Four independent housings will be constructed to house the critical components of the hi res system. The housings will be made of hi grade aluminum (6061) capable of withstanding 3000psi. This will allow a range extension down to a max depth of 6000ft if desired in the future without any major reworking.
A cylindrical design is well suited for this purpose as the round surface is the best shape to withstand the extreme pressures and the flat ends are the simplest way to mount the removable end cap and dome port. The camera itself will be mounted on a flat shelf inside the housing such that the lens lines up perfectly with the dome port without any noticeable chromatic aberration.
The twin Nikon Strobes are to be mounted in separate aluminum cylinders with domed acrylic end caps. The convex shape of the acrylic should help to widen the strobes’ angle of coverage.
Initially the system will be tested to determine whether wireless communication will work through the ports to fire the strobes remotely. If wireless communication proves to be unreliable, Seacon bulkheads can be installed to hardwire the strobes directly to the still camera.
Low Resolution Camera Housing
The monitoring camera (a tiny fisheye lens attached to a surface monitor) will be mounted in a separate cylindrical housing attached to the top of the main housing at an angle such that the topside photographer sees what the housed Nikon Camera sees but with a broader peripheral view so that images can be composed before the subject enters the field of view of the Nikon camera.
The sled will consist of an aluminum frame upon which the main housing and strobe housings can be secured. Forward of the main housing will be a bait station where appropriate bait can be attached to lure in the subject to be photographed. A bar will extend upwards and forwards from the rear of the housing so that a tether can be attached at a point which will keep the sled horizontal while being deployed.
Tether and Umbilical
A simple tether made of braided steel cable is to be connected to the sled by means of a shackle. An umbilical cable that controls the shutter release and transfers the image from the monitoring camera to the topside station will be secured at 10ft intervals to the braided cable. It is possible that the stainless cable may not be necessary if it is determined that there is a strong enough data cable available, i.e. one that is capable of supporting its own weight and that of the sled’s as it descends.
Depending on the cumulative weight of the housings, sled and cable, the winch may require a motorized control or it may be able to be operated by hand. As the spool will contain the data cable as well as the braided cable, a special connector must be installed that can transfer the information from the rotating spool to the static line to the laptop.
Surface Control Station
In keeping with the simple nature of the project the surface station does not need to be particularly sophisticated. The only necessary controls are the remote trigger mechanism and the station’s monitoring capability. As well as these, the ability to record the activity witnessed by the low res video camera would be beneficial. Consequently the information will be channeled to a laptop capable of both tasks.
Although the ability to remotely control all settings on the submerged Nikon camera would be convenient it is not essential. The camera and strobes can be preset to make sure that the bait station is always perfectly in focus and appropriately lit. The camera settings will be pre-adjusted to facilitate the greatest depth of field so that the subject will remain in focus even when closer or further away than the optimum focal point.
Low Resolution Monitoring Camera
The monitoring camera must be sensitive enough to pick up activity at the bait station in very low light so that it is not necessary to attach a bright external light that will discourage sharks and other deep water predators from approaching. Although able to register an image in almost total darkness, the monitoring camera’s sensor plate must be robust enough to withstand the brightness of the flashes emitted from the strobes when the Nikon camera takes a picture.
Costs of components and lead time associated with the project
Prices are based on cost of raw materials and labor.
$2,000 Machining of 6061 grade aluminum housings (inc retainer rings)
$1,000 Machining of custom acrylic dome port
$300 Acrylic flat ports x 3
$1,050 Impulse bulkhead connectors x 7
$300 Strobe arms
$800 Nikon SB800 strobe units x 2
$200 Booster modem
$500 Laptop surface station
$200 Night vision camera
$200 2,000 ft braided steel cable
$500 2000 ft data cable
$300 Aluminum sled
$200 Cable Master
Unless sponsorship can be arranged, it is estimated that construction will take approximately one year to complete.