Starting in August, a team of scientists will send two robots to explore the watery depths off the coast of Washington's Olympic peninsula. And we'll be able to watch them do it.
The 2017 Nautilus expedition, led by oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard (made famous by the discoveries of the RMS Titanic shipwreck, among others), will dive into three submarine canyons in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, including two that have never been previously explored. Direct communication with a satellite will broadcast the footage—which often includes camming from the kind of mangled gore porn demons featured in Hieronymous Bosch paintings—live online.
The two robots—an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV)—will launch from the Nautilus research ship and collect information about deep sea coral and sponge habitats, methane seeps, a possible shipwreck of the USS Bugara submarine, and coastal upwelling, a natural process that cycles deep, cold, older waters up to the ocean surface.
In recent years, coastal upwelling has increasingly flushed more acidic waters to the surface, and studying the process will help scientists understand more about the impacts of ocean acidification on Washington fisheries. For this reason, the 2017 expedition will also be partnering with the Quinault and Quileute tribes.
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