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MTS and SUT Establish The Inaugural Captain Don Walsh Award For Ocean Exploration

The award honors the legacy of Captain Don Walsh on the 60th anniversary of his record descent to the Mariana Trench.

The Marine Technology Society (MTS) and the Society of Underwater Technology (SUT) have established the Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration to recognize outstanding, sustained, international contributions to the development, application, and propagation of marine technology in the advancement of ocean exploration. The inception of this award coincides with the 60th anniversary of Walsh’s historic descent to the deepest point in the oceans in 1960.


“This award both pays tribute to an icon in our community and recognizes the importance of technology in advancing the wonders of ocean exploration. Don Walsh is a heroic model for the truest integration of intellectual curiosity, technological savvy, and environmental awareness,” said MTS President Rick Spinrad. “In creating this eponymous award MTS and the Society for Underwater Technology recognize the critical role played by technology in opening up whole new frontiers of exploration in the sea.”


Born on November 2, 1931 in Berkeley, California, Walsh has been involved in oceanography, exploration, and marine policy for more than fifty years. Upon graduation from the United States Naval Academy, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and spent 15 years at sea working aboard submarines. On January 23, 1960, Walsh, along with Swiss explorer Jacques Piccard, were the first to descend nearly 11,000 meters inside the bathyscaphe Trieste into the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in any of Earth’s oceans. This feat would not be replicated until 2012, more than 50 years later.


In creating Captain Don Walsh Award, MTS and SUT honor both Walsh’s incredible pioneering spirit, as well as his significant contributions to international ocean law and policy. He has served under two presidents on the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, was a member of the U.S. State Department Law of the Sea Advisory Committee, and previously held the office of both Vice President and Director of the Marine Technology Society.


“I grew up enthralled at the achievements of the pioneering explorers of the deep, like William Beebe, Auguste & Jacques Piccard – and of course there was Captain Don Walsh, right there, making the astonishing achievement of a human dive to the deepest known part of the Ocean not science fiction, but reality,” said SUT Chief Executive Steve Hall. “It inspired me into a career in ocean science & technology, and today as CEO of the Society for Underwater Technology, I am very happy to work with our friends at MTS to create this award in Captain Walsh’s honour.” 


Beginning in 1966, MTS has awarded deserving individuals and organizations in a number of categories, honoring engineers, scientists, technologists, policy-makers, educators, and students who make a significant impact on the profession or in their community. Each year they also recognize distinguished honorary members and bestow the prestigious Marine Technology Society Fellow designation on deserving professionals.


MTS and SUT members are invited to submit a nomination for the Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration online. The deadline for submissions is Monday, May 31, 2020 at 11:59 pm (EST).

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