thumbnail of Down to the sea; 7; Mineral Wealth of the Sea
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Chris. A great deal of the future of the world is going to be related to the undersea environment. Your imagination about the only limitation there is to some of the things that very likely will occur. The voice of Will Foreman a scientist at the Navy's undersea with search and development center in San Diego introducing us to the vast wealth of the undersea world the world about which we know very little. The press has from time to time suggested that the sea floor has almost unmeasurable mineral deposits that can supply men's needs indefinitely that the sea will become man's primary source of food as population pressures increase and that indeed man will operate huge underwater farms. We'll explore these and other comments about the wealth of the
sea. On this edition of down to the sea. The term aqua culture as it has been used to describe those involved in efforts to develop the oceans food resources reporter Ken Kramer asked Mr. Will Foreman about this term and about possible food supplies from the ocean in the feeding of the world's increasing population in great part can be augmented from the sea. We will need to be more than Then haphazard collectors will need to be Aqua culturists that is apply some of the agricultural principles. Generally speaking to farming the sea and raising livestock and crops in the water and the
Japanese are raising crops now at a rate that is increasing rapidly to match their population and doing it very successfully. And the Hawaiians did this in the fishponds of Molokai many many years ago very successfully they had no refrigeration so they kept their fish in ponds exposed to the ocean. And as a matter of fact the small fish would get in through the coral and grow too big to get out. And so it was an automatic process their wines ate them as they got big and the fish kept coming in to get away from predators or at least the ones they were formerly used to through the cracks in the coral dams around these ponds. This is some of the early Aqua cultural treatments. We have the deep scattering layer which is so thick that it bounces sonar scatters and bounce a sonar off of it. And as
far as we know from a great deal of research this is what most of the sports fish live on and it's all about in the oceans all over the world and it looks to be one of the key. Tools or key investigation areas that. Should be emphasized and work down deep scattering layer is what then it's a layer of plankton or sea life. It's a layer of phytoplankton which is vegetable zooplankton which is animal plankton being something that doesn't swim against the current and in turn some necked on R which means they do swim some small fish that feed on these. And then in turn the schools of fish. US feed on these small Cross station and small fish landing fish and this sort of thing there's a whole chain. For example it takes about a thousand pounds of the lowest form a fight of plankton which is
phytoplankton to supply one pound of tuna meat that we eat. But the point is that here we have all this unexplored unknown tremendous volumes of water rich in various biological and mineral content. And until we've looked at it much more thoroughly and this will probably take take a while before we can say that we even can predict some of the currents both deepen and shallow and some of the biology and it's migration until we can get to the point where we can raise for instance fish meat as cheap or cheaper than beef as we fill up this beef. Past Year with people as we go along and populate we're going to we're going to have to both move our houses a few of them and move our food source or
move to a different one. Well aqua culture has probed the sea for answers to questions of controlled food supply. Geologists continue their efforts to locate and mine the sea floors mineral deposits some of this geological research is conducted through the use of undersea explosions or soundings as described by Mr. Edwin Buffington head of the Marine geology branch of the Navy undersea research and development center in San Diego. What happens here is that a sound pulse is pulling the water by the explosion of dynamite or whatever explosive that they use and the sound that goes in Goetia the water coming in is reflected off the floor of the ocean and furthermore it penetrates the ocean and is reflected off of some bottom layers. It is then received by geophones or. Water equivalent hydrophones and the amount of time that transpires and other information that they get on their recordings can be analyzed to show what the structure is underneath the seat and they develop information on the structure so it has to decide where
is the best place to drill a well or where they can project a structure to a place where they can drill the well in other words they're getting structural geological information and the key word here is structure. They don't know where oil is but they do know they can recognize from their experience the type of structure that actually in fact will trap oil if it's there. Same thing applies to other forms of geo geophysical exploration in the sea. The key elements that are involved are getting a pulse of sound energy in the water by whatever means and then listening to the reflections of that pulses just like standing on the edge of an Alpine Valley and yelling across you get a reflection it's a sound. If I should know that the stronger not only would you get to read. Action from the other wall but some of that sound would go through and into another layer over the nature of the rock changed and it would come back and would come back a little bit later.
Well if you have finished instruments which record this sort of thing why you can get the time differential and you can get the distance and you can plot using whatever means of interpretation you can. But this structure is now as far as minerals on the sea floor are concerned. Most of the information we have now for the deep sea news based on photographs that have been taken of the deep sea floor and you can see these and up here as books are photographed by crush effect and the nature. He's determined by actually looking at samples which have been dredged up and dredging is just dragging a simple box across the bottom of the sea here and just throwing some of these things up taking much analyzing look at one of the companies involved in the search for mineral wealth at sea as ocean sciences and engineering of Long Beach California.
We talked to a geologist engineer oceanographer Willard Bascom the president of the company who explained what today's modern underwater prospectors are looking for. Generally prospectors these days are concerned with what are called a little phial minerals that is to say mineral particles and sand sized grains which have somehow been eroded from the continents and carried down and left under the sea. The other possibility of course is a vein type deposits or sedimentary type deposits in hard sedimentary rocks under the sea but it's best to talk about the a little below minerals because that's where all the action is these days. Our company ocean science and engineering has a subsidiary called Ocean mining. And we began at the top of the value list by looking for diamonds and now we've gone down the list through platinum gold titanium 10 and eventually down to sand and gravel. At the moment our biggest interests are in the golden sand
gravel the gold being off the coast of Africa. Each of these House special reasons for existing under the sea. Most of them are harder and heavier minerals than the ones that the they're associated with. As they say diamonds are the hardest substance known on earth and they can exist for millions of years beneath the sea without being noticeably changed in their size and shape and so on. The gold and platinum minerals are of course softer but they're malleable and they stay in their original grain sized particles for a long time they're very heavy. They deposit against the bedrock titanium is found these days generally in sands along the coast of Australia. And tim. Found in sort of fine grain sands and muds generally off the coast of Southeast Asia the US state Thailand Indonesia Malaysia and so on. And the sand and gravel business which is quite separate from the other kinds of mining undersea
mining is probably the most promising of all right these days. We've had experience in all of these areas. Diamonds all South West Africa gold off of Alaska Australia West Africa and so on titanium around or Southeast Asia for ten we made an extensive exploration around the coast of Tasmania. And we are even now prospecting off Thailand where we think we have a pretty fair property out there sometimes with the 10 you get associated minerals including one called Columb by tantalized which is also a hard dark mineral worth a lot more than a tin and can be separated out in subsequent processing. Mr. Bascomb went on to explain just why his company has undertaken the terribly expensive and complicated undersea prospecting. I think our basic reason for doing this was that we felt when we began this company about five or six years ago that the sea had not been well explored and that there was a chance there that we'd find a bonanza. Now we've never actually found a
bonanza but we're still looking. We decided it's much tougher to find one than we thought but it was a reasonable chance that there was some major mineral deposit undersea which had been overlooked. But the best thing we've seen by a long shot was the diamonds off Southwest Africa. We surveyed DS and sample them found diamonds worth. Many millions of dollars but we didn't own the property the property was under the control of the beers company and so we had a jointly set up a company to search for other kinds of minerals elsewhere in the world but we just were excluded specifically from hunting for more diamonds elsewhere in the world. But the basic answer to why you look under the sea is that there's just a chance that there be more minerals there than there are on land in certain specific areas. Now bison the areas of most interest are the continental shelves and shallow water in as convenient a location as possible. There's no particular virtue in going out in the deep rough water if you don't really have
to who only says How deep can you go and my answer is Well we go just as shallow as we possibly can and we make it just as easy on ourselves as possible because mining is a very tough racket under the best of circumstances. But I think the important point about. Mining minerals under the sea is that the metal markets of the world do not understand the glamour of undersea mining. To them it's just mineral at a price they really don't care where you got it from minerals extra metals are exchanged on world markets at certain prices. And even even at those prices you must generally have a selling contract you can't just plain sell them at the price because that's the price it sold for yesterday. You've got to have some specific contract with somebody who'll buy what you've got. And I really don't care where you got it from so that it's not a matter to them whether you've got your 10 on shore or off shore or your diamonds or so on there's no glamour in the tall no glamour for those who buy the product on the world market perhaps but for the average person the
man's increasing ability to explore and to work in the undersea world is full of excitement and glamour and exploring and mining on the sea floor as well as harvesting the fish of the sea raises a multitude of international legal problems that are sure to come more and more to the forefront as techniques develop. Who does have the right to mine in the deep sea. A question that will have to be answered someday for the legalities are not as straightforward as Queen Elizabeth the first painted them many years ago. The use of the sea and air is common to all. Neither can the title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons. For as much as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession there are. Costs. Us. Us.
US the. Us. The only. Question was. Where does one start when in search of undersea well we asked Willard Bascom
how his company approached the problem. And we did our first working in libraries and we set a series of criteria. What kind of things we look for. We decided at first we looked for a an area off shore of an existing mining district on land. I was to say it had been gold or platinum mine on land we look immediately offshore of that because it was close to some someplace where we knew it existed. So we at least look for a mineral lies on our district on shore and then we said well it should also be some substantial rainfall and steep stream gradients. So there would be erosion of that mining district and so that the materials would then be carried down and put under the sea. And we thought it would be nice if there was a short distance between the district and the mining district in the city so that there would be a very wide flood plain in which all of our valuable metals would get lost and finally into the sea itself would have substantial waves which would take care of the milling action and
currents which would sweep away the lighter minerals leaving some kind of a specially created concentration of the stuff we're looking for and generally the specific gravity of the minerals I've named off is a bit a bit heavier than all the other minerals so they do tend to concentrate. You must make use of the Caesar becomes a great natural milling process for you and then you go to the best of those mills concentrates and try to mind those. Well having located a likely spot. And by the way in our original library studies we located some 72 odd places around the world and we sent out a geologist to examine these and make a quick cursory inspection of what the surface material looked like the surface area looked like. And their instructions were that if it looked bad to go on to the next country and if it looked good to go for the land titles the same day. So consequently we never had to go through any complicated communications procedures and instruct these people what to do. They went for land immediately and as a result of that program at one
time we held something like fifty thousand square miles of undersea territory around the world. Now since then we've let most that get away from a song on purpose. The usual rules are that you must turn back 90 percent of it at the end of about 18 months. And so our present holdings are much less than that. We've got a down of the crime de la crime of the moment. Having taken title to the land and the next thing to do is to explore to see where the most likely deposits are for these heavy minerals you expect them to concentrate in whole string channels or in cracks in the bedrock or in some physical feature which is now covered over by a flat area of undersea sand. And so you begin with a sonic exploration which identifies these old ruts and holes in the sea bottom and having mapped the bottom in that fashion then you go out there and you drill test holes or you take core samples to see if indeed there is any real mineral concentration in that spot. Having taken the cores and having carefully examined these and determine what percentage of minerals was in them. Then you go into a
very long and tedious process of analysis because obviously there's a great deal of money invest must be invested in building a mine and all the equipment that goes with it. You don't lightly go into the mining you first of all you think pretty darn carefully about what you're going to do next and so you decide what mining method you would use and how many tons of material there are at each of several various grade levels and where the markets would be for this material and how much capital investment you have to make and what the forecast of the interest rates is and about 50 other complexities like that. You determine your amortization schedules which is usually the most important part of the whole process and eventually you say OK if there were 20 million tons of tin for example in this property that was worth a dollar and 20 cents per time we would then invest some many dollars worth of capital and we would operate at this level of costs and at the end of so many years we have made some hundred dollars. It's a very complicated analysis problem compared to that economics problem and which one must also forecast the
metal markets for years in advance. When you have a design problem that's not quite so bad because there's a fairly good background and in how you build various kinds of grudges and how you process materials on board vessels and so on that's not quite so bad. But all of these analysis things go on simultaneously Obviously you have to have some kind of a dredge design before you can assess the cost of the dredge in the on the on the operating charge against it. Well if at the end of all of this you have a mine and you decide to proceed then you simply have the ordinary difficult operational problems and that includes everything from how do you change crews on the ship through labor problems and then 50 other things which you compaction. Ocean Sciences and Engineering is located right in the middle of a large oil field in Long Beach.
There are also numerous wells in the offshore area nearby Bascomb went on to tell just why and how people look for oil it see the most fundamental reason why the oil industry is moving more and more offshore. Is that the exploration on shore has been pretty well done. The existing structures have been largely found and the rock areas have been fairly well explored. But in some major areas of the world there are no sedimentary rocks to speak of on land. Very little of Africa has any sedimentary rocks on. If Africa is going to have oil it's going to be found around its perimeter by the rocky outcrop the main land surface area is covered mostly over I suppose 90 percent of the continent with the basic Precambrian rocks which is no possibility whatsoever of finding oil in the in the sedimentary rocks sort of lapping up on the surface of Africa around its perimeter. And it's very likely that major deposits will be found completely around the continent of Africa. The same is pretty much true of Canada and these days the big
oil plays in the calendar and places like Hudson's Bay and off the coast of Labrador and perhaps on the Arctic islands which are not quite as well cleaned off of sediments as the main part of the Canadian area. And if you find oil you can complete wells beneath the sea or on towers at the surface of the sea. The old adage that oil is where you find it is true to some extent. But modern technology and the work of skilled geologists plays a big role in a successful search. Has Mr. Buffington reminds us. You'll never know whether it is there or not until you actually trail howsoever. I'll just outline a simple situation. If you make it do a physical survey namely survey using remote sensing systems or an area and you acquire a lot of very unique data and then you drill in this place and you find the oil and then you go someplace else and you find exactly the same situation with regard to the
information you get from for most senators and gives you a pretty good guess that there may be oil there or that there's a better chance that it's there than someplace else. If this is this is just a simple projection it's just using common forces submersibles of various types are seeing a good deal of use in both exploration and actual work undersea Ocean Sciences makes use of two types of ocean science and engineering has to ventures into the small submersible field. One of these has to do with the dredging of sand deposits off the coast of Florida and there the problem is to replenish Florida's beaches by moving sand from deep water back up one of the beach face again. In this the problem is that the water off the beach is fairly rough and the surface dredge can't officially operate. The problem of holding a pipeline through the surf is very difficult. So our company has invented and built a tracked submersible
which is meant to sit on the bottom in water about 100 feet deep. And pump sand to shore our dredge Pomp has got about 700 horsepower on it and it moves sand at about the rate of 300 cubic yards an hour. It's meant to operate around the clock. It's unmanned vehicle has two people aboard to operate this thing and it looks has a swing head with a cutting device on it looks like pretty much like other kinds of dredges except it's much more efficient because now we have no suction head we simply are holding the pump at the same elevation as the sand so that it simply flows 30 40 feet into the pump and then is pumped directly to shore. There's no pressure inside it it's dry shirtsleeve environments with specially dried air and there's a lot of problems and how do you get the power aboard now you get the Arab ordinary circulate and so forth and not have two people aboard it during most of its operations. The dread sits on the bottom and swim down to it lock into it. Change ships. Discuss the problem of the other
people walk out again. Swim home or we get to a ball at the surface. It's a very successful operation. The other one the other submersible we have is a submersible work chamber which is meant for working on undersea oil fields and for very specifically. Putting Christmas trees on on wellheads for adding production flow lines and operating valves and so forth. It's really more like an elevator than a submarine. It's meant so that the drilling superintendent on the oil rig at the surface can climb into this thing and ascent of the sea floor. Personally inspect the devices he has down there on a shirtsleeve environment operate the valves himself and then return to the surface without getting cold or wet or having any very serious life support problems. It's capable of putting exerting pressures to close valves and so forth as much as 500000 pounds and capable of exerting torque on bolts of as much as 50000 foot pounds which is very substantially more than any other device
built to work underwater. What we asked Mr. Foreman is the reaction of John Q. Public to undersea industry and conservation and the public in general. It is slow to back through their local representative something they don't understand. You can get a bill on sports boats past or turn down with a lot of clamor and public either support or denial. But you'd you'd find very few people today that would know very much about the needs or to understand the the future requirements of some of this underwater business presents. And it will certainly be necessary for all of us to the show more and more informed and more in touch with the special problems and opportunities that mean so much for mankind. As it becomes increasingly possible for us to develop the heretofore untouched wealth of the
sea. Down to the sea is a production of San Diego's public radio station abs FM San Diego State College where these programs were written and prepared for broadcast by your host Tom McManus with the assistance of Ken Kramer a traditional music of the sea heard on down to the sea was arranged and performed by Sam Hinton and fornicate narrative excerpts are read by Cliff Perth. This series of programmes on oceanography today was made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
Down to the sea
Episode Number
Mineral Wealth of the Sea
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-tt4fsg1s).
No description available
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-1-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Down to the sea; 7; Mineral Wealth of the Sea,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2024,
MLA: “Down to the sea; 7; Mineral Wealth of the Sea.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2024. <>.
APA: Down to the sea; 7; Mineral Wealth of the Sea. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from