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Deep sea exploration - Venerable robot ABE lost at sea after unretiring

Thursday, March 18, 2010   
A pioneering deep-sea exploration robot—one of the first successful submersible vehicles that was both unmanned and untethered to surface ships—was lost at sea two weeks ago, on March 5, while on a research expedition off the coast of Chile. The 15-year-old Autonomous Benthic Explorer, affectionately nicknamed ABE, had reached the seafloor to begin its 222nd research dive when the radio connection with the surface vessel was interrupted and efforts to reestablish contact failed. Researchers on board the research vessel 'Melville' believe the vehicle may have suffered a catastrophic implosion of one of the glass spheres used to keep ABE buoyant. ABE, designed and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was unretired to explore the Chile Triple Junction, the only place on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge is being subducted (or pushed beneath) a continent (South America) in a deep ocean trench. Full report.

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