A Dive on the NR- 1 Submarine

The World's Largest Aquarium

by gene carl feldman

Previous Page
Unlike most of the Navy's submarines which carefully try to avoid coming into contact with the bottom, the NR-1 not only tries to get as close to the seafloor as possible, it even has a set of wheels that enables it to roll along the seafloor and conduct very detailed surveys. It wasn't very long before the NR-1 was cruising slowly over the flat, rather featureless terrain, looking for a suitable place to land.

CDR. Olivier describes how to put the NR-1 on the bottom (163Kbytes)

Touchdown (69Kbytes)

The picture on the left shows you the four inch gap between the padded platform that CDR. Olivier sits on and the deck of the NR-1. If you look closely, you can see a small, round viewport that is one of three that are in the forward part of the observation area beneath the control station. You can also see the two finger holes that you use to lift up the deck panel, providing access to the observation area for three (crowded) and up to five (sardine-like) observers. While conducting bottom operations, one crew member is assigned to the viewport watch to make certain that the NR-1 doesn't run into anything.

Imagine crawling into something that is a cross between a television set and a garbage disposal. In a space that is less than three feet high, are crammed all the electronics, hydraulics and control lines that lead from the control station (which is directly above the observation area) to all parts of the boat. I found the hydraulic lines particularly interesting. Through these pipes flow the lifeblood of the NR-1. Some pipes were warm, while others were cool and lifeless. I couldn't help but think of the blood flowing through my body; red and oxygen-rich as it makes its way from the heart and lungs to the outer reaches of my body, returning spent and low in oxygen for the next cycle.

Now that the NR-1 was safely on the bottom, Jon Howland (second photo from left) and I joined MM1 Vincent Wood in the observation area. We removed the protective coverings that shielded the four inch thick acryllic viewports and held our breath as we positioned ourselves for our first glimpse of the seafloor at 314 feet.

My first view of the bottom (174Kbytes)

Since this dive was taking place during the very early days of the JASON VII expedition, many of the routine operations had yet to be worked out. For instance, while we were sitting on the bottom, the Carolyn Chouest was testing her Dynamic Positioning System. This system was necessary not only for conducting safe ROV and NR-1 support operations, but it was also critical so that the microwave signal that would carry the video, audio and data links between the Carolyn and Key JASON could stay locked on target. Also, this was the first day that the ROV was scheduled to go in the water.

Consequently, CDR. Olivier felt it would be wise to restrict the NR-1's movements to a very restricted area in case we needed to surface in a hurray. Therefore, we spent the next few hours studying, in great detail, a small (12 inch in diameter) lump of coral which was the home to one medium sized, and very annoyed fish.

In addition to doing a number of practice touch and go landings, MM1 Wood took this opportunity to put the NR-1's retractable manipulator arm through its paces.

Some details about the manipulator arm (192Kbytes)

It was approaching sundown and the NR-1 needed to head back towards the surface so that we could make the transfer back to the Carolyn while it was still light. Jumping into a rolling rubber boat in the dark is not something that anyone really looks forward to.

Prepare to surface (313Kbytes) Surface! (107Kbytes) Blow ballast (167Kbytes)

The first thing the crew does when the break the surface is to look through all the submarines video cameras to establish a visual contact with the Carolyn Chouest. On this particular day, the Carolyn was positioned behind the NR-1's sail and the crew were busily looking from one monitor to the next to see if they could locate her. During the 10 hours that we were submerged, the seas had calmed down considerably. The prospect of a few hours on the surface of a calm sea, watching a glorious Florida sunset was very appealing.

On the surface (178Kbytes)

Back in the imaging laboratory on the Carolyn Chouest, Bob Ballard, Jon Howland and I discussed the dive and Jon and Dana's work on mapping the steel reef

Previous Page

Back to April Expedition Journal

Rainbow Line

JASON Project Logo

JASON Project homepage || Teachers' Guide || Students' Corner || Search

Gene Carl Feldman (gene@seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov ) (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (todd@jason.org)
Revised: 19 April 1996