Nereus, a one-of-a-kind robotic vehicle able to go deep under the sea, vanished on Friday in the western Pacific Ocean, National Geographic said.
Based on surface debris that researchers found on Saturday, it appears that Nereus suffered a "catastrophic implosion" while exploring the deep Kermadec Trench near New Zealand. It was lost 30 days into a 40-day journey, and scientists say they'll finish exploring with the tools they still have, including an underwater elevator and baited traps.
Scientists think that the weight of the ocean was too much for the $8 million Nereus, and it imploded under 16,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The Nereus was owned and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) on Cape Cod, and was the only active scientific vehicle that was able to go to such extreme depths. It was set to take six more trips during the year. Director James Cameron, a deep sea enthusiast, said in a statement that it was a "tragic loss for deep science," and would limit access to "the last great frontier for exploration on our planet."