Passionate about What's Underneath the Sea? Consider Technology

technology exploration

Published Oct 1, 2015 8:26 PM by Emma Cox

Technological lacuna, drive to succeed, and passion drove this people to embrace the search for the best underwater exploration technology.

For the lovers of the unknown, the seafloor is a vast playground where adventure is limitless and where countless discoveries could happen. It is like the universe, so infinite that humans feel obliged to explore it. Indeed, humans are too small and fragile for its vastness, but their mind and vision are not.

In the early ’50s, young Sylvia Earle, now revered oceanographer and explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, felt the same thing. She was frustrated. She wanted to go deeper into the sea but what she had was just a regular scuba gear. 

“From the earliest time I had frustration, to go out to the edge of a drop-off, as deep as I could go, and look over, and the fish didn’t stop, the ocean didn’t stop. I wanted to go over the edge and see what was in the deep water beyond,” she told BBC. And thus began her journey to becoming a revered ocean explorer, author, and submersible innovator.

“Technology was the key for me to be able to see the ocean with new eyes,” she pressed.

For decades, she’s been involved with various submersible-building projects and become one of the most respected innovators in the field. In 2014, she revealed that her company, Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, was developing the “dream machine,” a revolutionary submersible that could reach 11,000 metres (33,000 ft) underneath the ocean’s surface. This innovation will certainly introduce radical changes in underwater exploration industry.

Firms exploring the sea for its buried treasures share Earle’s opinion.

For Blue Water Ventures International (OTCPK: BWVI), a world-renowned Florida-based shallow ocean historic shipwreck exploration firm, its cutting-edge technology is what really propelled them to success.

“Our team, which is composed of revered archaeologists and veteran historians, utilizes historic archival research data to identify targets, and advanced technology such as Cesium Vapor Magnetometer (G-882) and Edgetech 4100, two of the most advanced magnetic and acoustic sensing technologies in the field today. We also have remotely operated vehicles to explore and recover them,” Blue Water CEO Keith Webb said in a statement.

The company has recovered more than $16 million worth of rare and extraordinary treasures and artifacts from various shipwreck trails since 2008, and all this happened because of their adherence to technology, as well as openness to the changes in the industry.  Blue Water is now working on the initial phases of two more recovery projects in Florida valued at an estimated $200 million and $600 million.

On technological lacuna and human pilot limitations

To realize that humans indeed need the aid of technology for them to see what was going on in deeper waters is inevitable. In 1964, Alvin, one of the world's first deep-sea human submersibles, was invented. The three-sitter machine, which could go to a depth of 14,800 feet (4,500 meters), made 4,400 dives including the search for lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean and the wreckage of RMS Titanic.

Technological lacuna was the reason why it was created. Prior to its development, no technology was capable of going that deep. After which, it has become a benchmark for subsequent constructions of submersibles, encouraging designers and inventors to match or surpass Alvin’s capabilities.

The HURL, which is operated by revered submersible pilot Terry Kerby and the sole deep-sea submersible in the Mid-Pacific since the ’80s, was also a product of technological lacuna. The scientists and archeologists at the University of Hawaii is still using—and effectively utilizing—the 40-year-old technology despite many advancements (i.e. robots) that occurred in recent years.

The inception of HURL in the ’80s was a gift for the scientists and researchers at Hawaii University. During that time, there have been no efficient technology available that could help them further their sea exploration. Enhancing the machine’s capability is Kerby, the director of submersible operations at the Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory. Kerby has been its pilot since it first came to the mid-Pacific. 

“You can’t replace [Terry Kerby and HURL] with a robot. It’s not possible,” Andy Bowen, principal engineer at Woods Hole,” told The New York Times when asked about new submersibles on the market.

“It’s very unusual to have a facility that large and well-equipped in the middle of a large ocean basin. They’ve done a remarkable thing over there, largely due to Terry’s expertise,” Robert Dunbar, a Stanford oceanographer, pressed.

For these scientists, people still need to remember that machines’ superiority has no essence if the pilots doesn’t understand the sea well, not to mention the passion they have for what they do.

“Robotic subs can stay down for days and reach extraordinary depths, instantly relaying their finds to scientists and an Internet-connected global audience. But they cannot go everywhere, and many scientists argue that studying the deep without direct human observation yields at best an incomplete understanding,” Chris Dixon wrote on The New York Times.

Many scientists believe that cutting-edge technology is always beneficial in terms of coping with and adhering to the continuous changes in the industry.

“Even so, some aspects of ocean exploration are best left to robots,” said Tanya Lewis of Live Science.

Scottish company PhotoSynergy Limited (PSL) knows this. The startup company, which has been awarded for its deep water SLS7000, has developed SLS2000, a minuscule and compressed unit designed to provide a light source to deep sea divers in the oil and gas industry. The 30 mm in diameter and 70 mm long gadget operates through a LED fastened to the umbilical at the divers’ end. The company is now focusing on the development of the SLS5000.

“We had been testing the SLS5000 with a number of clients during its development phase and had received feedback from divers and their teams on the benefits of having a low power, minimal sized package, which would not impede the diver and which could be illuminated from the diver end as opposed to the dive bell end,” the company told WorldOil.com.

At the end of the day, it’s all about passion

Hawkes Ocean Technologies CEO Graham Hawkes, for instance, invented the DeepFlight Super Falcon simply because he wanted more. His true passion is flying, but various circumstances encouraged him to fly the other way around, which is by diving.

He is now sixty, but is still convinced that stopping is never an option. “[Diving] is flying. It's a very pure form of flying," he told Men’s Journal. And when asked about what’s behind his dedication for continuously inventing new machines for underwater exploration, he answered: "It has one endearing characteristic, which is you don't die if you mess up. We live on an ocean planet. We need to understand that. We need to be connected. [My inventions] can do that."

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.