Isis resurfaces to serve UK marine science
The versatile submersible that serves UK marine science is back in action after a major refit and successful sea trials.
The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Isis collects samples, drills sediment cores and shoots high definition video and stills at ocean depths of up to 6,500 metres (four miles). Isis is operated by the National Oceanography Centre on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council.
In January 2011 Isis was badly damaged during deployment off the Antarctic Peninsula, and engineers and technicians at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have since been working to restore the ROV and enhance its capabilities. They completed the task at the end of July.
Since the accident the engineers, from NOC’s Deep Platforms Group, have built a new frame and tool sled from modified designs. Replacement flotation has been added, hydraulic systems re-designed and manufactured. Isis, which carries distinctive red and yellow livery and is roughly the size of a Transit van, has also been completely re-wired.
Since its inaugural mission in 2007, highlights of Isis’ career so far include an expedition that uncovered species previously unknown to science, clustered around hydrothermal vents on the seafloor near Antarctica, and an investigation into the biology and geology of the Whittard Canyon on the northern slope of the Bay of Biscay.
The sea trials were completed in August onboard the Royal Research Ship James Cook, operating in UK waters off the south west coast of Ireland, just beyond the limit of the Continental Shelf. The trials cruise enabled the NOC ROV team to test Isis comprehensively in deep water, ensuring that it is fit to undertake its next science mission in the Southern Ocean in November.
The team received further good news ahead of the trials cruise with the award of £2.85 million by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) to newly launched, NOC-based Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (MARS) facility. Around £800,000 of this funding will be used on further enhancements for Isis, creating an even more flexible vehicle. This includes new sonar equipment, which is already being installed on the vehicle.
Executive Director of the National Oceanography Centre, Professor Ed Hill, paid tribute to NOC’s ROV team. He said: “Isis plays an important role in enabling UK marine researchers to explore the deep ocean and the ROV has been involved in some of the most significant oceanographic discoveries of recent years. The success of the trials cruise is a testament to the skill and dedication of a very talented group of engineers and technicians here at the National Oceanography Centre.”
Along with two Royal Research Ships, NOC provides Isis and other underwater vehicles, sensor technology and equipment to UK marine researchers, on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council.
A blog of the trials cruise - ‘Isis returns to the deep’ – can be found online at: http://isisreturnstothe deep.blogspot.co.uk.