There are two fanciful marine free enterprise adventures worthy of note. I’ve mostly been involved with research and development, and early in my career, a link to a private venture operation was deemed in academia to be unwise. Private universities long ago appreciated the value of partnerships with industry. Stanford University with its Silicon Valley, MIT’s University Park and the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina are such successful pursuits. In many ways, PICHTR was created to initiate something similar. Several activities were spun off, and the Manoa Innovation Park could have expanded into a more elaborate support center. However, the critical mass of high tech activity was absent in Hawaii.
This ivory tower attitude of state universities has crumbled over the past few years, but as early as the mid’80’s, I tailored the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute to work as closely as possible with companies, and founded the Fellows in Renewable Energy Engineering Program with funds from ARCO, Hawaiian Electric Company and a wide variety of industrial contributors. Now, campuses are the keys to economic development. Thus, it was well within my general philosophy to develop new enterprises, where some of the profits would go towards research.
The Great Treasure Hunt
The first enterprise occurred in the early to mid 1990’s when contacts in the Soviet Union suggested the use of their deep ocean capabilities to search for treasures. Their advantage was extremely low cost for the most advanced of ocean technology. I prepared a white paper entitled, “The Great Treasure Hunt,” inspired by Robert Ballard’s success with the Titanic.
The concept made eminent sense. I even went to Seville, Spain to search for documents hinting about most likely targets of opportunity. Well, actually, 1992 happened to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, and a world Expo was held in this city. I love going to expos, although I should underscore that the trip was paid for by European interests of things blue. I might mention that the week I spent there was a period when, it is said, half the sherry wine is drunk in Spain. This festival is the alcoholic equivalent of a Mardi Gras Sherry is like normal wine, except it is fortified with brandy, and is thus from 15% to 22% ethanol. There is something special about a hangover associated with this type of liquid. Wine generally has an alcohol content around 13% and beer is in the range of 5%.
The treasure hunt never went anywhere, possibly because I learned from a close colleague that a typical drinking session on a Russian ship was vodka and what must be lard, something very close to Crisco, a Proctor and Gamble product consisting of pure animal fat. However, these same marine capabilities still remain for anyone wishing to pursue this type of escapade.