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Deep-sea Light Post Transforms the Ocean Floor into a Photography Studio

November 30, 2005

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists (WHOI) and engineers have designed a portable deep-sea light post to illuminate the dark ocean floor.  Up to now, scientists have been able to see only a few yards, like shining a flashlight on a specific spot and not seeing much around it. The lightpost significantly expands what is visible, similar to the difference between using a flashlight in a darkened room to turning on an overhead light. A single, 1,200-watt bulb on top of an 8-foot pole, powered by five 100-pound batteries in watertight, pressure-resistant containers, provides light about 20 times more powerful than the average household bulb.  The light post gives off nearly as much light as each bulb used to illuminate Boston’s Fenway Park. The 1,400-pound instrument, which weighs 200 pounds in water, can be moved around the seafloor by WHOI’s remotely operated vehicle Jason, providing views of large seafloor features from different angles. It was first tested in September 2005 for use with new high-definition video cameras mounted on Jason for live broadcasts from the seafloor to the Internet.