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Nuclear submarine aids Arctic research.

Though the partners come from disparate backgrounds, it seems a promising marriage on paper. Oceanographers need a means of reaching inaccessible parts of the ocean, and the U.S. Navy is looking for new opportunities for its fleet of nuclear submarines in the post-cold-war world. Late this summer, both groups will see how well the match works in practice when a team of civilian researchers takes part in the first unclassified scientific mission on board a U.S. nuclear submarine.

The trial cruise will explore the central Arctic basin, a region particularly difficult to study even by plane or ice-breaker, says geophysicist Marcus G. Langseth of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y The Navy has conducted research for decades with nuclear submarines, but this cruise marks the first time the scientific community will have access to the data collected, says Langseth, who chaired the science steering committee for the mission.

One aspect of the expedition will focus on Arctic pack ice, a potentially important indicator of climate change. Upwardlooking sonar on the submarine will survey the ice from below while a satellite images the top of the ice. The submarine will also surface in openings in the ice, where researchers will deploy buoys that measure air and water conditions. In addition, the team of five scientists will survey the ocean floor, take water samples, and record the temperature and salinity at various depths.

Before planning future missions, researchers and Navy officials will look closely at the results of the cruise. "This is sort of like a blind date. Neither the Navy nor the scientific community has done this in the recent past and therefore they're both anxious for it to go smoothly," says George Newton of Arlington, Va., a former submarine captain and a member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
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Title Annotation:first unclassified research mission on US submarine to explore central Arctic basin
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 3, 1993
Words:304
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