Escanaba Trough Expedition: Part 2
Critical to scientific operations aboard the Escanaba Trough expedition is the submersible robots Sentry and Jason. Owned and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), these robots allow researchers to observe seafloor features and collect data from depths seldom visited by humans.
On this expedition, Sentry acts as a self-guided scout, descending thousands of meters to run transect lines across the seafloor, gathering detailed maps and imagery of seafloor features such as mid-oceanic ridges and hydrothermal systems that will inform Jason’s dive plans.
The remote-operated vehicle Jason is a workhorse of a different sort. Tethered to the ship by a 10-kilometer-long fiber optic cable, Jason descends to the seafloor with an array of instruments used to collect data.
Jason’s every movement is controlled by WHOI pilots and navigators. Depending on the need, its two robotic arms can delicately collect biological samples or firmly grasp and stow heavy rocks to be examined later at the surface. It can wield temperature probes, suction tubes, sediment cores, and more.
All the while, multiple cameras and powerful lights aboard Jason illuminate each dive from start to finish, documenting the seafloor habitat and its inhabitants.
When Jason reaches the surface, researchers eagerly retrieve the samples for processing or preservation. Each dive represents a trove of invaluable data from the depths.
Video is Public Domain. Music: “In a Little While” by Lofive, used with permission from Epidemic Sound