Exosuit Gets Wet in Quest for Buried Shipwreck Treasure

A team of underwater archaeologists who are searching for the buried treasures of an ancient shipwreck in Greece finally got their high-tech "Exosuit" wet.

Divers are revisiting the famed Antikythera wreck this fall, and they're equipped with a one-of-a-kind diving outfit known as the Exosuit. The team posted a video to YouTube over the weekend that shows a man in the semi-robotic diving suit being lowered for a test dip in Vatika Bay, near the Greek island of Antikythera.

Sponge divers first discovered the 2,000-year-old Antikythera wreck at the bottom of the Aegean Sea in 1900. They salvaged fragments of statues, jewelry and the Antikythera mechanism, an astronomical calculator often considered the world's oldest computer. Some scholars think the ship was possibly loaded with loot from Greece and traveling to Rome during the era of Julius Caesar. [See Photos of the Exosuit and Antikythera Shipwreck]

Ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau visited the site decades later, pulling more artifacts to the surface and filming his exploits for a TV documentary series.

But hard-to-access ancient objects and treasures are thought to remain at the site, more than than 200 feet (60 meters) below the surface. That's why the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts and the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities launched a mission to revisit Antikythera.

A diver who dons the 530-lb. (240 kilograms) Exosuit can stay underwater for hours without being at risk of decompression sickness. While the bulky, metal suit doesn't look very mobile, it is equipped with four 1.6-horsepower thrusters that can send a diver up, down, forward, backward, right or left.

The mission to the Antikythera wreck began in mid-September, but rocky seas and bad weather over the past few weeks have apparently thwarted many attempts to explore the site thus far.

"The weather has really blown up in Antikythera, giving us a taste of how harsh conditions can be," Antikythera mission member John Fardoulis wrote in a blog post on Sept. 29. "No wonder there are many shipwrecks in the region."

In another post, Fardoulis wrote that the team was hoping for the weather to be good enough today (Oct. 6) to bring the Exosuit to Antikythera.

The team members also posted a video on Saturday (Oct. 4) that shows how their underwater robot Sirius was able to scan the seafloor to help create high-resolution 3D digital maps of the shipwreck to guide the excavation.

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