As anyone who's ever been a recreational scuba diver knows, diving beyond a depth of 100 feet requires special training. So imagine being able to go down to 1,000 feet and stay there for hours.
The 6.5-foot-tall, 530-pound, hard-metal suit is designed to let a diver reach depths of 1,000 feet, where water pressure is 30 times that of the surface, and to conduct special scientific work there. Among those tasks, for which the suit will be used during the Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition this July, are things like imaging deep-water marine life with high-resolution underwater cameras, and sampling.
The exosuit is owned by the J.F. White Contracting Company, and the July expedition is meant to explore an area known as "The Canyons" off the coast of New England. There, depths drop to 10,000 feet. With the exosuit, scientists can study the so-called mesopelagic, or midwater, zone. According to a release about the museum exhibit, this zone is ideal because many different marine animals, including some that bioluminesce (using chemical reactions to generate visible light) pass vertically through it.
The suit will be used in conjunction with a special remotely operated vehicle known as the DeepReef-ROV, which can study bioluminescent and biofluorescent animal life in the deep.
To be sure, atmospheric suits like the exosuit have been in use for decades. But the hope is that the exosuit, which features four 1.6-horsepower thrusters and 18 rotary joints in the legs and arms, will allow scientists to broaden their ability to study the deep.