Waitt Institute Overview
Accelerating deep-sea exploration, cutting-edge scientific research & sustainable ocean policy…
The Waitt Institute established the CATALYST Program in 2006 to accelerate deep-sea exploration, cutting-edge scientific research and sustainable ocean policy. Since that time the Institute has completed several CATALYST missions, partnering with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute for scientific and technical expertise, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for operation of the Institute’s two REMUS 6000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).
The Waitt Institute’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are the most sophisticated deep-sea search vehicles known to science today. Programmed to operate independently once released from a support ship, they carry multiple instruments and sensors, including side scan sonar and even a camera to take detailed pictures of the ocean floor. AUVs are used for many exploration and mapping purposes, including marine conservation and ocean health studies, fishery operations, scientific sampling, geological charting and more.
Titanic: Virtually Raising the Wreck
On September 1, 1985, Titanic was discovered resting on the ocean floor. Twenty-five years after her discovery, RMS Titanic, Inc., in partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Waitt Institute, embarked on what is arguably the most technologically advanced scientific expedition to Titanic ever organized.
September 2010, RMS Titanic is brought together a team of leading experts in various oceanographic, scientific and nautical archaeological fields. Using the latest advances in technology, the expedition team conducted a full survey of the wreck site capturing Titanic in 2D and 3D video, creating a first ever archeological site map.
Provided by the Waitt Institute, AUVs will enabled the expedition team to create the first ever comprehensive and multi-dimensional map of the Titanic wreck site. The AUVs, with their suite of onboard sensors provided new and unique views of the famous ship and revealed secrets about her past, present, and future. AUVs were one of the most important pieces of equipment used in Expedition Titanic.
Search For Amelia Earhart
Launched in 2009, the Earhart Expedition was a deep-sea search to find Amelia Earhart’s plane in the remote region of the South Pacific where many believe she crashed and sank in 1937. She and navigator Fred Noonan vanished without a trace during Earhart’s attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world.
The largest-ever, private deep-water search ever undertaken, the mission involved bringing together a diverse group of experts to identify the most likely search areas for Earhart’s plane. Then, using a pair of REMUS 6000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles equipped with side scan sonar, an on-site research team surveyed over 2,000 square miles of ocean floor at an average depth of 5,200 meters.
Results: Elimination of Search Area for Amelia and Detailed Sonar Maps. Although Earhart’s aircraft was not located, researchers are confident it’s not in the area searched. The CATALYST AUVs were able to survey 2,000-square miles of ocean floor, and then re-acquire, re-image and clearly photograph targets as small as a pipe, a chain and a metal drum.
Coral Reef Maps of the Florida Straits
Taking place in the Florida Straits during 2008, the Florida Deep Reef Mapping Expedition employed the AUVs to create the first-ever, high definition side scan sonar maps of deep-water Lophelia and Oculina coral reefs off the coast of eastern Florida. The mission was also the perfect opportunity to perform sea trials for the Institute’s new REMUS 6000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), giving the team an opportunity to work together and coordinate operations under at-sea conditions.
Results: Detailed Coral Reef Maps and Discovery of New Reefs. More than 700 years old and home to thousands of species, the fragile coral reefs near Florida were documented in meticulous detail by the CATALYST team. Results from the mission, which included the discovery of three new Lophelia coral reefs, were used by HBOI to support designating the region as a Deep Coral Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC). The mission also assisted HBOI in determining exact locations to explore on future expeditions.
With the hope that future expeditions will be able to use this information to find Earhart—and also to share the first-ever sonar maps of this area in the South Pacific—the Waitt Institute is publishing all scientific results at a specially designed new Search for Amelia Web portal. One of the most comprehensive digital records on the life and legacy of Amelia Earhart available today, Search for Amelia is a collaborative site where comments and ideas about Earhart and her final flight are invited and encouraged. All side scan sonar data files from the mission are also available via Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is the world’s largest, private nonprofit ocean research, engineering and education organization and is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the ocean and its interaction with the Earth system, and to communicating this understanding for the benefit of society. The Institution’s shore-based laboratories are located in the village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and on the nearby 200-acre Quissett Campus.
About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (Harbor Branch), a research institute of Florida Atlantic University, carries out oceanographic research in Florida’s waters and around the world. The research institute focuses on aquaculture, drug discovery from marine organisms, ocean engineering, marine ecosystem health and ocean exploration. Harbor Branch is located on the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce on Florida’s central east coast.
Ted Waitt: Why Amelia?
Waitt Institute founder, Ted Waitt, talks about his interest in Amelia Earhart’s story and legacy and why the Waitt Institute was interested in searching for her lost Electra.