Ships have served oceanographers through the years, ably supporting measurements and sampling using a wide range of disciplines. The use of ships, coupled with the intimate mingling of physics, chemistry geology and biology, have fostered the interdisciplinary growth of oceanography ultimately leading to a major new effort in ocean sciences research.

The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a proposed project of the U.S. National Science Foundation, seeks to establish a permanent presence in the ocean to improve our capacity to measure physical, chemical, biological, and geological parameters on multiple time and spatial scales. This NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MRE-FC) project will provide the initial investment in infrastructure necessary for this major new approach in oceanography.