News Archive

posted 11/28/01

Ocean Frontier Revealed: Scientists To Describe Unexpected Discoveries Of Arctic Research Cruise
Undersea vents, sonar maps, deep-earth samples featured

The Arctic Ocean is one of Earth’s least explored oceanic frontiers. Last summer, a research team aboard USCGC Healy, the U.S. Coast Guard’s newest icebreaker, exceeded its most ambitious hopes to map the ocean’s floor and reveal geological and biological features of the underwater Gakkel Ridge during a research cruise funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

On Wednesday, November 28th, at 1 p.m., Charles Langmuir, a senior scientist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), will join other Healy researchers, Peter Michael of the University of Tulsa who led the NSF team, Henry Dick of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, a classroom teacher who worked with the science team, and a Coast Guard representative at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to describe the Healy’s voyage.

The Healy’s incredibly successful voyage exceeded all expectations in virtually every department. "We found more hydrothermal activity on this cruise than in 20 years of exploration on the mid-Atlantic Ridge," said Langmuir, who research team, which included five LDEO colleagues, was one of several aboard.

Despite prevailing scientific opinion to the contrary, researchers aboard the NSF-funded cruise discovered evidence of hydrothermal activity along the Gakkel Ridge including a field of undersea vents. Researchers also dredged up sponges and other marine life previously not known to survive in the frigid Arctic waters; used sonar to map the ridge at a level of detail that was thought impossible aboard a working icebreaker; and sampled Earth’s deep interior, solid rock rising directly up to the seafloor through a "great gash" dotted with volcanoes.

Columbia University has played a long and leading role in Arctic research, especially along the Gakkel Ridge. It was LDEO engineer Dale Chase who initially fitted a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine with the multibeam sonar system that first allowed mapping of the Gakkel Ridge and other underwater frontiers.

A short time later, LDEO alumna Margo Edwards of the University of Hawaii, spurred on by the suggestion of another LDEO scientist, Maya Tolstoy, discovered – using earlier mappings of the ridge – that the fairly common underwater earthquakes along the ridge were in fact associated with recent volcanic eruptions.

The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is the leading research center in the world examining Earth from its core to its atmosphere, across every continent and every ocean. From global climate change to earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental hazards and beyond, Observatory scientists continue to provide the basic knowledge of earth systems that must inform the difficult choices necessary to maintain the health and habitability of our planet.

Complete video-enhanced reports from the Healy mission team are available on line, from Columbia Earthscape:

Previous News Stories:

Lamont Scientists reach North Pole

Columbia Scientists Take
First Geological Samples Ever From the Arctic Gakkel Ridge

Evidence of Recent Volcanic Activity Found Along the Slow-Spreading Gakkel Ridge

Peter Michael,
University of Tulsa
Tom Pyle,
NSF’s Office of Polar Programs
Michelle Adams,
teacher at Musselman Middle School
Henry Dick, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Rear Adm. Jeffrey M. Garrett,
U.S. Coast Guard
Charles Langmuir, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Highlights of the Healy’s voyage

Wednesday, November 28, 1 p.m.

First Amendment Lounge
National Press Club
14th and F Sts. NW (Metro Center Stop)
Washington, D.C.

For more information contact:
Danielle Bizzarro, (212) 854-7893,
NSF: Peter West, (703) 292-8070,

Broadcasters: For B-Roll of the Healy and the ship’s voyage to the Gakkel Ridge on Betacam SP, contact NSF's Dena Headlee, (703) 292-8070, The event will be Webcast

A Live webcast was held onNovember 28th, 2001 at 1:00p.m. EST.
Click here to go to the NSF's webcast page.

About The Earth Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit