Nereus, the unmanned robot, reached the deepest depths of the oceans, collecting samples and video that had never been possible before.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of WHOI
The Abyss: Deepest Part of the Oceans No Longer Hidden
News story originally written on June 2, 2009
A new remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called Nereus has dived 10,902 meters, the deepest dive to date. The robot spent about 10 hours in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean and the boundary between two tectonic plates
, Pacific Plate and the Mariana Plate. It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire
, a narrow area roughly 25,000 miles long where most of the world's volcanic eruptions
occur. At 11,000 meters, it is about the same distance as an airplane flies.
To reach the trench, Nereus dove nearly twice as deep as research submarines are capable of, and had to withstand pressures 1,000 times that at Earth's surface. While on the bottom, Nereus sent live video back to the ship through its tether and collected biological and geological samples with its robotic arm. It also placed a marker on the seafloor signed by those onboard the surface ship.
Nereus is named after a mythical Greek god with a fish-tail and a man's torso. The robot is unmanned and controlled by pilots in a ship above through a tether or cord about the thickness of a human hair, made of glass fiber with a plastic covering. Nereus is about 14 feet by 8 feet and weighs nearly 3 tons. It is powered by more than 4,000 lithium-ion batteries. They are similar to those used in laptop computers and cell phones, but have been carefully tested to make sure they will work correctly under the immense pressure of the depths.
Nereus allows scientists to discover areas under the sea that before were impossible. Many of these areas are new frontiers where much can be discovered about Earth and plate collisions.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
The main force that shapes our planet's surface over long amounts of time is the movement of Earth's outer layer by the process of plate tectonics. This picture shows how the rigid outer layer of the Earth,...more
The expression "on solid ground" is often used to describe something as stable. Usually the solid ground underfoot seems very stable. But sometimes it is not. "The ground seemed to twist under us like...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more
Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults, causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults in a new way to figure out why. In theory,...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like for each year of a tree's life, which means they can tell us about climates of the past and about...more