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Press Release

November 1, 2007

Josie Patterson
617-253-4422; josiep@mit.edu

Kurt Hasselbalch
Curator Hart Nautical Collections
617-253-5942; Kurt@mit.edu

New exhibition featuring artifacts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

MIT and The Sea: Pioneers in Ocean Exploration
in the Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery

September 29, 2007 – September 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, MIT's engineers and oceanographers have worked together exploring the deep ocean environment and making profound discoveries. Now on display for the first time in the MIT Museum's new Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery, is the historic remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Jason Junior. Tethered to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's (WHOI) submersible ALVIN, itmade its way into the Titanic and took the first photographs of the ship's interior in 1986.

This unique multimedia exhibition showcases MIT engineers and the roles they have played developing tethered, undersea robots called remotely operated vehicles which have been used for ocean exploration, national security and offshore energy production. Without placing humans in jeopardy, underwater ROVs explore and work at depths inaccessible to humans. These sophisticated vehicles have high-tech cameras that have photographed marine life and active volcanic vents in the Earth's crust never seen before by human eyes.

MIT and the Sea includes interviews with pioneering researchers, vivid underwater imagery, and an exciting ROV video-based simulation. These robotic inventions play an important role in the exploration of the deep ocean environment providing long needed information about deep water marine life, archeological ruins and security intelligence. They were first developed by the US Navy in the 1960's, and demonstrated their value when one retrieved a lost hydrogen bomb off Spain in 1966. Piloted from a control room of a surface ship; video and operational signals are communicated to that vehicle through tethers that can be over five miles long.

Also featured in the new gallery is the original "flying eyeball,"  an Advanced Maneuverable Underwater Viewing System (AMUVS), a 1971 classified US Navy that was later commercialized. The round white object now hanging in the Museum used a sophisticated camera with a custom-made tilting lens enclosed in a titanium pressure housing along with an advanced head mounted control system. Similar vehicles are alluded to in the book, Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, which reveals details about the use of advanced undersea technologies for U.S. intelligence gathering during the Cold War. 

Ocean explorer, Dr. Robert Ballard acquired  the AMUVS from the US Navy in the early 1980s as part of his strategy for developing advanced technologies in oceanographic research at Woods Hole. The study and operation of this system led to the decision to build the Jason Jr. as a final test bed for a more advanced ROV known as Jason. The current WHOI Jason (II) is the second generation of this first Jason ROV on display at the MIT Museum.

The Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery also features:

New Exhibitions

  • The MIT Media Laboratory City Car
  • MIT and The Sea: Pioneers in Ocean Exploration
  • No Ordinary Fish: Zebrafish as a Model for Cancer Research


  • Claude Shannon's Ingenious Machines
  • Sandscapes: Temporal Patterns
  • Aude Oliva – Hybrid images that challenge perception

New Exhibition in the MIT Museum Main Galleries

  • Risks and Rewards in a Community of Discovery: The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at 25. Open

New Exhibition at the Compton Gallery @ 77 Massachusetts Ave. 

  • MIT Professor Jerry Milgram: A Master of Fluid Dynamics and Experimentation

Opens August 31st 2007 — February 3, 2008

Exhibition descriptions, photographs and renderings available upon request

December 6: The MIT Museum will open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m as it participates in "Holiday Central" an evening of entertainment and shopping in Central Square, Cambridge.

December 9: Hands on Engineering, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

The MIT Museum's mission is to engage the wider community with MIT's science, technology and other areas of scholarship in ways that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. 

Take the T! Red Line to Central Square or the Kendall Square MIT Station

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