Using Skype to explore the deep sea in realtime

There’s so much we still don’t know about what lives at the bottom of the sea. Just go look and you’ll find heaps of new species and weird things going on that you’d never have imagined. But how to make the most of scientists’ knowledge for exploring the depths? These days, you don’t need to squeeze them all into a tiny submersible vehicle and have them squabble for a glimpse out of the tiny porthole – just get them on Skype instead.

Last year, NOAA led the first expedition in a 5-year project exploring the deep sea around Indonesia – the aim is to figure out if life is as riotous and diverse hundreds of metres beneath the waves as it is up at the surface in the famous ‘coral triangle’. And by the looks of their initial discoveries – it is.

Chatting with Tim Shank from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on the Naked Oceans podcast I found out how they sent down an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) loaded with a high-def camera and pinged images to a global virutal lab of scientists who chatted over Skype and iChat, guiding the sub and sharing thoughts about what they were looking at in real time.

Now that’s truly a twenty-first century way of exploring the most mysterious parts of the ocean.

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