The Exosuit -- the most advanced diving suit in the world -- was originally designed to help study deep-sea flora and fauna, but it will soon be deployed in the search for more information about what is called the world's oldest computer -- the Antikythera mechanism.
The Antikythera wreck lies at a depth of 120m (around 400ft), and early attempts to reach the wreck resulted in decompression sickness and death. The Exosuit suit will allow a diver to spend a greater time working at the wreck site, hopefully leading to the retrieval of more artefacts -- and more information about the mysterious Antikythera mechanism.
The Exosuit qualifies as an atmospheric diving suit (ADS) -- a one-person anthropomorphic submarine that allows divers to operate at depths where the pressure would normally crush an unprotected diver.
The suit was designed by Nuytco as an upgrade of its Newtsuit designed in 1987. Like the Newtsuit, the Exosuit has articulated rotary joints that allow the diver to move freely and can be used up to a depth of 1000ft (305m). The Exosuit, however, introduces several upgrades.
Crafted of aluminium alloy, it's 250-350lb (113-159kg) lighter than the Newtsuit. It has fewer hours' worth of life support oxygen supply -- 50 hours compared to 56 -- and less powerful thrusters coming in at 1.6hp rather than 2.25hp; but it also has much more advanced communications, relying on a full duplex intercom with six stations.
Its control system and recording equipment is much better, too, using gigabit Ethernet over fibre optic, connected to a high-definition camera that sends a live video feed to the surface and allows the crew to monitor the diver, an Imagenex 852 SONAR, as well as voice comms and a data feed.
The suit is connected to the surface via an umbilical cord, which supplies both the fibre optic cable and the power cable for the vertical and horizontal thrusters. These are controlled using foot pedals, leaving the hands and arms free for more complex tasks using the claws.
After spending some time on display at the American Museum of Natural History, the suit has just completed its first test drive in a tank, and is scheduled for testing as a scientific instrument in July, where it will accompany the Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition. If all is well, the Exosuit will be diving to the Antikythera wreck in September.