A Bird! A Salp! An Elevator?

ahhhhhhhhhhh, the beautiful ocean!  This morning I was standing on the bow with my camera (always), a cup of coffee and an EXCELLENT raspberry muffin, watching for sea birds, or fish, or really anything moving around.  The whispering, rolling ocean mirrored the soft grey clouds overhead.  Halfway through the muffin, I noticed something hovering over the surface...it looked like a good sized bird, dipping and gliding, searching for something to eat.  As I hastily juggled my muffin and coffee to grab my camera, something else caught my eye...something coming up out of the ocean.  OH MY GOSH!  What was it?  A whale?! A...a...what?  It came up silently and with barely a ripple.  It took me a moment to realize that it was an elevator released on the overnight JASON dive.

I was struck by the elegant simplicity of the concept of an elevator (see previous blogs for a description of what an elevator is).  Things float.  This elegant simplicity in designing equipment that works is apparent throughout the ship.  The scientists constantly shift between solutions that are high tech or low tech or just plain common sense as they get their work on the deep ocean floor done.  I will take back to the classroom a myriad of examples of creative problem solving and cooperative group work.  I know my students will gain so much more by watching the video footage, looking at the pictures, and listening to the stories I bring back.



Mrs. Kane

Do you usually send down people or equipment with the elevator? Also, is the elevator controlled manually or electronically? I can only imagine how heavy it is!


elevator talk

aloha Lauren,
I'll answer the easy part first: people don't go down on an elevator because it's basically just a metal platform with floats on top and weights on the bottom. There is nothing on an elevator that would provide protection for a person -- they would be crushed by the pressure in no time.

Elevators have no power sources other than the forces of nature. Through adjusting weights and floats, the elevator can sink or rise to the surface. JASON loads equipment onto the elevator, removes weights on the sea floor, and that allows the elevator to rise. No electricity or nothin'!

Your question about weight of an elevator seems simple, but when I went and double-checked my thoughts with the chief scientist, Andy Fisher, it turns out the answer can be quite complicated. Weight in air and weight in water differ, because of the way things displace the medium they are in. The elevators we have on board with us weigh in air somewhere around 1000 pounds. However, in sea water, they weigh somewhere around 400 pounds. The scientists, when planning a dive that will use an elevator to transport things to and from the sea floor, need to plan for the way an elevator behaves in the ocean, how much will be loaded onto the elevator and how heavy all that stuff is (in water), how many moveable weights to put on and take off the elevator at various points, and what equipment will be coming up on the elevator. Behind all that brain power and complicated planning, the elevator ultimately operates on the simple principle that things will sink or float depending on their shape and volume. Elegantly simple!

hope that helps, and thanks for the interest,