About the Center
Renowned for more than 50 years of pioneering ocean research the world over, the scientists of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory also maintain a keen interest in their own backyard—the Hudson River and Estuary. In fact, one of the first major projects undertaken at Lamont involved using the newly created tools of seismology to survey the riverbed prior to construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge in the early 1950s. Since then, a steady stream of Columbia research has delved into a wide range of river issues—from sediment transport to PCB contamination to carbon and nutrient cycles to the myriad effects of global climate change.
Shallow water seismic team surveyed the support of Tappan Zee Bridge. Standing: Jack Oliver, Walter Beckmann, J. Lamar Worzel
Kneeling: Martin Cassidy; Charles Drake; Thomas Aldrich
Over the last 15 years in particular, the breadth and pace of Hudson River research at Columbia has accelerated in step with the ever-increasing development pressures born of an economic boom and a burgeoning population.
With no fewer than the six major research initiatives currently underway within the Hudson River watershed, Columbia is striving to create a knowledge base that will enable more effective long-term management of this vital natural resource.
Early Hudson River Research: The Building of the Tappan Zee Bridge
One of the first projects the scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory undertook was the seismic investigation of the river prior to the building of the Tappan Zee Bridge in the 1950s.
Employing methods that would soon be used throughout the world's oceans, Lamont scientist J. Lamar Worzel used dynamite to measure the thickness of the sediments in the Tappan Zee. The group also used a motorized torpedo retriever, a picket boat, and explosives from navy surplus stores.
Scientists determined that the sediments were 740 feet thick—thicker than found in the river crossings like the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. Much of the remote sensing was confirmed by later drill holes.
The thickness of sediments imaged by Lamont scientists is one of the reasons engineers decided to "float" the Tappan Zee in the sediments rather than anchoring it to the bedrock. Read more about the Tappan Zee Bridge