The vehicle that enables true exploration of the deepest waters of the ocean is the manned submersible. The submersible is akin to a small submarine, but submarines are not submersibles. Submarines are designed for human occupancy and machines, usually with a military purpose, that can survive at depth for an extended length of time. For example, some nuclear-powered submarines stay submerged for months, carry food and fresh water for crews of over 100 persons, purify air for breathing, and perform warfare, espionage, and research tasks. While traditional submarines also have highly sophisticated equipment, including sounding devices, and elaborate navigation and power systems, these are used for different purposes than the instruments on a submersible, which typically include mechanical manipulators, television systems, cameras, and an array of special lighting systems. Thanks to the number of systems onboard, the manned submersible is a much more versatile craft than a submarine, as reflected by the myriad applications of the vehicle (Table 4.1). Submersibles are also designed to dive to much greater depths than submarines. Because of the tremendous pressures in the deep ocean, they are built for strength, and usually designed to carry no more than two or three human occupants, limited stores of food and water, and oxygen furnished from limited onboard storage tanks.
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