Nereus’s mission was to undertake research in the deepest parts of Earth’s ocean where pressure on the vehicle can be as great as 16,000 pounds per square inch.
Nereus’s mission was to undertake research in the deepest parts of Earth’s ocean where pressure on the vehicle can be as great as 16,000 pounds per square inch.
Photo courtesy of Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

An unmanned, remote-control sub operated by reseachers out of Woods Hole was lost during a six-mile dive in the Pacific Ocean on Friday.

Researchers at the site of the dive said they believe that the robotic vehicle Nereus imploded during the deep dive, according to a press release from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"Extreme exploration of this kind is never without risk, and the unfortunate loss of Nereus only underscores the difficulty of working at such immense depths and pressures," said WHOI Director of Research Larry Madin.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The lost submarine was being operated as part of the Hadal Ecosystems Studies Program, according to the Associated Press.

Nereus went missing on its dive to the Kermadec Trench, the fifth deepest ocean trench in the world and about 75 miles off the coast of New Zealand, according to the AP:

Woods Hole science editor Ken Kostel called the loss of Nereus a "body blow" but the research team will continue their work to learn more about "a place that does not give up its secrets easily."

The submarine was built in 2008 and design to study deep-ocean trenches, according to The Cape Cod Times.

The submersible's mission was to undertake high-risk, high-reward research in the deepest parts of Earth's oceans, Madin said. Before the suspected implosion, Nereus recovered species of animals unknown to scientists and seafloor sediment, according to WHOI.

The submersible’s mission was to undertake high-risk, high-reward research in the deepest parts of Earth’s oceans, Madin said. Before the suspected implosion, Nereus recovered species of animals unknown to scientists and seafloor sediment, according to WHOI.

The team operating the submarine searched near the site of the dive and recovered what they believe was a portion of the vessel, according to Boston Magazine.

The debris indicated to researchers that the implosion was "catastrophic," but they want to use the scraps recovered during the mission to find out what went wrong, so if they launch similar unmanned research devices in the future they can learn from the mishap.