Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Survey of supposed deep-sea chemical munitions dump off Southern California

Date:
December 9, 2013
Source:
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Summary:
Researchers have described a preliminary seafloor survey of an area off the Southern California coast marked on charts as a chemical munitions site. The preliminary survey turned up trash and 55-gallon drums, but no chemical munitions.

This illustration shows the location of the area in the Santa Cruz Basin marked as a chemical waste dump. The pink zig-zag line shows the path that MBARI's mapping AVU took as it performed a preliminary survey of the seafloor inside and outside of the dump area.
Credit: Base map: Google Earth

Since World War II, US nautical charts have shown seven "chemical munitions dumping areas" along the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and the Mexican border. However, little or no information is available about the amount, location, or nature of the materials that were dumped at most of these sites. At this week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) describe a survey of one supposed deep‐water dump site off Southern California. The preliminary survey turned up trash and 55‐gallon drums, but no chemical munitions. In addition to suggesting that not all marked sites contain chemical munitions, this study demonstrates that underwater robots can be used to survey such sites to identify areas of concern.

Related Articles


A total of 32 chemical munitions dumping areas are shown on nautical charts of United States waters. Seven of these lie off the California coast, between San Francisco and the Mexican border. Some of the marked areas off California are huge, encompassing almost 4,000 square kilometers of seafloor. Of the seven California sites, only the area off San Francisco has been studied in any detail.

This concerns MBARI chemical oceanographer Peter Brewer. If chemical munitions were dumped at these sites, they could pose a hazard to fishers and researchers studying the seafloor. Over the last 50 years, hundreds of fishermen in Japan, the Baltic Sea, and off the east coast of the United States have been injured by chemical munitions caught in their nets. On the other hand, Brewer suspects that some of the marked sites off California may not contain munitions at all. Other sites might contain munitions, but the areas of affected seafloor are likely to be much smaller than the areas shown on the charts.

With this in mind, Brewer used two different types of underwater robots to perform a preliminary survey of a marked dump site in the Santa Cruz Basin, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of Los Angeles, in water about 1,900 meters (6,300 feet) deep.

In March 2013, MBARI's seafloor‐mapping AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) spent 18 hours surveying a portion of the Santa Cruz Basin using side‐scan sonar. Following a preprogrammed zig‐zag path about 25 meters above the ocean bottom, the AUV surveyed almost 26 square kilometers of seafloor, including areas inside and outside the marked dump site. Within the surveyed areas, researchers counted 754 "targets" (objects sticking up from the seafloor).

Although the AUV sonar surveys allowed the researchers to locate hard objects on the seafloor, they did not provide enough detail so that these objects could be positively identified. To find out what was actually on the seafloor, Brewer's team returned to the Santa Cruz Basin in May 2013 and videotaped the seafloor using one of MBARI's remotely operated vehicles, the ROV Doc Ricketts.

Video from the ROV showed numerous 55‐gallon drums in and on the muddy seafloor. Many of these rusting barrels were covered with anemones, sponges, crabs, and other animals. Other targets from the AUV survey turned out to be garbage such as canned goods and cases of bottled water. The researchers also found two small, unarmed drones used by the military for target practice, and a 30‐meterlong steel mast from a ship. In short, the ROV survey turned up all sorts of marine debris, but no chemical weapons.

Based on the results of this partial survey, Brewer and his fellow researchers suggest that not all sites marked as chemical munitions dumps may actually have been used for this purpose. However, their work demonstrates that modern undersea robots, such as MBARI's seafloor‐mapping AUV, are capable of surveying such marked dump areas relatively quickly. Such surveys will help cartographers redraw the lines around these areas, to more accurately reflect what's on the seafloor.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. "Survey of supposed deep-sea chemical munitions dump off Southern California." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209124549.htm>.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. (2013, December 9). Survey of supposed deep-sea chemical munitions dump off Southern California. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209124549.htm
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. "Survey of supposed deep-sea chemical munitions dump off Southern California." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209124549.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins