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Monday, December 05, 2005

shedding light on watery dark

That's the title of this story by Julie Rehmeyer which appeared about a week ago in the Monterey Herald. This is a very cool idea and I wish the MBARI loads of success.
The Internet is spreading to the unlikeliest of places -- the bottom of Monterey Bay.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute will start laying a cable early next year to provide power and Internet connections 3,000 feet below sea level. The cable, the first of its kind in North America, will be used to power robots that will monitor the deep sea. Researchers hope MARS will make the deep sea far more accessible, allowing insights into everything from submarine landslides to mysterious deep-sea creatures, as well as providing a testing ground for deep-sea instruments that will someday be used on even larger projects.
Like space travel, these researchers realize the advantages of unmanned missions:
Because scientists simply can't afford to stay at sea all the time, they miss many events they'd like to see. This is one reason why MARS is so valuable.

"If you have to plan on luck to be there at the right time, it's going to take you forever to understand the ocean," said Marcia McNutt, principal investigator of MARS and director of MBARI.
Contrast that to the efforts of one Graham Hawkes, who is desperately attempting to build a manned craft that will take him all the way to the bottom, as discussed in this article from the Nov. 28 Mercury News.
...Hawkes-designed submersibles have been used in National Geographic specials and in films, including James Cameron's latest 3-D IMAX film, ``Aliens of the Deep.'' In the James Bond film, ``For Your Eyes Only,'' he played the character Mantis Man, piloting one of his submersibles. In his spare time, he's run a shipwreck recovery business and, in a 1991 search of the Bermuda Triangle, caused more than a minor stir when 10 miles off Fort Lauderdale he thought he found underwater remnants of Flight 19, the squadron of Navy Avenger aircraft that mysteriously disappeared in 1945. The find was inconclusive.

By designing cheaper, faster underwater craft, Hawkes is trying to prove that getting to the bottom of the sea could be just as feasible as getting to space, or at least the space station. It remains a tough sell.
As it should; why send people down there (or onto the space station) when unmanned craft are much cheaper and stay a heck of a lot longer?


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