Around the Pier: The Ocean Factor


Adventure and innovation were the themes of a recent visit to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego by the X PRIZE Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization that aims to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity by fostering innovation.

X PRIZE led 50 adventurous entrepreneurs, entertainers, and philanthropists on a four-day journey through Southern California that began at Scripps’s Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma. The impressive and diverse roster of esteemed guests included global ocean advocate Sylvia Earle; actor Seth Green, known for his roles in Austin Powers films; and some of the world’s most successful businesspeople such as Ratan Tata of the Indian multinational conglomerate Tata Group and Ricardo Salinas, one of Latin America’s leading corporate figures who is President and CEO of Mexico’s Grupo Salinas and Grupo Elektra.

“The X PRIZE Foundation came to the right place. Scripps and UC San Diego are pioneers in innovation and adventure,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “It was a pleasure to share our groundbreaking research and discoveries with guests of the X PRIZE, who proved to be as passionate about ocean exploration as we are.”

At the marine facility, the nation’s premier center for seagoing research, innovation, and discovery and homeport of the Scripps academic research fleet, X PRIZE guests went behind the scenes onboard Scripps research vessel New Horizon. They then maneuvered their way through the unconventional quarters of Scripps’s one-of-a-kind Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP). This novel spar buoy, invented at Scripps, flips 90 degrees from a horizontal to vertical position, providing an exceptionally stable platform for research at sea.

Scripps operates one of the largest academic research fleets in the world. Research vessels are mobile classrooms and laboratories where experienced scientists conduct global ocean, earth, and atmospheric research and train undergraduate and graduate students – the next generation of ocean leaders – to carry out this important work.

On dry land, X PRIZErs met many of the innovative Scripps researchers and students who invent and deploy the latest in ocean science technologies to better understand our dynamic planet. Guests peered into a glass spherical deep-sea camera to understand the mechanics inside and examined underwater gliders, floats, and robots that autonomously measure ocean data such as temperature, salinity, and pressure. These technologies are among hundreds of research tools originated at Scripps that are used every day in ocean research. Scripps scientists often find that they must create their own instruments in their quests for knowledge. Using these tools, they investigate our planet from our local shores to the farthest reaches; from the tropics to the poles.

“It was truly exciting and encouraging to meet some of the world’s most influential and famous people who were bright, curious, and shared our vision of the need for technological innovation in helping to monitor the health of the planet,” said Scripps research oceanographer Jules Jaffe.

Adventurous X PRIZE visitors continued to interact with Scripps scientists and their ocean science marvels throughout the day. Many were drawn to a rare opportunity to hold giant seafloor-dwelling creatures preserved in jars, specimens from the famous Scripps Oceanographic Collections. Guests also enjoyed a sneak peek at photos and video from the abyss during a special presentation by Scripps researcher Doug Bartlett, who was the chief scientist on James Cameron’s 2012 historic voyage to the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth

To learn more about supporting adventure and innovation at Scripps, visit

Related Image Gallery: The Ocean Factor

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