New Underwater Explorer to be Tested in Great Lakes

The submersible Nereus in the Carribean. Credit: WHOI

Due to construction delays, The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) research vessel Sikuliaq will be wintering on the Great Lakes before heading to Alaska next spring.

Sikuliaq’s time in the continental US could actually be beneficial. The crew will spend the winter testing how well the ship is able to break through ice on the lake.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will also use Sikuliaq as a platform to test their new Nereid UI, an underwater explorer based on the previous Nereus vehicle. In the future Nereid UI will be used to explore icy ocean environments.

Polar and icy environments are of interest to astrobiologists because of the unique forms of life they support. Many organisms have adapted to survive in dark and extremely cold environments at the bottom of the ocean – such as the microbial communities found around cold methane seeps. Studying these habitats provides information about the mechanisms that life uses to survive in Earth’s extremes, and the potential for life in similar environments on other worlds.