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2005 Questions & Answers

11/02/05

Many people have asked questions about the Johnson-Sea-Link. Find out the answers below and then, if you want additional information, visit the Johnson-Sea-Link page on the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution's website.

Anthony, an eighth grader from Orange county asks, "How much did the submersible cost?"
The Johnson-Sea-Link originally cost between four and six million dollars, but this figure alone does not paint the full picture. A new sphere purchased recently cost $200 thousand to purchase and fit on the sub. It costs the Life on the Edge 2005 mission $30 thousand a day to rent the submersible from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. Rental costs do not change if inclement weather causes aborted dives. Needless to say, Hurricane Wilma has cost this mission dearly!

Smith, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know if it is hard to maneuver the robotic arm on the submersible.
The robotic arm on the submersible is easy to maneuver. It is powered by a hydraulic pump that enables the pilot to control the arm from switches on a control box. The pilots, by using multiple switches on a control box in the sub, can make the arm perform several tasks at once, such as extend, open the claw, and move down, much like a human arm reaches for something.

Peter, an eighth grader from Orange county, wants to know of what kind of metal the Johnson-Sea-Link is made.
The Johnson-Sea-Link is made of various aluminum alloys and some stainless steel. The sphere is made of 5 ¼-inch-thick Plexiglas.

Paige, an eighth grader from Orange county, asks, "What is it like inside the submersible?"
Two people sit in the bow (front) compartment of the Johnson-Sea-Link: a pilot and an observer/researcher. They each have just enough room for themselves and the equipment of which they are in charge. The computers give off a lot of heat, so the five-foot-diameter Plexiglas sphere can get quite warm. Sitting in the bow, one gets a panoramic view of the surrounding ocean. To quote one scientist, it is "an unparalleled perspective." Size is deceptive from the inside the sphere, so everything you see appears to be much smaller than it really is. In addition, the observer in the bow compartment has many responsibilities, including videotaping, changing tapes, reminding the pilot to mark the GPS location of the sub, taking oral notes, and deciding where to go and what to collect. It's an exhilarating, yet exhausting experience.

In the stern (back) compartment of the sub, a cast aluminum structure lined with plastic mesh surrounds an observer. Emergency equipment and air filters, which keep the air healthy, line the walls so there is limited space for the observer’s upper body. There are cushions on which to sit, but there is little to no head room. You spend your time in a crouched position, but that is a small price to pay for what you experience in the sub. With the exception of the fans and the voices of other sub occupants, it is very silent when under the ocean. The observer has two port holes—one on the starboard (right) side of the vessel, one on the port (left)—through which to observe undersea life. In addition, a small monitor depicts what is being seen on the bow camera of the sub so you can watch the collection process as it happens. The deeper the sub goes, the lower the temperature drops in the stern compartment. It can reach 30–40 °F, but we wear sweatshirts and extra socks to stay warm. The person in the stern compartment keeps track of the collections that are made in the bow and where on the sub the specimens are stored. The stern observer is responsible also for monitoring what they see out of the portholes and running the VCR connected to one of the sub's stationary cameras.

Whether in the bow or stern, having the opportunity to dive in the submersible is an awesome experience!

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