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National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center [22]

Like NODC, the National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center was originally a part of the Department of the Navy. Located in Washington, D.C. the office was established to provide a central Federal service for the calibration and testing of oceanographic instruments. The Instrumentation Center collaborated closely with NODC and the National Bureau of Standards to ensure adequate technique and reference standards for oceanographic instrumentation. At the time of NOAA's creation, the Center was responsible for a wide variety of oceanographic instrument development work including:

- operation of an instrument evaluation laboratory;

- maintenance of a central proposal and specifications file and information service;

- cooperative programs with other Government agencies, academia and industry to support the development of standards;

- laboratory, field testing and calibration of oceanographic instruments;

- maintenance of instrument performance and deterioration records; and

- a small in-house program of ocean instrumentation development.

Marine Minerals Technology Center [23]

During the late fifties and sixties, scientists (both in industry and Government) had begun to seriously investigate the possibility of funding ocean-based alternatives to land-based sources of strategic minerals. Dry-land deposits of such minerals were already showing signs of depletion. Scientists were aware that the seafloor contained potentially recoverable deposits of materials rich in such strategic minerals as nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese, gold, tin, platinum, iron, titanium, and chromium. Of particular interest at the time of NOAA's creation were deep seabed deposits of manganese nodules which would, during the seventies and eighties, become the center of substantial debate both in the U.S. Congress and in the international Law of the Sea Treaty negotiations.

By 1970, industry had already adapted land extraction techniques to develop ocean minerals like oil, gas, sulfur, sand, and gravel valued at over $2 billion. Industry was already, similarly, involved in commercial dredging of oyster shells and the extraction of chemicals and salts from sea water. Many of these activities, and the anticipated open ocean mining associated with recovery of deposits like manganese nodules, carried potentially significant environmental impacts (e. g., oil spills, sedimentation, and increased turbidity which could disrupt biological productivity).

The Department of Interior had responded to the challenge of increased ocean mineral development by establishing the Marine Minerals Technology Center in Tiburon, California. The Center, part of the Bureau of Mines, had two principal objectives:

- assuring that any ocean mining systems ultimately developed would minimize damage to the marine environment; and

- providing the tools and techniques required to accurately delineate marine mineral deposits.

By the time of NOAA's creation, the Center was already conducting a number of cooperative programs with embryonic ocean mining industry groups to evaluate a number of specific new mining techniques including new drilling technologies. At the same time, the Center's marine resource investigations were beginning to build the scientific and environmental impact knowledge base on which future legislative and regulatory actions would be based -- including the issuance of exploration licenses for manganese nodule mining which has been a NOAA responsibility since 1980.

With these rich, diverse and extensive capabilities now in place, this new agency called NOAA was ready to address the challenges expressed in President Nixon's reorganization statement including the exercise of "leadership in developing a national oceanic and atmospheric program of research and development."

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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