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WHOI Releases Jason Version 2.0

A new stage of seafloor exploration began last fall as the WHOI Deep Submergence Laboratory and the National Deep Submergence Facility unveiled a new remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Designed and built by WHOI scientists, engineers, and technicians, the second-generation Jason is an imaging and sampling platform that gives oceanographers a virtual presence in the deep ocean. The National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation, and WHOI funded the project.

The new Jason has two hydraulic manipulator arms that can reach twice as far and lift five times as much as the single arm on the original ROV Jason. State-of-the-art SeaNet wireless connections and fiber-optic cables allow data to be shared and visualized remotely and in near-real time. And a more robust design allows the new vehicle to dive to 6,500 meters (21,385 feet) while carrying more equipment, gathering more samples, and supplying more power to the instruments. It can do all of this at twice the speed of the original vehicle (which could dive 6,000 meters, or 19,000 feet).

“We have been able to put into practice a lot of the things we have learned from ten years of operating the first vehicle,” says Jason project manager Andrew Bowen. “We basically kept the best of that ROV, then took advantage of developments in technology in the past few years to design a much more capable system.”

In September 2002, the new Jason and its operators executed their first science mission, deploying and retrieving several experiments to study the microbes living within oceanic crust and the environmental conditions that support them. The ROV has been used on two more cruises since then and has a full schedule for 2003 and beyond.

For nearly a decade, the original Jason offered scientists a new way to visit and sample the deep seafloor. In more than 30 cruises, Jason helped prove the value and utility of ROVs, allowing scientists to explore the deep without leaving the deck of a ship­—or in some cases, the comfort of their shore-based laboratories.

Look for a feature story about both generations of Jason in the next issue of Currents.

Originally published: March 1, 2003