With 2013 upon us, it’s a natural time to look back at OceanGate’s path over the past year, and to reflect on the successes and learning moments of our team, company, and community. We can sum up our focus in four areas: people, adaptability, competencies, and expansion. Throughout 2012, we added new faces to our team in core areas, we proved our adaptability through year-long operations in new environments, we refined our core competencies in innovative expeditions and discoveries, and with the acquisition of new assets, expanded our holdings to meet emerging commercial and scientific markets. As we look forward to 2013, we plan to continue focusing on the convergence of technology innovation and scientific discovery using manned submersibles in new applications for both scientific and commercial deep-sea programs.
OceanGate welcomed the addition of several new employees as part of the our effort to expand our sales and marketing efforts and to deliver additional services to the scientific and commercial community. Those team members included Chief Marketing Officer Colleen Hahn and Director of Science and Technology Erika Montague, PhD., along with a host of other staff who will continue to build our employee base on the East, West and Gulf Coasts.
Last January, OceanGate sent a team to Miami to take part in East Coast expeditions off the South Florida coast with the goal of establishing an expeditionary footprint on the East Coast. We developed a partnership with the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources to study artificial reefs off Key Biscayne, the largest such program in the U.S. Between March 29 and December 13, OceanGate team members conducted 19 dives on nine artificial reefs at an average depth of 278 feet, the deepest dive being to 800 feet. OceanGate crew members logged more than 3,400 man-hours on these dives, which carried 21 non-OceanGate personnel, including guest scientists and researchers, to the depths off Key Biscayne. Data collected from the dives, including HD video and photo as well as 2D and 3D sonar imagery, was donated to the county for research purposes.
A highlight of our research on the artificial reefs was the discovery, on June 29, of a WWII-era Marine fighter plane, which the US Navy subsequently identified as a Grumman F6F Hellcat, and which resulted in significant national media coverage for OceanGate. The site was revealed by both sonar technology and visual confirmation of crew members aboard our flagship, Antipodes. After the initial dive, the OceanGate team returned for additional observation and data collection on eight more missions, including a long-duration dive of eight hours. OceanGate donated our collection of photographs, videos, and technical scans of the Hellcat to the Naval History & Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., as a way to mark the 2012 Veterans Day holiday. The files will be used in the preservation of this federally protected site and in possible future research on the plane. OceanGate will continue to work with the Navy to assess the plane’s condition and to determine its provenance.
Another proud moment for our company came on September 5, when Explorers Club member Ross von Burg participated with OceanGate in a dive to an unexplored artificial reef site. OceanGate crew members and von Burg, carrying Explorers Club Flag #75, descended in Antipodes to a depth of 800 feet approximately 4.5 nautical miles off Virginia Key. The goal of the flag expedition was to gather data about unidentified objects which had been located by NOAA. Antipodes served as a platform for gathering video, photographs and sonar data in an effort to identify the objects and provide base-line measurements of flora and fauna on the site.
On September 15, OceanGate team members returned to their West Coast roots for a month-long expedition in Monterey, California. There, OceanGate was one of the sponsors of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Event. In conjunction with the event, OceanGate coordinated the Deep BLUE Initiative, an historic event requiring the delivery and staging of four manned submersibles, including Antipodes as well as subs operated by Virgin Oceanic, the Waitt Institute, and Hawkes Ocean Technologies.
Following BLUE, the OceanGate team and our submersible Antipodes remained in Monterey to provide expeditionary services to the OceanGate Foundation (now ExploreOcean), to afford students from California State University, Monterey Bay an opportunity to dive in Antipodes and test an underwater video camera system they’d developed. OceanGate was also able to test a 360-degree video camera system on loan from Google, which uses the camera in its Street View program. Other dive days involved a collaborative experience with Super Aviator operators John Lewis and Dave Harper, and a final dive with OceanGate’s newest board member and ocean advocate, David de Rothschild.
During the fall, OceanGate teamed with two organizations to support their charitable endeavors and to further our mission of opening the oceans. On September 29, OceanGate participated in the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s ninth annual auction in Greenwich, CT, donating a two-day submarine exploration mission on the edge of the Gulf Stream aboard our flagship Antipodes. To wrap up the year, Antipodes was again deployed, this time to Atlanta, GA, for the 2012 Captain Planet Foundation Benefit Gala, hosted by Ted Turner and Richard Branson, where OceanGate offered for auction a two-day citizen science adventure dive on the Miami-Dade artificial reef sites.
On November 14-16, OceanGate deployed Antipodes to Houston, TX, where the submersible was displayed at Teledyne’s 4th Annual Oil & Gas Day. Themed as “Focus on Innovation and Subsea Reliability,” Antipodes was “kitted out” with various oil and gas technology to showcase technology applications and usability. OceanGate’s long term relationship with BlueView (now Teledyne BlueView) has resulted in several whitepapers and a collection of sonar libraries of various targets.
OceanGate kicked off this year in New Orleans, where we participated at Underwater Intervention 2013, the combined annual conference of the Association of Diving Contractors International and the Marine Technology Society’s ROV Committee. Over the past 20 years, UI has grown into what is now considered the premier event bringing together operators of manned-submersibles and other underwater vessels with numerous commercial-diving contractors, as well as industry leaders in instruments and sensors, sonar and acoustics, ocean engineering, and marine salvage.
Because UI also was the site of the 10th annual Manned Underwater Vehicles program, it was the perfect venue for OceanGate to announce our acquisition of the three-person, diesel-electric submersible Lula from Portugal’s Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation. Lula, which can operate at a depth of 500 meters, was purchased to meet the increased demand for manned submersibles in commercial applications focused on biological and environmental surveys, monitoring, and inspection. This addition, coupled with the addition of new team members with experience in specific commercial sectors, will expand OceanGate’s ability to build relationships in high growth markets such as oil and gas. Lula will supplement OceanGate’s Antipodes submersible in performing survey, inspection, and monitoring work in the Gulf of Mexico while both submersibles continue to support our ongoing scientific and research goals.
All in all, 2012 was a great year for our company. Our focus on adding new people, demonstrating our adaptability, building our core competencies, and our expansion into a new phase of operations — led us to a place where 2013 promises to be even better. We proved through our expedition in Miami and our ongoing work on the West Coast to be a mobile and flexible provider of manned-submersible solutions in a variety of environments. Our expanded operations and marketing teams have gained valuable experience in working with a wide range of clients across the United States, and our acquisition of Lula marks our commitment to cost-effective alternatives for our commercial clients. In sum, OceanGate is prepared and positioned for work in new and exciting markets. We’re sure 2013 will be a year of continuing evolution that brings new opportunities for our company, and we are ready and excited to face them head on.
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