Underwater technology presentation at sanctuary

ALPENA – The Association of Lifelong Learners attended a presentation by Alpena Community College Marine Technology instructor David Cummins on Monday night at the National Marine Sanctuary. Cummins spoke to the learners on the “Coming of Age of Underwater Technology for Work and Knowledge.”

Cummins opened his presentation by highlighting the recent find of the Apollo 11 rocket engine and its recovery from three miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. He said this recovery would not have been possible without the recent advances in underwater technology.

“As American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, ‘you have to know the past to understand the present,'” he said.

The first remotely operated vehicles were used to recover practice torpedoes by the Royal Navy in the 1950s. These were primitive ROVs with claws and cameras, according to Oceaneering’s website.

In 1960, the Shell Oil Co. transformed the ROV into the type of device it is today, calling it a “remotely controlled manipulator device for carrying out operations underwater at an assembly position at the top of a well,” according to Oceaneering. These ROVs were used for nuclear bomb recovery, submerged submarine rescue, and search and recovery.

“The ROVs of today are capable of lifting more than 1,000 pounds and can operate at depths of more than 10,000 feet … there are over 600 commercial working class ROVs and 95 percent are in use in oil/gas exploration, and in telecommunications cable work,” Cummins said. “Only around 5 percent are used in science, research or exploration.”

ALL members also were introduced to sonar scanning underwater vehicles called autonomous underwater vehicles, which have been used at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to help locate shipwrecks. This technology also is used in the oil and gas industries and in ocean cbservation, Cummins said.

Michigan is mainly surrounded by the Great Lakes, and within these lakes there are pipelines, wildlife, shipwrecks, and opportunities for research and discovery, he said. ROVs are one of the main tools, besides divers, used to install these pipelines and explore the vast number of shipwrecks laying at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

Alpena Community College has come up with a way to capitalize on its location on the shores of Thunder Bay and access to the Great Lakes.

“ACC offers a marine tech program to help students get involved in the ever growing marine technology industry,” Cummins said. “Oceaneering alone is looking to hire in 600 marine technicians in the next year.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.