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By Aaron Gouveia
February 28, 2010WOODS HOLE — Several scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were on research boats off the coast of Chile during yesterday’s earthquake and after shocks.

The 60 WHOI personnel on the research vessel Atlantis were 200 miles west of Arica, Chile, when the 8.8-magnitude quake hit early yesterday morning, said Al Suchy, director of ship operations at WHOI. No one associated with WHOI was injured by the quake and the ship did not experience any tsunami-related trouble, he said.

“Because of the distance, they were pretty well protected at that point,” Suchy said of the Atlantis crew. “Being on the water is actually the best place to be for something like that.”

The ship is on a biological sampling voyage, Suchy said, and has been on the water since leaving Iquique, Chile, on Jan. 29.

The Atlantis is scheduled to head back to port in Arica, Chile, on Wednesday, but Suchy said the damage in the port city may be too severe for the ship to dock.

Suchy has not yet been able to get in touch with WHOI’s contacts in Arica and said he may have to redirect the ship to another port, possibly as far away as Panama.

Also off the coast of Chile are five other WHOI researchers on the research vessel Melville — owned by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California — for a 24-day mission to examine the Chile Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates intersect.

Suchy said he has limited responsibility for the Melville voyage, but added he received an e-mail yesterday from the Melville crew reporting no injuries or problems resulting from the earthquake.

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