The Pisces IV and Pisces V are three-person, battery-powered, submersibles with a maximum operating depth of 2000m (6,500 ft). Both of HURL’s Pisces submersibles were built by International Hydrodynamics of Vancouver in British Columbia and are classed by the American Bureau of Shipping. Each submersible weighs 13 tons and has a payload of 200 pounds. The personnel sphere of each sub is 7 feet in diameter and is made of HY 100 steel.
These vehicles allow scientists to observe the deep sea through three forward looking view ports. The submersibles are equipped with HD and SD video cameras on a pan and tilt that allow the science observer to record detailed images of bottom terrain, sea life and sample collecting. Each of the submersibles is equipped with two mechanical arms that give the submersibles the ability perform very fine sampling of fragile marine organisms or operating samplers or scientific instruments. The submersibles have a hydraulically operated “sample tray” that can be configured with a variety of sample collecting boxes or instruments. The submersibles are equipped with a pinger receiver system that enables them to track a signal from 8 to 80Khz. This allows the submersibles to track each other or to locate lost instruments or relocate bottom monitoring sites marked with a pinger or transponder. The submersibles are launched and recovered with a specialized A-frame on the aft deck of their support vessel, the R/V Ka‘imikai-o-Kanaloa. A typical dive lasts from 6 to 8 hours “hatch to hatch.” The submersibles are launched and recovered during daylight hours only and are serviced during the night to be ready to dive again the next morning.
Pilots are trained to operate the LRT-30a submersible Launch and Recovery Transport. Click image for larger view.
Pisces IV leaves the R/V Ka‘imikai-o-Kanaloa on its way to the seafloor. Click image for larger view.
HURL has the unique advantage of having access to two deep-diving submersibles at the same time. When one sub is diving the other is always in ready dive status. In the event of a submersible emergency such as entanglement the second sub can be deployed quickly to render assistance. The other advantage is two-sub science operations. This has allowed HURL to conduct dives with two PI’s conducting different science missions in the same location or to conduct multiple tasks on dedicated science or survey missions. The submersibles operate with one pilot and two science observers so two sub dive operations allow 4 science observers to be on the bottom during a one day dive mission. Both submersibles have emergency life support for three people for 5 days.
The support vessel Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa (KOK) gives the Pisces submersibles a world class, ocean wide operation capability. In 2003 the HURL operation went on a three month expedition conducting dives along the Northwestern Island Hawaiian chain to Kure Atoll and back. In 2005 HURL embarked a five month expedition to the South Pacific conducting over 60 dives on 13 previously unexplored, active undersea volcanoes between Samoa and New Zealand, as well as survey and exploration dives on four atolls in the Line Islands.
HURL submersibles have recovered over five million dollars in lost instruments, some containing over a years worth of irreplaceable data that would have otherwise been lost. HURL submersible operations have supported ongoing monitoring for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Program on important precious coral sites. HURL submersible operations have also discovered a multitude of historic wreck sites which include the Japanese Midget submarine sunk by the USS Ward one hour before the Japanese Naval air attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th 1941. Other sites include the giant Japanese aircraft carrier submarines I-14 and I-401 plus numerous historic military aircraft, submarine and ship wrecks and early Hawaiian island trade vessels. HURL has accumulated the most extensive data archive on deep maritime heritage cultural resource sites, supporting the mission of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries program.
The submersibles will operate shallow as well as deep. The submersibles have operated very effectively with advance divers supporting sampling and survey programs during the “Coral Reef Ecosystem” mission.
HURL also operates the LRT-30a, a submersible Launch and Recovery Transport platform that gives HURL the ability to launch and recover a Pisces submersibles subsurface using a smaller vessel of opportunity to tow the LRT if the primary support ship is not available. The HURL program is the only deep submersible operation with this alternate capability.
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