By Vancouver Aquarium educator Colin Young

If you just bought a brand new car, would you send it into space? How about dropping your great grandmother’s best china into a volcano? I’m currently on a ship 300 kilometres from shore, with folks doing almost exactly that. They are preparing to send equipment every bit as expensive and precious down to approximately 2,300 meters deep into the ocean.

“The bottom of the ocean can’t be THAT tough,” you might say. Well, let me share with you an informal experiment we conducted to demonstrate the impact of deep waters.

Before leaving the mainland, we coloured some styrofoam cups from a regular grocery store. As you can see from the feature photo up top, everyone on board got into the game.

Coloured cups were placed in a mesh bag before they went underwater.

Coloured cups before they went underwater.

After that, we attached a bag full of the coloured styrofoam cups to the CTD platform and sent it down on an initial test dive. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth; using those three measures, the scientists on board can figure out all manner of things from salinity [saltiness] to density of the water in different parts of the column.

Once the bags went deep underwater and came back up, this was the result. Notice that the original cups are behind the ones that went underwater to show the contrast in size:

The cups that went underwater shrunk in size due to the pressure in the ocean, as you can see when they're next to cups in their original size.

The cups that went underwater shrunk in size due to the pressure in the ocean, as you can see when they’re next to cups in their original size.

The pressure was so great that the air was forced from between the gaps of the styrofoam, drastically reducing their original size! Imagine what it does to equipment where just a specialized wire can cost around $12,000 to make.

The CTD has to collect samples of water from different depths, as well as take measurements from sensors. That means that all of these delicate wires and custom-made machine parts have to put up with the corrosive power of salt, the distances away from the commands of the ship, and most importantly, the pressure of going down THAT deep. This “experiment” with styrofoam cups goes to show how much pressure there is really deep down in the ocean.

Next update will focus on the bigger, more expensive machine: ROV Millenium. To follow the path of the ROV via live video stream, visit here.

Aquarium educator Colin Young is accompanying Ocean Networks Canada on a research trip to the Pacific aboard research vessel R/V Thompson. With the help of ROVs and Ocean Network Canada’s deep water observatory, NEPTUNE, the team is gathering information on aquatic life in the ocean’s deep waters. Colin is blogging and sharing updates along the way.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.