Mystery of the ocean depths to be plumbed by Greece, France, NASA

In its efforts to play a leading role in marine exploration in Europe and even a global level, the National Center for Marine Research (ELKETHE) has entered into agreements with the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), the French National Institute of Space Science, the US space agency NASA, prominent US universities and a number of other organizations in Greece and abroad in an ever-expanding network of associates. IFREMER, the latest addition to the list, is one of the most recognized research centers in the world and is expected to provide a new impetus to marine exploration in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Meanwhile, a number of initiatives have made ELKETHE a leader in research programs in the Black Sea, as it has managed to mobilize and coordinate efforts by the countries surrounding it. The main aspects of ELKETHE’s cooperation with IFREMER is in developing a number of common activities that will provide new information for scientific research. Among their most ambitious plans is the installation of a «depth laboratory» on the seabed to record seismic waves that occur before an earthquake takes place, gases which are drawn down to the seabed, such as methane (which has a direct relationship to the greenhouse effect), and certain telemetric systems to collect information. Equally important is a decision on the joint use of the fleets and exploration equipment of the most advanced countries in Europe through leasing arrangements. «For example, we will be able to rent France’s most up-to-date oceanographic ship for research in the Pacific Ocean and pay according to the length of time we use the ship. This is very useful for us,» Giorgos Chronis, ELKETHE’s president, told Kathimerini. The recent signing of a cooperation protocol allows ELKETHE to participate in European Union research programs, to submit proposals for international studies and to play an active role in France’s national programs. «This will help us acquire the know-how to implement similar methods in Greece,» said Chronis. The Greek and French scientists also want to set up scientific teams to predict surface currents on the Mediterranean. ELKETHE’s cooperation with NASA is aimed at improving and expanding the Poseidon meteorological and atmospheric forecast system that has been used with such success in the Aegean. «Poseidon will soon be extended into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean and with the use of data from satellites and radar, forecasts will be more precise,» said Chronis.