Bad Times For Deep-Scientist May Mean Good Times For the Deep

Rising gas prices may have one more causality, one you many not have thought of…oceanographic science. Our main tool is the research vessel, large contraptions we use to steam across the vast oceans collecting data. The R/V New Horizon from Scripps take 39,000 gallons of marine diesel. Currently diesel in California is at an average of $4.97 per gallon. So to fill up that is going to take $193,830.00. How many gallons of fuel does a ship go through each day? On the larger ships it can be 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of fuel a day.

Can I pay for that in monthly installments?

Just a year ago it was $75, 270 to fill up.

“Our fuel costs are now more than half our total costs” for ship operations, said Tom Althouse, Scripps’ marine superintendent, who oversees the fleet’s day-to-day performance.

The good news may be that rising prices for diesel will also lower trawling of the oceans.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

6 Replies to “Bad Times For Deep-Scientist May Mean Good Times For the Deep”

  1. This is actually my biggest concern about fossil fuels. I think terrestrially, we can adapt. But can we adapt for the transportation of goods across the oceans? Working from home, bicycle, buses…I think we’ll find a way, but ships can’t use electric or hydrogen, they need fossil fuels or nuclear. So unless we create super super nuclear tankers, we’re screwed. As for ocean sciences, I only hope that the drive towards ocean observatories, AUV’s, etc, can offset the costs of ships. We’re a decade (arguably) behind the visions of those networks though, so we’ll see where it leaves us. That is why I’m taking my PhD in oceanography and trying to get into management consulting :) .

  2. “The good news may be that rising prices for diesel will also lower trawling of the oceans.”

    Ever the optimist. They’ll just trawl harder and deeper and their catch will cost more.

  3. Eeek! DSN is how I find out about the likely death of my ship time proposal? *gently weeps* Then again, I’m all for a return to the glorious Age of Sail. Perhaps the new Beagle is only the first of a mighty fleet…

  4. One silver lining on this is that some research vessels, like Duke’s RV Cape Hatteras, are being set up to run on used veggie oil, which marine diesels are more than tough enough to handle.

    though a 40,000 gallon tank of fryer grease doesn’t sound like something I want to be down wind of.

  5. Oy! If that (fryer grease smell) wont help with feeding the fish I don’t know what will.

    Miriam I think you’re right…I’m all for it. I can still tow a video array from a sail ship..but position holding for tending a submersible may be a bit tricky!

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