Exploration Vessel Nautilus is equipped with some of the latest technological systems, helping to advance the frontiers of ocean exploration. Primary capabilities include science class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), high-resolution seafloor mapping, and real-time satellite transmission of data.
Systematic exploration consists of a tiered approach of information gathering in geographic regions about which we know little or nothing, but where there is high potential for discovery. The first step involves studying large areas of unknown or poorly known ocean regions using sonar mapping systems. Nautilus currently uses side scan sonar systems on two towfish, Diana and Echo, for seafloor mapping, and is slated to install a hull-mounted multibeam sonar in the winter of 2013. Water column properties may also be surveyed using CTDs and other towed sensor packages to record salinity and temperature at depth.
In the second tier of exploration, resulting data are used to identify areas of further interest to be explored using our ROVs, Hercules and Argus, owned and operated by the Sea Research Foundation’s Institute for Exploration. The objective is to explore, locate and describe new habitats, geological processes, cultural sites, and unknown phenomena, establishing a rich foundation of information to catalyze further scientific efforts.
As the Corps of Exploration aboard Nautilus conduct operations at sea, satellite technology is used to transmit video, sensor and audio data to shore in real time. These high-definition data streams are transmitted via high bandwidth Internet-2 to the expedition’s “mission control” at the Inner Space Center (ISC), located at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. The feed is also transmitted to other shore-based Exploration Command Centers (ECCs) developed in strategic locations around the U.S. and in other parts of the world.
A standard definition version of the live video from the ISC is then transmitted via standard Internet so that scientists, students and the general public can participate in the investigation of the unexplored deep ocean simultaneously with Nautilus-based teams via www.nautiluslive.org. These new high-speed, real-time links to shore provide a unique opportunity for the inclusion of participants from diverse communities who may not otherwise be involved in oceanographic exploration, including scientists, engineers and learners of all ages from around the world.