We worry about the possibility of a giant trash heap floating in the Mediterranean, and about the effect that this and Israel’s new gas fields will have on marine life. We are also concerned that various oil exploration projects could culminate in accidental leaks that would have deleterious effects on the sea’s well-being. But we are mostly uncertain about what prowls on the sea floor. Our knowledge of this relatively unexplored region could deepen, though, since the premiere scientist Zvi Ben-Avraham, who is also the Israeli President’s scientific adviser, will lead a two week research mission aboard the Nautilus.
This “state of the art” research vessel is owned by the famed explorer Robert Ballard, who has had a long and illustrious oceanographic career. His accomplishments are numerous, and include the discovery of the Titanic vessel, which he found after securing the locations of two nuclear-powered attack submarines for the US Navy.
When he left the Navy, Dr. Ballard began working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He has since started various research organizations, such as the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography and the Institute for Exploration; he has also worked with the National Geographic Society, and led numerous other expeditions.
Zvi Ben-Avraham completed his PhD at Woods Hole and has also had a long and star-studded career: in addition to holding posts at such esteemed academic institutions as the University of Cape Town, the Weizman Institute of Science, and Stanford University, Dr. Ben-Avraham has participated in research expeditions in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean, Red, and Dead Seas, and the Gulf of Elat.
He is also the founding Director of the Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, under which umbrella marine scientists have gathered to map out the current deep sea expedition.
According to Professor Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, President of the University of Haifa:
This unique collaboration gives expression to the central emphasis that the University of Haifa has decided to place on marine research, a resource that promises many discoveries in a variety of areas: economy, medicine, energy, biology, and more. The future is in the sea and this voyage is a first step towards understanding the mystery of a region that is so close to us yet still so far and unknown.
The Nautilus is equipped with diving robots and elaborate control rooms, according to a University of Haifa press release, and set sail on its mission this morning from the port of Haifa.
:: images via the University of Haifa
More science news: