A new deep-sea research vessel will be able to carry people to 99 percent of the ocean floor, diving deeper than the famed Alvin that pioneered the study of seafloor vents, plate tectonics and deep ocean creatures over the past 40 years. \nThe new American submersible will provide the tools to reach "not for the stars but for the depths," Robert Gagosian, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said Friday at a briefing at the National Science Foundation. \nFrance, Russia and Japan also operate deep sea research vessels and China is building one, officials said. The new ship will have similar capabilities. \nIt will dive nearly 2,000m deeper than Alvin, carry more scientific instruments, communicate more quickly and stay down longer. \nAlvin "has been a trusted trouper for four decades and a good friend, but science advances and so does technology," said Arden Bement, acting director of NSF. \nDesign for the Alvin Replacement Vessel is under way with launch expected in 2008, officials said. \nThe vessel is expected to be able to descend more than 6,300m into the ocean. Alvin dives to just short of 4,500m. The new capability will still remain short of the deepest spot in the oceans, more than 10,800m in the Mariana Trench. \nOnly the bathyscaphe Trieste -- in 1960 -- has carried people to that depth, taking just two people there, a fraction of the 12 who have walked on the moon. \nThe new vessel is expected to cost US$21.6 million, paid for by the NSF, with additional funding from Woods Hole for instruments, lighting and sensors. It will operate from the Research Vessel Atlantis, the same ship that now tends Alvin. Operating costs are expected to be similar to the current approximately US$22,000 a day for the Atlantis plus US$10,000 a day for the deep diving vessel. \nThe NSF will own the new vessel but it will be operated by Woods Hole, which currently coordinates use of the Navy-owned Alvin. Once the new vessel is in use, the navy will decide Alvin's future. \nDan Fornari of Woods Hole said there also are plans for a remotely operated vessel to explore the ocean's deepest trenches to study the methane hydrate there as a possible energy source, the exchange of fluids between the sea and the Earth's mantle and the creatures that live in those lightless depths. \nOfficials said the new vessel's name has not been selected, although an artist-drawing of the planned design carried the name Alvin. \nThe name Alvin was bestowed whimsically by scientists amused by a popular song featuring a singing chipmunk. Some have suggested the new vessel be named for one of that chipmunk's companions, Simon or Theodore. \nLaunched in 1964, Alvin has conducted 4,025 dives and spent more than 27,000 hours submerged, including 16,000 on the ocean bottom. It has carried 12,068 people beneath the waves on missions to study biology, geology, chemistry, search and recovery and other topics. \nJust two years after it was launched, Alvin was sent to the coast of Spain to help recover a hydrogen bomb lost in the sea off the coast of Spain after a midair collision of a US bomber and a tanker aircraft. \nOn July 6, 1967 the vessel was attacked by a swordfish, which became entangled in the submersible's equipment. The fish came to the surface with Alvin and became dinner for the crew. \nDuring launch for a dive in October 1968, Alvin's support cables failed and the vessel sank in 1,500m of water. The pilot escaped but the vessel remained on the bottom until the following year. Lunches left on board were found to be soggy but edible, thanks to near freezing temperatures and lack of oxygen at the bottom.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and