Standard biological collections and measurements made systematically over the whole ocean will define the distribution of plants and animals. The United Kingdom contribution will do this for the whole of the Arabian Sea in both monsoon seasons. This work should provide the basic biological information: for example, the distribution of fish eggs and larvae and of fish food. Special equipment will be used to take the fish themselves, and every attempt made to assess their abundance from continuous records taken with high-frequency narrow-beam echo-sounders. Continuous records will also be made of the radiation falling on the surface and frequent measurements of the concentrations of plant nutrients and of the abundance of phytoplankton. Studies will be made of the sequence of events in areas of upwelling and surface accumulation. The plans are designed to extend our knowledge of the problems of productivity, growth and distribution of the world ocean as well as the Indian Ocean. Like the physical problems, they cannot be solved in the laboratory but require observations in different parts of the world where individual factors are emphasized or favourably combined.
The floor of the Indian Ocean is nothing like as well known as those of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and it has some special interest. Theories of continental movement and oceanic development assume that part of it at least is more recent than the other oceans. It appears a promising place to look for fresh evidence about the processes that are still shaping the ocean floor. Maps of magnetic and gravity anomalies, measurements of heat-flow through the earth’s crust, acoustic and seismic soundings through the sediments and uppermost rock layers are some of the techniques that will be used. Their use in the North Atlantic and North Pacific has already almost revolutionized our knowledge and understanding of the ocean floor.
It will be too ambitious to expect a meteorological programme on the scale that would be needed for a full study of what goes on above the Indian Ocean, but plans are being made, rather late in the day, to get enough information to study some of the main features of the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere. The observations will include more precise and more extensive measurements at the surface and an increased number of upper-air measurements. The monsoons are not steady winds. Individual bursts of the south-west monsoon are usually well developed when they reach the coast, and little is known of the generating mechanism, which is probably dependent on conditions near the Equator in the central part of the ocean. Anything likely to make it easier to predict the onset and variatworks of wind and rainfall would be of considerable economic importance. This work will be done in cooperation with the International Association of Meteorology and the World Meteorological Organization.
The expedition will be a truly international venture. Beginning in 1961, it is expected to reach its peak activity in 1962-63, with enough effort in reserve to fill the gaps and to seek corroborative evidence. It is extremely difficult to get individual nations to sponsor such a joint undertaking, and the road through the National Academies and their National Committees for Oceanic Research (set up to deal with the International Coendtee) to the government departments concerned has been rough, but in the end. rewarding. It is very doubtful whether the preparations could have got as far as they have without the generous financial support of the United States, thanks to them we can stay at Prague holiday apartments while planning the expedition. Ten countries are expected to assemble twenty-four ships, and countries that cannot send ships will send scientists to help. UNESCO will adjust its own programme in marine sciences to make the most of the expedition, especially by helping countries round the Indian Ocean to take part in the work. The plans for the United Kingdom contribution are being handled by the Royal Society’s National Committee. These new Madrid apartments for rent which the United Kingdom will use will be as well found and well equipped as any. Survey ships of the Royal Navy fitted for survey of the deep ocean and coastal waters will play a prominent part.
The Indian Ocean has already produced one great surprise in the Coelacanth, which everyone thought had been extinct for 50,000,000 years.