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A submersible is a small watercraft designed to operate underwater. The term submersible is often used to differentiate from other underwater vessels known as submarines, in that a submarine is a fully autonomous craft, capable of renewing its own power and breathing air, whereas a submersible is usually supported by a surface vessel, platform, shore team or sometimes a larger submarine. In common usage by the general public, however, the word submarine may be used to describe a craft that is by the technical definition actually a submersible. There are many types of submersibles, including both manned and unmanned craft, otherwise known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVs.Submersibles have many uses worldwide, such as oceanography, underwater archaeology, ocean exploration, adventure, equipment maintenance and recovery, and underwater videography.
The first underwater vessel was designed and built by American inventor David Bushnell in 1775 as a means to attach explosive charges to enemy ships during the American Revolutionary War. The device, dubbed Bushnell's Turtle, was an oval-shaped vessel of wood and brass. It had tanks that were filled with water to make it dive and then emptied with the help of a hand pump to make it return to the surface. The operator used two hand-cranked propellers to move vertically or laterally under the water. The vehicle had small glass windows on top and naturally luminescent wood affixed to its instruments so that they could be read in the dark.
Bushnell's Turtle was first set into action on September 7, 1776 at New York Harbor to attack the British flagship HMS Eagle. Sergeant Ezra Lee operated the vehicle at that time. Lee successfully brought the Turtle against the underside of Eagle's hull but failed to attach the charge because of the strong water currents.
Apart from size, the main technical difference between a "submersible" and a "submarine" is that submersibles are not fully autonomous and may rely on a support facility or vessel for replenishment of power and breathing gases. Submersibles typically have shorter range, and operate primarily underwater, as most have little function at the surface.[ citation needed ] Some submersibles operate on a "tether" or "umbilical", remaining connected to a tender (a submarine, surface vessel or platform). Submersibles have been able to dive to over 10 km (6 mi) below the surface.
Submersibles may be relatively small, hold only a small crew, and have no living facilities.
A submersible often has very dexterous mobility, provided by propeller screws or pump-jets.
There are five basic technologies used in the design of submersibles. Single atmosphere submersibles (one atmosphere subs) have a pressurized hull and the occupants are at standard atmospheric pressure. This requires the hull to be capable of withstanding the high pressure from the water outside that is many times greater than the internal pressure.
Another technology called ambient pressure maintains the same pressure both inside and outside the vessel. This reduces the pressure that the hull has to withstand.
A third technology is the "wet sub", which refers to a vehicle that may or may not be enclosed, but in either case water floods the interior so SCUBA equipment is used to facilitate breathing. In both single atmosphere and ambient pressure subs, there is no need to use SCUBA equipment and occupants can breathe normally without wearing any equipment.
Some submersibles have been able to dive to great depths. The Bathyscaphe Trieste was the first to reach the deepest part of the ocean, nearly 11 km (7 mi) below the surface, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 1960.
China, with its Jiaolong project in 2002, was the fifth country to send a man 3,500 meters below sea level, following the US, France, Russia and Japan. On June 22, 2012, the Jiaolong submersible set a deep-diving record for state-owned vessels when the three-person sub descended 22,844 feet (6,963 meters) into the Pacific Ocean.
Among the most well-known and longest-in-operation submersibles is the deep-submergence research vessel DSV Alvin, which takes 3 people to depths of up to 4,500 metres (14,800 ft). Alvin is owned by the United States Navy and operated by WHOI, and as of 2011 had made over 4,400 dives.
James Cameron made a record-setting, manned submersible dive to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest known point of the Mariana Trench on March 26, 2012. Cameron's submersible was named Deepsea Challenger and reached a depth of 10,908 metres (35,787 ft).
More recently, private firms such as Florida based Triton Submarines, LLC. SEAmagine Hydrospace, Sub Aviator Systems (or 'SAS'), and Netherlands-based U-Boat Worx have developed small submersibles for tourism, exploration and adventure travel. A Canadian company in British Columbia called Sportsub has been building personal recreational submersibles since 1986 with open-floor designs (partially flooded cockpits).
Small unmanned submersibles called "marine remotely operated vehicles" or MROVs are widely used today to work in water too deep or too dangerous for divers.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) repair offshore oil platforms and attach cables to sunken ships to hoist them. Such remotely operated vehicles are attached by a tether (a thick cable providing power and communications) to a control center on a ship. Operators on the ship see video images sent back from the robot and may control its propellers and manipulator arm. The wreck of the Titanic was explored by such a vehicle, as well as by a manned vessel.
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Trieste is a Swiss-designed, Italian-built deep-diving research bathyscaphe which reached a record depth of about 10,911 metres (35,797 ft) in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench near Guam in the Pacific. On 23 January 1960, Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh achieved the goal of Project Nekton. It was the first manned vessel to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep.
Alvin (DSV-2) is a manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The vehicle was built by General Mills' Electronics Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Named to honor the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine, Alvin was commissioned on 5 June 1964. The submersible is launched from the deep submergence support vessel RV Atlantis (AGOR-25), which is also owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI. The submersible has made more than 5,000 dives, carrying two scientists and a pilot, to observe the lifeforms that must cope with super-pressures and move about in total darkness, as well as exploring the wreck of Titanic. Research conducted by Alvin has been featured in nearly 2,000 scientific papers.
A bathyscaphe is a free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible, consisting of a crew cabin similar to a bathysphere, but suspended below a float rather than from a surface cable, as in the classic bathysphere design.
A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons, typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to 6 or 9, with little or no on-board living accommodation. They normally work with mother ships, from which they are launched and recovered and which provide living accommodation for the crew and support staff.
A deep-submergence vehicle (DSV) is a deep-diving manned submarine that is self-propelled. Several navies operate vehicles that can be accurately described as DSVs. DSVs are commonly divided into two types: research DSVs, which are used for exploration and surveying, and DSRVs, which can be used for rescuing the crew of a sunken navy submarine, clandestine (espionage) missions, or both. DSRVs are equipped with docking chambers to allow personnel ingress and egress via a manhole.
Kaikō was a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) built by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) for exploration of the deep sea. Kaikō was the second of only five vessels ever to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, as of 2019. Between 1995 and 2003, this 10.6 ton unmanned submersible conducted more than 250 dives, collecting 350 biological species, some of which could prove to be useful in medical and industrial applications. On 29 May 2003, Kaikō was lost at sea off the coast of Shikoku Island during Typhoon Chan-Hom, when a secondary cable connecting it to its launcher at the ocean surface broke.
Trieste II(DSV-1) was the successor to Trieste—the United States Navy's first bathyscaphe purchased from its Swiss designers. The original Trieste design was heavily modified by the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego, California and built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Trieste II incorporated the original Terni, Italian-built sphere used in Trieste, after it was made redundant by the new high-pressure sphere cast by the German Krupp Steelworks. The Trieste sphere was suspended from an entirely new float, more seaworthy and streamlined than the original but operating on identical principles. Completed in early 1964, Trieste II was placed on board USNS Francis X. McGraw (T-AK241) and shipped, via the Panama Canal, to Boston.
The hadal zone, also known as the hadopelagic zone, is the deepest region of the ocean lying within oceanic trenches. The hadal zone is found from a depth of around 6,000 to 11,000 metres, and exists in long but narrow topographic V-shaped depressions.
Turtle (DSV-3) is a 16-ton, manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy. It is sister to Alvin (DSV-2), and also an Alvin class deep-submergence vehicle. The Turtle was retired from active service in 1998. It now resides at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut
DSV-4 is a 25-ton, manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy, now known only by its hull number, not by its former name.
Aluminaut was the world's first aluminium submarine. An experimental vessel, the 80-ton, 15.5-metre (51 ft) manned deep-ocean research submersible was built by Reynolds Metals Company, which was seeking to promote the utility of aluminium. Aluminaut was based in Miami, Florida, and was operated from 1964 to 1970 by Reynolds Submarine Services, doing contract work for the U.S. Navy and other organizations, including marine biologist Jacques Cousteau.
Deep-sea exploration is the investigation of physical, chemical, and biological conditions on the sea bed, for scientific or commercial purposes. Deep-sea exploration is considered a relatively recent human activity compared to the other areas of geophysical research, as the depths of the sea have been investigated only during comparatively recent years. The ocean depths still remain a largely unexplored part of the planet, and form a relatively undiscovered domain.
Nereus was a hybrid unmanned autonomous underwater vehicle built by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Constructed as a research vehicle to operate at depths of up to 11,000 metres (36,000 ft), it was designed to explore Challenger Deep, the deepest surveyed point in the global ocean. Nereus, named for Greek sea titan Nereus through a nationwide contest of high school and college students, began its deep sea voyage to Challenger Deep in May 2009 and reached the bottom on May 31, 2009.
The Shinkai 6500 (しんかい) is a manned research submersible that can dive up to a depth of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft). It was completed in 1990 and it had the greatest depth range of any manned research vehicle in the world until June 19, 2012, where its record was beaten by Jiaolong, which dived at 6,965 metres (22,851 ft). The Shinkai 6500 is owned and run by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and it is launched from the support vessel Yokosuka.
ABISMO is a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) built by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) for exploration of the deep sea. It is the only remaining ROV rated to 11,000-meters, ABISMO is intended to be the permanent replacement for Kaikō, a ROV that was lost at sea in 2003.
The Shinkai (しんかい) is a manned research submersible that can dive up to a depth of 600 m. It was completed in 1970, and until 1981 it had the greatest depth range of any manned research vehicle in Japan. The Shinkai is owned and run by the Japan Coast Guard and it is launched from the support vessel Otomemaru (乙女丸).
Jiaolong is a Chinese manned deep-sea research submersible that can dive to a depth of over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). It has the second-greatest depth range of any manned research vehicle in the world; the only manned expeditions to have gone deeper were the dives of the Trieste bathyscaphe in 1960, Archimède in 1962, Deepsea Challenger in 2012, DSV Limiting Factor in 2019.
Deepsea Challenger is a 7.3-metre (24 ft) deep-diving submersible designed to reach the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest-known point on Earth. On 26 March 2012, Canadian film director James Cameron piloted the craft to accomplish this goal in the second manned dive reaching the Challenger Deep. Built in Sydney, Australia by the research and design company Acheron Project Pty Ltd, Deepsea Challenger includes scientific sampling equipment and high-definition 3-D cameras; it reached the ocean's deepest point after two hours and 36 minutes of descent from the surface.
DeepFlight Challenger is a one-person personal submarine deep submergence vehicle with full ocean depth capability. It is an "aero-submarine" which uses hydrodynamic forces to descend, as the sub has positive buoyancy, utilizing DeepFlight technology from Hawkes Ocean Technologies. The submarine is currently owned by Virgin Oceanic.
DSV-5, ex-NEMO, was a submersible used by the United States Navy between 1970 and 1986 to oversee and observe undersea construction work. NEMO had a spherical transparent acrylic hull, which gave occupants panoramic vision. NEMO was the first submersible with a hull made entirely out of transparent acrylic (Plexiglass), and much of her career was spent testing this hull design. NEMO was found to be an effective observation platform, despite not being able to hover in place, and acrylic-hulled submersibles have continued to be built and operated in the United States. NEMO is considered part of the Alvin class of Deep Submergence Vehicles despite bearing little resemblance to the other subs of the class. NEMO was transferred to "other government agencies" in 1986 and retired from government service in 2011. It was then given to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, where it remains on display.