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Our Three “Hour” Tour

By Ken Buesseler, NORTHERN ATLANTIC OCEAN For those of us who grew up watching Gilligan’s Island, we all know the fateful story of the “three-hour tour.”  Well, as this oceanographer knows, that TV storm is not that different from the weather we are facing out here in the North Atlantic on the research vessel Sarmiento…

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Dive and Discover the Twilight Zone!

Despite some wavy weather and a rolling ship, the Twilight Zone team aboard the Spanish research vessel Samiento de Gamboa has been pushing through and collecting data and samples daily. Here you can follow the team of scientists, engineers, and students as they put some of the most advanced research tools available to the challenge…

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10 Years after Fukushima: I’m still worried

It has been 10 years since the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants in Japan, and worries still abound. Read this opinion piece by Ken Buesseler: 10 Years After Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Meltdown, I’m Still Worried | Opinion Nearly 10 years ago, I boarded a flight from Boston to Tokyo, filled with anxiety.…

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Addressing contaminants from Fukushima and the risks of ocean dumping

A fresh look at seawater stored in tanks on the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant site indicates that more research and analyses are needed prior to releasing the water back to the ocean. Nearly 10 years after the Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggered an unprecedented release radioactivity…

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Understanding Risks of Radioactive Effluent at San Onofre, CA

Surfrider is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the protectoin and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches for all people. They have begun a campaign to “Get Nuclear Waste Off California’s Coast” and interviewed Ken Buesseler about liquid effluent being released from the now-closed San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant: How worried should we be?…

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The danger of creating a designer planet

In a guest blog, Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, calls for better understanding of the ocean’s biological processes before attempting to geoengineer climate solutions. It is natural in the face of an impending emergency to look for something—anything—that will avert the crisis. So it is understandable that in the absence of a…

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MARC XII – Conference Postponed to 2022

International Conference on Methods and Applications of Radioanalytical Chemistry (MARC) Website: http://www.marcconference.org/ ABOUT THE CONFERENCE The conference will continue the tradition set by the eleven previous MARC conferences by focusing on emerging developments in radioanalytical chemistry, with particular emphasis on new applications. These conferences have grown to become a major international forum for the field…

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PNAS Cover Shot – Oceans capture more carbon than expected!

A new paper, “Metrics that matter for assessing the ocean biological carbon pump” published online April 6th, has landed on the COVER of the May 5th print edition of PNAS . Written by Ken Buessler, former PhD student Erin Black and collaborators Phil Boyd and David Siegle, they demonstrate that the depth of the sunlit…

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WHOI Labs donate supplies to the Covid-19 cause

Despite the fact that the Institution has been virtually shut down during this health crisis people have been working to gather and deliver gloves, masks, protective suits, and boot and shoe covers to Cape Cod Hospital to help healthcare workers deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Read more about how Cafe Thorium put our pile together…

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The US government tested nuclear weapons on a chain of islands in the 1950s: A new project will allow locals to take their own samples

“Marine radiochemist Ken Buesseler is on a quest to provide fresh answers about how much radiation remains on the [Marshall] islands. “What we want to scientifically understand is, how is [radioactivity] going up or down over time, over the years and decades?” Buesseler said. He’s setting out this November to teach a duo of Marshalese…

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Ken on Korean radio about releasing stored Fukushima plant water

As clean up continues at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, workers have filled more than 1000 tanks with more than 1 million tons of contaminated water. Japan’s Minister of the  Environment recently proposed slowly releasing the contents of these tanks into the ocean. This is of concern to the public and some in the…

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Minion Robots in the Ocean

Learn about how Minion robots, a technological development for the Ocean Twilight Zone Project, work to help scientists understand the global carbon cycle. Watch the video below and find more information on the Ocean Twilight Zone project page.

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Putting the ‘nuclear coffin’ in perspective

Marine chemist weighs in on leaking radioactive dome in the Pacific By Evan Lubofsky There has been a flurry of headlines this summer about a “nuclear coffin” leaking radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean. The coffin—a bomb crater filled with radioactive soil on a tiny island in the Marshall Islands—sits under a 350-foot-wide concrete lid…

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Cafe Thorium T-SHIRTS for Sale!!

You can still buy our T-shirts! Individual sales are available at the following link. Unisex T-shirts and Long sleeved shirts are available. Women’s shirts are also available but require a minimum order of 6…. Please see the following link: https://www.customink.com/designs/cafeth2019/ezx0-00bz-ktzq/ Back Side of Shirt Details: Cafe Thorium World Tour 2009-2019 Antarctica – R/V Gould Bermuda…

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What I Learned from an Ocean Radioactivity Testing Project

Enlisting the public in water sampling after the Fukushima disaster helped build and spread scientific knowledge   Read this Op-Ed by Ken Buesseler published online by Scientific American We live in a radioactive world. That simple fact about our planet kept coming to me in the weeks and months after March 11, 2011, when the…

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Boyd et al. paper awarded the 2019 John H. Martin Award by ASLO

Read about Boyd and co-authors including Ken Buesseler who received the 2019 John H. Martin Award from ASLO. 2019 Martin Award Recipients The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography presents the John H. Martin Award to one paper each year that has led to fundamental shifts in research focus and interpretation of a…

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Ken Buesseler Nominated as AAAS Fellow

Buesseler Elected to Class of 2018 AAAS Fellows Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. As part of the Section on atmospheric and hydrospheric sciences,…

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WHOI Among First Funding Recipients of The Audacious Project

What if we explored the ocean’s vast twilight zone, teeming with undiscovered life?  Today, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) was awarded $35 million—the largest philanthropic gift in the Institution’s history—to do just that. The award comes from The Audacious Project, a bold new philanthropic collaboration housed at TED to fund critical ideas that have…

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BBC interview on radioactivity at the Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but their past as a former US nuclear weapons test site means that hardly anyone lives there. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, describes the Runit Dome that was constructed to hold up to 80,000 tonnes of radioactive debris. LISTEN to an…

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Back to Bikini

Scientists study lingering radioactivity of 1946-1958 nuclear weapons tests By Evan Lubofsky | June 5, 2017 Ken Buesseler climbed the highest peak on Enewetak Atoll and peered out over the expanse of paradise below. Offshore lay an azure lagoon inked with a dark-blue circle at its center. But this hole wasn’t natural. It was created…

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June 16 – What we Talk About when we Talk About Radiation

12:00 Japan Time Station 28; 36N, 141.4E It’s been a while since I’ve seen a newspaper or checked the internet, but I seem to remember a fair bit of confusion in the media over how radiation is measured before we left. So here goes nothing. The most basic radiation detector provides its readings in counts.…

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June 18 – Home Again, Home Again

12:50 a.m. Japan Time Station 32; 37N, 142E Just like that. The CTD is stowed, the last net is aboard. The engines have spooled up and we’re slowly putting the final station behind us, though we’ll initially head northwest to a point half way between Stations 32 and 25. From there, we’ll turn south and…

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June 17 – Getting the Story

3:45 a.m. Japan Time Station 29; 36.5N, 142E We haven’t had much news out here on the ship the past two weeks other than our twice-daily satellite email uplinks. My wife, however, just sent me something that makes me a little sad. She said that when she tells people where I am one of the…

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June 15 – In the Zone

2:00 a.m. Japan Time Station 25; 37.5N, 141.4E There are demi stations, standard stations, and super stations. Then there are super-duper stations. At a little before midnight, we arrived at Station 25, our closest approach to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that is the source of the radiation we are trying to measure. We…

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June 14 – The Cause of it All

12:00 p.m. Japan Time Station 23; 37.5N, 142E I’ve touched on marine chemistry, physical oceanography, and marine biology over the past few days, now it’s time to delve into the dark arts of marine geology. Dark because much of what marine geologists study takes place deep beneath the bottom of the ocean. Late last night…

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June 13 – All Work, a Little Play

2:00 Japan Time Station 21; 25N, 142.5E We’ve entered a stretch that calls for us doing five so-called “super stations” interspersed with what we’ve termed “demi stations.” Our standard sampling station includes a CTD cast to 1,000 meters with a net on the wire that gathers phytoplankton from the top 100 meters, four Bongo net…

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June 12 – Tracers II

12:00 Japan Time Station 18; 37N, 143E We’ll come back to tracers in a bit. There are a couple of changes to report, first. For one, the weather has eased considerably. Seas are easy and the sun is just barely shining through a hazy sky. About the only wind out there is whatever we can…

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June 11 – Tracers

2:00 p.m. Japan Time 35N, 143E It’s Saturday, so I’m going to let someone else do some of my work for me today. In his book Seven-Tenths: Love, Piracy, and Science at Sea, WHOI’s David Fisichella does as good a job as anyone in describing the way that chemical oceanographers use tracers to study the…

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June 10 – Lines in the Water

10:00 a.m. Japan Time Station 10; 38N, 144E Last night we came to the end of our first sampling line, the furthest offshore. Everyone was looking forward to a little down time (even the people on the midnight to noon watch) and there were grand plans floated to watch movies or get caught up on…

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June 9 – Chasing Fish

3:00 p.m. Japan Time Station 9; 38N, 147E We had one good net haul after sunset yesterday and had a second around midnight cancelled due to weather that the biologists were sad to miss. Then early this morning, as soon as the sun came up, the net came back almost empty. What we were seeing…

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June 6 – Why We’re Here

2:30 p.m. Japan Time 34.07N; 145.55E We’re on our way to the first sampling station. Now it’s all about finalizing water budgets—making sure we get enough water at the right depths to meet the needs of all the different groups who will be doing work on the ship and back on shore. It’s all about…

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June 5 – Testing 1, 2 . . .

7:00 p.m. Japan Time 34 24N, 142 41E (100 nm west of Japan) Today was a test day, starting with the obligatory one long bell that signals all hands to muster at their emergency stations. For us in the science crew, that means we grab our life vests and survival suits and head to the…

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June 8 – Connections

6:30 a.m. Japan Time Station 4; 35.50N, 147E Today is World Ocean Day. Sort of snuck up on me because the ship sort of exists outside of time and I’m not really looking at my calendar except to label my blog posts. Hard to imagine a more fitting place to spend the day. We now…

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June 4 – To Sea

We are under way. At 2:30 p.m., our Japanese pilot came aboard (very dapper in his blue suit and fedora), a tug tied up to our stern, and by 3:00 sharp we had slipped our lines and were edging away from the dock into the busy Tokyo Harbor traffic. Tourists on the upper deck of…

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Dispatch 21 – Land ho, VERTIGO

We have had a rare opportunity these last 4 weeks to sample a remote region of the ocean on board the Research Vessel Revelle. We are fortunate to be heading to shore with 1000’s of samples and hard drives full of scientific data. Over the past few days we’ve met to discuss our results and…

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Dispatch 20 – An Oiler’s Perspective on VERTIGO

Lat: 40° N Long: 177° E Air temp: 21.87 °C, 71.36°F Sea temp: 21.37 °C, 70.47 °F Sky: Sunny, and beautiful! True wind : 9.8 knots Waves: 2-4 feet From port to starboard, forward to aft, ours is a space crammed with machinery. And it’s hot…really hot… …and loud. The work is not always glamorous,…

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Dispatch 19 – Identifying with Deep Sea Creatures

Lat: 40° N Long: 177° E Air temp: 21.87 °C, 71.36°F Sea temp: 21.37 °C, 70.47 °F Sky: Sunny, and beautiful! True wind : 9.8 knots Waves: 2-4 feet One of the most exciting things about collecting animals with the IONESS is that you never know what unusual things it might bring up from the…

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Dispatch 18 – Micro-submarines in the Ocean

Lat: 40° N Long: 177° E Air temp: 21.87 °C, 71.36°F Sea temp: 21.37 °C, 70.47 °F Sky: Sunny, and beautiful! True wind : 9.8 knots Waves: 2-4 feet Figure 1. Interzonal migrating copepods predominating in the subarctic Pacific and its marginal waters. They carry out day-night (diel) and/or seasonal vertical migration down to 2000…

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Dispatch 17 – Next Stop: Honolulu

Lat: 44° N Long: 168° E Air temp: 12.03 °C, 53.65°F Sea temp: 13.0°C, 55.4°F Sky: Foggy, still. True wind : 30-40 knots Waves: 20 feet Heavy seas and 35-45 knot winds kept us off the decks and inside as we counted down the last 24 hours of our VERTIGO cruise (see storm photos). Up…

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Dispatch 16 – Hidden beauty

Lat: 47° N Long: 160° E Air temp: 11.8 °C, 53.3 °F Sea temp: 11.5 °C, 52.8 °F Sky: Foggy, still True wind : 34.4 knots, really windy Waves: Flat, 15-20 feet, got real stormy They say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Firstly, this assumes that you have the appropriate anatomical, biochemical…

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Dispatch 15 – Life Aboard a Research Vessel

Lat: 47° N Long: 160° E Air temp: 12 °C, 53.6 °F Sea temp: 11.5°C, 52.8°F Sky: Foggy True wind : 13.5 knots Waves: Flat, 1-2 feet It’s 5.00am on board the R/V Roger Revelle, 300 nautical miles off the Kamchatka Peninsula. Soon, the sun will rise and once again be obscured by the dense…

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Dispatch 14 – Heavy Breathing

Lat: 47° N Long: 160° E Air temp: 12 °C, 53.6 °F Sea temp: 11.5°C, 52.8°F Sky: Foggy True wind : 13.5 knots Waves: Flat, 1-2 feet The most unexpected thing about the ocean is that it breathes…. heavily. How and why? Well that’s what we’re here to find out. Most of us have some…

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Dispatch 13 – A Needle in the haystack

Lat: 47° N Long: 160° E Air temp: 9.75 °C, 49.6 °F Sea temp: 10.366°C, 50.66°F Sky: Foggy True wind : 9.2 knots Waves: 2-5 feet We have a number of instruments on board the ship which when deployed are tethered to the ship or to surface moorings so we’re able to track them and…

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Dispatch 12 – What lies below? – Episode 2

Lat: 46°N Long: 161°E Air temp: 9.5° C, 49.1° F Sea temp: 10.5° C, 51° F Sky: Foggy True wind : 15 knots Waves: Flat In our earlier note “What lies below?” we pointed out that the strong near surface stratification in this corner of the North Pacific is a key aspect of the environmental…

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Dispatch 11 – How to make a living in the twilight zone

Lat: 46°N Long: 161°E Air temp: 9.5° C, 49.1° F Sea temp: 10.5° C, 51° F Sky: Foggy True wind : 15 knots Waves: Flat We concentrate our studies for this cruise on the mesopelagic zone, between about 100 and 1000 meters below the ocean surface. This zone of the ocean is cold (about 2°C…

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Dispatch 10 – We are out of Points

Lat: 47° 08’N Long: 161°06’E Air temp: 14.0°C, 57.2°F Sea temp: 10.8°C, 51.44°F Sky: Overcast True wind : 19 knots Waves: 13-14 feet The words “We are out of points” was written on a small post-it left by the Captain on my laptop this morning. What this referred to was that we needed to update…

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Dispatch 09 – What grows up doesn’t all go down

Lat: 47° Long: 161° Air temp: 11.1 °C, 52°F Sea temp: 10.34 °C, 50.6°F Sky: Foggy True wind : 16 knots Waves: 1-2 feet Here on the VERTIGO voyage, at a site north-east of Japan, we are studying the mechanisms that control the export of particles to depth. A key component of VERTIGO is to…

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