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Expedition LogBook

27.03.2012 / Expedition Logbook

Underwater drop-cams set-up

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Watchmaking art and underwater exploration can seem sometimes very different, but in fact they are often facing similar challenges. Both have to constantly redefine the limits of their art. A good example of these challenges is illustrated by the latest picture received from the Pristine Seas Expeditions team.

Underwater exploration requires a high sense of innovation and creativity. In the picture, National Geographic Remote Imaging Engineer Alan Turchik prepares two drop-cams to send far deeper than the divers can go. The drop-cams are highly technological devices created especially to face the extreme conditions of the ocean depths.

The dropcams were developed as a way to get lots of high-definition footage from the deepest places in the world, using a borosilicate glass sphere: "We polish the ball and put a camera inside it with a computer, some batteries, and some LED lights. The computer does everything: It tells the camera to record and turns on the lights. We take the camera, push it over the side of the boat, let it sink to the bottom, and hope there’s something interesting down there to film. When it’s finished recording, the computer shuts off the lights and releases the ballast weight. The drop-cam floats back up to the surface so we can recover it and download the video off the camera. Usually, we bait the camera so that any critters in the area will come and sniff around, and with luck we’ll catch them on video. That’s the idea."

According to National Geographic experts, using these drop-cams is a very complicated and stressfull work. Given the work that goes into constructing each drop-cam, the electronics inside, and the pictures they capture, each one is incredibly valuable: "I’m always a little worried. The way I think about it is when you throw something into the ocean, it’s basically lost until you get it back on the boat. Our team took a lot of measures to make sure we get the cameras back. We have several beacons: a light beacon, a VHF radio beacon, and a satellite beacon. But there’s always that feeling of butterflies when you push one over the side. You might never see it again."

Keep following the expedition on Blancpain.com and National Geographic.com