Excerpts from the Globe’s environmental blog.
Researchers on the vessel Melville lost all contact with the autonomous vehicle on its 222d dive. Best guess what happened? A catastrophic implosion of one of the glass spheres used to keep ABE buoyant. If that happened, the pressure at 1.86 miles down — 2 tons per square inch — would have caused all of ABE’s other spheres to implode, leaving it unable to surface.
The loss had nothing to do with earthquake activity off Chile, researchers said.
ABE was brought out of retirement (its replacement, Sentry, was on another expedition) for the trip to the Chile Triple Junction, the only place where a midocean ridge is being pushed beneath a continent in a deep ocean trench.
On its first dive, ABE detected evidence of hydrothermal vents and was journeying to the location again on its second dive.
ABE, launched in 1995, ushered in a new era of deep sea vehicles that could operate without a tether to the surface, according to researchers. It “revolutionized deep-sea exploration by expanding scientists’ abilities to reach into the deep,’’ said Chris German, National Deep-Submergence facility chief scientist and a cochief scientist for the Chile Triple Junction expedition.
In 2006, the editors of Wired magazine called ABE one of their 50 best robots ever, a mix of real and fictional robots.
“ABE was a vehicle that we’ll always have fond memories of — it was a world-beater in its day,’’ German said. “In a way, it’s fitting that its demise comes on the job.’’
The goal of the Commonwealth Challenge is not only to save 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, but to influence legislation.
A recently proposed bill sets a goal of creating a task force to pursue 100 percent clean electricity and increase the number of green jobs in Massachusetts by 2020.
ANDREA RUEDY TRIMBLE