By Tara Smithee, Mapping Intern - University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
April 2, 2012
Working at sea has been both an incredible personal and professional experience for me. The Okeanos Explorer is filled with amazingly skilled and passionate people who have had such incredible experiences during their lives, from diving a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the Titanic, to filming in Antarctica, swimming with dolphins, and SCUBA diving with sharks.
The ROV team has used Little Hercules and Serios to film vibrant deep-water communities of corals, anemone, invertebrates, fish, and sponges that have rarely if ever been seen alive. My own small experience here inspires me to continue to explore, to discover, to ask difficult questions, and to interact with people across the world.
As an intern, I stood for three weeks as a mapping watch stander, learning to use the software for mapping the seafloor with the Okeanos Explorer’s multibeam sonar. With one pass over an area, we can generate a high-resolution map of the underlying seafloor five kilometers wide or more. This is such an important tool that will further illuminate marine geology, ocean water flow, and many other aspects of ocean research.
I am so excited to see the future, and I hope the discoveries of the Okeanos Explorer will inspire further conservation of important marine resources and unique biological areas. I am occasionally inclined towards poetry, so I have offered a summation of my interaction with and hopes for the sea; click on the image below to read "Song of the Sea."
by Tara Smithee
And the oceans, oh! They’re splendid too Greens and grays and deepest blue With moods that swing like summer squalls Echoed in waves and seabird calls The mild mare and plunging stallion Have saved or sunken sloop and galleon All ships that choose to dare across Face the eerie risk of loss But what joy to sail across those waves! Under swaths of stars and past seaside caves With weeks of time when land is so far It can only be tracked using sextant and star And nights when black waves glitter with light Small creatures that flash and fly out of sight With the undulation of the sea What a journey it must be For single drip of water clear To venture to the blue frontier And sink down to the darkest deep Where glowing squid and fishes sleep Where smoky vents on ocean floor Spew heated plume from Earthen core And deepest canyons ever grown Hide creatures strange and so unknown They’ve only just been seen alive So dark, so deep they like to dive Fewer folk have seen this place Then walked the moon in outer space The mysteries the ocean holds Enchanting to the young and old From vibrant shrimp to noble whale They weave an endless, complex tale A perfect web, a set design A billion, billion things align To bring you tuna fish and rye Sushi, or a crab cake fry And when a piece is taken out A species lost or tossed about A thread of high-hung tapestry Unravels from the edge, you see These tattered holes can ill support The rest of linked marine cohort And then the web begins to fade The manta rays and clams of jade Distorted till you cannot tell What was there before it fell Or how the silk threads used to be ‘Ere lost to all eternity So mankind must retreat a pace With honest heart and humble face To let go of the fishing pole The daily catch, the quota goal And set aside great swaths of sea As rare and wild sanctuary Where reef can build without the fear Of heavy trawler dragging gear And fish as rare as buffalo Can have a safer place to grow Yet polluted water has no bound It circulates the world round So globally, we must dictate A plan for ocean’s long term fate Then hold the seas boldly before Dollar bills or political war For through all time on earth the sea Supports each life from worm to tree Well I’ve seen reefs that soon will fade The manta rays and clams of jade The sharks that wait for swinging tide And octopi that like to hide The magic that the ocean holds Worth more than all the world’s gold Is set into your hands tonight Take care of it and hold it tight And one day your young child may see All the ocean has shown to me