The Exosuit’s First Mission
Looking like something from a Disney movie, diver Edward O’Brien wearing the Exosuit was lowered with the help of a crane over the side the Hellenic Navy ship “Thetis” into the clear Aegean Sea. Once the winch cables were removed a team of divers attached an umbilical/tetherto the suit. The cable provides a link for communications and an optical cable for video transmission. Officially called the EXOSUIT atmospheric diving system, the suit's weight is about 500 pounds, once full submerged the suit is neutrally buoyant. The mission was the first full test of the suit in an operational environment and in salt water diving to 200 feet. The site is just off the coast of Antikythera where a treasure ship of the same name was dashed against the rocks then sunk in deep water. The ship sank in about 70 B.C., carrying literally tons of treasure—dozens of marble and bronze statues as well as gold jewelry and coins. The most famous part of its treasure was a precision bronze clockwork device now called the Antikythera Mechanism, the first known analog computer that tracked the movements of the sun, moon and planets, and was able to predict eclipses.
The site was originally discovered in 1900 by local sponge divers using surface air and crude metal helmets. At 165 feet, the shallowest portion of the wreck, diving can be hazardous with only five minutes of bottom time. In fact three of the original divers died from decompression sickness while recovering items from the wreck. Today divers are diving at that 165 foot mark using technical equipment and rebreather staying up to an hour. For the first time divers can do a proper archeological excavation of the wreck.
The excosuit has been called the next bold step in underwater exploration. The suit has 18 joints that allow the diver to move in the suit. While neutrally buoyant, movement is assisted by four small thrusters. The thickness and solid nature of the suit means that the diver is not affected by the water pressure. According to the specs ,The suit is designed to allow divers to reach 1,000 feet. It has been compared to a wearable personal submarine.The tether is strictly for communications and location assistance. The suit contains its own rebreather mechanism allowing a full five hours of diving time. Isolated by the suit from the outside water pressure, the air provided by the rebreather is at one Atmospheric, the same as on the surface. This means that no decompression is needed. Future dives on the site will be to map certain portions of the wreck. The suit can connect different tools as the “hands” depending on the mission required. A future dive will have a device to help move the sand to look for small objects.