A robotic submarine yesterday mapped the bottom of the world’s deepest water-filled sinkhole in Mexico for the first time. Similar autonomous craft could some day be used to explore the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa, researchers hope.
DEPTHX (Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer) is 2 metres wide, weighs 1.3 tonnes and is equipped with movement, depth, temperature, and salinity sensors in separate pressurised chambers. Sonar beams all around the probe to provide a map of its surroundings for navigation. A sampling arm can extend to collect samples from the walls of the sinkhole.
Entering El Zacatón Cenote in eastern Mexico for the first time on Wednesday, DEPTHX dived down to 270 meters, creating the first map of the giant cavity, which is large enough to swallow New York’s Chrysler Building.