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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Clinton boost for ocean research
coral reefs
Very old coral forests off California will be studied
US President Bill Clinton has announced a new oceans exploration initiative to study the bottom of the waters off the California, New York and Florida coasts.



We must continue to try to conquer the seemingly impossible

US President Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton announced the "new era of ocean exploration", in which research into oceans will be improved, at a White House Millennium Council event.

Among the items to be studied are 250-year-old giant worms, an underwater mountain and old coral forests.

"We must continue as a nation to set out for new frontiers, whether under the sea or into the heavens," Mr Clinton said.

"We must continue to try to conquer the seemingly impossible - to discover the unimaginable, to find out more about what's out there, and in the process, about ourselves and what's here."



What remains to be explored could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth

US President Bill Clinton
More than 95% of the underwater world remains unknown and unseen, Mr Clinton said.

"And what remains to be explored could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, to links to our maritime history, to cures for diseases."

Mr Clinton has also directed the US Department of Commerce to organise a panel of leading ocean explorers and scientists to formulate recommendations for a national oceans exploration strategy.

The department is to report back to the president within 120 days.

The exploration work will be led National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration together with marine institutions and universities.

Oldest life forms

The researchers will look at some of the oldest life forms on the planet in the waters off the Florida coast.

Far from the reach of sunlight are giant worms and mussel beds while thick mats of bacteria thrive from chemicals exuding from the seafloor.


Coral life
About 95% of the underwater world remains unknown and unseen
The Hudson River Canyon, 160km (100 miles) north of New York City, will also be explored.

Previous research has revealed many economically and ecologically valuable species in the waters.

Researchers will also look at the 48km- (30 mile-) long Davidson Seamount off the coast of Monterey, California.

Its rock surfaces contain unusual sea animals, including dense sponges and old coral forests.

Geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who has made 14 ocean expeditions, called for more funding into ocean studies, saying the US Government gave 10 times as much funding for its space programme.

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Grim future for reefs
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