This week there’s an international gathering of ocean techn0logy professionals at the Anchorage convention center, which is barely big enough for it. The Chamber of Commerce meeting today was moved to the Egan Center, and the thing has barely begun yet. The first day is registration and technical workshops. Very technical workshops. The exhibitors are arriving and setting up.
Here’s one of the stars of the show. This is a 30 foot tall sail drone that has been exploring the Bering Sea. It can fit in the Denaina with about a foot and a half to spare. (sorry, it’s sideways)
Here is some old school technology, belonging to the University of Alaska Fairbanks now. It’s a rig you can tow in the water, with the data running up the cable, enabling real time operation. Then there was one designed for students, remotely piloted, simple as can be, with a little water resistant case containing a video screen, a pair of joysticks and a prominently displayed meter for monitoring your power consumption. And another one that sits on the seabed, storing data for when it can be retrieved.
One of the first things you notice among conference officials is Navy uniforms – not really surprising in view of the history of the industry. Among its milestones are Sputnik, the loss of the submarines Thresher and Scorpion, ongoing cold war submarine detection competition, searches for undersea shipwrecks like the Titanic, the Erebus and the Terror, marine territorial claims, it’s not hard to see the military undercurrent here. Much of this technology was secret, no doubt plenty still is. Then there are the subsea fiberoptic cables, offshore oil and gas, fish farming, and now human habitats in the ocean.
This year there will also be an emphasis on the “Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative” to look to the state’s waters as a source of economic growth. The Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association is pushing this.
The agenda is a bit fluid still, as organizers see who actually shows up in Anchorage. There have been some visa hassles. And there is the same uncertainty we saw earlier this year about how much federal participation there will be – constraints mostly budgetary but no doubt also some political.