Why California? It is a question I am frequently asked by people who assume that we would have opted for Texas with its close proximity to Gulf of Mexico oil and gas interests. Although many of the companies that are considered competitors of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER) are headquartered in, or have a parent company based in Texas, California has always been DOER’s home.
From our historic ship yard building in the island community of Alameda, DOER has attracted a wide variety of clients from around the country and around the world looking for innovative solutions to underwater and harsh environment problems. While we build remotely operated vehicles(ROVs) and monitoring systems to perform inspections and work around subsea oil and gas installations to increase the safety of these extractive industries, the real challenges come with building systems, both manned and unmanned, tailored for science, film, and critical infrastructure. Rising to these challenges requires engineers, technicians and other professionals who are driven to achieve and can think way outside the box. Happily, such people are a rich resource in California, particularly in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The flip side to this of course is that such people require a stimulating, creative environment. Again, California comes through with Universities, NGOs, and Silicone Valley to collaborate with, sweeping open spaces for recreation, museums, music, and historic places for contemplation, and a basic mindset that fits DOER’s core philosophy of “make a dollar but make a difference”.
Google and the US Navy selected DOER as their “ground floor” collaborator to populate the blue parts of Google Earth. DOER engaged bathymetric specialists for subsea topography and quietly assembled content from around the world, focusing on Sylvia Earle’s “Hope Spots” at first, and building out from there. Today, we are still active collaborators, finding new content and continuing work with the Navy to improve bathymetry via a cooperative research and development agreement or CRADA. This effort opened the oceans to millions of people who might otherwise never delve below the surface.
At the same time, we continue to develop and build tools for direct and remote exploration of the world’s oceans. DOER assisted Jim Cameron and his Australian team with the Deepsea Challenger, working primarily on the lower personnel pod including sampling tools and emergency systems; critical to life support and safe return to the surface. As we say in the submersible world, only round trips count. In parallel, we worked on a 2000m robotic system for the Scripps Oceanographic Institute and prepared a suite of instruments and tools to take on the challenge of sampling and exploring a lake frozen under 800m of ice in Antarctica. Jim Cameron made a series of successful dives, including a return to the deepest point in the sea. Scripps used their ROV to investigate submerged earthquake faults in Lake Tahoe and young subsea volcanoes in Baja California. They used one of DOER’s 3000m ROV systems to check in on Richard Branson’s sunken whale off the coast of San Diego, collecting what may be a new species of invertebrate from the site. Just this January, the team in Antarctica penetrated Lake Whillans icy mantle and using our equipment, recovered water and sediment samples showing evidence of life. Of the three teams, Russian, British and USA, the US team was the only one to collect sediment and to find life below the ice for the first time. Next year, a larger ROV; the Sub Ice Rover or SIR, will undertake a similar effort through 1000m of ice to explore below the Ross Ice Shelf. DOER hosted a NASA engineer to work with us on the SIR helping to pave the way for sub ice exploration on other planets.
Today, DOER is working to complete a 6000m ROV for the University of Hawaii’s SOEST group. It is a multi mission platform that will support their two manned submersibles and the Station Aloha Ocean Observing System in addition to basic science and exploration. Closer to home, DOER continues to develop and refine TULES, a system developed for non destructive testing and monitoring of levees and earthen dams; critical infrastructure that millions of Californians rely upon for drinking water while protecting homes and agriculture from flooding. It is a technology developed in California that has world wide applications; particularly in relation to climate change and coastal communities.
In California people recognize the economic importance of clean water and healthy oceans. As a State, we have made great strides in marine protection, pollution reduction, control of plastics and sustainable fisheries – implementing good ideas that are spreading to other States. At the same time, the Federal Government “zero budgeted” our entire National Undersea Research Program, opting for increased satellite coverage over the direct exploration of our oceans. DOER is working to close this gap by partnering with NGOs and the philanthropic community to fund the build and operation of new human occupied submersibles, ROV’s, and other subsea tools tailored for science and conservation work.
Our work takes us around the world, from “bio-prospecting” in Palau, to Shark Week “Live from Bikini Atoll”, to hurricane and oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, to investigation and remediation tools for miles of subterranean tunnels in Texas, New York, and Peru, to Japan and China where new investment in subsea technology is being driven by the promise of rare earth minerals from the sea. No matter where our projects take us, the fact that DOER is a California company is immediately recognized as being synonymous with innovation and excellence.
For more information, please visit: http://www.doermarine.com/