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To be read after Lesson 9
Getting into Deep Water
The dark depths of the Gulf of Mexico, once frequented by only the sea creatures, are now alive with human activity. Miniature submarines and robot-like vehicles move around the ocean bottom while divers make their way around incredible underwater structures — taller than New York City skyscrapers, but almost totally beneath the surface of the waves. Modern-day explorers are using technology worth of Jules Verne and Jacques Cousteau to find fresh supplies of oil and natural gas.
Until recently, drilling in the Gulf was concentrated close to shore in water as deep as 9 m. But now the scientists are looking to hundreds of meters deep and 160 km and more from land.
The deep water research began in 1984. Since then many American companies have built the world's deepest production platforms of more than 100 storeys high. Finding gas and oil deposits at large depth is not an easy technological task.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
There is an American project of one-person submarine, which will «fly» to the bottom on inverted wings rather than simply sinking under its own weight as the bathyscaphes did. This design is more like an aeroplane than a balloon. It could one day make exploring the ocean depth as easy as flying a plane is today.
The most difficult problem is to find a material that is also light enough to allow the craft to float back to the surface if there is a loss of power or some other emergency. Alumina, a hard ceramic, was chosen for the vessel.
The pilot's capsule is about a meter in diameter, 5 centimeters thick and about 2 meters long. It is capped at one end with a ceramic hemisphere and at the other with a glass viewing dome. The rest of the craft, including the wings on either side and the casing at the rear for the motors, are made of a lightweight composite material.
In addition to the pilot, the pressure vessel houses the controls and instrument panel, the life-support system and a 24-volt power supply. The pilot effectively operates the craft by radio control.
The batteries feed a pair of electric motors that can drive the craft at up to 14 knots (25 kilometers per hour). The craft could dive vertically but this would be uncomfortable for the pilot who lies face downwards in the cylindrical chamber. So it descends at an angle of up to 45°. «Deep Flight» is designed to be as streamlined as possible. This means making the submarine's cross section as small as possible and providing as little equipment as possible on the hull.
At a cruising speed of 10 knots «Deep Flight» will descend at a rate of 200 meters per minute and reach 11,000 meters in about an hour in the Mariana Trench (Марианская впадина), the deepest site on Earth. The weight of the craft is 2.5 tonnes, which is about the same as a large car. This will allow it to be launched from any vessel.
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