Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration? My Newest Story in The New York Times Story Poses the Question.

by Chris Dixon

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Terry Kerby, the head of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, peers through the porthole of a Pisces V research submarine. Photo: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times. 

This past Spring, I was honored to spend some time with a most remarkable oceanographer. Terry Kerby is the director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory. The admiral of HURL’s Pisces deep-sea submersible program, Kerby is arguably the most experienced submariner the face of the earth. The discoveries he and his crew have made with the help of the of bug-eyed, mantis-armed Pisces submarines, have re-written the very history of World War II and changed our very understanding of the life on earth. Yet the future of Kerby’s operation is uncertain, thanks to budget cuts – and robots.

Find out why in the story below. In the coming weeks, I’ll post up the interviews with oceanographers and explorers who made this story possible – from Sylvia Earle to Robert Ballard, to Kerby himself. With the precipitous changes affecting our climate and mother ocean, I came away from this story with one particularly stark and troubling concept. We have explored perhaps five percent of the very ocean that sustains us. We barely understand it at all. Despite this, the federal government funds NOAA’s ocean exploration budget to the tune of $26 million per year. By comparison, NASA’s budget for space exploration is $4 billion.

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The Japanese Midget Sub Sunk by the USS Ward Before the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Her Existence was a Source of Conjecture, Myth and Conspiracy Until She was Discovered by Kerby in 2002. 

Are aquanauts that much less important than astronauts? Are deep sea humans destined to be completely replaced by deep sea machines? Read my NYT story here and decide for yourself. – CD

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