The Triton


NOAA teams with Vulcan to explore, map deep ocean


The U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forged a formal agreement with Vulcan, the company created by the late Microsoft co-founder and yachtsman Paul Allen, to share data resulting from the two organizations’ ocean work.

The agreement, like others NOAA has achieved, will help NOAA fully map the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone and strengthen the American Blue Economy, which includes sustainable seafood production, tourism and recreation, ocean exploration, marine transportation, and coastal resilience. 

“Lack of knowledge and not being able to monitor progress toward better ocean health is a fundamental shortcoming when trying to build a successful strategy,” said Bill Hilf, CEO of Vulcan Inc. “We see this knowledge gap as a call to action. Together with partners such as NOAA, we will help provide foundational data to inform the restoration and protection of our oceans.” 

Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. manages Mr. Allen’s fleet of yachts, including the 250-foot refit commercial vessel R/V Petrel, and the 413-foot Lurssen M/Y Octopus. Vulcan manages a portfolio of projects and investments all over the world, serving as an incubator for new technologies and global philanthropic efforts.  

This is the second major collaboration between NOAA and Vulcan. The public-private collaboration began in 2017 to deploy deep ocean floats, expanding observations in the western South Atlantic off Brazil. As of February, 27 floats report back ocean temperature and salinity data from the surface to the sea floor. These data will be publicly available and used to better understand how changes in the bottom half of the ocean may influence long-term weather, climate, and sea-level rise.

Elizabeth Steffen, scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and University of Hawaii, deploys a Deep Argo float off Hawaii on May 16, 2018. The float was tested here in preparation for its recent release as part of a new array in the western South Atlantic off Brazil. NOAA and Vulcan collaborated to deploy 27 Deep Argo floats off Brazil that report back ocean temperature and salinity data from the surface to the seafloor. Credit: Blake Watkins/ University of Hawaii

The NOAA agreement with Vulcan is one of several partnerships with ocean exploration and technology organizations, including Caladan Oceanic, OceanX, Ocean Infinity, and Viking Cruises.

“The future of ocean science and exploration is partnerships,” said retired Navy Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “NOAA is forging new collaborations, such as the one with Vulcan, to accelerate our mission to map, explore, and characterize the ocean, which will help NOAA support the conservation, management, and balanced use of America’s ocean and understand its key role in regulating our weather and climate.”

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