Austin-based company launches submarine in Lake Travis for ocean research

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Terradepth, an Austin-based company, wants to be the first to map out the entire ocean floor using a fleet of submarines. Their research is starting on Lake Travis.

On Thursday, the 3-year-old company launched an autonomous submarine in Lake Travis, which they say could help with future climate change research.

“Humans really know very little about the ocean today,” said Joe Wolfel, Terradepth co-founder. “It’s drastically unexplored.”

In a world where humans rely on the ocean for more than half of their oxygen intake, Wolfel says that’s an issue. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, less than 10% of the ocean is mapped using modern sonar technology.

“What you’re seeing in Austin right now is a tech explosion. What you’re seeing is a lot more autonomy,” said Wolfel.

Terradepth’s submarine in Lake Travis is measuring things like water chemistry, biology, soil composition and any object on the bottom using high-resolution sonar imagery.

“We have satellites constantly collecting data of the terrestrial earth, but we don’t have it constantly collecting data in the ocean,” said Judson Kauffman.

Co-founder Judson Kauffman says this widespread data can be used to better understand things like climate change, resource extraction and future weather predictions. Having more data like it can also help us make better-informed decisions about our planet.

“There’s a lot to be done on Earth before we write it off,” said Kauffman.

What they will find on Lake Travis remains to be seen.

“If it’s down there, then we should be able to find it,” said Wolfel.

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