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Illuminating the Seafloor

Teamwork between a deep-sea robot and a human occupied submarine recently led to the discovery of five new hydrothermal vents on the seafloor of the eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. Scientists mapped the area at night using the undersea robot Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) operated by WHOI and the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF) and funded by NSF. After Sentry was recovered each morning, high-resolution maps from the vehicle’s sensors were then used to plan the day’s dive by the human-occupied vehicle Alvin also operated by WHOI-NDSF, which enables scientists to view firsthand the complex and constantly changing environment of a place like the East Pacific Rise.

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