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.
E/V Nautilus Specifications
Length: 64.23 meters (211 feet)
Beam: 10.5 meters (34.5 feet)
Draft: 4.9 meters (14.75 feet)
Tonnage: 1249 gross, 374 net
Main Propulsion: Single 1286 kw (1700 HP), controllable pitch
Speed: 10 knots service, 12 knots maximum
Endurance: 40 days
Range: 24,000 kilometers (13,000 nautical miles)
Dynamic Positioning: 300kW azimuthing jet-pump (stern), 250kW tunnel (bow)
Classiﬁcation: Germanischer Lloyd (GL) 100 A5 E1 (Ice Strengthened)
Built: 1967, Rostock, E. Germany
Formerly: Alexander von Humboldt (East German research vessel)
Berthing: 48 persons (17 crew; 31 science/operations)
Flag: St Vincent and the Grenadines
This nearly-neutrally buoyant yellow remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is the workhorse of the Nautilus Exploration Program, and it is 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.
ROV Hercules Specifications
Depth Rating: 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)
Air Weight: 2400 kg (5200 lbs)
Video: 1x 3-chip High Deﬁnition cameras w/zoom, pan & tilt
1x Standard Definition pan & tilt camera
5x Standard Definition cameras
1x stereo high-resolution still-camera system
Lighting: 2 x Deep Sea Power and Light (DSPL) Matrix 3 LED light forward
6 x DSPL Sphere forward
2 x DSPL Sphere side
2 x DSPL Sphere aft
Manipulators: Kraft Predator, ISE Magnum 7-function
Sonars: Mesotech 1071 series proﬁling sonar (300 kHz)
Imagenex 881A proﬁling sonar (600 kHz)
Tritech Super SeaPrince proﬁling sonar (600 kHz)
Sensors: Sea-Bird FastCAT 49 CTD
WHOI high-temperature probe
Sampling Tools: Suction sampling system
2x sample bays, conﬁgurable with sealed biological boxes
Geologic boxes, various crates and containers
This stainless steel towsled-style ROV is typically used in conjunction with Hercules, although it can be operated alone. When used in tandem, Argus absorbs the motion of the ship and cable above 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.
ROV Argus Specifications
Depth Rating: 6,000 meters (currently limited to 4,000 meters by cable length)
Air Weight: 1800 kg (4000 lbs)
Video: 1x High Deﬁnition w/ zoom & tilt, 3x SD cameras
Lighting: 2x 1200W HMI, 2x incandescent
Sonars: Mesotech 1071 series proﬁling sonar (600 kHz)
Tritech SeaKing subbottom proﬁler (20/200 kHz)
Edgetech 4200 HF sidescan sonar (300/500 kHz)
In 2013 the Corps of Exploration added a new hull-mounted multibeam sonar system to Nautilus. The Kongsberg EM 302 Multibeam Echosounder 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.
E/V Nautilus is also equipped with a Knudsen K3260 Sub-bottom Profiler mounted inside the hull of the ship. The sub-bottom echosounder operates at low frequencies, allowing sound to penetrate the layers of sediment. This creates a cross-section of the seafloor, revealing structure that scientists use to identify ancient geologic features including channels, faults, and levees.
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