Using the latest advances in technology and robotics, archaeology will strive to extract more secrets from an ancient shipwreck that once yielded the unique Antikythera Mechanism, representing one of humanity’s earliest steps on the road to high technology.
The 2000-year-old artifact, dubbed the world’s first ‘analog’ computer, was recovered from a Roman-era ship that foundered off the island of Antikythera in the early 20th century and was first discovered by a local sponge diver.
This coming summer, according to a report in the June issue of “New Scientist”, Greek and American researchers will return to explore the depths around the shipwreck using a diver wearing a robotic ‘exoskeleton’ dubbed “Exosuit”, ANA-MPA reports.
The main function of a powered exoskeleton is to assist the wearer by boosting their strength and endurance. They are commonly designed for military use, to help soldiers carry heavy loads both in and out of combat. In civilian areas, similar exoskeletons could be used to help firefighters and other rescue workers survive dangerous environments.
Marine biologists and engineers have developed a massive Exosuit weighing 530 lbs. (240 kilograms) designed for ocean depths down to 305 meters.
The one-of-a-kind Exosuit, on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) measures 6.5 feet (2 meters) tall and is made of hard metal and other materials. The pressurized suit has four 1.6-horsepower thrusters to propel the diver up, down, forward, backward or to the side, Live Science’s Mark Lallanila notes .
Additionally, the Exosuit — with an oxygen system that provides up to 50 hours of life support — is equipped with a fiber-optic tether that allows for two-way communication, oxygen and pressure monitoring, and a live video feed.
The cutting-edge diving suit, essentially still in an experimental stage, will be worn by U.S. divers who will be able to remain deep underwater for extended periods of time, enabling them to conduct excavations and handle the fragile ancient objects with due care.
Scientists are optimistic that the site will yield a second device like the Antikythera Mechanism, currently the centrepiece of an exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens until June 29, while a preliminary survey last year showed a wealth of artefacts scattered over an area of about 50 metres by 10 metres, as well as a second unknown shipwreck next to the one already found.
The 1.5-million-dollar Exosuit was made by the Canadian robotics firm Nuytco Research and comes equipped with a number of features that will allow divers to work at the 120-metre depths for an essentially unlimited period of time, without being at risk from decompression sickness.
According to the article, the first real test of the suit will take place in July, during underwater surveys off the northeast coast of the United States and the Antikythera mission will take place immediately afterward.