Some fortunate College of Earth, Ocean and Environment staff and students are taking part in a pilot project that will literally take them below the waves in the Cyclops I submersible, a 22-foot-long manned sub.
Stopping in Lewes during its cross-country tour, the OceanGate submersible will take part in two dive missions under the Delaware Bay.
The submersible is scheduled to remain at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus during the fall semester, but Mohsen Badiey, acting dean, hopes the pilot project can become a long-term collaboration.
Underwater research is one of the key programs at the college. In August 2014, the college dedicated its newest research vessel, the 46-foot R/V Joanne Daiber, and opened the Robotics Discovery Laboratory on the Lewes campus. The lab uses unmanned underwater and aerial vehicles to carry out a broad range of research missions.
Now, scientists will have a chance to dive under the waters of Delaware Bay. Cyclops is designed for a crew of five, including a pilot. The university is planning two dives, possibly to a wreck site and to do research to complement its ongoing shark tagging project.
Cyclops I can dive to a depth of 1,640 feet and stay submerged up to 8 hours, or even 72 hours during an emergency.
The vessel is a stepping stone to OceanGate's Cyclops II – operational in 2016 – which can dive as deep as 9,840 feet.
The submersible is towed on a platform and lowered into the water once the crew is on board.
Badiey said unmanned vehicles have their place, but nothing can replace human interaction with the environment. “The human brain is the most powerful analytical tool we have. The power of observation opens up the mind,” he said. “This field is wide open. The ceiling is your imagination.”
Cyclops 1 will be on display during the 39th annual Coast Day on Sunday, Oct. 4, tying to this year’s theme, “Discoveries on land, in the air, and at sea.”
“Cyclops is here to trigger research questions – for our scientists to imagine how they can use this technology and how it can be used to complement the full suite of tools available to college scientists and students,” Badiey said.
OceanGate is a privately held company headquartered in Everett, Wash., that provides manned submersibles and expertise for industry, research and exploration. Cyclops 1 was launched in March and is on a year-long Eye on the Sanctuaries Tour to raise awareness about oceans by executing missions in historic locations in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.
The company's submersibles are used for research and data collection, film and media productions, site surveys and inspections and deep-sea testing.