NOAA 2001-103
Contact: Jana Goldman


The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marked the successful completion of two ground-breaking ocean exploration missions and honored U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings for his support of ocean science during a waterfront celebration event October 1, 2001 in Charleston, S.C.

The two ocean exploration missions – "Deep East" and "Islands in the Stream" – studied deep sea corals, methane hydrates (a potential source of energy), coral reefs, and other marine habitats. Using NOAA and other research ships from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, the missions covered an area from Maine to Belize.

"The same bold spirit and drive for discovery and adventure that drove our nation to unfold the mysteries of space are playing out in this mission to uncover the mysteries off of our shores," said U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Sam Bodman. "Thanks to the vision and hard work of NOAA's ocean exploration team, we stand ready to reap the numerous benefits of this virtually untapped resource - our nation's ocean waters."

"Ocean exploration opens up a vast array of possibilities for scientific discovery and advancement," said NOAA Acting Administrator Scott Gudes. "These two missions and others conducted this year have given us a taste for this new uncharted world, and we're eager to build on their promise."

Gudes noted that ocean exploration took the work of many people to make it happen, but he especially thanked Senator Hollings. "Senator Hollings is a friend of the ocean and a strong supporter of ocean exploration. His support has been critical in this important first step in ocean exploration," Gudes said.

"Nothing is more appropriate than having NOAA's ‘Ocean Exploration Voyages' come to Charleston, a city rich in maritime history and connections with the sea," Senator Ernest F. Hollings said. "The scientists and educators involved in these expeditions are helping to revive a tradition of ocean exploration that we remember from the days of Jacques Cousteau."

"They will surely have exciting stories to tell and experiences to share about the Atlantic coast, including research on the mysterious South Atlantic Bight — the cradle of Atlantic marine life and the site of yet unexplored marine resources," Hollings said. "I am particularly pleased that NOAA's scientists have been working side by side with South Carolina's scientists and managers, and that they will be sharing their results directly with our teachers and students in South Carolina. I sincerely hope the experience will inspire a passion for ocean exploration, marine science, and coastal conservation that will last for years to come."

There were six major expeditions this summer covering all of the contiguous U.S. oceanic coastline, from the Lewis and Clark Legacy in the Pacific Northwest, to Islands in the Stream in the Gulf of Mexico, to Deep East from Maine to Georgia. Missions included preserving the U.S. Civil War vessel Monitor, surveying an unexplored underwater canyon, and installing an electronic listening device - a hydrophone - off of the California coast to listen to the sounds of the sea, from whales to ships to earthquakes.

The Office of Ocean Exploration is the result of a report issued by a multidisciplinary panel of experts, which was convened to provide a national plan for ocean exploration. In October 2000, the panel released "Discovering Earth's Final Frontier: A U.S. Strategy for Ocean Exploration." From this document, the Ocean Exploration Initiative was born.

"The time was right for such an effort," said Capt. Craig McLean, director of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration. "Over the past few decades, we have significantly increased our understanding of the oceans. Advances in ocean exploration technology have revolutionized the way we explore them. We are increasingly aware of our dependence on the oceans for healthy fisheries, clean habitats, and the potential to discover new medicines and answer questions about our environment. Yet, 95 percent of the ocean remains unexplored."

Ocean exploration captures the imagination, which is what this year's missions did for the many people of all ages who traveled along electronically and shared the excitement and the awe. Armchair explorers can travel along without getting wet via the office's website at

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

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To read the ocean panel report, visit: