What creatures live on the sea floor
Exploring the depth
Modern "diving heroes" made of steel
The time of the manned submersibles seems to be drawing to a close. The future belongs to unmanned, remote-controlled diving boats or diving robots. In this way, deep-sea researchers can safely stay on the surface, but still receive valuable data.
Unmanned submersibles, such as the Japanese "Kaiko" or the German "Quest", can dive down to miles. Connected via fiber optic cables, they explore the strange world of the deep sea, remote-controlled by the scientists on the mother ship.
The advantages: Unmanned robots are more flexible, cheaper and sometimes dive for 50 hours at a time. The latest generation of submersible boats are so-called AUVs, "Autonomous Underwater Vehicles" - another revolution in diving boats. They are programmed with their mission and then go on a tour of discovery on their own. They can be on the road and carry out their orders for up to two and a half days.
Driven by fuel cells, their area of application extends down to a depth of 4000 meters. There they inspect gas pipelines, for example, or deploy measuring sensors and other research equipment.
World record goes to Kaiko
"Kaiko" is a remote-controlled Japanese research submersible and holds the depth record for unmanned submersibles. In 1995 it slid in the Mariana Trench into Vitja Depth I, at 11,034 meters the deepest known point in the oceans. There the submersible took samples from the seabed and brought them back to the mother ship.
Quest - Deep diving robots in German service
The German deep diving robot "Quest" is on the way on behalf of several institutes. During the first test in 2003, it reached a depth of around 4,000 meters in the Atlantic. Quest is equipped with up to 16 cameras, two gripper arms and plenty of space for scientific equipment.
Since the robot weighs only three tons, it can be used on various research vessels without having to be converted. Its most important tasks are reconnaissance trips, taking samples and maintaining sensors that collect data at the bottom of the sea.
Alvin - legend of the diving boats
Of the manned submersibles, "Alvin" is particularly famous. "Alvin" looks back on an eventful life: it was built in 1964 and two years later it had a spectacular mission: 20 kilometers off the Spanish coast, it was found by a hydrogen bomb that the US military had lost in the Atlantic.
In 1968 "Alvin" sank to the bottom of the Atlantic after an accident, but was lifted again a year later. It should be worth it: In 1977 marine researcher Dr. Robert Ballard in "Alvin" off the Galapagos Islands.
What he discovered down there at a depth of over 2000 meters was sensational: a deep-sea community of bacteria, worms, crabs and many other organisms near hot springs, the so-called "black smokers".
The next highlight followed in 1986 when the underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard dived with "Alvin" to the wreck of the luxury liner "Titanic". From his deep-sea submersible, Ballard directed a remote-controlled camera into the captain's cabin. Hollywood director James Cameron also dived to the Titanic with "Alvin" in 1995 to prepare for his film of the same name.
The submersible is always technically overhauled and has become a legend itself: "Alvin" is now over 40 years old, has completed more than 4000 dives - and is still diving.
Research off Japan's east coast
The "Shinkai 6500" is a manned submersible of the Japanese deep-sea research fleet. It was launched in 1988 and dived with the crew to a depth of 6500 meters.
The research focus of the Japanese diving robots is the deep sea directly off Japan's east coast. Nowhere on our planet does the earth shake more often: volcanic eruptions, sea and earthquakes and the tsunamis that often come with them are almost part of everyday life in Japan. There is a lot of work here for dive boats.
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