June 4, 2009

New robotic marine vehicle dives 6.8 miles

A new deep-sea U.S. robotic vehicle called Nereus has become the world's deepest-diving vehicle and the first to explore the Mariana Trench since 1998.

The remotely-controlled vehicle developed at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute dived 6.8 miles May 31 in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

The Mariana Trench is the deepest known part of the ocean. Reaching such extreme depths represents the pinnacle of technical challenges and the team is very pleased Nereus has been successful in reaching the very bottom to return imagery and samples from such a hostile world, said Andy Bowen, the vehicle's principle developer.

WHOI Director Susan Avery said: With this engineering trial successfully behind us, we're eager for Nereus to become widely used to explore the most inaccessible reaches of the ocean. With no part of the deep seafloor beyond our reach, it's exciting to think of the discoveries that await.

Funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Russell Family Foundation and WHOI.