Chinese scientists started their 38th ocean scientific expedition on Monday, with the country's first deep-sea manned submersible Jiaolong.
The mother ship, "Xiangyanghong 09", left east China's Qingdao carrying the sub and more than 150 personnel for a 124-day trip, the longest for Jiaolong.
The researchers will carry out surveys in the northwest Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, Yap Trench and the Mariana Trench in the west Pacific Ocean.
With Jiaolong, more discoveries are expected in the northwest Indian Ocean, said chief scientist Han Xiqiu.
The trip lasts from Feb. 6 to June 9.
Named after a mythical dragon, Jiaolong reached its deepest depth of 7,062 meters in the Mariana Trench in June 2012.
State of the art maritime archaeology expedition conducted in Black Sea
An international team, involving the University of Southampton's Centre for Maritime Archaeology (UK) and funded by the charitable organisation for marine research, the Expedition and Education Foundation (EEF), is surveying the Bulgarian waters of the Black Sea, where thousands of years ago large areas of land were inundated as the water level rose following the last Ice Age.
Professor Jon Adams, Founding Director of the University of Southampton's Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Principle Investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP) says: "We're endeavouring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. As such, the primary focus of this project -- and the scope of our funding from the EEF -- is to carry out geophysical surveys to detect former land surfaces buried below the current sea bed, take core samples and characterise and date them, and create a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Black Sea prehistory."
Based on board the Stril Explorer, an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater survey systems in the world, the international team of researchers is surveying the sea bed using two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). One is optimised for high resolution 3D photogrammetry2 and video. The other is a revolutionary vehicle developed by the survey companies MMT and Reach Subsea. Surveyor Interceptor 'flies' at four times the speed of conventional ROVs and carries an entire suite of geophysical instrumentation, as well as lights, high definition cameras and a laser scanner. In the course of the project it has set new records for both depth (1,800m), sustained speed (over 6 knots), and has covered a distance of 1,250 km.
During these surveys, members of Black Sea MAP have also discovered and inspected a rare and remarkable 'collection' of more than 40 shipwrecks, many of which provide the first views of ship types known from historical sources, but never seen before. The wrecks, which include those from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, provide new data on the maritime interconnectivity of Black Sea coastal communities and manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory.
Professor Adams comments: "The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys. They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres.
"Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we've been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the sea bed. We are now among the very best exponents of this practice methodology and certainly no-one has achieved models of this completeness on shipwrecks at these depths."
Professor Adams concludes: "Maritime archaeology in the deep sea has often been a contested domain, but this project, the largest of its type ever undertaken, demonstrates how effective partnerships between academia and industry can be, especially when funded by enlightened bodies such as EEF."
The Black Sea MAP team comprises of researchers from the University of Southampton's Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA), who have established a formal partnership with the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology with Museum and the Bulgarian Centre for Underwater Archaeology (CUA). Partner institutions include the Maritime Archaeological Research Institute at Södertörn University, Sweden; the University of Connecticut, USA; the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Greece; and MMT, the company whose founder Ola Oskarsson designed the Surveyor Interceptor. Core samples recovered from the Black Sea will be analysed at the British Ocean Sediment Core Research Facility at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
The project operates under permits from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in strict adherence to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001).
Google Expeditions to Bring Virtual Field Trips to the Classroom
Google Expeditions, a virtual reality system for the classroom, is now being offered to select schools for free as part of Google’s pilot launch of its Expeditions Pioneer Program. The field trip simulation system is part of Google’s objectives to advance its virtual reality technology further and make Google products an integral part of global education.
Through the Expeditions Pioneer Program Google offers free complete Expeditions kits to schools around the world including the UK, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia and the US. These schools will receive their Expeditions kits to start taking virtual education-focused trips around the globe in key locales of historical and socio-cultural importance. The kit includes ASUS smartphones, a teacher tablet for directing the field trip, an Internet router for accessing Expeditions without an Internet connection and Google Cardboard goggles for students.
Expeditions relies on Google Street View images to offer virtual field trips to users. Students can visit places such as museums, art galleries and take tours in historical locales such as the city of Verona, Italy.
So far 100 virtual-reality trips have been developed by Google and its education partners. Google describes these field trips as:
”[G]uided tours of places schools buses can’t go. They are comprised of virtual reality panoramas and are led by a guide or teacher… Teachers can guide their class and point out highlights while referring to editable notes.”
Each virtual reality tour can be experienced by 50 students at a time. Using a smartphone and the cardboard headset students are led through the virtual field trip by the teacher who guides them through ‘stereoscopic vistas’.
Jennie Choi, an English teacher at Mariano Azuela Elementary School in Chicago, took her students on a virtual reality field trip in the city of Verona. She says the learning experience is more efficient and appealing to students than a lecture.
“It doesn’t work to stand in a class of 12-year-olds and just lecture. I think they gained a deeper understanding of the story,” she said.
Nick Statt of the Verge writes that Expeditions is part of Google’s effort to get a foothold in the classroom. The goal started almost ten years ago with Apps for Education, which aimed at offering free education technology to schools. Today, the Apps for Education bundle is used by 45 million students across the world who access its cloud-based email, calendar, document sharing and other apps.
Other online and technology players are showing continued interest in education. Facebook announced in August its goal of turning student personalized learning into free software in collaboration with California Summit Public Schools in the hopes it could be scaled up. Microsoft’s Skype is already used in schools along with Windows 10 and Minecraft Education.
According to the official Expeditions Pioneer Program, the Expeditions team will help teachers set up these experiences for students. For the moment, the kit is available for free.
There is speculation, however, that the system might come with a charge, the New York Times writes.