A manned submersible is the only way to immerse oneself in the deep sea firsthand. SCUBA equipment can’t safely take you beyond relatively shallow depths, and operating the cameras and high-tech arms of an unmanned submarine from the surface can't match the experience of dropping to the ocean's depths in the flesh. Not many people get the chance to travel this way. Even for scientists who have made multiple trips in a submersible, it is an exciting proposition every time.
But if you can't climb inside a submersible in person, now you can climb inside one online with National Museum of Natural History's new virtual submersible. The virtual sub is based on the Curasub, a five-person manned submersible that can descend to 1,000 feet. The Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) uses this sub to explore deep reefs in the southern Caribbean. The state-of-the-art sub is equipped with hydraulic arms that allow researchers to collect marine life and deploy instruments on the deep reef.
Click here for a beta version of the virtual dive and experience what it’s like to use a submersible for research. Manipulate the sub to examine its design and learn what it takes to operate such a large piece of equipment and what it’s like to sit inside. Inspect parts as scientists would have to pre-launch, then launch the sub, and take a dive for yourself to see how Smithsonian scientists explore diverse deep coral reef communities.
We hope you’ll let us know what worked for you and what didn’t, so we can improve the experience over time. Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the dive!