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Descending to New Ocean Depths
We know little about the ocean yet. The dream of exploring under the waves is almost as old as seagoing. Legend says that Alexander the Great submerged himself in a round glass container, and Leonardo da Vinci designed a submersible vehicle in his notebooks centuries before Jules Verne wrote "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea." If their dreams had been realized and such a craft had been constructed mankind would have known about the secrets of Ocean much earlier. However, already during the Swiss National Fair in 1964 a submersible vehicle took thousands of people deep into Lake Geneva.
Not long ago, the crafts that penetrated the ocean depths were almost as primitive as the marine life they watched around them. However, non-military deep sea ships, so-called submersibles, were progressing rapidly. Russian, French, Japanese and American scientists are developing crafts that can submerge deeper, stay longer and find out more than earlier apparatuses.
Soon, one of the most advanced crafts, a one passenger submerging ship, will be tested. It may be able to take explorers and technicians deeper than ever before (up to 3,300 feet) and perform difficult underwater tasks with extreme precision.
This new submersible is essentially a spherical transparent plastic hull mounted on a metal platform. It looks like an underwater helicopter and can manoeuver itself in its water environment with some of the versatility of a helicopter due to the use of a cycloid rotor instead of conventional marine-propeller screws. It is expected that this apparatus will move around the ocean like a sports car.
However, the breakthrough that will make this particular craft quite different from other manned submersibles is a mechanical hand called the sensory manipulator system6. Miniature video cameras on the "wrist" of the manipulator provide it with vision and microphones enable the submersible to "hear". This manipulator system is designed to lift up to 120 pounds and will also be able to perform such accurate scientific work as collecting samples of ocean-floor minerals and marine life. When demonstrated, it lifted crystal glasses, drew pictures and
wrote with a pen.
Some scientists are trying to develop the world's deepest manned submersible. When completed, it will be capable of submerging up to depths of 21,000 feet. Its crew will be in a pressure-resistant titanium-alloy cabin. This craft will be driven by a battery-operated electric motor and will work for up to nine hours. It will record images with colour television and stereo cameras and will collect samples by manipulating two robotic arms.
If such crafts are constructed on a large scale, we shall be able not only to spend our holidays enjoying the underwater life, but also grow and cultivate sea plants, fish and pearls. It will be possible, provided scientists, designers and politicians from all over the world join their efforts and solve the most important problems in this field.
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