SOSUS network now used to track whales, seaquakes

SOSUS network now used to track whales, seaquakes

Sections of the Navy’s extensive SOSUS (sound surveillance system)once used to track Soviet submarines-are now used for peaceful scientific purposes, such as tracking whales, monitoring seaquakes, and monitoring the nuclear test-ban treaty.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Point Sur Ocean Acoustic Observatory near Big Sur, Calif., is “a real defenseconversion success story,” said ChingSang Chiu, director of the school’s Coastal Ocean-Acoustic Center. “With the end of the Cold War, the Navy was going to disband much of the Sound Surveillance System-part of which stretched 25 miles out to sea on the ocean bottom off Point Sur.”

SOSUS is a powerful, multimillion dollar tool, “like a `Hubble Telescope’ of the sea,” said Chris Miller, manager of the observatory. “[The] part off Point Sur is the first deactivated array to be handed over to open science. The fact that we were able to save it and convert it into a one-of-a-kind research platform for studying the largest natural habitat, covering two-thirds of the planet, is a pioneering achievement for both the civilian world and the Navy.”

One student, Lt. Michael Rocheleau, is using the array’s hydrophones to detect the presence of blue whales off the California coast. “We hope to be able to determine the directionality and distance of the whales, as well as their presence, and to learn more about their migration routes and population dynamics,” Rocheleau said. “This is important to the Navy because we must be able to show . .. before we can do testing … that no marine mammals exist in an ocean area to a given degree of certainty.”

Copyright Navy League of the United States Aug 1998

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