AUSTIN, Texas —The National Science Foundation has invited Dr. James A. Austin, a senior research scientist at The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), to lead sea trials to test new, cutting-edge scientific equipment recently added to the U.S. Research Vessel Icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer.
The Palmeris a unique research vessel designed for scientific expeditions and exploration of Antarctica and was named in honor of the first American to see the icy continent.
The cruise between Port Fourchon, La., and Panama will take place from Monday (Sept. 25) through Thursday (Oct. October 5.)
Owned and operated by Edison-Chouest of Louisiana, the 67-meter ship is under long-term contract to the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs (OPP) for support of scientific research in Antarctica. Equipped to operate safely year-round in frigid, storm-tossed waters that may be covered with sea ice, the Palmeraccommodates 37 scientists and a crew of 22.
The Palmer has two primary purposes: scientific research and ferrying of supplies and personnel to U.S. bases in the Antarctic. Its mission includes research into the ocean currents, ice dynamics and atmospheric chemistry as they relate to climate change; marine geology and geophysics involving plate tectonics and the shaping of the Antarctic continental margin and slope; and biological studies involving fisheries and marine mammal populations.
Austin will lead a 30-member team, including representatives of the OPP, Edison-Chouest and Raytheon Polar Services Corp., to conduct two phases of sea trials. Raytheon Polar Services Corp. is a consortium composed of Raytheon and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, under a long-term contract to OPP to provide technical support to scientific research in Antarctica.
Austin said the trials should demonstrate the Palmer’snew strengths as an advanced research facility capable of gathering information for a variety of scientific disciplines.
“When combined with her icebreaking capability, this will give the United States a unique marine research asset at the doorstep of the world’s last continental frontier,” Austin said.
During the first phase in the northern Gulf of Mexico, several types of hydrographic and oceanographic research equipment will be tested, including devices called acoustic Doppler current profilers. These sophisticated instruments, which employ sound to measure ocean current velocities and directions, are used in studying the relationship between currents and climate change.
The second phase of sea trials will be dedicated to testing a variety of geophysical measurement instruments, including two systems that, employed together, can produce three-dimensional pictures of the sea floor and its underlying structure.
The new multi-beam bathymetric system consists of two instrument arrays attached to the ship’s hull. One array transits a succession of sonic pulses in a swath. The sound reflected from the surface of the seafloor is received by the second array of instruments and can be used to make topographic maps.
This equipment will be operated in conjunction with seismic reflection profiling devices, which use energy generated from multiple compressed-air sound sources (air guns) on board the ship. The energy is reflected by the different sediment and rock layers beneath the seafloor and detected by instruments towed behind the ship. It produces images of geological structures underlying the ocean floor.
James Dolan, a senior systems analyst at UT Austin’s Geophysics Institute, will participate in the sea trials to provide technical assistance. He will ensure that the timing of the energy pulses from the ship’s air guns are measured and recorded to sub-millisecond precision, and that these measurements are accurately merged with the ship’s GPS navigation.
UT Austin’s Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) is known internationally as a leading research group in geology and geophysics. Its mission is to conduct pioneering research in earth science that has social and economic relevance.
For information more information, contact Dr. Katherine Ellins as (512) 232-3251, Dr. James A. Austin at (512) 232-3250 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact James W. Dolan at (512) 232-3240 or e-mail email@example.com
Visit the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs Website at http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/ For information about the PALMER,visit www.nsf.gov/od/opp/support/nathpalm.htm Visit the Raytheon Polar Services Co. Website for ship deck layouts, lab photographs, schedules and equipment at