Undersea Exploration

July 5, 1961

Report Outline
Race for Knowledge of Ocean Depths
Advances in Undersea Exploration
Expansion of Oceanographic Research

Race for Knowledge of Ocean Depths

Secrets of the Sea and National Survival

Competition in the exploration of outer space may soon have a counterpart in the inner depths of the oceans, where rivalry among nations to unlock secrets of the sea is rapidly growing. President Kennedy asked Congress on March 29 to agree to a doubling of last year's budget for oceanographic research and thus to provide nearly $100 million for undersea exploration in the fiscal year 1962. The Senate Commerce Committee on June 20 reported a bill, similar to one passed by the Senate in June 1960, which would authorize a 10-year oceanographic program costing $700 millon. The Navy, prompted by intelligence reports that the Russians are doing three or four times as much oceanographic research as the United States, proposed a 10-year program on May 29 that would cost more than $900 million.

A note of urgency has been injected into the drive for stepped-up investment of money and brains in study of the oceans. “Knowledge of the oceans,” the President said last spring, “is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it.” This warning echoed the conclusions of three scientific bodies which recently have surveyed the needs and prospects in ocean research. It reflected also the conclusions of three congressional committees which have conducted hearings on the subject in the past two years. Chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D Wash.) of the Senate Commerce Committee, author of the bill now pending in the Senate, believes that “The lag in marine research can be as fatal to our welfare and security as failure to match Russia in space research and development.”

The committee report on the pending bill noted that a number of other nations are engaged in a national oceanographic effort and that Soviet Russia outstrips the free world in this respect. “To deny the principal competitor of the free world this leadership …is a duty and responsibility of the democracy which potentially is most capable of unlocking the ocean's secrets—the United States,” the report declared. “…At least 10 years of vigorous, continued, amply supported and systematic research will be required.” Virtually all of the many scientists who testified before the Senate committee concurred in a warning by Sumner Pike, former member of the Atomic Energy Commission and now a member of the Committee on Oceanography of the National Academy of Sciences. Pike had said: “Another nation caught us practically unawares upstairs; for heaven's sake, don't let the same thing happen to us down cellar.”

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