We know very little about our planet’s seafloor, but that’s poised to change as autonomous underwater scouting technology gets better and better. To that end, nearly two dozen teams are racing to develop robots that can investigate, map, and conduct science at extreme depths, and under serious time constraints. They’re also competing for $7 million in prize money.
ON MAY 12, one of Shell’s subsea flow lines sprung a leak, and 88,200 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. A Shell helicopter spotted the spill—at that point, roughly the size of Manhattan—floating about 90 miles south of Timbalier Island, Louisiana. By May 16, just three days after cleanup began, Shell and the US Coast Guard declared the case closed. With no oil left on the surface to recover, and no known impacts to wildlife, there wasn’t much more they could do. Are they great at dealing with oil spills these days or what?