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Watch Five Breathtaking Underwater Videos Made by Robots

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Every year, the government gives scientists money that they use for amazingly cool things, like building robots that dive to extreme underwater depth and record video like this.

Thanks to funding from taxpayers and philanthropists (and, of course the Internets, which come to think of it also launched as a government program), you can sit on your couch in your underwear and watch magma flow deep under the sea.

This post is part of the Public Science Triumphs organized by our sister site io9 in partnership with several other publications that cover science. On November 23, the U.S. Congress has pledged that its budget supercommittee will present a proposal for US$1.2 trillion in cuts to government spending, which makes us fear for publicly-funded science institutions in the United States. We hope the series will help you and U.S. government representatives remember that science is a non-partisan public good that enriches local and global economies - and makes it all the more awesome to be human.


The video above (you might want to turn down your sound; the scientists get excited) was recorded on equipment carried by the Jason remotely-operated vehicle, which you can see in the foreground. Jason was designed and built by the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute, which gets funding from federal agencies, private contributions, and endowments. The vehicle gives scientists access to the seafloor without leaving the deck of a ship. In the video scientists witness for the first time glowing lava from a submarine volcanic eruption. The undersea volcano is part of the Mariana arc, which extends from south of Guam northward more than 800 nautical miles. It's amazing the lava is so hot that it remains red for a split second before the water snuffs it. It was recorded during the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (a government-funded institution) Submarine Ring of Fire 2006 exploration.

This is another video from the 2006 NOAA Ring of Fire expedition. Scientists were trying to take samples when the "Brimstone Pit" erupts and nearly engulfs the submarine in an ash plume.

This gorgeous video shows what arctic ice looks like from under water (again, you might want to mute). The 2002 Arctic Expedition Dive, which was supported by the NOAA Ocean Exploration Program, funded team of 50 scientists from the United States, Canada, China and Japan to explore the frigid depths of the Canada Basin in the Arctic Ocean for the first time.

Robert Ballard was the first diver to find the sunken Titanic in 1985. In 2004, thanks to funding from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, he returned to study the ship's rapid deterioration. Ballard and his team spent 11 days in June at the wreck site, mapping the ship and studying its decay. Using the remotel operated vehicles, they used high-definition video and stereoscopic still images to provide an updated assessment of the wreck site 12,600 feet below the surface.

Ok, this is a cheesy IMAX preview. But: Dolphins! The National Science Foundation helped fund this 2000 film so divers could share with anyone who didn't already know how awesome and smart dolphins are. The divers mounted cameras on the front of remote-controlled torpedo-shaped vehicles to examine how dolphin families and societies form, how they communicate with one another, and how humans sometimes adversely affect their health and mortality. The divers (and their dogs!) also have super fun play time in the water with dolphins, which is just mesmerizing to watch.


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