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The University of Southampton

Lord Sainsbury in Southampton to launch UK's first deep-diving ROV facility

Published: 28 October 2003

Lord Sainsbury in Southampton to launch UK's first deep-diving ROV facility and present annual IBM Hursley Lecture 2003.

Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation, will be in Southampton on Wednesday 5 November to unveil a plaque naming Isis - the UK's first deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) facility - at Southampton Oceanography Centre before heading to the University's Highfield Campus to present the annual IBM Hursley Lecture.

2.30pm - Lord Sainsbury unveils a plaque naming Isis - the UK's new deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC), Waterfront Campus, European Way.

Isis is one of the world's deepest diving ROVs, capable of exploring the world's oceans down to depths of 6,500 metres (4 miles). It was built in the USA in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a close replica of their new Jason II ROV and is designed to collect samples, make surveys and carry out experiments on or near the sea floor.

Professor Paul Tyler , a specialist in deep-sea biology at SOC, jointly led the bid for £4.5 million Government funding to purchase the new national facility: "Isis is a very sophisticated system which has been designed with science in mind," he says. "This is not a welding tool - unlike most ROVs used by the offshore industry.

"It has two seven-function manipulator arms which can be moved so delicately we can collect samples and position scientific instruments with centimetre-scale precision. This is the first time in the UK that we have been able to work at this scale - we are now entering a new era of deep-sea discovery."

In 2004 Isis will be made available to marine scientists across the UK through the Natural Environment Research Council's National Marine Equipment Pool, which is housed at SOC. Teams of biologists, geologists, chemists and physicists are already queuing up to take Isis on missions in the north-east Atlantic, south-east Pacific and the Southern Ocean.

*Members of the press are welcome to attend the Isis naming event, tour the ROV facility and meet the scientists behind the project. Please notify Jackie Kelly, Press Officer, Southampton Oceanography Centre, telephone: 023 8059 6170 or email

6pm Lord Sainsbury presents IBM Hursley Lecture 2003.
Turner Sims Concert Hall, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton.

The fourth annual IBM Hursley Lecture is entitled 'The National System of Innovation' and will highlight the Government's commitment to creating a world-class climate for innovation and prosperity in the UK. Lord Sainsbury is due to comment on how innovation is the 'successful exploitation of new ideas' and how 'prosperity for all' is best achieved by continuously driving up productivity and competitiveness.

The lecture is open to members of the public and admission is free - no tickets are required.

Click here for a full transcript of the IBM Hursley Lecture.

*If members of the press wish to attend the lecture please notify Lisa Chung, Press Officer, University of Southampton, telephone: 023 8059 4993 or email

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. Isis was purchased through a Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF) award to Professors Paul Tyler, Chris German and Gwyn Griffiths of Southampton Oceanography Centre. JIF was launched in 1998 as a three-year, £750 million partnership between the Wellcome Trust, Office of Science and Technology and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
  2. The Isis facility includes a customised control room where the pilots operate the ROV guided by an acoustic navigation system, live video and sonar, enabling scientists to observe and see data in real time. It also has a dedicated cable, winch, and launch and recovery system. The advantage of this is that the entire facility can be containerised and shipped anywhere in the world for operation from a suitable ship.
  3. State-of-the-art digital still and video cameras provide high-resolution images in different formats, including an 11-bit dynamic range camera which is suitable for compiling picture mosaics of the seabed - the only way to get a complete picture of deep-water sites in total darkness.
  4. Isis is deployed vertically from a ship, driven down under power at half a metre per second, taking over three hours to reach 6,000 metres. It is powered from the mother ship, which means it can stay on the sea floor for days at a time to carry out systematic surveys.
  5. There are many potential scientific applications for Isis. They include collecting the mineral-laden fluids which gush out of hydrothermal vents at temperatures in excess of 350 degrees centigrade, observing delicate gelatinous animals which live in mid-water, and investigating how climate change might be affecting populations of seabed animals on the abyssal plains.
  6. The IBM Hursley Lecture was established in 2000 and is sponsored by IBM UK Laboratories at Hursley Park, near Winchester. The underlying theme of this lecture series is the interface between science and industry.
  7. Southampton Oceanography Centre is a joint venture between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. It is a centre of excellence in marine sciences, earth sciences and marine technology.
  8. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.
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