In late May, off the coast of New Zealand, the intrepid deep sea robot explorer Nereus imploded some 6 miles beneath the surface of the sea. The loss of the $8 million unmanned sub, built at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, was a costly blow to undersea exploration. But Nereus was just one member of a menagerie of undersea robots that are giving scientists their best glimpse yet of the most unexplored environment on Earth. Woods Hole may be the closest thing to a deep sea equivalent of NASA, a home for deep sea exploratory vehicles in all shapes and sizes -- autonomous, remote controlled, one with room for a crew. It operates a National Deep Submergence Facility, which acts like a sophisticated rent-a-car operation, loaning out its underwater robots to research teams. Plans are already in the works for another robot that will be able to dive as deep as Nereus, but meanwhile, here's a look at the rest of the family.
DATA: Woods Hole, NOAA, Smithsonian Museum, Kongsberg Maritime, Webb Research, Bluefin Robotics
Chiqui Esteban / Globe Staff. Intro text by Carolyn Johnson