The robotic equivalent of a bloodhound is scouting around on the floor of the Monterey Bay this week. Its mission is to locate sunken cargo.
In 2004, a shipment of tires fell from a ship near the bay. That could cause significant problems for wildlife in the area, according to the CC Times. Because the sea floor is supposed to be sandy and flat, the cargo containers could attract invasive species that might wreck the ecosystem.
So researchers will lower the robot down about 4,200-feet to collect soil samples and to see whether the sunken containers are causing problems. It's attached to a control center in a boat on the surface, where two pilots steer and manipulate a robotic arm.
The expedition is overseen by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a nearby marine sanctuary, and funded by the shipping company that dropped the containers. The Monterey Bay is a federally protected area, and the company had to pay millions for losing the containers overboard.
This site is just one of many around the world. About 10,000 cargo containers are lost every year, of which 100 contain hazardous chemicals.