$1.2M Grant from Keck Allows Team to Explore Ocean’s Deepest Zone

A $1.2 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation will allow a team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, along with industry partners, the ability to build a Hadal Water Column Profiler and explore the ocean’s deepest zone.

UH Mānoa Professor of Oceanography Jeffrey Drazen (right). Courtesy Photo

The deepest 45% of the ocean depth range remains one of the most unexplored and inaccessible regions on the planet. Twelve people have walked on the moon while only three people have ever been to the deepest zone in the ocean—the hadal zone.

Hadal zone waters are deeper than 3.75 miles and covers an area larger than the size of Texas. According to researchers, it has pressures approaching 1,100 times atmospheric pressure.

Researchers say that due to lack of suitable instrumentation, very little is known about the circulation, mixing, chemical properties and biological communities in the water of deep ocean trenches.

With the Keck Foundation grant, HWCP, which is a uniquely capable profiling instrument will, for the first time:

  • Enable high quality physical, chemical and biological sampling of the water column from the sea surface to the seafloor at 36,000 ft depth.
  • Withstand hundreds of cycles in and out of hadal pressures (that is, up and down in the water column).
  • The instrument’s ability to create frequent depth profiles will allow researchers to observe important physical and chemical changes in the ocean environment.
  • Provide observations needed to illuminate important and vexing problems, such as how the deep ocean trenches are ventilated.

UH says the research from HWCP will help create a new understanding of the deep ocean’s impact on the climate and biological communities.

“HWCP will open up new, exciting and potentially transformative avenues of research with global impact,” said David Lassner, UH president and interim UH Mānoa chancellor. “This is a powerful example of how private support is helping propel globally relevant, leading edge UH research. We are most grateful to the W.M. Keck Foundation for the funding necessary to explore exciting new frontiers.”

The three-year project will involve a highly qualified team of scientists, engineers and technicians from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and industry.

The UH Mānoa team includes:

  • Glenn Carter, a physical oceanographer who made the first turbulent mixing measurements in the 3-mile deep Samoan Passage, the primary flow pathway of Antarctic Bottom Water into the North Pacific
  • Jeffrey Drazen, a deep-sea ecologist and a founding member of the Hadal Ecosystems Studies program and chief scientist for a hadal cruise to the Mariana Trench
  • Bruce Howe, the lead investigator on the Aloha Cabled Observatory, the deepest observatory in the world
  • Chris Measures, a chemical oceanographer who was one of the authors of the international GEOTRACES Science Plan.

The industry partners will include Rockland Scientific Inc., which will provide a custom turbulence sensor payload, and Ron Allum Deepsea Services, which will provide the flotation, pressure tolerant batteries and design consulting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.