Ocean exploration is a complicated business, and E/V Nautilus is outfitted with all of the latest tools to provide scientists on board and ashore with the data they need for research on physical oceanography, geology, biology, and archaeology. From mapping the ocean floor to collecting delicate artifacts from ancient shipwrecks, the Corps of Exploration are prepared for anything they might encounter in the dark abyss of the deep sea.
The Corps of Exploration’s flagship vessel is one of only two dedicated ships of exploration in the world. The 211 foot (64 meter) ship is equipped with all of the latest in ocean technology and can host a 31 person science team, in addition to 17 crew members. The ship is outfitted for a two-tiered approach to exploration. First, the team uses a multibeam sonar system to map unknown areas of the seafloor. Once the data is analyzed and targets are chosen, they use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to collect video footage and a variety of samples.
This nearly-neutrally buoyant yellow remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is the workhorse of the Nautilus Exploration Program, and it always used in tandem with Argus. Hercules is equipped with six thrusters that allow the pilots to "fly" it in any direction, plus two manipulator arms designed for collecting samples and recovering artifacts. Video from Hercules' high-definition main camera is streamed up a fiber-optic cable to the control van on Nautilus, then out to the world. Hercules is capable of operating down to 4,000 meters.
This stainless steel towsled-style ROV is typically used in conjunction with Hercules, although it can be operated alone. When used in tandem, Argus dampens the roll of the ship so Hercules can remain steady through sensitive operations. Argus also provides additional light and serves as an "eye in the sky" during operations. When operating alone, it can dive deeper than Hercules - down to 6,000 meters.
In 2013 the Corps of Exploration added a new hull-mounted multibeam sonar system to Nautilus. The system can efficiently map the seafloor in waters ranging from 10 meters to 7,000 meters deep, all while the ship cruises at up to 10 knots. The sonar collects bathymetric data, surface sediment characteristics, and water column data. The information it collects helps the Corps of Exploration identify areas or features of interest to plan ROV dives.
This technology allows scientists on shore to participate along with our expeditions. Video and data streams from Hercules and Argus up our fiber-optic cable to the control van on Nautilus, where it is sent via satellite to a receiving station, then on to the Inner Space Center. From our control hub in the Inner Space Center, video and data are distributed directly to scientist’s computers and to the web. Telepresence frees us from the space constraints of the ship, allowing more scientists to be involved with the expedition.
Subbottom Profiler - Collects data on the geological structure beneath the surface of the seafloor
XBT - Profiles the temperature of the water with depth
High-res Mapping - Creates incredibly highly detailed photomosaics and bathymetry of target areas of seafloor