New Wave Media

February 26, 2024

PODCAST: “All in the [Gallaudet] Family”

In this inaugural episode of View from the Helm, Rear Admiral (ret) Tim Gallaudet is interviewed by his daughter Laurel Gallaudet, currently a Masters student and an aspiring ocean communicator, as well as a contributing writer to Marine Technology Reporter.

RAdm Gallaudet has a long and distinguished career, including 32 years in the Navy, serving of the Oceanographer of the Navy, and a stint as Acting and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Laurel has clearly inherited her father’s love of the oceans [and not to mention that her mother Caren was also a Naval Academy graduate, an oceanography major and a navy salvage diving officer] and in this first episode she discusses with her father and life-long mentor the ins and outs of his maritime career.

Following are a select few excerpts from View from the Helm, Episode 1, “All in the [Gallaudet] Family”. But the real story here far transcends RAdm Gallaudet’s career and his insights on emerging marine technologies. The real story is the man and the family behind the mission, a career dedicated to service and a life dedicated to respecting, while helping to unlock the many mysteries and the full value of our oceans and their role in the Blue Economy.

RAdm Tim Gallaudet, his daughter Laurel Gallaudet and Robert Ballard at the naming of the US Navy's newest oceanographic ship after Ballard.
Image courtesy RAdm Tim Gallaudet
RAdm Tim Gallaudet’s Career Path

I went to the Naval Academy, commissioned to become an oceanography officer in the US Navy. What was great about that career path in the Navy is you get exposed to ocean technologies from the very beginning. Even at the Naval Academy, we were using side-scan sonar to do surveys and collect data in the Chesapeake Bay.

My first tour was going to graduate school at Scripps where I worked with multibeam sonar and satellite imagery. I went on a few cruises on a couple of Scripps ships, and then I immediately deployed to the Arabian Gulf and worked on a hydrographic survey ship, towing side-scan sonar and operating multibeam sonar, and using other types of collection equipment like conductivity, temperature and depth profilers.
Throughout my Navy career, I've been able to see the advance of those technologies moving more into uncrewed systems.

Where are we today regarding subsea Exploration?
What we're seeing now in the marine industry to me is the equivalent of what SpaceX is doing for NASA. We have companies that are making great advances with autonomy. Most of the ocean has not even been monitored, about 90% of the ocean volume has never even been explored, and about 75% of the seafloor of the world has never been mapped to modern standards. We know more about the surface of Mars and the Moon than we do our own ocean floor. This technology is helping us to address that knowledge gap.

RAdm Tim Gallaudet’s Time @ NOAA

When I was a naval oceanographer, we relied on autonomous systems and a wide range of ocean technology, deploying autonomous fixed systems … mostly acoustic … that were classified. When I went to NOAA, I tried to translate some of that there because I saw this great ocean agency which is charged with mapping and monitoring the US Exclusive Economic Zone. I got the agency together, different offices, and developed strategic plans. One was on uncrewed systems or drones, one was on artificial intelligence, which is the application of autonomy and machine learning, and a few others. One was purely on data because when you have autonomous systems, you're getting an explosion of data. If you want to do something good with the data, like applying artificial intelligence algorithms, you need to know how to handle it. So we had a separate strategy just on data.

One of the things that we made a priority was the blue economy: advancing ocean data and collection systems for the benefit of the American blue economy. So things like fisheries management and a $200 billion economic impact that it has in the US; or marine transportation and US ports that bring in $5.4 trillion of economic activity, which is a quarter of US GDP. That safe and effective flow of commerce through our ports relies on ocean information like nautical charts, ocean current information, real-time current information, weather forecasts. And then you have coastal tourism and recreation.

His business today: Ocean STL Consulting, LLC

[When I retired from the government] I didn't want to build a big company, and I didn't want to necessarily join one and have that be my only thing. So I had discussions with some of my former partners and I ended up working with them, helping them either secure or continue work that they are doing with the Navy and NOAA and other partners in the US government. Having 36 years in the US government, I know a little bit about it!

The first company (I worked with) was formerly called iXblue, now Exail, and they built a surface drone called DriX. It's designed primarily for hydrography, mapping the seafloor, which requires an ultra-stable platform. So it has a wave-piercing bow, it's designed to collect the best bathymetry in high sea states, like sea state 4 or 5.

Another drone company is called ALSEAMAR, and they build an amazing glider, an uncrewed underwater vehicle that has a long duration. They go out for a month or longer, slow-speed, buoyancy-driven, and they profile the water column.
Another company is Sofar Ocean. They have a global network of ocean data buoys, and they're measuring primarily wave spectra or sea state. They work with all the major shipping lines because knowing the sea state allows them to optimally route the ships for fuel efficiency and safety, and now they're working to add other sensors on their buoys.

RAdm Tim Gallaudet his daughter Laurel Gallaudet enjoying a day on the water.
Image courtesy RAdm Tim Gallaudet

The February 2024 edition of Marine Technology Reporter is focused on Oceanographic topics and technologies.
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