For a second year in a row, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is making waves at the annual TED conference in Vancouver—this time, with an immersive exhibit called Mission:Ocean.

This visually stunning installation represents a unique collaboration between WHOI, OceanX, and the BBC, supported and designed by the Avatar Alliance Foundation. These organizations share a dedication to our ocean world for its stunning beauty and the essential role it plays in sustaining the health of our planet and the wellbeing of people everywhere. Together, they are working to ignite a new conversation about our planet’s largest shared resource.

“This collaboration is coming together at TED2019 for the first time,” said Sam Harp, WHOI’s Vice President of Advancement and Chief Marketing Officer. “It brings together world leaders in ocean discovery, innovation, exploration, and storytelling. This is unprecedented, and it’s exactly the right mix needed to raise awareness and motivate action to sustain the ocean ecosystems we enjoy and depend upon for life and livelihood.”

2 TED IMG 6545 1200x1600This model of the iconic human occupied submersible Alvin is one of the displays in Mission:Ocean, an immersive installation at the TED2019. The exhibit is a collaboration between WHOI, OceanX, and the BBC, supported and designed by the Avatar Alliance Foundation. The real Alvin is operated by WHOI, for the oceanographic community and completed its 5,000th dive last year. (Photo by Sam Harp, WHOI)

The focal point of the Mission:Ocean exhibit is a larger-than-life video installation spread across five, 13-foot-tall screens. Featuring spectacular footage from the participating partners, as well as NOAA, NASA-JPL, and WHOI's Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory—in addition to thought-provoking text—the video takes viewers from the ocean surface, through the shadowy twilight zone, down to hydrothermal vents and the deepest ocean trenches. From there, viewers are swept up and away to the outer reaches of the solar system, where WHOI and NASA are collaborating on deep-ocean exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life in the oceans of other worlds.

Complementing the video are a number of additional displays giving an insider’s view of ocean research and discovery. Among them are SharkCam, WHOI’s autonomous underwater robotic tracking and imaging system that gives scientists a shark’s eye view of ocean life, and a piece of an actual hydrothermal vent, collected 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) down on the ocean floor by WHOI scientists aboard the iconic human-occupied vehicle Alvin.

The Mission:Ocean exhibit builds on WHOI’s appearance last year on the TED stage. Speaking at the TED2018, WHOI biologist Heidi Sosik told a global audience about WHOI’s Ocean Twilight Zone project, a mission to explore and understand a critical but little-known region of the ocean. WHOI was among seven visionary entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations to be recognized by The Audacious Project, which surfaces and funds critical ideas that have the potential to impact millions of lives. The $35 million award was the largest philanthropic gift in WHOI’s history.

“We are excited to be part of TED2019,” said WHOI Board Chair David Scully, “with our partners OceanX, the Avatar Alliance Foundation, and the BBC. We are at the dawn of a new age of discovery driven by our relentless pursuit of knowledge and advances in technology that are leading to unprecedented insights and ultimately, real world impacts on the big wicked problems we face as a society. We hope this collaboration will help focus world attention on the ocean and the amazing role it plays in sustaining life on our planet.”

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