Next time you head up to Lake Tahoe, you might get a feeling like you're being watched. That's because a brand new submarine will be trolling the waters starting in March.
It's an unmanned vehicle with remote-controlled cameras, and like most people in Tahoe, it's only visiting. Researchers are giving the submarine a test run in the lake before shipping it off to Antarctica, where it'll monitor the effects of climate change on the melting icecaps.
It's a slender little robot, just two feet in diameter but about as long as a bus. Its mechanical arms will scoop up sediment to be analyzed within the machinery, sending back images and data that will help experts understand how the poles are changing and what it could mean for the rest of the planet.
Getting it down beneath the sheet of ice is itself an impressive feat of engineering: they'll use boiling water to create a tunnel about half a mile through the ice before slipping the vessel down into the sea. It's unclear if the intrepid machine will ever make it back up to the surface, or will simply deactivate and drift beneath the ice when its research comes to an end.
It's a five-year project costing $10 million that'll provide a unique insight into an otherwise unreachable world beneath the glaciers. But before it heads south, the scientists hope to make a few discoveries closer to home. The bottom of Lake Tahoe is home to a strange pile of rubble that may hold answers to the region's tectonic mysteries. Three major faults convene beneath the lake, and little is known about the geologic forces responsible for shaping the area.