June 2023 OES Beacon

Who’s who in the IEEE OES (June 2023)

Albert J. Williams 3rd

Fig. 1. Bronze Milestone plaque for the ALVIN human occupied submersible. Author holding the plaque.

I was elected to the OES AdCom in 2022 for a term 2023 to 2026.  Previously I have been OES VP Technical Activities, VP Conference Development, and VP Workshops and Symposiums.  And I was the OES leader of JOAB, the Joint Oceans Administrative Board but became term limited in each of these positions in 2018 and my election to AdCom has been a pleasant return to activity in the Oceanic Engineering Society that I have missed.

Fig. 3. Profile of temperature and salinity where the images of Fig. 2 were obtained.
Fig. 2. Salt finger shadowgraph images across the interface at 1265m depth in the Mediterranean outflow. Images are 2cm in diameter and spaced vertically as shown.

I started an OES Chapter in the Providence Section, Region 1, during this hiatus and serve on the ExCom of the Providence Section.  During my tenure there, I was able to obtain a Milestone for the Alvin human occupied submersible of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  The installation was October 21, 2022, in Woods Hole.  The Milestone bronze plaque is shown in Fig. 1.

I am Scientist Emeritus at WHOI in the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering department and have been a WHOI employee since 1969.  My research has been on ocean mixing and deep-sea sediment transport.  To study the former, I developed a high- resolution acoustic velocity sensor with which I measured velocity shear in the upper ocean to correlate to optical images (on 16mm movie film and later 8mm video tape).  I photographed salt fingers at 1265m depth beneath the Mediterranean outflow in the eastern Atlantic. This double-diffusive phenomenon had been hypothesized to be a mechanism where warm salty water could exchange heat more rapidly than salt with a deeper less salty and cooler layer by way of interpenetrating fingers in the temperate and tropical ocean.  Fig. 2 is a section of the salt-finger staircase outside the Strait of Gibraltar where warm, Mediterranean salty water overlies cooler, fresher Atlantic water.

Fig. 4. MAVS is now produced commercially by Nobska Development, Inc.

The velocity sensor later was used to study benthic boundary layer turbulence associated with bedforms at 4800m depth that developed during benthic storms several times a year off New England.  The measurements next extended to benthic stress measurements on the shelf at depths of 100m.  Mixing in Gulf Stream warm core rings and also off southern California were measured with a RiNo (Richardson number) Float.  Each of these subsequent endeavors required modification of the original BASS (Benthic Acoustic Stress Sensor). The most recent embodiment of the acoustic differential travel-time velocity sensor is MAVS (Modular Acoustic Velocity Sensor), shown in Fig. 4.

I became Scientist Emeritus in 2002 and am still employed at WHOI although my presence in my office has been rare during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I miss the person-to-person interaction that had been regular until 2020.  A partial remedy is a thrice weekly Zoom meeting I hold with my former colleagues from “Engineering Coffee.”  Better than nothing and I hope that more personal meetings will become common again soon.

Fig. 5. Shadowfax, a 1959 Dutch built 30′ sloop awaits pickup with fresh paint. The tree blooming in the foreground is Shadblow, a member of the cherry family.

Another consequence of the pandemic is the interruption of the travel that my wife, Izzie, and I have enjoyed, originally associated with our research cruises to distant ports and more recently associated with IEEE workshops, symposiums, and OCEANS Conferences.  We have enjoyed multiple trips to India associated first with the SYMPOL biennial symposium in Cochin, Kerala, and subsequently with preparations for OCEANS 2022 Cochin.  Sadly, the pandemic prevented our participation in that OCEANS Conference.  However, the lockdowns associated with the pandemic aided one endeavor of mine, the replacement of keel bolts in my wooden sailboat.  Our forced return from a trip to Borneo in March 2020, a trip that we had arranged when I still thought OCEANS 2020 Singapore would take place, aided the keel bolt replacement.  Quarantine during our return forced me to remain at home where I store Shadowfax, my boat, over the winter.  And this gave me the opportunity to continue the work of replacing the keel-bolts, a story that I reported in the OES Beacon (https://ieeeoes.org/category/oes-beacon/september-2020-oes-beacon/).

The introduction of my boat into this story is significant because childhood sailing stories are partly responsible for my career as an oceanographer/engineer.  Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” led me to construct an eight-foot pram sailing dingy at age 13 in an upstairs bedroom.  Without a good plan for getting the boat downstairs and out, it required dismantling parts to get it down the stairs.  But the construction was a valuable lesson in resilience.  I offer Fig.5, photographed the day before Shadowfax was picked up by the boat hauler f