Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

nary speed and generosity, possibly more so on the social occasions wrapped around the formal meetings. This is still true today. The International Indian Ocean Expedition was one of the last of the old-style efforts, where the expedition was coherent in place, but consisted of a mixture of many unrelated scientific activities, from net hauls to seismology.

On September 11, 1964, on the trip home, the Discovery stopped in the middle of the Red Sea for one last hydrographic station. John Swallow (UK) and Rocky Miller (U.S.) who was funded by NSF, had independently noted a warm, saline anomaly and acoustic reflecting layers in the deep water of the Red Sea, and had shared the data. John wanted to track it down. I was assigned the task of (pencil) plotting the data called out from the echo sounder, and we found a definite depression at the site. I then drove the steam winch, hung the bottles, lowered the hydro cast as close to the bottom as we could, carried the samples, and logged the data. The results were extraordinary, with a bottom temperature of 44°C and saturation with salt at >300 grams per kilogram seawater! I was proud of my hard work in the hot sun, after 8 long months at sea, and was very surprised to see a large fraction of the sample being taken and stored in a big plastic bottle that I knew nothing of. "What is that for?" I asked, and was told it was for Harmon Craig at Scripps. I knew nothing of Harmon then, but I did have a first glimpse of how far one could push this international thing.


In 1966 I was offered a job at Woods Hole by John Hunt, who liked the work we had done on the Red Sea brines, and by Derek Spencer, who was building an energetic new chemistry initiative. I knew nothing of the way U.S. science was conducted, but on my first venture into work I observed a plaque on the building commemorating its construction with funds provided by NSF. That summer I went to sea on the Atlantis II and found a similar plaque there too. This seemed to everyone to be quite normal, but such generosity made a great impression on me.

The results of the Red Sea hot brines discovery, soon extended by the group on Atlantis II finding a collection of still hotter, more chemically extreme solutions, with vast metal deposits, occupied much of the ocean chemistry community in the late 1960s, and it received strong NSF support. Dave Ross and Egon Degens led the effort and produced a very fine book (Degens and Ross, 1969). The total saturation with halite made these hot brine pools completely sterile, and it was not until much later, in 1979, that exotic animal communities were discovered in association with hot vents, near the Galapagos, on the East Pacific Rise. Interestingly, if one takes the earlier Red Sea data and simply strips off the NaCl component, the residual chemistry is almost identical to the mid-ocean ridge venting fluids, that is, in showing a dramatic loss of magnesium and sulfate, and strong enrichment in iron and manganese, from water-rock interaction. The fundamental science of what drove the fluids, and the mechanism by which seawater could be altered so dramatically, were very much on our minds. For the first time I began to appreciate why my early sample had been shipped to Scripps so quickly, when I saw the stable isotope data from Craig's lab and realized the constraints it provided.

The Red Sea cruises and the Black Sea cruise in 1969 (Degens and Ross, 1974) were excellent examples of medium-scale ocean science. They had finite goals and a well-constrained geographic area, but they were clearly much larger in scope than a single-investigator laboratory could handle. The papers from these efforts were first class and had many international contributions.

I was advised that I needed to branch out, and in 1967 I wrote my first proposal to NSF, requesting funds to adapt a new fluoride electrode into deep-ocean instrumentation. Funds were awarded, and we quickly wrote a paper on (Mg-F)+ ion-pairing that provided the first experimental test of theoretical models. In some small way we were making a contribution to the building of the elegant thermodynamic model of seawater that we now take for granted. Almost all of this fundamental work on solution physical chemistry was supported by NSF, and all models of the ocean uptake of fossil fuel CO2 today depend critically on this important thermodynamic framework.

A cruise was scheduled, which yielded no unusual results, but it was on this trip, on a warm night on the fantail of the RV Chain in harbor in the Azores, that I first heard, from Derek Spencer, of the plans for a global set of geochemical sections. It seemed to be a very attractive idea. Hank Stommel (Stommel and Arons, 1960) had been persuaded by the early evidence (see Broecker et al., 1961, for the earliest discussion) from Wally Broecker and colleagues, for 14C dating of water masses and of the possibility of putting new time constraints on the mean rate of global ocean circulation by use of the radioactive clock. The new International Decade of Ocean Exploration (IDOE) initiative was arising and would be housed within NSF. This presented a fresh and important opportunity to make a case, and the excitement we felt at revealing the picture of the circulation of the greatest fluid on Earth, painted anew in chemical colors, was palpable.


Building the Program

The object of GEOSECS, the Geochemical Ocean Sections Program, was to trace the picture of the abyssal circulation, using the power of radiotracers to accomplish this, with major cruises in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. But only just beyond this goal lay much uncertainty. There were many potential tracers in addition to natural 14C; the suite of 226Ra and 228Ra; 222Rn for gas exchange rates and bottom boundary layers; 3H and 14C from the nuclear

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement