• Media Contact
  • Fred Gorell, NOAA
    301-734-1021 (office)
    301 802-8334 (cell)
  • Linda Dackman, Exploratorium

    415-561-0363 (office)
    415-730-0547 (cell)

  • For broadcast quality animation of the plume, please contact Christine Patrick, 301-734-1030

NOAA and San Francisco’s Exploratorium Announce Educational Partnership:

First Project to Focus on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 24, 2009

Okeanos Explorer.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Today, at San Francisco’s Pier 27 along the city’s storied Embarcadero, NOAA and the Exploratorium announced a five-year partnership to bring cutting edge climate and ocean science to the public. Collaborating with NOAA scientists, the Exploratorium will develop interactive experiences to help explain and illustrate dynamic scientific discoveries.

“Some of society's biggest environmental challenges are the most difficult to convey and comprehend,” said Dennis Bartels, Ph.D., executive director of the Exploratorium. “This partnership will give the Exploratorium a direct connection to NOAA science, so together we can engage the public in these challenges.”

Known as a leader in hands-on informal education, the Exploratorium will take public audiences on an ocean journey from surface to bottom in real-time as if they were aboard NOAA’s high-tech ship, the Okeanos Explorer. Follow-on projects will bring NOAA’s advanced research, ocean, weather and climate science to the public with the Exploratorium developing interactive experiences to engage the public on some of the most critical environmental science issues of the day.

Mendocino methane gas plume.

Gas plume off Cape Mendocino, Calif.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

“Forty years ago our nation united behind a great challenge, then celebrated when the Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Today we can unite once more, this time to explore, understand and protect our oceans. NOAA's partnership with the Exploratorium is a terrific opportunity to bring to life the excitement of ocean discovery and new knowledge.”

Because the Okeanos Explorer will explore largely unknown ocean areas, there will be opportunities for audiences to experience discoveries as they happen. During a recent mapping test, the ship’s hull-mounted multibeam sonar detected what scientists believe may be a plume of methane gas rising 4,500 feet from the seafloor, about 18 miles off Cape Mendocino, Calif.

The Exploratorium will create an online and museum presence for the Okeanos Explorer that will include ship blogs, video and audio clips from recent discoveries, tracking on Ocean in Google Earth, and live streaming high-definition video from the ship. Future projects may include hands-on exhibits and interactive Web sites that inspire and inform the public about phenomena such as tsunamis, El Niño, and local and global fisheries issues with a particular focus on climate change.

Exploratorium museum floor.

Exploratorium museum floor.

High resolution (Credit: Exploratorium)

“NOAA research spans the globe,” said Mary Miller, Exploratorium project director for public understanding of science. “We plan to be there with scientists as they make discoveries and help bring new understanding about nature and our changing environment. With advanced technologies and old-fashioned story-telling, we’ll connect audiences to important advances in ocean and atmosphere science wherever in the world they take place.”

Founded in 1969 by noted physicist Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium is considered the prototype for hands-on museums around the world and a leader in the movement of museums as educational centers. It was the first independent museum on the Web and has won four Webby Awards for bringing science to the public. A proposal to relocate to Piers 15/17 on San Francisco’s waterfront in 2012 would allow for a new emphasis on environmental science.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.