Jun 13, 2008
NEPTUNE Canada's newest supertool arrived from Germany this month. The world's first “Internet-operated deep sea crawler,” created by a team of ocean scientists at Bremen's Jacobs University, will help researchers measure conditions such as temperature, salinity, methane content and sediment characteristics at the seafloor.
The crawler “crawls” on dual tractor treads, which allow a full range of forward, backward and turning movement. Including its titanium frame, drive motors, sealed electronics chambers, wiring, lights, HD video camera, and sensors, the unit's out-of-water weight is 275 kg. With syntactic foam floatation blocks attached, this is reduced to an in-water weight of 40 kg. One unique feature is its control interface, which plugs directly into the Web. You'll be able to tune in to a live sea floor crawl on the NEPTUNE website.
For testing, the crawler will be deployed by ROPOS, the remotely operated sub that will be key in NEPTUNE's installation and operations. A power and communications umbilical cord will connect the two as the crawler explores areas of interest. A platform affixed to ROPOS will serve as the crawler's transport deck as the sub travels between ship and sea floor. Once permanently deployed next year, the crawler will be plugged into a NEPTUNE Canada junction box in Barkley Canyon.
Hannes Wagner, geosciences PhD candidate at Jacobs University , was involved in the crawler's development, testing, and assembly. He also has the enviable task of shepherding the crawler on its trip to Canada and maiden crawl. Hannes and his colleagues will use data gathered by the crawler to study methane flux variations and gas hydrate dynamics at the Barkley Canyon hydrate outcrops.