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50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
conceived of a program to measure intensively the invading wave of chemical tracers from the industrial activities of man. The project was soon dubbed "Transient Tracers in the Ocean" (TTO), and of course, we went to NSF for support.
THE TTO PROGRAM
While the TTO program evolved from the GEOSECS experience, it had marked differences, driven both by PI desire for hands-on research and NSF desire for the accountability of individual components to peer review. It was smaller in space and time, the support from the Operations Group was cut in half, and a much more efficient set of observing protocols was adopted. The unseen hand of the scientific marketplace was at work, and our big program follow-on was now to be staffed by an ensemble cast. Within NSF the latent problem of whether this was chemistry (the technique) or physics (a major application) had to be dealt with, and an impasse occurred. Physical Oceanography program manager Curtis Collins at NSF was to rise to the challenge and ably represent the program.
The program was national, but as with GEOSECS, a very strong informal international flavor was simply assumed to exist. I recall driving to Lamont for one meeting with Canadian, German, Japanese, and English participants, which seemed quite normal.
The planning ran into two problems very quickly: facing up to the undiagnosed error in the GEOSECS CO2 results, now nine years old, could no longer be postponed. NSF, quite properly, would not let a new program go ahead without it. And the design of a cruise track that would attempt to cover a very large area of the North Atlantic in one snapshot, proved challenging. In the midst of this, Arnold Bainbridge, the talented, gracious hero of GEOSECS, suddenly died. He was only 48 years old. Years of stress and failure to take care of a chronic health problem had taken a dreadful toll. The shock was enormous.
The death of Arnold Bainbridge left a huge hole and much confusion. When his team went through his office, to put affairs in order and recover original files, they found a drawer full of carefully labeled tapes archiving all the programs that we were using. The problem was that all the labels simply read, "Test"! We were lost.
A meeting was held at Lamont to review the CO2 measurement and data recovery problem, and Bob Williams kindly loaned me a very large binder of FORTRAN printout, which probably contained the answer somewhere. I digested it on a plane flight to Seattle, and by the end of the trip, red eyed, I had found the few lines of code that seemed to count. Arnold had been creative with his chemistry coding and had not told any of us! Al Bradshaw and I painstakingly pulled things apart, and ran some tests (Bradshaw et al., 1981); yes, we could rewrite the equations, and yes, a coding error had occurred during the Atlantic to Pacific transition. We were learning hard lessons—that big programs can be vulnerable. But we could put the problem to rest and advise NSF that publication of the GEOSECS atlases, long stalled by this problem, could proceed. It fell to Taro Takahashi to compile the data (Takahashi et al., 1981), and the classic picture that resulted is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 Total CO2 results from the GEOSECS program, showing the progressive enrichment due to respiration and carbonate dissolution accompanying the deep circulation. Reprinted from Takahaski et al. (1981) in SCOPE 16, Carbon Cycle Monitoring, edited by Bert Bolin, with permission from SCOPE, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., UK.
A test cruise in 1980, and a wonderful year in 1981, saw a large-scale attack on the tracer chemistry of the North Atlantic Ocean. Some 250 stations were occupied (Figure 4), and no equipment was lost. Richard Gammon made the first, exciting measurements of the chlorofluorocarbon tracers. A marked freshening of the North Atlantic was found, which became part of the "Great Salinity Anomaly." The tracer signals showed beautifully the evolution of ocean water masses in the nine years since GEOSECS. Tritium-helium dating of water mass ventilation came of age, thanks to the superb efforts of Bill Jenkins. And chemical coherence within the CO2 system was attained, thanks in large part to the (on-shore) presence of Dave Keeling who provided a limited data set of unassailable integrity. The program provided a superb benchmark for carbon-cycle science.
INSIDE THE FOUNDATION
In the fall of 1981 I took a two-year leave from Woods Hole to serve as program director for Marine Chemistry at NSF. Neil Andersen had been appointed to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Paris, and I was his "rotator" replacement. Most of my colleagues were shocked at the move; I had a wonderful time—eventually, and thanks above all to my program colleague Rodger Baier. I learned from Rodger that NSF program managers were not dull; they could play the piano cross-handed while lying down and