For more than three decades, Harbor Branch has explored the world’s oceans. Ocean exploration is the reason Harbor Branch was started, and exploration continues to be our inspiration for research, innovation and conservation.
Our missions have taken us from the surface of the oceans to depths of 3,000 ft. Started in 1971, the Johnson-Sea-Link (JSL) research submersibles have completed over 9,000 dives. Dive sites have ranged from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands. The most capable work platforms in their class, the JSLs have the power, mission-configurable tool packages and payload necessary to support:
- Studying the Oculina coral reefs found at depths greater than 200 ft.;
- Discovering sponges that harbor chemical compounds capable of arresting the growth of human cancers;
- Finding methane ice fields on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico;
- Discovering methane-consuming worms and clams in those same methane ice fields;
- Surveying the wreck of the Civil War ironclad, USS MONITOR;
- Locating the remains of the Space Shuttle CHALLENGER; and
- Deploying and recovering equipment and tools for science.
Capable as the subs are, the subs require a ship to get them to and from their dive sites. Harbor Branch operates the RV SEWARD JOHNSON, a 204-ft ocean-going vessel that is capable of transporting, launching, tracking, and recovering the subs. More than a submersible operations platform, the RV SEWARD JOHNSON, is an oceanographic research vessel. In addition to the eastern Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean around the Galapagos, this, and other Harbor Branch vessels have sailed to the Great Lakes, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, and Brazil. Because exploration does not end when the sub, divers, nets, or instruments are safely back onboard, the ship is equipped with labs that allow a smooth and quick transition from collecting to cataloging and subsequent analysis.
Harbor Branch ships and subs are necessary for exploration, but people are indispensable. The exploration team includes ship’s crew, submersible pilots, engineers who build tools and vehicles for exploration, and the scientists who use them in their quest for new knowledge.
Having these capabilities and skill sets, Harbor Branch is one of only a handful of organizations in the world that is capable of carrying out exploration from concept to completion. Our engineers have expertise in designing, prototyping, testing, fabricating, installing and deploying equipment, tools and sensors. Our scientists, and engineers, who often collaborate to build the tools they need, apply their expertise in areas as varied as drug discovery, deep coral reef conservation, visual ecology, underwater laser imaging, and robotics.