Profiling the Sea Floor from EPA’s Largest Ocean Survey Vessel, the BOLD

By John Senn

I’m writing this post aboard EPA’s ocean survey vessel, the BOLD, which is currently several miles off the New Jersey coast in the Atlantic Ocean where EPA scientists are studying a part of the sea that was once the site of ocean dumping. The BOLD, a 225-foot-long former Navy spy ship that was converted into a state-of-the-art research station after the Cold War, travels around the country and serves as an important resource in EPA’s ocean protection efforts, everywhere from Maine to Puerto Rico to Alaska.

Visitors line up for a tour of the BOLD at Riverbank Park

For two days, EPA scientists will use a sophisticated camera called a sediment profile imager to take pictures of the exact place where the sea floor and water meet at more than three dozen locations. Later this month, they will return to certain locations to collect samples of mud and worms as part of an ongoing study to make sure contaminated sediment that was dumped in this area from dredging in the New York/New Jersey Harbor prior to 1997 is no longer affecting the ecosystem. Since 1997, millions of cubic yards of cleaner dredged material had been placed on top of the contaminated sediment to improve ecological conditions.

The BOLD not only boasts scientific tools like the sediment profile imager, but is also furnished with places for EPA scientists and the ship’s crew to sleep and eat, as the BOLD is designed to be out at sea for up to several weeks at a time. The quarters can feel a bit cramped, but we definitely get three square meals a day.

After today’s work, the BOLD will return to New York City to dock for a few days to examine the photos taken with the sediment profile imager and identify the best spots for collecting mud and worms. We’re also going to have the ship open to the public for free tours tomorrow and Saturday at Riverbank State Park in Manhattan from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Our scientists will be on hand to show you the equipment used this week and tell you about all of EPA’s work to study and protect the ocean. And if you have a group of 10 or more people, you can reserve a time for a tour—just send me an e-mail at See you on deck!

Below is a video from the ship as the sediment profile imager camera is deployed. You may need to install QuickTime in order to view the clip.