Nereus, the unmanned robot, reached the deepest depths of the oceans, collecting samples and video that had never been possible before.
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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 and earthquakes 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.

Last modified August 25, 2009 by Jennifer Bergman.

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