Instruments Cast Fresh Eyes on the Sea

Science  10 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5374, pp. 194-196
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5374.194

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MONTEREY BAY, CALIFORNIA-- From roving sensors that drift in the oceans' midwaters to fixed offshore observatories, a raft of innovations is opening up new horizons in ocean research, making the sea, while still daunting, much more accessible. New chip and sensor technologies have shrunk instrument packages while increasing their capacity to store huge amounts of data, and materials such as Teflon-coated titanium, rugged spheres, and dense plastics have enabled engineers to devise better ways to cope with the sea's corrosiveness and crushing pressures, so many oceanographers no longer must wait a year to go out on a ship or schedule a costly manned-submersible dive. But some researchers say that while the technology today is unquestionably driving the science, federal funding falls short of the long-term buy-in that new oceanographic tools require.