Submarine Expedition
A submarine tells his story

   Earth's global ocean covers seventy percent of its surface. Its average depth is two point three miles. There are deep-sea trenches consuming tectonic plates. There are mid-ocean rifts producing new bedrock. Some experts consider the ocean more hostile than space. Admiral Martin is fond of saying: "The sea will get you if it can."
  There is a place north of the Artic circle; about two hundred miles south of the North Pole and roughly three miles below the polar ice cap, where hydrothermal water percolates through newly formed ocean crust. Where mineral precipitates have built a kingdom of towers, spires, and bridges. A kingdom where giant blood-red tubeworms and foot long shrimp thrive, and an ancient dragon returns to life after a million years sleep.
  In more southern waters, industrialist and marine explorer, Admiral William Martin, has embarked on a three-month expedition to a mid-ocean rift beneath the Arctic ice cap. Critical to the success of this mission is his submarine Expedition. Expedition is an extraordinary nuclear powered research vessel that can make five thousand feet depth-to-keel. It has transparent titanium-aluminum windows, an active camouflage system, and seven sonar systems. It carries drilling equipment, a diving bell, an exploratory submersible that can walk over coalescing lava flows, and three minisubs. Admiral Martin is prepared for anything the sea can throw at him. Or so he thinks.

  After discovering a mineral treasure trove of precious metals and rare earth elements, escaping from a deep-sea dragon by the skin of its teeth, and while his science team is still examining core samples, a call comes in from the Navy.
  "Bill, we need your help."
  Apparently, cetaceans are beaching themselves in large numbers on New Jersey shores, and one of the Navy's submarines is missing.
  Will Expedition and his crew figure out why the whales are grounding themselves and why the Navy's submarine is missing?

  Cover art adapted from photo by Ethan Daniels through

Giant Kelp in the Santa Barbara Channel GIANT KELP CANOPY
   We've just broken through my secret tunnel under the cover of a giant kelp canopy. Shafts of sunlight dance on clouds of plankton and beasties of tiny jellies and minuscule larvae float at the mercy of an eastward flowing current.
A splash by a small boat, and then another, gets my attention. Human divers have entered the water, knocking a napping sea otter from his kelp frond nest. But the divers don't notice him. In a flurry, the otter rockets away-leaving a swirling wake in his path.

     Art adapted from photo by Ethan Daniels through

   One thousand super wide mouths with downturned frowns crowd in on me, port and starboard. They rub against me and nibble at my hull. They cram themselves around my bow and peer into the observation room. Hundreds of eyes crowd the window, the fish looking in with whiskers twitching.
  "Why are you giggling, Dr. Jones?" William asks.
  "They are tickling me," she puts her right index finger on her lips and whispers back to him, "Sh, don't tell anyone. They'll think I'm crazy."

non verbal communication, shared images LEFT BEHIND IN HIS AFT JET WAKE
  Come along, Dr. Jones. I want to show you something.
  No. I don't want to go.
  I want to show you something that I know you will enjoy. I want to show you my propellers slicing through the water. And I spirit Dr. Jones from the observation room and take her aft, past the chief's quarters and the galley and crew's mess.
  I want to show you the power of my engines and what makes me go. And we fly through the missile compartment past four rows of silos, then through the auxiliary launch bay where a special detail is working.
  Where are you taking me?
  Engineering! But I must pause for a while, because my head is on fire with magnetic fields and rotating coils.
  Let me go. I'm dizzy and feeling nauseous!
  A dip in the water will remedy that and I plunge Dr. Jones through my keel, where we get caught up in the whirling current inside my port propeller duct and spit into the sea.
  My heart is going to explode.
  Stop, I'm in the cold water. How did I get here? Help!
  And we watch in terror as we are left behind, bright brass propellers each ringed with ducts and crossed with planes, and the rudder, and the sail and broad planes on top speed away from us at fifteen knots.
   Admiral Martin, come back for me. I'm being left behind in Expedition's aft jet wake.

Me and Platform Holly PLATFORM HOLLY
   Platform Holly stands on eight tubular, steel-jacketed concrete legs. She is hundreds of feet high with a three-level deck, a mile wide at least if you count everything about her. She vibrates and hums from five-score-and-eight throbbing engines powering one-score-and-seven wells, and each of these buzz and whir.
  Large swells pass through her well bay unperturbed. Small waves lap on pilings and against several small boats tied there that collide with the floating pier, softened with bumpers-you know the kind-beating out a rhythm of their own. The BP Billings MT approaches from the east, screaming her intention to dock.
  Five hundred feet above, a helicopter jumps off from Holly's upper deck.
  Dr. Jones, do I have something to show you! And I take her up there and hover for a while with the helicopter watching its rotor blades building a wake of sloppy circles over an already choppy sea.
   Suddenly, the crest of a wave breaks over my head and another. I gasp for a breath of air but get saltwater instead.
   Stop. I'm in the water again. What do you have against me?
   I have nothing against you. I'm happy to have you. I wanted to show you Holly. I think Holly is beautiful, but she pays no attention to me.
   Holly? I don't care about Holly. I don't care about your propellers. Stop dragging me into the water!
   I didn't take you into the sea. I took you into the sky. You took us back down into the sea. Besides, I'm just showing you about life in the sea. Isn't that why you are here?
   You pulled me down into cold water! With no warning! And you've done it three times. I hate cold water. It terrifies me. Why did you do that to me?
   I wanted to show you something.
   Show me drowning? Are you kidding? Do me a favor and leave me alone!

In May 2017, Expedition received the sad news that Platform Holly is being decommissioned.

  Dr. Jones is the first to spy her through the observation room window. "Admiral Martin, there is something glowing in our path."
  Glowing pink and gold, a great and graceful jelly emerges from the distance, although at first she's just a speck of light-and with almost no acoustic presence.
  We are headed straight for her, and the jelly's translucent and gelatinous globular umbrella bell grows to fill the observation room windows. She's trailing a mess of curling tentacles with stinging barbs that make first contact on my forward-looking bow array and then drag along my top deck, jabbing base chemicals into my skin. Swirling electromagnetic vortices confuse my feeling there. I don't like it.
  Dr. Jones giggles out loud. This is tickling. Expedition, you are being tickled by a jelly.
  The jelly is beautiful. She has no thoughts of here or there or water pressure or up; she exists simply to exist and to drift the seas. She's jet propelled, but the ocean current through which she drifts mostly determines her course. Jelly seeks and jelly responds, but jelly has no thoughts for me.

Getty Images,

  He remembers walking the streets of a tired little city, window-shopping and looking at houses and flowerbeds. He and Sheila had never seen anything as beautiful in their entire lives. And he remembers buying a loaf of bread and four slices of bologna, and picnicking on a bench in the town square.
  He remembers seeing a sign on a storefront: Join the Navy.
  He remembers driving to a bus terminal several counties away and buying two tickets for five dollars each. He remembers Sheila saying: "I'm hungry, Billy." He bought a loaf of day-old bread that they ate on the bus ride down to the big city that neither of them had ever seen. He held Sheila most of the way, his arms wrapped around her. He remembers the bus ride. It was the happiest day of his life. He hadn't seen her smile in many months. She's smiling now. He swears to himself that he will keep her safe from this point on, forever.
  He remembers walking the streets of a tired little city, window-shopping and looking at houses and flowerbeds. He and Sheila had never seen anything as beautiful in their entire lives. And he remembers buying a loaf of bread and four slices of bologna, and picnicking on a bench in the town square.
  He remembers seeing a sign on a storefront: Join the Navy.
  "I'll be right back, Sheila."
  Sheila sat on the park bench waiting for her brother to return, and he did, thirty minutes later, with a smile on his face. "They took you? Are you old enough to join the Navy?"
  "I lied."

What crawled out of that hole? PACIFIC CROSSING
  "Dr. Burgess, is the probe ready to go?"
  "Almost, Admiral. We're doing the last system check right now. It will be ready in about ten minutes."
  "Captain Deverough, make your depth five thousand feet."
  "Five thousand feet, aye, sir."
  "Mr. Decker, make ready the boat for extreme deep-water operations."
  "Aye, sir."
  Perhaps I should explain. We've been studying bathymetric maps all day. Admiral Martin has brought us over what appears to be, from up here, a deep depression in the ocean floor that is otherwise crossed with ridges and scattered with seamounts. Four miles wide and three miles deep-that is the measure of the hole, or so it seems from here. I wonder what made this hole. Perhaps magma melted the bedrock through to the sea and then retreated, leaving the hole behind. Or perhaps some deep-sea monster dug it out and lives down there.
  "Dive, make it five thousand feet."
  Or could a great and deeply buried oil reservoir have bubbled up through benthic ooze? That might lower the sediment density, making it look like a hole to sonar when it's not.
  "We're at five thousand feet and holding steady, Admiral."
  On the other hand, it could simply be an acoustic ghost created by the way sound bounces around through miles of layered sedimentary deposits.

Follow Expedition's journey through three oceans with NOAA's Bathymetric Data Viewer

                  1) Uncheck all Bathymetric Survey options in the menu on the left.
                  2) Under BASEMAP, Choose OCEAN BASEMAP.
                  3) Under OPTIONS, choose REGIONAL BATHYMETRIC BASEMAP.
                  4) Navigate the oceans. Explore their depths.

                  You will find the great hole at -130.752 degrees by 42.366 degrees, and
                  Goleta Slide off Coal Oil Point at -119.173 degrees by 34.356 degrees.

Cross section of ocean water

   A poem by Expedition

Composed of notes that take time to build, a symphony plays within the deep sound channel.

Collecting notes and tunes it likes, replaying and reinventing them, the symphony's orchestrator is the deep sound channel.

Performed by great beasts, other beasts and fish that migrate over global distances, and blue water vessels and ocean currents. Even wind, volcanoes, and earth's crust contribute to the dazzling display of sounds found within the deep sound channel.

A mighty Fin whale calls with deep tones that slide down an octave while being formed. His voice, the most powerful of deep-sea creatures, persists within the deep sound channel.

Commercial vessels, running upon large waves, launch low frequency rolling tones into the sea from shipping lanes far away. These enter the deep sound channel from above and stay.

Beats, not made by the groaning engines of one ship in particular than another, but combined making wavelengths so long they reach across the ocean in the deep sound channel.

Grumbling earthquakes form envelopes of long wavelength sound that rumble through the sea. These enter the deep sound channel from below and stay.

Formed on bedrock outcrops along shorelines, sounds from plunging breakers travel down the continental slope to join the movements within the deep sound channel.

Acoustic waves, trapped within the limits of the channel so act upon the waves that a single note reveals itself in pulses, each pulse louder than the last until the one taking the shortest path gets here last. A blast wave from a distant offshore mining expedition pulses with increasing volume


At thirty-second intervals fighter jets launch off the deck of a distant aircraft carrier. With each whoosh the carrier shutters causing half wavelength envelopes to form. Each takeoff of a fighter jet, synchronized so perfectly with the decaying envelope of the last, adds energy and the standing waveform grows; its overtones reach down into the deep sound channel and stay.

Deep tonal murmurs from volcanoes building pressure inside the crust provide measure through most of this. Something pumps, something trembles, and something pounds, rising from hidden places within the deep sound channel.

Low frequencies resonate slowly within the limits of the deep sound channel: thunder rumbles from a distant storm and Bear in flight.

Deep-sea creatures languishing in the doldrums growl, grumble, grunt and howl within the deep sound channel.

We cruise at four thousand feet with a layer of water above that keeps an extra measure of sound within its boundaries and helps that sound travel further because it dissipates more as inverse distance than inverse square within the deep sound channel.

     Image from Federation of Anerican Scientists (FAS) website at:

It was a grey day   IT WAS A GRAY DAY
  Gray hangs from the sky and covers the sea. Gray mist billows in tufts over the water and drifts along my deck. Gray clouds let go gray streaks of lightning that tumble down the short air gap to the sea in slow motion-without making a sound.
  We travel in silence through a gray lightning storm. Even the lightning has lost its silver and is now just gray.
  Making barely a ripple, a gray great beast surfaces. He sips the air and slips back down. He feels it too. The day is gray.
  What is going on above the mist or beneath the waves that makes this day so gray?
  Dark thoughts?
  The day is gray, the beasts are gray, even our thoughts are gray. Dr. Jones, can my dark thoughts turn the beasts' thoughts gray?
  Sometimes it seems like that to me.
  What about the thunderstorm? How can my dark thoughts make a thunderstorm gray?
  I think by altering your perception of it, not the thunderstorm itself.
  Do you mean that I might perceive something is gray today because my thoughts are gray but on another day I would see it a different color?
  Expedition, I'm curious, what dark thoughts are you having right now?

  Shining brightly yellow and slightly flattened by refraction, the giant burning disk that is the sun sits precariously on the horizon, being eaten by the sea. Shades of rose and violet rule the sky, and wispy patches of iridescent pale-blue clouds catch the sunlight from below.
  Prevailing winds draw wispy streaks of lilac ribbons across the sky, and a jet headed west shoots the shocking brilliant sun with shafts of light it leaves behind, infused with flashes of flamingo pink and pomegranate and casting tawny shadows on creamy-peach clouds overhead.
  Reflected on the waves, a golden path connects me to the sun, inviting me to go there, and I think for a while: What it might be like? But I would miss the sea, and great beasts surfacing off my port side bow blow fiery fountain spouts that catch the sun and scatter it in mandarin orange and amber yellow-dazzling colors that put the sunlight that started it to shame.
  Can we join you?
  I don't see why not. Admiral Martin is taking me to watch Mount Makushin erupt.

Ramona Maps The Arctic Plain RAMONA
  Meanwhile, Ramona has been cruising over the floor of the Canada Basin peering deeply into layers of sedimentary deposits and backwards hundreds of thousands of years in time.
  Ping. Each sister plays a part in sending each ping down and the part of the combined ping that makes its way up here is a symphony of vibrant sounds.
  Ping. Each sister listens for the abyssal plain's response-I hear what each have said.
  Ping. With five hundred feet between them.
  Ping. And five hundred feet to the bottom.
  Ping. Ramona maps a strip of seafloor one thousand feet wide.
  Ping. Then transmits what she has heard up the deep tow wire to me.
  PING. Ramona changes her song-shifting to lower frequencies.
  PING. This ping was designed to penetrate. It projects ten seconds then rests while we listen till its echoes fade and we can hear no more of them.
  PING. The first echo to return does so straightforwardly, just a little blurred by its reflection from the floor and maybe by movement through the water. The second echo to return is softer than the first and smeared in time and frequency-it reveals rocks and boulders embedded in foraminiferal ooze. The third echo to return is softer still, and even more spread in time and frequency. It reveals rocks and boulders embedded in a layer much like the one above it.
  PING. Now Ramona sings a melody composed of notes and phrases that take time to play with rests that are longer too by the same amount. And echoes return as they did before, but telling something new. The aftermath of a meteor strike may be hidden in that echo.
  PING. And this deeply penetrating ping sends back echoes of fractured sedimentary bedrock.
  PING. Listen to her song.
  PING. I'm in love.

Submarine Expedition encounters a collossal Manta Ray COLOSSAL MANTA RAY
  What he does not know is that my active camouflage system is set in absorbing mode. That means very little of his ping is being reflected back to him. He probably thinks he has got the better of me in size, but he doesn't.
  Meanwhile, Admiral Martin, one level below and in the observation room has been watching the lone Manta's approach. He calls the control room. "Tactical, Admiral Martin here. Turn off the sonar absorbing system. Let him see us for what we are."
  Then, right in front of the manta's eyes, I am transformed from something that looked like a tuna to a large hard beast, every bit intimidating as himself. He probably has never before encountered a submarine. He soars up and over me, passing my sail with only inches to spare, and then dives behind me, following my deep tow wire toward Ramona. His wingspan exceeds my beam.

Submarine Expedition caught in a Manta Ray Tornado MANTA RAY TORNADO
  Soon twenty rays add their strength to the vortex and the single circle becomes two and eddies grow into whirlpools. The swirling congregation keeps pace with me, heading due north at ten knots. At fifty strong two circles split into four and the mantas commence a spiral journey up. Sonar Chief Buckheister reports and Mr. Decker warns, "Rig for collision." The downward draft catches us. Dive compensates by offloading water from our main ballast tank. The ascending tornado envelops us. Giant mantas surround us. Eddies and vortices form then dissipate. The helm has trouble answering its call.

The Dragon comes up from the deep MY SEA DRAGON FRIEND
  After his large meal he settles down with us, growing and curling around us affectionately. Large broad scales erupt buds that grow into limbs. The limbs branch and branch again then flatten and grow out until we are entirely shrouded in one very friendly piece of seaweed. He hums a soothing melody.
  "This is reminiscent of a hippopotamus I once met" Dr. Jones relays. "In a habitat at the National Zoo was a hippopotamus submerged almost fully in her pond. A canopy of seaweed floated and gracefully decorated her pretty head. I stood there watching her for a while then said: I wonder where the hippo is? I cannot see her. Are you sure there is a hippo in this display? I said it to entertain the children, but the hippo laughed."
  Dr. Jones finds everyone in the room is looking at her, and they do so for a while until Admiral Martin asks "Dr. Jones, are you comparing Expedition to a hippopotamus?"
  "Did I say that out loud?" she meant the story for me "Sorry."

     The story of Expedition's Sea Dragon Friend changed over revisions into the story of It.

  Ramona sends up images of the rift, her song probes deeply reaching for the mantle and travels through layers of huge massive blocks of crustal rock one stacked upon the other with the oldest one on top and the youngest being built by the mantle from below adding minerals slowly and under great pressure I might add. Like a tug-of-war in reverse the mantle builds and pushes up and out the massive blocks, and the ocean crust's resistance to move and gravity pushes in and down. The war between them is ancient and continues with battles fought and won or lost by fractions of an inch each year.

Painting by Thomas Moran LOST IN A STORM
  Hollow, eerie calls pound and then fade, pulsing with mighty swells that toss Lucy from crest to trough to crest again. White water surges through her rigging. Green water buries her deck. Waves batter her people, who are holding on for life, and slap them overboard.
  I watch helplessly from below as a mammoth crest breaks and slams her into a trough while a third wave swallows her whole.
  Flooded and waterlogged, the tortured vessel sinks right in front of me; Lucy's final resting place will be three miles down.
  We spend hours searching for her survivors. There are none.
  Captain Deverough ends the search: "Mr. Decker, resume our course. We have a mission to complete and work to do in the meantime." And we leave behind the fishing boat with all hands lost.
  Navigator Ryan marks our progress on her chart. We lost six hours to the search.

Anchorage In The Shadow of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge THE NARROWS
  The Verrazano Narrows Bridge towers over us. Two decks for cars and vans and trucks suspended by cables connected to two towers with footholds in two old stone forts. A pair of Peregrine falcons hunt beneath the lower deck. A large container ship passes under her headed for the Port of New York and New Jersey.