This Deep Sea Robot Is Exploring The Mysteries of Our Oceans' Climate Activity
It has been said that scientists know more about the surface of the moon than the deep seafloor. Now, a new autonomous robotic rover from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), called Benthic Rover II, has been providing new knowledge on life at 13,100 feet (4,000 meters) beneath the surface of the ocean.
The rover has been exploring the role of the deep sea in cycling carbon.
"The success of this abyssal rover now permits long-term monitoring of the coupling between the water column and seafloor. Understanding these connected processes is critical to predicting the health and productivity of our planet engulfed in a changing climate,” said in a statement MBARI Senior Scientist Ken Smith.
What's so special about this rover? To fully understand Earth’s carbon cycle and climate, we need to understand the deep seas. However, thus far, obstacles like extreme pressure and the corrosive nature of seawater have made it nearly impossible to send equipment to the abyssal seafloor to examine its carbon activity.
That's all about to change now with Benthic Rover II providing continuous monitoring of the deep sea floors. Because of its continued activity, the rover is also likely to capture exciting never-before-seen events, says Electrical Engineering Group Lead Alana Sherman. “If you’re not watching all the time, you’re likely to miss the main action," he explained.
Benthic Rover II is quite an engineering marvel. It's made from corrosion-resistant titanium, plastic, and pressure-resistant syntactic foam, allowing it to withstand deployments up to about 19,700 feet (6,000 meters) deep. It's also equipped with a computer control system and software reliable enough to run for a year without crashing as well as electronics that consume very little power so that the batteries can last for a year.
Impressively enough, the rover, despite its substantial size, consumes an average of only two watts, about the same as an iPhone.