A British robotic submarine, Isis, has a very busy schedule these days. Last January, it was taking a 3-week Antarctic dive. In May, it was exploring a giant canyon just off the coast of Portugal. Its next mission will be the exploration of the Whittard Canyon, another deep submarine valley, this time off the coast of Ireland. This deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) looks like a van. It is 2.7 meters long, 2 meters high and 1.5 meters wide, it weighs 3,000kg and can dive down to 6,500 meters. But this van has enough equipment to take high-quality videos of sharks appearing at an unusual depth of 3,600 meters...
Above is a picture of the Isis robotic submarine (Credit: National Oceanography Centre, Southampton). As you can see, it's not built for speed. Instead, it has "lights, cameras to produce high-quality video and still pictures, sonars for acoustic navigation and imaging, and two remotely controlled manipulator arms to collect samples or place scientific instruments on the sea-bed."
This robotic submarine has been developed by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Southampton, in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the U.S.
And because it was built to withstand enormous pressure, it was able to discover the effects of climate change in the ocean remote ecosystems. "We've seen signs of change at the surface and in other parts of the deep ocean at 5,000m; so we need to see what's changing here. There is nowhere on the planet that is immune from climate change," said Professor Paul Tyler, a marine biologist.
For more details about the previous trip of Isis in the Antarctic, you can read a previous article from BBC News, "Robot heading for Antarctic dive" (by Rebecca Morelle, December 28, 2006) or what the NOC wrote after the mission the successful mission.
And if you want to look at more images about this robotic submarine, here is a selection of sites where you'll be able to get more information.
Sources: David Shukman, BBC News, June 19, 2007; and various websites
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