Scientists testing submarine that will collect earthquake data

July 19, 2013 4:38:26 PM PDT
Scientists from California and Northern Illinois University are testing an unmanned submarine at Lake Tahoe this week, in preparation for a research expedition to Antarctica. They're also providing data about the earthquake faults under Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area.

High definition cameras captured underwater video of Lake Tahoe and a one of a kind remotely operated vehicle. It's called the S.I.R., short for sub ice rover and it's destined to go to Antarctica for research.

"It will be the first time we'll see the West Tahoe Fault at the bottom," California Geological Survey earthquake expert Gordon Seitz said.

California's Seismic Safety Commission kicked in $75,000 for research that could help provide better planning for quakes in the future.

The sub is on a barge on the west side of Lake Tahoe, so ABC7 News took a boat ride there and hoped to see the sub drop into the water, but the testing turned up a problem.

The engineers say it's a lot easier to fix a problem with the S.I.R in Lake Tahoe, than it will be when it goes to Antarctica and has to deal with minus 10-degree temperatures.

The sub was built by a team led by Liz Taylor at D.O.E.R. Marine in Alameda and is packed with scientific equipment. She helped coordinate all the different agencies.

"And really get people to share the data instead of hoarding the data, it makes an enormous difference," Taylor said.

The research team leading the Antarctica expedition includes Dr. Ross Powell and Dr. Reed Scherer from N.I.U. They will take the S.I.R. and lower it down 2500 feet below the ice shelf to learn how fast the ice is melting.

"Very simple problem: It's called sea level. When you lose this body of ice, it raises sea level by between 10 and 20 feet globally," Dr.Scherer said.

They will also search for signs of life.

"What they have found underneath the ice and in the ice, are microbes that are designed specifically for coping and living in that type of environment, that can live in this environment by feeding on rocks and sediment," Dr. Powell said.

The S.I.R. project will need more testing and funding before the Antarctica expedition gets underway.


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