Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Interviews: Multibeam Trainer and Advisor Uta Peckman
Uta Peckman instructs watchstanders on how to monitor the multibeam system.
What got you started in oceanography?
Im an outdoor person. I love traveling, snow skiing, or water skiing,
being on a train, riding my bike or flying to some far-off place. Being at
sea brought that out. I was studying political science at San Diego State
University. A friend of mine had a professor at Scripps who needed a lab
assistant to help measure the temperature gradients of the Earth. It was
intended to be a part-time job, but then my boss had enough confidence in
my abilities to send me out to sea. We used a thermometer to measure the
heat of the Earth beneath the sediments. Here I was 21, and I traveled from
San Diego to Hawaii and then Hawaii to Japan. The whole cruise lasted for
two months. The trip went so well, when I returned I was offered a full
|Once the multibeam has collected data, Uta is in charge of processing the data and creating bathymetric maps of the areas we have surveyed.
Were there other women on board the ship?
That was in 1968, and there were only two other women on the first
leg of the cruise from San Diego to Hawaii. On the second leg from Hawaii
to Japan I was the only woman.
In those days, the crew was mostly older ex-Navy men, who had fought in
World War II. They werent quite used to the idea of having females on
board the ship and some even thought it was bad luck.
When did you first start teaching the sonar processing software to others?
When I was 24, I went to Cambridge, England, for three months to teach
other scientists how to process the data from a single beam sonar. Back
then, we didnt have multibeam sonar like we have on Revelle. It was
flattering to have that kind of responsibility. I lived in a house with
other women my age who were going to graduate school, and there I was
already working. On weekends, I would take the train into London and go
shopping and see plays.
What is your goal for this expedition?
The sonar software is always changing and Ive grown up with the
different processing systems. On this cruise Im writing a tutorial on
multibeam analysis so others can understand how to do it. If you know how
to process data, you can pay better attention to how sonar data are
acquired; what is real information and what is an artifact; and how to make
the best images for scientific presentations.
|Here Uta collects one of the bathymetric maps she has created as it emerges from the printer. Combining the bathymetric maps with MR1 sidescan sonar maps is an ideal way to both image seafloor structures and measure the absolute relief of the terrain.
Where have your expeditions taken you?
Ive been on 30 research cruises in my career. Each year Im at sea
for about one to three months. I fly out to meet the ship and fly home, and
at either end I travel to different countries. I have traveled to South
Africa, Nairobi, Brazil, Greece, Japan, Chile, Easter Island and throughout
Europe. Thats why I dont have any kids, too busy. Ive been married now
five years on Sept. 28.
What did your family think of you becoming a scientist?
My dad was ecstatic I ended up in this field. He had four daughters
and no son. Im the second eldest. He was an aerodynamics scientist and
worked on rockets and the space shuttle. He would always say he worked in
outer space and I worked in inner space. Its true we even work on similar
measurements. He studied light waves going through the atmosphere and I
study sound waves going through the ocean.
What was the scariest trip for you?
I was at sea with Gene Pillard and Jack Healy on a trip near Guam when
Typhoon Yuri hit. When the waves smashed into the portholes it was like
looking at the inside of a washing machine. We had been dodging it for
almost a week when we had to abandon the science, close all the portholes
and high-tail it to port. It took three days to get back to Guam and in the
meantime we were not allowed to go outside. I sat in the Captains chair on
the Bridge and it was like riding a wild horse. I could see the bow pitch
in a wave and the spray was so high it slammed the windows in the Bridge.
One night, I was so scared I slept with my life jacket on. Every time we
rolled into a wave I wondered if we were going to pop up. One of the waves
popped the porthole in the main lab and got water all over the computer
equipment at one work-station.
Uta and Mark Kurz discuss the multibeam data processing.
What was your most challenging experience?
When the mulitbeam sonar system technology was brand new, not many
people were as familiar with it as I was. On one cruise, I was working with
a scientist who was using older maps. We went over an area of seafloor
where he expected to see a feature and when I made the new map and handed
it to him, he became angry because the feature wasnt where he expected it.
He didnt think my map was accurate. I went very carefully over all the
data one more time and then said if he gave me the latitude and longitude
of where he wanted the feature, I could put it there. I could move
mountains for you if you want me to, I said. That made everyone laugh and
he realized the old maps might not be as accurate as he thought.
What do you think is the most exciting part of your work?
I work on the ocean either on a ship or near the Scripps pier in La
Jolla. I have the option to travel. And my passion for learning never
quits. Im around people who are full of ideas. You dont get rich, but
youre having fun. I cant even imagine wearing a three-piece suit, high
heels and carrying a briefcase or sitting in an office building downtown.
At sea when we cross the equator Im the Queen. I wasnt always Queen. I
had to earn my seat when I crossed the equator in the Indian Ocean. At the
end of this trip I will put on a costume that conveys being pulled out of
the deep ocean and sit next to King Neptune. Karen Harpp will be my Lady in
Waiting and all you pollywogs will have to be punished properly for all the
sins youve committed on this expedition.