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Wave Chasers: Deep Flows Through the Samoan Passage Crush Cam

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Published on Feb 22, 2012

The 'Wave Chasers' research team cruised the South Pacific Ocean to study the Samoan Passage -- a 5500-m deep choke point that Antarctic bottom water must flow through on its way to the North Pacific. Three movies chronicle the expedition's motivations & methods, the fun of crushing objects under the pressures of the abyssal ocean, and the cultural exchanges with Samoans on Upolu Island.

Movie #2, "Crush Cam," documents how Oceanographers Matthew Alford and John Mickett are always looking for better ways to share scientific research with the public. They came up with this 'Crush Cam'. It's a video camera mounted to the instrument package that is lower from the ship and the sea surface to varying depths in the Samoan Passage -- it's a way to video objects under extreme pressure.

When a Styrofoam cup and the Crush Cam were both affixed to the CTD instrument array and then lowered 500 meters into the sea -- subjecting the fragile cup to 50 atmospheres of pressure, more than 700 pounds per square inch, the results were pretty dramatic. These extremely high pressures are one of the reasons why it's so hard to study the deep ocean.

"We're always looking for better ways to reach out to the public with our ideas." -- Matthew Alford

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