I went with the rest of the team today to visit the Sea Monk in the dry dock. I felt awfully foolish. A theologian on a submarine. Like a bra for a bull.
The DSRV looks like a giant, mechanical lobster. It’s a little over forty feet long, twelve feet wide at the nose, tapering back to eight feet wide at the tail. It’s scarcely big enough to stand up in, but the exterior is considerably taller, given the extra layer of metallic sheathing to help protect it from the pressure. There was no need for huge ballasts, as the Monk borrowed some of its tech from an abandoned US Naval project. Since the Cold War ended many of these formerly top-secret projects have been de-classified and turned over to civilian contractors. Sebastian was fortunate to pick this one up. The hull was made of ceramic-aluminum casings. These were ultra-light weight, but still as sturdy as titanium. Their relative weightlessness made the Sea Monk buoyant enough not to need large ballasts, unlike most other subs that require a 2:1 ratio of occupancy to ballast.
Beneath the Monk’s outer shell are three pressure spheres linked together to form an inner habitat. The nanobots would protect us from the pressure, but they run the risk of burning out if we are exposed for too long. Additionally, the pressurized environment of the Sea Monk is required to protect the computer and reconnaissance gear that is otherwise unenhanced by robotics.
The front of the Sea Monk is a departure from pure functionality, with two glass hemispheres acting as giant eyes through which Chris and Lin can see with their eyes as well as their instruments. Lin likes to sit up front, despite the company, so as to maximize the experience. She has waited a long time for this opportunity and isn’t about to let it go to waste. These hemispheres are so large that only about a foot of ceramic separates them at their narrowest point in the middle of the nose, while their tops and bottoms stretch well past either vertical plane.
Lights are mounted absolutely everywhere. It reminds me of Isaiah’s angels, covered everywhere with eyes. The Sea Monk has electric eyes, like pores, over its hull. Jo told me those lights could throw upwards of two hundred feet in even the deepest darkness. Two of the front-facing lights are specialized, filled with thallium iodide, and placed just below each hemisphere like beauty marks. Their greenish glow is especially good at shooting light through the pitch-black water, to a distance of three hundred-and-fifty feet.
Attached to the outside are three dive motors, hand-held propulsion devices that actually pull divers through the water to give extra speed and assistance. Pretty cool, really. They are like underwater motorcycles or self-propelling lawnmowers.
The Monk is equipped with powerful sensors, elaborate manipulators, winches, and claws that come out of her sides like the appendages of a Swiss Army knife. These can be used to clear pathways, mow down gangly weeds and trees, and help protect the sub from scraping its hull against the sides of underwater caverns and crevices.
Inside, at the front, is the bridge, with lockers for crew stuffs in the middle and a dive-port in the rear. This rear-space is sealable so you can flood it with water and safely pressurize the back of the sub without imploding. That seems important. In that room is a large assortment of hydreliox (hydrogen + helium + oxygen) tanks of a superior design, in which water is slowly brought into the tank to eat up the empty space vacated by the diminishing air. The air itself is recycled, using the hydrogen molecules from the water and mixing them via a chemical base of helium and enhanced oxygen. This allows it to avoid intense pressure scenarios, but would also cause our voices to change pitch. We would sound like we were permanently breathing from helium balloons, so our masks are fitted with vocal descramblers to compensate.
Five television monitors line the main hallway, each controlling an independent high-definition robotic camera mounted to the exterior of the sub. Additionally, Jo has control over two unmanned subs. They are each about the size of a milk-crate, but the shape of a goldfish. She can steer them around the deep like a video game. I was briefly allowed to play too, but after I twice crashed one into the Sea Monk’s hull, Jo took the controls back.