40 km off Toulon, Ifremer and the CNRS are preparing to deposit on the ocean floor, at a depth of 2,400 m, the small robot “BathyBot” and five other instruments that will accompany it on this adventure. In total darkness, where human beings only have access by submarine and only for a few hours, this underwater laboratory will remain for several years, reporting on what is happening 24 hours a day and seven days on seven.
Beyond a thousand meters, we are in the deep ocean, quickly plunged into total darkness. Little studied, this vast space is the scene of unprecedented phenomena. It is here that organic carbon is transformed into inorganic carbon, setting in motion processes that have an impact on climate change and of which we do not yet know all the details.
How to quantify these flows in an environment where, as we descend, the temperature decreases while the pressure increases, making it more difficult to take samples.
How to study the bioluminescent organisms that inhabit the depths?
The benthic underwater robot BathyBot, developed by the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology, is equipped with caterpillar tracks to move along the sedimentary bottom and is controlled by computer from the coast. It is equipped with probes for real-time measurements and two cameras, one of which will scan the bioluminescence with such sensitivity that its only illumination will be a red light known not to frighten deep-sea organisms.
A 70 m cable linking the rover to its Bathyreef “docking station” will connect it to the LSPM network, for control and data collection
BathyReef, born from the collaboration of the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology and the Rougerie+Tangram Lab, was built by the Vicat group. It forms a ramp and reveals a space large enough for Bathybot to position itself and make observations.
It was designed in concrete, an inert material, which limits its impact on the deep environment and its shape offers organisms an easily colonizable artificial reef.
Identify bioluminescent organisms
During its mission, the little robot will allow scientists to progress in their knowledge of the deep sea and global warming. He will be able to bring new elements to a phenomenon observed in these deep seas: bioluminescence, that is to say natural underwater light.
It is customary to say that today, we know the Moon better than these deep seabeds: Bathybot’s mission is partly to make this formula lie.