09/18/2015

Is Deep-Sea Exploration Worth It?

17:07 minutes

The Pisces V is one of two deep diving manned submersibles at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) based in Oahu. It can operate at a depth of 2,000 meters, or 6,280 feet. Photo by HURL/Colin Wollerman
The Pisces V is one of two deep diving manned submersibles at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) based in Oahu. It can operate at a depth of 2,000 meters, or 6,280 feet. Photo by HURL/Colin Wollerman

This week in The New York Times, journalist Chris Dixon posed the question: “Do humans have a future in deep sea exploration?” With the rise of robotic exploration carried out by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), for example, financial support for manned submersibles—like the Pisces IV and V at the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory in Oahu—is increasingly limited. In fact NOAA’s deep sea exploration budget is a mere fraction of the one for NASA’s exploration funding. And yet, at least 90 percent of the world’s oceans remain unexplored. This is a problem, say scientists. In a 2012 interview with Science Friday, famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle said, “to explore—to peel back the layers of the unknown—is one of the most important things that we can do. Ignorance is killing us.” She returns to the program, along with deep sea explorers and researchers Hanumant Singh and Colin Wollerman, to discuss what place people have in deep sea exploration as technology continues to advance.

Segment Guests

Sylvia Earle

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle is founder of Mission Blue and an explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society. She’s based in Oakland, California.

Hanumant Singh

Hanumant Singh is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Colin Wollerman

Colin Wollerman is a pilot and technician at the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Oahu, Hawaii.

Meet the Producer

About Becky Fogel

Becky Fogel is a newscast host and producer at Texas Standard, a daily news show broadcast by KUT in Austin, Texas. She was formerly Science Friday’s production assistant.