A shipwreck, ancient lost technology, and a high tech journey to the bottom of the ocean: Sounds like the set-up for a James Cameron film.
Like an underwater Iron Man, a diver will fly around the wreck of an ancient Greek ship later this year, looking to shed light on the Antikythera mechanism
THE world’s most advanced robotic diving suit is getting ready to help search for one of the world’s oldest computers.
Called Exosuit, the suit has a rigid metal humanoid form with Iron Man-like thrusters that enable divers to operate safely down to depths of 300 metres (see photo).
Though designed for diving in the bowels of New York City’s water treatment plants, earlier this month it underwent its first trials in seawater at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. The tests are readying the suit for a daring attempt to excavate an ancient Roman shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea. A century ago, divers pulled the world’s oldest computer – the Antikythera mechanism – from the wreck. They are hoping that they will find a second device when they go down in September.
Marine archaeologists normally wear scuba gear to explore underwater sites in person, but the time that divers can spend at depth is limited by the dangers of decompression sickness, or the bends. For deep wrecks, researchers rely on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) carrying cameras and sonar to scan an area, or large and expensive craft like the Alvin submarine that explored the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.
The $1.5 million Exosuit falls somewhere in between. “It’s basically a wearable submarine,” says Phil Short, a diving specialist on the planned mission to Antikythera. “The pressure inside is no different from being in a submarine or in fresh air. We can go straight to the bottom, spend 5 hours there and come straight back to the surface with no decompression.”
The suit is made from an aluminium alloy, with articulated joints that permit divers to move their arms and legs freely. An umbilical cable from a ship supplies it with power for horizontal and vertical thrusters, and a rebreather that scrubs toxic carbon dioxide from exhaled air, giving 50 hours of life support. The cable also carries voice, video and data links. In the event of an emergency, a battery can power everything but the thrusters, including a back-up communication system.
Latest posts by Matt Staggs (see all)
- A Changing Of The Guard: Meet Your New Site Editor - Jul 6, 2014
- Thirty Patients Contract TB After Visits To Acupuncture Clinic - Jul 1, 2014
- Drunk Midwesterners Make Up the Majority Of UFO Witnesses - Jul 1, 2014