If you had a revolutionary diving suit that could turn you into a submarine capable of diving to a depth of 300 meters and staying there for five hours, would you rather hunt for a 2000-year-old computer or slush through New York City’s sewer system? I thought so.
The Exosuit is a $1.5 million robotic diving suit designed and built by the marine robotic firm Nuytco Research in North Vancouver, Canada, and sold to the civil engineering company J. F. White, which used it to dive to the bottom of New York City’s water treatment plants. Boring!
Fortunately, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts is testing this magnificent suit in salt water for a dive in September to an ancient Roman shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea where the world’s oldest computer – the Antikythera mechanism – was discovered in 1900 and recovered in 1901. It’s believed that a second of these 2,000-year-old computers used by the Greeks for predicting astronomical positions and eclipses may still be down there.
The aluminum alloy Exosuit has articulated joints, giving divers free movement of their arms and legs. An umbilical cable from a mother ship supplies power for diving and ascension thrusters and removes exhaled carbon dioxide from the diver’s air, which allows the diver to stay underwater for 50 hours and ascend immediately without getting decompression sickness, aka “the bends.” Together with the claw-like graspers, LED lights and outboard cameras, the Exosuit is a versatile cross between an underwater robot and a submarine.
The Exosuit is needed for this recovery because the Antikythera wreck is at a depth of 120 meters and the ancient relics are fragile. The Greek sponge fishermen who originally found it could stay down for only five minutes and Jacques Cousteau, who explored it in 1976, feared his vacuum recovery system would cause too much damage.
Before heading to Greece in September, the suit will be tested in July off the coast of Rhode Island by a team from the American Museum of Natural History looking for bioluminescent organisms.
Tony Stark must be so proud.