Bill Lange was aboard Knorr in 1985 when the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research vessel brought back the first grainy black-and-white images of Titanic resting on the seafloor. Ever since, Lange has made it his quest to push the boundaries of imaging technology, engineering one-of-a-kind camera systems and operating them in the deepest and most extreme parts of the world’s oceans.
Lange, who directs the Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory at WHOI, has returned to the Titanic site several times. He played a major role in a 2010 expedition that yielded new, richly detailed views of the ship and wreck site that were published in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking.
The original Navy-funded expeditions in 1985 and 1986 used Titanic as a target to test pioneering deep-sea technology. Were camera systems on the list?
Bob Ballard and a few of us had dreams of bringing color video back from the deep, but camera systems to do that didn’t exist at the time. Designing a deep-sea camera system is a lot more than just taking a camera off the shelf and putting it in a pressure-resistant tube. There’s a lot of engineering that goes into making these cameras work efficiently at depths of more than 13,000 feet, withstand pressures of 10,000 pounds per square inch and a range of temperatures from 100°F on deck to near freezing on the seafloor; operate on really low power; and produce high-optical-resolution images in very low light levels. There really isn’t a big market for camera systems like that, so it’s not economical for a commercial vendor to build one.
As it turned out, Titanic has been a great driver for advancing our imaging, lighting, and other technologies in the deep sea. The constant desire of people to know more about Titanic has provided funding and resources to go back to Titanic over the years. It helped drive our desire to keep bringing technology to the next level and improving the imaging capabilities for the scientists and the public.
Since 1994, we have used The Autonomous Benthic Explorer, ABE, for scientific exploration of the Mid-Ocean Ridge and seamounts. ABE has been used on 19 cruises around the world with dives covering over 3600 km of tracklines at an average depth of more than 2000 meters. Notable accomplishments for ABE include the first use of AUVs for seafloor magnetics, the first AUV near bottom bathymetric survey of the Mid-Ocean Ridge, the first systematic discoveries of hydrothermal vent sites by an AUV (Eastern Lau Spreading Center), and the first discoveries of active hydrothermal vent sites by any method on the Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Southwest Indian Ridge. Other notable surveys include bathymetric surveys of the Lost City hydrothermal site on the Atlantis Massif and the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, photo surveys for deep corals on the New England Seamounts and seamounts off Tasmania, and a bathymetric and magnetic survey of Brothers volcano, a seamount on the Kermadec Arc north of New Zealand. In most of these operations, we worked closely with other complementary systems such as the human-occupied submersible Alvin, Jason ROV, the Canadian Ropos ROV, the German Marum and Geomar ROVs, the WHOI Tow Cam, the DSL-120 towed sidescan, tow sleds from China, and the UK Tobi system [Yoerger 2007].More
This paper reports an overview of the new Nereus hybrid underwater vehicle and summarizes the vehicle’s performance during its first sea trials in November 2007. Nereus is a novel operational underwater vehicle designed to perform scientific survey and sampling to the full depth of the ocean of 11,000 meters — almost twice the depth of any present-day operational vehicle. Nereus operates in two different modes. For broad area survey, the vehicle can operate untethered as an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) capable of exploring and mapping the sea floor with sonars and cameras. For close up imaging and sampling, Nereus can be converted at sea to operate as a tethered remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This paper reports the overall vehicle design and design elements including
ceramic pressure housings and flotation spheres; manipulator and sampling system; light fiber optic tether; lighting and imaging; power and propulsion; navigation; vehicle dynamics and control; and acoustic communications.
Andrew D. Bowen, Dana R. Yoerger, Chris Taylor, Robert McCabe, Jonathan Howland,
Daniel Gomez-Ibanez, James C. Kinsey, Matthew Heintz, Glenn McDonald, Donald B. Peters1
Barbara Fletcher, Chris Young, James Buescher2
Louis L. Whitcomb, Stephen C. Martin, Sarah E. Webster, Michael V. Jakuba1,3
The Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) is a vehicle that will perform scientific survey of the seafloor over an extended period of time without a support vessel. The vehicle has been designed to complement the existing manned submersible and remotely operated vehicle systems available to the scientific community, A primary application of ABE will be repeated surveys of hydrothermal vent areas at depths of 4000 meters. Specifically, ABE will be able to provide data concerning the longterm variability of hydrothermal vents, a task that existing assets cannot accomplish. This paper discusses the motivation for ABE, outlines the specifications and basic design approach,and describes critical technical problems. Initial and future ABE mission scenarios are also discussed.More