We had a chat with Eric Wartenweiler Smith about his passion for the sea and exploration and the many exciting jobs and tasks he has worked on from excavation of sunken Egyptian cities to finding and disposing of underwater bombs.
What is your work and what do you do?
I am a Sailor and Diver and my passion is to share the excitement of exploration on the sea.
Depending on the circumstances, my job description can be as diverse as Research Vessel Captain, Scientific Diver, or Scientific field Technician. But no matter how exciting the project, sharing the story about the adventure and exploration aspects is always the best part.
I have been part of the team of world renowned Underwater Archaeologist Franck Goddio since 1996, and this alone has allowed me to travel and see some of the most remarkable aspects of nature and human history. I started answering questions from students while on site in Alexandria Egypt, and ended up starting a blog about it, but the subjects expanded to include the origins of human exploration, especially on the sea, and also where this inherent drive to find the unknown will take us in the future.
Please tell us about some of your previous expeditions, adventures and discoveries.
Although I appreciate the concept of travel for travels sake, I am much more satisfied when I travel in pursuit of a goal, and perhaps with a bit of a mystery involved. I love to be on a voyage of discovery.
I have been involved in projects as diverse as Diving into Volcano crater lakes, finding evidence from historical crimes, tagging critters and looking for shipwrecks.
One job that I had that had nothing to do with science at all was as a team manager for an Japanese/American entry in the Paris-Dakar Rally. I jumped directly from the heat of the Sahara into sailing with a friend through the Galapagos and French Polynesia. That was a fabulous voyage.
What fascinate you about the sea and archaeology?
A lot of land archaeology sites have been damaged or changed by the history that continued on top of them over the years. On the other hand, many underwater sites disappeared in cataclysmic events that caused them to sink, and therefore almost seem to be are almost frozen in time from the perspective of human interaction. You can often know that you are the first human to have seen these items since the day they disappeared off the face of the earth. And who doesn’t like to be under the sea?
What do you consider to be your most important task, and why?
The most important and difficult project I could ever hope to be involved in is the work of locating and ridding the earth of unexploded bombs, mines and munitions that continue to kill and maim innocent people and pollute on a daily basis.
Working with the sophisticated new technology of Aqua Survey, Inc. to find and identify dangerous bombs is very important for me, and I hope to take this technology to places it is badly needed. Unfortunately this work is like a Sisyphean task, as many countries continue to dispose of bombs in the sea and mine the land with explosives much faster and with greater ease than they can ever be recovered.
What are your plans for the near future?
My plans for this summer include:
Going to Laos to try to remove some of those bombs that haunt that nation like a nightmare that won’t end. To be involved with the Planetary Lake Lander, a test vehicle for programs and technology relevant to future exploration of the methane seas of Titan (that means a research vessel… in Space. How cool is that?). And of course to return to Egypt in June to continue excavation on sunken Egyptian Cities as part of Franck Goddio’s Team.
What is your ultimate dream relating to travel and exploration and why?
My dream is to create a large research station island comprising aquaculture, research projects, housing for students and scientists, a lagoon, and even a farm and navigate it through troubled oceanic zones to help resolve issues like plastic pollution and oxygen depletion.
This project would be open source and in collaboration with programs like The International Ocean Station.