulation of the atmosphere we see it is dynamic. The heat from the equator is rising up into the higher portions of the atmosphere and being transported poleward. It gets cooled and it sinks. The atmosphere, therefore, is a dynamic circulating system which allows transport of dust, water vapor, microscopic organisms, viruses. Something extremely interesting that's being looked at more and more carefully today is the airborne transmission of disease, as well as waterborne transmission of disease. But the whole atmosphere is a cycling process.
One of the wonderful things that our tools have been able to produce is not only the ability to observe, such as using satellites to observe clouds, but a lot of computer modeling and computer simulation as well. And what we have here is a reconstruction of the cloud layers over the western United States using computer models. These are allowing us to predict movements, to look at the various layers of ice, snow, ice crystals, and rain at various levels within the clouds, and allow us to understand how the water vapor is truly cycling throughout the system.One of the other uses of models, in combination with satellite observations, is in showing us now is that the actual UV dosage to the surface of the world--the ocean, as well as the land--is determined not only by the thickness of the ozone layer, but depends upon the clouds and the cloud thickness. These are the kinds of models that are being put together. This is actually the dose rate of UVB to the surface using the ozone models, as well as the cloud models.
What this translates into is, if you can take a model of what UV you will need to cause damage in plants or skin cancer in animals, you can calculate what areas of the world, based on the predictions of the changes in ozone and the predictions of the changes in the cloud layers, will be most affected and most prone to damage. This happens to be the plant dosage rate. This happens to be areas which will be most susceptible to the skin cancer dose rate.
I want to keep coming down a little bit more and getting into the surface. One of the things that Bill alluded to was some of this new reclassification of data from the Navy. And I want to show you one of the diagrams that has been put together using some of the new bathymetry which the Navy has released, along with some of the other satellite data that has been collected in the past.
The amount of effort to get a total ocean benthic map is tremendous. And what we have here is a method of using satellite data to get rid of the water essentially and look at the benthic topography of the ocean. We have the bottom of the container of the ocean now as transparent. We can see what's going on at the bottom. We can see how the ridges are formed and plates are shifting, et cetera. And this is all done through a series of satellite measurements using ocean surface topography.
So we've got the bottom of the ocean mapped. Now we need the top. And we're going to another satellite, and a different algorithm, and a little bit different processing. And now we're going to look at the top of the container--the top of the oceans. And this is the dynamic topography, the upper bounds of the ocean. And one of the things that has come out, and which is exciting, is that the upper bounds of this ocean follows very, very closely the benthic topography of the ocean.
I told you that the atmosphere is cycling. Well, the winds at the surface are also driving the ocean's cycling, and the ocean is cycling in a conveyor-belt motion. Surface waters, which are formed at the equator, are warmer. They float on the surface. And if we start looking at the Atlantic, we're finding that they come to the surface, they are transported poleward. Once they get into the pole areas, they cool off, they sink, they follow the water, the topography at the base, they circulate between all oceans. There is a huge conveyor belt around this planet which is taking the waters, and what's in the water, which is extremely important, through all sections of the ocean.
How are we going to measure these types of water masses? We see these water masses flowing. We see them transferring between different ocean basins. But there's a series of new technology, there are floats, there are drifters which you can actually put in water masses and follow them. And for deep currents, this very often takes a matter of years and years, sometimes decades, to be able to follow these water masses. But these are critical to the formation of the circulation.
There are other ways of measuring basin scale changes. This happens to be a diagram of an acoustic array, using sound in the ocean to measure whether the ocean is warming over a period of time. The speed sound travels in the ocean is proportional to the temperature. If it is warming, the sound will travel faster. If it's cooling, it will travel slower. So the idea is to use arrays of acoustics to try to measure the warming or the cooling of oceans in various locations.
There are other elements that come from the bottom that are extremely important in tagging water masses so that we can trace them. This happens to be from the east Pacific rise--benthic suspensions of helium. We can trace these because we have a point source, and we know the initial concentration. We, therefore, can trace these water masses.
Now, I want to tell you a little bit about clouds. This is again one of those stories that has just recently come to light. There is a really strong feedback between the atmosphere and the oceans, and it is particularly prominent in the western Pacific in the area around Fiji, a convenient place to work, I must add.
There's a warm pool of water where on the equator we're getting a tremendous amount of sun, solar radiation, in this area. And we're pushing it into the water. And the water's getting hotter, and it's getting hotter. But it never ever goes above a certain temperature because as soon as it reaches that temperature, it starts to evaporate. There are vigorous exchange processes, clouds forming here. As the clouds form, they provide layers which protect the sun from impinging any more on that surface layer, and, therefore, forms a very, very effective thermostat.
Verification of this thermostat hypothesis has been carried out over the last few years, and we conduct campaigns--oceanographers, hundreds of oceanographers--to work on this. We have aircraft surveillance, we have buoys, we have multiple ships, we have drifters, we have water-mass dye tracers, and we have satellites all trying to follow this dynamic process.
Models are extremely important. We now have models of the ocean and we have models of the atmosphere. We can simulate. For example, the atmosphere models are so good now that we can ask questions like this. If the CO2 in the atmosphere doubles over the next number of years, what are the areas that are most prone to increased heating? Those are the kinds of questions that these atmospheric models and simulations can ask and we can answer.
The global ocean models are extremely good, too. But the thing that is the most critical now is the coupled models. There are now models which show the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.
I'm going to tell you a story. The story's about El NiÒo. And most of you have heard the El NiÒo story. In many cases, we know that when El NiÒo comes, there is usually a lot of rain in certain areas, but in particular along certain coasts. But let's talk a little bit about what this is.
El NiÒo actually starts again in the area off Australia, in the Fiji area. And this warm pool that I talked about starts to migrate. The warm pool actually starts to migrate across the ocean. It goes from west to east. It goes towards our particular continent. And as it does that, and this is a slice through the ocean at that time--this warm pool, which is usually confined or stuck on the western side of the Pacific, starts to travel all the way across the Pacific. But do you remember the clouds that are released, those clouds that are interactive over that warm pool? Guess what? They come with it.
As this warm pool starts to migrate across the ocean, more and more precipitation falls on coasts that never usually have it. This is one of my favorite breakfast areas in La Jolla during an El NiÒo many years ago. It's called the Marine Room, and you can see that in certain time periods the surf height dramatically changes.
Ocean and atmosphere interactions--a very tough place to study. Again, mankind is the toolmaker. We've made all kinds of vessels to study different things. But some of the things we most want to study occur during storm events. The higher the sea state and the stronger the winds, that's when we want to study ocean atmospheric interactions.
It's a tough thing to do on a ship. So we have built unusual vessels. This is called Flip. This actually is a platform that, when we take it out and we put it on station, we fill up one end of it, we ballast it, it tilts, tilts up, we extend our instrumentation, and it becomes a floating spar buoy, which is 300 feet in length. How wonderful. A hundred feet above the water, 200 feet below. It is very stable, as you can imagine. You finally have a platform that you can study air-sea interaction from without getting tossed around and bounced around--a wonderful, wonderful invention.
There are other types of instrumentation, along with the observations that are critical if we're truly to study these kinds of interactions. When we do have multiple ship campaigns and multiple ship expeditions, we will cycle and circle around Flip with some of the larger vessels as well to be able to get the exchange rates between the atmosphere and the ocean.
What I want to talk about next is what's contained in the ocean. And I'm going to talk about something near and dear to my heart, the little solar cells in the ocean. What captures the sun energy? What captures this heat energy? This is all captured by individual tiny planktonic cells. They're little solar collectors. That's all they are. They happen to be different colors because there are different colors of sunlight that come in, and each one has its own way of capturing light energy.
And what this slide shows are observations from satellite of areas which are prone to high concentrations of blue organisms, or phytoplankton. What this means is there's a lot of photosynthesis going on. So there's a lot of oxygen being released.
This is a satellite view of the east coast of the United States. You can see Cape Cod in the mid-left quadrant. You can see Long Island Sound. You can just see at the very left side the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay coming in. On the top are the patterns of phytoplankton distributions. Again, this is where all the action is coming from. This is where all the photosynthesis is occurring and the energy is transferring. And the bottom picture is the sea surface temperature at the same time. Our satellites as our tools are bringing us all this information.
Satellites are pretty accurate. We can use them on smaller and smaller scales. This happens to be the Chesapeake Bay. And if you'll look on the very left side, that's the Potomac River. There is a major spot in there of green. This is a very, very strong accumulation of plankton only a few kilometers long. Now, we're seeing this from a satellite! And we can also see the upstream and downstream migration of this over a satellite time series. So we've got the tools to do the jobs adequately.
If you take a vertical slice through this area, we see that a lot of things which are in the surface are actually also transported on a conveyor belt, only a small conveyor belt, down into the sediments. So that if you look now at a surface slice of the sediment, you see that things can be deposited--carbon can be deposited.
This is the culprit right here. This is the individual little phytoplankton solar cell. But look at it. It is covered with pores--things to exchange nutrients. And what you've got, essentially, is a bag which contains atmosphere; it contains water; and it contains rocks for nutrients. That's what this phytoplankton cell is doing. And there are connections which keep the organisms in contact with the water. Their sole job is to put together the two media. The cells often reproduce at a doubling rate of about once per day. They're highly pigmented. These structures are the little solar collectors. They have chloroplasts, which capture the sunlight, and they form the major thrust for the food chain--the major basis for the food chain in the ocean.
Now I'm going to go to the third cycle, and that's the cycle within the earth--within the geosphere. And, again, we realize that recent examinations have shown that the crust is very uneven. And if we look at a slice throughout the core of the geosphere, we also see that there is a lot of convection. There's a cycling, very much as we saw and very reminiscent of what actually occurs in the ocean.
A lot of the material which is formed at the surface is also being thrust downward. Evidence of the thrust?--things like earthquakes--as the crust is moving. There's also a lot of evidence of things being brought up to the surface as well, and these have to do with hydrothermal vents.
There have been a number of expeditions conducted over many, many years which have actually enabled us to look at some of these cycling processes, and how they relate to the composition of the particles in the air. These are the sites of the deep-sea drilling projects. These are the number of bore holes over the last decade that have been drilled around the world to get a map like we see.
People don't realize when they see these composites, the hundreds and thousands of hours that were necessary in order to get a lot of these measurements and put the composites together--work on ships like the drilling ship, which has actually been able to take pieces or plugs out of the bottom of the ocean and analyze them. These efforts have been going on for years and years.
Studies of the hydrothermal vent communities started a few decades ago, with the first discoveries that the heat generated at the bottom of the ocean could actually support life. More and more in areas of activity, we're finding all different kinds of communities at the bottom of the ocean. It is not sterile. It's very diverse. And these communities live off a non-solar energy source.
There are also entire communities--this happens to be from a hot source. There are also communities that are found in all of Mexico which are living off a cold energy source. These are the hydrocarbon sources and the methane seeps that are in the Gulf of Mexico. They support communities as well.
One of the things that I wanted to end with is another interesting concept. Again, I'm going to go back to clouds. The life span of clouds is from minutes to hours, and they produce heat and condensation. They process air. I'm going to use the same concept for clouds of phytoplankton where the life span is from hours to usually months. They also produce heat. But they process water, not air. It's an extremely important vision to try to look at.
I'll leave you with a number of thoughts. Every time you go out and you look up and you see clouds, realize that they're part of the ocean that you are looking at. When you look up, you'll see the changes, watch these clouds. You're going to learn a tremendous amount about the ocean and about the earth. Look at their cycles. Look at their formation. Look at their dissipation. Realize that the only thing that's suspended in a cloud is what can be supported by the air. But the same principles exist on many different levels. Thank you.
Bill Moyers: I have two quick questions, Mary. What would you say to the French writer, Madame Anne-Louise de StaÎl, who says in her novel Corinne that the sea appears today as it did the first day of creation?
Mary Altalo: Well, they say she's quite old. I think that's interesting. First of all, if she sees what I see in it, then she perhaps is right. She sees processes. She sees patterns. She sees things that are existing in time and space--constant change. She sees that it is evolving. But I would have to disagree with her as well. And I think we have to realize that a lot of what we see in the sea today is because we are here. We exist. And we have a lot of interplay, particularly in the coastal regions, with the sea. And what we see in the bay here, what we see in a lot of the estuaries, what we see in the coastal region, is a direct effect of what we actually have put into the water, what we put in from the land and from the anthropogenic inputs--from man--and their activities.
Bill Moyers: You describe such a dazzling consistency of change that I'm wondering if you find it conceivable that the oceans could be so changed that human life would be profoundly affected.
Mary Altalo: Yes, I do. I think one thing of concern is happening right now, with the story about the rising of the heat and the trapping of heat by the atmosphere--I showed you the circulation, I showed you that conveyor belt in the oceans. It is critical to life that that conveyor belt functions. The conveyor belt is temperature regulated. You keep warming the atmosphere. You keep warming that surface layer of the oceans. You are going to change that conveyor belt--no question. You're either going to stop it, you're going to invert it, you're going to change where it arises, where it comes to the surface and where it goes back down. Yes, I do see that we could have a major, major problem.
Bill Moyers: Some response from your colleagues to your other side.
Question: Mary, I would think that some people in the audience might be interested in the impact of El NiÒo we've seen so much about in recent years. Now, we seem to see that it's affecting things for years at a time here in Texas. Could you give us your ideas about how it's affecting us here in Texas--kind of a time frame?
Mary Altalo: Yes. In fact, one of the things that I think is extremely important, and one of the hot topics in El NiÒo research, is how would what you see in Fiji and in the western Pacific and these cycles--how would that be translated to other areas of the globe? There are what is called teleconnections, and these teleconnections are that we can see this warm pool moving across the Pacific. As it's coming closer and closer to the West Coast area, what happens is that it spins off. It spins off little webs, little connections, such that it impacts greatly the rainfall over the entire United States. In fact, a lot of the floods in Mississippi have been possibly attributed to, or have been connected with, or there are efforts to try to link them to these El NiÒo connections. And what we're seeing in various areas are the results of these threads or these teleconnections. That's where the hot area of research is going on right now. And this is what we're trying to find out. It is also the sociological impact which is important.
Question: What do you mean?
Mary Altalo: Sociological impact in that in areas where there is a flood or where there is a drought, you may have great ecological damage, agricultural impact in particular. So, for example, if you know 18 months in advance than an El NiÒo is coming, and you know it's going to hit your area, and you know your area is going to be, say, very rainy, you're going to change how you plant. You're going to plant flood-resistant seed or you're going to change your planting areas. If you know your area's going to be impacted and it's going to be drought, you're going to put drought-resistant seed in.
There are all kinds of economic and sociological impacts from El NiÒo which we're just beginning to find out. And they are crucial to our understanding.
Robert Ballard: Mary, before you went to Scripps you spent a lot of time on that small community on the shores of the Potomac surrounded on four sides by reality. And I was just curious, as you have left the Washington scene and now entered Scripps, how do you see the impact of the changing philosophy in America about investing in long-term things like research? What's the prognosis of the changing atmosphere--politics in America--to our studies of the oceans?
Mary Altalo: Bob, you've hit a lot of very important questions. One of things that had to be translated to the policymakers was the importance of continuity of research, and this has only occurred over the past four or five years. Very often congressional funding for particular programs, or even agency funding for particular programs, was going to be for a three-to-five-year cycle. And if you're studying something that's going to have a decadal to century time-scale cycle, stopping a few years into the research isn't going to do any good.
I see a lot of the agencies--the agencies in particular are picking up that there needs to be continuity in the research. We do have a problem with the intergenerational program with Congress in that every time there is an election, there is a requestioning and there has to be a recommitment to these long-term processes. It's a slow struggle. It is a very, very important one.
Bill Moyers: Can you give us an example of the importance of continuity in research as one concrete image or problem or policy?
Mary Altalo: Problem or policy?
Bill Moyers: I mean, some example of why it makes a difference if you interrupt research after a period of time.
Mary Altalo: Okay. Let me take a--for example, we have a time series at Scripps which is a seventy-year time series. And it has daily measurements from the pier of temperature, salinity, some of the phytoplankton counts, solar radiation, et cetera. Through utilizing these kinds of time series, if they are interrupted, you will never be able to really look at the trends.
One of the things that it's very important to find out is whether what we're seeing is part of a major trend or part of a natural variability of the system? That's what we're really trying to get at.
Robert Ballard: Another example. It's very popular when you go in the field, and there's a lot of publicity commonly associated with field programs. Ships go out, satellites are launched, submarines dive. But the field program is the collection of the data. It's very common to lose interest after the field program is over. It takes many, many, many years to analyze what you did.
And, unfortunately, that tends to not be popular to a lot of sponsoring agencies. They want you back in the field. But there's a lot we can learn from what we've already done.
Bill Moyers: Bob, is Washington the only source of the kind of funding necessary for the continuity of research that you and Mary both are talking about? Are there not other sources--foundations, industry?
Robert Ballard: I'm presently moving into a field involving the social sciences that is mostly privately sponsored. But fundamental basic research is really an investment by a society. And industry has not played a significant role in what we call blue water oceanography, the vast majority of our planet that's on the high seas. It's been the federal government that has invested in the future generations.
Tony Amos: From my own field of research, which does involve some fairly long-term measurements, one of the questions I always get asked by the public is, "Is it getting any better or is it getting any worse?" And the only way to answer these kinds of questions is to do some comparatively long-term measurements.
I'll give you just a small example. I have been working on the local beach here, and one of the things that I measure, for example, is the health of the bird population. And there is a bird that winters here. It's called the piping plover. It's on the endangered species list. Had I stopped my survey after about, say, five or six years, I would have concluded that the population of the piping plover was going downhill. As it happened--I've been doing it now for eighteen years--I have seen a trend that has now brought the population of that particular bird uphill.
It's an awkward question to answer in that you have to see several cycles of some phenomenon that may not be compatible with the funding cycles, that's for sure. There are some programs (long-term ecological research programs, or LTER, for example), which, unfortunately, I believe, are somewhat threatened by the new feeling in Congress. Some of these programs that are funded by agencies which may not be continued. And that is a great shame.
The time series on the Scripps pier is, I think, a prime example of how, by dint of just a few individuals' incredible effort, a wonderful time series of information is being collected.
Bill Moyers: Tony, you mentioned that one little bird. What's the implication of the discovery that its numbers have increased?
Tony Amos: The implication in this particular case is that there is a program--what they call "The species recovery program"--for all endangered species, where there is an effort to, in fact, bring them from the brink of extinction. And should one then see the population of the bird (outside of its breeding range, in this case) increasing, you might imply that that program has been successful. And I believe it has in this case.
Barto Arnold: I was searching for an area of commonality between the social scientists and my hard-science colleagues here. And Bob hit on the matter of what happens after you get back from the field. And that's particularly important in archaeology. In my case, if you excavate a shipwreck and are not funded and prepared to preserve the artifacts, they will go straight to hell.
You've all seen things come out of the ocean--anchors and cannons in front of restaurants simply crumble away over the years. Wood, in particular, can go overnight. It can be twice as expensive to preserve and study the artifacts from a shipwreck as it is to dig them up, and it can take three or four times as long.
Getting back to the global perspective on the ocean, just one thing, historically, as an anthropologist. The ocean, at least the near-shore ocean, was a friendly corridor of transport in early days. And bear in mind that people got around a lot more than you might think. There were no roads for going long distances very easily on land. But the rivers and the coastal areas were a friendly transport corridor.
Bill Moyers: Any other response prompted by Mary's presentation?
Tony Amos: One of the things that Mary brought out was the improvement in the methods that we have of looking at the ocean. There's an incredible increase in our technological abilities in the last, say, twenty years or so. And this is really going to help us in understanding some of these fundamental questions.
I'd like to just give you an example. When I first went to sea in the Antarctic Ocean, we discovered a sea mount. This is an undersea mountain that comes very close to the surface. And as the ship went over the sea mount, and I was on what we call PDR watch, position depth recorder watch, and it was my job (technician as I was at the time) to inform the scientists of what was going on.
Well, the bottom kept coming up and kept coming up and kept coming up. And, in fact, it looked to me, as we were in an uncharted area at that time, that perhaps it was going to endanger the ship. So I even thought it might be the time to inform the ship's crew that we were perhaps going to run aground.
That didn't happen. But after the chief scientists had a discussion about what to do, whether we should change our course and really investigate this sea mount, we couldn't find it again. We turned around and we could not find this vast undersea mountain because we did not have the navigational technology, and we didn't really have the technology to look at the bottom as we do now. So that sea mount, by the way, is a famous sea mount now. It's call the Eltanin Sea Mount, named after the ship that we were on. Perhaps the Navy knew more about it than we did.
Bill Moyers: I'll give you the fax number for the Medea group very shortly. Before we go to our first coffee break, we have our first question of philosophy from the floor. Liz Carpenter, who was there for the dialogues between Plato and Socrates, wonders why, with all this advance and knowledge and all the new technology of exploration, why she still gets seasick. Can any of you tell her that?
Robert Ballard: Well, I think that the advances that are yet to come will save you from that plight. You'll be able to do exploration from your home on the information highway.
Bill Moyers: We're going to take a break for 30 minutes. First, Bill Crook has an announcement.
William Crook: I asked our last year's president to give me a suggestion that would help me through this year. Our Nobel Prize Laureate, from whom you would expect something profound, said, "Get a louder bell." Well, folks, we have the bell. We hope you'll listen to it and take it seriously. Break off the conversation with the old friend and come back in so we can keep this program on schedule.
William Crook: Before beginning our next session, I want to recognize the 60 percent asset to the Moyers team--Judith Moyers. Judith has her own record of accomplishment and contribution to this country. She served for ten years as the vice chairman of the trustees of the State University of New York, where she raised a storm or two. She serves on the Paine-Webber Board of Directors and on the board of the Ogden Corporation. And she's president of Public Affairs Television.
She's also a member of this group as of last year--she was not able to attend--which is something Bill has not been able to attain. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, and all they had was Ben Franklin. We had Sam Houston.
Bill Moyers: Thank you, Bill. You remind me that Judith and I were 22 before we saw the sea. We had just graduated from the University of Texas and were heading for a year in Scotland where she was to teach and I was to do graduate study. We went on an eight-day journey from New York to South Hampton on a small Dutch ship named the Ryndam.
The first day it was a glad unruffled sea that greeted us, the kind of sea that Shelley found "calmed as a cradled child and is slumber bound." But we had been warned that there is no lull like the lull of a treacherous sea. And when that lull passed, we were indeed in touch with Homer's "loud sounding waves" and Byron's "hell of waters where they flow and hiss and boil in endless fortune," and we wound up, both of us, below deck. The whole ocean seemed to flame like an open wound, and we had our first bout with seasickness. It was after that that I decided that I would praise the sea but hug the shore.
I would like to recognize, since she arrived shortly ago, my dear friend and mentor, the First Lady of Marshall, Texas, Ladybird Johnson. Like me, the first whale Mrs. Johnson saw was a catfish from Caddo Lake.
I have to tip our collective hat to Jerry and Cathy Supple who were singing the Sea Chanties during our break. Jerry and Cathy live in San Marcos now, where he is president of Southwest Texas State University. Before that Judith knew them when he was president of the State University of New York at Fredonia, that famous sea-chanting citadel.
Mary, thank you for putting a luminous frame around the opening of this weekend. As I watched your slides and heard you talk, I had a sense of this voracious energy that is pouring forth and back into the oceans.
The public at large is very often unaware of just how enriched our lives are by the steadfast passion of the scientists who understand. But sometimes a scientist breaks through and excites a general enthusiasm about the wonders of a life spent in search.
Robert Ballard is just such a scientist. He comes to us from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, that other great American institution of marine exploration, where he is the tenured senior scientist and director of the Center for Marine Exploration. But I know and admire him as an accomplished practitioner of television, whose work with the BBC, Walter Cronkite, the National Geographic television specials, and Ted Turner's National Geographic Explorer series has captured a large audience for the excitement of science.
His books on his discoveries of the Titanic and the sunken German battleship Bismarck are worldwide best sellers. But, as Bill Crook was reminding me last night, what is most impressive is the answer that Bob gave to a reporter who asked him, "What were you feeling after you found the Bismarck?" And Robert Ballard answered, "What a waste. Will we never learn what a waste war is?" Robert Ballard.
Thank you very much, everybody. I'd like to start with a little very brief Texas story. As part of my job of traveling the beach many, many days, I often come across a stranded or injured animal. And quite often that is a bird--a sea bird. People know this in Port Aransas and the surrounding community, and so I get calls all the time to come and pick up a bird or come and find a bird that's in distress on the beach.
And one day from Woody's Boat Basin and Bait Stand I got a call about a bird that was on the beach. So I went into Woody's and I went up to the counter there and I said, I have come for my bird. And the man looked at me. And he didn't say anything. And so I said, I've come for my bird. So he looked at me and scratched his head and reached up and picked up a Budweiser can and put it on the counter for me.
I do hope that I can communicate with this wonderful audience a little better than I did there.
I have a quotation here. I won't read it all, but it is interesting and it does say something about the interconnectedness of things. The quotation says, "We found the shore for many miles strewed with fragments of wrecks and boxes and bells of goods which had been thrown into the sea from vessels. We frequently found as we walked along the edge of the surf fresh coconuts, brazil nuts, and other fruits and plants of more southern latitudes which, no doubt, had made the voyage from the rivers of the seven continents on the gulf stream flowing from that direction to unite with the other or more northern branch of it. We observed entire sycamores and other trees from the forests of the north which, coming down the Mississippi and being carried to sea, were also deposited on the shore by the same current." And so on and so forth. It's a longer quote.
The narrator of this quote was one S. Compton Smith, M.D., acting surgeon general with the later President Zachary Taylor's division in Mexico. And he was describing the events following the wreck of the Rosella on Padre Island in the spring of 1846.
Well, you could go down Padre Island today, and perhaps you wouldn't see such magnificent trees of mahogany these days, but you would certainly see the wrecks and the bales and the boxes of materials that have been thrown from ships or otherwise found its way to our beaches. The difference, perhaps, being that then, in those days, these were treasures in general. Probably it was a bounty to find a cask of something washed ashore. But today these are far from being treasures.
And although I have come to know and love the Gulf of Mexico, and particularly its margin that is represented by the Barrier Islands, and I would love to show you in my talk today some of the beauty of this place, I am, unfortunately, going to show you some less beautiful objects that wash up these days.
I will start off with some beautiful pictures. The Gulf of Mexico looking from Mustang Island Beach, which is my adopted beach. The Gulf of Mexico is a very dynamic place. And the atmosphere, which Mary was talking about earlier, has such an effect on this that when a storm comes through, it changes the beach face almost immediately and also has an incredible effect on the circulation of these shallow waters of the coastal Gulf of Mexico.
This is one of the few places that has survived since that time--just after that time that the Rosella was wrecked. This is the Aransas Pass lighthouse. And this picture illustrates two factors about the Gulf of Mexico. One, it can be a rough place. Now, I have been to the Antarctic as you heard, and I have been in some extraordinarily rough seas. But there is something about a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. It's because the water is shallow, and because the waves have a short period, and because most of the vessels that go out there are a certain length, which is not particularly conducive to that period of the waves, that it can be very rough out there.
The University of Texas has their marvelous research vessel called the Longhorn. And one thing that I often feel when we take students out there is that we might be, in fact, discouraging them from ever taking up the pursuit of a career in oceanography.
Oh, the other thing before I get onto that--the other thing, of course, is the presence of commerce and of industry in the Gulf of Mexico, as illustrated here by this rig.
One of the favorite things that I do when I go out on the Longhorn is to sit on the bow in perhaps a little more clement weather than we have here and just observe the ocean going by. I've been doing this almost on all of my oceanographic cruises. At one time, I rode the bow of a research vessel coming all the way from the Antarctic to Seattle, Washington, during all daylight hours. And, in doing so, I've got a different feeling for the ocean than I have by sending instruments down and measuring its temperature and salinity and oxygen content.
And one of the things that I've noticed are the things that float to the surface of the sea. And they are in the Gulf of Mexico often wonderful and often less than wonderful.
Another feature of the exploitation of the Gulf of Mexico, other than its industry and commerce in the form of maritime transportation, is the shrimping industry--the primary fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
A feature of our coastal environment is the contrast between the long stretches of almost deserted beaches and the encroaching--ever encroaching development of our resources--our coastal environment.
This is my beach. You are looking at the Aransas Pass, one of the only inlets between the Gulf of Mexico and our extensive bays and lagoonal systems for many miles, both to the north and the south. You are looking south. You can see the wonderful curvature of the beach. And you are looking at part of the town of Port Aransas, Texas. This is the south jetty of the Aransas Pass, and the survey, which I do, starts somewhere around here, and I go seven miles to the south, and I count a lot of things that are countable.
Unfortunately (although it sounded rather poetic that I was like a lone character wandering the beach) I have so much equipment with me now that I have to use a vehicle to do that wandering. And, whereas at one time, I had a clipboard which I was able to rest on the steering wheel, I now have a marvelous little computer which I have had for eleven years or so. I can enter counts of the various things that I find on the beach into that computer. This varies from the birds (I am using the birds themselves as sort of an indicator species to indicate the health of the beach) to cars, dogs, helic..............................................................................opters, people, and a number of things, including the debris and litter on the beach.
I am going to go through very quickly--I violated Bob Ballard's one-minute-per-slide rule here, but I am going to go through rather quickly here to show you some of the horrors of what we find on the beaches and the perimeters of our coastal environment.
This was what I called the day of the milk jugs. You're looking at about 600 one-gallon milk jugs in this one picture. If you look very closely at this material you can see a mixture of the natural and not so natural things. That is my dime by the way. These are the bleached blades of the sea grass syringodium (manatee grass) which have probably come from somewhere in Central America or Mexico.
These are plastic ferrules or pellets which are the basic raw material for the injection-molded plastics industry. Almost anything that you have in the way of a plastic comb or other plastic object is made by injection molding, and this is the raw material which finds its way onto our beaches.
These are various containers that I've found on the beach--sometimes sealed, sometimes unsealed, mostly empty, sometimes full, sometimes leaking their contents on the beach, sometimes having cryptic seals on them, often having no labels so that you can't blame whoever is responsible. As I say, sometimes leaking their contents--unknown contents--on the beach. This, incidentally, did have a label on it. It came from an Indonesian tanker which was transporting palm kernel oil. I thought this was some evil chemical substance. It turned out to be palm oil. And I learned then by reading the label that some of those tankers that you see are not carrying petroleum products, but are carrying palm oil--gallons and gallons, hundreds of thousands of gallons of it.
Sometimes we find the larger containers, some 55-gallon drums. The national seashore has collected hundreds of 55-gallon drums over the years. Now, because of the unknown contents of some of these, it is estimated that if the Coast Guard is called in to remove them, it costs $1,000 to remove a single drum off the beach.
This is some familiar caulking material which has interacted with the sea water to form a rather interesting "sculpture." Somebody decided it would be fun to drive over that 5-gallon container once it came on the beach and it spewed its yellow contents onto the beach.
Containers with warning labels. Containers that are leaking. Here is a one-gallon milk jug that has no milk in it, but probably contains used motor oil. You can see that it's leaking a sheen into the precious sea.
Freon--in our throwaway society, there are 50-pound cylinders of freon gas, used extensively in the refrigeration industry. They're non-reuseable. On this particular day, I found fourteen of these on the beach!
Now, I'm going to show you briefly something of the impact on the sea life of this material discarded into the sea. This is a hawksbill sea turtle. This is an onion sack. You might wonder what an onion sack is doing in the Gulf of Mexico. Believe me, there are lots of onion sacks that wash up on the beaches, and they're used, as far as I can determine, primarily by the shrimping industry as a convenient container on the brine boats to contain the shrimp. The animal is alive, although it doesn't look it. In days gone by, this would be made out of maybe some vegetable fiber, but now it's made out of plastic. And although it starts to break apart, it forms a very effective snare. For some reason, hawksbill turtles have a particular affinity for onion sacks, and I've found nine of them over the years that have been entangled in this fashion in onion sacks. Fortunately, only one has been dead, and we've been able to rehabilitate all of the others.
Here is a loggerhead turtle. Here is another one of the hazards, a fishhook with fishline attached. And, believe me, it is not a very pleasant task to open the jaws of a sea turtle like that and try and extract a fishhook. In fact, in some cases, we cannot do it. We are not veterinarians, and so we have sent off some of these turtles to the Houston zoo, and have them actually operate to remove fishhooks. This one was successful, and we sent it back to sea.
Here is a much smaller loggerhead turtle with some fishing line around its neck that it has worn for so long that it has actually begun to grow around it. And you can see the edema, the swelling of the neck there. Again, once we found this animal, we were able to remove the fishing line and rehabilitate it and send it out to sea.
One of the most absurd things about pollution of this sort is what you find in the stomachs of dead turtles that wash up on the beach. I have, in fact, if anybody is interested, some "show and tell." Pam Plotkin, a student, opened up 110 loggerhead turtles that washed up dead on the beach over a year-and-a-half period. She looked at their stomach contents, primarily because her thesis was to find out what loggerhead turtles were eating. What she found out was they were eating plastics. Over 50 percent of all those sea turtles had plastic in their stomachs. I actually have behind there a box of all those plastic pieces that came out of the stomachs and guts, which anybody's welcome to come and look at afterwards.
But this was one of the most absurd items found. It is one of those tags on a pillow that you're not supposed to remove. Otherwise, you go to jail. And somehow this turtle ingested it, along with its other food material here. But you also see other bits of plastic along with it.
Here is a Morton Ship-N-Shore salt bag. This also is used by the shrimping industry. I show this for two reasons. One is that the shrimping industry has been blamed, although they vehemently deny it, as being one of the major polluters of our beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. But I show it for that and also because if you turn that over you would see what that salt was used for. It's used for separating trash fish from your catch. It's written right on the back of the salt sack. But I also want you to note these diamond-shaped holes in it. These are turtle bites. We don't quite know why turtles bite these plastics, but we believe that for millennia, hundreds of millennia, turtles have been able to bite anything that floats to the surface, and it was probably food. Well, now, it's certainly not guaranteed to be food.
And the birds get entangled, of course. Here is an immature herring gull--second or third year herring gull, trailing a length of monofilament line attached to its leg.
This is a bird which I followed for a long time. It's a ring-billed gull with a piece of plastic that restricted its leg until the leg went gangrenous, atrophied, and actually fell off. And it survived for a year after that and then disappeared.
Here is a redfish. This is the joy of the Texas coastal fisherman. But this one has a gasket from a big oil filter around its gills. It must have lived with this for months and months because it eventually eroded the gills away so that the animal could not longer respire. And big redfish, by the way, live for fifty or even sixty years.
Here is an even smaller fish that is entangled in the funny little diamond-shape holes in the six-pack rings. You've heard, I'm sure, of birds getting their necks in six-pack rings. But here is a halfbeak gilled by a six-pack ring!
Perhaps the saddest incident of all that I've been involved with concerning plastics is this 18-foot Minke whale, a baby Minke whale, which washed up on Matagorda Peninsula a few years ago during a norther--and really cold Texas norther weather. It was alive. It weighed about four tons. It died on the beach. And when it's stomach was examined, it had one single piece of plastic and nothing else in its stomach. And we believe that that was probably what caused the death of this baby animal.
Well, the other thing that we have to deal with here is the industry that involves the extraction of oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico. And one of the features of our beaches is the quantity of tar that you often find there. Several years ago, the IXTOC I well blew in the Gulf of Campeche, to our south in Mexican waters. For 295 days, or thereabouts, it spilled oil into the Gulf. The University of Texas Marine Science Institute did quite a bit of research on how that oil would flow with the currents, and eventually when it would come ashore on the beach. Then, ironically, a little bit later, the oil tanker Burmah Agate exploded and caught fire to our north. Currents were coming down from the north, and currents were coming up from the south, and we were right in the middle. And this was the result on our beaches. I followed the reefs of oil that persisted off Mustang Island for a period of eight years. I believe they are still there now, but I think they're buried in sand.
The removal of tar from a beach like this is a terrible process--it's a nightmare process. I will say, however, that we have seen far less in the way of tar balls washing up on our beaches in recent years. Maybe it's because I've removed so many with my sneakers. I don't know. But it's one of the hazards--in fact, all the condos in Port Aransas and elsewhere have little cardboard boxes in front of their doors with cleaning fluid, and they ask you to remove the tar from your feet.
You're looking at what resemble miniature volcanos here at the edge of the surf. These are the burrows of the ghost shrimp, a very common invertebrate locally. What happened with oil from the IXTOC spill--when it became mixed with sand, it flowed down the burrows. When I excavated them, I found perfect casts made out of tar. One method of studying animal burrows is to pour epoxy resin down the burrow and then excavate the sand when the epoxy was hardened. In this case, the "resin" was tar. Taking a cross-section, you can see where the animal cemented the sand together. Now, the burrow is permeated with oil, with liquid oil in the middle.
And, of course, it has an effect on the birds. Hundreds of shore birds were oiled following that and several other spills that we had later. This was interesting--somebody who'd just got interested in birds came to me in great excitement saying they'd discovered a new species of seagull. It was, in fact, not a new species. It was a laughing gull that had fallen into something. I never found out what. It could fly, and I wasn't able to catch it.
Well, I'll leave you with a few thoughts on the beauty of the beach, rather than "the beauty and beast," and how I do still see the Gulf of Mexico and its borders as beautiful. But I do believe that we must be vigilant in the way that we treat our waste products. I think there are lots of forward-going projects now to prevent us from dumping so much in the sea. We must educate, and we must really do something about this problem so that we can keep the Gulf looking like this.
One of the most marvelous sights that I see in the early mornings, both in spring and fall, are the mass migrations of herons and egrets. In this scene there are snowy egrets, cattle egrets, little blue herons, tri-colored herons, and great egrets all flying by at the same time in the early-morning sun. It's a wonderful sight. But I just briefly want to show you how it's not only the Gulf of Mexico that this problem affects. Here is one of my favorite places in all of the world, the beautiful Antarctic Ocean. And this is what we have done to some of those remote islands by leaving our junk there. These are elephant seals which have sought refuge in some discarded hose material. I don't know whether they thought they were kin or what, but they couldn't be moved. You don't try and move a one-ton elephant seal, even though they are rather lethargic.
And I'm just going to leave you with two more slides with a thought about the interconnectedness, if you like, of the sea. What you're looking at here--and this is exactly as I found it on the beach--is a black drum which was caught somehow swallowing a hard-head catfish, and the reason why it was caught in that position was that at the very instant that it was swallowing that fish, a much larger fish came and bit a chunk out of its tail and finished its existence. So big fish eat little fish, and so on, ad infinitum.
So I'll leave you with that and be happy to answer any questions.
Bill Moyers: That's an optimistic way to begin the afternoon. But I do appreciate the confrontation you present with reality, Tony. I want to ask the first question. On a scale of one to ten--in terms of saving the oceans--where are we?
Tony Amos: I think we're probably about halfway there. I think, as I said, a lot of progress has been made. I've recently sat on a committee to investigate the problem of shipborne litter. Industry has become very aware of this problem because it's not very good for their image. And so many of the industrial firms have educational programs for their workers, and they've had to, of course, because we have an international agreement now called MARPOL Annex V. It's been in effect for over five years now.
And our Coast Guard does inspect vessels that come into our ports, and they inspect them to see how many people are on board and whether the amount of garbage that they have still on board is commensurate with the number of people. And if it's not, they can get them even if they don't find the garbage, because they know they've had to throw it over the side.
I think we're making progress. And I have seen--maybe a six out of ten--I have seen an improvement in my beach survey in the last four or five years.
Bill Moyers: Do you think that's true elsewhere in the world?
Tony Amos: The other world is following. The U.S. was perhaps the first country to become really aware of this program and do something. There is a vast volunteer effort, as many of you probably know, that is done every year. It was started here in Texas, by the way. It's called the Great Texas Trash-Off here. But every September, and here in Texas every April as well, thousands of volunteers come to clean our beaches. And although it may be disheartening for them to clean the beaches, if they were to come back the next day and see it just as bad as they saw it before they cleaned it, that might be disheartening. But what is really good is the people get to look at that. It should be required viewing for people to go and see how much plastic has permeated our environment and how much waste material there is.
So the educational project has been--progress has been great. And now that's worldwide. There is even a cleanup going on in Antarctica this year--and about time, too.
Bill Moyers: If you could make one change that would eliminate maritime waste at its origin, what would it be?
Tony Amos: Well, it would be less packaging material. Now, of course, packaging and plastics have been our salvation for many things--prevention of disease, preservation of food, and so on. But I think that we've gone too far, in our packaging materials, to make them attractive so that people will buy them. And that we need--I think we're trending towards that now in fact, to go back a little bit and use things more perhaps in bulk, especially on ships.
I've recently been on a Russian ship where they put very little garbage into the sea, primarily because--not because they're any different human beings in their nature than we are, but because they don't have so much packaging materials. Their materials come in sacks, if they come in anything, or cardboard boxes, but not in all that plastic.
Bill Moyers: Have you noticed any significant change in public attitudes in these years that you've been here?
Tony Amos: Yes. And I think the media is, in fact, responsible for some of that, too. We often knock the media, but there is no doubt that the media does make available to the public certain indelible images. There's nothing like an indelible image like some of those trashed-out beaches. I think that has probably changed public opinion, or helped to change public opinion, as well as education--education of the very young. I'm sure many of your children or grandchildren know now that you don't just chuck your candy wrapper on the floor, that it might, in fact, affect some distant organism.
Question: Now, garbage is something that's close to an archaeologist's heart, something I can relate to. One of the most common things that you find out about shipwrecks, particularly the Spanish treasure ships, is that the beaches are full of the coins that were on those vessels. That is true in Florida, and it was also true in the case of the 1554 Spanish treasure ships here in Texas. And, in fact, those same Zachary Taylor soldiers--a group of them went down Padre Island on the way to the war--found some of the coins on the beach from the Padre Island treasure ships.
So in a way it's also interesting because sometimes these sites aren't really lost. I mean, everybody knew those coin beaches were there, and there's only one reason the coin beaches are there. It's because there's a wreck offshore. And that leads to another thought--that the watermen often know where all the wrecks are also. They don't necessarily know which wreck's which, but they snag their nets on the wrecks.
Tony Amos: Can I relate a modern anecdote about that? We have some people on Mustang Island who go out looking for money right now. It's a different kind of money. It's drug money that is dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and often washes up on the beach in large quantities. I think the only thing I ever found was a dollar bill.
Question: I have a question. One of the things that--I don't know if it's pervasive through the United States, but certainly in the community where I live, is this Adopt-a-Highway where different organizations, different people take on one mile of freeway and see to it that it's clean. Either they pay to have it cleaned, or their people go out, if it's a local McDonald's, and they--or you see them going up and down the highway constantly keeping it clean. And it does a lot of things to you. It makes you feel good about people that care, but it also makes you conscious in some ways of the price that's involved.
Have you ever seen any sort of thing like that where a community or someone might adopt a section of the beach and make it their responsibility to keep it clean, which also just instills in young people the realization it can get dirty in the first place.
Tony Amos: Yes, indeed. There is a Texas Adopt-a-Beach program that's been in place for several years. It was originated by the Texas General Land Office Commissioner, Gary Mauro. And that is a very viable program. The other thing, which I didn't mention, is that the volunteers for all of these cleanups are asked to fill out data cards, and so, not only do they know what they've picked up, but then we, as scientists, know what they pick up. Now, there have been some criticisms about whether that data base is going to be statistically viable. There is a big national program just starting, or will start next year, where volunteers will clean up beaches at monthly intervals, using identical methods (recommended by the scientific community) so that we will be able to ask that question which I spoke about earlier. "Is it getting better or is it getting worse?" My own measurements say it's getting better locally. Other people say it's not, but I think nationwide we might be able to answer that soon.
I don't remember the length of all Texas Gulf beaches. A very small proportion is adopted, but I would say every year, about 180 miles of our beach actually gets cleaned. It's somewhere in that area. It's two-mile sections they adopt.
Bill Moyers: I asked a friend of mine on Wall Street if he was optimistic about the market. And he said, Yes, I'm optimistic. And I said, Then why do you look so worried? And he said, Because I'm afraid my optimism's not justified. I have that fear, Tony, that your optimism may not be as justified as I want to believe it is.
Tony Amos: Well, I will admit I'm an optimist. I have a certain faith in humankind. If you show them what's going on, and you see the interest that people take in some of these animals that wash up on the beach, you realize that people do have concern. They're just bloody careless at times. That's all.
Bill Moyers: If there is a cause for optimism, it's in no small part because there are people inspired to imagine a future that is more hospitable and more compatible to what we're talking about, and to work toward it. And one of them grew up right here across the bay.
Tony came to us from England via Bermuda, but John Wesley Tunnell actually grew up on the other side of the bay and has stayed at home to work in this field. It was his concept that has led to what will soon be a new $10-million center for environmental studies and services building which will soon be completed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. And from there will certainly come a whole new crop of young men and women devoted to continuing the turnabout that many people think we have made in our understanding of environmental sciences and marine exploration.
Wes Tunnell is one of the pioneers in Texas's own revisioning its future. He is director of the Center for Coastal Studies and professor of biology here at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He has been a Fulbright scholar. I asked him how he got started in this work, and he said, "Well, it was natural. I began as a dentist." And his journey from there to here is an interesting story. He says, I do what I do because I'm in love with the sea. Wes Tunnell.