Chilean marine science devastated by earthquake

From the INSPIRE cruise blog: "The research vessel Kay Kay II, belonging to the University of Concepción. The 18m ship was washed 1km inland following the Feb. 27 earthquake. Vandals subsequently stripped the ship of its oceanographic instruments. Image courtesy of Ruben Escribano."

UPDATE: The Consortium for Ocean Leadership has set up a University of Concepcion Oceanographic Relief Fund. You can donate here.

Along with the lives lost in the recent Chilean earthquake, Chile’s excellent marine science research program has been utterly devastated. Dr. Lisa Levin, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (full disclosure: I am a student at SIO and have taken many classes from Dr. Levin) is currently cruising off Chile on the INSPIRE expedition,  and has received reports of total scientific devastation:

The wonderful marine laboratory at Dichato, where I had worked for one summer and returned to teach for part of another, was completely destroyed by a series of 3 tidal waves.  These arrived 30 minutes apart, the first 2 hours after the initial quake. The loss of instrumentation, lab equipment, computers, samples and countless hours spent generating data is catastrophic and heartbreaking.  Many of the top marine researchers at the University of Concepcion made this laboratory their base of operations.  Only the side walls remain, most of the contents and parts of the roof are gone.  The Kay Kay, the University’s 18m research vessel was left high and dry nearly one kilometer inland. Although this ship could have been salvaged, vandals have apparently removed all of its instruments.

Of course marine sciences at the main campus in Concepcion also must be greatly affected.  A week without electricity spells doom for sensitive samples in freezers… for some this must be a lifetime of collection lost, for others a PhD dissolved.  Countless other consequences will undoubtedly emerge…

…a brand new 70-m vessel called the Cabo de Hornos.  The new ship, with world class, state-of-the-art equipment, would work in south Chile and Antarctic waters. It was due to be launched on Feb. 27th, 2010 just hours after the earthquake.  Instead a wave lifted and pounded it atop the dock onto dry land.

Dr. Levin ends her post with the hope that marine scientists from around the world can come together to help Chilean scientists get back out to sea and into the lab as soon as possible.