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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Loses Deep Sea Vehicle 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the davy-jones's-locker dept.
First time accepted submitter Mr D from 63 (3395377) writes in with news about a WHOI vehicle that has been feared lost. "On Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 2 p.m. local time (10 p.m. Friday EDT), the hybrid remotely operated vehicle Nereus was confirmed lost at 9,990 meters (6.2 miles) depth in the Kermadec Trench northeast of New Zealand. The unmanned vehicle was working as part of a mission to explore the ocean's hadal region from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 meters deep. Scientists say a portion of it likely imploded under pressure as great as 16,000 pounds per square inch."
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Loses Deep Sea Vehicle

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  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Monday May 12, 2014 @08:12AM (#46978371)
    Where do you last remember seeing it?
    • Did they look behind the fridge? If you lose something it's nearly always there.

    • by Ranbot (2648297)

      Some wild research students must have gone for a joy ride with the professor's submersible. Kids these days! Get off my oceanic trench!

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      In a hole in the bottom of the sea.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Monday May 12, 2014 @10:13AM (#46979377) Journal
      They should tie a string or some kind of high tech fiber made of glass or something onto it so they know where it is. Never lost my mittens after my mom strung them together with yarn.
    • I'm not buying you another one

      Especially since, apparently, they weren't playing with it nicely.

      It's not a fishing expedition, for f*ck's sake, it's an exploratory mission. "Probably" imploded? WTF? The damned thing is on a tether. If you pull up the tether, and it's not there (even if part of it imploded), then you didn't have your tether secured properly.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        IIRC, such an implosion is not unlike an explosive device going off -- it sends shock waves that shatter things, send shrapnel out, etc. It's likely that the tether that was close to the imploding vehicle was got cut up as well.

      • If you watch "Return to Midway", during one of the first dives, they have an implosion of some part on their ROV. The quote said it was similar in force to a stick of TNT going off at close range.

        A larger catastrophic implosion would naturally result in an even larger amount of damage.

        Plus, the ROV that was lost was only trailing a slim fiber optic cable for control signals, not for power, and definitely not strong enough to haul up a ton or two of metal off the ocean floor.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday May 12, 2014 @08:22AM (#46978441)

    They can look for the Deep Sea Vehicle and flight MH370 at the same time in that area. Very economical.

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      Wrong side of that little island down there called Australia...
      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        Wrong side of that little island down there called Australia...

        How do you know? Do you have some inside knowledge that everyone else doesn't?
        The fact that they haven't found the plane means that it's somewhat likely that they
        are searching in the wrong spot. It easily has the range to reach this spot so it's
        probably about as good as spot to look as the next as from what I gather they are
        basically throwing darts at a dartboard at this point.

        • by wagnerrp (1305589)

          Wrong side of that little island down there called Australia...

          It easily has the range to reach this spot

          Sure. Their fuel load was about 4000km shy of reaching the Kermadec Trench, but they could have easily made that up by playing some Queen over the PA system.

        • Wrong side of that little island down there called Australia...

          How do you know? Do you have some inside knowledge that everyone else doesn't? The fact that they haven't found the plane means that it's somewhat likely that they are searching in the wrong spot. It easily has the range to reach this spot so it's probably about as good as spot to look as the next as from what I gather they are basically throwing darts at a dartboard at this point.

          Didn't you know, MH370 landed on top of the mythical city of Atlantis.

    • First MH370 in the Indian Ocean, then this one off New Zealand. Clearly Godzilla is heading into the Pacific.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday May 12, 2014 @08:26AM (#46978479)

    Maybe it defected. Is the protocol officer still alive?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We get so used to successful operations of these things that we forget how dangerous and harsh the environment is down at that depth.

  • Perhaps Wood's hole can fund another?

  • Under Pressure [rapgenius.com]: Brings a building down / Splits a sub in two

  • Who in their right mind would make a deep sea research submarine out of wood, which has holes in it! I mean we are in the 21st century. We rarely make boats out of wood anymore, We defiantly don't make million dollar research devices out of wood, and if they did, they would use high quality wood, not ones with holes in it!

    • Who in their right mind would make a deep sea research submarine out of wood, which has holes in it! I mean we are in the 21st century. We rarely make boats out of wood anymore, We defiantly don't make million dollar research devices out of wood, and if they did, they would use high quality wood, not ones with holes in it!

      The holes are in it to keep the pressure equalized. Duh.

    • by JustOK (667959)
      Those holes were an early version of Windows. Every once in a while, you'd see a Blue Sea of Death.
  • by Sporkinum (655143) on Monday May 12, 2014 @08:59AM (#46978761)

    The article said it had an optical fiber tether. Nothing on how strong the tether was, but I am assuming it was like breaking a fishing line, so no way to retrieve a portion of the device. They did say that they found pieces floating on surface though.

  • It's aliens hiding out in the deep. They will bring the submersible back once they are done studying it.

  • They should have tied a string to it.
    • They should have tied a string to it.

      Yeah, nothing like a multi-ton submarine suddenly losing all its buoyancy to sink the mothership it's tethered to at the surface...

      I think it's *designed* to cut loose.

      • Well, since the machine weighs no more under water, when filled with water, than the empty sub does when lifted onto and off of the ship, I'd say the scenario of the sub somehow dragging the mother ship to the bottom in the event that it floods is pretty far fetched.

        • by sjwt (161428)

          But the sub and ship are not stationary objects or ones that will magically hold their positions, the sub and could be extremely far out side of the center of mass, adding an extra couple of tonnes of force suddenly pulling in one direction is not good. (dont forget the weight of your extremely long tether too)

          • by lgw (121541)

            The tether weighs the same on the spool or in the sea.

      • by n1ywb (555767)
        A typical oceanographic trawl winch will part 9/16" steel rope like it was nothing, which requires a force of about 27,000 lbs, and the ship doesn't even notice.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday May 12, 2014 @09:09AM (#46978861)
    It's just pining for the trenches.
    • It's just pining for the trenches.

      Pining for the trenches, what kind of talk is that? Look, why did it implode on its back the moment I got down to 9999 meters?

  • by ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) on Monday May 12, 2014 @09:58AM (#46979247)
    Years ago (not saying how many!) I worked with a university program specializing in autonomous underwater vehicles. Their designs made the submersibles nominally buoyant so that when they lost power they would eventually surface. For deep sea applications I'm sure it's more difficult.. If it were crushed, then I imagine all bets are off.
    • by Solandri (704621) on Monday May 12, 2014 @05:04PM (#46984295)
      These vehicles typically use glass spheres (containing air) [benthos.com] for buoyancy. We also experimented with a ceramic "foam" - basically millions of tiny hollow glass beads glued together and molded to fit into unused portions of the vehicle. They're more reliable, but don't provide as much floatation for a given volume. Any equipment and electronics you have on board has to go inside the larger glass spheres, so you always have some of those aboard.

      The founder of Benthos gave us a lecture on the tech. When one of them implodes, the energy released is the ambient pressure at depth times the volume. This is why you can't simulate an implosion in a tank - the moment the implosion begins, the pressure drops, and the energy release stops But at depth, the water simply fills in any lost volume with more water at the same pressure, and the energy release continues until the entire volume of air is crushed. The smaller sphere in the link (13 inch or 33 cm diameter) has an air volume of about 15 liters. At 9000 meters, the pressure is 90.57 MPa. So its implosion releases 1.36 MJ - about as much energy as 2/3rds of a stick of dynamite. The glass spheres which implode basically revert back to sand. You can imagine how much more energetic it is if something as large as a submarine [wikipedia.org] implodes.
  • I know it was unintentional, but scientific vehicle or not, its now just more scrap sitting at the bottom of the sea polluting it (battery chemicals, polymers etc). There should have been a contingency plan for an implosion - hardly an unexpected event at that depth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The debris from a two ton ROV doesn't even begin to compare to the daily avalanche of crap we dump on the seafloor.

      My father in law was a sonar operator aboard P3's in the 70's and 80's. The thousands of sonor buoys he dropped in the ocean would probably surprise you. They're designed to operate for a while and then, when the batteries are nearly dead, flood and sink to the sea floor so they can't be recovered and reversed engineered. There's a stretch of ocean bed in the north atlantic that must just be ca

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Luckily the sea floor is a big place.

        It's also a very corrosive place.

        • No its not. http://news.discovery.com/hist... [discovery.com] Named Halomonas titanicae the bacteria are eating our wreck's metal and leaving behind "rusticles," or icicle-like deposits of rust. The porous rusticles will eventually dissolve into fine powder. So most of those bouys will be consumed and meet the fate of the Titanic, dissolved to dust. So if there is bacteria eating iron there is ones eating sulfur and other chemicals as well.
          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            No its not.

            Salt water under high pressure is not corrosive? You've never dealt with stuff underwater for very long, have you?

            The porous rusticles will eventually dissolve into fine powder. So most of those bouys will be consumed and meet the fate of the Titanic, dissolved to dust.

            Which is what I'd call a corrosive environment.

            • to me corrosive meant battery acid level of dissolving human flesh. Not salt slowly dissolving things over a series of decades. So while it s a corrosive enviroment in the physical sense of the definition. What people think is corrosive the ocean is simply not. To most people corrosive is penny dropped into liquid and fizzing for a minute until dissolved. This is what I was saying no to. Not slow dissolve of the iron. So points for being pendantic, points taken way for not getting that people don't understa
  • Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go... If you want to get your deep sea vehicle back, then ante up. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.
  • They pretty much know where it is, they just can't get it back.
    As opposed to MH370, which nobody knows where TF it is.

  • For pushing the boundaries. There wouldn't have been an implosion if they weren't pushing it to the edge.

    Some people just don't have an appetite for exploration anymore - I say "job well done."

  • Put 1090 atmospheres or add 1125 Kg/cm^2... Not everyone is using an archaic unit system. Actually, only very few are...
    Thank you,

    • by Dahan (130247)

      Put 1090 atmospheres or add 1125 Kg/cm^2... Not everyone is using an archaic unit system. Actually, only very few are...

      Pretty sure kg/cm^2 is even more archaic than psi. Has that been in common use past the 1970s? The current newfangled unit of pressure is the pascal, which is N/m^2.

    • by styrotech (136124)

      Pressure is mass per unit area? Sounds like a specification for paper density.

      Surely you meant force per unit area?

  • Someone used the word "implosion" correctly.
  • I visited the woods hole facility over the summer, and they truly run a top notch operation (keeping these vessels in one piece at that kind of pressure is insanely tricky - what they're doing is amazing). I'm really sorry to hear about this loss; I'm sure it's going to have a significant impact on important research they're doing.
  • I am by no means a submersible expert and I am curious as to what part of the sub imploded.

    16,000 PSI might sound like a lot of pressure but in reality we use pressures close to that in hydraulic systems (10,000 PSI systems are quite common) and well over that in hydro-forming systems.

    Would vacuuming and back filling the air spaces with a non conductive fluid such as Fluorinert or mineral oil be of any benefit? If you eliminate compressible gases from the design, nothing can implode. Weight could be an issu

  • ... 11,000 meters deep...
    Scientists say ...
    ... 16,000 pounds per square inch

    Time to embrace the metric system [wikipedia.org], don't you think so ?

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