Using a nuclear submarine for Arctic research



Oceanographers have been accused of not thinking big enough. Where is our Hubble Space Telescope? Where is our Superconducting Super Collider? Where is our project to map the human genome? An example of a highly successful “big” project in the marine sciences is the Ocean Drilling Program, currently funded at about $42 million per year. That effort is small by comparison to big projects in astronomy and in highenergy physics.

Ocean-ice-atmosphere interactions in polar regions play a major role in driving deep ocean circulation and in regulating Earth's climate, and Arctic regions in particular are expected to be the first to respond to the predicted global warming. Despite the fundamental importance of polar regions to the habitability of planet Earth, most oceanographers have used only the most inefficient methods for exploring the ocean beneath the ice: drifting on floating ice camps and bashing through the ice with ice breakers. Neither of these methods is an effective way to explore a feature as large and as physiographically varied as the Arctic basin.